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.



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.


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.