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.

 

The Novel That Grew Hornby Up

Relationships and how we have them; A seemingly dated topic for a novel.

 What about a book about a has been musician survived by his many girlfriends and their badly fathered offspring? The fan of his work who grabs his attention by posting a subjective review of his work on a fan site he frequents to remind himself of who he was?

The inside panel of this book reads like a drama with characters undergoing midlife crises and living by their passions, searching for meaning.

I’ll admit that I’m fairly familiar with Nick Hornby’s work. He did write High Fidelity  afterall. His work has always been cleverly rife with dry wit and realistic storylines I could relate to. Though, at times I’ve somewhat felt the melancholy undertones to the fate of his characters weighed down my overall impression.

Juliet, Naked is a book filled with challenges.

It dares you to read it because it’s certain it will win the reader over with its humanity. Rife with metaphors, it scrolls through the minds of two disenchanted souls connecting through modern technology. A very realistic courtship given today’s modern developments. The difference is the time period they come from, the generations they represent, the countries that raised them.

Mr. Hornby has always exuded loyalty to his native UK, placing his character all over England, and perhaps enabling them with familiarities only he would know. Juliet,Naked spans his storyline on more unfamiliar ground, placing his characters a considerable distance apart with one in an American suburb, and the other in a barely populated beach town in England. It explains the stagnance of their sensibilities, the small tours, and long departed edge smoothed to a subtle nub.

The female protagonist, Annie, is nearing 40, intelligent, thoughtful, and delightfully sarcastic. The male protagonist, the failed rock star Tucker Crow, is self deprecating, compassionate, though overwhelmed by a lack of purpose. He fathers one of his children well, which fulfills him in a way that keeps him afloat; something Annie lacks.

They are different in backgrounds and values, but essentially the span of their thoughts reach the same destination. Nearing middle-age, or skating across its platform, they nonetheless find each other, milling for purpose.

 Annie articulates her thoughts in metaphors:

 “The short visit of a middle-aged man and his young son shouldn’t be a gourmet pastry; it should be a store-bought egg-salad sandwich, a distracted bowl of cereal, an apple snatched from a fruit bowl when you didn’t have time to eat. She had somehow constructed a life so empty that she was in the middle of the defining narrative incident of the last ten years, and what did it consist of, really?

 They both seem to be reaching a point of resolve, the freedom in knowing that the events of their lives need little more than acceptance to be embraced. Until they reach it.

Annie:  “…she heard teachers and parents and teaching colleagues and friends. This was how England spoke, and she couldn’t listen to her anymore.”

 Or Tucker: “The truth about life was that nothing ever ended until you died, and even then you just left a whole bunch of unresolved narratives behind you. He’d somehow managed to retain the mental habits of a songwriter long after he’d stopped writing songs, and perhaps it was time to give them up.”

 Nick Hornby has always been a fine writer, who’s work I’ve looked out for, and words I’ve found insight from. This book, however, failed to resemble, but succeeded in representing growth. He writes from the perspective of both genders diving between them so smoothly, the pages drift past with the relatable content.

I cared about these characters because they spoke to personal fears of self fulfillment, aging, and all the common trials we face as human beings.

 That’s what this book is; human.

Mr. Hornby’s writing has grown infinitely. It’s an adult book with essential ideas. Characters so meaty and well developed they beg the reader to look within.

So, what’s the end result? Is there a happy ending? These are just two lives built around one story. I can assure you though, read it and you will find that no tunnel lacks in light. It makes for a heartwarming unforgettable journey.

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Juliet, Naked is available on Amazon, in hardcover, and at a reasonable cover. To read the first few pages just click on the book! 

Note: Billie Holiday would relate to this narrative fo’ sho’.

The Convalescent ate my Pessimism

I’ll be honest, sometimes I have the mind of an insect. A bright neon sign has been known to attract my gaze for whole minutes and make me forget my present reality. So when I was simply strolling around without an aim in the local bookstore, selecting The Convalescent by Jessica Anthony had no other motive except the attraction to its beauty; and it is a good-looking book.

The cover had an edge unfamiliar to me, everything detailed to the finish of the side pages with engravings on the cover and the details so elaborate I couldn’t resist removing it and unfolding the sides to fully absorb the image in its entirety. A man is beautifully sprawled across the surface with his face hidden, with only nerve endings shredded to ribbons exposing the stories, loves, elements surrounding his life, or any life.

Upon the first page I fell for the hero, Rovar, his self-deprecating comments, comic and endearing in their honesty. They encapsulate the life he has been granted since birth, the life of misfortune sadly fated to him by his ancestors. There’s no doubt that he is indeed pathetic, but I continue to wonder as I read on, the rollercoaster of chapters telling his story first, the history of his ancestors second; There has to be love coming his way, some stroke of good fortune.

“…Other people are always busy doing big and important things like running for president or voting for president, or thinking about running for president.  I sell meat out of a bus...”

He is kind, he is generous, he is more than he is and yet all he can do is shrug. Accept his supposed fate as a diseased dwarf living and selling meat off of a bus.

“I am the last remaining descendant of a line of the worst sort of losers on the planet.”

When I grabbed this book off the shelf of new bestsellers I hesitated before making the purchase. This book was a collector’s item.

To add the proverbial boot, Katherine Dunn’s recommendation sold me. The author of a book detailing the life of a circus family forever won my heart with the tender tale-telling of her wonderfully twisted novel Geek Love .

That’s all we’re given. A couple of recommendations, a beautiful painting, and a butterfly etched curiously into the cover.

For me, it was an abundant lot and I hope that readers who haven’t picked it up yet will consider doing so now. The underdog rarely gets his or her due, and that is exactly why this book is so important. In every environment there is ugliness, what Ms. Anthony reminds us is within each facet darkly colored with downfalls and tribulations there is beauty. Sometimes somewhat fragmented, but still visible to those who know that in life there is more than just a point.

We are always doing more than living.

By the way, this book made me listen to Radiohead incessantly. When I was in college, I found that Thom Yorke’s voice made me cry more than smile. There’s another bit of ugliness and beauty in that too.

*Amazon’s selling Ms. Anthony’s book at a pretty good price. Brilliance and great writing is just a click (or two) away

Miller and Manu

When I read Tropic of Cancer  it was a moment of literary awakening. I’d never heard of an author cursing so much in their writing, ranting on the ugly beauty of New York, or the many seedy districts of Paris. It was the summer of my 21st year and the book in its audacity left me walking the balmy summer nights with it’s pages splayed open upon my hands, occassionally looking up to avoid walking into traffic. There’s a reason why it was banned in the 40’s.

I ask of life, is a bunch of books, a bunch of dreams, and a bunch of cunt.”

You know when a song plays suddenly from your random mp3 shuffle, and something about the beat, the melody, or the ever flowing rhythm sends you dancing in your seat and channeling a memory, a promise, a loving thought. . . A good song makes you start to plan things. It motivates you, and the best ones motivate you to tell the people you love exactly how you feel.

Music is empowerment.

It shuts our minds off, and clicks on the phonetic funny bone. Meaning, sometimes listening to music that moves me can be painful. Sometimes I make the effort to avoid songs that remind of me anything at all. Clean slate songs. A playlist of nothingness. But the pleasure that pain ends with in sweeping you gloriously through the agony into ecstacy, that is why I do it.

I think some music has influenced me to travel, while books and their gentle lulling have kept me company as I chartered unfamiliar territories.

            I was preparing for a summer semester in Italy when I read Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer. When I arrived and began to attend university, I discovered Manu Chao.  

Here was a radical speaking up to three languages in one song; jubilant, agressive and free. Perfect compliment to Miller’s seemingly disjointed rants. In truth there was a purpose to all of the chaos, and that is what Manu Chao is like. This album was the first I listened to by him, and at this point I have many more. As it is part of my personal story, I can’t help but to recommend you listen to this first.

My theory is that a good song can be distracting. It paralyzes the body and sends the imagination exploring. It’s when you get control over the music that you absorb the literature, and the story strengthens.

The story is your life.

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To buy a copy of  Proxima Estación: Esperanza the album, click the link; Amazon gives quite a few affordable sources.  

To buy a copy of Henry Miller’s, Tropic of Cancer check this copy out. You could even read a few pages before purchasing to get a full grasp for the book. I hope you like it or recommend it to someone who might.