Archives for category: Books

This year has been a treasure hunt for silver linings amidst the rainout-your-whole-life clouds of 2020. At some point this spring, my partner, Melinda, and I swapped our rhetorical lament, What is going to happen next?, for an actual question: Wonder what we’re going to do?

What followed was a wonder quest for experiences uniquely enabled by these times. Here are a slew of moments that got me through this year in no particular order.

(Note: This is not a productivity list, at times, surviving was more than enough. I also acknowledge my work-from-everywhere privilege and ask, if you are also in the position to do so, please signal boost and/or donate to an organization committed to helping those in need get through this time and be resilient on the other side — and, of course, keep wearing your mask, washing your hands, and socially distancing.)

Citibiked: Manhattan

Read: How to Do Nothing, Jenny Odell

Picked: Cherries (spring), Peaches (summer), Apples (fall) at Rosehill Farms, and Jalapeños (near Seneca Lake)

Watched: Flamingos mate for life (Celestún, Mexico); gulls soar through Manhattan; turtles lay eggs; lambs be born; caterpillars eat bouquets of dill; bears roam; foxes fox; cottontails bound; wild turkeys fly; Mom’s new kittens play

Drank: Compaigne des Vins Surnaturels By the Lake and all over New York thanks to their spectacular home delivery

Made: Protest signs from a fully stocked children’s art supply closet

Listened: “If you waiting for life to go back to the way it was,” said my friend, Lulu, “you’re trying to live in a world that no longer exists.”

Practiced: Spanish 1:1 via Skype with SpeakShop tutors in Guatemala

Cut: Coffee (from 2 pots to 2 cups a day)

Read: A Paradise Built in Hell, Rebecca Solnit

Lit: ~100 fires

Picked up: 4 Charles Prime Rib

Stretched

Read: Think Small, Wendell Berry

Cheered on: Every team in the WNBA (especially the Lynx) via League Pass

Ate: Rubirosa outdoors on Pride

Microdosed

Gathered: Queer night on the farm (Chaseholm Farm)

Conferenced in: From home (Chelsea, NYC); a creek (Catskills); a fireplace (Hudson Valley); the beach (Yucatán)

Drank: Chëpìka

Chopped: Wood, like whole trees, and local farm vegetables for Melinda to grill

Voted

Saw: Uxmal

Ordered: 1 kilo of handmade, heirloom corn tortillas from Pancho Maiz

Lived: Next door to a popsicle shop

Puzzled: Sometimes looking at the box, sometimes not, and one I didn’t finish (Smoke & Petals because I got high)

Cried: When Rough Draft bookstore re-opened in Kingston

Marveled: Farm Arts Collective‘s Dream on the Farm performance amongst hemp and fairytale eggplants

Wrote: Daily journal (as I have since childhood but, for real, just to journal, not to publish)

Ate: Fresh fish

Listened: Astrology readings – now on the new CHANI app✨

Counted down to a bright new year

What’s lightened your year? Share your silver linings…

June is Pride month. As a kind of meditation, I read books by queer authors or stories about queer people. Some have been in my TBR stacks for ages, some newly published for the season.

Here’s what I read:

O’Keeffe: The Life of an American Legend (1993) an obsessive biography about the artist by Jeffrey Hogrefe.

Myriam Gurba’s Mean (2017) is described as part memoir, part ghost story, part true crime. And it is all art.

This cover, tho. Myriam Gurba, Mean (2017)

 

Eleanor and Hick: The Love Affair that Shaped a First Lady (2016), an epistolary-based biography about Eleanor Roosevelt and reporter Lorena Hickok, and their found love letters by Susan Quinn.

My partner and I read David Sedaris’ new collection of essays, Calypso (2018), together, like total lesbians. I held the book; she made slight nods when it was time to turn the page.

For fun, I read When Katie Met Cassidy (2018), a novel love story, swooning around modern day NYC by Camille Perri.

And I’ve just started Against Memoir: Complaints, Confessions, and Criticisms (2018) by Michelle Tea, whose perfect punk pitch of love and fight promises to help get me through July 4th this year.

Seeing this list–all together here–suddenly feels remarkable. These books represent such a spectrum of age, class, gender, and queerness; where they call home, spreading from North Carolina to LA, Brooklyn to New Mexico; their work exhibiting a variety of fineness. But also. For as fantastically diverse as they are in some respects, they are predominantly white authors writing about white characters or about white subjects.

My books are not usually so white. This is something I’m super intentional about. I read non-fiction (pretty much non-stop) because I’m interested in people and history. I deeply appreciate all of these books–adore that these stories are being shared–but it’s also true that there are so, so, so, so many stories yet to be supported into books.

The Feminist Press is hosting their Louise Meriwether First Book Prize for a debut work by a woman or non-binary author of color. Today is the last day to submit a manuscript. If you’re waiting for a sign, an omen, a flapping flag of some sort, may this be it.

The Betsy Hotel in South Beach, Miami is a bookish place. They have a library. Each room holds unique stacks. Bookshelves line the hallways.

On my way to the pool, a paperback, the color of a sand dune, caught my eye: O’Keeffe: The Life of an American Legend by Jeffrey Hogrefe. On the cover of this 1993 edition, Georgia O’Keeffe appears as ancient as the desert. She’s nearly blind, I’d learn.

Flipping, I discovered O’Keeffe made pottery. Late in life, when her eyesight failed and she could no longer paint, she worked in clay.

OK PotteryAt age 71, O’Keeffe learned to throw pottery from her assistant and companion, Juan Hamilton.

“O’Keeffe loved holding wet clay in her hands and then running her fingers over the walls of the finished products” the biographer wrote.

Ever the perfectionist, O’Keeffe was disappointed that her work was not as “fine as Hamilton’s smooth-walled vessels.”

Hamilton could make the clay “speak” O’Keeffe said and called him “one of our great talents,” Hogrefe shared.

I was taken with the story of these two artists. She followed his hands in clay; he created ceramics and sculpture inspired by shapes from her paintings.

dan-budnik-georgia-okeeffe-at-the-ghost-ranch-with-pots-by-juan-hamilton

Georgia O’Keeffe with pots by Juan Hamilton by Dan Budnik

While I’m prone to picking up books in hotels, I rarely finished them. But this one was different. I needed to read the full story of art being passed along. I offered to buy the book — the hotel has a partnership with the local, independently-owned Books & Books — but the concierge gifted it to me.

“We believe in supporting writing,” he said and mentioned their residency program.

The Betsy Hotel hosts a dedicated Writer’s Room for authors to come and write for a few days. Applications were opening soon.

“Did you know the owner’s father was writer?” he continued. His desk is in the Writing Room.

“Take a look at our website,” he encouraged. “Apply.”

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