Book reviewsy

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Just finished The Perfect Scent: A year in the perfume industry in the Paris and New York by Chandler Burr, and it was completely fascinating. I somehow, inexplicably got into perfumes this year (smelling them, learning about them, certainly not buying them because I’m broke). The perfume industry is a wacky, wacky business. For example: 

Millions are fascinated by the process by which designers like Todd Oldham cut, sew, design, and agonize their fall collections into existence, but the great creative minds at Yves Saint Laurent and Jean Paul Gaultier and Dior, with the collective brilliance of a single mollusk at low tide, have intuited that with perfume – No. Here is an industry suffocating itself on the most immense pile of public relations shit human civilization has ever produced, a literal mountain of verbiage about “the noble materials, symbol of eternal feminine beauty, addictive notes of Cocoa Puffs, she can’t wait to taste him like a Hershey’s kiss, Cleopatra wore this, it has notes of distilled wild all-natural Martian fungus harvested by French virgins on the third moon of Pluto”.  The lies pile up on other lies, they generate a poisoned river of vapid crap the marketers try to pass off as ‘information’ and the brands have no clear that their public relations approach is about fifty years out of date. Reading anything they put out on their perfumes is like reading a combination of Kafka, only less creative, and Pravda circa 1985. Zero interest. There is almost no recognition that the enforced lack of knowledge – this gaping void of nothingness about what their products actually are, who makes them, and what’s in the things – is creating boredom and disinterest. The perfume industry is choking itself to death on its vacuum.

Anyway, a fascinating read on an absolutely bizarre word. 

 

A biography of 2014.

Joining a challenge. Two weeks late, but there you go. 

Little blips and blurbs about my year.

Alix reads too much as a crutch, as an excuse to stay as far as possible away from life. And the funny thing is, I got a book for Christmas called The Novel Cure: An A-Z of Literary Remedies. A book to fix my problems! Either the precisely wrong thing, or the exact thing I need. 

Time will tell. 

 

 

And you want to travel blind…

Been luxuriating in a fog of Cohen.

Night Film. Jeeze.

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I finished Night Film, Marisha Pessl’s second book last night. I loved her debut, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, and had high hopes for this. I’m feeling very meh about it. If I think about it too hard, I get really frustrated with it. If I take it on a  surface level it was fairly entertaining for vast swathes. I really don’t understand how this book was marketed as a literary thriller (whatever that is). It’s pure page-turning junk food. Which is completely fine – unless you start thinking about. There is SO MUCH exposition in the dialogue, each revelatory scene feels like a repeat of the last one. If you gloss over the italics (so frigging many italics), which I have a pretty high tolerance for, the writing style in some parts of the book is pretty good. The atmosphere is pretty great. Loved the first 200 pages, and about a 40 page chunk near the end. Ending was a let down.

I am trying to pin point why Special Topics in Calamity Physics was so much better, and beyond having a better story, better characters, and being generally better written, I think Pessl was far more invested in the character of Blue Van Meer than in her middle-aged male protagonist of Night Film. Debut novels that I’ve loved by female authors recently  (Curtis Sittenfeld: Prep, Marisha Pessl: Special Topics) have a closer connection to their adolescent narrators. They aren’t so far removed from those awkward years themselves. Not that you have to write about young women when you’re a young woman (hello, Zadie Smith), but maybe it comes more naturally? Anyway, I would recommend this book for a fun read if you don’t mind length, and a bit of weak writing – it’s 600 pages. But hey, millions of people (myself shamefully included) read all 2000-odd pages of the Twilight Saga, which is literally RIDDLED with errors and lousy writing, so in comparison to that, this is a genius work.

Writing again…

Well, what do you know, I’m working on some stuff. A suggestion, from an artist-in-residence at an art school I went to in 2005, made to me Jan 20th, 2008, is finally bearing fruit. My Donna Tartt-ish pace with be the death of me.

Better than late than never, I suppose.

 

Reading until my eyes fall out…

Night Film by Marisha Pessl just came in to the library and I snatched it up like a greedy little piggy. Also delving in, simultaneously, to Andrew Solomon’s the Noonday Demon (loved his Far From the Tree), and Mary Roach’s Bonk. If only I could always balance one funny non-fic, one serious non-fic, and one hotly anticipated novel. There aren’t enough hours in the day or square footage on my night stand.

I will be back with more GG updates soon, but you just KNOW Rory would stop everything for Night Film too.

The Misadventures of Post-Recession Rory Part 2: Rory Gets Rejected

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While mopping the floors at Luke’s diner night after night, Rory has a lot of time to think about the next phase of her life. She considers asking Logan’s dad for a job, but can’t ignore the fact that his newspapers are closing one by one. Lorelei perkily suggests a master’s in journalism, and Rory pooh-poohs it; would it really put her any further ahead of the now fierce competition? The epic return-to-grad-school/flee real life/panic applications of 2008/2009 has made her ask herself some serious questions about her chosen field of journalism. Maybe Logan’s slimy dad is right. (I’ve personally always thought he nailed it when he assessed Rory). Rory isn’t a shark. Rory doesn’t really like to compete.

Here’s where Rory and I are once again alike. She’s high-achieving, yes, but not Paris. I’ve always had a (slightly less insane) Paris in my life, a best friend who was the top of the class, and needed to be so. The Parises of the world will always be fine, career-wise, but the Rorys? (And maybe the Alixes?) Not so sure. She and I tire of competition quickly and spend time asking, constantly obsessing, what is it all for? Why can’t we just sit in a corner, puff on a cigar and read books all day and occasionally be brilliant and collect a paycheck? Like old, male, college professors of the 1950s?

Rory dreamily mops while reading some Joan Didion, and it occurs to her: she should get an MFA in creative nonfiction instead. Rory is used to pie-in-the-sky schemes and dreams, being the daughter of a woman whose antics fueled seven seasons of an adorable show.

Cue the darling indie song that plays while Rory sits at the counter of the diner late into the night working on a manuscript to send to the most prestigious of writing schools: The Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Rory, being a Gilmore, frets constantly, after slipping her huge envelope into the mailbox, and yet also sort of, kind of, just a little bit, expects to get an acceptance letter. This is the girl who got into both Yale and Harvard. Whose grandparents blow smoke up her ass on a weekly basis, grandparents whose wealth has opened countless doors for her. Why wouldn’t she get in?

Over the next few months, during the picturesque winter in Stars Hollow, Rory serves burgers and banters with Lorelei with gusto, confident that her future (at least for the next few years) has been decided. While Lorelei stands outside on a chilly February morning in an absolutely darling slippers and robe combo, dreamily monologuing about the loveliness of snow, Rory paces the halls in the house, waiting for the mail. It arrives, and the girls pile on the couch with steaming mugs of coffee to open it. Rory’s face falls when she reads:

“We regret to inform you that we will not be admitting you into the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. We received over 900,000 applicants for 25 spots, including some from Nelson Mandela, Jesus, and Condoleezza Rice, and admission was highly competitive.”

And so of course, Rory goes into a funk – Rory was always in adorable funks on the show, with that big porcelain brow of hers all furrowed. Lorelei, that unrelenting optimist, tells her to try again next year. Richard and Emily are disgusted that their child of privilege was not admitted, even after they tried to schmooze the board of the university. Emily goes on a drunken tirade about low-class state schools, and who needs them anyway, and why would anyone want to live in Iowa, that dreadful place, while Richard smiles tightly over his glasses, looking at bills that they cannot pay due to losing at least two thirds of their money in the stock market. He still hasn’t told Emily.

Meanwhile Rory calls Lane to complain about the unfairness of it all, and Lane is simultaneously being puked on by two toddlers with the flu.