Posts tagged "books"

Her mouth opened in a strangled sob, Tacy’s teeth blare bright red.

"You come at the king," Beth says, "you best not miss."
Megan Abbott, Dare Me (2012)

You guys, this book is so great.

You guys, this book is so great.

There was a debate going on about what was the song of the summer.

Angel said it was the big crossover reggaeton hit with Daddy Yankee; I didn’t know the name was “Oye Mi Canto,” but we could all sing the refrain:

Boricua, Morena, Dominicano, Colombiano,
Boricua, Morena, Cubano, Mexicano
Oye Mi Canto

Bonnie snorted. “Y’all are crazy,” she said. “It’s Fat Joe!”

We all replied, “Lean Back,” and dropped one shoulder back in smooth unison.

Kenyatta said, “Well, I don’t like her, but that song by Christina Milian — ‘Pop, Pop, Pop That Thang’? That song is blowing up.”


Pom-Pom spoke up. “I don’t know where you think y’all are at, but there’s just one song this summer. And that’s ‘Locked Up.’ Look around you! End of discussion.”

We had to admit, she was dead on. All summer long, anywhere there was a radio playing, you could hear the almost eerie, plaintive voice of Akon, a Senegalese rapper, singing about prison.

Can’t wait to get out and move forward with my life,
Got a family that loves me and wants me to do right,
But instead I’m here locked up.

Even if the song had not been a huge hit on the outs, it had to be the guiding anthem in a place like the Camp; you heard women who weren’t even hip-hop fans humming it tunelessly under their breath as they folded laundry: “‘I’m locked up, they won’t let me out, nooooo, they won’t let me out. I’m locked up.’”
Piper Kerman, Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison (2010)

This won me a couple of fans, notably my new neighbor Delicious, who shouted with surprise, “P-I Piper! You got some nice titties! You got those TV titties!! They stand up on they own all perky and everything! Damn!”

“Um, thanks, Delicious.”

Piper Kerman, Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison (2010)

Doesn’t “Delicious” seem like the lame fictionalized version of the real nickname “Tastey” rather than the other way round? TV version of Delicious got the much better end of this stick.

Yoga Janet would make a point of sitting with me at meals, and we would chat about the Himalayas and New York and politics. She was appalled when a subscription to The New Republic showed up for me at mail call. “You might as well read the Weekly Standard!” she said with disgust.
Piper Kerman, Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison (2010)

I’ve been thinking about laws on Mars.

Yeah, I know, it’s a stupid thing to think about, but I have a lot of free time.

There’s an international treaty saying no country can lay claim to anything that’s not on Earth. And by another treaty, if you’re not in any country’s territory, maritime law applies.

So Mars is “international waters.”

NASA is an American nonmilitary organization, and it owns the Hab. So while I’m in the Hab, American law applies. As soon as I step outside, I’m in international waters. Then when I get in the rover, I’m back to American law.

Here’s the cool part: I will eventually go to Schiaparelli and commandeer the Ares 4 lander. Nobody explicitly gave me permission to do this, and they can’t until I’m aboard Ares 4 and operating the comm system. After I board Ares 4, before talking to NASA, I will take control of a craft in international waters without permission.

That makes me a pirate!

A space pirate!

Andy Weir, The Martian (2012)

Best bit of the whole book.

Gould’s novel, Friendship, follows a best-friend pair through a turbulent period of break-ups and bad jobs in their late twenties and early thirties. After Amy and Bev meet as editorial assistants at a New York publishing house, Bev “start[s] making friendship advances toward Amy,” going out of her way to engage her in conversation. One day, she invites her to a concert after work; they start to take their lunch breaks together. One thing leads to another, and while eating sushi and drinking wine on a roof in Brooklyn, they make it official.

Alice Robb, “Grown Women Don’t Need a ‘Best Friend’,” The New Republic, July 10, 2014

In 2014, how on earth do you work on a novel-length piece of writing about people who work in publishing and eat sushi on Brooklyn rooftops without literally boring yourself to death?

Like, I totally disagree with Robb’s dismissal of the value of intense yet platonic non-familial relationships or the lack of artistic consideration of the same, but don’t people also have best friends in Kansas City? Or Columbus? Or Kinshasa? Or do New Yorkers actually really think the world needs a better understanding of the lives of New York editorial assistants?

I’m not asking for a moratorium about books in New York. I love books about New York! But if there isn’t something particularly relevant to New York about the story you’re telling — and, guys, I guarantee friendship wasn’t first devised in a Dumbo loft — then why not set it in any of the thousands of other cities in the world where real existing people also live and work?

Earlier that same year the whole city had had a party. There was a new bridge to span the sparkling water between the meat of the city and its northern outpost.

The folks of the Hills didn’t give too much of a shit about the proceedings, but they were proud in a general sense because they knew there wasn’t another city in their fine country that had a bridge as big or as beautiful. So they partied and then they pretty much forgot about it. Wasn’t like any of them would ever use it. Who wanted to go that far from the Hills?

Justine Larbalestier, Razorhurst (2014)

yeah, same tbh.

This book.

This book.

Each national culture has a point about which it is most defensive, because on that point it has its own most serious doubts. You can’t provoke most Americans by pointing out that the country has had a very warlike record for a very long time. Many Americans view this heritage as an achievement rather than a failing, and even those who don’t aren’t likely to feel insulted or personally threatened by this critique.

Yet let a foreigner tell an American that the country is “declining,” and there will be a reaction. Denial, assent, an argument that there’s still hope — something. The intensity of the reaction obviously underscores the point that this is one of Americans’ longstanding sources of self-doubt. Other countries — Japan, Germany, England, Russia — have similar points of defensiveness. What is most deeply concerning to a culture (as for most individuals or families) is often the most difficult or infuriating for outsiders to bring up.

James Fallows, China Airborne (2012)

As Jim suggests in his still wonderful 2010 essay, “How America Can Rise Again,” this isn’t a new insecurity for the United States. I connect it to the nation’s exceptionalist roots — Winthrop’s City Upon a Hill; Jefferson’s self-evident truths — which create not just an ideal but also its negative: if America is the world’s last best hope, that means that hope might fail. To consider America to be the world’s one indispensable nation, we must imagine a world in which America has been dispensed with.

I’d add to the fear of decline that America’s other insecurity is the notion that it might not be united. I say, not infrequently, that to discern a country’s deepest anxieties, one must look to its name: Democratic Republics Of Wherever are usually not, and such. And the United States is so insistent on its unity because it fears so deeply that, unlike other nations, which are built on ancient ethnic bonds, its polity, built on ideology, might not be able to endure.

This is why the spectre of extreme partisanship is so important to American political discourse, why George Washington feared party politics, and why every president who comes along promises to mend the electorate’s divides. It’s why region is so important to Americans, and why the national bonds between Northerner and Southerner, or Easterner and Westerner, or between black and white, that appear so obvious to the outsider can seem so fragile to the insider. It’s why the Civil War is always so central to America’s understanding of itself and the way it shapes its future: this is the moment the country came closest to disunity, but was also its most forceful affirmation of its unity.

Jim goes on:

In modern China, one of these always sensitive subjects is the idea of China’s full “equality” or maturity in modern international society, especially to the white Western nations that for centuries have been in economic and political control. (Competition with Japan is a separate and equally tangled political question.) This is the significance of the phrase “Hundred Years of Humiliation” to describe China’s period of subjugation to foreigners and the repeated insistence by Chinese spokesmen on full dignity, equality, and respect in international dealings.

And later, on Chinese concerns of “splittism”:

Chinese people who are familiar with American history point out the many similarities between the current Han attitude and the drive toward Manifest Destiny thinking in the United States from the nineteenth century onward.

As for Australia’s national insecurity, I’m tempted to suggest something about fairness, but that might be too myopic, too concerned with current political disputes, and too ignorant of our underlying paranoias, the sort I can’t easily grapple with because, like all my countrypeople, I’m captive to them. So perhaps the correct answer is the question of whether Australia matters: are we influential, do people care about us, does the world realize that we are as important as we think we are? Or, to ground that question in familiar terms: has the tyranny of distance defeated us?

(I don’t know enough about Japan to guess at what its point of national defensiveness might be.)


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10