Reading List

My dear, writer friend Amanda asked me for a post on the books I’ve recently or currently reading. She’s also the mother of a 2 1/2-year-old, so her reading time is pretty limited. Here’s to finding a few quiet hours with a great book, sweet friend!

Nora Ephron wrote my favorite movie, When Harry Met Sally…as well as Heartburn, Silkwood, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail and a plethora of others. I read her first book of essays: I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts On Being A Woman, and liked it so much I had to have her second book, this one.

I love Nora Ephron. In fact, one of my life goals is to have a really delicious, hilarious lunch with her in New York. Cocktails would also suffice.

If you’ve never read anything by Joan Didion, this is a pretty intense and incredible place to start. A vivid, detailed and sometimes disturbing account of the late sixties and seventies in America: everything from the Manson murders to Ms. Didion’s notes from a recording session with The Doors.

I was stunned and shocked to learn in the first pages of this book that I’m not the only one on the planet who, when asked what I’d like, often responds with the words: “A pony!” It’s also a handy addendum to the question, “Anything else?”

Anyway, Ms. Crosley writes funny. This is a wonderful, quick read. I love her honesty, sarcasm and commentary on how the way we grow up doesn’t necessarily seem strange or weird…until you start meeting a whole bunch of people who grow up completely differently. For instance, while a camper at a Christian summer camp (Crosley was raised Jew-ish), one of Crosley’s fellow campers is shocked to discover that she didn’t have “horns.” Crosley’s response had me laughing for the better part of the day:

“I had no idea that people thought Jews had horns. Where I came from, Jews had good grades and BMWs.”

This is a bold statement, but I’m not afraid to make it. If you haven’t read any Billy Collins, you’ve missed one of our country’s finest writers. I give you:

“…Just think-
before the invention of the window,
the poets would have had to put on a jacket
and a winter hat to go outside
or remain indoors with only a wall to stare at.

And when I say a wall,
I do not mean a wall with striped wallpaper
and a sketch of a cow in a frame.
I mean a cold wall of fieldstones,
the wall of the medieval sonnet,
the original woman’s heart of stone,
the stone caught in the throat of her poet-lover.”

I reluctantly admit to you that my knowledge of Patti Smith music was minimal. As in, it began and ended with “Because The Night.” However, I picked up her memoir Just Kids in the bookstore, read the first page and immediately bought the book.

All that I didn’t know about Patti Smith as a woman, writer, artist, friend and lover comes to beautiful light in this book. Again, I didn’t know of her years-long relationship/friendship/kinship with artist Robert Mapplethorpe until I read this book, a vibrant, honest and wide-eyed story of love, art, music and growing up.

A great book for writers of all sorts about our evolving profession, mission and inspiration in the digital age. Also comes with helpful career and health tips, like:

“Also, don’t use the word ‘learnings.’ You might not realize it right away, but slowly, inexorably, your soul will start dying.”

I first heard about Stewart O’Nan on NPR. His latest novel, Emily, Alone, garnered wonderful reviews. I decided I’d go back a bit and picked up Last Night at The Lobster, a novel about the last night of business at a Red Lobster in Connecticut. Warm yet lonely, this book says so much about jobs, the relationships we build within them and around them and how we define ourselves. Lots of bittersweet and an especially telling read for anyone who’s ever worked for even a moment in the food and beverage industry.

Now. How about your recommendations?

A Poem for Blue Bicycle Books, Billy Collins & Bill Murray


While purchasing signed copies of Billy Collins’s poetry,
Picnic, Lightning, The Trouble With Poetry (and other poems),
I notice a photograph on the counter of the poet laureate, the young woman ringing me up
and the bookshop owner.
The photograph shows the woman and the owner attempting to hold ecstasy at arm’s length,
alongside the poet’s bemused grin.

Upon further inquiry, it’s discovered that Billy Collins is a friend of actor,
Bill Murray.
A fact that occupies my mind for the better part of this sun-soaked afternoon.

I wonder how one came upon the other
An actor at a poetry reading?
A poet at a movie premiere?
Although it’s lovely to believe that Poet Laureate and Academy Award winner
carry equal amounts of star-quality, respect.
Although perhaps it’s more plausible they met at a jazz club
Or even a dinner party, on the occasion when someone somewhat famous
invites their cadre of artsy friends
Because poets, painters, actors and artists make savory social soup.

Secretly, I hope they met over booze.
Swiftly sizing up the humor and humanity of the other
Silently solidifying an unspoken bond over lowball glasses of 12-year-old scotch.

I imagine Billy as instrumental in Bill’s decision to accept the Lost In Translation role.
And I picture the Upstate New York diner where Bill suggests that
The Victoria’s Secret catalog might make for an especially vibrant poem,
as Billy’s eyes widen, glisten, his over buttered wheat toast 
momentarily motionless in midair
his mind whirring, words falling into seasonal lines of luxurious lingerie.

I wonder if the friendship dates back to the summer I watched Stripes once a day.
It’s conceivable that Billy Collins actually penned the “chicks dig me” scene.
Though I’m aware my perception of Bill’s personality is an amalgam 
of his on-screen performances and several casual sightings around town.
Once at a liquor store.
While I’m thinking of it, was the use of Roxy Music’s “More Than This” in the karaoke scene from Lost in Translation Billy’s suggestion?
Or was that all Sofia Coppola?

Which brings me back to the bookshop and the young woman and me, asking if she’d seen
the precocious three-year-old lad
who recited “Litany” from memory on YouTube.
As it happens, Billy didn’t just meet the boy,
he spent an afternoon reading him his favorite books,
Neither Picnic, Lightning nor The Trouble With Poetry (and other poems),
but mostly well-illustrated animal stories
rife with warmth and words that lull a boy toward slumber.

List of love

One of the most thought-provoking moments of my college career was when my Anthropology professor hit us with the notion that we are all taught to love. That love is learned. Like walking, talking, learning to tie your shoes, or algebra. I think of that every so often, especially when love confounds me.

What is very clear is the love I have for the items below:

The commercial that defined my childhood vision of a romantic Valentine’s getaway. Which probably explains a LOT.

Love and only love will endure. -Neil Young

Just finished reading Patti Smith’s Just Kids. It was so good that I simply opened it back up to the first page to begin reading again.

My niece, Callie, and me in 2001.

I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table. – Billy Collins, Litany

9 or so minutes in Passaic, New Jersey, 1978.


All Will Be Well. Because it will.

The hardest battles of all within ourselves. Thanks, Katie.

Annie Dillard. Her memoir, An American Childhood, is one of my long-time creative wells.

“Home” by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes, because it makes me think of the world’s best Valentine, my Dad, who never let a Valentine’s Day pass without giving me the gift of chocolate. Oh, and unconditional love. Thanks, Dad!

Now, go throw your arms around the neck of someone you love. As in a hug. Or a good-natured headlock. Your choice. Happy Valentine’s Day!