let's talk about books

It's time for another round of Let's Talk About Books. I have been reading lots of different things while trying to finish my thesis and I thought it had been too long since we talked about books here. Yep, I've said it before and I will say it again, I am bananas for books. 

This group of ladies love books as much as I do, and that is precisely why I chose them, not to mention the fact that they are seriously some of the coolest, most inspiring, and smart women around. 
Claire is a dear friend, and is the founder of Book Stand, an amazing online art book shop. It seems she is always digging up some book that I have never heard of, but am grateful for her sharing. Head over to her site to see her beautifully curated collection, or see a selection of it this weekend at Book Club!
I met Leigh about a year ago through Claire, and oh! am I so happy to know this bright and creative lady. She is hilarious, and sweet, and always on to some interesting, and ahead of the curve. Leigh is also the editor of the beautiful and thoughtful journal Synonym
Stephanie's blog Even Cleavland has been a long time favorite, I can always count on discovering something inspiring and thought provoking. It is nice to have blogs out there that are full of content that is smart and sincere. She also runs a monthly book club, which if I lived in New York I would be at regularly, I love people who are carrying on great traditions that have sadly fallen out of style. 

Read their book recommendations below...

-   C  l  a  i  r  e   -

Two Books That Will Change Your Life And One You Should Read

Maira Kalman and Karla Black's work is ferociously feminine but philosophically universal. Their perspectives on the world will change how you see it, art, yourself, hats, eye shadow etc. Roald Dahl is as fascinating as his characters. 

The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman

"More tea. More stories.
There is nothing illusory 
in this tiny heaven. 

I am silent with gratitude.
I will go and bake a honey cake
and that's all." -Maira Kalman

It's Proof That Counts by Karla Black

"Black's paradigmatic palette of predominantly intermediate hues (such as peach, pink or beige) - mixed shades that defy classification - seems to remain in a state of suspension. " -Annette Hans, Heike Munder, Paul Nesbitt, Michael Stanley

Storyteller: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl by Donald Sturrock

"I took first weekend for a long time at Easter. Went to the most marvelous and lovely house. Owner is Millicent Rogers, a sort of Standard Oil millionairess, and it was all very fine. It was an old colonial house in South Virginia, and from the back verandahs, long smooth lawns sloped down to the James River, which went on rolling along between gardens of cherry blossom and daffodils. Millicent had ten dachshunds, and a great dane and she had a lot of other things. In the small library (which was huge) there were

a) Degas pastel 5' x 3. Very beautiful.
b) another Degas pastel, a little smaller.
c) A Gauguin 5' x 2'
d) A head of Renoir by Degas
e) Two Renoirs
f) Two Corots
g) One Monet
h) One Manet

In the next room there were twelve Boucher and one Fragonard. All very beautiful and carefully bought by M. I had an enormous bed with gold hanging all around it, and a Norwegian maid to wait on me. As I say, everything was very fine." -Roald Dahl

-    L  e  i  g  h    - 

i am a very rational person in every aspect of my life except reading. 
i expect every book i read to change my life. 
and while i know i'm setting the bar for disappointment, there have been instances in which a book has just felt right. like it was written for me; a perfect gift of right-place-right-time wisdom. 
here are three books i've read in the last year that were, for me, revelatory (for you, maybe not. but here's to the continued personal search).

1. letters to emma bowlcut by bill callahan
i've long been a fan of bill callahan's songwriting but have been happily enamored by this little book of stories. sad and sharp. sit down and read it in one sitting. 

2. i, etcetera by susan sontag
oh, susan! so ahead of her time. unconventional, rambly, sometimes really weird. i hate this word but it's effective here: raw. 

3. threats by amelia gray
one of my favorite working writers. i'm obsessed with the stories that come out of amelia gray's brain. 

-   S  t  e  p  h  a  n  i  e   - 

Turtle Diary by Russell Hoban. Turtles somehow became a recurring theme for my year. I spent January and February reading Platonov (soulful tortoises with mournful eyes appear in several of his stories), and set a personal best in terms of red-eared sliders (an invasive turtle species) spotted in NYC parks this spring and summer. Happening on this book was ordained thanks to rule of threes, I think. It is the story of two strangers who come together through an unlikely plot to free sea turtles from the zoo. As is often the case with books of destiny, it felt though it had been written for me alone. Bookstores, white sharks, aquarium light, water beetles, Donald Crowhurst, sad seaside resorts and turtles, of course. I liked it so much I made it the September pick for my book club.

JR by William Gaddis. The story of an 11 year old who turns a few lessons in how stocks work into a corrupt financial paper empire. I've been reading this all summer. It's a massive book, told entirely through dialogue. Gaddis creates layers of stories that fit into a pattern that's hilarious and horrifying. Reading it is like standing on a corner in Midtown Manhattan and listening to the snatches of conversation all around; an epic cacophony of voices. 

Lapham's Quarterly. I spent childhood summer visits to my great-grandmother's eating Italian ices and reading through stacks of comic books my aunts and uncles had left behind in the 1960s. The backs were full of advertisements for Charles Atlas strength systems, sea monkeys, and sets of easy-to-read books that promised to give you a grounding in great literature or world history in record time. I'm still playing catch up on the great books and world history, soLapham's Quarterly is an essential read. Each issue tackles a single theme through literary and non-fiction excerpts, factual tidbits, maps, poems, photographs and art. I read the latest edition (on the sea) cover to cover.

Right now, before bed, I have been reading Wayne Kostenbaum's new book My 1980s and Other Essays, there is a great write up on it here. It's really amazing, I love his writing.
Other books I have been reading and some I am re-reading for my thesis are: Foucault's The History of Sexuality, Vol. 2 : The Use of Pleasure, Proust's Swann's Way (this is the translation you want), Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, T.J. Clark's The Sight of Death, Andrea Fraser's essay Why Does Fred Sandback's Work Make Me Cry?, Beauty and the Contemporary Sublime, dissertations on crying, and more essays and interviews with artist than I can name. Looking forward to being done and I can get back to other kinds of reading... soon.     

Happy reading!

A big thank you to Claire, Leigh and Stephanie! 

be sure to check out the first and second LTAB!

one: if you like, please post in the comments your favorite books and 
two: if you buy any of these books I encourage you to purchase them from your local independent bookstore.

photo by Claire

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