Newsom Trumps Beauty, Much Like Landis

First off, I looked upon this book as a treasure capsule that would comfort me with its lure of nostalgia, as I settled into a new city across the country.

New York is a city that brings on ideas of self-empowerment. If you’ve lived there, you probably already learned how to care for yourself,  and how to navigate through seas of faces. Having moved to a city of smiling ones as opposed to the familiar morose variety, I haven’t quite abandoned my efforts to establish boundaries. So my iPod follows me out the door, buds in my ears, cell phone in my back pocket.

I’m the sort of girl who texts when attending concerts solo, to keep from getting lonely.

In comes Joanna Newsom.

Muscial Trapeze Artist

She’s a new discovery for me, paying tribute to my musical geshe. After listening to her latest epic contribution. I searched the interwebs for videos of her live shows. Watching her create music with her body, her mouth the imperative guide, there’s an element of comfort and empowerment her passion induces.

I’m an especially big fan of “Easy.” ~“Tell me your worries, I want to be told…”

She is who I listened to as I read:

Normal People Don’t Live Like This by Dylan Landis is a book that appeals to the sad, lonesome reader. I’m going to take it even a step further and say this book is about womanhood, and the responsibility of raising a young girl.

The interconnected stories of Dylan’s novel take place in the 70’s and 80’s in New York’s upper west side. This is also my native neighborhood. Like an old blanket long since robbed of its original softness, that part of town pulls me into its silken arms and lulls me to sleep to the sound of trash compactors.

Dylan, even in pulling from the past, provokes her protagonist, Leah to engage with the present. Her life. She sits on a gradually deteriorating platform of adolescence, attempting to be mesh with the socially elite, and missing the mark by the force of her own anxiety. Throughout the ingestion of the book, I found myself urging her forward into the unknown future. But Leah is a stubborn character, set to stand still for fear of falling apart. With most young adults we look to the parents for clues, and in this book Leah’s mother, Helen, does not fail to satisfy our suspicions.

The middle-aged anorexic, obsessed with illusion of control; an appetite satiated by the sound of crinkly paper covered hangers, and fresh paint. You’ll have to read to learn more about her. I found Helen to be the most fascinating character in the book.

The men in this narrative are tender, when the they appear in the story line. Mixing melancholy impressions in, they fail to save the women from themselves, and so disappear quite quietly without further mentioning. This leaves room for a soft curiosity, but not enough; Leah and her counterparts are the main attraction.

An interesting twist to the literal snapshots of Leah behaving badly with her friends and enemies, is the few open-ended glimpses we see of Leah, her mother, and a friend all at different points in the future. A window of loss, and incredulity, I hoped for good fortune to aid these women to see their own beauty. That is the real truth of this book. While these stories may not have been written with the intent of channeling women’s universal struggles, the characters are irrevocably relatable.

Young girls smoking cigarettes and lying about it, winning the admiration of the toughest girl in school just to prove she can. Adult actions made by young adults who’ve barely begun to familiarize themselves with the transformations of their own bodies. Puberty in all of its facets.

Dylan in my mind promised me much, like Ms. Newsom’s pleasant resemblance to the beloved Joni Mitchel, with her book of stories recalling the city forever safe in my heart, no matter the distance.

So, I sit here on Alamo Square, a site frequented by tour buses and photographers capturing the infamous Painted Ladies, my gaze turned up at the clouds, thinking. About Leah, and the little girl within me who understands. Who sleeps on the spine of books and days like these.

Pick up the the book on Amazon, or if you’re in San Francisco, City Lights.

This city has great book shops.