It would be impossibly rude to blog before returning some seriously overdue emails, so, in the interim period wherein I attend to a few other more pressing matters before posting my full account of Cali, join me in breathlessly awaiting updates from other, most definitely more adventurous treks: Jami Attenberg is in Montana and promising daily photo updates, and, after a noticeable absence, Cory Bush posted his first notes on Thailand.
I've really been enjoying travel writing lately - I love that idea, of finding a sense of place somewhere wholly unfamiliar, and how surprisingly easy and challenging that can be at the same time - and I wish I'd taken notes on my trip to Martha's Vineyard exactly one year ago with one of my favorite people in the whole world, Claire. Recently done with less-than-stellar work experiences, she and I explored the whole of the island while also spending hours sketching out in broad strokes how exactly we'd transform our lives, if only we weren't so burned out and disillusioned.
It's a year later, and I can honestly say that my life is wholly transformed, although I can't say I did much real planning then, besides picking up cigarettes when we ran errands in town and driving an extra few minutes to the cheap liquor store. At one point, we did have some discussion about how to get to Nantucket (the ferry wasn't running yet and taking the car off-island verboten). I couldn't believe how badly I wanted to see the Sailors' Valentines at the Whaling Museum. We quite sarcastically floated the idea over dinner with visiting friends of using our only possible resource, the canoe under the deck, to traverse the fifteen or twenty miles of open sea. Surprisingly, we received several excruciatingly thoughtful replies on why that might not be such a good idea. Always from men, darling. Claire's in Ecuador at the moment, and I can't wait to hear all about every single thing when she returns. Same goes for my dear brother, traveling in Costa Rica with college friends this week.
Recommended: Paul Theroux's Riding the Iron Rooster: By Train Through China, Alain de Botton's The Art of Travel, and Lucky Girls by Nell Freudenberger (who has an essay about being asked to tour universities in China excerpted* in The Guardian this week [via The Elegant Variation].)
*David Foster Wallace-style multi-layered, intricately contextual footnote: the essay is from Bookmark Now, the new anthology on writing edited by Kevin Smokler. Kevin is a friend and a client whose event at Galapagos next Tuesday I'm working to publicize. Around The Bloc author Stephanie Elizondo Griest, as well as other New York-based Bookmark Now contributors, including Elizabeth Spiers and Hipster Handbook author Robert Landham, will be reading from their contributions to the book. It's actually my birthday on the 7th, so, if you find yourself in New York next week, please do come out and join us for what promises to be a fabulous, no-cover evening of words, drinks, and giveaways.
Hmmm....just got in about an hour ago; unwinding all the emails and voicemails from the past few days of spotty access and sporadic attention while in California, but what's most captivating me at the moment? My inner pin-up, of course!
You're Lili St. Cyr!
I just returned to the Bay Area after a few blissful days in Big Sur, spent at the extraordinary Treebones Resort, definitely one of my favorite places on Earth. I am about as mellow as I could ever be at the moment, and I'm headed up to San Francisco to see an old friend for a day or two before heading back to New York. You can expect the full story - and I've got lots of them - on my adventures in Northern California next week. More to come.
This post is mostly about a book I'm excited to read: Snakes and Earrings by Hitomi Kanehara, but it's also about how I heard about it and why I decided to buy it today. I like reading work in translation, and especially Japanese contemporary fiction. I still remember reading Kenzaburo Oe's A Personal Matter in high school, and finding its sparse, elegant prose to be a revelation. More recently, I really enjoyed Kitchen, a deceptively slim book by Banana Yoshitomo.
I suppose it's kind of ironic that I primarily make my living as a publicist these days and yet I hardly ever read the newspaper. What could possibly be there that is actually news to someone like me, who spends most of her life online, following (at my leisure, of course - not just first thing a.m.) the constantly unfolding, hydra-headed network of available information 24/7? The answer: Not much.
Frankly, I find little in my local newspaper, The New York Times, to interest me on a given day. For business coverage and analysis, I prefer The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Economist -- three publications whose print editions I would pay for, but only hypothetically, because print is dead and I don't want all those dead trees cluttering up my apartment.
The vast majority of the cloying, achingly un-hip New York Times' Styles section is just an embarassment, and the only feature I ever read regularly, Choire Sicha's condensed cultural listings known as "The Guide," was seemingly replaced by its inferior predecessor of context-lacking, Yellow Page-style event listings. Take the time to look for it, and you will soon discover that everything the Times does is done better somewhere else.
Like most media consumers my age, I get information from a wide array of sources that it is both in flux and closely attuned to my definition of "fair and balanced." It's a mix of dozens of major papers' and magazines' websites (often filtered through Google News), significant blogs covering a number of issues from a variety of perspectives (most of them aggregated by Bloglines to suit my preferences), and occasionally, television.
One place that I have consistently found new books and (and trends in literary culture) is Dan Wickett's Emerging Writers Network (established in 2000), an email-based interview and review pipeline that is constantly bursting at the seams with new content and fresh voices. Even with the rampant competition on the crowded media landscape, it's actually quite easy to filter out the static of the majority of hum-drum, designed-for-print, advertising-driven, newspaper section book reviews by comparison.
I first heard of Snakes and Earrings when Dan mentioned upcoming interviews with both the author, and the translator, David Karashima (the latter is here). A day or two later, I noticed the interview in my inbox, but because I have been both traveling and working this weekend, I hadn't had a chance to read it yet. However, that was all I needed to take a closer look at the book while browsing today; close enough to see that Snakes and Earrings was precisely the type of book I might like to discover. I'll let you know what I think after I've read it.
In the meantime, sign up for the EWN newsletter. It's absolutely free, and always a welcome sight in a frequently overflowing inbox. Why it's overflowing? Well, that's another matter.
The more I thought about it, the more I regretted not picking up an acid-green scarf while I was in Antwerp and Amsterdam, where it seemed like a full-blown trend spotted on the most stylish women who passed me on the street in both cities (Brussels is justifiably worth visiting for its glorious art nouveau architecture, but edgy fashion - unless it's from Antwerp or Paris - is less visible) [Related: My photo album from the trip].
A week or so ago, a friend and I were having lunch on the Lower East Side in New York and popped into the American Apparel shop afterwards to take a look at the scarves (their green scarf is pictured in my original post on the topic). The color was all wrong for what I need: too kelly and cotton, not enough chartreuse or texture.
Imagine my astonishment and delight, then, after getting off a coast-to-coast flight last night and putting things away at my hosts' lovely home, to discover the perfect, slightly ombre, linen, absolutely acid green scarf procured for me (after reading about it here) during their recent trip to Vienna, where indeed, it was also the rage. Brilliant.
I'm going to be in Northern California for the next few days, and specifically, in San Francisco on Sunday for an event with the fabulous Tayari Jones, author of the new novel, The Untelling, as well as the Hurston/Wright Prize-winning debut novel Leaving Atlanta, and a PR client of mine.
If you're in the city (or have friends who will be), do join us for a reading and reception at A Clean, Well-Lighted Place for Books at 4pm this Sunday afternoon. As there aren't too many things I enjoy more than drinking in a bookstore, it will definitely be a party!
Jen Bekman's Unbeige has the scoop on a proposal to transform 42nd Street (presently clogged with both tourists and traffic) into a truly grand boulevard, complete with light-rail service from river to river. Wouldn't that be gorgeous?
It reminds me of two things: (a) Riding the streetcar down St. Charles Ave. in New Orleans when I lived there (it's always charming, but not quite as cute in that endearingly anachronistic way when you're in hurry. Although: the experience was so special - with the tall, wide windows and the unmistakable sound of gears grinding and wheels on trolley tracks - that I categorically remember more of those mundane-at-the-time trips than I do any others in my life); and (b) The Meir, in Antwerp, which is an impossibly long, stately pedestrian-only street that winds through the city and is lined with gloriously revived architectural gems and some of the best shopping I've ever encountered. Oh, and the trolley that runs down Market St. (not the ones that are mostly for tourists, the distinction being that I actually want to get somewhere rather than ride around aimlessly) in San Francisco (where I'll be in 48 hours, and counting) is memorable, too.
I'm a little past that wide-eyed stage of thinking of New York as a visionary city, but it's a brilliant concept.