Posts Tagged: books

Happy Lorrie Moore Day!

lorrie moore

This is truly the most wonderful time of the year (or the most wonderful time of the past many years). The absolutely flawless Lorrie Moore’s new short story collection releases today! If you’re reading this during the day, I’m at work wishing I was home reading it. And if you’re reading this in the evening, I’m reading it. I cleared my work schedule for the evening specifically for this book.

I think there’s a law that all female creative writing majors have to love Lorrie Moore. In college, I read a lot of boring short stories. I mean, there were a lot of good ones, too, but so many of them were the same “old white dude” story told over and over again. Lorrie Moore stood out. Her characters were weird and unique. Her sentences were hilarious in a quiet way. And she created these crazy images and scenes that still stick in my head now. I read all of her books and then sat around thinking about how I would never be the writer she was (I’ve now come to terms with it).

After I graduated, she released her first novel, which I still remember walking to the library to pick up from the hold shelf. I won’t say it wasn’t good, because it was great! But it was one of the only things I’ve ever read that made me so upset that I almost had to stop reading it. It dealt with a very specific fear/paranoia of mine, which is that one little action you unthinkingly take can have catastrophic actions and/or result in death. Which is sort of a “Lorrie Moore theme,” honestly, but I can’t stop reading her.

Are you guys going to be reading Bark today? If not, what is even wrong with you? Never mind, I don’t want to know. Let’s close this out with some of my favorite Lorrie Moore quotes.

“She was not good on the phone. She needed the face, the pattern of eyes, nose, trembling mouth… People talking were meant to look at a face, the disastrous cupcake of it, the hide-and-seek of the heart dashing across. With a phone, you said words, but you never watched them go in. You saw them off at the airport but never knew whether there was anyone there to greet them when they got off the plane.”

“It was like the classic scene in the movies where one lover is on the train and one is on the platform and the train starts to pull away, and the lover on the platform begins to trot along and then jog and then sprint and then gives up altogether as the train speeds irrevocably off. Except in this case I was all the parts: I was the lover on the platform, I was the lover on the train. And I was also the train.”

“I feared Sarah was one of those women who instead of laughing said, ‘That’s funny,’ or instead of smiling said, ‘That’s interesting,”‘or instead of saying, ‘You are a stupid blithering idiot,’ said, ‘Well I think it’s a little more complicated than that.’”

Lorrie Moore image via Vanderbilt;

What I’ve Been Reading

It’s been awhile since I’ve talked about what I’ve been reading. I mean, sure, I do that every week on HelloGiggles, but I do read other things occasionally. If you’re looking for a new book to pick up, here are the things I’ve read and loved recently. Also, if you’re on Goodreads we should totally be friends!

Tasteful Nudes by Dave Hill
dave hill tasteful nudes
Do you like laughter? What about happiness? Then get this book. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this is one of the funniest books I’ve read in a LONG time. If you like David Sedaris, David Rakoff, or Tina Fey’s Bossypants, I would definitely recommend Tasteful Nudes. Also, you can get a signed copy if you order it directly from Dave Hill’s website. I did and this is what he wrote in my book: “Dear Kerry, I know things have been really crazy between us lately but we WILL get through this. I just know it. Love, Dave Hill” Go buy it now! What are you waiting for?

The Shining by Stephen King
Okay, so I was under the mistaken assumption that the book wouldn’t be as scary as the movie. I was wrong. Like, really wrong. I was so terrified, and then I had a nightmare that my dad was an alcoholic. I actually liked the book better than the movie (I know!) because my favorite character didn’t die in the book. I guess that might be sort of a spoiler, but you know what? The Shining came out roughly 5 million years ago, so this one’s on you. It’s a quick read and it’s legitimately horrifying, so I would highly recommend it.

The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp
the spectacular now
This one’s YA, but I’m not writing about it in my column because it upset me too much. Which isn’t to say that it’s bad! I did really enjoy it. The voice is great and unique, and it was really interesting to read the voice of such an unreliable narrator and think about the work that the filmmakers had to do to translate that to the screen. But…well, the ending of the book is pretty different from the ending to the movie. I’m not going to say it’s hopeless, but okay, I’m going to say exactly that. It’s sort of hopeless! I’d recommend reading the book AFTER seeing the movie.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Sorry, this book doesn’t come out for a long while and I’m just being obnoxious by bragging that I’ve already read it (perks of being a book blogger). Everyone’s been talking about it and it has a huge publicity campaign, but it’s for a good reason! This is a really weird, dreamy, creepy, great book. I started it expecting to just read a few pages and finish it later, but I ended up getting sucked in and I read it all in one day. I’m not supposed to say a lot about it, because it’s (sort of?) a mystery, but just know that you should totally read it when it comes out.

Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon
steal like an artist
You’re either the kind of person who likes reading books about creativity or you’re not…and, duh, I very much AM. Even if you’re not into the typical “creative life” stuff, though, you’ll probably like this book. It’s inspiring while also being extremely practical about what you need to do to get creative work done (I’m very fond of the “Be boring” rule). Also, I read somewhere that Austin Kleon went to my alma mater (Miami University), which makes me automatically like him.

So what about you guys? What have you been reading lately? I always love hearing your recommendations.

What I’ve Been Reading

I always love reading (duh), but over the past few weeks, I’ve been reading even more than usual. Here are the books I’ve read and loved over the past month or so:
Tenth of December by George Saunders
It’s no surprise that this was good. I mean, George Saunders is always good. I read the last story one morning before work, and the whole walk there all I could think was, “Everyone is just trying their best!” It was pretty emotional.

no one else can have you
No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale
Okay, sorry to be annoying because this book doesn’t come out until January, so you can’t read it right now. BUT IT IS SO GREAT! It’s funny and weird and I actually got scared near the end.

someday someday maybe
Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham
Obviously if Loralei Gilmore writes a book I’m going to read it. Fun fact: I decided to wait out the library hold list for this one instead of buying it, and it took a couple of months! So just reading it felt like a small victory. Anyway, this was a fun, feel-good book, and y’all know I love a feel-good book.

tapestry of fortunes
Tapestry of Fortunes by Elizabeth Berg
Everything I love: a house full of women who learn something from one another, a road-trip, and copious amounts of pie. So much pie. I made a pie after I finished this book, actually.

open road summer
Open Road Summer by Emery Lord
Now I’m being even more obnoxious because this book doesn’t come out until April, but YOU GUYS. I loved this book so, so much. There’s country music, a dreamy dude, and so. much. romance. Seriously, I loved it, and it’s definitely going on my Best YA Romance list.

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
Somehow this book managed to be slow and interesting. Also sad and hilarious. Kate Atkinson is some sort of miracle worker, apparently. Anyway, I really enjoyed it and I’ve already ordered the next Jackson Brodie book from the library. Basically, if you like British detectives then you’ll probably be into this book (although I seriously didn’t understand ANY of the references in this book…I might as well have been reading another language).

What have you guys been reading? Let me know, and have a great weekend!

The Time I Went to a Cheryl Strayed Reading

By now, you should know that I rarely do things on work nights. My schedule basically looks like this: wake up, do some work, go to work, come home and eat dinner, get back to work, go to bed. But when my friend Carrie texted me and asked if I wanted to go see Cheryl Strayed read on a Monday night at Ashland University, how could I resist? Since graduating from college, I rarely see readings, and I had a feeling that Cheryl Strayed would probably be pretty inspirational. So I left my house on a work night (on a work night!).

The universe conspired to keep us away from Cheryl Strayed. First we got stuck in near-standstill traffic, and then Ashland University ended up being a labyrinth of confusion and poorly named buildings. But we gave double middle fingers to the universe and ended up at the reading anyway.

Even though we were half an hour late, I felt like we got a pretty complete picture of Cheryl Strayed. She was as warm and engaging as she seems in her writing. She seemed to radiate compassion and wisdom, like George Saunders or Dolly Parton. Also, she talked like a real person. Have you ever noticed how some writers inexplicably speak with this not-quite-placeable, almost-British accent even though they’re from the Midwest? Or they pronounce human “yoo-min”? Cheryl Strayed didn’t do that.

We got to hear her read a bit from Wild, as well as a letter from Dear Sugar. And then she answered questions from the audience and was so shockingly articulate that I could hardly believe it. I mean, if I had to answer questions on the fly like that, there’d be a lot of stammering and “likes” and “you knows.” But Cheryl Strayed carries herself with the composure and calm of someone who’s met Oprah.

At one point, she said, “Nonfiction is things that really happened. Fiction is things that really happened plus shit I made up,” which kind of sums up why she’s so great.

And then we got books signed by her. I bought a copy of Torch because I felt weirdly drawn to it, although after the fact I figured out that, duh, it was her first novel and of course that was the reason I wanted to get that one signed. Carrie was very nice and told Cheryl Strayed that I was an awesome writer, and Cheryl Strayed was very polite and pretended to care. Cheryl Strayed looked sophisticated and comfortable in this purple flowy top that I now want to buy 7 of and wear every day of the week. That top said, “I am way too busy writing to wear restricting clothing. I have better things to do with my time than be uncomfortable.”

After that we went to Denny’s (Carrie and I, not Cheryl Strayed), which is what everyone should do after a literary event. I ordered a bacon avocado cheeseburger because Cheryl Strayed said to feed yourself, and maybe this wasn’t exactly what she meant, but I decided to go for it anyway.

That night when I went to bed I felt weirdly energized yet relaxed, the way I do after yoga. I sort of forgot how much I enjoyed going to reading, how just hearing words spoken out loud and seeing the real human who wrote them is often so much more filling than just reading those words on a page. But, I don’t know, it might’ve just been the cheeseburger.

Image via The Great Discontent

Ladyville Book Club: Girls Like Us (and Why I Hate James Taylor)

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Girls Like Us is about three super-famous Lady Musicians: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Carly Simon. It follows them throughout their lives, dealing with their careers and, of course, their romantic struggles. With that description, it sounds kind of snore-y, right? But guys…this is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Seriously. It gets into the real meat of these women’s lives, and it deals with some serious gossip. Also, James Taylor sucks.

Although the book devotes pretty much equal space to all three women, Carly Simon definitely steals the show. Even though she may have had the least challenging life (Joni Mitchell went from a stifling home life to a lonely life of poverty and had to give up a child for adoption, while Carole King dealt with a weird marriage…Carly, meanwhile, grew up rich), she’s by far the most interesting. This is mostly due to the fact that she was the only one who agreed to be interviewed. Carole King was working on her own book about her life, while Joni Mitchell was just like, “Whatever, I’m Joni Mitchell, leave me alone.” Carly, meanwhile, was all, “Sure, do you want to know EVERY SORDID DETAIL?” Carly Simon seems to really not understand boundaries, and I love her for that. She’s like one giant emotional open wound at all time.

Anyway, basically all these three women have in common in music. Oh, and James Taylor, the John Mayer of the 70s and 80s. James dated Joni, worked with Carole, and married Carly. And then he ruined her life. To be fair, Carly seemed to get so emotionally invested in every romantic relationship that I feel like any guy could have ruined her life, but James Taylor was a special breed of jerk. Basically, he got super addicted to drugs and ruined their relationship. Then, after they got divorced because of his serious drug problem, he got clean, married someone else, and stopped taking Carly’s calls. COLD.
Here he is, ruining everyone’s lives. Joni, get this man out of your recording studio! Fun fact: James originally sang “Joni” instead of “Jesus” in “Fire and Rain.”
Photo of James TAYLOR and Joni MITCHELL
Carole was the smartest because she never actually dated him, but she did work with him and people still think he wrote the song You’ve Got a Friend. Not that I’m saying that’s necessarily his fault, but I hate him for it all the same. They recently toured together, so maybe he didn’t really ruin her life, but I don’t care. I still don’t like him.
girls like us carole james
And here he is with Carly, who is a PERFECTLY WONDERFUL WOMAN.
girls like us carly james

Whenever James Taylor comes on the radio, I yell, “SHUT UP YOU DOUCHE” and change the station. Good for you for kicking that drug addiction, seriously, but did you have to mess with so many great ladies?

Girls Like Us is a great book for a lot of reasons, but mainly it taught me that men ruin everything. All of these women are immensely talented, but dudes are always showing up and getting them pregnant, cheating on them, taking their money, and distracting them from their work. Oh, and another thing about Girls Like Us is that Carly hints that she or her sister had sex with Sean Connery. Listen, all I know is that this might be the best book ever written and you should all read it immediately. Feel free to borrow my copy if you live nearby!