And good god, that Tokyo chapter. TOKYO IS UGLY COMPARED TO PARIS AND THEY EAT GROSS FOOD YOU GUYS. It's 35 pages of the worst white girl whining. How is this still considered acceptable (publishable) travel writing/cultural commentary/anything? Elkin claims you can't walk in Tokyo -- which, since I tragically have not been (making me especially fond of the passages where Elkin bemoaned her boyfriend's company paying for her to fly and live there), I can't actually dispute, but having read a ton of wonderful, wandering Murakami novels -- and even the white guy travelogues of, say, Will Ferguson -- I view with extreme skepticism. Also, "the men slurp their noodles." Elkin doesn't put the adjective Japanese in there, but it is more than just implied; it's a given. Ew.
Two stars because the chapter on Agnès Varda was a small oasis of excellence -- the only section of the book that seemed truly in the spirit of flânerie: probably more a credit to Varda than to the author....more
Despite the title/cover, this is in no way an angry or cynical book. It's a love song to New York and to the author's family and to their family businDespite the title/cover, this is in no way an angry or cynical book. It's a love song to New York and to the author's family and to their family business. And it's the type of memoir that you want to live in: that time, that place, those people. ...more
Not much I didn't already know (sniffs the adult reading a book intended for 8-to-12-year-olds), but clearly and charmingly presented. I was amused thNot much I didn't already know (sniffs the adult reading a book intended for 8-to-12-year-olds), but clearly and charmingly presented. I was amused that the Alexander Hamilton chapter was "Alexander Hamilton vs. History." (Our boy Alex has definitely won a recent battle there.) I was also interested to see John Adams' dying words, "Thomas Jefferson still lives," presented with a meaning 180 degrees away from what I was taught, but Quirk appears to have the evidence to back it up. Her version is cuter, too, so I choose to believe it....more
Anna Kendrick says she has a hard time making friends. I'll be your friend, Anna! Call me!
I already suspected as much, but this book makes it totallyAnna Kendrick says she has a hard time making friends. I'll be your friend, Anna! Call me!
I already suspected as much, but this book makes it totally clear: she would be absolutely awesome to have a beer with. This is one of the best "here are some stories and other random thoughts" memoirs I've read, from a celebrity or otherwise, mostly because it really does feel like a long rambling conversation. One where you end up snarfing at least once.
Don't miss the "Reading Group Guide" at the end; it was possibly my favorite part....more
I find it odd that in a post-James Frey world, someone can publish a work of stories he straight-up admits in the introduction are fiction as memoir.I find it odd that in a post-James Frey world, someone can publish a work of stories he straight-up admits in the introduction are fiction as memoir. It's not just that the names are changed: Holt says he's combined and invented; he even gives himself the name "Dr. Harper" in one of the tales. I understand that the labeling of this book was 99% likely to be the publisher's decision, not his, but it messed with my perception of these stories from the beginning.
I also feel that, as fiction as opposed to a straight-forward recounting of the facts, these tales are just not that interesting. There are patients with odd symptoms, à la an episode of House, and some generally fairly weak philosophizing. Maybe it was just the introduction setting me up, but I never believed any of it -- by which I mean, I never engaged with any of it, as fiction or as fact. Holt, or "Harper," comes off as fallible, which is nice, but otherwise entirely lacking in personality. The few other characters -- the no-nonsense nurse with the backpack; the crazy-haired, crazy-talking intern from the psych ward -- come off as either stock or unbelievable. This book was so close to being the type of thing I love, and then there was just...a false note, and it wasn't.
Lucy Knisley's Relish is an absolutely delightful tribute to food, foodie culture, gardening, cooking, and eating. It's also a thoughtful explorationLucy Knisley's Relish is an absolutely delightful tribute to food, foodie culture, gardening, cooking, and eating. It's also a thoughtful exploration of family legacy -- what our parents pass down to us, both good and bad, both accidentally and with intent. Knisley breezes past the heavier moments with a light touch -- not losing the flavor of the story, but also not letting the low notes weigh the reader down like a bad meal. Her art is sprightly, with a similar energy to Alison Bechdel's (one can see why Bechdel blurbed this book). And there are recipes! (In fact, Knisley's family recipe for pasta carbonara is even pretty much exactly the same as my family's. Just one of the many things I now want to chat with her about.) Who could ask for more?...more
Julissa Arce's Mexican parents brought her legally to the U.S. when she was 11; when she was 14 her visa expired and she began living with the constanJulissa Arce's Mexican parents brought her legally to the U.S. when she was 11; when she was 14 her visa expired and she began living with the constant pressure of being an undocumented immigrant in a country she'd mostly grown up in and felt was her home. Arce powerfully makes the case for why undocumented immigrants deserve a path to citizenship -- as with the oft-stalled DREAM act. Arce herself only eventually gained legal status because she was able to marry someone who had money and had money herself. She's very upfront about how this path is open to very few -- and not nearly enough -- people.
The story of how Arce made her money is where the book loses me a bit. In my mind:
Undocumented immigrants = lots of sympathy, deserve better treatment Wall Street culture and Goldman Sachs = yuck, get away from me
It totally makes sense that Arce, who ran a funnel cake stand to pay her way through college, would want to grow up and make bank. But the lesson she takes from a story about a young "chubby" analyst being hazed by being made to run all over a huge trading floor looking for something that doesn't exist is "know everything so people can't put anything past you." My takeaway is: these people are gross.
The last quarter of the book also turns heavily Christian in a way that's just...very alienating to me. I know that this will not be the case for a lot of people. In fact, I hope people who think Wall Street is awesome and/or are strong Christian believers, but are less convinced about the need to reform our immigration policies to help more people in need and let them live the fabled American Dream -- I hope they read this memoir. I hope it can influence them in a positive way. That's the ideal audience for this book.
However, if you already agree with Arce about the types of positive changes that need to be made to immigration law, you don't especially need to read her story; similar tales are told better elsewhere....more