Category Archives: bookworms

Yay Flowers! Boo Cancer!

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The American Cancer Society does this great fundraiser where you can buy bouquets or potted daffodils and the money goes to support cancer research. Why yes, I will buy some happy, spring flowers and donate to kick cancer’s ass! Also, kudos to my colleagues here at Random House; we raised $8,000, making us the largest Daffodil Days supporter in New York and New Jersey!

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Just Take A Swing

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Since working at Random House, I’ve rediscovered my past as a voracious reader.  When I was a child I used to devour books – anything that was put in front of me – and in my house with a family room wall completely covered in bookshelves, that was a lot of books. 

In college I began to get back into reading, stimulated by inspiring professors, poetically inclined friends, and the general need for escapism.  I began to appreciate the work of David Sedaris especially, and preferred above all his and other short, realistic pieces rife with sharp, dry wit, and self and outside-of-self reflection.  For these reasons I fell for authors like Dave Eggers as well (thanks to my lattice for the suggestion), but I never developed quite the fondness for him I had for David Sedaris.  There are obvious issues of style and tone at play, but feeling like the voices in my head are one half Sedaris and one half Eggers, there’s no reason I should prefer the tone of one over the other.   I think the reason I particularly favored Sedaris and other authors like him is that he writes short stories.  I became very fond of the Best American Non-Required Reading and Short Stories collections (a creation of Eggers benefiting  826 – shameless plug to get familiar if you aren’t already), because they contained a compilation of – you guessed it – great short stories. 

College was when I started my blog as well, and you can probably tell that I idolize these authors as I try (in vain, I know, but I am still young) to mirror their styles – picking an event or an idea, picking it apart with wit and introspection, and dissecting it meaningfully for my reader.  Asking questions of myself and the world – and then answering them.  All in a few hundred words.  That’s the thing about a short story – maybe it’s 500 words or maybe it’s a few thousand, but either way, a few pages is all you need to have a complete and meaningful event.  The end of this short is punctuated – the end of a Sedaris story is the crossing of some ribbons and the tying of a bow.  A catawompus, slightly peculiar bow, which gives Sedaris his charm, but the ends are none the less tied together.

I like short stories because you can finish them between your classes or before boarding your plane or while your host is in the shower or whatever.  They’re the Reeces Pieces of literature, the fun sized epic, the little niblets of delicious wisdom.  And at the end, they make sense. 

I want my life to be a series of short stories.  And I want to believe I can write my way into that.  Give me a few hours or a couple days to reflect on an event – a book club, a hurricane, a happy hour, a project at work, a trip to the park – and I’ll be able to tie a catawompus bow on top of it all.  I’ll be able to tell you what it means, and more importantly what it meant, and how that shaped me and my life. I want to know who is going to mean what in my life,  who I should really be investing in, and what moments are going to be the moments that define my life.  I want to know what matters, and I want to know right now.

But that desire is built on faulty logic.   You can’t understand what something means or meant until you see what comes next.    David Sedaris wrote a lot about what things meant for him, but his best work is what he wrote about his childhood and younger years. He’s had decades to figure it out.

The other day we had I hurricane.  Maybe you heard about it?  Two of us were holing up in the apartment – we had a piñata, scotch, pirate booty, bubbles, glowsticks, candles, water, and a couple of hardcore flashlights – we were ready for anything.  The wind teased the curtains in the open window, the rain spit droplets on the pane, and I was sticking me head out it, tapping my fingers on the frame feverishly.  I wish it would just come already – if it’s going to knock us all on our asses that’s fine or if it’s just going to blow over and be something we laugh about that’s fine too, I just can’t stand the waiting.  I just want to know how it’s going to be.  He laughed and replied, in a tone that was both west-coast calm and profoundly unwavering, You don’t have any choice but to wait.  You might as well try to relax.  Pretend no one told you this was supposed to be a hurricane, and think of it like a weekend lounging around the house.  He looked at me calmly, and began to string up the piñata.

At least if I have to wait and see, I might as well be smashing a piñata while I’m waiting, I thought.    

Since I’ve started working at RH, I’ve started to appreciate novels again.  A few like The Night Circus, Middlesex, and Norwegian Wood have captured my heart and made me adore them, and I’m beginning to get over my fear of investing time in that which can’t be wrapped up in a one-way subway commute.

That wasn’t meant to be a bow, not even a crooked one.  I’m not good at waiting, I won’t ever be, and no amount of metaphor writing will change that.   But the fact is that I have no choice but to wait.  I might as well try to relaxPretend no one told me, and it never occurred to me, that this might become a hurricane. 

And I might as well be smashing a piñata while I’m waiting.


yours.Rachel

Friday for Franny Glass

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I sat at the computer for half an hour trying to write this.  There are so many words in my head that I can’t seem to force out of my lips or my fingers – a problem which I almost never have as I’m sure you know.  Sometimes I’m too busy to write or sometimes I can’t quite put a name on an emotion, but I can usually at least paint some metaphorical picture of being overcome or I can fumble my way into a revelation.  But tonight, and lately in my real-life conversations, I just can’t seem to pull it out of myself.  If you’ve talked to me in the last month, you know.  You know how I’ve been doing as much talking as normal but I’ve been saying half as much.  So for this entry we’re going to try one of my favorite writer’s block games.  I’ll start with a story.  For you long term followers I’ll note how familiar – and unfamiliar – of a story it is …

It was the perfect summer Friday.  Four hours at work somehow went from quietly paging through a Barefoot Contessa cookbook while I waited for various reports to load to an explosion! and I spent some quality time having an internal conniption.  Fortunately, things got calmer when a hand was laid on my back, I was handed a train ticket and was promised a pre-packed picnic when we arrived at the beach.  It’s amazing, Long Beach is maybe half-an-hour from Manhattan and yet it’s a million miles away. The rest of the day was spent splashing, poking washed-up sea creatures, and soaking up the late-afternoon sun.  By the end we were laying, listening and watching the tide coming into the shore, and we were quiet.  He asked about the Crazy.  The Crazy, that a wise friend of mine advises a person let on on slowly in these situations, was there and he could tell.  I have no idea how he could – it must be what he does when he does all the not talking that he’s so good at – or maybe I mentioned it in all the over-talking that I’m so good at doing these days (who am I kidding? Everyday).  Either way it got me started, uselessly, at trying to explain what’s going on in my head and my heart and my life.  I talked in circles, the Jesus prayer, staring out at the water, comforted by its constance and repeating pattern.

I think it’s safe to say that I’m in a period of tremendous change and personal growth.  I recently moved to a new and (cliche to say but unbelievably true) very different place, I started a new job (my first real adult one), I’m in the process of settling into a new apartment (also my first real adult one), and I’m creating an entirely new social network (again, as a big girl).  Granted, I was at least familiar with the city before and I do have a few old acquaintances here, but for the most part I’m blazing a new trail all on my own.  I’m blazing a lot of trails actually – more than I even realized I had to blaze – and of course it’s all happening at once.  And it certainly wouldn’t be the first time I’ve done this.  College most recently was a time of constant and intensive growth, and high school and other times before that were as well I’m sure.   College is fresh in my mind and I remember the chaos, the late nights and wine and confusion and tears and extacies and driving and burning and epiphanies, and I remember bracing myself for the intensive swings and riding them out – the sophomore-slump, the seven-days-grace post East Coast adventures, the lake baptisms, and everything else.   College was, in a word I used obsessively, epic.

But what about now?  There’s as much going on now in my life as there was in college and perhaps more.  And while I know it’s there, I can feel it inside me and I’m trying desperately to articulate it, and all of you who I am talking to are generously listening and allowing me to work through, it doesn’t feel like it used to.  I realized that for the first time in my life I’m both cognatively mature and aware enough to recognize that I am in a time of great change and… and something else.  I couldn’t get to what it was though.

You’re in control.  He said. 

Well, no I’m not really, I mean you can’t ever really be totally in control of something like that – of  life and everything that’s happening around you and what you encounter – it’s just not really possible, I mean I do like to think I can control things and I am older and maybe calmer but I’m not sure, but it’s not like you can really … I defended, donning my new relaxed and go-with-the-flow self…

No, he interjected with polite force, But you’re guiding it.  You’re deciding what you like and what you don’t,  what you want and what you don’t, and you’re making decisions. 

And that’s it.  I didn’t get it, even when he said it I don’t think I did, but that’s it.  For the first time I feel like I’m both cognizant and in control.  It isn’t me against me and everything else.  I don’t have to label my life a Homeric epic in order to justify things beyond my control.  It’s not like I’m the one responsible for Earth’s gravity, but I am in control of my own.  I am aware what’s happening, and I’m the one who’s doing it.

“You can’t just walk out on the results of your own hankerings.  Cause and effect, buddy, cause and effect.  The only thing you can do now, the only religious thing you can do, is act…

as if all of what little or much wisdom there is in the world were suddenly hers…she seemed to know just what to do next too…[she] drew back the cotton bedspread from the bed she had been sitting on, took off her slippers, and got into the bed.  For some minutes, before she fell into a deep, dreamless sleep, she just lay quiet, smiling at the ceiling. ” -J.D. Salinger

yours.Rachel

“Were You A Cheerleader?”

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she asked as I threw my hands above the cube walls, signaling quantities with my fingers as I called them out. No, but I am a sorority girl, I replied. That explains it! She laughed.  The neon-colored clips and post-its, the abundance of highlighters and frequent color-coding, the stars all over the boxes being shipped to our event next week.(she said to decorate the boxes to make them easily distinguished as ours, and I don’t think she thought I’d really do it.)  I’m bringing sorority to the cube farm, I like it, and secretly I think they do too.

If This Is Growing Up

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…I’m in.

I survived my first week of work, and can I tell you a secret? I loved it.  The people are spectacular and the work is fascinating. Admittedly, I’m in the honeymoon phase, and I expect that within a few months, the copy editing and spreadsheets I maintain will feel much less novel, but the fact is that the industry is quickly evolving and I’m in an environment where I get to be a part of very interesting work, and perhaps most importantly, by contributions are welcomed and useful. A week on the job and I can already point to instances where my copy was used, my design idea was heeded, and where my insights were considered by decision makers. This comes in stark contrast to my previous job where I felt no less than useless.

And then there’s the part where I get weekends.   Summer Fridays are a perk of this job, meaning my weekend starts at 1pm on Friday.  I kicked this week off shopping with a friend then happy hour in the financial district where we met up with her new beau and a slew of good looking (but not unreasonably so) gentlemen.  (Win)  Saturday was flea markets and enjoying the small town feel of Brooklyn – the independent coffee shops and the extended conversations with the guys at the shipping store.  Then in the evening I headed to a yet another free concert in Riverside Park with some Kappa Delta alumni – great music, a stunning sunset over the river, and when we weren’t listening we we in stitches laughing.   Then Sunday began with brunch in Harlem – at Society with a friend and a roommate, and with red velvet waffles.  Yes, you read that correctly, and yes they did change my life.  Finishing it all off was a little time in the sun, just me, Dave Eggers, and most of Brooklyn in the somehow-still-not-overcrowded Prospect Park.  I could get used to this whole being an adult thing…

image Sisters, picnics, music, sunset.  Also, adorable children and dogs. What else could a person need?

 

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image  Good company, french press coffee, eggs, and mascarpone cheese on top of the red velvet waffles.  Heaven on Earth!