24 July 2013

Does Jhumpa Lahiri even go to this school?

Lahiri joins Colum McCann, Ruth Ozeki and Colm Tóibín on the longlist for England's Man Booker Prize, announced yesterday. Of course Lahiri's new novel THE LOWLAND isn't out in the U.S. until September, even though she lives here, so all we can do is twiddle our thumbs and catch up on the other books. Full longlist: 

"Five Star Billionaire" by Tash Aw       
"We Need New Names" by NoViolet Bulawayo   
"The Luminaries" by Eleanor Catton   
"Harvest" by Jim Crace  
"The Marrying of Chani Kaufman" by Eve Harris  
"The Kill" by Richard House
"The Lowland" by Jhumpa Lahiri  
"Unexploded" by Alison MacLeod
"TransAtlantic" by Colum McCann  
"Almost English" by Charlotte Mendelson 
"A Tale for the Time Being" by Ruth Ozeki  
"The Spinning Heart" by Donal Ryan 
"The Testament of Mary" by Colm Tóibín

23 July 2013

NY Times' Dwight Garner is asleep at the switch

Please sign my petition to take his job if he can't be bothered to stay awake to do it. Not only do I not nap, I haven't gotten a good night's sleep since May! Think of all the reading I've gotten done! (On the bright side, anyone to whom Garner has given a negative review might find solace in this. Not their fault he dozed off during the denouement.) 

18 July 2013

Adjust your high-school yearbooks accordingly

The estate of William Faulkner lost a lawsuit today against the producers of "Midnight in Paris" over Owen Wilson quoting a line from Faulkner. The line in the movie is "The past is not dead! Actually, it's not even past." The line in the book (which I always thought was THE SOUND AND THE FURY but it's actually from REQUIEM FOR A NUN) is "The past is never dead. It's not even past." Next up, the estate of F. Scott Fitzgerald sues for allowing Tom Hiddleston to go on and do "Thor" after "Midnight in Paris," making his F. Scott very strange in retrospect. 

17 July 2013

"This is also a book about a scene — the Brooklyn literary thing — in which we meet people through their bookcases: 'Borges, Boswell, Bulgakov . . . marked with yellow "used" stickers from the Brown bookstore.'" Adelle Waldman, who are you and how did you get into my apartment?!

16 July 2013

When you make a billion dollars, you too can do whatever you want

And that includes publishing a novel under a pseudonym for no reason. Sure, Rowling wanted to write something without the pressure of being Rowling. But her publisher also allowed her to do it (it appears that they knew). I bet they were the ones who leaked it because sales of THE CUCKOO'S CALLING have, not surprisingly, gone through the roof now.

15 July 2013

Summer Reading: A Few Reasons Why Men Should Read LEAN IN, Too

I thought the coverage around LEAN IN, Sheryl Sandberg's business book on feminism and leadership published earlier this year, was ubiquitous till I talked to a man who'd never heard of it. Being seen reading it was common enough among my social circle -- 20 and 30somethings, primarily career-minded, urban, left-leaning. And women. Sure, a subtitle like WOMEN, WORK AND THE WILL TO LEAD and an author known for being a trailblazing Silicon Valley COO due to her gender is probably going to pull in a disproportionate number of female readers -- as well as Sandberg's topics of work-life balance and mentorship. It should be clear why those topics don't just apply to 50 percent of the population, but while I was deeply ashamed not to have read it around the time it came out, my male interlocutor was able to ask "What's LEAN IN?" with no embarrassment. Here are a few talking points I used to convince him to read it:

  • The company man is dead, long live career planning. LEAN IN advocates that workers find ways to improve their companies' policies but also not be afraid to walk. Back when a breadwinner might stay at the same institution for a whole career, questions about role- and job-changing were much less common. Now most Americans can expect to switch companies, roles, even careers, not just those who might be planning for taking leave to start a family.
  • Better leadership helps everyone. One argument for increasing women's participation in the work force which I had never heard before LEAN IN was to treat women stopping out like a brain drain. If 50 percent of the top talent in a given work situation is at risk of having to resign or stop out, that is a huge loss to the people who stay behind, not just those who leave. 
  • Mentees need mentors. Sandberg devotes special attention to the important roles both male and female mentors can play in helping women advance their careers. Men could be in the position to help a female colleague out, or be mentored by one (and accept that help gracefully) -- reinforcing her importance at the office. This could be especially important in the type of company where a woman's day-to-day coworkers are all women, but upper management is disproportionately male. 
  • Passive paternal parenting is for "Mad Men." The family structure of breadwinner-father, caregiver-mother has been essentially defunct for decades as most women in America (75%) work outside the home, and 40% are their households' primary breadwinners. Men are now expected to fully participate in parenting, and that's great, because just as with better corporate leadership, they have skills and talents to offer that shouldn't be ignored just because of their gender. LEAN IN's admonishment to pick a spouse who will be a good parent is a little uncomfortable to an unmarried person (I mean, how can you tell?!) but at least asking for, and getting, an active parent as a partner is well within reach.

04 July 2013

Flora and fauna

This is Cashmere, the resident cat at Explore Booksellers in Aspen, Colorado. You may think that chair, in Explore's backroom next to the note cards, is for you. But it is for the cat, and if you settle into it to inspect your potential purchases, the cat will stand next to you meowing loudly until you relinquish the spot. It will be mistaken for a ploy for attention, but attention is not what it wants.

Check out this neat Wall Street Journal article about the bookstore's change in ownership in 2007 and how it was saved by a loyal patron.

03 July 2013

June Unbookening: A Tale Of Two Cities

I'm still essentially living like a nomad and my reading habits definitely reflect that. But as I settled in something changed... take a look:

In New York: -18 
Bought 2
Received 3 to review

Returned 2 to library
Donated 9
Gave away 12

In Chicago: +4
Bought 7
Received 2 to review
Checked out 1 from the library (e-books, NYPL; still not eligible for a local card)

Donated 5
Gave away 1

I won't have this much time to be gallivanting about in used bookstores, but it sure was fun when it lasted! I'll probably shed a few more this week while I'm on vacation. But man, do I miss my books.

02 July 2013

New book town, new book adventures

It has been almost two weeks since I moved to Chicago and since then my writing output has been, well, less than impressive. I don't believe in blogger's block (sorry) so let's say I've been mulling a lot of things over and getting settled in. But Book Stuff has never been far from my mind! Here are three points about

A-Hunting We Will Go: I recently started writing a book column for the Canadian magazine Ballast -- oh, you would like to read it? What luck! Here's the first installment about Margaret Atwood -- so I went on a mini-tour of bookstores last week. What a treat to encounter a new city in this way! And I could write a blog post for each, but I must call out Market Fresh Books in Evanston for the most inventive pricing model I've seen. Books are weighed and charged a flat rate per pound according to genre (fiction, for example, is $4.99/pound). This is so new to me I didn't fully grasp it my first trip in, but my second trip in I endured some jokes about how I would need a wheelbarrow to cart all my deals home. Not quite, but I may not sneak away with only 2 purchases next time.

Guts & Glory: It was on this mini-tour that I attended my first local literary event, the reading series Guts & Glory, at the northern Powell's on Lincoln Avenue. Imagine my surprise when that Powell's (which I had visited before last fall) turned out to have a secret room in the back, normally curtained off, with enough space for probably 100 avid listeners to sit and take in the show. Several writers read nonfiction essays to varying degrees of confession, and then cohosts Keith Ecker and Samantha Irby read their own pieces in a gross-out competition (I say Samantha won? But it was really close). I learned about the event through one of the readers, Claire Zulkey, who stepped up to the plate with a very funny essay about Internet jealousy and snooping.

Having An Actual Shelf On Which To Put Your Books: Way, way underrated:

01 July 2013

"Is there anything more wonderful than the Monday morning train: the 8:22? The weekend -- say a long summer weekend like the Fourth -- has left you rested. There have been picnics, fireworks, excursions to the beach -- all the pleasant things we do together. On Sunday we had cocktails late and a pickup supper in the garden. We see the darkness end the weekend without any regret -- it has all been so pleasant... You water the grass, tell the children a story, take a bath, and get into bed. The morning is brilliant and fresh. Your wife drives you to the train in the convertible. The children and the dog come along. From the minute you wake up you seem to be on the verge of an irrepressible joy. The drive down Alewives Lane to the station seems triumphal, and when you see the station below you and the trees and the few people who have already gathered there, waiting in the morning sun, and when you kiss your wife and your children goodbye and give the dog's ears a scratch and say good morning all around the platform and unfold the Tribune and hear the train, the 8:22, coming down the tracks, it seems to me a wonderful thing."
--John Cheever