I have been in a relationship with Mr. Brain for 10 years to the day. (We count today as our official “we got together” day.) We have been married for 5 and a half of these years, though we’ve lived together for 9 years and 7 months, so I think we’re a fairly seasoned couple. Over these past 10 years, I have gained a much more mature understanding of what a real, committed relationship looks like, and while I’m both grateful and nostalgic for our romanticized, whirlwind of a beginning, I’m much more impressed with our grit. I don’t think true, committed love is really so polite, and without some real tenacity it’s possible I’d be writing a different sort of reflection 10 years later. This is my love letter to the down and dirty.
There are few stories you have the pleasure to experience that you could inhabit indefinitely, and A Gentleman in Moscow was one of these all-encompassing literary worlds for me. The language, the structure of the book, where do I begin? A Gentleman in Moscow tells the story of Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, who is sentenced to house arrest in 1920’s Russia for writing a subversive poem, or subversive as deemed by his prosecutors. He is confined to life in the Metropol, a luxury hotel in the center of Moscow, though he must give up his previously occupied ritzy suite for more cramped quarters on the hotel’s upper floor. Still, this fate seems better than death or banishment, and aside from the limitations of the hotel itself, life for the Count carries on in some semblance of normalcy. Within the Metropol he is free to do as he pleases. He dines at the hotel’s restaurants, makes use of any of its services (barbershop, seamstress), and is also free to interact with other hotel guests without limitations. While we don’t leave the hotel either, we get snippets of the larger Russian climate as it comes through the Metropol via an expanding cast of characters.
Earlier this week, while perusing my usual media feeds, I was treated to a recipe for a healthy version of a chocolate glazed donut. More precisely it was a Paleo version of this very non-Paleo treat. I’m assuming at this point most of use have heard this buzzword. The recipe author excitedly shared that it was so good (and so healthy) that she had eaten one every night for the past two weeks. Don’t worry, the point of this post isn’t to denigrate donuts, in fact I’m setting out to do the opposite. I would very much like to exonerate donuts and all other treats from the need to be healthy, Paleo, “clean” versions of themselves. Bear with me, and at the end of this post let’s split something with sprinkles on it, shall we?
It’s Friday, and today I mean it’s more like Fryday. It’s been a long week of dealing with other people and frustrating situations, and as I’ve been sitting here marveling at the assholery that abounds, I couldn’t help but reflect on all the other crazy ass situations I’ve encountered in my professional life. So, in the spirit of preventing office fires, I’m compiled this handy Office Etiquette 101 guide for you, which includes things you shouldn’t do as a boss, things you shouldn’t do at your desk, and reasons you shouldn’t piss off the “quiet” team member. As a bonus feature I’ve also included appropriate times for: giving the stink eye, crying silently under your desk, and going ape shit crazy. Enjoy!
My immediate response to Charlie Kaufman’s Anomalisa was one of wonder, in the same way I found Wallace and Gromit fascinating 20 years ago. Anomalisa is a visual playground, and I found myself getting swept up in the small details of the claymation. Michael’s hotel room, for example, was such an accurate representation that I almost wanted a behind the scenes tour to compare it to my own last hotel stay. The thermostat on the wall, the placement of the desk. I swear I was just in that room. I think it was the juxtaposition of this hyper-reality with the distorted features of the people that inhabited it that was so intriguing, or begged more questioning. Michael, and everyone else he encounters, appear mostly normal except for one small glitch; their faces appear to be pieced together like puppets. There is a visible line around their foreheads and jaws, as if their faces are snapped on.
Last night Mr. Brain and I finally got around to watching the movie adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s Room. I loved the book, marveled at the insight into Jack’s psyche, though as I read it some time ago, I had a lot of space between my reading and viewing experiences. Still, it’s not an easily forgotten story and I was very curious to see how it would play out as a movie. So much of the story is filtered through Jack, which is how the horror becomes almost palatable. If Room is the only world you know, it’s not so bad.
It should have been so easy to be happy.
I have a book hangover. I loved Liane Moriarty’s What Alice Forgot. I mean, I really loved it, and I feel sort of cheated that I didn’t get to say goodbye to its cast of characters and wish them all well before having to return this book to the library. I didn’t anticipate that I would like this book so much, and I almost didn’t read it, but I am ever so grateful that I did. What Alice Forgot is sneakily thoughtful, and the question it sets out to answer is more profound than it first seems at the book’s beginning. What would it be like to confront your current life with your past self?
As I mentioned yesterday, I’m dipping my toes back into the world of fiction, and after seeing You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott floating around on other reading lists, I thought I’d give it a stab. I recently watched 30 for 30: The Price of Gold, which chronicles the attack on Nancy Kerrigan through the ever so unreliable voice of modern day Tonya Harding, so I suppose I was already in the mood for the underbelly of women’s individual competitive sports. You Will Know Me takes us into the Knox family, whose life revolves around 15 year old Devon’s pursuit of an elite gymnastics title, and implied step on her ultimate goal to make it onto the Olympics gymnastic team.
Historically, I have had a tendency to be a serial reader. I’ll read something long and hard, then find myself uninspired to pick up anything else. Similarly, I’ll blow through a series of something (a particular author, a general theme that sends me down a self-defined rabbit hole) only to find myself crashing into a wall. I don’t know if this is good or bad. Perhaps it’s neither, except that I would actually like to read more, and when I do find a good book and get lost in it, I very much relish the experience. Sometimes I think I put too many self-imposed restrictions on my reading, and maybe I just keep getting in my own way. Case in point, after reading Second Sex between the winter holidays and finding myself in my usual months long post opus reading slump, I decided to read…for fun (gasp).
For obvious reasons, this week I vowed to start reading Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights by Katha Pollitt, and it hit me: I know virtually nothing about Roe v. Wade, as in I would have been hard pressed to tell you the specifics of who Roe was/is, the details of her case, etc., etc. So, I’ve spent today pouring through archived news articles and briefs about the case, and am happy to report that I know feel like I know *something* about the whole mess. If you’re like me and really only knew the case in name only, I hope this post serves as a small education about the oh-so-tangled history of abortion’s legality.