Saturday, February 8, 2014

Knights I Have Met

I have made New Year's Resolutions and have stuck to them admirably. One of them I have carried over from last year, and expanded: Spend more time/money/effort to see talented people do things. I am now going to tell you about two such talented things in great, possibly covetable, possibly monotonous detail.

 Per diligent devotion to this resolution, the following things happened:

and also 

Yes, that is Stephen Fry, who was honored to be stalked by us after two separate Twelfe Night performances. The show was so incredibly excellent that I was a little star-struck by the entire cast, but of course we were there to meet the brilliant Fry, who was the first TV star I ever idolized. Oh, you mean everyone didn't grow up watching the BBC's Jeeves and Wooster on library VHSes while their moms tried to homeschool through morning sickness? 

Anyway, he was kind and generous despite my complete inability to articulate my lifelong admiration in a coherent and non-frightening way. He also asked if Hannah and I were partners and I wanted very badly to say yes. But I knew I could not lie to Stephen Fry (about anything, but definitely not something as significant as sexual orientation and/or relationship status. This is Stephen Fry, not Facebook). I said a very regretful no, so he probably thinks we have a lesbian Harry-Met-Sally situation going on, and quite frankly, he can think whatever he wants to think because he is STEPHEN FRY. After this miraculous dream come true Hannah and I ran into the street in a tizzy of glee and almost got hit by a cab. And then we went to the pub across the street and ordered champagne; the waitress was concerned because we were a) ordering champagne in a pub; b) shaking and breathless and possibly crying a little bit.

And yes that is Sir Ian McKellen, who was delighted to take a selfie with us after No Man's Land. Not selfied: Sir Patrick Stewart, who signed our playbills and gazed deeply into our eyes. Following which there was much jumping up and down in a parking garage and screaming and a little bit of crying possibly. 

This Magneto-and-Gandalf magic came about when Brian and I invested a Saturday in a double feature of the NML matinee and the Waiting for Godot evening show, both of which were brilliant and enthralling. Thank you Cort Theater for your friendly rush ticket policy! Which placed us in the front row for Sir Ian and Sir Patrick Stewart, and non-sirs Billy Crudup and Shuler Hessley. It is worth noting that our seats for Godot were in fact better than Vince Vaughn's, who was in like the 18th row to the right, while we were front and center and close enough to the knights to touch them. 

After sharing this additional selfie that is flattering of me and Sir Ian but almost entirely cuts out Brian, my bragging has come to an end. Stay tuned for my next blog post, which will captivate you with discussion of my other Resolutions: Wear sunscreen, stop watching The Bachelor franchise, don't spend money on junk at Rite Aid.

Monday, December 30, 2013

2013: Another One of Those Boring Year-End Posts

I know that I promised I wouldn't blog again until April, but I forgot that I always like to use this very-personal-between-just-me-and-the-whole-internet space for resolutions. It's fun and fascinating (and sometimes a little bit cringy) to look over the goals and expectations I had at the year's start, compared to the successes and surprises that it actually brought.

Classing it up as usual
It was not an easy year by any means, but its struggles were the kinds that bring growth and hope. And its last quarter has been pure joy. I want to look back at last year's reso list to remind myself how dark life felt twelve months ago, and to keep myself constant as a new year comes in glowing. Every end-of-year time I realize the following things: A) The thing I know I want (or should do) but am afraid to resolve often forces its way into my life all the same. B) The best parts of the year are never stated objectives, and always are bigger and better than anything I hoped for at its opening.

 Soooooo let's take a brave, unflinching look at last year's post. (Plus plenty of selfies - it is the year of the selfie, after all!)

Get hired. Check, check, and check. A job I couldn't have dreamed up for myself that is perfect for me now and to grow. Very happy.

Run 1000 miles. Hahahahaha. Hahahahaha. HA. I haven't run a single foot since the half-marathon in April. I hit some kind of wall, fell off my training plan ten days before the race, and shudder at the thought of running ever since. Can you say BURN OUT.

Make my room match me. DONE. This was the first thing I tackled last year in my glorious funemployment, and I am still in love with my serene grey-and-white room.

Stay on track with ye olde finances. Semi yes? Actually, YES because I did the thing that I've avoided adding to my resolutions for the last five years: paid off my credit card debt! Both my delinquent accounts were settled in full as off August, and I've brought my credit score up significantly since then. The most boring triumph and one of the proudest things in my year.

Reread. Yes, delightfully, and look forward to doing this more in every year to come. A lot of you bookworms subscribe to the too-many-books-in-the-world theory, but I'm learning both the freedom of abandoning a book that I'm not loving and the exhilaration of re- or re-re-reading one that has proven itself.
Stage-dooring with Bethany after Kinky Boots

Obtain health insurance. DONE, son. (See # 1 above)

See more Broadway shows. YUP!! Off the top of my head, this year I saw The Heiress (with Dan Stevens and Jessica Chastain!) Cinderella, The Last Five Years, The Big Knife, Arguendo (actually this may have been Off Broadway) Too Much Too Much Too Many, Richard III (ahhhh, so GOOD), and Kinky Boots.  Definitely want to keep this one up in 2014 as well - I already have tickets to Twelfe Night with Hannah. Stay tuned for tales of our Stephen Fry encounter including possible restraining order.

On the whole...Prettty successful. In some ways this seemed like a modest, lazy list when I made it...but Getting Hired was still so daunting, terrifying (and would be for several months more to come, dark months) at the start of 2013, to say nothing of health insurance. Getting my finances together was a pipe dream - though I had started my repayment plan, I had great doubt I would stick to it through funemployment (oh me of little faith!).

And so many things that have brought me exceeding joy this year weren't on any January lists...from book club to Russell Brand to new glasses to Michigan trips to baseball games to Justin Timberlake.
And all the everyday thrills that no one except me and Instagram cares about, from gorgeous books to movies at midnight to endless happy hours to endless brunches to Good Wife binges to sushi binges and everything in between.

Love sandwich with Trin and Jess at Trin's wedding
So 2013, thank you for being incredible. And thank you for ending on a high note. 2014, you get ready - I'm going to make a new resolutions list, if only to give the universe some raw material to build its surprises around.

(Yes, this means probably at least one more post before April. Sorry. Not.)

Saturday, December 28, 2013

An Occasional Blogger's Books of the Year

HELLO BLOG, time to wake up, because the end of the year has come and so we must make lists!

It's tempting to make lists of how much has changed since this time last year. But that would be boring for those of you who know me in real life, for you've seen and heard most of it, and would be gloaty for any other readers. Because the changes have all been good and glorious, full of work, adventure, and quiet fantastic fun. 2013 was a year of transition, as I've rambled already to most of you. And 2014 will be the year of wholeness.

So this post will just be a list of ten books I read this year that amazed me. And I'm going to pass over the predictable suspects of Transatlantic, Life After Life, Night Film, The Goldfinch, that are getting enough love from every other Best-of list. Here are the books with spilled thoughts, in order as I read them.

  • Frances and Bernard by Carlene Bauer is one of the first 2013 books I read and I knew right away that it would be in this blog post eleven months later. Nothing unseated it. I discovered Flannery O'Connor when my mom gave me her collected letters, A Habit of Being, so I was both interested and apprehensive when Alisa invited me to Carlene's launch at Greenlight. Apprehension vanished at once: Bauer's novel borrows Flannery for its main character and does a beautiful, respectful, provocative job with her voice. 

  • The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker has a terrible cover, a chick lit opening, a sci-fi/fantasy premise, yet was one of my funnest reading experiences of the year. Despite a handful of first-novel limps, it completely engrossed me on a plane and in two airports. I am very lucky that I ignored all the usual flags that send a book into my discards stack, so you should give it a try, too. 

  • The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion is the most hilarious book I read this year, and also very sweet. I read it basically in one sitting, which has also been the experience of pretty much everyone I recommended it to. If you have a personality disorder or have tried online dating, you will especially love it.
  • My Education by Susan Choi holds the distinction of being the only book that I burst into tears when I met the author after her reading at Greenlight. For reasons that I decline to explain to you. It is beautifully written, full of compassion, and unexpected. So you should read it for itself, not just out of a morbid desire to figure out why I publicly cried.
  • Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin had the unenviable task of following My Education during my summer reading, and more-than-enviably distinguished itself. Brave, moving, and thoughtfully considers issues of personhood and parenthood alongside its hot-button gender topic.
  • & Sons by David Gilbert not only has an ampersand in the title, but also features a book-within-a-book plus explorations of art itself and daddy issues. So obviously I loved this book, so much that I read it for hours alone in a bar in an evening that ended with my debit card being given away to a stranger. & I had the privilege of meeting the author at an event at Center for Fiction at which I was inexplicably the only attendee who visited the signing table afterwards. Then I made him, myself, and the other authors at the table uncomfortable and confused by mixing the debit card story in with my praise for the book. And have now probably made you confused and uncomfortable as well. Disregard that and read the book, for it is beautiful and funny. 
  • The Unknowns by Gabriel Roth is possibly the first book I've bought solely on the basis of the author's Twitter account. I expected it to be smart, current, and funny, and it is; it's also moving and profound in sneaky ways, and I wanted to live in its pages long after they ended.
  • A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout is definitely the first book I ordered via Twitter from my new local indie bookstore. A piece in Vogue caught my attention - a news cycle memoir published three years later because neither the author nor coauthor actually wanted to write it? Sign me up! The book itself is a beautiful object, the writing within just as lovely, and the painful story begins long before the beginning and unfolds with out sensationalism as a contemplation of desire, ambition, and courage.
  • Longbourn by Jo Baker finds a new story in hidden corners of Pride and Prejudice. Blending a book both idolized and hated with what smacks of Downton-ambulance chasing could have been a catastrophe, but Baker tells a beautiful human story in gorgeous, living prose. I loved it.

  • Careless People by Sarah Churchwell snuck on at the last minute - I started reading it on the first day of Christmas break and will probably finish on the last day of the year. It's a mosaic of the Jazz Age - the NYC-centric world that produced Scott Fitzgerald and his great Gatsby. It is anecdotal and philosophic and I scribbled its edges more than any book this year. Probably more than any book since college - it stirred the same questions about reality and art, art and life, life and fiction, fiction and its creators, as we all loved to ponder when we thought we knew lots but life had not even begun.

If this is not enough for you, a few others I read and loved this year are A Hundred Summers, Iris Has Free Time, Ready Player One, The Fry Chronicles (thanks Hannah!), and the oldie-but-sexy Fear of Flying (thanks Ilana!). And if this is too much for you, don't worry - I probably won't blog again until April.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Reading Challenge still going strong!

Hooray, it's September! I'm so, so ready for Autumn. Enough of this sweatbox called a city.

Today I'm updating my progress with the Semi-Charmed Life Summer Challenge - take a look at my first check-in if you're curious.

5 points: Freebie! Read any book you'd like, as long as it follows the above rules. :)
Gotta give a shout-out to My Education by Susan Choi (304 pp). Very possibly the best book I've read this year.

5:  Read a book that is less than 150 pages long. 

10: Read a book with a color in the title.
Golden Boy by Abigal Tarttelin (352 pp) - and wow, is that an incredible book.

10: Read a book that is not the first in its series. (And yes, it must be in a series.)

Countdown City by Ben Winters (316 pp) - actually enjoyed it more than its predecessor! (316 pp)

15: Read a book it seems everyone but you has read!
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (374 pp) - I've been hearing raves about this book for over a year, and boy it did not disappoint. Probably the funnest book I read during my Fourth of July reading binge.

15: Read a banned book.
Halfway through my selection for this one - stay tuned!

20: Read a book written by a celebrity. This can be a memoir or a fiction book published by someone who was already famous by another means (e.g. James Franco).  
Also have this one queued up - it's a short story collection, and I've read the first. It's a good one.

20: Read a non-fiction book that is not a memoir. It can be pure non-fiction or narrative non-fiction.
The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan (400 pp) - fairly interesting, but not so memorable.

20: Read a book that takes place in a state you have never been in. 
Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford (304 pp) takes place in Seattle, Washington, a place I'd love to visit someday even though I didn't like this book.

25: Read a book that is at least 400 pages long.
The Passage by Justin Cronin (568 pp)  - falls a little short of the first one, but still very enjoyable.

25: Read a book with a main character who shares your first name.

30: Read a book written by an author who was born in or died in your birth year.
Southern Cross the Dog by Bill Cheng (336 pp), which was unexpectedly hypnotic. (I found this NY Times article giving him the same age I currently boast. That's close enough for me.)

Points: 135, with 35 pending. 
I've chosen my less-than-150-pages book (though AHEM that should be "FEWER than 150 pages"), but so far have zero leads on finding a main character named Sharon. A little help, friends?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Awesome August

Debit card fiasco notwithstanding, life has been good this month. Too good. Suspiciously good. In quiet, unbloggy ways.

Like eating sushi for lunch three days in one week. And making the final payment on a debt that I spent years avoiding. And going to another Mets game, this time against the Tigers, the other team I grew up rooting for. And realizing I have an actual group of friends that I trust and enjoy as much as I trust and enjoy staying home with a book. And receiving a valid health insurance card in the mail.

Particularly cute moment of mine, on a day that Noah and I accidentally matched
(even our shoes, not pictured). 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

#24in48 Bites the Dust

So, as you may have inferred, my #24in48 experience went off the rails. In a big way. I was chugging along merrily all day and having a lovely time reading at the bar. Then I asked for my tab. And then everything started to be horrible.

Because the bar manager had confused my card with someone else's, run their tab on my card, and returned my card to them. My poor little card was adrift on the seas of Astoria with some strangers, already bruised by the weight of their hefty tab and wondering how it would ever find its way back to me.

Saturday, August 3, 2013


As I mentioned yesterday, I'm doing a readathon this weekend with a bunch of bloggy friends across the Eastern Seaboard. The 24 in 48 Readathon is the brainchild of Rachel at A Home Between the Pages. She's done a few previous ones, over weekends on which I was uncharacteristically socializing. This one coincides with a weekend that I have no plans and am hungry for a reading binge, so I'm officially joining the fun.

I think both Rachel and our pal Kerry from Entomology of a Bookworm are cool enough to have Tumblrs for live updates during the readathon. I still haven't quite clicked with Tumblr, despite a few earnest experiments, so I'm settling for updating this post throughout the weekend. But if you're Tumblry, spy on Kerry here and Rachel here.

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