Archive for August, 2011

August 22nd, 2011


New relationships are a funny, delicate thing. I’ve been thinking about them a lot lately, that strange sort of dance you do, the meaning imbued in the most casual gestures. I can’t shake all the cliched images: tightropes, tender blossoms, cupping something warm and alive and fragile in your hands. Everything is acute, heightened.

My roommate and I were talking about it a couple weeks ago, that kind of mania that comes over you, the dizzying swings between paranoia and exhilaration. The fleeting moments you’re able to step back and recognize that you are perhaps being a little insecure and crazy — and that your friends probably deserve nomination for sainthood for listening to yet another ecstatic, gushing account, and for their thousandth reassurance.

I started writing this almost a month ago, actually, and got stuck. Unsure what I was trying to say, exactly, but wanting to say it anyway. Wanting to be able to remember later how this feels, how whirling and gut-wrenching and wonderful.

Stuck also on the fear of jinxing it. It’s a little strange, this impulse toward privacy in our joy. The worry that as soon as we name a happiness it will vanish. But things change; that’s how they work. That’s life. And right now, life feels impossibly big and beautiful, and there’s no reason not to celebrate that. I wake every morning smiling. I can’t stop dancing in my car, swimming my fingers through the slipstream of air out the window. I daydream constantly. I revel in my luck. I am absurdly happy.

August 5th, 2011

» 2011 playlist, so far

It’s weird how memory works. How some little idea can sit in the back of your mind and untended become more or less important than it was, can quietly morph what really happened.

Take, for instance, music playlists. I had this idea quite a while ago that I should start making note of my favorite music — that I should pick a song or two a month that really encapsulated that time for me, and at the end of the year put together a playlist. I find it fascinating how certain songs can instantly wind back the clock: I listen to “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails and I am tucked away in the privacy of the top-floor lounge of Ryle Hall with my ancient walkman and a pair of crumbling headphones, engrossed in a textbook. I listened to the whole Downward Spiral album a lot while studying, actually; for some reason having Trent Reznor pouring out all his angst and anger and desperation made me feel incredibly calm and centered. When I hear “Strong Enough” by Sheryl Crow I am driving west through Long Lake in my red Corsica and I am broken suddenly by sorrow for my dying grandfather, crying until I can’t breathe.

Anyhow, I thought I had actually managed to put together an annual playlist at least a couple years running, but looking back I can only find one for 2008. I wish I had playlists for the last two years too — but if I had to guess, I would say I started listening to Iron & Wine in 2009, which is as good an excuse as any. (Though I’m browsing back through playlists on Rhapsody now, and I see so much great music I also listened to in 2009 and 2010: Kings of Convenience, Meiko, The Gaslight Anthem, Horse Feathers, Fleet Foxes, Mumford & Sons, Portishead, Kings of Leon, 30 Seconds to Mars, Florence & the Machine, Sufjan Stevens, etc etc.)

My 2011 obsessions have been The National, John Vanderslice, Jason Isbell, The Decemberists (King is Dead album), Fleet Foxes (Helplessness Blues), Jessica Lea Mayfield, and Bright Eyes (Cassadaga. Especially “Cleanse Song” – a lot. Ridiculously a lot). A week or two ago I abruptly found myself in need of a music change. I couldn’t listen to any of the old songs any more, any of those things that reminded me of feeling sad, fighting back, waiting for good again. I still love all that music and I know I’ll circle back around to it, but right now I am head over heels for The Vaccines, Grouplove, and Frightened Rabbit. My summer anthem is “Wetsuit” by The Vaccines; I’ve had it on repeat all morning.

Anyway, I’m hoping this will be enough of a reminder that I’ll be able to do a 2011 playlist in five months — and that in five years I’ll be able to listen to it and come back here, to this year, and think how strange and wonderful life is.

August 2nd, 2011

» 24 Books: July

Goodbye, Columbus: and Five Short Stories, by Philip Roth. — I must have requested this one alongside the Nemesis audiobook I finished in June. Safe to say at this point that Roth isn’t really my author, though there are lots of people who think he’s a genius. I never got swept away in the stories or felt much for any of the characters. Just not my thing.

The Finkler Question, by Howard Jacobson, narrated by Steven Crossley. — This was the 2010 Man Booker Prize winner. Normally I’m a big fan of Booker books, but… I don’t know if it was a problem with listening to it versus reading it, but my mind kept drifting, and — confession: I totally lost the plot during one of the first discs. I kept listening anyhow, but just never settled into the book. I didn’t care much for the characters and it didn’t bother me at all that I didn’t really know what was going on — which is the opposite of my usual careful, close reading style. Both this and the Roth stories wrestle primarily with questions of Jewishness, and maybe I’m just not in the right frame of mind for that right now… I’ve also read other Booker winners that are primarily end-of-life reflections (maybe the Booker panel favors them?), and they’re typically not my thing. I’m sure they will be one day, but I think I’m a good many years away from that resonating for me.

The Ill-Made Knight and The Candle in the Wind, by T. H. White, read by Neville Jason — These are the third and fourth books in the Once and Future King compilation (I had a bit of a wait to get the audiobook back from the library, then was mired in The Finkler Question for a while). The entire collection is the story of King Arthur — these continue the quirky, fun style to an extent, though as they progress into the Guinevere/Lancelot/Arthur triangle and the treachery of Arthur’s son Mordred they naturally lose a lot of the light-heartedness of the earlier books. Still enjoying them, but the Questing Beast thread from the second book is still my favorite.

2011 Book Count: 28
January: 6
February: 2
March: 7
April: 3
May: 3
June: 3
July: 4