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Archive for the ‘Jen’s Recommendations’ Category

I read this book for one reason – Nora Ephron wrote it. You know, Nora Ephron. She wrote You’ve Got Mail and When Harry Met Sally which are two of my absolute FAVORITE movies. I mean who does not love Meg Ryan in those roles? I mean she obviously didn’t create Meg Ryan but you get what I’m saying.

Anyway, while this book had some of the wit that made me love those movies, I left with the feeling that this book is schizophrenic. There were about fifteen essays total and several of them focused on getting older. I knew to expect this going in but I guess I expected something different. So much of what she talked about were vain attempts to look younger. Vain attempts characterized by the use of procedures, salon visits, and creams that are essentially a luxury of those with money. She came off as shallow and vain during a lot of these essays. At first I couldn’t tell whether she was intentionally being tongue in cheek or if she was serious. I somehow ended up with the impression that she was more on the serious side and this bothers me… A LOT. Granted I’m not even middle-aged yet, I like to think I’d be more accepting of what time will start to do to my body rather than attempting to dye and primp  my way to looking younger. I’m not particularly looks obsessed now and hope to stay this way.

The parts of the book I really liked were those that recounted stories from here life sans the pitfalls of aging. There was more wit and less whining. My recommendation – pick up this book and then call me so I can tell you which essays to read.

Reading is one of the main things I do. Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel I’ve accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after of day that’s all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.

***

Whenever you give up an apartment in New York and move to another city, New York turns into the worst version of itself. Someone I know once wisely said that the expression “It’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there” is completely wrong where New York is concerned; the opposite is true. New York is a very livable city. But when you move away and become a visitor, the city seems to turn against you. It’s much more expensive (because you need to eat all your meals out and pay for a place to sleep) and much more unfriendly. Things change in New York; things change all the time. You don’t mind this when you live here; when you live here, it’s part of the caffeinated romance to this city that never sleeps. But when you move away, your experience change as a betrayal. You walk up Third Avenue planning to buy a brownie at a bakery you’ve always been loyal to, and the bakery’s gone. Your dry cleaner move to Florida; your dentist retires; the lady who made the pies on West Fourth Street vanishes; the maitre d’ at P.J. Clarke’s quits, and you realize you’re going to have to start from scratch tipping your way into the heart of the cold, chic young woman now at the down. You’ve turned your back from only a moment, and suddenly everything’s different. You were an insider, a native, a subway traveler, a purveyor of inside tips into the good stuff, and now you’re just another frequent flyer, stuck in a taxi on Grand Central Parkway as you wing in and out of La Guardia. Meanwhile, you rad that Manhattan rents are going up, they’re climbing higher, they’re reached the stratosphere. It seems that the moment you left town, they put a wall around the place, and you will never manage to vault over it and get back into the city again.

***

“Here are some questions I am constantly noodling over: Do you splurge or do you hoard? Do you live every day as if it’s your last, or do you save your money on the chance you’ll live twenty more years? Is life too short, or is it going to be too long? Do you work as hard as you can, or do you slow down to smell the roses? And where do carbohydrates fit into all this? Are we really all going to spend our last years avoiding bread, especially now that bread in America is so unbelievable delicious? And what about chocolate?”

***

I live in New York City. I could never live anywhere else. The events of September 11 forced me to confront the fact that no matter what, I live here and always will. One of my favorite things about New York is that you can pick up the phone and order anything and someone will deliver it to you. Once I lived for a year in another city, and almost every waking hour of my life was spent going to stores, buying things, loading them into the car, bringing them home, unloading them, and carrying them into the house. How anyone gets anything done in these places is a mystery to me.

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Since Cleopatra’s death her fortunes have waxed and waned as dramatically as they did in her lifetime. Her power has been made to derive from her sexuality, for obvious reason; as one of Caesar’s murderers had noted, “How much more attention people pay to their fears than to their memories!” It has always been preferable to attribute a woman’s success to her beauty rather than to her brains, to reduce her to the sum of her sex life. Against a powerful enchantress there is no contest. Against a woman who ensnares a man in the coils of her serpentine intelligence – in her ropes of pearls – there should, at least be some kind of antidote. Cleopatra unsettles more as sage than seductress; it is less threatening to believe her fatally attractive than fatally intelligent.

***

She elicited scorn and envy in equal and equally distorting measure, her story is constructed as much of male fear as fantasy. From Plutarch descends history’s greatest love story, though Cleopatra’s life was neither as lurid nor as romantic as had been made out. And she became a femme fatale twice over . . . it is difficult to say where vengeance ends and homage begins. Her power was immediately enhanced because – for one man’s historical purposes – she needed to have reduced another to abject slavery. It is true that she was a dutiful, father loving daughter, a patriot and protector, an early nationalist, a symbol of courage, a wise ruler with nerves of steel, a master at self presentation. It is not true that she built the lighthouse of Alexandria, could manufacture gold, was the ideal woman, a martyr to love, “a silly little girl,” the mother of Christ . . . On a good day Cleopatra is said to have died for love, which is not exactly true either . . . She sent even Shakespeare over the top, eliciting from him his greatest female role, his richest poetry, a full, Antony – less act, and in the estimations of one critic, a rollicking tribute to guilt-free middle-aged adultery. Shakespeare may be as much to blame for out having lost sight of Cleopatra VII as the Alexandrian humidity, Roman propaganda, and Elizabeth Taylor’s limpid lilac eyes.

 

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Whoever the clueless bastard was who thought up the Cabbage Patch Kid better hope I never see him face to face. The invention of this bizarrely appealing doll that came with a birth certificate covered in cabages and whose muscles had completely atrophied pretty much marked the end of my fitting in with anyone but my cleaning lady.

***

When you roll over in bed in the morning and hit a plate with the side of your head, you know things have gotten carried away. When you toss that plate on the floor, roll back over, and falls asleep again, you’ve hit another dimension. when you look at the clock and realize it’s not morning but still the day before, you’re either in Australia or you’ve gone into another dimension that isn’t easy to get out of.

***

Flying Southwest Airlines is analogous to being the last one picked for kickball in the third grade. Initially, an’A’ boarding pass feels like you’ve bypassed some system flaw and managed to come out one step ahead of the game. Getting your preference of any row and then, on top of that, having your choice of window, aisle, or middle seat feels borderline aristocratic. When that ‘A’ boarding pass comes flying out of the ticket kiosk into your palm, the whole airport experience shifts from Dora the Explorer to Princess Grace of Monaco.

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I looked up at the ceiling. ‘Are you there, vodka. It’s me, Chelsea. Please get me out of jail and I promise I will never drink again. Drink and drive. I will never drink and drive again. I may even start my own group fashioned after MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, but I’ll call it AWLTDASH, Alcoholics Who Like to Drink and Stay Home.

***

‘Uptight’ isn’t a word I think anyone would use to describe a girl who wrote a book documenting all of her one night stands, but maybe my self awareness needed a little sharpening.

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You guys, are you aware that one of my all time favorite people wrote a book? Ok, well obviously she isn’t one of my all time favorite people but I think she’s pretty cool. She did write a book though. And while I obviously don’t know Tina Fey from what I can tell from her book Bossypants, she and I would totally be BFFs. Some things we share in common – Tina does not drive and has the amazing ability to turn simple things into crippling anxiety. We could totally be friends, right? JK.

I picked this book up on Friday night and finished it this morning and it was HILARIOUS. After reading the book I scanned some reviews on Barnes and Noble’s website and some of the responses confused me . Stuff like “this book is only for hardcore Tina Fey fans,” “this book wasn’t what I expected it to be,” and “I thought this book was going to be like 30 Rock, it isn’t, and I am disappointed.” 

Unlike the commenters, I went into this book with almost no expectations. I just waned to read a book by Tina Fey. I guess I assumed it would be memoir-y, insightful, and funny. It was all those things. From insights into her career, awkward coming of age stories, her views on women in comedy, and comments on being a working mom I couldn’t put this book down.

I wanted to offer some quotes here to show you how hilarious the book is but then I realized I would basically be transcribing the entire book in my blog and that isn’t cool.

So here are some general highlights – the chapter about when she first started working on SNL, the chapter about the development of 30 Rock, and her chapter on the whole Sarah Palin thing (which I still consider to be some of the funniest moments ever on television – I just love Tina Fey). I suppose essay is probably a more appropriate word for the individual sections in the book than chapter but whatever (some of the essays/chapters were actually published in The New Yorker prior to publication).

Oh, I also really liked the chapter where she introduced her dad who she constantly refers to as Don Fey instead of “Dad.” Read the book and you’ll understand why he’s a person who gets to be referred to by his whole name every time he’s mentioned. 

There are about 50 other anecdotes I loved, I really could go on and on – like when her mom gave her the kotex kit and trusted her to educate herself or her story about her first trip to the gynecologist. And her comments on photoshop and her list of her physical attributes she likes. 

I guess what I am trying to say is I LOVED THE ENTIRE BOOK. It definitely picked up when she got to her tenure on SNL and walked the reader through SNL – 30 Rock – Sarah Palin impression, but that’s not to say the parts before that were boring. 

I know I’ve gone on and on about the parts of the book I liked but I especially like that so much of it felt like a female empowerment pep talk. From body image issues to balancing different roles, I found myself nodding, laughing, and sighing at so many comments I found 100% spot on. Especially her chapters on body image. As someone with serious body image issues it is always comforting to see empowering and thoughtful comments and perspectives. 

Getting back to expectations – I guess based on things she has said in the media, my feeling that Liz Lemon is a not so inaccurate representation of herself, and that fact that she was the one who wrote Mean Girls – I have, while writing this post, revised my opinion on the whole expectations thing. When I finished this book I realized it was exactly what I expected. I felt the book was honest, she made fun of herself, and she made a lot of really honest observations about society and feminism in particular. The book just made her seem really accessible – like a totally normal woman you could totally have a beer, a good laugh, and a serious conversation with.

Basically, it was a huge Tina Fey love fest over here all weekend. Go read Bossypants.

And watch this clip it is hilarious…

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This past week, I finished reading My Life in France and couldn’t have loved it more! The book is incredibly inspiring and really fascinating. It’s full of interesting things I didn’t know about Julia Child. The absolute best part of the book is the insight into her writing process. Talk about dedication! Tirelessly checking recipes, testing them, experimenting with different methods and ingredients, hiring and illustrator, laboring over instructions to make sure they are as clear as possible and not the least bit confusing! Her work ethic is awe inspiring! This book is guaranteed to make everyone want to go on a quest for that one thing they were made to do – that is if you haven’t discovered that thing yet.

I absolutely recommend this book – even if you don’t like cooking, or France, and even if you don’t care one bit about Julia Child! Her story is wonderful!

“Usually one’s cooking is better than one thinks it is. And if the food it truly vile, as my ersatz eggs Florentine surely were, then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile – and learn from her mistakes.”

“I simple won’t take a house that hasn’t got a wine cellar! I don’t care what they say!”

“When do you pause? When do  you paint or pant? When write family, loll on moss, hear Mozart and watch the glitter of the sea? … Clearly I am softened by the luxurious style of our Parisian life: comes Friday night in Paris and down comes that iron curtain between job and what I really life doing. Wham!, and I’m off with Julie on the flying carpet…” (letter by Paul Child to his brother Charlie)

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I am currently reading My Life In France by Julia Child. The book chronicles the years she lived in France with her husband Paul. The book is mostly in Julia’s voice composed by her grandnephew through a combination of letters written by both Julia and Paul, and recorded interviews held specifically for purposes of the book.

Let me tell you – this book is captivating. It makes me want to pack my bags and run off to France. I’m about 50% of the way through and there has never been a dull moment. It is the story of Julia going to France and just flourishing. The book is not only fascinating but also inspiring because it tells the story of how someone discovers themselves only after being taken and dropped in a completely foreign place.

I came across this book because of this book club and am so happy I took the recommendation! Like the blogger, I too saw Julie & Julia and loved it. I also tried to read the book and found myself putting it down quickly. I just didn’t find Julie Powell likable or sincere. And she cursed a lot. But My Life in France. Wonderful. Obviously so different and it really does tell the more interesting side of the story – the Julia part.

I 100% recommend this book to anyone who wants to be swept up in wanderlust, who wants to feel inspired, or who just wants to read a really great story told by a truly captivating narrator.

So go read it !!!

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