A Miss for Patti Smith: My Thoughts on “Year of the Monkey”

Year of the Monkey is Patti Smith’s third full-length memoir. The book came out last month but the story takes place in 2016. Thom snagged it for me as a birthday present because (a) he knows I love Patti and (b) before we knew each other well, he used to say “Happy Birthday,” instead of “Hi” every time we saw each other, and when I lodged a complaint approximately 4 months in, he switched to “Happy Year of the Monkey.” And now we’re getting married.

I hate to say it, but I didn’t like this one. (Still, it was the perfect birthday present @Thom.) I underlined one good line (to follow), but I had a hard time staying invested and interested.

I deeply enjoyed her previous memoirs Just Kids, M Train, and even Devotion (Why I Write). I also find her photographs and style inspiring and even used to have a prominently displayed poster of her in my apartment. But along the way, I have come across a few of pieces that have not captured me – e.g. most of her music and a lot of her poetry.

So it’s not entirely shocking that a memoir finally fell into the latter category. But first, a few things I did like:

The element of Patti’s memoir style that keeps me coming back is her way of living and thinking like a monk. M Train, for example, was mostly scenes of her walking down the street, drinking vats of 7/11 coffee, strolling back to her house, and watching cable news in bed. She zooms in on these little things, creates a sensory space for the reader, and is not at all anxious or self-conscious. I find these passages relaxing, and almost too weird (too good?) to be true, so I keep reading. An aging, successful artist who takes the same foam cup back to 7/11 every day for 16 oz burnt coffee refills? Puzzling, yet wholesome.

She puts this concept into words halfway through Year of the Monkey: “All is but an intermission, of small and tender consequence.”

It’s the opposite sentiment of Shakespeare’s “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players;” or the darker Macbeth version: “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more.”

In contrast to Billy the Shake’s distressing picture of the pressure on each of us to perform as we move through the world, Patti’s philosophy of life is a major relief. The spiritual isn’t found in creation and achievement, but rather in getting stale M&M’s from a vending machine during Romeo and Juliet’s intermission. She does not spell out what she’s doing here (the above sentence is the closest she comes); instead she just dives in. Her faith in the value of these small moments calls the reader to buy in and see these daily sensory experiences with new reverence.

Yet Patti can’t entirely get away with this attitude towards life, because she’s a career stage performer. She is currently performing live perhaps more than she has in several decades. Now 73 years old, she has become wildly popular among a new generation of young people and is publishing a book every two years. But she doesn’t acknowledge any of this change. In Year of The Monkey, where her late-stage success was presumably most prevalent – she alludes to it least of all, never going further than explaining that she’s in X city because she played a series of concerts there Y days earlier.

Moreover, Patti executes the aforementioned concept (“all is but an intermission, of small and tender consequence”) much better in her earlier memoir, M Train than she does in Year of the Monkey. In this new book, Patti oscillates between dreams and reality in a way that’s hard to track and ultimately not that interesting. For example, one scene opens with her sitting on a porch near a beach in Santa Cruz, looking at the waves, feeling the wind, putting up her sore feet, etc. – but quickly shifts and becomes an imagined conversation with a motel sign and hallucination of thousands of misprinted candy wrappers on the beach. I wished she would not keep introducing the latter element. I find the small moments more affecting without the accompanying visions – probably because that is the less-universal part of being Patti Smith.

Furthermore, to put it crudely, all of the real friends she writes about in the book all have one foot (or both) in the grave. That her world was contained to either small sensory moments alone, or imagined, chronically ill, comatose, and dead companions made the whole reading exercise kind of lonely and sad. I wanted more grounded human interaction – and I know it must exist, because she has a band, living kids, and tons of fans.

Maybe she wants to hold onto the vagabond, bizarre parts of herself by describing dreams and (imagined?) hitchhiking experiences and voices in her head. But I can’t help but think there’s some important element of her life missing from this picture. The narrative almost struck me as dishonest – as if her new audience/platform hasn’t changed her days or thought patterns at all. As if this new life was not perhaps responsible for her increasing loneliness. I think she could add some such reflection without losing her artistic center. In any case, I’ll keep an eye on her because, despite it all, I remain her devoted reader.

~~~

Thanks for reading! I’ve read dozens of books since I last blogged… but not everything inspires a type-athon. I will be writing reviews more regularly now that I’ve got some unstructured time this winter. ❤

“Watching Boys Do Stuff”: Joyce Johnson’s Minor Characters

I recently came across Joyce Johnson’s 1983 book Minor Characters on a Goodreads list of memoirs by women, and I was intrigued to find a female voice from the Beat Generation.

At first, it seemed too good to be true. I hadn’t heard of a female writer among the Beats, even when studying them in college courses. After all, most Beat criticism quotes the following observation from Allen Ginsberg: “The social organization which is most true of itself to the artist is the boy gang.” So who was Joyce Johnson? Would her book have literary merit, or would it be a just-okay read, piggybacking off of Kerouac’s celebrity?

Johnson’s cover features the original photo used in a 1993 Gap ad “Kerouac wore khakis.” As one can see, her figure was gently erased.

Speaking for herself, Johnson is almost unrecognizable as a Beat woman. Whereas in On the Road, et al., the women are all legs and beds – sirens of small towns, briefly featured, ultimately discarded – Johnson is a Barnard graduate and aspiring writer, living in New York City. She holds jobs at various literary agencies, gets a book deal, and rents her own apartment. Kerouac mopes through town, between stays at his mother’s house, and crashes on her living room floor.

One of the highlights of reading Johnson is precisely what she has promised in her title: a sketch of life as a minor character, a girl stuck on the sidelines of the boy gang camaraderie. Consider this image of Edie Parker in Johnson’s opening chapter:

“One night Lucien Carr found an empty barrel and rolled Jack Kerouac home in it — that’s a solemnly recorded fact. As it crashes along Broadway through the hot, empty streets with Lucien attempting to push it faster and faster, I see Edie Parker running after it a little off to the side. She’s telling herself she’s having a swell time as she looks out for cops over her shoulder.”

This scene calls to mind Claire Vaye Watkins’ 2015 essay “On Pandering,” in which Watkins introduces the concept of “watching boys do stuff”:

“As a young woman I had one and only one intense and ceaseless pastime, though that’s not the right word, though neither is hobby or passion. I have practiced this activity with religious devotion and for longer than I can remember. . . I’ve filled my days doing this, spent all my free time and a great amount of time that was not free doing it. That hobby, that interest, that passion was this: watching boys do stuff.”

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This photo was featured in Watkins’ original piece.

When I first read Watkins’ essay, part of my experience that had remained a nameless frustration suddenly presented itself clearly. Friday nights during junior high and high school spent watching football games, in makeup and tight shirts, even though I didn’t like football. Going over to boys’ houses, only to get stuck watching them play video games. Studying abroad with boys who were always saying “take a picture of me here,” “Liz, can you videotape me doing this?” Senior year of college, sitting silently with my cup of whisky (all they had), listening to them debate in ever-louder registers about a random philosophical question. Primarily interested in each other as opponents, the girls mostly watched.

Reflecting on the social conditioning that leads to hours, days, collective months of forced spectatorship can be embittering. And Johnson understands that – and understood it long before anyone had started using the hashtag #watchingboysdostuff.

Of course, the practice of spectating and the art of writing are naturally intertwined. Baudelaire’s flaneur roams the streets at the turn of the 20th century, yet lives inside his mind – David Foster Wallace writes “Fiction writers as a species tend to be oglers . . . They are born watchers,“ at the turn of the 21st. Johnson recognizes herself as a natural observer, quiet and watchful. But she moved in a community of writers, and, upon reading her eloquent prose, it seems should have had equal footing within it.

Thus Johnson explains not only what it means to be a woman in a male-dominated society, but specifically how it feels to be an emerging female writer in a literary movement that prioritized the kind of writing that only (white, privileged) maleness afforded.

For example, on the first day of a creative writing class at Barnard, a male professor asked Johnson’s class of young women, “Who among you want to be writers?” Slowly, they all raised their hands. He responded, “I’m sorry to say this . . . first of all, if you were going to be writers, you wouldn’t be enrolled in this class. You couldn’t even be enrolled in school. You’d be hopping freight [trains, riding through America.”

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The young Johnson.

Johnson writes, “The young would-be writers in this room have understood instantly that of course there is no hope. One by one their hands have all come down.”

To read Minor Characters, then, is to be part of a victory – to bring to life a tale that was ignored and stifled for a long time. Moreover, to hear the unsexy account of how Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg moved through the world is unexpectedly heartening – it gives hope to the quieter type, the more socially-boxed-in person, that he/she can live fully, and write well, too.

 

[Photo credit:]

Photo 1: https://www.overdrive.com/media/209027/minor-characters

Photo 2: http://www.openculture.com/2013/02/kerouac_wore_khakis.html

Photo 3: https://tinhouse.com/on-pandering/

Photo 4: https://doitagaindreen.wordpress.com/2015/12/02/joyce-johnson-lets-dance-to-a-female-beat/

 

 

 

Articulating the Infinite: Patti Smith on Why She Writes

Patti is back, albeit in brief.

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Devotion (2017) is the second volume in Yale Press’s new “Why I Write,” series, which launched in 2015 to publish the keynote addresses from Yale’s annual literary festival.

Smith’s slim treatise is tripartite. It opens with “How the Mind Works,” an account of a recent journey to Paris on a leg of her book tour. Next comes “Devotion,” a short-story about an ice-skating prodigy in WWII-era Switzerland, which Smith composes during the trip while riding the train from Paris to London. She closes with “A Dream Is Not a Dream,” a reflection on the story she’d written and a wrap of the trip.

Notably, Devotion contains Smith’s first published work of short fiction. Her recent, bestselling memoirs Just Kids (2010) and M Train (2014) are rendered lyrically and contain excerpts of poetry – but they are first and foremost glimpses of Smith’s life as an artist. In Just Kids, Smith writes of young, broke, wishful years in New York City with her dear friend, renowned photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. In M Train, she walks us through a day in the life of her present-day 70-year-old self, who wanders around New York City drinking giant cups of gas station coffee and finding inspiration in relics of artists past. But there’s little to suggest in these memoirs that Smith herself has any history of or interest in writing fiction. Thus Devotion presents something new and even unexpected: a parable about creativity and talent in which neither writing nor Smith herself are the focus.

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As an addition to the “writers on writing” sub-genre, Devotion is a unique offering because it explores the question of why we write, rather how to write. Instead of breaking down her daily routine, sharing tales of early failure, and offering neatly packaged advice (“write shitty first drafts,” “kill your darlings”), Smith explores the origins of creative passion – where it comes from, how it feels, why it captures us.

Through a young figure-skating savant named Eugenia, Smith describes what it feels like to first discover one’s creative calling:

On my fifth birthday [my uncle] took us to an ice pageant. I remember this most of all. 

After I saw the skaters I cried for three days and three nights. . . Perhaps I recognized my destiny but was too young to fully comprehend what that meant . . . When I first stepped onto the ice I faltered, not out of fear, but excitement, for something wonderful happened. Everything I needed was revealed to me in a split second, like suddenly knowing all the answers to a difficult test, or the exact route to an impossible destination . . . 

Smith’s vision may seem a bit grandiose here – perhaps even unrealistic. For me, it calls to mind the myth of another young prodigy by the name of Will Hunting…

Will: Beethoven, okay. He looked at a piano, and it just made sense to him. He could just play.
Skylar: So what are you saying? You play the piano?
Will: No, not a lick. I mean, I look at a piano, I see a bunch of keys, three pedals, and a box of wood. But Beethoven, Mozart, they saw it, they could just play. I couldn’t paint you a picture, I probably can’t hit the ball out of Fenway, and I can’t play the piano.
Skylar: But you can do my o-chem paper in under an hour.
Will: Right. Well, I mean when it came to stuff like that… I could always just play.

As in any proper parable, these storytellers exaggerate certain details to highlight the point. And the point is not, as one might think, how convenient it would be if things like organic chemistry or pianos immediately made sense.

The key lies in a minor admission Will makes earlier in this exchange. He concedes that he has studied organic chemistry before. “For kicks,” he says. Skylar responds, “Are you mad?”

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That’s the point. See alternate title for Smith’s book: Devotion (Am I Mad?)

So, why does Eugenia skate? Why does Will study organic chemistry in his free time? Why does Patti write?

Smith shows us that the mystery is the reason. In the pursuit of our particular, randomly-given talents and/or passions – whether for ice skating, mathematics, or writing – we encounter Truth. For Eugenia, the ice is a point of divine contact:

I saw it all before me, in an instant that instantly disappeared, yet made it’s mark. I intuited that when I was ready I held the key.

Importantly, the sublime glimpse is no more than that – a glimpse. Finding one’s passion is not a gateway to total, unimpeded understanding. It does, however, contain the promise of understanding, which is enough to sustain a life. Whether one responds as Eugenia, heeding the call and building a daily practice (yet forestalled by the evil forces of the world) — or as Will Hunting, denying the call’s centrality (impeded by shame and unworthiness) — the Truth can’t be unseen.

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Indeed, Smith affirms this answer in the nonfiction, third part of her book, “A Dream is Not a Dream:”

What is the dream? To write something fine, that would be better than I am, and that would justify my trials and indiscretions. To offer proof, through a scramble of words, that God exits.

The dream gives meaning, purpose, and a shape to one’s life.  It imparts confidence in one’s unique beauty — in being wanted and loved by the universe. It’s attainment is nothing less than communion with the world (however brief) – which is the ultimate joy.

Smith’s final line: “Why do we write? . . . Because we cannot simply live,” affirms our fundamental condition as seekers. As someone who seeks through writing, the story resonated deeply. As someone who has never committed a creative act on ice, I can’t speak to whether this parable rings true beyond the writing few.

If you want to find out, I’ll mail you my copy.

 

Anne Lamott’s Latest Falls Short

I first discovered Anne Lamott last fall, when I mentioned to my friend, Grace, that I was “getting into Catholic writers again,” like Mary Karr and Thomas Merton. Grace recommended Christian writer Anne Lamott and suggested I start with her recent spiritual memoir, Small Victories (2014).

I liked Lamott immediately. I found her witty tales of growing up among the liberal literati familiar and enlightening, and her story of addiction, recovery, and faith inspiring.  I picked up three more of her shorter books: Help Thanks Wow, Stitches, and Bird by Bird. As I continued to enjoy her flippant yet humble storytelling, I pre-ordered her new book, Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy, several months ahead of time (unprecedented).

When the much-anticipated title arrived on April 4, I smiled at it’s salmon-and-silver jacket. Flipping through the purple typeface, I thought “wohoo, Anne is back!”

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Or was she?

After reading the first few pages, I had no memory of what I’d just read. I read and reread the sentences, but they weren’t cohering. Did I need sleep? Coffee? Exercise? Earplugs?

I put the book down. I’d try again later.

To regain confidence in my reading comprehension, I picked up Elif Batuman’s new book The Idiot. My quest was a success – The Idiot is not only intelligible, but one of the best novels I’ve read in the last few years (review to come).

A week later, I opened Hallelujah Anyway again. I started from the beginning, hoping for a fresh start.

Again, I met frustration. It soon became clear that Lamott’s writing – the very same writing I had grown to love and trust in Small Victories, Stitches, and Help Thanks Wow – was at fault. Something had gone terribly wrong.

Take the excerpt on the back cover, for instance:

“I’m not sure I even recognize the ever-presence of mercy anymore, the divine and the human: the messy, crippled, transforming, heartbreaking, lovely, devastating presence of mercy. But I have come to believe that I am starving to death for it, and my world is, too.”

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This should’ve been the first clue.

That is eight adjectives to describe mercy, the majority of which conjure abstract concepts. Anne invites us to “rediscover mercy” via the dictionary.

Sentences like the one above comprise seventy-five percent of the book. Lamott flits from line to line, paragraph to paragraph tacking so many different descriptors to mercy that the word begins to fade out of focus.

“Mercy means radical kindness. . . Mercy brings us to the miracle of apology, given and accepted, to unashamed humility when we have erred or forgotten. . . Mercy, grace, forgiveness and compassion are synonyms, and the approaches we might consider taking when facing a great big mess, especially the great big mess of ourselves – our arrogance, greed, poverty, disease, prejudice.”

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Lamott’s writing does not live up to the promise of its deep purple font.

Lamott gives us too many options. Mercy is a, b, c, and maybe also d; it’s the f and g of h and j. Her sentences feel urgent and unsettled, losing the reader with sharp turns at each comma. I found myself re-reading often, searching for the elusive pearls of Lamott wisdom I had come for. But by the next sentence, Lamott had apparated elsewhere, leaving me sighing with annoyance.

There are moments where Lamott slows down, where glimpses of her former self appear. These are instances in which she approaches mercy anecdotally. For example, Lamott tells the story of her Jesuit priest friend Tom’s experience at an AA meeting in LA, in which a drunk man soils himself walking into the meeting and a team of people help him shower and clean up. She describes retail exhaustion in Zoologie (surely a thinly disguised Anthropologie) in which a salesgirl finds her on a couch and offers a tiny paper cup of water.

Unfortunately, these stories are few and far between. One must trudge through the muck, braving confusion and whiplash:

“Something is at work mending the cut on my hand right now, as if hidden in the skin with atomic knitting needles. Over the years, when it has been in the mood and has its nursing cap on, this something has imperfectly patched up the rifts in my damaged family, the deeper dents in my heart, let alone evil in South Africa, has transformed us from clenched, victimized, and shut down, to taking gulps of fresh air like a baby pinking up.

“Horribly, it does not issue printed schedules.”fullsizeoutput_244c

As Washington Post contributer Anne Bauer aptly put it in her review: “I’m sorry. What?”

In Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (1994), Lamott likens writing to hosting. She suggests that readers arrive at one’s pages seeking communion, and it’s the writers’ job to welcome them home. In Hallelujah Anyway, Lamott is a well-meaning but harried host – multi-tasking and inattentive. She’s dodging through rooms greeting newcomers, moving appetizers in and out of the oven, rearranging the shoe pile, looking for a ladder to fix a burnt-out bulb. One wishes she would put it all down, come sit by us on the couch, and do what she does best: tell a story.

Lit by Mary Karr

For the first few weeks after reading Lit by Mary Karr, I could not walk into a restroom without thinking of prayer. While struggling to accept the customary Higher Power imperative of her 12-step AA program, Karr reluctantly offers her first prayers on the cold tiles of more than one bathroom. One such prayer closet lies within the same Cambridge “loony bin” (Karr’s term) where poets Robert Lowell and Anne Sexton may too have knelt during their respective stays.

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Published in 2010, Lit is the third of Karr’s bestselling memoirs. While The Liar’s Club (1995) and Cherry (2002) delve into the author’s turbulent childhood and teenage years respectively, Lit traces the journey of the adult Mary Karr from low-income college student at a Midwestern LAC to acclaimed poet, memoirist, and professor of creative writing. Lit‘s 386 pages primarily contain Karr’s first marriage and subsequent divorce, her struggle with alcoholism as a young mother – transitioning her journey to sobriety and religious conversion.

Prior to Lit, my personal exploration of Karr’s work was limited to The Liar’s Club and her most recent poetry collection, Sinners Welcome (2009). Yet again, I found Karr’s particular gift to be a profound, pleasantly irreverent voice and a figure skater’s finesse with a sentence. For example, standing in the kitchen, pregnant with her first child, and just having learned that her first poetry book would be published:

“I chew my caramel, satisfied as a brood sow in a mud wallow. Neither good nor ill can reach me.”

While skilled with imagery, Karr also knows how to drop metaphoric fluff to great effect:

“I keep getting drunk. There’s no more interesting way to say it.”

Despite Karr’s engaging wordsmithery, I sometimes found her adult emotional life difficult to access. For example, Karr repeatedly emphasizes that her son, Dev, is the reason she was able to become and remain sober. Dependent-free twenty-two-year-old that I am, I found myself wondering: What do you mean you looked at him and knew you had to stop?

I imagine a collective sigh from mothers around the world as they look wistfully past my genuinely confused face, and offer former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz’s poetic yet unhelpful description of Notre Dame:

“If you’ve been there, no explanation is necessary. If you haven’t, none is adequate.”

I raise this only because I’ve recently read the mother’s perspective better conveyed. Creative nonfiction writer Maggie Nelson excels in this area in The Argonauts (2015), in which she explores every detail of having a child in a way that challenges and enlightens. After a thorough description of giving birth to her son Iggy, Nelson writes:

“He is perfect, he is right. He has my mouth, incredible. He is my gentle friend. He is on me, screaming.”

There is much to discuss with Nelson – a blog for another time.

Yet I didn’t pick up Lit for Karr’s journey to sobriety, her account of motherhood, or even her story of becoming a professional writer – I picked it up because of one line on her Wikipedia page: “[Lit is] my journey from blackbelt sinner and lifelong agnostic to unlikely Catholic.”

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Seems to have the secrets.

Prior to reading Lit, I mentioned my interest in Karr’s “unlikely Catholicism” to a friend. His response: “This might be what does it: Liz the Catholic.” Despite 16 years of Catholic schooling and a genuine interest in spirituality, I had taken a well-advertised break from Catholicism while in college. As someone who had recently bowed-out (with a bit of sound and fury), I had to know: why would someone choose Catholicism after having no religion for 30+ years?

Flipping through my crinkled copy of Lit, which had been baptized with coffee, I notice that my annotating hand was particularly drawn to passages that confess spiritual reluctance. Karr calls this her”outlaw ethos.” Rather than delving into disagreements with doctrine or skewering corrupt popes, she openly discusses a deep aversion to the basic idea of God.

For example, “I’m trying to start hearing the word God without some reflexive flinch that coughs out the word idiot.”

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Any word on whether kindles are coffee-proof?

Karr’s hilarious forthrightness about her internal ego battle is the highlight of Lit. In successfully living beyond addiction and igniting spiritual healing, she is particularly accessible for those (like myself) who have become flippant about religion due to various news items, life events, etc. More than ‘we the flippant’ would like to admit, spiritual isolation can be a painfully empty feeling, and it requires a major push to turn around and proceed in the opposite direction. Perhaps surprisingly, it may help to read every possible facetious comment articulated by a well-respected poet.

Following a prayer journey begun in a bathroom, Karr delivers a glimpse of the other side: “The spiritual lens . . . is starting to rewrite the story of my life in the present, and I begin to feel like somebody snatched out of the fire, salvaged, saved.” Karr’s is a narrative worth encountering.

 

 

 

 

 

“A Book Blog, Liz?” Let Me Explain

Throughout the (almost) twenty-one years I have been able to speak, I have confidently asserted a variety of future plans.

“I’m going to be an artist,” my five-year-old self declared to inquiring adults, proffering pictures of family members with potato bodies, toothpick limbs, and impossibly wide smiles.

Aspiring artist at work
Aspiring artist at work

This was followed by a fifteen year period of “I’m going to be doctor,” which I stubbornly insisted upon despite a variety of red flags (including a very real phobia of puking people).

It was only during my first semester of college as a pre-med student that I recognized my folly, surreptitiously skipping many a chemistry class in order to dedicate my efforts to a required lit seminar: “Shakespeare’s Major Tragedies.”

The moment of recognition went something like this: “Shit. There won’t be any lit classes in med school.”

***

As far back as my memory reaches, books have been an essential part of my existence. Even as an illiterate toddler I carried around piles of books and “read” by reciting the story from memory. (Shout out to my dad for putting in long hours reading through the pile as part of my bedtime ritual.)

Evaluating multiculturalism and postmodernism in Sesame Street
Searching for postmodern themes in Sesame Street

I began reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in first grade and finished the final words of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows the summer before eighth grade (the day it came out, obviously). In the interim, I devoured all varieties of fiction, including the timeless stories of Roald Dahl, the tales of the resourceful feminist Nancy Drew, the blatantly Catholic Chronicles of Narnia, the youth-friendly murder mysteries of Marry Higgins Clark, the obligatory Twilight Saga, and anything and everything by resident boy-expert, Meg Cabot.

With less time to read in high school, I prioritized homework from English class over Calculus and packed as much reading into my summers as possible. One summer I spent an entire month on Jane Eyre and felt hugely accomplished as I crossed out the title on my stained and wrinkled “101 classics to read” list. I then immediately turned to the inviting pink jacket of Tina Fey’s Bossypants to decompress.

Will not be re-reading anytime soon
Will not be re-reading anytime soon

Now an English major at Notre Dame, my love for books has deepened in the company of brilliant professors, visionary authors, and most of all, talented and thoughtful fellow students. I love every minute of it – okay, except for 4am when I’ve already had 5 coffees and I would rather be talking to people, watching reruns of The Office, or sleeping than railing on Kate Chopin’s misogynistic contemporary critics for 10 double-spaced pages.

***

I almost feel physically uncomfortable without a book nearby. I carry books like some people carry miniature purse dogs – a faithful companion for waiting rooms and car rides; a respite from boredom and monotony; a dependable conversation-starter for awkward social moments.

I have a tendency to take my current read to places where I know I’ll never have a chance to open it, like the Starbucks drive-through, my job at Dean Younce Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, and the library cubicle where I’m supposed to be uber-focused on studying for finals. It’s borderline compulsive.

Today's purse dog
Today’s purse dog

Essentially, this blog is an opportunity to reevaluate, revel in, and share my books. With plans to work in the editing and publishing realm of productive society one day, it will be valuable to practice reviewing books. And though I claim only a nominal understanding of this blogging platform and a limited arsenal of life-experience and material as a twenty-year-old college student, I am giddily excited to start nerding out about books on the internet.