Monday, August 31, 2009

Coming of age. Again.

I received the memoir Trail of Crumbs by Kim Sunee for free a few years ago when a friend of mine in publishing took me to the Book Expo of America. After travelling in Spain with a quick stop in Paris and finally finishing The Savage Detectives, my overworked brain and sad-to-be-home heart knew it was time to read a book that I could curl up with for a few days and escape the dreariness of coming back from vacation.

Despite the fact that my younger brother has been sending me Happy 30th Birthday cards since I turned 26, it's still another year off--but that didn't stop my friend Jenny and I to discuss on our trip, at length, how different we are now than when we first moved to New York City in our early twenties. We thought that we were incredibly mature and knew everything, a belief that turned out to be utterly false.

The reason I bring this up is because Trail of Crumbs is a coming of age story. I'm certified to teach English to 7-12th graders, so don't get me wrong, I love the adolescent coming of age tale as well. But I do think that finally figuring out who you are in the adult world can be just as poetic and cathartic (and I'm sure I'll look back at this revelation and laugh at my immature almost 29 year old self). Kim Sunee was abandoned at Korean market at age three, adopted by a couple in New Orleans and moved to France around age twenty. Her memoir is her story of a long relationship that included a house in Provence, an apartment in Paris, some incredible cooking (each chapter closes with recipes) and her journey of finding what home and self meant to her.

After much discussion, I am concluding that this age is a good place to be, even as it seems crazy to me that I have been at my (first and) current job for five years, even as I live in a city where I'll never be able to afford to buy a house, much less a studio apartment, even though my life looks completely different from what my 21 year old-junior-in-college self thought it would be.

September is still my new years and October brings 29. I am excited about it. (And I have a mom who just celebrated her own birthday and is still absolutely amazing and fabulous, so I suppose there is only more good to come.)

Last day of August. Summer reading update.

Good things: drinking tea. wearing a hooded sweatshirt on a 65 degree August Monday morning. the windows wide open.

I just checked my list of books I wanted to read this summer and checked off *one* of them. Ha. This is not to say I didn't read this summer, but my plans went awry...

Here's what was actually read this summer: a mix of old and new young adult, old and new literary fiction, a few guilty pleasures, one new absolute favorite*

Rereads. I couldn't help myself.
From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
Charlotte's Web
Anne of Green Gables
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
The Summer Book
Pride and Prejudice

New Reads
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society
The Elegance of the Hedgehog*
The Savage Detectives
Trail of Crumbs
Hurricane Song

Even though school doesn't officially start until after Labor Day, this week is going to be filled with prep work. I still get beginning of the school year anxiety, but I confess that I am kind of excited to meet the 90 kids I will be spending at least 1500 hours with over the course of the next 9 months. And. I love that my job is to get kids excited about reading and writing. I love asking kids what their absolute favorite book they have ever read it. And yours?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

poetry is a metaphor.

Signs of a good weekend: 16 miles on a yellow vintage bike, a long brunch with favorites, strolling in my city, crazy summer storms seen through my window while making risotto for tonight and polenta for tomorrow, finishing the book I started in Barcelona (yes, that was on July 31st)

True to form, in Spain I packed up my fear of being without ample reading material for each spare moment and brought 3 books. It is a bit of a blow to my pride to admit that I didn't finish one of them, but not for lack of trying. The Savage Detectives was a long one and I'm not even sure how to approach writing about this book, as what I really need is a college lit class to unpack it all in the context of post modern Latin American writing.

Roberto Bolano sandwiches the book with journal entries of a boy that tell the story of a three month adventure with the two main characters, poets Ulises Lima and Arturo Belano, the founders of the "visceral realist" poetry movement in Mexico. The middle of the book tells their story from almost every possible perspective except their own.

Bolano is quoted in the introduction to the English translation as saying "All of Latin America is sown with the bones of its forgotten youths." I cannot get this quotation out of my mind; that what is most true and most representative of a people is lost in those whose faces deemed not worth knowing, words not worth believing, voices not worth hearing. In The Savage Detectives, these youth are resurrected, but in such a fleeting, poetic manner that the reader is not quite sure how to hold onto or even respond to them.

One of the narrators is an older man, haunted by the poetry of his youth and fascinated by the young poets he finds in front of him. This passage speaks volumes:

Like so many Mexicans, I too, gave up poetry. Like so many thousands of Mexicans, I too turned my back on poetry. Like so many hundreds of thousands of Mexicans, I too, when the moment came, stopped writing and reading poetry. From then on, my life proceeded along the drabbest course you can imagine.

Do we grow up and forget the poetry of our own youth? Is the poetry of the youths most likely forgotten too painful to bear? Too close to our own? Too much of a reminder of what defines actual life?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Cafe con leche.

One of my favorite parts of my time in Spain was breakfast.

Eating out every day is a double edged sword: it is wonderful because one must sample all different kinds of foods and restaurants, but for those who are like me and enjoy a little regularity, it can also be stressful. After one day in Barcelona of buying a chocolate croissant in one place and a coffee in another, we had breakfast everyday at a lovely restaurant with an outdoor cafe literally two doors down from our hotel. This morning routine lasted throughout the entire trip, as did what I ate everyday: toast with marmelade, fresh orange and cafe con leche (normally, I am a tea drinker, but when in Spain...).

What we found ourselves talking about quite a bit though was the fact that the only place where you could get coffee "to go" was Starbucks (and no we never went in). Fast food is counter cultural and we began to weigh the pros and cons. One of my favorite things to do in New York, especially in the fall or the morning, is to walk around with a warm beverage in hand. It is part of the ambiance and comfort. Plus one for to go cups. In Spain, though, we were "forced" to sit and enjoy our coffee, talk and take in the atmosphere. It is rare to ever slow down in New York. Plus one for to stay cups. I've found that I want to enjoy the best of both...which basically means to take the time to do the things that are meaningful...whether that means just sitting and being or doing things that are good for my heart, like walking with tea in Brooklyn in the fall (which I am getting increasingly more excited for, especially as the temperature hovers around 90 degrees...and that means college football, let's be honest).

Also, having pretty breakfasts that I sit down and enjoy rather than eating standing up on my way out the door. And siestas. Sigh.