Friday, July 30, 2010

A Few of My Favorite Things: Books

As a writer and a reader (and a pursuer of a Masters in Publishing), people often ask me, "What is your favorite book?" I must say, I don't always have an answer, or I guess I should say, it is not always the same answer. So, inspired by my dear friend Justin and his insatiable quest for the best book ever, and my lovely friend Tim who always has a new book for me to read, here is a list of some of my "favorite" books.

Granted, some of these I have loved a long time, some I had to decide that I loved them along the way, and some, well, I love the author himself so much that I had to seriously sit down  and decide what was my favorite. Some, you may claim are not applicable to this list. But that's the beauty of picking favorites, they are mine, and I can pick whatever I want.  

They are in no particular order. 

A post-Apocalyptic tale of survival, friendship, love, lust and loss, and ninjas! This is most definitely a book worth adding to your collection. It is action packed, mysterious, bizarre, smart, funny and somehow, totally relatable and almost believable. Nick Harkaway's first novel is one of my all time favorites. We read it in my DC based book club, The Vikings, and for once, everyone finished it, and everyone loved it. 

Oh, and guess what? Nick Harkaway has a blog.

Yep, that's right, The Princess Bride is one of my all time favorite books. You think the movie is a classic? Try reading the book, as per usual, the book is better than the movie. Note: with the exception of Fight Club, I actually like the movie better. Anyway, you know Fred Savage's character in the movie? Well, in the book, that's actually William Goldman, the author. He has basically made an abridged version of his father's original tale, and instead of Fred Savage interrupting to say why he doesn't want to hear something, Goldman interjects with reasons why he cut something out. 

You know the scene when Buttercup realizes the the Dread Pirate Roberts actually Westley and they tumble down the hill? Yeah, the kissing part is actually cut out of the book too, and only by special mail-in request can you receive that part. Yes, folks, I totally mailed in and asked for the removed part - I am that much of a dork. Read it, you won't regret it.

This collection of short stories was actually my first introduction to Dave Eggers. I have since read The Heartbreaking Work of a Staggering Genius and You Shall Know Our Velocity, and while I am a fan of Eggers style, I understand that some people just don't get it, or maybe just don't like it. In essence, he can be a little wordy. 

Hence, the birth of a short story! This collection has some of the most beautiful things I ever read within is pages. Some of the stories, like with a lot of short stories in general, leave a little more to be desired, though it just encouraged me to read more Eggers. 

While my first introduction to Michael Ondaatje was The English Patient, which I truly love and have read twice, Coming Through Slaughter is my favorite. I have also read In the Skin of a Lion and Amil's Ghost. I bought his poetry collection The Cinnamon Peeler at the bequest of my dear friend Amanda and was given Divisedaro as a gift. Clearly, I love this writer. He is so poetic, so beautiful, and all at once heart-wrenching and hopeful. 

Coming Through Slaughter is the fictionalized account of a New Orleans-based jazz musician living at the turn of the century and slowly going mad. It is an incredibly fast read, though I say linger in it, devour it if you have to, and if you must, go a little mad with it. 

As a former member of another book club called the Diamond Dipsos back in Asheville, The Elementary Particles was another one that nearly everyone finished, and I know everyone loved. It has landed on many favorite book lists that I have seen over the years, and there is no question as to why.

French author Micheal Houellebecq weaves us through the tale of two half brothers, both plagued by social anxiety and insecurity, but for completely different reasons, not to mention a depraved sense of understanding personal relationships and sex - often times, awkward, unforgiving sex at that. These two have no chance to survive in our world, so each turns inward to figure out how to at least manage the day-to-day obsessions that have consumed them. The women are kind of poorly concocted, but never deter you from the read. Not to mention, it is a far better than anything that hack Chuck Palahniuk could ever conceive of in his misguided attempts to write about the wrongs of our modern lives.

Oh, Gonzo. The novel is one of the all time greats. It's funny and strange and the writing is brilliant. Set mostly in San Juan, The Rum Diary is the story of a journalist trying to survive life in Puerto Rico among trails of love, lust, violence, and of course, rum. Hunter S. was only 22 when he wrote it, which explains why it reeks of his influences that include Ernest Hemingway. 

Never you mind that though, it's still a fun read, and a great introduction to the Gonzo style. It's his only work of fiction. I also love Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Better Than Sex: Confessions of a Political Junkie about one Mr. Bill Clinton.

Another one of those fantastic short story collections that I plowed through in like an hour. Each story links poor, desperate, hapless souls through every kind of tragic account you can image, from a heroin overdose to a trip to steal copper piping from a house for money. The awkward reality these characters live in as touchable as it is alarming. 

Did I say Hemingway earlier, ha, well, it's because The Sun Also Rises is one of my favorites - of the authors, well and ever. He has influenced so many other authors with his poetic style. The lead character in this particular novel is certainly part of the "Lost Generation", as he is an American living in Paris, though still can't manage to find happiness there and takes a trip to Spain. He struggles with conformity, impotency and a sense of purpose. 

If anything, this youthful and beautiful book makes you ache to see the world in those more innocent days when the troublesome facts of of life, love and boredom were less tied to technology and more tied to beauty. I am sure that Hunter S. Thompson would not have been the writer he was without this book.

One of the only Roth I've read, sadly, though I've been told to read many, many more, and have a list of them on my shelves to plow through (the other is Indignation). This book is amazing. And I am saddened sometimes that I put off reading Roth for so long. This story is of a man lovingly referred to as "The Swede", and how his life has gone from being the town favorite to a shattered man lost in what his life has become. Don't expect to feel better about life after you read this beautiful novel.

"He had learned the worst lesson that life can teach- that it makes no sense. And when that happens the happiness is never spontaneous again."

Yes, that really is Hamlet you see there by William Shakespeare. I fucking love this play, and have a whole lot of it memorized. It is one of the most interesting and moving pieces of literature I have had the pleasure of being introduced to in stupid High School. I find myself referring to pitiful Hamlet and sob story Ophelia more often that I would like to admit.

This, in my humble opinion, is Shakespeare's greatest tragedy. What's not to love!? Greed, madness, murder, revenge, love, hate and incest! (Well, I don't love incest, but still). From band names to movie titles, from misinterpretations made clear through these thoughtful lines of prose and poetry. What dreams may come indeed.

I confess, I did not read this novel until after my mother introduced me to the movie version of the same title, - and one of Daniel Day-Lewis most amazing performances. After reading it, I was shocked that the story of Christy Brown was really true. Seriously, this is one of those completely inspiring stories of the triumph of the human spirit. 

Born with Cerebral Palsy in 1932 to a large Catholic family in Ireland, the autobiography of Christy Brown outlines his growth from birth to publication, all the while only communicating through the use of his left foot. Read this book. I'm telling you. Then see the movie.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

25 Things I Love

So, I was brushing my teeth and a really great song came on and I thought, I love when a song makes you smile in the middle of a random task. Though, I love to brush my teeth too... so that further made me think of other things I love... so, why not make a list? Here goes.

25 Things That I Love:

1. A great lyric - lately I have had a few songs on repeat solely to hear one line
      a) What a Drag, Bear Hands - "You've got them long nails... I dreaming of your goddamn long        nails..."
      b) Starring, Freelance Whales - "Shut me up with your long tub socks, they don't scream hey lets just  be friends" 
      c) Manteo,The Love Language - "I use to keep my nose clean but now I just sleep in the dirt"
      d) Jigsaw Falling Into Place, Radiohead - "Just as you dance, dance, dance, dance...."
      e) Naomi, Neutral Milk Hotel - "You're prettiness is seeping through out from the dress I took from you, so pretty" 

2. A good stretch that makes a random joint pop
3. Clean, cool sheets
4. Feeling the wind blow on a nice evening bike ride
5. Making a wish on someone else's birthday candle
6. Bad puns
7. Discovering a new band 
8. A great first kiss
9. Getting to the last page of a book
10. Feeling pretty
11. A well needed hug
12. A long talk on the phone
13. Cracking my knuckles
14. That dizzy feeling you get from the first few sips of a cold beer
15. Complimenting a stranger
16. Sunglasses
17. Making myself a really good dinner
18. Fitting back into something I haven't worn in a while
19. Laughing really hard
20. Introducing friends
21. Making out
22. Getting picked up
23. Feeling proud
24. Writing
25. Finding treasures on the sidewalk - like one of my broaches!

And as a p.s. I love making lists. What do you love?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Summer Dreams Ripped At the Seams...

Oh, Danny and Sandy! "But uh, oh those Summer Nights..." I love that stupid movie and all it's true love nonsense. There really is nothing quite like Summer Lovin'... it's so flirtatious and full of promise! Even though so far this summer, I keep falling in love with no end in sight. With a musician, with a waiter, with a bike messenger... with a dream.

Ah the Bike Messenger! Something about the way he smiled, staggered a little. Apologized for being late. Wasn't even, really. I should've asked his name. Or maybe I should've hiked up my skirt, hopped on my own two wheels and joined him on the road for a delivery. A delivery to anywhere... straight to my heart. Or wait, that's you, but we'll get to you later. The bike messenger probably has a girlfriend. They all do. All the cute ones at least. Or they're gay. Or fucking crazy. Still, all the same, I should've asked his name. I wonder, should you tip a bike messenger? It be so awesome to slip them a cold beer in the middle of the stiff, cold lobby. I'd take a buck and a brew, a wink and a smile... shooooo.

But really, I don't love the bike messenger. Or the waiter... he was wearing jewelry after all, and for me that's about as offensive as a man who sprays on Axe. Just tacky. I will, however, always love the musician... all of them in their straight-to-your-heart-then-straight-out-the-door glory. Sigh.

But it's you... with your coy invitation to meet again, to somehow break this dream sequence. It was like a dream. An affair to remember. What dreams may come if your invitation is true. Could be so much more than this sleep perchance to dream. Not that we slept in each other's company. Still, poetically it all sounds so nice.

Here's to summer love, we've got time yet.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Dreamy Recipes and Hmmpht.

Spicy Tomato Jam
- makes 1 generous pint, two 8-ounce jars -
4 cups peeled, seeded, and chopped ripe tomatoes (2 1/2 to 3 pounds tomatoes)
2 lemons, peel cut entirely away and discarded, seeds removed, flesh finely chopped
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 pinches salt
1. Combine all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a brisk simmer and continue to cook, stirring periodically skimming off any foam that forms on the surface and stirring frequently, until a thick, jam like consistency is achieved and most of the liquid has evaporated, 30 to 35 minutes. (Stir more frequently during the last 10 minutes so that the jam doesn't burn on the bottom of the pan.)
2. Transfer the jam to hot sterilized jars, filling the jars to within 1/2 inch from the top, and attach the lids and rings.
3. Once they have cooled, store the jars in the refrigerator for up to 4 months. (Alternatively, place the jam in covered nonreactive containers and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.)

Though I would add garlic to mine, I do love it so... Thanks for the idea Serious Eats!
While it's not exactly the same topic of food, but oh so tightly woven, I feel I must bring up the following stupid train of thought and add to this post.
Don't you hate it when you go from having a couple of positive body image days full of good times, good eats, exercise and productivity to suddenly plunging into the crappy self-loathing pit of despair of a fat day? I know, it's not The Princess Bride... and the Pit of Despair is NO place I would want to be, but sometimes it is just downright discouraging to feel so hateful towards yourself.  It makes me wonder if I'd been somehow looking into only skinny mirrors then suddenly caught a reality check from one of those evil mirrors that talk back to you like the one on Snow White.

Oh I can't stand it! Instead of wallowing in it today, though, I decided to dull the ridiculous shift of mood by downing a packet of Animal Crackers (actually they were Keebler Elfin Crackers which are "better for you" than the buttery goodness of the Animal Cracker box car variety).

Do I feel better? Yes.
Less fat day? Clearly not.
More importantly, do I care? Not really that either.

Tomorrow will I promise to return to positive productivity. 

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

What's Up Wasabi?!

Well Goddamn, I think I may have a problem... with wasabi. I have developed an insane love of the taste of it! Don't get me wrong, I've always liked the stuff in the traditional sushi way, but lately, any time I see it's seductive name as a list of ingredients (or lord, in the title!) I can't help but want to check it out. I bought wasabi peas at Eastern Market and have nearly devoured them all, I bought a bag of Japanese wasabi peas from a lunch spot down the street from my office called SoHo and had to force myself to stick to only eat 2 handfuls a day (which is about 1/2 cup and pretty close to the serving size).

Then I found a trail mix at Target with wasabi soy beans in it and nearly fell over and died. It's called Zen Party Mix (Archer's). At first I was like, hmmmm... wasabi peas in trail mix? Turns out, it is really, really good. My only complaint? It's a little salty over all as the ingredients are nothing but sodium heavy snacks. While these are often lower in fat and calories, they still pack a punch on your daily sodium intake - rice crackers, sesame sticks, green peas, almonds, cashews and wasabi peas. Yeah, be careful with that one.

After this discovery I found that Whole Foods has one too, but it's got a lot more fat in it, probably because it contains more nuts. So, where to look next? I was on the brink of just making my own when I happened to get in on a trip to Trader Joe's on Monday. Sounded like a good plan, I've never tried any of their trail mixes... then there it was Wasabi Wow! Sweet! Only 130 calories per serving and 8 gm of fat. Not bad. It has peanuts, almonds, golden raisins, dried cranberries, and the aforementioned wasabi peas. OH MY GOD. It might be the best wasabi flavored thing EVER. The sweetness of the dried fruit mixed with the salty (shell on) peanuts followed by a kick in the teeth from the wasabi peas... Mmmm. I'm telling you, it is to die for. Then, as an even better thing, today for lunch I mixed in the remainder of some pretty bland low fat granola, shook it all up, added 1/2 cup of the goods to 1/3 cup of Greek yogurt and a Pink Lady apple. Umm, Orgasm?! I think so, and I'm still full from that delicious lunch.

Just a suggestion. I bet homemade wasabi peas would be fun to make, and a great combo to mix into my usual blah dinners like Quinoa, squash, tomatoes and peas...Any one else out there in TV land love some wasabi? I suggest you give it a try with yogurt and fruit, it is too good.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

New Blog

Yo! I decided to open a new blog dedicated to music, books, art, whatever.

check it:

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Where's Annie When You Need Her?


It happens every time I leave the District - upon my return, I know in my heart that I don't belong here. That I don't like it here all that much. Current perfect weather, place all to myself and ever-growing group of friends notwithstanding, I know that this town is only intended to be a short stop in my ever-evolving life. Should I have expected this? It is a transitory town, after all, and anyone I've ever conversed with about this place has always seemed to feel the same way. Still, every time I leave and go to a place like Chicago, Philadelphia, Asheville, Germany, Portland, hell even fucking New York City, I can feel my eyes close and the wind in my hair saying to my soul, "I think I'm gonna like it here."


Sorry DC, you just ain't my kind of town, but I'm willing to let that slide for now and enjoy this summer for every hot loving second of it.