{just enough to make me blush}

Note: I am writing this while waiting at a gate at the Eugene Airport… Thank you, free wifi!

The Misanthrophe’s [that’s MIS-un-thrawp, because yes, I definitely had to look it up] Guide to Life was a birthday present from my old roommate, who has known me for almost six years and lived with me for almost one, so knows me better than anyone ever wants to or indeed should. So while this b-day gift might’ve given my new roommates slight pause, it was no surprise to me, and I immediately bumped it up to the prime spot on my reading list.

This book is the brainchild of the 2birds1blog bloggers, whose snarky tint of comic brilliance I have been known to enjoy in the past (I just audibly snorted in the Eugene airport reading Mole Day!, which my high school chemistry teacher also def celebrated, although with less disasterous/hysterical results). Being self-proclaimed Misanthropes since childhood, they wrote this set of rules for other people chronically annoyed by small talk, phone calls in public places, and other people in general.

I enjoyed it, but then I am a Misanthrope (albeit a mild one—I hope). I also tend toward a sense of humor that verges on the offensive while I’m in the company of others, and wildly crosses that line when I’m alone. Even as I laugh at South Park while home alone eating leftover casserole, a part of me is always wide-eyedly blushing about the fact that other people are seeing this too. An offensive book, on the other hand, is perfect for me, since I like to myopically imagine that no one else in the world has read these words and understood them as I did. Perf.

I liked a lot about this book, but nothing that I feel super comfortable sharing in a public blog, since I do have a v. v. small amount of class. So, as a viable alternative, here is a list of reasons why you should not read this book:

  • You enjoy the company of others.
  • You have a glass-half-full outlook on life.
  • You are made uncomfortable by flippant threats of violence.
  • You are sensitive of hipster racism (and other varieties of hipster prejudice. Which, after rereading that article, includes liberal sexism? I have no clue.).
  • Your extreme PC-ness has choked your laugh-producing vocal cords and you now have no sense of humor.

Note: If any of the above apply to you, you probably aren’t reading this blog in the first place. So no harm done.


{to keep my name in remembrance}

To everyone’s surprise, Joyce Carol Oates’ My Heart Laid Bare turned out to not be a trashy historical romance. Far from it: As far as I can surmise, it is a retelling of William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!, one of my absolute favorite books.

In fact, I culminated my years as an English major with a 20-page research paper and conference presentation on A, A!, meaning I can nerd out about it like nobody’s business. But let’s skip straight to the Oates.

Abraham Licht is descended from a lady’s maid who masqueraded around 18th-century Europe posing as nobility, stealing, and swindling, before finally being shot as a horse thief in the swamps near Old Muirkirk, New York. Abraham follows in her footsteps, raising his several children to play “The Game” with the high-rollers of the Progressive Era. The Licht family roams from Washington, D.C., to the mountains of Colorado, weaving elaborate stories and adopting complex costumes in the hopes of establishing themselves among America’s richest members of society.

As the years pass, however, the Licht children fall away from The Game. Some, like Thurston and Darian, take desperate measures to disassociate from their father’s overbearing will. Elisha and Millie, despite being perhaps the most promising Game players, are cast aside for their ultimate ungratefulness and insubordination; Harwood travels too deep into deceit and is sought for justice. Toward the end of his life, Abraham Licht finds himself grasping at any means available to maintain the legacy he has attempted to build through his progeny.

Here is where I started literally dog-earring pages, because the similarities between MHLB and A, A! were numerous.

Was he not Abraham Licht, most remarkable of men?—and might he not be again a lover, a bridegroom, again a father, holding his infant aloft, as if daring the hand of God Himself to strike it from him—?

He requires more children, another son at least, another son very soon, for his children have not entirely pleased him.

For where Abraham Licht loves, he must be loved in return: where he would surrender his soul, he must be granted a soul in return: otherwise The Game is wicked indeed. And he will not be cheated again: not another time! . . . if he wants another son, or even another daughter, to continue his name, it must happen soon.

Seriously. As I nerded out over Sutpen’s “design” two years ago in A, A!, so did I nerd out over Licht’s “Game.” Biblical themes for the win!

Thomas Sutpen, too, has a grand design of becoming a man of wealth and power at any cost. To that end, he attempts to forge a dynasty that will carry his name. Like Abraham Licht, he evaluates women solely on their ability to bear healthy children and otherwise passively support him, and like Licht, he is always “betrayed” by them. His children, too, operate as mechanisms in his grand design, until his indomitable will grinds them to failure and destitution. Absalom, Absalom!, said Faulkner, is “the story of a man who wanted a son through pride, and got too many of them and they destroyed him.”

If you like historical fiction, Biblical stories, broad and sweeping narratives, and characters with complex suffering, I recommend either (or both!) Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! or (and!) Oates’ My Heart Laid Bare. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

{mid-week blues}

I’ve changed into my pajamas at 6:30 p.m. the past two nights. I’ve also seen the same two episodes of Kim and Kourtney Take New York four times in as many days (to slightly redeem myself, I must note that I’d never seen any Kardashian show before this week). It’s just been that kind of a week.


I also finished Ian McEwan’s Saturday, which I’ll be writing about for Book Blob next week. It was alright. Not too bad, but not great. I liked Atonement better—a fascinating story about storytelling. For anyone else who’s nerdily into meta stuff like that, I also recommend Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! and the film The Fall.

The next book on my list is Joyce Carol Oates’ My Heart Laid Bare. Now, let’s Beyoncé here: The cover (and title) makes this look like a crummy historical romance. I’m sorry. It’s just true. But I’m giving it a shot because I absolutely love We Were the Mulvaneys, and on a lesser note am willing to grant that Oates is one of the greatest living American writers. (Also, I secretly kind of dig crummy historical romances. Shh.)

I realized today that I haven’t been super up on all the biz news lately. Funnily enough, when you actually work in publishing and aren’t unemployed, you don’t have a whole lot of time, energy, or interest to dedicate toward reading the dozens of industry newsletters that you giddily subscribed to back when you were idealistically jobless. But. Thanks to FBook and Twitter, I have managed to scrouge up some interesting bookish tidbits:

  • The 20 Most Beautiful Bookstores in the World. Umm WOW. Amiright? That’s really all you can say. Some major book porn for my ongoing fantasy of one day having a room made entirely of bookcases, à la Beauty and the Beast or the following…
  • The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. Smiles, tears, smiles, tears. There, just for you, is a summary of my experience watching this short film. Good enough for an Oscar nominee is good enough for me.
  • Letters of Note. I am a big fan of 1) snail mail (support the USPS!) and 2) pretending to be a huge literature snob (while secretly hiding my taste for crummy historical romances). Therefore, I am also a huge fan of this blog, which in all seriousness has some pretty insanely interesting letters.
  • Ryan Gosling Reads Young Adult. I am so, so close to saying there are too many of these Ryan Gosling meme blogs. And yet, every time I come across another one, I think, “Not quite there yet…” I was, however, incredibly nonplussed to realize that I have read exactly none of the books referenced here.

And now, pajama-clad and Kardashianed-out, I move on to drown my ennui in a potential crummy historical romance. As one does.