Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Reading, Happy New Year

One of my favorite people in the world is a woman who works three jobs. She teaches religious school at her church, and has a couple of finance jobs on top of that. She also has two kids and they are both athletes so she is always racing from one game to another. This woman is sharp as a tack. Next to her, I look like a slug. Occasionally, she does me the honor of asking for book recommendations. I haven't written about books in a while, so here is the quick and dirty list I sent my friend. If you are still looking for Chanukah and Christmas recommendations to read over the holidays, take a look. Some of these are definitely beach reads, books to take on a plane or a train. Others are great to curl up with during long stretches of downtime. It’s always exciting to take a few new books with you into the New Year. Have a happy one.

Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain. Fast-paced memoir about overcoming addictions and working as a chef.
Blood Bones &Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Cook, by Gabrielle Hamilton A lively, beautifully written and sometimes funny memoir by a bisexual married mother who owns the restaurant Prune in NYC. Great read.
Fierce Attachments, by Vivian Gornick. Wonderful memoir about a woman growing up with her mother in post WW II New York. Takes place now and then.
Steve Jobs’ bio, by Walter Isaacson. My husband and younger son read it too. I could not put it down. Really. Make the ghost of Steve Jobs happy and read it on your iPad.
If It was Easy They'd Call the Whole Damn Thing a Honeymoon: Living With and Loving the TV-Addicted, Sex-Addicted, Not so Handy Man You Married by Jenna McCarthy. Funny, fast book about being married, written by a friend of a friend. Watch the video that goes with it. You will laugh your butt off. Video is produced by Zestra, a "female stimulant" sold by a entrepreneurial mother from New Jersey.

The Girl From Charnelle, by K.L. Cook. Novel about teenage girl having affair with married man in Texas. Hot, heavy, excellent. Cook is a great, new talent.
A Visit From the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan. Fantastic collection of short stories about connected characters who are involved in the music business and move in and out of each other’s lives. This book is inspiring, giddy and sad. Egan won the Pulitzer Prize for it.  I took one of her writing workshops in graduate school and she was the best professor I had. She’s a wonderful writer and a lovely person. She also dated Steve Jobs for a while. This was one of the best books, ever.
Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen. Long, loving, judgmental look at what it takes to make and break a marriage and a friendship. You stay in these characters’ heads for a good, long time.
What Becomes, by A.L. Kennedy. Slim book of short stories. Intense, moving and occasionally very sad. The writer is also a stand-up comic though these stories aren't funny.
Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann. Wonderful short story collections that centers around the Word Trade Centers and looks at a wide range of characters---rich, poor, black, white, male, female, living, dead, married, single, prostitutes, drug addicts, a Park Avenue matron and a high wire artist.
Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It, by Maile Meloy. Book of short stories that is intense, great and full of surprises. Meloy is brilliant at writing about love and its complications.
Point, Click, Love, by Molly Shapiro. She is a friend of a friend and this book is a fun, fast read about what it’s like to be looking for love as a middle aged woman in the Mid-West. You will laugh a lot. It is sold out on Amazon so download on your Kindle or iPad.
Olive Kitteridge, by Elzabeth Strout. Great collection of short stories about connected characters. Strout explores the inner lives of men and women so beautifully. Not many writers can do that. I read this book several years ago and still think about the characters and wonder how they’re doing.
This is Where I Leave You, by Jonathan Tropper. Fast, fun read about a guy whose wife cheats on him with his boss. Great for the beach.

My book group is reading Jeffrey Eugenides’ new novel, The Marriage Plot, now. This book is good, but  Middlesex was much better. This novel is about a love triangle, and the trials and tribulations of three smart, privileged people who graduated from Brown in 1982. You do get caught up in the minutiae of their lives and if you ever thought about majoring in English, this book will make you remember why you did.

Finally I just picked up 101 Things to Learn in Art School, by Kit White. I found this square little book in the beautiful Getty Center in LA, where we are now. The book is covered in black rubber and is really fun to hold and touch. Though it is essentially about making art, and some of it is devoted to perspective and composition, much of what White says can be applied to writing and creating in general. There are pages and pages of inspirational messages, coupled with black-and-white reproductions of famous artists’ work as interpreted by White.  Here are some of my favorite quotes, found on pages 4, 8, 38 and 40:
Art is the product of process. Whether conceptual, experimental, emotional, or formal, the process you develop yields the image you produce. The materials you choose, the methods of production, and the sources of the images should all reflect the interests that command your attention. The process does not stop with each work completed. It is ongoing. The cumulative result of that process is a body of work. 
Art is a continuing dialogue that stretches back through thousands of years. What you make is your contribution to that dialogue. Therefore, be conscious of what has come before you and the conversation that surrounds you. Try not to repeat what has already been said. Study art history and stay alert to the dialogue of your moment.
Complexity derives from the presence of contradiction.  The world is not simple. It is rife with complexity.  the impulse to eliminate the contradictions that create complexity is natural. But to simplify may be to render a false condition and therefore an incomplete description. Embrace the irreconcilable elements, the contradictions. They are part of any portrait of a moment.
Making art is an act of discovery. If you are dealing only with what you know, you may not be doing your job. When you discovery something new, or surprise yourself, you are engaging in the process of discovery.

Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah. Celebrate it all. 

No comments:

Post a Comment