I've Dreamt In My Life Dreams

Reading now: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
'Nelly, do you ever dream queer dreams?' she said suddenly, after some minutes' reflection. 
'Yes, now and then,' I answered.
'And so do I. I've dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas: they've gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind.
I've been meaning to read this book for awhile - one of the classics that never popped up in my high school or college reading lists - and I'm very happy I have finally gotten to it. I'm enjoying it very much and Catherline is quickly becoming one of my favorite literary characters. For some reason I always connect with the free-spirited, spoiled women (Scarlett Ohara, Holly Golightly). Hmm...


Bookshelf Porn

I'm kind of obsessed with really cool bookshelves. I love to display the books I own and I love walking into someone's house to find they have an elaborate built-in bookshelf or a room dedicated to books. 

I've been in the market for a new bookshelf for a couple months now (because I can't stop acquiring books and they are scattered everywhere.. some still in boxes from the last time I moved) and while I was shopping I stumbled upon Bookshelf Porn, a collection of amazing bookshelves for people who appreciate bookshelves. 

This is almost as good as hot guys reading books


When I get a little money...

When i get a little money, I buy books; and if there is any left, I buy food and clothes. 


The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

This book is written by a French professor of philosophy and from the ideas to the characters to the ending, it is all very French. Barbery's characters are constantly contemplating the meaning of art, literature, and life while simultaneously exuding a sense of self-pity as the result of (what they imply to be) a long-suffering life. The novel is a double-narrative: a concierge who is a closet autodidact and a pessimistic 12-year-old girl who is determined to commit suicide on her 13th birthday. Eventually their lives intertwine until they realize they are kindred spirits and together, begin to understand life in a new way.

Barbury manages to write about the meaning of life in a way that is subtle yet eye-opening. For me, the book highlights how things can change from bad to good without anything changing much at all and stresses the redemptive potential of true friendships.

If you are looking for a book that might change and challenge the way you look at things, I ask you to let this be it.


I Wish I Were Born 30 Years Earlier

"Call me a pessimist, call me Ishmael, but I think that book publishing is about to slide into the sea. We live in a literate time, and our children are writing up a storm, often combining letters and numerals (U R 2 1derful), blogging like crazy, reading for hours off their little screens, surfing around from Henry James to Jesse James to the epistle of James to pajamas to Obama to Alabama to Alanon to non-sequiturs, sequins, penguins, penal institutions, and it's all free, and you read freely, you're not committed to anything the way you are when you shell out $30 for a book, you're like a hummingbird in an endless meadow of flowers.

Back in the day, we became writers through the laying on of hands. Some teacher who we worshipped touched our shoulder, and this benediction saw us through a hundred defeats. And then an editor smiled on us and wrote us a check, and our babies got shoes. But in the New Era, writers will be self-anointed. No passing of the torch. Just sit down and write the book. And The New York Times, the great brand name of publishing, whose imprimatur you covet for your book ("brilliantly lyrical, edgy, suffused with light" — NY Times) will vanish (Poof!). And editors will vanish.

Children, I am an author who used to type a book manuscript on a manual typewriter. Yes, I did. And mailed it to a New York publisher in a big manila envelope with actual postage stamps on it. And kept a carbon copy for myself. I waited for a month or so and then got an acceptance letter in the mail. It was typed on paper. They offered to pay me a large sum of money. I read it over and over and ran up and down the rows of corn whooping. It was beautiful, the Old Era. I'm sorry you missed it." -Garrison Keillor for the Baltimore Sun

Now, I think Keillor is right and these ideas are daunting. I wish I were born 30 years earlier so I wasn't an English major looking for a job in an industry that is both revolutionizing and falling apart at the seams. Not to mention, as Keillor puts it, editors are vanishing.  Perhaps it's time to abandon my editorial dreams forever. With the industry turning itself inside out - not to mention the fact that our economy is still shitting the bed - it just doesn't seem like the job of my dreams (or anything resembling it) will ever be within grasp.


Ann Patchett's Favorite Bookstore is Her Own "Personal Idea of Heaven"

Ann Patchett wrote a small article for NYTimes Magazine that details her life as a blur of bookstores and why she love this one in Petoskey, Michigan:

It is just so thrilling to be around people who read, people who will pull a book off the shelf and say, "This is the one you want." People who want to know what I'm reading and will tell me what they're reading so that while we talk , stacks of books begin to form around us. It's my own personal idea of heaven. It is also, in this age of the overnighted electronic hand-held, a bit of America you aren't going to see everywhere. 

If I ever get to Michigan I'll be sure to visit. 


Hot Guys Reading Books

I stumbled across this site via the Huffington Post book news and wowza! I'm in love.

Hot Guys Reading Books is a blog dedicated to exactly that: photos of impossibly handsome men reading books. It's as if this blog was designed to make each one of my days just a little sweeter. Because honestly, what is hotter than a hot guy who reads? (Answer: a hot guy who reads and has a miniature bull dog puppy.)


Penguin's iMagineering

Did I mention how much I want an iPad?

It's also nice to see a publisher embracing new platforms rather than simply reacting to them.


Book Placement Fail... Or Win?

Seeking Refuge

Reading now: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

"When something is bothering me, I seek refuge. No need to travel far; a trip to the realm of literary memory will suffice. For where can one find more noble distraction, more entertaining company, more delightful enchantment than in literature?"


I Heart Obama

I've been kind of obsessed with the Obama's lately (thanks Vanessa for telling me to read Dreams From My Father!) and the latest book detailing Obama's presidency is out today: The Promise: President Obama, Year One. It's written by the senior editor at Newsweek, who provides a closeup view on Obama's administration: “There’s no reporter who’s ever been allowed to hang out with him all the time, but I think I got further than most,” Alter says. “This is the first book about this administration to just get a feel of what he’s like, and what it’s like in the room.”

It sounds really interesting and has gotten good reviews.

From the Washington Post: Jonathan Alter has delivered an exceptionally well-written account of President Obama's first year in office. Brimming with fresh and judicious ideas, his book fuses political analysis, subtle insights into the president's mind and policy debates into a fast-paced, crisis-filled story. "The Promise," based on more than 200 interviews with Obama and his close friends and aides, provides an uncommonly candid look inside a somewhat walled-off White House.


I Want Your Ugly/I Want Your Disease

"An artist's job is to take a snapshot — be it through words or sound, lyrics or song — that explains what it's like to be alive at that time. Lady Gaga's art captures the period we're in right now... Gaga's lyrics are incredibly literary. When "Bad Romance" starts, the music grabs your ear immediately. Then she opens with the line "I want your ugly/ I want your disease," and all of a sudden you're listening."

-Cindy Lauper on Lady Gaga in
The 2010 Time 100


The History of Love: A Novel by Nicole Krauss

Let me start by saying Leo Gursky, one of the novel's protagonists, is one of the most compelling characters I have read in a long time. A retired locksmith who immigrated to the US from Poland, he is the first speaker in the novel and immediately he drew me in - I was literally laughing out loud at his witty thoughts and crazy tenancies.
"I often wonder who will be the last person to see me alive. If I had to bet, I'd bet on the delivery boy from the Chinese take-out. I order in four nights out of seven. Whenever he comes I make a big production of finding my wallet. He stands in the door holding the greasy bag while I wonder if this is the night I'll finish off my spring roll, climb into bed, and have a heart attack in my sleep."
Overall I really liked this book. The multiple narrators made it a little hard to follow at first but once Krauss established her style I couldn't put it down. The novel is actually about a fictional book The History of Love (I love books about books) and the interconnectedness of the of the people this book has affected. Of course, each plot line is creatively linked in the end in a way that made me think Wow - I really like Nicole Krauss.
"Sorry. It's a long story," I said, and part of me wanted him to ask me why I was looking for her, so I could tell him the truth: that I wasn't really sure, that I had started out looking for someone to make my mother happy again, and even though I hadn't given up on finding him yet, along the way I began to look for something else too, which was connected to the first search, but also different, because it had to do with me."
Ultimately this book functions as a conceit for the endless potential of love, however it's much more than just a love story. From the characters to the prose to the multiple plot lines - it all consumed me.

In a related note, Nicole Krauss is married to Johnathan Safran Foer. I have been meaning to read one of his books for awhile now and his wife has just inspired me further.


Literary Characters and Their Modern-Day Tabloid Counterparts

Flavorwire.com has an entertaining piece that links famous literary characters who are known for "their turbulent romances and dramatic downward spirals" to celebrities in tabloids today who are known for the same.

My favorite? The Wife of Bath from Canterbury Tales (who is by far the best character Chaucer wrote):

The Wife of Bath presents herself as an expert on marriage; as she should with five marriages under her belt. She readily admits to using her feminine wiles to control her husbands–touting sexual power as currency in her relationships. Crass and brash, she states at the start of her prologue that a good husband is old, rich, and submissive. Modern day tabloid equivalent? Each and every one of the Bravo Real Housewives.

Love it.


Mr. Penumbra's Twenty-Four Hour Book Store by Robin Sloan

I stumbled across this short story and became completely absorbed (while I should have been working). Anyhow, it's awesome and you need to read it too. Immediately. It's a wildly imaginative and refreshingly original piece about a mysterious bookstore and how ebooks and ereaders are changing more than just the way we read.

There is something to be said about stories written about books/bookstores/book mobiles. They get me every time.

Read Mr. Penumbra's Twenty-Four Hour Book Store in it's entirety for free right here. Now.

Thoughts on the Unread Book

I just read
an article about unread books and why you shouldn't feel bad about your ever-increasing to-be-read pile. Kristy Logan maintains that her favorite books are the ones she hasn't even read yet. At first I thought this was dumb but then I got to thinking and I can completely relate:

An unread book is all possible stories. It contains all possible characters, styles, genres, turns of phrase, metaphors, speech patterns, and profound life-changing revelations. An unread book exists only in the primordial soup of your imagination, and there it can evolve into any story you like. An unread book – any unread book – could change your life.
Go to your bookshelves and pick a book you have not read. Hold it in your hands. Look at the cover and read the description on the back. Think about what the story might be about, what themes and motifs might be in it, what it might say about the world you inhabit, whether it can make you imagine an entirely different world. I suggest that the literary universe you just created might be more exciting and enlightening than the one contained within those covers. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that book. It might prove to be a great book; the best book you have ever read. But your imagination contains every possible story, every possible understanding, and any book can only be one tiny portion of that potential world.

I think it's the books that go beyond what we could imagine - those that tie together ideas in a way we could never think of but makes so much sense - that inevitably become our favorite books.

Granted Logan takes this idea (it's better to not read a book than to read it and be disappointed) to the extreme, but I like that she encourages a reader to think about the excitement and possibilities any book can hold.