Friday Things

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Happy Halloween! It’s been awhile since I’ve gone out on this sacred holiday, but tonight I’m dressing up, going out with friends, and partying like it’s 2008. I am predicting I will start out excited, and then as the night wears on I will start to feel old, come to face the inevitable truth that my glory days have come and gone, drink too much vodka to make myself feel better, and end up with a hangover tomorrow morning. But let’s see, shall we?

Here are three things I’ve learned this week:

1. This book is incredible. How had I not heard of it until last week? Go read it. Now.

2. These tacos are SO DELICIOUS. Go make them. Now.

3. You know that taboo about how straight men and women can’t be friends after a certain age? Did you know that’s not true for gay people? I was having this conversation with a new (gay) coworker who told me she has some very close gay female friends and her partner doesn’t mind at all. “Heterosexual people are so weird about that,” she told me. She’s right! More on this another day.

I found the above image on Pinterest but it links to a dead end; if anyone recognizes it please let me know so I can give credit!

The Marks We Leave Are Too Often Scars

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This is something that’s been on my mind for awhile now.

Have you read this article about how the Pont des Arts in Paris is starting to collapse under the weight of the “love locks”? It’s somehow become a tradition (if you can call something that popped up so recently a tradition) for tourists to go here and leave a padlock. To commemorate the fact that they were there.

But why?

“I want to leave a mark. But the marks humans leave are too often scars… We are like a bunch of dogs squirting on fire hydrants. We poison the groundwater with our toxic piss, marking everything MINE in a ridiculous attempt to survive our deaths.”

Exactly, Augustus Waters.

Everyone is SO OBSESSED with leaving their marks on the world. Maybe it is something animal. Maybe we can’t help it.

And I am certainly no exception. I am a writer. I want people to read the stuff I write, both my fiction and here in this little corner of the internet. My words are the marks I make on your minds.

But–but–before I make my marks, I ask myself this question:

Is my mark IMPROVING the world?

If the answer is no, I believe it’s better not to make it.

In the case of the Pont des Arts, the answer is definitely NO. I’ve never felt the need to add a lock to that bridge. Is it really that thrilling all those years later to come back and see it there? Isn’t it enough that you were there?

This is one of the reasons I don’t write negative book reviews. I understand why people do. You take the time to read a book, and when something in it bothers you, you feel the need to complain about it. I just spent hours of my life with this book and it did that? This is especially hard for me as a yet-unpublished-writer: this piece of crap got published and no one’s discovered me yet? Blasphemy!

But really–what kind of mark does that negative review leave?

In the same vein, today I saw a comment on a popular blog saying, “I really hate those shoes!”

What is gained by posting that comment? You’re entitled to your opinion, of course. I’m not saying you can’t post what you want, comment on what you want. Free speech! But just because you can do something does not mean you should.

The best response to someone’s crappy outfit/art? Don’t comment on it. Don’t pay it any attention. You have a limited amount of time in the world–why do you want to spend that time talking about something you hate? Post about things you love. Compliment things you like. Have experiences–but don’t leave the places you touch (like the Pont des Arts) worse for the wear.

Don’t make lots of little negative marks on the world. Make only good ones.

John Green via Augustus Waters obviously says it better than me:

People will say it’s sad that she leaves a lesser scar, that fewer remember her, that she was loved deeply but not widely. But it’s not sad. It’s triumphant. It’s heroic. Isn’t that the real heroism? Like the doctors say: First, do no harm.”

And before John Green, there was Alfred de Vigny. From La Mort du Loup:

“Seul le silence est grand; tout le reste est faiblesse.”

Only silence is great; the rest is weakness.

Which is just another way of saying: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

If the mark you’re leaving isn’t improving the world–consider not leaving it at all.

Friday Things

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Confession: I really love lifestyle blogs. Like this one and this one and this one. I’ve always wanted one, but I am so not that girl–the one with the perfect outfit and the perfect hair and the perfectly curated apartment. I will never make the time to learn how to give myself a perfectly braided bun or make DIY doormats or bake my own recipes from scratch (actually that last one is a dream for another life in which I don’t have to work a 9-5).

I wasn’t even sure I should start a blog, to be honest–so many people are already doing it, and doing it so well, that what do I have to offer?

Well for starters, I wrote a book. So I do know some things about that. I’m also a bibliophile and a travelphile (and, like Shakespeare, I make up words when needed). So I know how to write and read and travel. Hence my blog was born.

But I am also a person who has been living for over 3 (!) decades now, so I know some other things as well. I decided to start a Friday series to document the little things I’ve learned lately.

This week I’ve learned:

1. If you leave your phone on top of a pumpkin candle overnight (this one is amazing) it will smell like pumpkin the entire next day, which is delightful.

2. Don’t walk over a subway grate while wearing a skirt unless you want to show off your underwear. Not sure how I got away with 7 years in NYC without learning that one.

3. Putting fresh sage and a little honey in hot water is delicious (and healthy!) and will get you through the draggiest of all draggy afternoons at work. (Thank you to Inga my new German cubicle mate for that cup of deliciousness).

(Above photo found here, via Tumblr. For another life in which I live in a tiny cabin in the woods and bake and write all day long.)

MK’s Book Reviews: Anna and the French Kiss

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Finally got around to reading the book I’ve seen all over the internets lately (I follow a lot of young adult-minded people, most of whom are probably actual teenagers, mostly on Tumblr.)

I really enjoyed this book. I read the entire thing in less than two days. It’s the kind of book you want to take to an airport, because even though your flight is delayed and they’ve run out of vegetarian meals and the guy next to you smells and Eliot Spitzer is sitting a few rows ahead of you with someone who could be his daughter but is probably not (ew, and yes that happened), you’re so engrossed in the story you don’t even care.

First of all, the voice is excellent. Anna sucks you in right away with her homesickness and slight awkwardness. She manages to be cute and likeable and not annoying all at the same time (most of the time). Secondly, this book manages to sound like a teenager wrote it while also being well-written. Not always so easy to do. Furthermore, I always like reading about my favorite city, though I wish they had ventured out into it a bit more. And I loved that the supporting characters were well-written and realistic, poor tomboy Meredith with her own hopeless crush, artsy Josh, the slightly off-putting Rashmi. So real. And then of course, Étienne is the perfect tiny man … except for one thing.

I really do hate emotional cheating. And I hate people who, for lack of a better expression, have their cake and eat it too (the French expression is vouloir le beurre et l’argent du beurre, to want the butter and the money for the butter, after French peasants who couldn’t afford to eat their own butter. Makes way more sense than ours, non?) Holding hands with, sleeping in a bed with, talking until all hours of the morning with a girl who is not your girlfriend is wrong, no matter how steadfast you are in not kissing her. If you’re having feelings for someone else BREAK UP WITH YOUR GIRLFRIEND. You’re seventeen. You don’t have a kid together. Grow some balls and do it.

So, emotional cheating: wrong on so many levels. Also? It’s INCREDIBLY realistic.

‘Tis not the writer’s job to judge people, ’tis her job to portray them realistically. I didn’t go to boarding school, but I did go to college, and this kind of thing happened ALL THE TIME, especially freshman year as people struggled not to break up with their high school boyfriends/girlfriends. So bravo to Stephanie Perkins for capturing this so accurately.

I don’t think Anna and Étienne will last, unfortunately; emotional cheaters tend to repeat themselves. But I definitely enjoyed being along for the ride of their Parisian romance.

Image found here 

MK’s Book Reviews: We Were Liars

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God. This book.

The setting pulled me in. Rich cousins on a private island off of Massachusetts? Yes please. Love developing between two childhood friends? I’m a sucker for that.

“He was contemplation and enthusiasm. Ambition and strong coffee. I could have looked at him forever.

The voice was so well done, lots of sentence fragments filled with bits of beauty. It could have come off oddly in the hands of a less talented writer, but Lockhart did it wonderfully.

“It is good to be loved, even though it will not last.”

You know from the beginning something bad is going to happen, and then when something does, you aren’t even entirely sure what it is. To find out, along with Cadence, you keep reading. But before you even know the extent of Cadence’s struggle, you admire her strength.

“I’d a million times rather live and risk and have it all end badly than stay in the box I’ve been in for the past two years.”

“I lie there and wait, and remind myself over and over that it doesn’t last forever. That there will be another day and after that, yet another day. One of those days, I’ll get up and eat breakfast and feel okay.”

And oh, Cadence and Gat.

“When blood dripped on my bare feet or poured over the book I was reading, he was kind. He wrapped my wrists in soft white gauze and asked me questions about what had happened. He asked about Dad and about Gran—as if talking about something could make it better. As if wounds needed attention.”

“Someone once wrote that a novel should deliver a series of small astonishments. I get the same thing spending an hour with you.”

And the end. I did not see it coming, though in retrospect there were so many clues. That’s a real accomplishment, as an author. It was so good and so devastating. Think first-time-reading-Fault-in-Our-Stars levels of sobbing.

“They know that tragedy is not glamorous. They know it doesn’t play out in life as it does on a stage or between the pages of a book. It is neither a punishment meted out nor a lesson conferred. Its horrors or not attributable to one single person. Tragedy is ugly and tangled, stupid and confusing. That is what the children know.”

Go read this book. Now.

Good Books (as of late)

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I get asked for book recommendations a lot. Mostly because I read like a fiend. (And maybe because I have decent taste.)

My goal with this blog was to post glowing reviews after every wonderful book I read. But I read fast, and I review more slowly.

So here is a super-abbreviated version of reviews of the books I’ve read this summer, in case you’re looking for something good. I am only listing the ones I gave at least a 3-star review. Not a ton is accomplished in writing negative reviews, in my opinion. If you didn’t like something, why give it more attention? So I don’t write negative reviews (though I do give out the appropriate amount of stars–If you’re curious as to the books I didn’t like, you can check me out on Goodreads.)

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