Things to which I am Susceptible

 

  • Writer's Block
    • Note the passage of time between these posts. That was not the way this was supposed to go down.
  • Paralysis
    • An object at rest stays at rest. See above. 
  • Procrastination
    • And yet.
  • The Zoe Report Social Media Account
    • Humility is revealing to the world that I follow this social media account. 
    • Whatever they are doing it's weirdly effective on me.  And inevitably once I do click to read the article, which is an annoying process in itself, the hook is always incredibly frustrating and obvious. Example: Check out this one drink that this stunningly beautiful and radiant actress/model/celebrity makes sure she has everyday to keep her skin absolutely glowing! And I'll click, and click through, and click again, and the big reveal is that this miracle elixir that leads to clear skin will be fucking water. You know what? Fuck you, Zoe Report.
  • Advertisements on Podcasts
    • If I listen to you via podcast, chances are you've sold me something. Or a lot of things.   ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Take Two

I had written a really charming post - it was clever, it was witty, endearing even. It had personal details, embarrassing reveals - and then, someone tried to facetime me (thanks Dad) and my computer froze and all that language was lost. I'd consider it a sacrifice to the gods of creativity or writing or just the internet, but. It wasn't that good. 

I was writing (and will again write) reviews of the two books I've read in the last two weeks. One was a recommendation from my mother-in-law, and she is a font of good knowledge. The other is a book I revisited after reading it years before. Both are timely. Both are also worth your time.

Exit West, by Mohsin Hamid

I want to tell you this book is poetic without being flowery, only the most essential and beautiful language possible brings Nadia and Saeed's story to stark relief. The magical realism surprised me but those elements don't detract from the truths revealed in the story. The book partly covers national crises and global tragedy, nationalism and fear, while focusing on this young couple navigating their own identities as individuals and as a family.  The story begins in an unnamed middle eastern country consumed by civil war and unrest, and the characters' subsequent escape to Greece, England, and finally the United States.  This short book is consuming - I read it in its entirety while flying over the Rockies (truly - my husband was pointing out canyons and rock formations in real time) and I worry that by reading it so fast, the story will not stay with me for quite as long.  There's a lot this book demands we ask (by that I mean - I can see book clubs having a ton to talk about with this, from the micro to the macro levels) - so when you get around to it, let me know. I'll bring the wine.

American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

I had to revisit this - the casting for the Starz show and the hype around putting this cinematic, made-for-the-Golden-Age-of-Television novel was too real. Without hesitation I am here to tell you that American Gods created a world that is so encompassing that I can't get my head out of it and while my friends and family might be over it, I am loving it.  The book imagines a world where a battle is brewing: a battle for survival and dominance between the old gods - gods and heroes brought over to America from Vikings, immigrants, slaves, born from Native American tribes indigenous clans and generations of folklore - and the new gods of Technology, Media, the American Car, Highways....you name it. Anything we sacrifice blood, money, time, attention, energy towards - it may be part of a New Religion.  

Long after I finished this book (and I tore through it), I was still thinking about the characters and the conceit. I kept talking about these obscure Norse gods and putting together pieces of mythology and metaphor that Neil Gaiman wove into his story seamlessly. The best part of this book in terms of its translation to the small screen is that the world he created is so juicy for modernization and re-interpretation and extrapolation. There is room for more gods, new and old. Room for more detail and more backstories and everything. I'm psyched on this.  I am here for this.

So you think you can mom.

When I was pregnant, my mind was cluttered with so much baggage - including lots of anxiety about some high-risk conditions I was navigating, the resulting (bizarre) diet I needed to adhere to and weekly monitoring that drove me a little nuts. With so much on my plate, I decided that determining a strategy for living with a baby (napping schedules, feeding schedules, how to breastfeed, how to formula feed, how to pump, when to pump, when to sleep, how to mom) could wait until after the baby arrived.  

This may have been a mistake. 

It's fine now (definitely fine!), but by the time I opened any of these books it felt too late. Four months in and I'd lost any chance of putting baby on a schedule for the rest of his life. Four months deep and it felt like I had already made my bed I'd need to sleep in (or not sleep in, as the case was).  

So I read a few books, maybe too late to make any real difference. But some of the books were infinitely more helpful than others. So here are some of my favorites, the ones that stand out in my hazy memory of that time when no one was sleeping but everyone was in love, so did sleep even matter? (The answer is yes, it always always matters, it matters so very very much.)


Bringing up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, by Pamela Druckerman

This was the most recent book I read, and it was the best. I wished I read it before the baby was so old (he was already five months old, practically a teenager) but there is a lot of content in the book beyond sleep and feeding schedules. I still think back to some of the bigger messages in the book when I feel myself getting anxious about milestones or the 'Performative Parenting' that pervades my Facebook newsfeed.  This is the book I would recommend and gift to all my pregnant friends. 

This is one of my favorite passages, and one that I remind myself of not infrequently:

"In the 1960s, the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget came to America to share his theories on the stages of children's development. After each talk, someone in the audience typically asked him what he began calling the American Question. It was: How can we speed these stages up?

Piaget's answer was: Why would you want to do that? He didn't think that pushing kids to acquire skills ahead of schedule was either possible or desirable. He believed that children reach these milestone at their own speeds, driven by their own inner  motors.  

The American Question sums up an essential difference between French and American parents. We Americans assign ourselves the job of pushing, stimulating, and carrying our kids from one developmental stage to the next. The better we are at parenting, we think, the faster our kids will develop. In my Anglophone playgroup in Paris, some of the mothers flaunt the fact that their kids take music classes or that they go to a separate Portuguese-speaking playgroup [...] These mothers would never admit that they're being competitive, but the feeling is palpable.

French parents just don't seem so anxious for their kids to get head starts. They don't push them to read, swim, or do math ahead of schedule. They aren't trying to prod them into becoming prodigies. I don't get the feeling that - surreptitiously or otherwise - we're all in a race for some unnamed prize. They do sign their kids up for tennis, fencing, and English lessons. but they don't parade these activities as proof of what good parents they are [...] In France, the point of enrolling a child in Saturday-morning music class isn't to activate some neural network. It's to have fun...French parents believe in 'awakening' and 'discovery.'"


 

On Becoming Babywise, by Gary Ezzo, MA  Robert Bucknam, MD

babywise.jpg

My sister-in-law gifted this to me with plenty of time to read it in advance. I chose not to and by the time I opened it I felt like my little guy was a lost cause. However, it's very straightforward and could have been massively helpful had I read it in the early days or just before bringing this little dude into the world.  

 

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth, MD

My therapist recommended this to me long before the little dude was born, with the explicit warning that it's a very difficult book to navigate especially when on less than an hour of consecutive sleep. It had some good ideas that I found very difficult to implement when I tried putting the babe on a schedule, but this seems like it could have been a brilliant solution - had I been prepared, or organized, or effective. This was a low moment for me, but it could work for you. It worked for my therapist.  

Happiest Baby on the Block, by Harvey Karp, MD

Serious confession. I never opened this book. We have it, and it sat on my shelf mocking me for months. Instead, I watched the accompanying DVD. And it was a miracle! This was the only preparation I was armed with before the baby was born, and it helped. It might have helped. It is so hard to be certain but the 5 S's were lifesavers, or at least I think they were. Read this. Or watch this. But do this first, because this is about immediacy

 

Pro Tip: I just ran into a friend who swears by 12 Hours of Sleep by 12 Weeks Old by Suzy Giordano. I can't speak from personal experience but her sweet girl has apparently been sleeping through the night since she was only five weeks, so this one may be worth a shot. Or it may be that she happens to have a miracle baby. Hard to say.  

Good luck new mamas and papas, and godspeed.    

It's been a minute.

I think I need to get this out of the way. Bookspace Detroit, once an obsessively planned and plotted retail space to open in Downtown Detroit, and then West Village Detroit, and then maybe somewhere else Detroit...is no longer set to open. A bookstore in Detroit is a beautiful idea, and there are two incredibly vital ones (go check out Source Booksellers and Pages) doing 'God's work,' as an author once described bookselling to me. Bookspace may have contributed a new dimension to the existing scene, and it still might - but not now. The deals were not right, the time was not right, and I was not ready. Instead, life just unfolded differently.

In the last 17 months, everything changed. I became a mom. And everyone says oh isn't it amazing you'll never believe how everything changes. And so you prepare to learn what that means. You can't know what you don't know, but you try to account for it, and plan around it, and visualize affirmations and meditate and get strong in anticipation of unimaginable physical trauma and emotional upheaval. And yet. There's only so much you can do, so many green drinks and mindful meditations and prenatal pelvic floor strengthening series you can take while working and worrying with sickness and death and the ceaselessly terrifying nature of pregnancy (did you know it's constantly terrifying? Am I the only one?).

Of course everything changes - and of course you're still surprised by the scope and the depth of that transformation. I'm working on a perfect analogy but all I can think of is when you ask what time it is over and over, forgetting immediately what you said the moment it passes your lips and hearing any response as a series of beeps and blips, so you keep asking and forgetting and not understanding.  Without ever stopping for sleep.

So Bookspace Detroit exists, but only in my mind. Books have continued to play a central role in my life, so I will still write about them here - reviews of parenting books (I read a little bit of several of these!), escapist books (great for endless nursing stretches!), politically relevant books (can't avoid these anymore!), funny books, necessary books, coloring books, board books.  I'm now focused on building not my own library but something perfect for the tiny gentleman who is suddenly in my care. This little human entirely dependent on the giants who live with him is starting to do more with books than just try to swallow them whole - 

I think that journey alone is worth exploring.

How Lucky we Are

Do you guys know how lucky we are to live in a world where a man like this also lived?

I've been tearing through his autobiography and can't wait to move through the rest of his essays and novels. 

I am grateful to whichever stroke of good luck and fortune and brilliance I stumbled upon for introducing me to this man and his heart and his mind (Radiolab, probably).   

Dr. Sacks was a world-renowned physician, a neurologist, a scientist and an artist and a human of the highest order (can I say that? I will).  What set him apart was his heart. His empathy. His desire to understand the people around him, his ability to avoid the easy answer and rote generalities we rely on when things spin beyond our control. When Dr. Sacks was diagnosed with terminal cancer, he wrote some of the most beautiful, inspiring, heart-breaking essays (collected in this book now, but first published in the New York Times - here's a link to one of them) I have ever read.  

This was a man like none other, not least for his curiosity, his capacity to keep exploring, to seek the human element that lies at the base of every sensory experience. He had adventure and he sought more; he explored and experimented and learned and lost; he loved his family and his friends and his patients and his work; he wrote about it all in a way that allows every ready to feel the enchantment he did for the night sky, the scientific method, ancient traditions of his faith. 

It has been an honor and a privilege to read his words. I know that's trite and cliche but having never met the man, it is inspiring to know that such a person existed, and has influenced others, and whose impact is immeasurable. Maybe there are more out there like him - that thought comforts me on good days and bad.  

Thank you, Dr. Sacks. 

Original illustration from Dr. Sacks's NYT essay, My Periodic Table.

Original illustration from Dr. Sacks's NYT essay, My Periodic Table.



POP REVIEW #6: The Martian

This book has exploded some corners of the internet, and it's poised to get heavy rotation in all media forms come this fall - have you even seen this trailer yet? Originally self-published and later picked up by Crown Publishing and re-released, this was a fast-read made even more exciting by the prospect of seeing it on the big screen (starring, perfectly, Matt Damon). This book made the rounds in my family instantaneously, trading hands until both my brothers, my father, and I had all read it. This was a quick, gripping, hysterical read - it makes you root for NASA's glorious return! For more, I submit the following pop review:

POP Review #6: The Martian, by Andy Weir

An astronaut - trapped on Mars, with only his creativity, genius, and sense of humor to get him through. Luckily, astronaut Mark Watney is brilliant, and also a reaaaaalllly funny guy. I had moments where I had to put the book down because I was shaking so hard with laughter. Granted, it took a couple chapters for me to get to that point - there's enough science in this book to absolutely delight the geek in all of us, and maybe little too much science for some of us, but it's easy enough to skim over those passages. Read this. 

Addendum: This is a quick read, and as I mentioned - delightful in all sorts of ways. There are a number of endearing characters, all of whom fight to get Watney home, yet none as endearing as Mark Watney himself. While the book is obviously science fiction, it's realistic enough to be fascinating to read, as Watney's reasoning seems logical and evidence-based (says me!). But truly, the science part was gripping, especially for my small sample group of science nerds (brothers and father). As someone who leans less hard on engineering and chemistry, I found some of those descriptions a little lengthy. Still, it's amazing to recognize that Watney learns how to CREATE water - I just had to read quickly past a few of those passages. No harm, no foul.  Also, Matt Damon is perfect for this role. Who will join me at the theater this October, to cheer for Mark Watney and the entire Ares 3 Crew???

Bookspace Rating: A free orbit of the moon and ten freeze-dried potatoes. What I mean is, five stars and one mean red planet!


POP REVIEW #5: EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU

Another one of those books that has popped up on Must-Read lists for months now, I picked up this slender novel at an airport kiosk in Detroit.  It was one of those instances when I knew close to nothing about this book, its story, or its author; needless to say, the opening lines hit me really hard, right in that place between your heart and your lungs, making it hard to breathe for a moment:

"Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet. 1977, May 3, six thirty in the morning, no one knows anything but this innocuous fact: Lydia is late for breakfast." 

I read this mystery/thriller in less than 36 hours, and it was breathless, heartwrenching, starkly beautiful. The tension is beautifully built, through such powerful yet subtly storytelling that you don't know how it hits you, but suddenly you feel yourself immersed in Lee family world. Without further ado, here are 100 (more) words about this book, and an argument for putting on your ToDo list.

POP Review #5: Everything I never Told You; by Celeste Ng

This thriller is a snapshot of a family forced to face, fight through, overcome or be submerged by tremendous tragedy. Context reveals itself slowly, patiently – the family’s origin (love) story; dreams deferred, then projected on others; early-onset chaos that impacts everyone in the family in an exacting, critical, and wholly disparate way, setting them off on orbits away from each other instead of drawing them closer.  The characters are revealed tenderly, and are fully three-dimensional – Ng’s writing affords them the capacity to experience formidable moments separately, creating a stunning kaleidoscopic view of what it really means be ‘family.’ Read this.

Addendum: The book is a page-turner, the story compelling and heartbreaking and ultimately beautiful. The family is mixed - the father a Chinese-American, the mother a white woman from Virginia. Their story of love in adversity, though it might seem familiar, is told with such nuance and grace that it brings still more humanity to this sad evolution of whom society deems worthy of loving. The novel creates a world within this familiar one, and the characters' actions are informed by the love and hate and yearning and ambition and growth that is embedded in all of us.  But Ng treats her characters, flawed and broken as they are, with compassion and respect and for that I am so grateful to her - otherwise, it might not have been so easy to handle this story of tragedy and family. 

Bookspace Rating: All of the love and heartbreak I can muster on this quiet Monday morning. All of the stars. Read this. 

It's been a minute!

Dear Bookspace Readers and Fans alike:

That's not me.

That's not me.

Planes and trains provide some of the best and longest opportunities for uninterrupted reading, and oh how I have taken advantage of those vehicles over the last five weeks.  Boats and automobiles as well, but those are much harder to read on and I don't recommend reading and driving (although, terrifyingly, I have seen it done before. Or, everyday. Put down your phones, people! Ain't nothing that important!).

We'll have a lot of pop reviews coming online in the next few days, and some great interviews. In the meantime, here's a shortlist of what you should be reading now, if you aren't already:

  1. Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel
  2. Girl in a Band, Kim Gordon
  3. A Brief History of Seven Killings, Marlon James
  4. Every Little Thing, adapted by Cedella Marley
  5. The Buried Giant, by Kazua Ishiguro (if you're into this kind of thing)  

Still to come: POP Reviews, literary news, and some downtown recommendations.  

 

POP REVIEW #4: The Girl on the Train

raedingtrain.jpg

A friend recently asked me, what's with that new book that everyone's reading on the train? I had to remind her, I no longer live in New York. The train is not a thing in my daily life, or even my recent memory, much less comparing the trends of harried commuters.  But, what was this book?  Should I read it? Where can I find it? The answers are: The Girl on the Train; Probably, yes; An airport bookstore.

POP Review #4: THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN; by PAULA HAWKINS

This was a fast-paced, riveting story. Not that Gone Girl was the first-ever awesome mystery with only unreliable narrators, but it’s the most recent one I've read to make such a similar impression on me (and it appears every other reviewer agrees with this). And yet - I didn’t want to put it down, and managed to finish it in one day! Decent twists, unreliable and endearing characters. I will likely forget the plot in the coming weeks, since I read it in a matter of hours – but sometimes, you have to love them fast to love them well.  (Right?)

Addendum: A great fast read, at times violent but not anywhere the level of even Life after Life (which had some moments).  But a good fast read.  Bring it on a plane (like I did) - or a train, if you want to be seriously literal.  If you love England, get psyched!  If you don't, it doesn't really matter - it's still a gripping story

Bookspace Rating: A strong English breakfast with three gold stars.  

music as books as music as books as music as books

In a warped form of synesthesia*, I find that certain music can make me immediately recall certain characters or passages from particular books. Sometimes the books make a point of describing a type of soundtrack that plays on repeat as I read, sometimes I associate a character with a type of music - and sometimes it makes almost no sense. David Grey's Babylon makes me think immediately of Lord of the Rings trilogy. It's not an exceptionally fitting soundtrack for the epic tale, but I read those books in a manic few months of high school with David Grey playing on constant, chronic rotation. Coupled with the movies' intense visuals, This Year's Love brings to mind New Zealand ice caps almost instantaneously .

Below, a roughly-drawn sketch of some music that I will identify with particular books. This is not definitive and I'd really be more comfortable if we all acknowledged that this is a personal and even bizarre collection of meaningful associations - they'd be different for different people to an infinite degree of variability.  In any case, let's have some fun!

  • David Grey, Babylon <--> Lord of the Rings, J.R.R Tolkein
  • Amos Lee, Keep it Loose, Keep it Tight <--> Titus Andronicus, William Shakespeare
  • Wilco, I am Trying to Break Your Heart <--> Norwegian Wood, Haruki Murakami
  • Bob Dylan, Don't Think Twice, it's Alright <--> A Good Man is Hard To Find, Flannery O'Conner
  • Bob Marley <--> A Brief History of Seven Killings (this one is obvious, I guess.), by Marlon James
  • Cut Copy, Need you Now <--> Social Work textbooks.  
  • Frank Sinatra, In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning <--> Marjorie Morningstar,  Herman Wouk
  • LCD Soundsystem, All I Want <--> The Last Policeman, Ben Winters
  • Lou Reed, Perfect Day <-->  "The Cremation of Sam McGee," by Robert W. Service

That's it for now, but this list is infinite.  Let me know if you have any books associated with songs or characters or just good feelings because why not. 

 

*I recognize this actually in no way resembles synesthesia.  

A brilliant idea for the powers that be.

Sometimes I'm reading something, and I'm engrossed and engaged and in the story.  This can be very disarming when something extraordinary happens, or magical, or (more often, these days) - something extremely and terrifying violent or batsh!t crazy.  

When you're watching TV and something WILD happens, you can just check the internet and read pages on pages on pages of reactions, critiques, tinfoil-y theories. This is especially true for shows with dedicated monster-rabid fanbases, like Game of Thrones (r/asoiaf FOREVER [R+L=J]) and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and anything by David Simon  or Friday Night Lights or Mad Men or The Bachelor or...Murder She Wrote, I'm sure.  It's great!  You pause the TV (or finish an episode) and find an entire community that dissects every scene, move by move. The fun doesn't end when the episode does.   

Now I'm reading a book (this one) and its huge and sprawling and so worth it already.  But I'll be in the middle of a plane and there's a grotesque murder. Or limbs or lost or a drugbender told from the first-person perspective or maybe an allusion to a song I loved in seventh grade and I have an immediate desire to process this with other people. To break down an insane chapter step by step.  

Maybe my (obsessive )community-driven TV habits have trickled over to my  reading habits. But without reading at the same time as someone else, I find myself lost. Looking on the internet is too risky - what if there's a spoiler? Without chapter-by-chapter divisions, I'm too afraid to check online posts. Also, internet chatrooms (message boards?) are scary unless previously vetted by trusted advisors (my brother).  

So, a brilliant idea for the powers that be: communal reading breakdowns and shakedowns. Let's have online insta-forums where readers can vibe on sophisticated chapter-by-chapter recaps. Criticisms, allusions, cited references - a veritable Wasteland of cultural influences (or more of a mixtape).  

Or, I suppose....bookclubs.  Let's make a bookclub.  

POP REVIEW #3: This is for you

It's almost Valentine's Day, for whatever that is worth to you.   Regardless of the holiday, it's cold outside and sometimes it's nice to feel warm and loved and beautiful when the world is (literally) so cold.  So today I bring you my POP Review or Rob Ryan's This is for You, a beautiful and hauntingly romantic book that is the perfect gift for someone you love (including yourself).  I first came across this book in a boutique that no longer exists in Midtown Detroit, and I fell in love. So without further ado, a few words about this charming illustrated love story.

 

POP REVIEW #3: THIS IS FOR YOU, by ROB RYAN

Rob Ryan’s illustrated book is a delight from cover to cover. The papercut art is gorgeous, and at every page my eyes welled up a little bit because it was so surprising, so charming, so heartfelt. I felt and still feel like this book was perfectly created to be given to the person you love most- it is full of romance and longing and strength and belief and hope. It’s all a little bit twee, I admit, but a beautiful object of curiosity that would be perfect on a nightstand, or for guests to page through on your coffee table.

Addendum: This is a perfect example of a book-as-gift - it's sweet, it's unique, it's short. I love the idea of getting this gift form an admirer, from a significant other, from a longtime partner. I wanted to give this gift to someone and was too shy (it was too early, I thought!) - but, now I think that caution was misplaced.  Because this book should be in our house now.  

Bookspace Rating: Four bursting hearts and a giant bouquet of cascading terracotta roses.

Phenomenal Woman

I tried looking for a beautiful Maya Angelou poem to post here, and there are too many and I know too few.  So for now, here is one that is beautiful and timely and that maybe we all should re-read from time to time.

 

Phenomenal Woman

BY MAYA ANGELOU


Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size   
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,   
The stride of my step,   
The curl of my lips.   
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,   
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,   
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.   
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.   
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,   
And the flash of my teeth,   
The swing in my waist,   
And the joy in my feet.   
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered   
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,   
They say they still can’t see.   
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,   
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.   
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.   
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,   
The bend of my hair,   
the palm of my hand,   
The need for my care.   
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

 

 

 

 

Angelou, “Phenomenal Woman” from And Still I Rise. Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou. Used by permission of Random House, Inc.

POP REVIEW #2: THE LUMINARIES, BY ELEANOR CATTON

For our second edition of POP Reviews,we'll tackle the latest (and grandest) literary tome to cross my nightstand - The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton. I'll own up - this was Bookspace Detroit's initial selection for our Moveable Feast Book Club, but the stars didn't quite align and we did not run on it like we should have. Still, I read this extraordinarily unique ghost/gold rush story and lived to tell the tale so without further ado, let's get you 100 words on the matter.  

POP REVIEW #2: THE LUMINARIES, by ELEANOR CATTON

Much attention has been paid to this book, winner of the Man Booker prize by its youngest-ever recipient. It’s a brilliantly crafted and meticulously plotted homage to the Victorian novel, with a framing device clever enough to add a magical element to every page. That being said, a PhD had to explain the framing device to me so that I could understand it.  It’s not an easy read, and while the mystery is compelling, the payoff is a longtime coming. The best parts occur when characters are fully realized through flashbacks, painting a fuller picture of the setting and times. 

Addendum, or: What else you should know: This feels like the type of book one should love, and one should geek out over. I'm sure many an English major would - and sadly, I don't feel I can count myself among themThis book was long, and at times dragged on. But reading about Victorian New Zealand (gold rush! opium trade! settlers and governance and new beginnings!) was an entirely new world for me, and I loved the way she painted the characters and how they saw themselves and each other.  It is a book that at times requires the reader to put some work in - if you refuse, you'll still get a long, and dense, mystery and ghost story. If you choose to put in the work, you'll appreciate it on a much deeper level as writers and readers. The question is whether this payoff warrants that type of work, and that depends entirely on you.  

Bookspace Rating: Three gold bars and a giant boot of beer.  

When a Book Lover Wants a Book.

Things are moving fast around here.  We are close to nailing down a physical, brick-and-mortar, MTV True Life-ready location. We're talking design strategy, opening day celebrations, window decorations.  What I'm saying is, stay tuned because we're about to kick off this magic carpet ride.  

But before that happens, we have to get personal. A very special person is turning 25 (his name is Josh and he is my baby brother), and he asked for a book for his birthday.  What is a professed book lover to do?

I did some research, and these are some of my options. However, I'm looking to crowdsource this: what do you buy for a super-brilliant, multi-talented, many-faceted 25 year old third-year law student living in DC, headed towards NYC, with his heart permanently caught between Detroit and Algonquin Park?  He loves music (he's always heard it first) and philosophy and The Simpsons and people I'm not cool enough to know about. He's into history, he's into politics, he's the smartest and least affected. What's a protective, far-more-square older sister to do?

Josh was big into cartography in undergrad. He might know everything in this book, but he also might not!  Maybe there's a twist in the historical narrative here, since it focuses on a dodgy maps dealer.  

Josh was big into cartography in undergrad. He might know everything in this book, but he also might not!  Maybe there's a twist in the historical narrative here, since it focuses on a dodgy maps dealer.  

This seems like the type of dark trivia that would be fascinating at a dinner party. As Josh's older sister, I want to ensure that he is always the most interesting person at a proverbial dinner party.

This seems like the type of dark trivia that would be fascinating at a dinner party. As Josh's older sister, I want to ensure that he is always the most interesting person at a proverbial dinner party.

Is it possible he hasn't read this?  More insanely specific and beautiful trivia about one of Josh's driving interests, music. 

Is it possible he hasn't read this?  More insanely specific and beautiful trivia about one of Josh's driving interests, music. 

A niche population of radical collectors who seek out a rapidly disappearing fetishized object. Josh would dig this, probably?

A niche population of radical collectors who seek out a rapidly disappearing fetishized object. Josh would dig this, probably?

Josh should read this before he becomes a big-time city lawyer. Learn to take some time, bro.  

Josh should read this before he becomes a big-time city lawyer. Learn to take some time, bro.  

"Liner notes for hip hop junkies."  Does Joshman count? Likely. 

"Liner notes for hip hop junkies."  Does Joshman count? Likely. 

 

Somehow, this became an #OdeToJosh. Happy birthday, little brother.

(If you have any other suggestions for gifts, please leave them in the comments!) 

POP REVIEW #1: BAD FEMINIST

Welcome to our first ever POP REVIEW!  

POP REVIEWS are book reviews in 100 words or less.  The goal is to create a lasting impression that will help you decide whether or not you want to dive in to any given particular book using extremely selective language.  Because important details must be discarded for the sake of brevity, each POP REVIEW will also come with a summarial ranking and an addendum of important details I would have mentioned in the review if not for the strictly-held word-count limit. 

This will all make sense soon!

And so, without further ado...

POP REVIEW #1: BAD FEMINIST, by ROXANNE GAY

This collection of essays discusses topics ranging from Fat Camp to Chris Brown; pervasive Prince Charming mythology to the devastation of gang rape.  Gay had me laughing and glowing one moment and then, in an instant, positively haunted, heartbroken.  She writes brilliantly, honestly, and sometimes scathingly about the demands we hold ourselves accountable to, the (racial/gendered/cultural/political) lens through which we experience the world, what pop culture can do for us even at its most tasteless.  Gay ultimately explains why she considers herself a Bad Feminist, and her arguments resonated with me. I too, am a Bad Feminist.

Addendum, or: What You Should Know Also: How truly funny this book could be; and how equally enraging these stories could be. How hard it was to read just before bed, how much I learned, how connected I felt with somebody else, how badly I want to be Roxanne Gay’s friend.  That the essays range from discussing problematic feminism to race relations and race identity culture and class wars. That Hunger Games, Sweet Valley High, Wendy Davis, sexual violence, the Boston bombers, Trayvon Martin, Lena Dunham, Junot Diaz, trigger warnings, Django Unchained. Tyler Perry, Miss America, Blurred Lines, Yeezus, Fifty Shades of Grey, academia, and so much more are discussed, analyzed, put in context.  And that there is truly so much more. 

Bookspace Rating: Five Stars and a delicious glass of wine.

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Happy New Year! A little late.

The blog has been a little quiet, I admit.  It has worn this winter weather in silent, frigid dignity while Bookspace Detroit has grown leaps and bounds over the last few weeks.  It is still early to say but I am so excited about everything to come for the bookstore, that I hope in the next few weeks we'll be shouting it from the rooftops.

In the meantime, my New Year's Resolution is to update with far more frequency on the blog, our facebook page, and our instagram.  We'll have weekly Pop Book Reviews (that is, reviews in 100 words or less), suggestions for Books-as-Gifts (the best of all gifts), pictures of books, pictures of words, the works.  

In the meantime, thanks for your patience and understanding.  Here's what's coming up on the blog in the next few days:

  • Pop Reviews of Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay, the Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, and more...
  • Notes on bookstore design and visions for the future
  • More pictures.
  • And this:  everyone get a hold of this book, because in a few months we won't be able to talk about anything else::