Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan

Tonight I went to my local bookstore for a reading and interview. The featured novel/novelist were So Much Pretty and Cara Hoffman, respectively. Hoffman came across as a very significant and solid intellect. She was self aware without being self-deprecating in that way women often are, where we/they constantly apologize for their work or their presence. I was interested in her book because it takes place in rural New York, but I learned it's more about violence against women.

At any rate, while I was there, I purchased A Visit from the Good Squad, Jennifer Egan's very recently Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. My mom was interested in reading it and I'm going to see her next week. There are no bookstores where my parents live and while she could order it from Amazon, could she get an autographed copy that costs nothing extra, is just there for the buying because the author lives nearby? No she could not.

The book is not mine. It belongs to my mother. But a little peek wouldn't hurt, why not, it will just be sitting there for a week ... within minutes I felt the urge to shun all human contact, to read at the bus stop, to read in line at the grocery store, to read while I'm on hold with New York City government. I was about 9 pages in when I started to think, who needs people when you have books. The feeling is similar to the one I had when I finally broke down and purchased Freedom, and I was happy it was rainy and miserable that day, because who wanted to do anything anyway.

This is going to be good.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I Don't Care About Your Band, by Julie Klausner

A friend of mine lent me this book, unsolicited. I think he was trying to tell me something. Maybe I should explain by using the book's full title: I Don't Care About Your Band: What I Learned from Indie Rockers, Trust Funders, Pornographers, Felons, Faux-Sensitive Hipsters, and Other Guys I've Dated.

Some of Klausner's stories are pretty funny, and some of her points are pretty feminist. On that second point, it's weird that she's ... so down on women. She says female friends are of limited use because inevitably having them leads to drama, competition and hating each other. I have found this to be the case a couple of times in my life, max. Maybe her perspective comes from life in the entertainment industry, but if it does, she shouldn't generalize. I guess I should be happy that I've had many, many great female friends in my life and leave it at that.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Bored to Death

My new favorite New York story.

Bored to Death is an HBO series staring Jason Schwartzman as New York author Jonathan Ames. Jonathan Ames is an actual author living in actual New York, and he wrote the show. It's shot here, largely in Fort Greene, which is thoroughly recognizable. The other scenes are too; I was immediately able to place a bridge over the Gowanus Canal, the boardwalk at Coney Island, and Grand Army Plaza.

And I also noticed that the main characters were running through Grand Army Plaza, turned a corner and ended up in front of Moe's, a bar on Lafayette Street in Fort Greene, which must be a good mile away. And that the main character is always riding the F train, which doesn't go to Fort Greene. Is Fort Greene playing Cobble Hill or Carroll Gardens?

But no matter. So many shows in which New York plays a central row show stuff everyone knows about -- exclusive clubs, high-end boutiques, hailing cabs, the view from skyscraper windows, endless location shots of the Brooklyn Bridge. Those shows don't look any different to me now than they did before I lived here. Bored to Death is different. It's about shady Russians, Hasidic Jews, giant strollers, the Park Slope Co-Op, and, of course, working artists and writers sitting around Brooklyn cafes going "I hate my life." That is the New York that I know.

I should also note: as I told my friend Matt, and nearly forgot to repeat here, this show is basically Entourage for nerds, or at least the brownstone Brooklyn set. In this male fantasy, you get to meet Jim Jarmusch, draw comics for a living and smoke pot in a Suburu.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Heights, by Peter Hedges

I picked this one up while I was wandering around Brooklyn's central public library waiting for Internet time. It looked like a nice light New York City-centric story to enjoy on my lunch breaks. Which, I guess it was, because that's what I did with it. Or, I read it during lunch, anyway. "Enjoy" might be a stretch. I found the characters to be neither believable, nor, worse, likable. But I guess I cared enough about what happened to see it the whole way through, so it must have had some appeal.

The Heights is about a middle-class couple with two boys struggling to make ends meet in Brooklyn Heights, a tony neighborhood one train stop from Manhattan that's home to a lot of Wall Street types and old money. Brooklyn Heights is my favorite rich neighborhood in Brooklyn. It's not trendy at all; I consider it to be more "classic." The streets are lined with gorgeous old co-op buildings, 19th-century rowhouses, and normal places like a plain old not-organic grocery store, a nice liquor store, coffee shops, a health food restaurant, dark old bars, a ratty old movie theater, even a diner.

In addition to neither half of the couple seeming like a real person, the other characters were even worse. They all appeared to be excuses to make up the most old money-sounding names the author could think of, like Anna Brody-Ashworth and Claudia Von Somethingorother. Hedges also does something that I found really annoying in Super Sad True Love Story, which is filling the book with unnecessary specific New York detail. Does it really matter whether someone walks down Hicks or Henry street on their way to the 2/3, and that they pick it up at Clark Street as opposed to say Borough Hall? Does it matter whether they live on Orange, Cranberry or Pineapple? Gary Shteyngart's characters were forever taking the F here or there. Why does it have to be the F? How does that detail help anyone who isn't familiar with the city? Or anyone who is, for that matter, because if you recognize his Lower East Side location and you know the characters are going to Midtown, you don't need to be told it's the F. Are such a huge percentage of their readers occasional visitors to NYC who will feel oh-so-in-the-know because they've been to the Connecticut Muffin on Montague Street? I really don't get this at all.

Plus, it shows that the details had no relationship to anything like a creative process, being 100 percent copied from real life.

One star.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

I don't know why the returns in the post below won't take. I redid them three times.

Update: fixed! Somehow.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

New York happenings

On Monday night, I ventured to Midtown to see "Who Took The Bomp?," the new Le Tigre tour documentary, make its New York debut at the MOMA. As I walked up to the museum, I tried to determine which door to go into to buy movie tickets. I started to pass the first one, but then turned around when I realized, oh yeah, those are the Le Tigre fans. Silkscreened t-shirts, canvas bags, vintage glasses, tightly clutched notebooks -- near everyone there looked like he or she had graduated from a Seven Sisters school. The movie was fun, and I learned a thing or two during the informal panel discussion that followed. (By informal panel discussion, I mean that they called two band members and a couple of other people who had been involved in making the film up to the front and they stood around and took a few questions. Kathleen Hannah herself, just standing around talking to people. Oh New York.)

As I told a friend in an email, the best thing I took away from it was Kathleen Hannah's take on 90s nostalgia (in the panel discussion and the film). She said that she loves that people in their 20s wish they were around for the 90s, and that the attention she gets now is gratifying, but that it was not all that great to live through. Music critics said horrible things about her, she was constantly called fat, a slut, a feminazi, other feminist bands thought they weren't feminist enough, etc. and she felt up against it all the time. In a weird way she reminded me of Hillary Clinton. I can't imagine standing up to the barrage of misogyny and insults every single day for 20+ years has been worth it for her, either, but at some point she must have decided that history was more important.


Yes, that's right. Young people now were too young to know about bands or see shows or what have you during the NINETIES.

*picks up cane*

*hobbles off*

On Friday, Tina Fey is going to be at a Manhattan Barnes & Noble promoting her new book. I may brave it. I also may leave my glasses at home, so as not to look like an absolute fool/superfan/nerd girl.