I finished reading Mat Johnson’s Loving Day way back in the beginning of June, but I’ve held off on writing about it. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. I’m still not sure how I feel about it.

The writing is superb, that’s not the issue. The characters are complex and interesting. And infuriating and discomfiting.

I am bi-racial. I am the product of an interracial, interfaith marriage. This is how I have always identified and I wouldn’t know how to claim any other identity.

The assertion that by claiming my bi-racial identity I am denying a part of myself or my history (or cultural history) offends me.

And so reading some of the ideas expressed by characters in this book seriously got under my skin. Yet the characters embracing their combined heritage also irked me. They seemed blinded by their rhetoric, unrealistically idealistic, and downright cultish. Basically, all of the characters said and/or did things that I found wrongheaded and upsetting.

And ultimately, that’s why I think that I might have liked the book. The reading experience was uncomfortable and sometimes difficult; it’s hard to hear unflattering opinions about a group with which you identify, but reading those things helped me think about the various kinds of racial identity in a different way. I haven’t changed my mind about how I identify myself, but I appreciate the glimpse into a different perspective.

 

Before heading up to NY for Book Riot Live (or book nerd camp for grown-ups, as I’ve decided to call it), I spent an evening at the Free Library of Philadelphia listening to a conversation with Patti Smith. She was on tour to promote her new memoir M Train, but spoke a bit about Just Kids as well.

I’d re-read Just Kids in a sort of semi-preparation for the event and was experiencing a flurry of mixed emotions. I loved Just Kids the first time I read it. I’ve proclaimed (often) that the book changed my life and when that thing about listing your 10 most important books was all over Facebook, you better believe that it was on my list.

And so, when I re-read it (with pen in hand to underline all the lines that changed my life) I felt a little bit let down. Much of the language is poetic, and I still find the evolution of her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe beautiful and inspiring, but something was missing — I didn’t feel the same stirring in my soul as the first time I read it and I found this troubling.

Hearing Patti Smith speak was lovely, but the amazing (for me) moment came during the audience Q & A at the end. A woman stood up and said that Patti Smith had been a great role model for her as an artist, a mother, and a feminist and asked her what advice she would give to a young girl growing up right now. Patti Smith started talking and I found myself taking fevered notes on my phone:

  • Do the best that you can
  • Think for yourself
  • Don’t judge based on superficial things
  • Feel yourself as an individual
  • Connect with the world, but remember who you are [when] unconnected

In hearing this advice I was able to identify why Just Kids meant so much to me when I initially read it and why it didn’t hit as hard upon re-reading.

I will be the first to admit that I definitely don’t have everything figured out, but I can say with some amount of confidence that I’ve begun to figure myself out. I think reading Just Kids had a lot (though admittedly not everything) to do with that; it showed me the merits of embracing my “authentic self.” The process of being who I want to be — quirks and bizarre enthusiasms and all — began long before I read Just Kids and continued after, but I think that the book helped something click in my brain. And so when I began my re-reading, that switch was already flipped and the book didn’t feel as revolutionary.

Without this revelation, I’m not sure how I would feel about this book right now. In acknowledging what I took from it the first time, I feel like I can still call it a book that is important in my life. And it’s entirely possible that I’ll pick it up again some time in the future and have other, entirely different feelings about it. I believe that I have changed a lot as a person, especially in the last 5 years, so it makes perfect sense for the way I experience books to change.

I don’t have to give up books that meant a lot to me at the time just because I’ve grown and changed. And that realization has been particularly freeing.

I’ve been a terrible book blogger recently in that even though I’ve continued to consume loads of books, I haven’t been writing about them (I have, however, continued to post stuff on Instagram and twitter, so you should clearly follow me @poindextrix on both #shamelessselfpromotion).

But since I’m about to embark on what I can only describe as a book nerd-dom bonanza, I thought I better pop in with a quick update (with the obvious fingers-crossed promise that I’ll be better about updates in the future).

Last week I went to a Free Library of Philadelphia author event in which Ruth Reichl talked about her new book My Kitchen Year. She was fabulous, this book is fabulous — and gorgeous — and I’ll hopefully start making things out of that and tell you about it soon.

But tonight. Tonight I’m heading back to the Free Library to see Patti Smith talk about her new memoir M Train. You may remember how much I love her first memoir, Just Kids. For those just joining us: the answer is a lot. A whole lot. M Train talks more about the later years, the less Robert-centric years, I take it. I’m incredibly excited to read it and super excited to meet/see/breathe the same air as Patti Smith and hopefully get her to sign my copy of Just Kids, which I just finished re-reading.

Crazily, I won’t even have time to come down off of my Patti Smith high, because as soon as I leave the library, I’m heading up to New York for Book Riot Live. When people ask me what my plans are for this weekend I’ve been saying I’m going to a book nerd convention, and I think that’s describing it pretty accurately. It’s not like BEA in that this is way less industry-centric. This is an event for readers and it’s mostly about what readers love and care about and I’m so excited in case you couldn’t tell by my complete incoherence.

I’m really looking forward to this weekend. I think it’s going to be fantastically bookish in the best ways. If you’re at Book Riot Live and see/recognize me, come say hi!

Readathon In Review

October 14, 2015

I’m a bit delayed in this, but I’m finally sitting down to recount my Popepocalypse Readathon experience. I think it ended up going really well. It was nice to have a few days in which I decided to just devote the time to reading and relaxing. Also, the weather was great, so I spent a ton of time out on my balcony (did I mention my new apartment has a balcony? It’s fantastic and I’m kind of obsessed with it) and at the local coffee shop’s outdoor seating just enjoying the lovely weather with tea and books.

Yeah, yeah, I get it. I should stop blathering on about the weather and tell you about the books.

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First up was Woman Rebel by Peter Bagge. It’s a graphic … biography? (like graphic novel, but a biography. Can I just call it a graphic novel even though it’s a true story?) about Margaret Sanger, who is generally regarded as the mother of birth control. She’s was a bit of a complicated woman and remains a polarizing figure since she wasn’t super intersectional in her feminism, but I think that this was book was a fair representation of her. The art style of this wasn’t my absolute favorite, but I think that’s just personal preference.

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After that, I moved on to Peter Pan. I mean, it’s a classic. I don’t even have much to say about it beyond that. It’s a good deal darker and a kind of more bizarre than all the Disney-fied versions that we see these days.

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The next book I read was Bloggess Jenny Lawson’s Furiously Happy. I honestly recommend that everyone read this because it is touching and inspiring and hilarious and so many other things that I don’t even have words for. But careful reading it in public because after a while it becomes really difficult to stifle all the laughter.

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Then I moved on to Half-Resurrection Blues by Daniel José Older. This had been on my list for a while and I realized that this readathon was the perfect time to dive in. You guys, this book was so good and so much fun. So. Much. Fun. It’s part of the Bone Street Rumba series and I’m excited to read the other books that take place in this world.

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The book I closed out the readathon with was Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine. Again. So good. This is one that I think I want to read again even though it’s only been a couple of weeks since I finished it.

I had so much fun doing this readathon and sharing pictures of what I was reading and my progress on social media (and if you’re not following me on Instagram, why not? You’re missing out on some awesome bookish pics. And random shots of food and my cat for variety). Can I just have a three-day weekend to do this every couple of months? That would be spectacular.

The Pope is coming to Philadelphia later this week and that means that the city is basically shutting down. There are something like three or four perimeters, you need special passes for public transportation, and streets are lined with port-a-potties. Penn is closed Friday (some other places have Monday off as well, but I couldn’t be that lucky), giving yours truly a three-day weekend.

And while I still have a ton of unpacking, organizing, and decorating to do (I moved! I love my new place and once things are organized and decorated I’ll have a post showing off my shelves and book nook), I decided that I really want to make this weekend about reading.

And thus the Popepocalypse Readathon was born. It has no real rules (because I’m lazy and I’ve never really done this before). Basically, I’m just going to read as much as I can that weekend (maybe starting Thursday night), checking in periodically with posts on social media.

[This is where I encourage you to follow me on social media if you aren’t already. I’m @poindextrix on basically everything. You know you want to see all my book and cat pictures on instagram!]

So if you’re in Philadelphia — or even if you aren’t — join me in the #PopepocalypseReadathon! Post your own pictures. Tell me what you’re reading. Use the hashtag, tag me, do it all! Even if you’re in Philly to see the Pope, I’m assuming that there will be a ton of down time waiting for him to speak or drive by in the popemobile (and seriously, somebody send me a picture of him in the popemobile!), so you might as well get some reading done! It’ll be awesome, or at least mildly entertaining.

#PopepocalypseReadathon

You know you want to.

 

I know that book nerd-dom comes in many varieties, but I’ve always felt that going to book events (assuming they’re available) was a good book nerd behavior. And so it’s embarrassing to admit that even though I’ve lived in Philadelphia for over a year, I haven’t gone to a single book/author event. Until tonight. 

Caitlin Moran, author of How to Be A Woman and How To Build A Girl, as well as comedian, columnist, TV/film writer and all-around awesome human being was at the Free Library of Philadelphia tonight. She was honest and raunchy and absolutely hilarious. It was a fantastic event.

After the talk/reading and Q & A she signed books upstairs. The line moved a little bit slowly, but that was just because she actually spoke to every single person, giving them hugs and taking pictures. When it was my turn I was a little star-struck, but she was just so lovely —thanking me for coming and saying all of these amazing things that I want to cherish forever — that I kind of just felt like I was talking to a friend. A friend who is hilarious and spectacular and makes me feel better about myself and the world.

Caitlin Moran comes across like a hella-awesome lady in her writing, and she really, really is. Her books are amazing, she’s amazing, my night was amazing.

And because I am that kind of book nerd, here are my pictures from the night:

The fabulous Caitlin Moran.

The fabulous Caitlin Moran.

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Reading from How To Build A Girl

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Close-up of Caitlin Moran reading from How To Build A Girl

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Seriously, she’s so nice and enthusiastic.

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We just had a little chat before she signed my book.

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Also, she’s super silly, and it’s fantastic.

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Love her!

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My signed copy. It has such a great memory to go along with an already fantastic book.

I have consulted numerous electronic and paper calendars and all of them have told me the same thing: it’s springtime! But here in Philadelphia, the weather doesn’t seem so sure of that fact. It seems like for every nice day we have, we get a week of cold temperatures, rain, and overall gloom. I shouldn’t complain too much since that is prime reading-with-a-cup-of-tea weather, but I’m ready for reading-on-a-picnic-blanket-in-the-park weather (I’m not saying I do this, but I want the option).

I don’t generally tailor my reading to the season because I’m just not that organized, but this super prolonged winter has me yearning for sunnier books.

So here’s my list for what to read when nature has betrayed you and continues with the cold, grey weather.

  1. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. It’s a big, epic book filled with love and war and magic. It will draw you in and completely transport you to the mythical Macondo, which is in Latin America and therefore is a warm and sunny place at least most of the time.
  2. Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson. I’m cheating with this one because it isn’t actually sunnier, but we’ll get to why I picked it. This is a dual narrative combining the fascinating story of the build up to the Chicago World’s Fair and the chilling tale of a string of murders committed by H. H. Holmes in the city around the same time. It is utterly enthralling and after reading about the creepy murders and how Holmes pulled it all off, you might not mind being cooped up inside.
  3. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by is bloggess Jenny Lawson’s sidesplittingly funny (mostly true) memoir. There are some serious bits interspersed with a whole lot of hilarity. I challenge you to read it and not be in a good mood afterward. I’m pretty sure it can’t be done.
  4. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. This book is enchanting and whimsical. There’s mystery and adventure and it takes place in bright, sunny California (though often at night…).
  5. Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell. I’m looking out of my living room window and it’s all grey and I think it’s spitting rain and I can’t help thinking of that titular story with the wizened old vampire drinking lemonade under a Tuscan sun…
  6. iwanttogotothere

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are just a few of the books that might numb the sting of being betrayed by ole’ Mother Nature. What would you add?

 

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram or Tumblr (and really, why aren’t you? I’m fantastic on social media. It’s all books and my cat and food. What’s not to like?) then you’ve probably figured out by now that I am employedIn my field! It’s very exciting.

I’m working on a project to sort/catalogue the Gotham Book Mart Collection. The Gotham Book Mart was an awesome independent bookstore in New York that closed around 2007 and the books and records all came to us. Now we’re sorting and cataloguing all the material and while some of it is your run-of-the-mill trade stuff, a huge portion is small press material and rare/limited editions and it’s all so cool and I just get to nerd out all day while working/getting paid.

It’s also kind of funny to me that I moved to Philly, but I’m cataloguing a very New York collection. Go figure.

So yeah, my reading time has been cut down a little bit. But fear not! Reviews shall continue. I have an absurd backlog (that pre-dates my employment. I’m bad at planning. We’ve always known this) of both books to read and books that I need to review. All these things will (probably) happen. I just wanted to give everyone an update on my life and librarian-ness.

If you want to see my pictures of some of the materials, but don’t feel like following me (though I can’t imagine why not) just search the hashtag “gothambookmart” on the various social media platforms and things should pop up.

Hi book fans! Fun fact: I am perpetually behind the times. Even, it seems, in my own life. As an example, I present you with the fact that the 100th post of Witless Witticisms  was… five posts ago. Oops. Well, we shall celebrate now and pretend like we planned it this way.

I think I’m going to try to make this blog more visually appealing. I’ll add photos of books I’m reading. Maybe shots of lines I like? I haven’t worked out all the kinks yet, but I think it’ll be a fun adventure.

So here’s the first photo of a recent book haul from the Philadelphia Free Library.

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You’ll get reviews eventually.

I think I’m going to try to make the book haul photos a regular thing. They’ll appear on my instagram (which will then push to my twitter and tumblr). Clearly you should follow me on all these other social media things to make sure you don’t miss anything. I’m Poindextrix on everything because you’ve got to stay true to your brand (or I’m lazy, but let’s go with the brand thing).

But really, you should follow me on instagram to see lots of pictures of my cat and follow me on twitter to see retweets of library-related stuff. I don’t actually understand tumblr, I’m just pretending.

Anyway, this was my celebratory 105th post/shameless plug to get more followers on social media/trying to add more visual appeal to the blog.

Reviews will recommence forthwith!

 

Poindextrix in Philadelphia

January 15, 2014

So here I am in Philadelphia.

I realized over the summer That those extra classes I was taking would enable me to graduate from my library science program a semester ahead of schedule. Since my lease was ending and i didn’t want to incur a semester’s worth of unnecessary student loan debt, it seemed like the right thing to do.

I picked Philly for a number of reasons. There are some that I’m not quite ready to share here, but I’ll let you in on the others: Philly has tons of cultural heritage institutions where I could potentially find work and there are fewer library schools in the area with graduates all vying for positions. Philly is also a bit closer to home, so I can see family and friends in the DC area more often. And finally, I think New York and I just needed a break for a while. Living there by myself was certainly an experience, but New York is intense and I think I need to dial it down a bit. Also, with no job and no student loans, I couldn’t really afford to live there, now could I?

But Philly! Philly is great. It’s a city, but it isn’t quite as crazy as New York (or maybe it is, just in a different way). I’m still getting used to things (I’m using tokens for the train/bus, guys. Tokens.), but my apartment is cute and I’ve gotten my library card, so I’m settling in.

I don’t think much will change here. It’ll be the same old Poindextrix ramblings, just from my new locale.