Thursday, August 9, 2012
Thursday, July 26, 2012
We held class on the green lawn outside Holland Hall-- our limestone castle of a history department-- and we wrote letters to our congressmen about sustainability, green fuels, and wind turbines. Oliver's The Summer Day became our anthem. As Joan Didion once so gracious offered-- Was anyone ever so young?
I still think about the poem sometimes, usually in July when the heat seems never-ending and I start dreaming of wool skirts and black tights. Summer isn't my favorite season.
Rereading it again this year, I can't help but grimace at not only Oliver's overwrought romanticism but also at the girl who once worshiped it. And yet as Didion also once said (Didion again, I know...) “I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind's door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends.”
So true, Joanie. So true.
The Summer Day
by Mary Oliver
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
An ex-boyfriend of mine used to tease me for being 'of the Nora Ephron school of thought'. Well, tease isn't the right word. He would shame me for it. It bothered me to no end (well, an incredibly finite end, actually) not only because I knew he meant it as a dig, but also because I realized that he didn't understand me--- or women like me--- at all. He thought that by enjoying films like When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, and You've Got Mail, (not to mention books like Heartburn and Wallflower at the Orgy) it meant I was lacking a certain edge. He meant that I was unintelligent and flighty. Ditzy. Girly. Plonk. I remember my friend Annie jumping to my defense, sighting several other writers I favored, artists whom I understood, but I never had the words ready to defend Ephron's wit and intellect. I regret that. Ephron was a woman writer who spoke to women, and it's offensive to categorize such a thing as trite. Nora would have hated him.
We, the women of the Nora Ephron School of Thought, are a certain breed. We are girls who read The Bell Jar and only saw beauty. The ones who liked getting frightened by Joan Didion. We happily wept to Joni Mitchell's River and danced to Patti Smith's Gloria. We weren't scared and we aren't stupid. We liked party dresses and pumpkins and clanging kitchens and cappuccinos but it didn't make us dumb. We were the optimists.
I started giving walking tours of Ephron's You've Got Mail the summer I moved here to anyone who would attend. At that time, the summer of 2007, it meant mostly friends who were visiting me from the Midwest, but also to new coworkers, to my roommate, and often to myself. My tour (as directed by the YGM DVD's special features) began at the Cheese and Antique's shop on 69th and Columbus (although no longer in business, it served as the original storefront for The Shop Around the Corner), up to Fox Books (a discount clothing store, I believe), to Gray's Papaya, and Cafe Lalo, and Verdi Square. I made my way up to H&H Bagels, Zabars, and the 79th Street Boat Basin (Hello, New Jersey!) and finally the 91st Street Garden. It's a lovely little walking tour for visitors actually, but it started because I didn't know my way around any neighborhoods other than Ephron's Upper West Side. I was incredibly happy in those days wandering around the city alone, imagining the future I might live on those streets.
I heard of Ephron's death tonight through twitter while at a party at MoMA that I attended with my friend Tanna. Our hearts sank and our heads began to spin, trying to figure out how on earth she could have died. She was on NPR's Wait Wait Don't Tell me just last week. I listened to the podcast version on my lunch hour while eating a sandwich on the benches outside the Gourmet Garage on Mercer and Broome. I listened to her play Not My Job, and talk about missing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. I reminded myself, once again, to read I Feel Bad About My Neck, even though I've been afraid of it up to this point. I didn't realize that she was sick.
To quote Zadie Smith when Katherine Hepburn died (another story for another time, lordy), "When people truly feel for a popular artist - when they follow in their thousands behind Dickens' coffin or Valentino's - it is only the dues returned for pleasure given, and it never feels like enough." I would be hard pushed to think of another artist whose death has caused me this much pause. I guess I felt she was of my time. Someone I might run into someday at Fairway or in line for a movie. It gave me comfort to think of her still living here, in this New York, not one from another era. This week will be packed with tributes and outpourings and mourning for the loss of "the last of her kind." Ephron would be the first to laugh at such grandiose understandings, and it will take us a while to contemplate what exactly is lost. For me... for me it feels like I've lost a bit of my beginning.
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Friday, March 30, 2012
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Thursday, March 22, 2012
This spot is normally one of the best views of Lower Manhattan, with the Brooklyn Bridge just to the right.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
We met at our favorite wine bar, Kashkaval, for a 'quick glass of wine and maybe some hummus or something'. Good intentions, I swear to you. But one glass turned into two, and hummus turned into a platter, stories turned into laughter and two minutes before curtain we found ourselves huffing up the theater steps, tickets in hand. They oversold that show, we quickly learned, and gave away our seats. That happened.
No matter! We are trying again tonight! Third time's a charm, right? Let's talk about Kashkaval.
Kashkaval is the perfect spot to meet before attending theater on Broadway (or at the Ensemble Studio Theater, as we are tonight), seeing a show at the dreaded Terminal 5, or taking a much needed break from an art fair. The wine list is generous, the service friendly, and the food is meant to be shared. We love the giant beans (giant beans? Is that a thing?), hummus, tahini, spinach, and olives. I asked our waitress for the funkiest red wine they served and I swear to you it tasted like a barnyard. Perfection.
Megan and I, after, well, two glasses of wine, both declared it our 'favorite wine bar in all of the land!' But even today, after nothing but iced water (so far) it might still hold true. Yes, it's all the way up and all the way over but perhaps one of these nights I'll make a special trip and stay for dinner. But tonight!--- theater. Round 3.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Everything matters not in spite of the end of you and all that you love, but because of it. Everything is all you’ve got…and after Everything is nothing. So you were wise to welcome Everything, the good and the bad alike, and cling to it all. Gather it in. Seek the meaning in sorrow and don’t ever turn away, not once, from here until the end. Because it is all the same, it is all unfathomable, and it is all infinitely preferable to the one dreadful alternative."
-Ron Currie Jr, Everything Matters!
Everything Matters! is the story of Junior, a man who knows from his inception that the world will end via comet in 36 years. Part scrappy prose, part science fiction, the narrative tumbles from there-- a terrifying premise told through the ordinary lens of the struggling family of a man holding the weight of the world on his shoulders.
Braced with this understanding Junior coils and fears, worries and waits. He realizes quickly and ferociously that in a world ending before we can save the dolphins or cure cancer or watch the next generation accomplish anything at all, NOTHING MATTERS. Nothing matters! Nothing matters.
The trick-- dear reader-- is a shared understanding that Currie wouldn't hand us a book with such a grandiose (and perfect!) title without promising us an explanation. And with about 40 pages to go, he hands us our prize for trudging through Junior's resentment and fear. As Junior is offered a second chance, we are handed a much greater understanding of both Currie's motives and, well, life! I felt physically shaken by the last few pages. Shaken and enlightened, if I may be so bold.
READ IT. This book was quite literally shoved into my fingers by the booksellers at The Strand, and here is your written push. This book has taken me days to process and I'd love to discuss it with you.
Next up: Zeroville.
Friday, February 17, 2012
Phenomenal New Yorker review for this show, now playing at the Royal Court in London. My girl Sally Hawkins plays the lead and the set consists of white balloons. Let's go! Jolly-ho.
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
“The first language humans had was gestures. There was nothing primitive about this language that flowed from people’s hands, nothing we say now that could not be said in the endless array of movements possible with the fine bones of the fingers and wrists. The gestures were complex and subtle, involving a delicacy of motion that has since been lost completely.Happy Valentines, my sweets! Take it easy. Keep it sleazy.
During the Age of Silence, people communicated more, not less. Basic survival demanded that the hands were almost never still, and so it was only during sleep (and sometimes not even then) that people were not saying something or other. No distinction was made between the gestures of language and the gestures of life. The labor of building a house, say, or preparing a meal was no less an expression than making the sign for I love you or I feel serious. When a hand was used to shield one’s face when frightened by a loud noise something was being said, and when fingers were used to pick up what someone else had dropped something was being said; and even when the hands were at rest, that, too, was saying something. Naturally, there were misunderstandings. There were times when a finger might have been lifted to scratch a nose, and if casual eye contact was made with one’s lover just then, the lover might accidentally take it to be the gesture, not at all dissimilar, for Now I realize I was wrong to love you. These mistakes were heartbreaking. And yet, because people knew how easily they could happen, because they didn’t go round with the illusion that they understood perfectly the things other people said, they were used to interrupting each other to ask if they’d understood correctly. Sometimes these misunderstandings were even desirable, since they gave people a reason to say, Forgive me, I was only scratching my nose. Of course I know I’ve always been right to love you. Because of the frequency of these mistakes, over time the gesture for asking forgiveness evolved into the simplest form. Just to open your palm was to say: Forgive me."
"If at large gatherings or parties, or around people with whom you feel distant, your hands sometimes hang awkwardly at the ends of your arms – if you find yourself at a loss for what to do with them, overcome with sadness that comes when you recognize the foreignness of your own body – it’s because your hands remember a time when the division between mind and body, brain and heart, what’s inside and what’s outside, was so much less. It’s not that we’ve forgotten the language of gestures entirely. The habit of moving our hands while we speak is left over from it. Clapping, pointing, giving the thumbs-up, for example, is a way to remember how it feels to say nothing together. And at night, when it’s too dark to see, we find it necessary to gesture on each other’s bodies to make ourselves understood.”
- Nicole Krauss, The History of Love
Monday, January 30, 2012
Alison and I have a book-buying problem. We simultaneously lecture ourselves and encourage each other on our book-buying on a weekly basis (usually on lazy Sundays when we find ourselves wandering to Greenlight or BookCourt, or god forbid, separately at that airport bookstore at LaGuardia.)
"Ughghhgh I want this but I have so many books to read at home."
"I know, but it's a good beach read and since you're going to Florida with your mom..."
"Yeah, get it. Plus, you're supporting your local neighborhood book dealer."
"I know but I do have that stack of books at home. I suck."
"I know, me too. We both suck."
"Should we get some wine?"
"K, I'm going to first buy this book though."
Every weekend! Granted, it's not the worst problem to have. We both love reading. We read lots of books, all the time. But for this reason we can't quite keep up. I have a phenomenal stack of books sitting next to my bed right now, waiting for my attention. Henry VII is waiting patiently for me to finish Everything Matters!. So is The Marriage Plot, right there next to The Paris Wife about Mrs. Hemingway herself. I'm trying!, I shout at them as I browse the windows at Book Court on my way home from work.
My sister Emily also has this problem. Hers is so bad that she actually made a rule for herself last January that she wasn't buying another book until she had conquered her tall stack of unread material. A year later, having finishing absolutely zero of the books in the stack, she decided that the more productive solution was to donate them to her local library and move on. She then bought more books and stopped the silly self imposed guilt for not having read the old ones. This is one of the many reasons I love and admire Emily-- she's an action girl.
So, you understand that when I refused to purchase Emily's recommendation for winter reading-- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins-- it wasn't out of disinterest or lack of trust. I had too many books seeking my attention! Poor little dears crying out to me for their turn. I didn't have TIME for the Hunger Games, I told her, there at The Strand on 12th and Broadway during her visit last October. Fine!, she said, don't read it! But you're the one missing out.
Well, obviously my sister-- the action girl-- took action. A few weeks later I received a package in the mail for my 28th birthday including not one but ALL THREE books from The Hunger Games Trilogy. Sorry! She said in her cheeky little birthday greeting. No excuses-- read them and let me know what you think.
And read them I did. I read them quickly and in big gulps over the next couple of months and then pressed them into John's hands upon completion. He caught up with me while on vacation in Florida and we raced to finish the series together. I finished the third and final book twenty pages ahead of him and cried out in honest-to-goodness grief at the ending. He then banished me to the hotel's hot tub--true story!-- to calm myself down lest I spoil the ending for him. I sat in that hot tub crying for Prim and for Buttercup; for Gale and for Peeta. I cried for Katniss and for Panem and then before it got too ridiculous I cured my tears with an ice cream. I even shared it with John.
I'm sure you've read these books or at least read about them, so I'll spare you further details. What I will say is this: if you want to fall deep into a story, into a world and a new way of understanding, read these books. It's not the best literature you'll ever read, but you aren't reading the best literature anyway, now are you? Hmmm? That Jane Austin that's been sitting on your side table for two years? Skip that. At least for now. Then let me know what you think.
Friday, January 27, 2012
It's also a poem about regret of an ending, an anxiousness that you didn't drink it all in, that you didn't live it right. It's about mourning a lightheartedness that fades with knowledge and education and experience. It's a dark one, no doubt. But electric in its sense of gratitude and anticipation. John and I read it the other night-- surprised at ourselves for doing such things, but thankful just the same. Those Romantics understood it--- this crazy, temping spring.
Ode: Intimations of Immortality
Intimations of Immortality From Recollections of Early Childhood
There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore;--
Turn wheresoe’er I may,
By night or day,
The things which I have seen
I now can see no more.
The Rainbow comes and goes,
And lovely is the Rose,
The Moon doth with delight
Look round her when the heavens are bare,
Waters on a starry night
Are beautiful and fair;
The sunshine is a glorious birth;
But yet I know, where’er I go,
That there hath past away a glory from the earth.
Now, while the birds thus sing a joyous song,
And while the young lambs bound
As to the tabor’s sound,
To me alone there came a thought of grief:
A timely utterance gave that thought relief,
And I again am strong:
The cataracts blow their trumpets from the steep;
No more shall grief of mine the season wrong;
I hear the Echoes through the mountains throng,
The Winds come to me from the fields of sleep,
And all the earth is gay;
Land and sea
Give themselves up to jollity,
And with the heart of May
Doth every Beast keep holiday;--
Thou Child of Joy,
Shout round me, let me hear thy shouts, thou happy
Ye blessed Creatures, I have heard the call
Ye to each other make; I see
The heavens laugh with you in your jubilee;
My heart is at your festival,
My head hath its coronal,
The fulness of your bliss, I feel--I feel it all.
Oh evil day! if I were sullen
While Earth herself is adorning,
This sweet May-morning,
And the Children are culling
On every side,
In a thousand valleys far and wide,
Fresh flowers; while the sun shines warm,
And the Babe leaps up on his Mother’s arm:--
I hear, I hear, with joy I hear!
--But there’s a Tree, of many, one,
A single Field which I have looked upon,
Both of them speak of something that is gone:
The Pansy at my feet
Doth the same tale repeat:
Whither is fled the visionary gleam?
Where is it now, the glory and the dream?
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing Boy,
But He beholds the light, and whence it flows,
He sees it in his joy;
The Youth, who daily farther from the east
Must travel, still is Nature’s Priest,
And by the vision splendid
Is on his way attended;
At length the Man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.
Earth fills her lap with pleasures of her own;
Yearnings she hath in her own natural kind,
And, even with something of a Mother’s mind,
And no unworthy aim,
The homely Nurse doth all she can
To make her Foster-child, her Inmate Man,
Forget the glories he hath known,
And that imperial palace whence he came.
Behold the Child among his new-born blisses,
A six years’ Darling of a pigmy size!
See, where ’mid work of his own hand he lies,
Fretted by sallies of his mother’s kisses,
With light upon him from his father’s eyes!
See, at his feet, some little plan or chart,
Some fragment from his dream of human life,
Shaped by himself with newly-learned art;
A wedding or a festival,
A mourning or a funeral;
And this hath now his heart,
And unto this he frames his song:
Then will he fit his tongue
To dialogues of business, love, or strife;
But it will not be long
Ere this be thrown aside
And with new joy and pride
The little Actor cons another part;
Filling from time to time his "humorous stage"
With all the Persons, down to palsied Age,
That Life brings with her in her equipage;
As if his whole vocation
Were endless imitation.
Thou, whose exterior semblance doth belie
Thy Soul’s immensity;
Thou best Philosopher, who yet dost keep
Thy heritage, thou Eye among the blind,
That, deaf and silent, read’st the eternal deep,
Haunted for ever by the eternal mind,--
Mighty Prophet! Seer blest!
On whom those truths do rest,
Which we are toiling all our lives to find,
In darkness lost, the darkness of the grave;
Thou, over whom thy Immortality
Broods like the Day, a Master o’er a Slave,
A Presence which is not to be put by;
Thou little Child, yet glorious in the might
Of heaven-born freedom on thy being’s height,
Why with such earnest pains dost thou provoke
The years to bring the inevitable yoke,
Thus blindly with thy blessedness at strife?
Full soon thy Soul shall have her earthly freight,
And custom lie upon thee with a weight
Heavy as frost, and deep almost as life!
O joy! that in our embers
Is something that doth live,
That nature yet remembers
What was so fugitive!
The thought of our past years in me doth breed
Perpetual benediction: not indeed
For that which is most worthy to be blest--
Delight and liberty, the simple creed
Of Childhood, whether busy or at rest,
With new-fledged hope still fluttering in his breast:--
Not for these I raise
The song of thanks and praise;
But for those obstinate questionings
Of sense and outward things,
Fallings from us, vanishings;
Blank misgivings of a Creature
Moving about in worlds not realised,
High instincts before which our mortal Nature
Did tremble like a guilty Thing surprised:
But for those first affections,
Those shadowy recollections,
Which, be they what they may,
Are yet the fountain light of all our day,
Are yet a master light of all our seeing;
Uphold us, cherish, and have power to make
Our noisy years seem moments in the being
Of the eternal Silence: truths that wake,
To perish never;
Which neither listlessness, nor mad endeavour,
Nor Man nor Boy,
Nor all that is at enmity with joy,
Can utterly abolish or destroy!
Hence in a season of calm weather
Though inland far we be,
Our Souls have sight of that immortal sea
Which brought us hither,
Can in a moment travel thither,
And see the Children sport upon the shore,
And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore.
Then sing, ye Birds, sing, sing a joyous song!
And let the young Lambs bound
As to the tabor’s sound!
We in thought will join your throng,
Ye that pipe and ye that play,
Ye that through your hearts to-day
Feel the gladness of the May!
What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind;
In the primal sympathy
Which having been must ever be;
In the soothing thoughts that spring
Out of human suffering;
In the faith that looks through death,
In years that bring the philosophic mind.
And O, ye Fountains, Meadows, Hills, and Groves,
Forebode not any severing of our loves!
Yet in my heart of hearts I feel your might;
I only have relinquished one delight
To live beneath your more habitual sway.
I love the Brooks which down their channels fret,
Even more than when I tripped lightly as they;
The innocent brightness of a new-born Day
Is lovely yet;
The Clouds that gather round the setting sun
Do take a sober colouring from an eye
That hath kept watch o’er man’s mortality;
Another race hath been, and other palms are won.
Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,
To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.