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Making Room for a(n online) Poetry Box

1 Nov

Twitter has brought so many amazing things to my attention with a simple scroll through my daily feed, things like Casey N. Cep’s essay about the online Emily Dickinson archives and this piece by Maud Newton on meeting the writer Donna Tartt (with bonus Instagram photo of Ms. Tartt’s inscription in Maud’s copy of The Goldfinch). For all its haters, there really is nothing like Twitter for getting you up close on all the action, whether that action is from the literary world, the art world, the sports world, or the Kardashian world (I know, I cringed as I typed that – does that make it any better that I’m referencing THEM? Probably not.).

So today’s tweeted nugget of super loveliness came via Ms. Dorianne Laux, another writer who I drop-dead love.

I saw her and her husband read many years ago in LA and it was a thrill beyond compare, for both the astounding beauty of her poems and her forthright approachability. She is the first poet I think of when recommending poetry to my non-poetry reading friends. She is that good.  Continue reading


Book Culture: Where to Find It in NYC

18 Jan

I’m routinely asked how I like living in New York City. If it’s by a New Yorker, this is usually phrased as “Don’t you love it here? I mean, I love it. I could never live anywhere else. Could you imagine? God!” or something to that effect. I think this billboard sums up this attitude best:


And while I have loved parts of the city, especially the (often) perfect months of May and October, those parts haven’t added up to enough to allow me to respond with a resounding “Yeah, I love it. It’s amazing.”

My commute crosstown to work each morning  is enough to make any sane non-New Yorker break out in a machine-gun-toting killing spree. Especially in the winter, when it’s 20 degrees out (okay, quiet already, you Midwesterners, I know it could be colder but you have to remember I grew up in Southern California and my peoples are a tropical peoples), and the wind makes that feel like 12 degrees, and you’ve taken great care in dressing so as to not allow one chink in your cold-fighting layers only to have something ride up or ride down, usually where you just can’t reach, and winter’s icy fingers jab you right in the back or hairline or across your presumably boot-bundled toes.

Sorry, I digress. But one of the main things that always, always delights me about New York is the plethora of art/culture offerings, especially for someone like me who is obsessed with the written word. There are book readings, discussions, panels, festivals, award ceremonies, performances – all highlighting that great and magical thing.

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Literary Happenings: Colson Whitehead at McNally Jackson 10/20/2011

24 Oct

I love attending a reading at McNally Jackson in SoHo. It’s clean and bright and staffed by loads of smart young things, and they make a mean currant scone (although this time I had to branch out and try a cheddar cheese and chive scone, since they were all out of my fave – hallelujah! new fave!). I always overspend when I’m there, since I feel like my hard-earned dollars are going to a good cause (and I get a bright, shiny book or two or three out of the bargain).

McJ's gorgeous storefront

I’m not sure how they do it, something to do with Sarah McNally  having worked in publishing and it being the It Bookstore of NYC that is not a Barnes and Noble, but they always have the top writers reading from the top books the Internet is all aTwitter over. Continue reading

Literary Happenings: Emma Straub @ Bookcourt

31 Jan

I don’t know Emma Straub, but I would say, based on my observation of her at Thursday evening’s book launch, that I would happily change lives with her. This instant.

Because she not only has fun, quirky style, amazing powers of observation (more on this later), and works in a cool bookstore, but she also has about a thousand well-wishers, at least in Brooklyn, as evidenced by the packed, and I mean p-a-c-k-e-d reception at Bookcourt.

Here’s the horde surrounding the register:

book! book! book!

I have to give props to Twitter for connecting me, however tangentially, to Ms. Straub. I’d heard very good things about her new book, Other People We Married, from several of the Tweeps I follow (mostly voracious book people). And then there were links to some great interviews (which of course I can’t now locate). Then finally this essay in the Paris Review about that defining 90’s girl drama, My So-Called Life.

So I had to brave the winter weather and trudge out to Bookcourt in Brooklyn. I learned that night that Bookcourt is celebrating their 30th anniversary this year, so congratulations & well-done! I love seeing thriving indies. It turns out Straub even works there:

sweet, no?

Anyway, it was a great reading and well-worth the trudge. Emma (yes, now I’ve graduated to given names) read a little bit from “Rosemary,” a story set in Brooklyn. Over her year-long book tour, she plans to read each story in the place where it’s set. I loved the opening lines:

“Claire didn’t want to tell her husband she’d called a pet psychic. Matt was a lawyer and scoffed easily.”

I live with a lawyer, and yes, yes, they do.

She also bravely shared her love of New Kids on the Block, in particular of Joey McIntyre, by reading an essay about going to one of Joey’s solo concerts in 2004. I was instantly reminded of my friend Debbie who is 35+ and loves NKOTB. I mean LOVES. Turns out Emma shares her passion.

I’m starting Other People We Married tonight, but this line grabbed me while I was standing around Bookcourt by myself waiting for the reading to begin. You can probably figure out why:

“One of the poets was hovering in the open doorway, a plastic glass of red wine in her hand, filled all the way to the top. She was new.”

The lady calls it like she sees it. I can’t wait to read the rest of it.

Moving Thoughts

27 Jan

my little sister made these sweet cupcakes

The other day, a coworker, knowing that I moved from California to New York, asked me about my experience. He and his girlfriend are considering moving from New York to Florida, and he wanted some firsthand knowledge. This got me thinking. It’s been almost two years since my move (!!), but I haven’t really reflected too much, at least here, about how the move has gone, how it’s affected me and my relationships with others, and whether I’d do it again.

Since we’re all still thinking about the new year and what it holds for each of us (beyond the feverish, resolution-fueled exercising I see at the gym and yoga studio), I figure this deserves some attention. Here’s what I’ve learned in the past year and a half (not in any particular order):

Save up.
If you’re considering moving to a new city and you don’t already have a job lined up, wait. Stop. Save. As much as you can, but I’m recommending at least enough to cover your expenses for six to nine months. I’d never been unemployed for an extended period of time before I moved to New York, and I’d never really struggled to find work, so I naively thought that it would take me three to six months TOPS to find a new job.
Boy was I mistaken. It took me a full year, about a thousand job applications, and interviews with three companies (the only ones who responded), to find a part-time entry-level customer service job. Whose salary is not even close to what I was making at my previous job.
Of course my search was hindered by the worst national job market in decades, a failing economy, and an extremely competitive under-employed labor pool in New York City, but I wish I’d really heeded all those friends and family members who expressed serious reservations about my plans to leave a good job without having a new one in place. Especially since NYC is probably the most expensive city in the US.

Lights, Camera, 2011!

9 Jan

Fireworks over Central Park

Happy New Year, folks! We made it. This holiday season was a doozy – CityBoy and I spent an unexpected extra week (well I did; CityBoy had ants in his pants…more on that later) in Orange County, celebrating with my family and our friends and eating entirely too much good, good food.

Continue reading


19 Nov

In the mail today, wedged in between the junk mail and the seemingly endless number of magazines to which I now subscribe, was this welcome bit of “real” mail:

Special props to my Tita Lou for this super cute, and super homemade, Thanksgiving card. It elicited a smile and a comment (“cute card”) from one of my normally sullen neighbors during a painfully silent elevator ride. So good job, Tita Lou, and thank you.

And in the spirit of thankfulness, I’ve decided to share with you a few things that brighten my day:

1) The Starbucks Morning Bun – it’s like a cross between a croissant and a cinnamon roll, but only better. Way, way, way better. I don’t always luck out at the ‘Bucks because these babies go fast. But when they’re there, watch out – that’s my Morning Bun, not yours.

it's the one in the middle

2) My Land’s End JHO bag – cuz it’s big, it’s orange, and it says my name in big BLOCK letters. Oh, and it’s got pockets up the ying-yang.

so geek chic, right?

And lastly, 3) a certain forty-something Andrew McCarthy. Because he’s reinvented himself as a travel writer, and a pretty good one at that. Because he’s still so damn hot.

oh, Blaine!

And because I got to hear him read at Strand Books, where I was [thiiiiiiiiiiis] close to him.

giving Patrick Dempsey a run for his money in the hair department

It was a reach-out-and-touch-someone moment, though I controlled myself, being a good New Yorker (our motto is “celebrity, schmallebrity”), and also because CityBoy was with me and ready to lunge out and pin my arms to my sides so I didn’t get arrested for fondling a grown man’s hair.

So in a world of nearly endless crappy news, let’s focus on the positives…our family and friends, our health, our ability to create, and the knowledge that Blaine, that blue-blooded charmer, still has it. In spades.

Rock on, people.

– Jho