Book Snap #114

Title: This is How it Always Is

Author: Laurie Frankel

Date Read: July 16, 2022

Two Sprited Snaps!!

This is how it is: a brilliant fairy tale of the unpreictable, messy, complicated, joyous journey of parenthood and family.

Once upon a time there was Penn, a doggedly-determined and haplessly romantic writer, who willingly sits in the hospital waiting room where Rosie is doing her residency to disabuse her of the idea that a medical student has no time for a boyfriend. “Her shift was twenty-eight hours, Penn sat and wrote for every one of them. They took a coffee and breakfast break together toward dawn. Penn tried every flavor of corn chip in the vending machine.” (p.20). They do fall in love, and marry, and start a family, adding four rambunctious boys to their Wisconsin farmhouse. But Rosie can’t help but want one more try: for a girl.

Claude, their fifth child, it turns out, is not a girl: despite applying a myriad of old-wives tales to her furniture arrangement, eating habits and choice of sexual positions. But Claude is very much unlike his rough-and-tumble brothers: he wants to grow up and be a princess, he wants to wear fairy wings and have his hair long.

Penn continues to weave fairy tales: his boys pick up the adventures of Grumwald (the hero-prince of the bedtime stories first told in the emergency room) — and they help all of them to see themselves for who they truly are. “Bedtime stories were a group activity. And because showing the pictures all around to everyone involved a great deal of squirming and shoving and pinching and pushing and get-outta-my-ways and he-farted-on-mes and you-got-to-look-longer-than-I-dids, Penn often resorted to telling stories rather than reading them. He had a magic book he read from. It was an empty spiral notebook. He showed the boys it was blank so that there was no clamoring to see. And then he read it ot them. Like magic” (p.28).

And sometimes, thoughtful, complicated fairy-tales that buck the Disneyfied arc are exactly the princess stories we need to hear.

“You find out you’re not alone. And so does everyone else. That’s how everything gets better. You share your secret, and I’ll do the rest. You share your secret, and you change the world.”

“It’s not that easy,” Grumwald felt his lungs stiching to become one in his chest. “I can’t just share my secret. It’s hard to explain. It’s hard to understand. It’s complicated.

“Of course it is. It’s life.”

“So how do I do it then? How do I share my secret? What do I tell?”

“Your story.” The witch didn’t even hesitate. “You tell your story. That is what we all must do.”

“That’s not magic,” said Grumwald.

“Of course it is,” said the witch. “Story is the best magic there is.”

p.312

Book Snap #113: The Anthropocene Reviewed

My last post was a year ago. That seems likely, and also sort of sad. It was a long, drawn-out, painful year.

We went back to school hopeful: cheeks shining from summer’s kiss– masks firmly affixed over mouth and nose. It paled in comparison to the promise of the new year: a jumble of in-person learning, quarantines, lock-downs, sickness, and even a strike. My desire to read dwindled in lock step with my depleted energy and my To Be Read pile lay dormant and dust-covered. (1 star).

I, optomisitically, agreed to participate in a book relay hosted by our district literacy leads, but more often had to pass the novel onward at deadline before making it completely to the end. I repeatedly fell in bed exhausted after reading Isaac his bedtime stories, (I could review and recommend a multitude of Gordon Korman’s novels for fourth-graders!) neglecting the books calling to me from my own night stand. However, one of the books offered in the relay was John Green’s The Anthropocene Reviewed. I just purchased a copy, because, like many of the relay titles, I didn’t get to finish before the deadline. But what I did read, I loved! And thinking about it again inspired me to write this post, a year since my last.

When it first arrived in school mail, I had been setting my students up to write reviews of their own. We had been exploring all kinds of mentor texts: we read reviews of songs and albums; video games; movies and TV shows; sports plays; and books. This has always been one of my favourite pieces to write with my students. Two reviews that remain my past-all-time-favourites include one that analysed Matthew McConaughey’s performance in Dazed and Confused. The essay begins with the perfect hook: All right, all right, all right. And second, the review of Steph Curry’s basketball acumen where I first discovered what a G.O.A.T was; and the criteria with which to evalute one. Green cracked open yet another realm of choice and I couldn’t have been more excited to share these ideas with my students.

I had noticed the title in passing (it remained on best-seller lists and was promininetly displayed in many book-selling venues), and wondered: “what the heck is an Anthropocene?” Green explains: “The Anthropocene is a proposed term for the current geological age, in which humans have profoundly shaped and reshaped the planet and its biodiversity” (p.6). Green imparts that having been employed for several years at Booklist, reviewing hundreds of books, he became well-versed in the style and format of a review (they specifically hold a tight word count of 175 words or less.) He then started to notice that “everyone had become a reviewer, and everything had become a subject for review” (p.7). Indeed. I often seek out reviews of: restaurants (hello, Yelp!); vacation ideas and accommodations (hmmm, TripAdvisor?)… A small gripe: 1 star for the review in the Fodor’s guide of Japan (print edition from forever ago when I was there) that recommended (and convinced my genki companion and I) to “slide down” the volcanic ash of Mt. Fuji, which turned out to be terrible, awful, dreadful advice. But I digress. Of course, Facebook and Twitter have become platforms for all kinds of verciferous reviews — of products, services, businesses, opinions, politics, behaviour– everyone is a reviewer and everything is a subject for review!

Green walks through what he knew and what he discovered about review writing, which was powerful in helping my students create strong reviews themselves. When he reviewed books, “I” was never in the review: How many times have students also been told to use this disinterested observer stance? Too many. And the result is wooden writing. It was his wife who {thoughtfully} surmised: “…in the Anthropocene, there are no disinterested observers; there are only particpants… when people write reviews, they are really writing a kind of memoir— here’s what my expereince was eating at this restaurant or getting my hair cut at this barbershop” (p.8). And so, amidst a global pandemic, Green wrote about songs, comets, scratch ‘n’ sniff stickers, Diet Dr. Pepper, teddy bears, air-conditioning, the Internet, sunsets, CNN, whispering, Kentucky Bluegrass, Googling strangers, and so much more of what the anthropocene has to offer. Each essay embodies Green’s quirky vibe, lots of thoughtful details and compelling support, and a final 5-star rating. I highly reccommend you listen to my favourite essay (from what I have had the opportunity to read so far), “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” on John Green’s podcast: The Anthropocene Reviewed; my students and I read this together to inspire our writing. They wrote thoughtful and passionate reviews on all kinds of artifacts from the anthropocene, including: soccer shoes, french fries, napping, roadtrip-playlists, movie scenes, and more!

I offer you my own Anthropocene-inspired reviews using the tight Booklist word count! (A fun quick write exercise for students (or playful writers) too):

This Morning. I was fully prepared to do Teddy’s morning walk: I had a podcast cued up and earbuds charged; a tank top and joggers, left conveniently, on the floor next to my bed– ready to wear collection. But, Teddy-the-adorable-fluffy-personal-trainer is in high demand! He trotted off with Ben before I could get my feet on the floor. Awake, and rested, and presented with new possibilities for the morning, I hopped on my yoga mat. Delicious stretch! Deep, centering breaths. Letting (more) go. Enjoyed a hot coffee with my Starbucks Almond and Oat Non-Diary Caramel Macchiato Liquid Coffee Enhancer (that name is so gob smackingly pretentious, but it’s so delicious!). Got the Wordle in three tries: impressive! Overall, I’d give this morning a solid 4 and half stars (for the missed the walk in the woods!)

Beach vacation. Sand flats, flip-flops, tide is high, salt water, time off, barefoot. Northumberland Strait, lobster rolls, read and fetch, Tomohawks, bonfires, freckles. Marshmallows, peaceful place, reading books, swimming. Breathe the air! Sea glass, local brews (Tatabrew & Leo), poker-face, Isaac’s omlettes, hose your feet, Jerk chicken, tired doggy, lighthouse! Birthday lunch, old friends, haskap berries, sweet earth, doodle duo. Beach vacay? 5 stars! (Writer’s craft move: all evidence, unexplained: A list of what makes a perfect 5!)

Walks with Teddy. It has been scorching lately– 39 degrees Celcius (literally, in the shade.) That calls for a leisurely walk through the woods so as not to overheat Teddy (or me, for that matter), but he is only minimally slowed by heat. Slow walks are for flip-flops instead of sneakers– I like barefoot, or as close to it, as much as possible, all summer. I listen to a podcast (Arm Chair Expert is my clear favourite), moving slowly and feeling part of the conversation. I breathe more deeply; inhaling fresh air, earth, flowers. When coaxed to (finally) slow down, Teddy gets busy sniffing it all in too! Walking with Ted is always 5 stars, although accumulated evidence may vary by season, weather, or location.

Lunch with a special friend. I needed to connect with someone special in person yesterday, because texting doesn’t give hugs, and sometimes you really need them, and I have really missed hugging, and it was truly lovely. The day sizzled but we were cool ladies in sundresses (love an excuse to get a little more dressed up on a summer day!) the waitress complimented us as we arrived. We had a nice umbrella-ed table at The Lighthouse, with a view of the Wolastoq, enjoyed a Tickle Fight and savoured every last morsel of lunch; watermelon salad and flatbreads. We shared recommendations for documentaries to watch and podcasts to listen to. We connected, we talked, we hugged. A blistering hot 5 stars.

Book Snap #112+ July 2021 Compilation

As the school year was crawling to a slow, hot, close I realised that I had not even had the energy to build a summer reading stack ( a task I usually adore). I turned to Facebook and asked friends to send me their recommendations. This is actually a brilliant exercise to take you outside of genre, comfort, and into books that may easily be overlooked or never discovered at all. Look out for shout outs to those who recommended the books that found their way in to my stack!

Here are the books that I devoured in the month of July!

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

Less was reccommended by my friend, Bonnie Creber. It was the perfect, lighthearted way to begin enjoying summer break. There were a few things appealing about this story– Arthur Less is a failed novelist who is celebrating his fiftieth; a wedding invitation to attend his ex-boyfriend’s wedding has him seriously reflecting on his life and his decisions. What ensues is a madcap tour around the world (accepting all of the invitaions and cobbling them in to a grand voyage). It is slightly silly, and then full of sadness and longing. It is written beautifully (it won a Pulitzer). Two snaps.

There is no Arthur Less without the suit. Bought on a whim, in that brief era of caprice three years ago when he threw caution (and money) to the wind and flew to Ho Chi Minh City to visit a friend on a work trip, searching for air-conditioning in that humid, moped-plagued city, found himself in a tailor shop, ordering a suit. Drunk on car exchaust and sugarcane, he made a series of rash decisions, gave his home address, and by the next morning had forgotten all about it. Two weeks later, a package arrived in San Fransisco. Perplexed, he opened it and pulled out a medium blue suit, lined in fuschia, and sewn with his initials: APL. A rose-water smell from the box summoned, instantly, a dictatorial woman with a tight bun, hectoring him with questions. The cut, the buttons, the pockets, the collar. But most of all: the blue. Chosen in haste from a wall of fabrics: not an ordinary blue. Peacock? Lapis? Nothing gets close. Medium but vivid, moderately lustrous, definitely bold. Somewhere between ultramarine and cyanide salts, between Vishnu and Amon, Israel and Greece, the logos of Pepsi and Ford. In a word: bright. He loved whatever self had chosen it and after that wore it constantly. Even Freddy approved: "You look like someone famous!" And he does. Finally, at his advanced age, he has struck the right note. He looks good, and he looks like himself. Without it, somehow he does not. Without the suit, there is no Arthur Less. (Greer, p. 25). 

The Pisces by Melissa Broder

Ummm. This one was weird. Really weird. It’s hard to write about why I struggled with it. Suffice it to say, I felt weird reading it and wanted to hide it from my son when he looked over my shoulder while I was reading. The main character is relatably flawed, awkwardly vulnerable, and at a white-wine- guzzling-rock-bottom when her boyfriend leaves her and she uproots to house and dog sit in Venice Beach. She is terrible to her sister’s dog, I hated that part. She is cutting and pointed in her observations and summations about others. Again, made me uncomfortable, but okay. But the merman erotica? Just couldn’t get into it. Thanks to Jake Stillwell for taking me out of my comfort zone– but a miss nonetheless. Oh Snap!

Broder is best known as the woman behind the Twitter account @sosadtoday, which has six hundred and forty-nine thousand followers. Recent tweets include “in a threesome with anxiety and depression” and “unfortunately i’m very self-aware.” On her personal Twitter account, @melissabroder, she offers similar sentiments: “i’m gifted at finding ways to never seem like enough,” she wrote last month. She has also written four books of poetry, most recently “Last Sext.” In 2016, she published a collection of personal essays called “So Sad Today,” in which she grounded the universalized Internet sadness of her Twitter presence in concrete individual experience. She was twelve when she started dreaming about her family burning up in a house fire, thirteen when she started obsessing about the Holocaust. During adolescence, she could only orgasm when she imagined people vomiting. (The New Yorker, 2018.)

On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

A compassionate and unflinching queer coming-of-age story. Little Dog writes a series of letters to his mother in order to make sense of his place in the world. She cannot read a word of it. Vuong is a daring writer– he goes where the hurt is, creating a novel saturated with yearning and ache. He stares down the violence, trauma, and pain and somehow uncovers the innocence, compassion and tenderness. Loved every minute of this story. Two snaps.

In that room, among the Star Wars poster (Empire Strikes Back) peeling above his unmade bed, among the empty root beer cans, the twenty-pound dumbbell, one half of a broken skateboard, the desk covered with loose change, empty gum packets, gas station receipts, weed crumbs, fentanyl patches and empty dime bags, coffee mugs ringed brown with old water and joint roaches, a copy of Of Mice and Men, empty shell casings from a Smith & Wesson, there were no questions. (Vuong, p.110)

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

I loved this book! The quote on the cover reads: “It’s like being wrapped up in a big gay blanket. Simply perfect.”

Reccommended to me by my colleague, Gabrielle Maillet, she had said it had Schitt’s Creek vibes– and I ran with that! (Love me some Rose Motel feel goodery.) It did not disappoint.

Linus Baker is rule-following case worker in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He’s tasked with determining whether six dangerous magical children are likely to bring about the end of the world. Arthur Parnassus is the master of the orphanage. He would do anything to keep the children safe, even if it means the world will burn.

The House in the Cerulean Sea is a beautiful story with fantastical characters (a sort of blobby slug want-to-be-hotel porter; a bearded female gardening gnome; a fairy sprite; a wyvern; a werewolf crossed Pomeranian and the purported son of Satan, nicknamed Lucy.) They live on a beautiful, secluded island where the inhabitants outwardly hate them, make up stories and rumours about them, and hang signs that say: “If you see something, say something.” Arthur arrives determined to do his job and report back on the intricacies of the orphanage, the children and Arthur– but he is taken up by the magic of the island and the love of a family. A saccharine-sweet cotton-candy-novel. Love wins. Two (loud) snaps.

Humanity is so weird. If we're not laughing, we're  crying or running for our lives because monsters are trying to eat us. And they don't even have to be real monsters. They could be the ones we make up in our heads. Don't you think that's weird?

West With Giraffes by Linda Rutledge

Another wonderful recommendation, this one from my colleague Catherine Tait.

Woodrow (Woody) Nickel takes us along for his journey of a lifetime to deliver two traumatized giraffes saved from a tumultous Atlantic crossing in New York to the San Diego zoo. Our 105 year-old narrator takes us back through the twelve-day journey that ever changed his life.

It opens…

...I'm older than dirt.

And when you're older than dirt, you can get lost in time, in memory, even in space.

I'm inside my tiny four-walled room with the feeling that I've been... gone. I'm not even sure how long I've been sitting here. All night I think, stirring from my foggy mind to find myself surrounded by other old farts staring at a fancy TV. I remember the man on the screen talking about the last giraffess on earth and rushing over in my wheelchair to punch him. I remember being pushed back here quick and a nurse bandaging my bleeding knuckles. 

Then I remember an orderly making me take a calm-down pill I didn't want to take.

But that's the last time I'll be doing that. Because right now, pencil in this shaky hand, I aim to write down one singular memory.

Fast as I can. 

I could spend what I feel in my bones is my life's last clear hours to tell you of the Dust Bowl. Or the War. Or the French peonies. Or my wives, so many wives. Or the graves, so many graves. Or the goodbyes, so many goodbyes. Those memories come and go here at the end, if they come at all anymore. But not this memory. This memory is always with me, always alive, always within reach, and always in technicolor from deadly start to bittersweet finish, no matter how old I keep getting. And-- Red, Old Man, sweet Wild Boy and Girl-- oh, how I miss you.

All I have to do is close my worn-out eyes for the smallest of moments.

And it begins.

Two snaps.

A Nearly Normal Family by M.T. Edvardsson

A great recommendation from my friend and former colleague, Janet Sloan. Eighteeen year-old Stella Sandell is accused of murder, and that changes everything.

The story is divided into three parts: the first told by the father, a pastor, who believes his daughter can only be innocent. The second part reveals the story from her mother’s view, a defense attorney, who believes no one is telling the truth. And finally from the perspective of Stella herself. Each shift in perspective is jarring–just when you think you understand these characters, the way others view them opens up new understandings of their skewed sense of reality. What lies will they tell (or believe?) to just be a normal, ordinary family again? Two snaps.

I believe this is deeply human. There's no understanding it if you've never experienced a direct and serious threat to yourself and your loved ones. You make irrational decisions and overstep boundaries as you never would otherwise. A person who can no longer flee must fight.
(Edvardsson, A Nearly Normal Family)

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey

Alright, alright, alright.

This was a blissful surprise. It was peripherally on my radar ( a few casual “you should read this”… had come my way)… and then I started listening to Dax Shepard’s podcast, “Armchair Expert” (recommended by colleagues and students alike) and while enjoying a sunny walk with my dog, Teddy, we listened to the interview with Matthew McConaughey. And then I bought a copy of Greenlights.

I love memoirs. And I absolutely love memoirs that start by saying they are not really memoirs. McConaughey opens this way:

THIS IS NOT A TRADITIONAL memoir. Yes, I tell stories from the past, but I have no interest in nostaligia, sentimentality, or the retirement most memoirs require. This is not an advice book either. Although I like preachers, I'm not here to preach and tell you what to do. This is an approach book. I am here to share stories, insights, and philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. 

This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life. Adventures that have been significant, enlightening, and funny, sometimes because they were meant to be but mostly because they didn't try to be. I'm optomistic by nature, and humour has been one of my great teachers. It has helped me deal with pain, loss, and lack of trust. I'm not perfect; no, I step in shit all the time and recognize when I do. I've just learned how to scrape it off my boots and carry on. (McConaughy, p. 3)

Reaching his fiftieth birthday, McConaughey became introspective and sat down with the diaries and journals he had been keeping most of his life. Within them he finds inspirational quotes, intricate poems, sketches and doodles, deep thinking, perceptive questions and sum-it-all-up bumper stickers that show who he was, who he became and who he has always wanted to be.

It’s a love letter. To life.

It’s also a guide to catching more greenlights – and to realizing that the yellows and reds eventually turn green too. It is simply delightful.

McConaugheyconsiders himself a storyteller by occupation, believes it’s okay to have a beer on the way to the temple, feels better with a day’s sweat on him, and is an aspiring orchestral conductor.

In 2009, Matthew and his wife, Camila, founded the just keep livin Foundation, which helps at-risk high school students make healthier mind, body, and spirit choices. In 2019, McConaughey became a professor of practice at the University of Texas at Austin, as well as Minister of Culture/M.O.C. for the University of Texas and the City of Austin. McConaughey is also brand ambassador for Lincoln Motor Company, an owner of the Major League Soccer club Austin FC, and co-creator of his favorite bourbon on the planet, Wild Turkey Longbranch. Two (very exuberant) snaps.

Book Snap #111

Title: Greenlights

Author: Matthew McConaughey

Date Read: July 24, 2021

Two (exuberant) snaps.

Alright, alright, alright.

This was a blissful surprise. It was peripherally on my radar ( a few casual “you should read this”… had come my way)… and then I started listening to Dax Shepard’s podcast, “Armchair Expert” (recommended by colleagues and students alike) and while enjoying a sunny walk with my dog, Teddy, we listened to the interview with Matthew McConaughey. And then I bought a copy of Greenlights.

I love memoirs. And I absolutely love memoirs that start by saying they are not really memoirs. McConaughey opens this way:

THIS IS NOT A TRADITIONAL memoir. Yes, I tell stories from the past, but I have no interest in nostaligia, sentimentality, or the retirement most memoirs require. This is not an advice book either. Although I like preachers, I'm not here to preach and tell you what to do. This is an approach book. I am here to share stories, insights, and philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. 

This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life. Adventures that have been significant, enlightening, and funny, sometimes because they were meant to be but mostly because they didn't try to be. I'm optomistic by nature, and humour has been one of my great teachers. It has helped me deal with pain, loss, and lack of trust. I'm not perfect; no, I step in shit all the time and recognize when I do. I've just learned how to scrape it off my boots and carry on. (McConaughy, p. 3)

Reaching his fiftieth birthday, McConaughey became introspective and sat down with the diaries and journals he had been keeping most of his life. Within them he finds inspirational quotes, intricate poems, sketches and doodles, deep thinking, perceptive questions and sum-it-all-up bumper stickers that show who he was, who he became and who he has always wanted to be.

It’s a love letter. To life.

It’s also a guide to catching more greenlights – and to realizing that the yellows and reds eventually turn green too. It is simply delightful.

McConaugheyconsiders himself a storyteller by occupation, believes it’s okay to have a beer on the way to the temple, feels better with a day’s sweat on him, and is an aspiring orchestral conductor.

In 2009, Matthew and his wife, Camila, founded the just keep livin Foundation, which helps at-risk high school students make healthier mind, body, and spirit choices. In 2019, McConaughey became a professor of practice at the University of Texas at Austin, as well as Minister of Culture/M.O.C. for the University of Texas and the City of Austin. McConaughey is also brand ambassador for Lincoln Motor Company, an owner of the Major League Soccer club Austin FC, and co-creator of his favorite bourbon on the planet, Wild Turkey Longbranch.

Book Snap #110

Title: A Nearly Normal Family

Author: M. T. Edvardsson

Dtae Read: July 19, 2021

Two snaps.

A great recommendation from my friend and former colleague, Janet Sloan. Eighteeen year-old Stella Sandell is accused of murder, and that changes everything.

The story is divided into three parts: the first told by the father, a pastor, who believes his daughter can only be innocent. The second part reveals the story from her mother’s view, a defense attorney, who believes no one is telling the truth. And finally from the perspective of Stella herself. Each shift in perspective is jarring–just when you think you understand these characters, the way others view them opens up new understandings of their skewed sense of reality. What lies will they tell (or believe?) to just be a normal, ordinary family again? Two snaps.

I believe this is deeply human. There's no understanding it if you've never experienced a direct and serious threat to yourself and your loved ones. You make irrational decisions and overstep boundaries as you never would otherwise. A person who can no longer flee must fight.
(Edvardsson, A Nearly Normal Family)

Book Snap #109

Title: West With Giraffes

Author: Linda Rutledge

Date Read: July 16, 2021

Two snaps.

Another wonderful recommendation, this one from my colleague Catherine Tait.

Woodrow (Woody) Nickel takes us along for his journey of a lifetime to deliver two traumatized giraffes saved from a tumultous Atlantic crossing in New York to the San Diego zoo. Our 105 year-old narrator takes us back through the twelve-day journey that ever changed his life.

It opens…

...I'm older than dirt.

And when you're older than dirt, you can get lost in time, in memory, even in space.

I'm inside my tiny four-walled room with the feeling that I've been... gone. I'm not even sure how long I've been sitting here. All night I think, stirring from my foggy mind to find myself surrounded by other old farts staring at a fancy TV. I remember the man on the screen talking about the last giraffess on earth and rushing over in my wheelchair to punch him. I remember being pushed back here quick and a nurse bandaging my bleeding knuckles. 

Then I remember an orderly making me take a calm-down pill I didn't want to take.

But that's the last time I'll be doing that. Because right now, pencil in this shaky hand, I aim to write down one singular memory.

Fast as I can. 

I could spend what I feel in my bones is my life's last clear hours to tell you of the Dust Bowl. Or the War. Or the French peonies. Or my wives, so many wives. Or the graves, so many graves. Or the goodbyes, so many goodbyes. Those memories come and go here at the end, if they come at all anymore. But not this memory. This memory is always with me, always alive, always within reach, and always in technicolor from deadly start to bittersweet finish, no matter how old I keep getting. And-- Red, Old Man, sweet Wild Boy and Girl-- oh, how I miss you.

All I have to do is close my worn-out eyes for the smallest of moments.

And it begins.

Book Snap #108

Title: The House in the Cerulean Sea

Author: TJ Klune

Date Read: July 8, 2021

Two (loud) snaps.

I loved this book! The quote on the cover reads: “It’s like being wrapped up in a big gay blanket. Simply perfect.”

Reccommended to me by my colleague, Gabrielle Maillet, she said it gave her Schitt’s Creek vibes– and I ran with that! (Love me some Rose Motel feel goodery.) It did not disappoint.

Linus Baker is rule-following case worker in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He’s tasked with determining whether six dangerous magical children are likely to bring about the end of the world. Arthur Parnassus is the master of the orphanage. He would do anything to keep the children safe, even if it means the world will burn.

The House in the Cerulean Sea is a beautiful story with fantastical characters (a sort of blobby slug want-to-be-hotel porter; a bearded female gardening gnome; a fairy sprite; a wyvern; a werewolf crossed Pomeranian and the purported son of Satan, nicknamed Lucy.) They live on a beautiful, secluded island where the inhabitants outwardly hate them, make up stories and rumours about them, and hang signs that say: “If you see something, say something.” Arthur arrives determined to do his job and report back on the intricacies of the orphanage, the children and Arthur– but he is taken up by the magic of the island and the love of a family. A saccharine-sweet cotton-candy-novel. Love wins.

Humanity is so weird. If we're not laughing, we're  crying or running for our lives because monsters are trying to eat us. And they don't even have to be real monsters. They could be the ones we make up in our heads. Don't you think that's weird?

Book Snap #107

Title: On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous

Author: Ocean Vuong

Date Read: July 4, 2021

Two snaps.

A compassionate and unflinching queer coming-of-age story. Little Dog writes a series of letters to his mother in order to make sense of his place in the world. She cannot read a word of it. Vuong is a daring writer– he goes where the hurt is, creating a novel saturated with yearning and ache. He stares down the violence, trauma, and pain and somehow uncovers the innocence, compassion and tenderness. Loved every minute of this story.

In that room, among the Star Wars poster (Empire Strikes Back) peeling above his unmade bed, among the empty root beer cans, the twenty-pound dumbbell, one half of a broken skateboard, the desk covered with loose change, empty gum packets, gas station receipts, weed crumbs, fentanyl patches and empty dime bags, coffee mugs ringed brown with old water and joint roaches, a copy of Of Mice and Men, empty shell casings from a Smith & Wesson, there were no questions. (Vuong, p.110)

Book Snap #106

Title: The Pisces

Author: Melissa Broder

Date Read: July 1, 2021

Oh Snap!

Ummm. This one was weird. Really weird. It’s hard to write about why I struggled with it. Suffice it to say, I felt weird reading it and wanted to hide it from my son when he looked over my shoulder while I was reading. The main character is relatably flawed, awkwardly vulnerable, and at a white-wine- guzzling-rock-bottom when her boyfriend leaves her and she uproots to house and dog sit in Venice Beach. She is terrible to her sister’s dog, I hated that part. She is cutting and pointed in her observations and summations about others. Again, made me uncomfortable, but okay. But the merman erotica? Just couldn’t get into it.

Broder is best known as the woman behind the Twitter account @sosadtoday, which has six hundred and forty-nine thousand followers. Recent tweets include “in a threesome with anxiety and depression” and “unfortunately i’m very self-aware.” On her personal Twitter account, @melissabroder, she offers similar sentiments: “i’m gifted at finding ways to never seem like enough,” she wrote last month. She has also written four books of poetry, most recently “Last Sext.” In 2016, she published a collection of personal essays called “So Sad Today,” in which she grounded the universalized Internet sadness of her Twitter presence in concrete individual experience. She was twelve when she started dreaming about her family burning up in a house fire, thirteen when she started obsessing about the Holocaust. During adolescence, she could only orgasm when she imagined people vomiting. (The New Yorker, 2018.)

Book Snap #105

Title: Less

Author: Andrew Sean Greer

Date Read: June 25, 2021

Two snaps.

Less was reccommended by my friend, Bonnie Creber. It was the perfect, lighthearted way to begin enjoying summer break. There were a few things appealing about this story– Arthur Less is a failed novelist who is trepidatiously celebrating his fiftieth. A wedding invitation to attend his ex-boyfriend’s nuptials has him seriously reflecting on his life, decisions, and ultimately moves him to try something bold. What ensues is a madcap tour around the world (feverishly accepting all of the piled-up invitaions and cobbling them in to a grand voyage). It is slightly silly, and then full of sadness and longing. It is written beautifully (it won a Pulitzer). 

There is no Arthur Less without the suit. Bought on a whim, in that brief era of caprice three years ago when he threw caution (and money) to the wind and flew to Ho Chi Minh City to visit a friend on a work trip, searching for air-conditioning in that humid, moped-plagued city, found himself in a tailor shop, ordering a suit. Drunk on car exchaust and sugarcane, he made a series of rash decidions, gave his home address, and by the next morning had forgotten all about it. Two weeks later, a package arrived in San Fransisco. Perplexed, he opened it and pulled out a medium blue suit, lined in fuschia, and sewn with his initials: APL. A rose-water smell from the box summoned, instantly, a dictatorial woman with a tight bun, hectoring him with questions. The cut, the buttons, the pockets, the collar. But most of all: the blue. Chosen in haste from a wall of fabrics: not an ordinary blue. Peacock? Lapis? Nothing gets close. Medium but vivid, moderately lustrous, definitely bold. Somewhere between ultramarine and cyanide salts, between Vishnu and Amon, Israel and Greece, the logos of Pepsi and Ford. In a word: bright. He loved whatever self had chosen it and after that wore it constantly. Even Freddy approved: "You look like someone famous!" And he does. Finally, at his advanced age, he has struck the right note. He looks good, and he looks like himself. Without it, somehow he does not. Without the suit, there is no Arthur Less. (Greer, p. 25).