If you didn’t already know, Dana Schwartz, writer for the Observer and parody Twitter powerhouse, released a YA novel last week called And We’re Off. As a rule, with the exception of a brief stint in my early 20s with The Hunger Games, I lost the bug for YA (young adult, to the non-literary among us) at least a decade ago. However, Dana’s writing is my favorite, and Universe bless Twitter for bringing her fresh perspective and undeniable wit into my life.
And We’re Off is a universally-relatable text about completely, fantastically un-relatable things; though I don’t know anyone who went on a fabulous EuroTrip at 18, much less one instigated by acceptance to a prestigious art program, who among us doesn’t have a fraught, tense relationship with a parent? Whose passions haven’t been tested and questioned? Who hasn’t anguished over crushes or second-guessed their abilities? Nora is all of us, which is part of what makes her tale so compelling—she is a reminder of the Tumblr-dwelling nerds we used to be (or still are), but a shining example of the feminist adult we hope to become. I mean, she slams Donnie Darko in front of a cute hipster boy at a pub—she is #goals.
Plot is, of course, secondary in any great tale, but And We’re Off certainly left me with some burning questions! Is it too meta to write fanfiction about a book that references fanfiction?
Will Nora get into RISD?
Will Nora finally be honest with Lena about sleeping with Nick?
Will Nora truly, finally realize that Nick is a dumpster fire of a person and move on?
Will Callum and Nora ever see each other again, or will Callum just become a EuroTrip anecdote?
Are there actually cute teen boys out there who read and reread the works of the Oxford Fantasists?
Is Nora talented enough to make it as an artist or should she heed Alice’s practical warning?
Would Nora have gotten into the Deece without Robert’s letter of recommendation?
Will Nora ever pronounce Áine properly?
Will Nora ever learn and retain the Californian boy’s name? #whiteboyfacialblindness
Can Ophelia in Paradise be real, and if so, can I have a drawing of Drarry?
Will Nora realize that cartooning is real art, and that she can have a viable, amazing career by leaning on her strengths?
Will Valentine Neverwoods be the next Katniss Everdeen? Just kidding—she already is!
Will Maeve get out of Donegal Town and take the art world by storm?
Will Nora seek out her British author biological father?
Will Nora’s father’s marriage to the math teacher work out? I mean, peach and mint green as wedding colors can’t bode well for the union.
Will Nora and Alice’s relationship repair and go on to fill the void left in our hearts by Lorelai and Rory Gilmore?
Will Alice sue her firm for wrongful termination (because frankly that shit seems like ageism to me)? Actually, fuck that. Will Alice start her own firm and bury them?
Can Alice and Evelyn please be the late-in-life lesbian power couple that we all deserve?
Where can I buy a print of The Reader and the Watcher?
I’m a little light this week on recommendations because, well, I’ve been busy AF. I’m finishing the last bits of my grad school application, working full time, and committing to my Trivia host side-hustle. The WordPress drafts are getting out of hand! But here’s what I’ve been up to in my spare time.
Life in Pieces on CBS
The first season of Life in Pieces recently went up on Netflix, so I’ve been bingeing it, hard. Fig and I finished Breaking Bad and moved onto a 30 Rock rewatch, so I needed my own personal binge show for when our schedules don’t overlap (this is often). I’m trying to wean myself off of watching Gilmore Girls in an infinite loop, so when I saw LIP advertised on Netflix’s home page, I knew it would be a perfect fit. The cast of this show is bananas. Personal faves Zoe Lister-Jones (from Whitney) and Colin Hanks (from everything + being Tom Hanks’ son) join Betsey Brandt (from Breaking Bad), James Brolin, Dianne Wiest, and the stupidly handsome Thomas Sadoski in this light-hearted comedy told in 4 vignettes per episode.
The guest cast is insane—Martin Starr plays an exterminator, Jordan Peele makes frequent appearances as Colleen’s crazy ex, and apparently next season Mullally and Offerman have roles!
Life in Pieces is the perfect binge show for the lover of light-hearted comedies and accomplished casts. Highly recommend! Come for the famous actors, stay for the amazing kids! The kid who plays Sophia is the next Shailene Woodley or whatever, for real.
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
The book, I mean. Everyone’s been pestering me for weeks to start watching the HBO miniseries, Big Little Lies, starring literally every famous actress. Until last week, I didn’t even know it was based on a book, but as soon as I saw it, I recognized its candy-colored cover. I’m a moderately strict book-before-movie person, so when offered the ebook for free, how could I refuse?
At first, I was a bit dubious of the quality of the writing—it’s certainly not the sort of thing I’d typically pick up at the bookstore. But within a few pages I was hooked. I think I’ve thrown off my circadian rhythm staying up way too late reading it. I was almost less interested in finding out who the murderer/murder victim is than I was of learning about Jane’s mysterious past or the inner-workings of primary school politics.
The book is very, very different from the HBO miniseries of the same name, but I truly can’t choose which is better! They both bring so much to the table! I highly recommend both, book-before-miniseries, of course.
I’ll follow up in the next Kool Things.
The Far Field, Future Islands
It is no secret that I am f***ing obsessed with Future Islands. They are an amazing Baltimore-based synthpop band that brings me life. I first heard of them during college (Part I) when they put out their album In The Evening Air. All I had was a crap-quality (illegal) mp3 download of it, but I listened to it on repeat for months. I took to including “Long Flight” on every mix CD/playlist I made. Now that I am a grown-ass woman and pay for my music (thankyouverymuch), I’ve since remedied this earlier discretion and made sure to follow the band’s incredible career. 2014’s Singles was a revelation, and this year’s The Far Field is a fitting follow-up.
Lead singer Samuel Herring had one of the most unique and strange voices in all of music—he’s like the second coming of Mike Patton. He transitions from beautifully melodic and clean to heavy metal screaming with effortless ease. He’s also apparently a rapper (?!) which somehow I’m only just finding out about. You think I’d have such important info about my #mancrusheveryday.
This band is so ahead of the damn curve. They put out a sign language lyric video for “Cave”! “Shadows” even features actual icon/goddess Debbie Harry! The Far Field is the best use of your Hamilton ($10), trust. Future Islands is/are a big f***ing deal. Get into it.
I always love trying out new wines, but as someone who hasn’t yet read Marissa A. Ross‘s forthcoming book yet, I’m often at a loss for where to begin as I peruse the racks at my local wine shop. I’m a bit of a white wine junkie (basic white bitch, party of one!), so I absolutely love a Chardonnay, and am always looking for one that tastes better than the well swill they’ll serve you at restaurants if you don’t specify.
I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but the older I get, the more I realize that that’s a bullshit adage. When it comes to products, the cover (or label) actually says quite a bit! Small businesses that really believe in their product tend to pay greater attention to aesthetic details, like graphic and web design. I was drawn to this particular bottle because of its clean, minimal label—the website is no different. Bread & Butter only produces two very highly-rated wines out of Napa, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (which, incidentally, are my go-to white and red).
Bread & Butter Chardonnay ran me about $11, which, imho, is just about right for an everyday wine. I can’t wait to try their Pinot Noir! I’ll definitely be buying this wine again!
Well, those are the highlights of my week! What’s up with you? Any new fave wines or murder-mysteries to share? Sound off in the comments!
Another week for the books! It literally snowed yesterday, because April Fool’s Day is real. I needed my escape, and I found it in memoirs and comedy, by which no one is surprised. These are the things that got me through the hail/sleet/snow hellscape that was this week.
Crashing, Pete Holmes
I cannot even believe that I haven’t written about Crashing yet! Crashing, the semi-autobiographical brainchild of brilliant comedian and beautiful human being, Pete Holmes, is HBO’s newest Sunday night series. It tells the (dramatized) story of Pete’s divorce and entry into the New York City stand-up scene. Guest stars have (thus far) included comedy powerhouses like Sarah Silverman, Artie Lang, and TJ Miller, as well as one of my personal favorites, Aparna Nancherla.
If you don’t yet know the delightful Pete Holmes, well, you should. He briefly hosted his own talk show that aired weeknights after Conan, The Pete Holmes Show, hosts an interview podcast called You Made It Weird that never fails to get spiritual, and landed an HBO special called Faces and Sounds that dropped in December. He’s a hometown hero, hailing, like myself, from Metro Boston (I think Somerville or thereabouts). Pete Holmes truly has one of the most unique voices in comedy—his relentless optimism and winning smile make jokes like calling himself “Lesbian Val Kilmer” all the more powerful. Crashing chronicles Pete’s days as a fresh-faced comedy newbie; now, though, he’s a force to be reckoned with.
This week I’ve been devouring this amazing book of essays by comedian and author Sara Benincasa, and it’s been an emotional journey. I finished it on my lunch break today and it took everything I had not to publicly sob. I hesitate to call this book “self-help,” but if you read it, you will help yo’ self. For real. The words of wisdom in this book range from “brush your damn teeth” to “treat your vagina like the magical temple that it is.” I’m paraphrasing, but you get it. Benincasa gets very frank about her own struggles with mental illness but never fails to be disarmingly hilarious. As someone who aspires to a reasonable facsimile of this incredible woman’s career, it is inspiring beyond belief to read of someone rising from the ashes of her own self-destruction and kicking major ass purely through hard work and talent. 10/10, read this f***ing book.
I’ve already ordered one of her other books, Agorafabulous!, which I can’t wait to start reading!
Check out her short film, The Focus Group, on Vimeo.
*The kindle version of Real Artists Have Day Jobs is only $1.99 right now, my dudes! Go forth and read!
Pizza Mind, Sasheer Zamata
SNL cast member and jumpsuit messiah Sasheer Zamata just dropped her very first stand-up special on the incredible comedy streaming service, Seeso. The stunning and brilliant Ms. Zamata tackles race, feminism, and being named after Star Trek like a gotdamn professional. Topics of discussion include “resting bitch face,” her brief employment at Disney world, and the (very f***ing true) fact that white girls are constantly shedding hair all over the place. The special is hilarious, but it’s also a thoughtful, educational experience. Sasheer Zamata does not care if her material on race makes you uncomfortable. That’s on you.
Pizza Mind is must-see TV. If you have a spare hour, give it a watch. You will be rewarded with a magical cartoon adventure and a show-stopping finale number #nospoilers.
Watch her bit about her tricky-to-pronounce first name here.
I upgraded early and got an iPhone 7 this week! I almost went Plus, but I tried out my husband’s 6+ for a little while, and the damn thing’s just too big! I like being able to rock the one-handed text. But don’t text and drive! Do as I say, not as I do! The transition from iPhone 6 to 7 has been like night and day! It’s faster, there are two speakers, and it’s PINK. I know I’m predictable and basic, but the more pink I can get in my life, the better! I also got the 128G model (4 times the storage of my last phone!) so that I could combine the functions of iPhone and iPod (I’ve been using my iPhone 4 from many years ago as an iPod—the thing was begging to be sent to a farm upstate, it was dead and buried). Despite the foolish amount of music I’ve put on it, I still only seem to listen to Hamilton…
We got a shipment of phone cases from The Casery to my work, so I also treated myself to this amazing case. Kendrick Lamar fans, unite! This isn’t a sales pitch for my work or anything, since y’all don’t know where I work, nor is it an ad for The Casery, but seriously, you guys, these cases are the absolute best. The designs are the cutest I’ve ever seen (donuts! sushi! cacti!) and the cases are super well made. I’m obsessed…I might need to get this one next, in honor of the little cat that started it all—Della!
I’ve been playing Stump! Trivia for ten whole years, since way before it was appropriate for me to be hanging out at a bar on a weeknight. I’m not actually sure it’s even appropriate now. But alas, such is my addiction to trivia and other brain puzzles—every Wednesday night for the past year (and many Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays in years past), my father and I have ordered a round of drinks and a basket of french fries and challenged ourselves to a battle of wits in the quest for a restaurant gift card.
Stump! is arguably the best trivia game in the Boston area (it was started in Marshfield), but it’s now a nationwide company that offers fun, challenging trivia and Questionnairey (a Family Feud-style game) at bars and private events. Long story short, I am a huge, huge fangirl, and a frequent player. So, the other night, after a particularly exciting win at our local pub, I applied to be a host.
I had applied years and years ago, but was likely much too young to be considered. Doesn’t super make sense to hire an underage girl to work in a bar—I don’t hold the lack of response against them. But this time, I heard back via email almost immediately and set up an audition!
I wasn’t looking for a second job, and the extra few bucks a week won’t make a huge difference to me financially, but the public speaking experience is priceless! The whole gig is essentially an improv performance—something I’ve been anxious about for years! I recently admitted to myself that my dream is actually to be Conan O’Brien (or a reasonable lady approximation)—writer, performer, icon. Okay, I’m joking about the icon part, but in order to achieve even a tiny sliver of my dream, I’m going to need to get better in front of a crowd.
If you’re in the Boston/South Shore area, come support me here!
Thanks for letting me blab about my obsessions for a month straight! What are you obsessed with lately?
*as usual, all of the images via google or the sites linked in each description!
I recently read The Curated Closet by Anuschka Rees, and it has completely revitalized my relationship with my wardrobe! I first heard about the book over on A Beautiful Mess, and after Elsie’s ringing endorsement, I ordered the book and did my due diligence (there’s homework!) I was inspired to give this book a try, because my own experience very much mirrored Elsie’s—I was consigning or donating half my wardrobe after each season because the pieces were ill-fitting or impulse buys that truly didn’t suit my style.
The book pairs practical info about textiles, conscious consumerism, and capsule wardrobes with stunning fashion photography that serves as serious #outfitinspo. The clean, modern design of the cover and pages functions like hygge in book form.
The biggest problem I faced was truly not knowing what my style even is. I’ve re-gained 20 pounds in the past year, so my style and body have gone through a major evolution. Since high school, I’ve hovered around my current weight, but a couple of years ago I lost a ton of weight after starting a medication and I felt emboldened to re-buy my entire wardrobe, thinking that of course I would be this thin forever! Wrong! I do intend to commit more time to fitness when the weather gets nicer, but for the time being, I need a wardrobe that does important things like cover my body. Also, as a newly-married lady entering her late 20s, I wanted to make sure my style represented my actual lifestyle and personality. Through this process, I discovered that I love neutrals, being slightly overdressed, and kooky accessories that get my outfits noticed. I hate tight-fitting tops but love tight-fitting bottoms. Pale pink is my spirit color and I just don’t like to wear red, no matter how much people tell me I should wear it.
The book gives a step-by-step overview of how to craft your dream wardrobe, starting with: Insta-stalking! Ms. Rees puts it more eloquently than that of course, but she recommends creating an inspiration board (I did mine on Pinterest). It’s full of pictures of my favorite style bloggers rocking outfits that I love. From there, you refine your picks down to things that you might actually wear.
I felt juvenile in this outfit. I love all of the piece individually, but put together I felt like a pop-punk teenager. In the future, I’ll pair band tees with skirts of trousers/ripped jeans with blouses to elevate the looks.
At the end of the 2 weeks, it’s easy to spot your patterns and formulas for creating outfits. For instance, it emerged that I have 2 basic modes of dressing—flowy/boxy tops with leggings or skinny jeans, and short-short dresses with tights (at least in the winter). Knowing ahead of time that I will inevitably choose these pairings makes shopping for practical clothes a breeze!
I absolutely loved The Curated Closet! Much like The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, it has provided me with invaluable guidance for streamlining and beautifying my life. I plan to spread the good word to all of the ladies in my life (and to my husband who *cough cough* needs to throw out all of his clothes and burn them in a funeral pyre).
What other books should I read? I’m thinking of tackling home décor next!
I just finished the book Americanah by one of my absolute favorite authors and speakers, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and I’m still in a trance-state. To quote one of her characters, Obinze, This is like poetry. I can’t escape the Lagos, the Nsukka, the London, the Baltimore of Americanah.
**No spoilers, no worries.
Americanah follows the parallel lives of two young lovers, Ifemelu and Obinze, over a span of fifteen years as they leave their native Nigeria for America and England, respectively. It is an immigrants’ tale, but also a rejection of the trope: both Ifemelu and Obinze eventually return to Nigeria, by choice and deportation, respectively. The novel examines the treacherous path that many immigrants are forced to walk in order to survive and prosper, especially when they leave a country in turmoil. Americanah was written in 2013, but in 2016, in an era of prohibition and xenophobia, it feels even more essential.
Much in the way that Americanah rejects the triteness of a triumphant immigrants’ tale, it similarly rejects assimilation and the abandonment of traditional values. Ifemelu, after years of cultivating an “American” accent in order to shroud her difference, drops the accent entirely, much to the bafflement of her Nigerian and American acquaintances. The interspersed scenes at the African-owned hair salon make this most apparent. The salon’s employees, recent immigrants from coastal West African nations, are fascinated by Ifemelu—her success, her American boyfriend, her fifteen years in the U.S.—but baffled by her choice not to affect an American accent or to marry, confused by her desire to return to Nigeria after securing American citizenship.
At its heart, the novel is a celebration of Nigerian-ness, of African-ness. Adichie’s Nigeria is evocative and lush, a fitting tribute to a nation the size of France. As Western narratives suffocate the continent’s 54 countries into the mold of the fictive nation “Africa”, Adichie’s novel removes her own country from the mire and brings it to life in all its glorious multiplicities—its languages and cultures (English, Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba), its cities and states, its hawkers and tycoons, its Christians and Muslims—all defiantly on display.
Ifemelu, years before the opening of the novel, had begun a successful blog chronicling her observations on race as a “Non-American Black”. The excerpts from Raceteenth, her blog, are some of the most impactful passages in the novel. As a white American myself, I was transported from my bubble of tolerance and forced to square with a reality and a perspective truly foreign to me. Adichie, as Ifemelu, approaches race and racism with delicate nuance, shattering the (very Western) notion of binaries, or black and white in opposition to one another. Black and white existing at all.
Without claiming to know Adichie’s authorial intent, I observed that much of the novel is about discomfort; the reader is made to sit in her discomfort, to revel in it. The novel is as didactic as it is entertaining, in keeping with what many of us already know of Adichie from her now very famous, no-bullshit TED Talk on feminism. Adichie’s prose does not coddle, it does not function as a step-ladder to woke-ness. The novel immediately situates the reader in Obinze and Ifemelu’s Nigerian, African, black, immigrant, expatriate experience and refuses to allow the reader to erase them.
5/5 (best fucking book ever)
Further reading:That Thing Around Your Neck, a collection of short stories
And finally, god bless the mother (of new TWINS!) Bey for introducing us, the unwashed masses, to the light and genius that is this perfect woman.
I credit my newfound love of this blog post’s title song to Jay Pharoah, who crushed it pretty hard when I saw him at the Oddball Comedy Fest on September 9! He did a similar bit on the Goddamn Comedy Jam though, so don’t be too jealous of me, guys.
But we’re not here to talk about Justin Bieber! We’re here to talk about Mara Wilson, former child actor and current writer of books!
Mara Wilson’s Where Am I Now? (tongue-in-cheek title AF) dropped September 13, and I obviously pre-ordered it because A. fangirl, and B. pre-sales go towards first-week sales, which put books on the NYT Bestseller list! There’s an Ilana Glazer blurb on the front of this book, so you know it’s dope.
Wilson chronicles what it’s like to grow up in Hollywood (literally: she grew up in Burbank which is a few miles north of the actual Hollywood, CA), having starred in major productions since the age of 5. She’s a girl whose real name you may never have known; you may have just known her for the past 20 years as “Matilda.”
I first reacquainted myself with Mara several years ago, through Twitter & Tumblr. She’s a really insightful writer, and not afraid to share #realshit, like her OCD (the real kind, not the not-so-charming colloquialism). Existing as a child in the business we call show is no joke, but Mara relates her experiences with humor and sincerity. A particularly moving excerpt is “Writing Robin,” Mara’s touching tribute to Robin Williams.
It’s so refreshing to hear a young woman talk frankly about herself and her sexuality without self-deprecation or embarrassment, especially considering her early entrée into the world of adult content. Where Am I Now? is wonderfully frank—Wilson doesn’t shrink from exposing her dorky-ness; nor does she revel in it. She is able to present show-choir (à la Glee) as painfully silly while still admitting that it was the passion of her young heart. It’s a delicate balance, but Wilson straddles the line beautifully.
Were I to say more, I’d be gushing. Go buy this book. There is nothing sadder to me than the notion that changing career paths makes one a “hasbeen.” This book was written by a writer. Not a former child actor, not someone leaning on former fame.
Where Am I Now? is a triumph.
What books have been giving you all the feels lately?
This whole gosh-dang collection: Of COURSE it’s sold out. I feel like I’m being punished by the hip-hop gods for wanting merely to receive some of Rihanna’s essence.
P.S. Still shippin’ Ri & Drake SO HARD.
This collection too, because I am a weak garbage-pail of a person. Beyoncé is everything. Beyoncé is so everything that it feels trite even writing this sentence. If anyone’s going to get me to do hot yoga in a bodysuit, it’s Bey. How do I justify buying all of this?
This book, which arrived in the mail today because I pre-ordered on Amazon. I’ve been reading Anna’s blog for years, and she finally has a book out! I can’t wait to revel in her brilliance. I wish I had the stones to do a Spending Fast. Hey, when those student loan payments kick in, I just might have to!
This book TOO. I am counting down the minutes until I graduate because my books-to-read pile is getting way too tall. Augusten Burroughs has been one of my favorite writers since the love of my life (aka my college friend, Brian) introduced me to his work circa ’09. I can’t wait to see what he’s been up to lately—from the articles I’ve read, it’s bound to be a juicy read.
This book THREE. Jen Kirkman is my spirit animal. She once liked my tweet about a Nirvana song, and that’s really all I need in this life of sin. I don’t own her books yet, but they’re in my Amazon cue—you’re next, Kirkman. Her Twitter feed is basically Feminism 101—check that shit out.
And finally, this song. The Sirius XM station we’ve been listening to at work has been playing this on the reg, like they don’t even understand that I’m grieving. It’s so hideously cruel. But regardless of my personal Prince feels, this is the jam.
What’s littering your online shopping carts lately?