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Monday, June 18, 2012

169

'Pin Picks: Inaugural Edition

Before we start getting matchy-matchy, an observation! First, we are a terminally apologetic group of people (mostly women, for what it's worth! male participants appear far more likely to say I ENJOYED HOUSE OF LEAVES, THANK YOU FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION). I'm not mad, or anything, but it is never necessary to feel ashamed of enjoying Book A instead of Book B. The book is there to please you, not the other way around (please take this thought with you when trying on clothes.) You can be wrong, of course. You can incorrectly dislike an objectively wonderful book, and that book is therefore wasted on you and the little birds shall weep, but as we are trying to find a fourth book for your personal enjoyment, that matters little.

AND NOW, TO THE QUESTION AT HAND.

Reader churlishgreen has offered us the following three collections of smoking entrails for our prognostications:

1. The Believers, Zoe Heller – If I were the Sorting Hat, this is what I would be whispering to you, LM: "Hmmmm, funny, but highbrow. An English writer, but an American setting."

2. Happy All the Time, Laurie Colwin – "Ah, love, but without too much sturm und drang. A picture emerges!"

3. Nice Work, David Lodge – "Yes. Humor and academia, that's what you want. That's the ticket. Three modern-y comic novels, some love, with a bit of an edge, and a dash of class preoccupation."

What shall I offer you?

On Beauty, Zadie Smith – It is a tribute to the goodness of this book that I am capable of recommending it, as it was partly inspired by how little Zadie Smith enjoyed teaching a fiction workshop I took with her. We were the worst sort of Rushdie-Reading-Attendees imaginable, and undergraduates are generally awful and completely preoccupied with their own dying relationships and overweening ambition. Maybe that was just me? One of us (certainly not me) has written a tremendously enjoyable novel, though, and we will be interviewing her in July!

Smith is a very, very good novelist, and this is her best book. White Teeth is obviously fun-fun-fun-fun, but On Beauty is accomplished and funny and sad and moving and tremendously ON about the weirdness of the modern university and the people who inhabit it. To hedge my bets, if you have already read and disliked On Beauty, one can never, ever, ever go wrong with Lucky Jim, the funniest comic novel EVER WRITTEN. AND, of course, the introduction to this version is written by David Lodge himself, BOOM, PWNED.

Your turn! Tell us you hated On Beauty. Tell her you love Happy All the Time too. Whatever you want.

Image courtesy of this woman, who seems to make very interesting cakes.

Tags:

books, 'pin picks



169 Comments / Post A Comment

Speaking of cake, I have cake

I've been looking forward to this all morning! Yaaaay.

On Beauty is sooo good. Moving and clever and funny and sad. The part where the glee club appear on the stairs outside some faculty dinner singing U2 cracks me up

jhonsons

So nice!!! please more !!!@j

churlishgreen

YOU ARE GOOD, NICOLE! I loved On Beauty.

Thanks so much for starting this, I'm looking forward to the comments...

redheaded&crazy

Damn! I've read on beauty before! I must admit I am so overwhelmed by all these gigantics lists of books that I haven't read. I was so excited to see just one manageable book recommendation! okay maybe I can pick one of @churlishgreen's top 3. Whichever one is cheapest/availablest as an ebook.

No! Whichever one has the longest page count to cheapest price ratio. I hate spending money on books that are 200 pages or less. God what am I even paying for ya know?

redheaded&crazy

@redheaded&crazie hm so I could get the believers for $14 (306 pages) or nice work for $11.19 (277 pages)

thats a bit rich for my blood. maybe if kobo sends me a discount code this week! (which they often do)

PistolPackinMama

@redheaded&crazie <3

SarahP

@redheaded&crazie Go to the library! All of them are free to you there, and if you really love a particular one enough that you'll want to read it again and again, you can buy it later, when you have the money.

Cat named Virtute

@SarahP Yes! And you get to go to the Toronto library, which I have the biggest crush on.

phlox

@Cat named Virtute And they even have downloadable ebooks, though they make you download their horrible ebook/audiobook manager.

Cat named Virtute

@phlox Are they compatible with calibre? I played around with it at my library job last summer, and really enjoyed it.

phlox

@Cat named Virtute I don't know. I tried it out for audiobooks last summer and found it so frustrating that I went back to librivox.

redheaded&crazy

i dunno if i'm talking about the same thing as you guys but I use the overdrive system that toronto libraries hooks you up with? My main issue is that there always seem to be waiting lists for the books, but I will try this! It's good in the sense that you get the books slowly as they come off being on hold. It's bad in the sense that at the start you have to go and put a bunch of books on hold (max 10 I know) and ... I just have to remember to do it!

travelmugs

@redheaded&crazie My problem is that it's feast or famine with library reserves. Either I'm waiting for every book I want, or else they ALL come at once and there's no way I can read them all before they're due again in two weeks.

anachronistique

@travelmugs I have three books out right now for that reason, all of which deserve my full attention and none of which are getting it.

SarahP

@redheaded&crazie Oh man, I feel you on this. I've had the first of Anne Rice's Beauty books on reserve forever, but am 15th on the waiting list (for only 2 copies). At first I was surprised that such an old book would have such a long wait, and then a friend pointed out it was probably because of 50 Shades of Grey. Ughhhhhh.

Nicole Cliffe

MORE THAN ONE PERSON I KNOW has received one of the Beauty books from a relative who does not get that Anne Rice is a mad, rad perv.

SarahP

@Nicole Cliffe Hopefully the other 14 people ahead of me on the list don't actually know that either, and they return the book in disgust without taking the time to read the rest so I can get it faster.

rianne marie

@Cat named Virtute No longer having access to the Toronto library is the saddest thing about not living in Toronto

rianne marie

@travelmugs there's a art to managing your hold list. Throw everything you can think of on it, and then monitor how far along teh queue you are. Selectively pause your holds as required to not get overwhelmed.
To do this well involved being on the library website just about every day.

I have too much free time.

phlox

@rianne marie Is it embarrassing to admit that I totally do this?

rianne marie

@phlox Not at all! It just means you really like your library books!

pallasathena

@travelmugs yes, freeze your holds! sometimes you put 5 books on your holds list that have 10 holds each on them, and by the time you're finally ready to read them you're at the top of the list and can get it right away. It's the most exciting.

JadedStone

@SarahP I have the beauty books *cough* EPUB or MOBI *cough* if you want them.

pilcrow

@redheaded&crazie I use Overdrive at both the Berkeley and Oakland libraries (in Cali) and I love that I can get ebooks but damn, that software sucks. And honestly, neither library has such a great selection. I guess I should be glad Oakland has any, as we're broke.

Maryaed

I love you, Nicole, but I loathe Lucky Jim. HATE.

Decca

@Maryaed What?! Obviously Kingsley Amis is an asshole, but he's a funny asshole!

Maryaed

@Decca It's so sneering about anyone who is sincere, and so unpleasantly misogynist, that I can't access the funny. Just can't.

Oddly Martin Amis who is also an asshole does not bother me in this way.

Cat named Virtute

@Maryaed Interesting! I have yet to read Kingsley, but I read Martin Amis's The Information three years ago and I LOATHED it, for very similar reasons. BLECH.

melis

@Maryaed It's just not funny, I don't mind sneering insincerity or unpleasant women-hating under the proper circs, but that book was such a boring stupid sludge of bother that I have never made it more than halfway through no matter how many times I try, it is truly my Glass Mountain.

melis

It probably does not help that the copy I have includes a catastrophically annoying drawing of a sad-sack throwing his hands up in the universal sign for "WHADDAYA GONNA DO" on the cover.

Decca

@melis This seems like a good place to share the story that I once came across a copy of Kingsley Amis's Jake's Thing in a secondhand bookshop that was inscribed "To Sally, You're great in bed! All the breast, Daniel" but didn't buy it because I am a certifiable fool.

SisterCity

@melis I have that copy too! Every time I pull it out and look at it, I just kind of giggle/frown and think, Maybe another day. The hands!
But, @Maryaed can we please have that discussion about Martin Amis? Dead Babies almost made it into my top three, but I decided that it's not quite an all-purpose book.

koume

@Maryaed I can't read Lucky Jim anymore either, which is upsetting, since I really enjoyed it the first time around. But I was re-reading it, and I just couldn't get over his attitudes towards women. Ruined the whole thing for me.

Nicole Cliffe

@melis TRY AGAIN. I WAS RIGHT ABOUT DUNE.

Speaking of cake, I have cake

@Maryaed 'Take A Girl Like You' is much better than Lucky Jim IMO, and much kinder to its characters

Decca

One of my absolute favourite elements in On Beauty is Smith's depiction of awkward, loving sibling relationships. Obviously the whole thing is great, but the brothers/sisters stuff particularly stood out to me the last time I read it. And I have never had a hangover without thinking of that scene in Lucky Jim. Excellent recommendations! I'd possibly throw in Randall Jarrell's Pictures From An Institution, just as a threefer.

Maven

@Decca Agreed about the sibling stuff in On Beauty. I have this excerpted in a little google doc of quotes that I keep: "People talk about the happy quiet that can exist between two lovers, but this too was great; sitting between his sister and his brother, saying nothing, eating. Before the world existed, before it was populated, and before there were wars and jobs and colleges and movies and clothes and opinions and foreign travel--before all of these things there had been only one person, Zora, and only one place: a tent in the living room made from chairs and bed-sheets. After a few years, Levi arrived; space was made for him; it was as if he had always been. Looking at them both now, Jerome found himself in their finger joints and neat conch ears, in their long legs and wild curls. He heard himself in their partial lisps caused by puffy tongues vibrating against slightly noticeable buckteeth. He did not consider if or how or why he loved them. They were just love: they were the first evidence he ever had of love, and they would be the last confirmation of love when everything else fell away."

Decca

@Maven Ha, snap, I have passage this copied out in my journal!

Decca

@Decca "passage this" = "this passage"...

Maven

@Decca It gave me a tear because I have 3 sibs myself.

playingpossum

@Decca On Thursday it will be one year since my brother died. Thank you for this beautiful excerpt. Many tears (at work) but I don't mind.

Maven

@playingpossum :( I'm so sorry for your loss.

PistolPackinMama

Zadie Smith!

I haven't read On Beauty yet... hm. When done with Paul Fussell... list list list.

superfluous consonants

if you like "Lucky Jim," you might also enjoy Richard Russo's "Straight Man," which is homage bordering on theft.

Xanthophyllippa

@superfluousconsonants I have never read "Lucky Jim" but LOVED "Straight Man." It is SO perfect.

maybe partying will help

On Beauty! Oh, On Beauty. How do I love On Beauty? In so many ways. One of my favorite things is picking out how Smith often wove a single character from Howards End into a couple of different characters in On Beauty.

miss buenos aires

I sort of hated On Beauty. That one sex scene (you know the one I am talking about) ruined the whole book for me. Also, the actual professors I have met have been very nice, psychologically whole people, but I have not ever encountered a single professor in a novel whose character would not be improved by having his/her throat slit. That said, I enjoyed Lucky Jim, though not tremendously so.

But I loved The Believers! I do know people like that. That choice alone makes me want to try the other two on your list.

P.S. I LOATHED House of Leaves.

harebell

@miss buenos aires I hated On Beauty. I thought the middle-aged black woman character was stereotyped and condescending. Also, what was up with the professor who couldn't extemporize a lecture? That's a basic ability that goes along with the job. I also disliked On Beauty because it is a roman à clef for a number of real-live professors here, including one real-life professorial couple in particular who were hospitable and kind to her in real life -- an unmarried longterm couple, a poet and professor of poetry. Reading those parts actually turned my stomach a bit.
For my money, White Teeth is so much better & inventive.
While Zadie Smith was here in the place which became the setting for On Beauty, she was so incredibly eager to leap to the point of the moment where she could cleverly eviscerate what was going on around her that she failed to notice what was actually happening. It was a vicious cycle of self-reinforcement, and depressing to watch, because I had wanted to really like her. My crystalline moment in this regard was when she came to the first meeting of a graduate seminar presented by an elderly man who is famous and respected for his many books on the novel. As he introduced the class (Austen, James, and Game Theory), she went on a 15-minute diatribe about how the novels he was talking about weren't picturesque and how he clearly didn't know what picturesque really meant in the English world or in art history or the 18th-century or in literature. The dust cleared, silence settled a little in the classroom, and then the man said, "Ah. I said picaresque. Perhaps you didn't hear; sometimes I don't pronounce things clearly." Owww.
She was so competitive and a bit mean.
Ok, time to change my pseudonym now.

Decca

@harebell ...that is a brilliant story.

bashe

@harebell Hmmm. Too ready to "eviscerate what was going on around her that she failed to notice what was actually happening." That makes a lot of sense. Your story explains why she gets certain very basic things so, so wrong. The leading male character goes up for tenure like THREE times? That shit does not happen. Cannot happen. If you do not get tenure, you are fired. Fired! You only get one chance. That irritated me, although I otherwise liked the book and recommended it to others.

theharpoon

@miss buenos aires With you on House of Leaves. Overrated!

insouciantlover

@miss buenos aires I know exactly which scene you are talking about. Sometimes it pops into my mind, unbidden, and I have to do the mental equivalent of spitting out a tiny bit of lint for a few minutes to exorcise it.

SarahP

@theharpoon WHAT

miss buenos aires

@harebell I love getting literary dirt, even though it is sad to think that great books are written by such petty people. Somehow I am just one or two degrees separated from a bunch of people who've had unpleasant experiences with Junot Diaz.

That story, though, makes me want to think about it as a novelist would, imagining Zadie as a character who acts tough and snide because she feels homesick and completely out of her depth, and then realizes her misunderstanding and is totally humiliated and wants to crawl into a hole and die. I can almost feel it with her: the nervousness of not living up to everyone's expectations, the incredulity that this professor is making such a bizarre mistake, the strange pride of setting him straight, and then, savage humiliation. I thank the great novelists for helping me think of rude strangers in this way.

But I still didn't care for On Beauty. Especially now that I know the main characters are cruel caricatures of kind people.

TheGenYgirl

@harebell That is so funny. I really didn't like On Beauty either. It lacked subtlety. The characters were such deliberate types acting out specific ideologies. And I really do not understand how people found it "touching" at all. That's not even an intellectual issue; it's just a matter of gut reaction which I did not get from it at all. Oh well.

stuffisthings

@harebell Speaking of professors who couldn't extemporize a lecture AND brilliant writers who were unpleasant in real life: Vladimir Nabokov, anyone?

runner in the garden

Did I miss the part where we are somehow all close personal acquaintances of Zadie Smith?

Decca

@runner in the garden I bet Zadie Smith comments on The Hairpin under a pseudonym.

wee_ramekin

@harebell Hmmmm, Zadie Smith is starting to sound unpleasantly like Jenny from The L-Word. At least Alice puts Jenny squarely in her place, though, in perhaps one of my favorite scenes from Season 4.

discocammata

@miss buenos aires do spill about junot diaz!

miss buenos aires

@discocammata I don't have a ton of details, just that he's a womanizer who thinks he's better/smarter than everyone else. Which you could probably pick up from his novels...

AtomicTangerine

@miss buenos aires
Junot Diaz taught a writing class that my friend took. She had a really good experience with him and he cared deeply about the students in the class and even made them dinner and brought beer to class for them (it was an evening class). He also was a faculty adviser for a women's living group on campus. This was all in the time right before Oscar Wao won the pullitzer. I'm sure suddenly becoming A BIG DEAL has got to be a weird experience and who knows, having a bad day and being cranky could come off really poorly when you're suddenly interacting with a ton of people for only a short period of time. Overall, I'd say it is safe to remain pro-Junot Diaz.

miss buenos aires

@AtomicTangerine
I am still pro-Junot Diaz! Because of his great writing. But the stories I know are also pre-fame. I look at it this way: lots of people love me, and lots of people think I am a jerk. But I'm still pro-me, even though I know I can be a jerk sometimes.

Saaoirse

Oh, gosh, I know a family who know Zadie Smith, and who, more particularly, knew her better when she was writing White Teeth, and who claim there's a family in it based on them. I haven't gotten around to reading it yet, but apparently it's all set in the part of London where I live.

maybe partying will help

@Saaoirse

Kind of hoping it was the Chalfen family?

Saaoirse

@maybe partying will help After a brief google, I have to say, um, probably yes.

I AM DIAPHENA

ON BEAUTY IS SOOOO GOOOOOD.

Cool Story/cautionary tale ahead: When I was reading On Beauty I was going through a huge Steve Coogan phase, and I imagined the dad so vividly as Steve Coogan that when [HORRIBLE STUFF AT END OF BOOK] I couldn't even think about Steve Coogan's face without feeling sick. So, y'know, don't be casually obsessed with any brooding but hilarious British actors when you read it, unless you want to go into blind rages.

phlox

I have not read any of the favourite books on this list, but based on humour and academia you should also read Robertson Davies, who is delightful. I would recommend the Cornish trilogy in particular for this.

I smell burnt toast

Nicole Cliffe, have you read every book ever? I am sincerely in awe of your book knowledge. Can you just continue to talk about books forever, please.

I am currently reading 'We have always lived in the castle' based on the recommendation of someone on the Hairpin, and, oh my God, what a pile of awesome.

maybe partying will help

@I smell burnt toast

We Have Always Lived in the Castle...ughghghgh. Which is my sound of SO GOOD IT HURTS.

Apocalypstick

@I smell burnt toast Oh man I love that book so much. Sympathetic dangerous nutcases are my weakness.

Decca

@I smell burnt toast So good and so utterly creepy.

sarah girl

A general book question (I hope that's okay): Is The Marriage Plot even worth finishing? I started reading knowing that it had very mixed reviews, and I'm at about 70%; I sincerely hate Madeleine and her stupid privileged parents, but every time I'm about to give up I get pulled in by either Mitchell or Leonard and how their characters are actually (gasp) developing and deepening. I did almost chuck it across the room when horrible Madeleine wrote that asshole letter to Mitchell and sent it to him IN EUROPE, though, ugh.

So yeah, thoughts?

Decca

@Sarah H. Nooope. Dump it, read anything (literally, anything) else. Life is too short and too filled with excellent books to waste your time on that nonsense.

harebell

@Sarah H. Nah, no need. It's fighting the culture wars of the 1980s and has got a lot of cliches in it. Maybe save your time and switch out to some David Lodge or Middlesex or whatever else is on your reading list?

anachronistique

@Sarah H. I deeply resent wasting the time it took to read that book.

sarah girl

@harebell I just recently read Middlesex and LOVED it, I think that's why I've been hanging on with this book - surely the quality of his writing can't have dropped off that much...? I think i will quit, though, I should get moving on a book for a book club I'm joining anyway!

I will say in the book's defense that I'm really enjoying/appreciating how life being bipolar is depicted; extreme, yes, but I've heard very similar stories from people I know and it's amazing how closely they match up.

Been There Done That

@Sarah H. I read it because I loved Middlesex so much I felt like I had to, but it turned out to be nothing like the book I loved.

stonefruit

@Sarah H. That is x number of hours you will never get back. UGH I wanted to throw that book across the room (and I too am always interested in a realistic, kind portrayal of severe mental illness, but NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH NOS IN THE WORLD).

synchronized
synchronized

@Sarah H. By the time I was about halfway through the book, I couldn't bear Madeleine for one more second. So I did something I never do: I flipped to the last 10 or so pages and read them, so that I could give myself permission to rid myself of "The Marriage Plot" forever.

Those last 10 pages made me glad I didn't read the book's second half. What a pile of crap. I loved "The Virgin Suicides," but "The Marriage Plot" was stilted, self-indulgent and dull.

supernintendochalmers

@Sarah H. I just read it having loved Eugenides' other 2 books and I can say you will not miss anything if you stop reading now. I kept waiting for it to get better and it only made me angrier and angrier. AND THE ENDING!!! Oh, it's the WORST. It made me so ragey that I had wasted my time muddling through those unlikable characters and reliving the worst parts of college. Blegh.

miss buenos aires

@Sarah H. I concur, but I now want to know what book you are reading for your book club.

Speaking of cake, I have cake

@Sarah H. *whispers* I kind of liked The Marriage Plot?! Yeah Madeleine was annoying, but I think she was supposed to be. I dunno, I found myself caring about the characters and I didn't think it was badly written. Diff'rent strokes I guess

aubrey!

@Speaking of cake, I have cake I liked it too. Mostly because I appreciated the Middlemarch connections and how he played with Victorian novel tropes. And I genuinely liked Madeleine, so different strokes.

I still second Decca, though: Never read something out of obligation, there are so many better things you could be doing with your life.

Xanthophyllippa

@Been There Done That @Sarah H. Oh man, I HATED Middlesex. Haaaaated. Completely un-subtle. Plus it didn't mesh well with the research I did for my MA, which overlapped topically.

Kristen

Comment on the rumors that Zadie Smith tricked her way into the Harvard English Department by claiming to be working on a book of nonfiction essays about the ethics of reading, only to secretly sneak around and spy on the faculty and insert them WHOLESALE into her book, barely changing any identifiers and then inventing a bizarro-world in which the two most most unlikely candidates in THE WORLD had an affair with each other? Thereby leaving a host of hurt feelings in her wake, not to mention a lot of super-weird mental images for people who know the professors in question?

harebell

@Kristen It's true. She did that.
She claimed to be writing a book on Forster and someone else I can't remember -- Henry James? She did indeed write a long form essay on Forster, but she also wrote On Beauty spoofing and satirizing lots of faculty members quite transparently, after they were hospitable to her. "Tricked her way" is a little bit of an exaggeration since I think she had a Radcliffe fellowship, which is a separate thing, a fellowship given to lots of independent academics and artists every year. However, she did atypically teach a creative writing course which comes under the aegis of the English department.
She was very judgmental in person. I don't know if she's always like that, or if Harvard/America just rubbed her the wrong way. However, it was pretty awful. She seemed to think that Americans aren't capable of irony -- only she was -- which meant missing the point of what was going on in some pretty egregious ways. It was sad. I really liked White Teeth and wanted to like her more. I would give examples but I feel like I've probably said too much already.

Nicole Cliffe

EMAIL ME, @harebell. Email me.

Decca

@harebell I am enjoying the hell out of these "Zadie at Harvard" anecdotes, but they aren't detracting from my love of her books. I've always thought she comes across as kind of...arrogant? unpleasant? in a lot of her interviews, but I've also always admired her writing and her ideas. I don't require my artists to be decent people and while I definitely think she acted fairly shittily while in Cambridge, I still say that a funny, touching, well-written book came out of it. I might feel differently if I were more familiar with the Harvard English department or if I had any personal run-ins with her, but speaking as a reader - I still really, really like Zadie Smith as an author, even if I would maybe be wary of going for beers with her.

Judith Slutler

@Kristen I, um, think that's actually pretty badass. It's Not Cool with a capital N.C., but still badass.

harebell

@Decca That makes sense. I share the principle -- that one shouldn't let an author or artist's life interfere with one's appreciation of their work.
That said, I guess it's fairly obvious that I liked White Teeth and didn't like On Beauty or The Autograph Man as books, whereas you did. For me the anecdotes twist the knife but aren't determinant of the opinion (or at least I don't think they were -- one tries to figure out one's own objectivity).
Much of it is surely a style question -- she's gone further in the psychological realism (Forster! & Franzen) direction in later writing, and away from "hysterical realism" as James Wood would say.

Nicole Cliffe

@Decca FWIW, I think that we expect female authors to be, um, likeable, in a way we do not with male authors. Zadie Smith does not have to make me want to be her bestie, she just needs to write great novels. But then, I'm the one recommending Kingsley Amis, so my stance is fairly obvious.

Decca

@Nicole Cliffe One tiny moment that completely endeared me to Zadie Smith for ever occurs in White Teeth when she has some schoolgirls discussing boys in their year and one says something like "What about that Nick Laird, he's well fit". Which is so nakedly charming and goofy and un-cool and sweet that it makes me grin like an eejit when I think about it.

stuffisthings

@Decca How on earth would that detract from her? Sounds awesome to me.

@harebell There is an entire sector of the British television industry based on the premise that Americans are incapable of irony, actually.

Reginal T. Squirge

@Nicole Cliffe

I know you specifically mentioned the different treatment of genders when it comes to writers. But I'm not too familiar with the personal lives of writers so I'll have to mention something I do know a little about...

Kanye.

I mean, there's a whole other ball of wax concerning the kinds of things men in music are allowed to get away with that women are not (Chris Brown, R. Kelly) but there's also an endless list of male musicians whose terrible personalities overshadow their immense talent. In the public eye, at least.

Nicole Cliffe

Totally fair, but to be an even totally fair-er equivalent, Zadie would have to grab the mic at the Orange Prize ceremony and bitch out Lionel Shriver. "Emma Donoghue has the best scene structure ever! Zadie OUT."

Speaking of cake, I have cake

@Nicole Cliffe Hahahahahahahahahaaaa

Speaking of cake, I have cake

@Emmanuelle Cunt I agree - you gotta admire her cojones

Bittersweet

@Reginal T. Squirge I kind of love Kanye. Part of me is outraged at all his bullish*t and part of me is tickled that he can get away with it all. I might've been the only (secret) member of Team Kanye after the whole MTV/Taylor Swift thing.

stuffisthings

@Reginal T. Squirge I think the Hip Hop Community's impression of Kanye is and has always been, "He's right but still kind of an asshole."

Reginal T. Squirge

@stuffisthings

Yeah, the hip-hop/critical community's reaction to Kanye mostly allows his artistry to speak for itself. Your average person on the street, though, has a pretty strong negative reaction.

@Bittersweet

I've been at the complete, unabashed, total devotion hero-worship level pretty much from the beginning. Always and forever. He could murder my parents and I'd be like, "Yeah, but those beats!"

stuffisthings

@Reginal T. Squirge I can't get at it at work, but RapGenius had a great list of the 35 best Kanye lines in honor of his 35th b-day. Good read.

thinksmall

@stuffisthings What is this sector of the British TV industry that you're talking about?? Just curious!

stuffisthings

@thinksmall Ali G, Louis Theroux's documentaries in America, and any time an American pop star goes on Nevermind the Buzzcocks, for starters.

EDIT: I feel like David Mitchell('s public persona) would also be somewhat surprised to discover an American capable of any kind of subtlety with language.

ANOTHER EDIT: Then again I may be projecting because every time I managed to pull off a bit of dry humo(u)r on that island, people would react as if they'd just seen a cat doing brain surgery.

beezus.

I want Nicole and Nancy Pearl to meet and have cocktails and talk books.

I also want to be creepily eavesdropping at a table next to them.

sarah girl

@dahlface I'm imagining the cat in your icon eavesdropping and it's make me laugh so hard

Been There Done That

Whoa. I do love Happy All The Time and hate On Beauty.

Cup full of cactus

Ooh. I'm reading Howard's End right now. I guess it makes sense that On Beauty should be next.

maybe partying will help

@Cup full of cactus

That was how I did it! It was strange and lovely.

maybe partying will help

@Cup full of cactus

Also if you have talking-about-Howards-End-or-any-other-Forster needs, I am that person. :B

Lucienne

@maybe partying will help I'm throwing my hat in this ring also.

(But I didn't like On Beauty. It just made me want to be reading Howards End.)

Decca

I just started reading Gravity's Rainbow and if any Pinners would like to offer cheerleading encouragement that'd be swell.

SisterCity

@Decca I haven't managed to get through it myself, but it is the favourite book of three of my friends, and one swears by the list of characters that he makes and adds to as the story progresses, just to keep it all together.
Good luck!

Decca

@SisterCity Ah, this is actually a good idea! I'm 60 pages in and seem to have already encountered more characters than I have ever met in my actual life. I'm an incorrigible annotator, so just going to start doing keeping a list on the inside cover of my copy.

SarahP

@Decca I keep starting it (as in, reading the first 5 pages) and then not getting into it because I can't take it anywhere with me (it's humungous). We could start an email support group and make each other read it!

stuffisthings

@Decca It's seriously awesome. Just don't try to understand everything that's happening, or even the basic plot, on the first go round, and just enjoy what you can get out of it.

Decca

@SarahP I would be up for that! Do you wanna give it another go? Email me at reach.cass on gmail!

SarahP

@Decca Let's do it! I can't do personal email from work, but I'll email you in a few hours when I get home! (Other interested parties should also feel free to join in!)

Decca

@SarahP Great!

rianne marie

@Decca @SarahP I would get in on this! I have tried to start and the kobo version doesn't help because I think it's missing formatting? Or has added formatting? Lines tend to be weird lengths.

Decca

@rianne marie Email me! Let's do this!

ohyeahmetoo

@Decca oh man, i picked that up a couple of years ago (not knowing much about it) and was really enjoying it but after like the 5th or 6th person made some comment about how HARD it was, i started thinking about it as a hard book, which made it seem like a chore and..i stopped reading it. i am still kind of bitter at all those people. even complete strangers seemed compelled to take the fun out of it for me! i still plan to pick it up again someday, but somehow it just won't be the same.

stonefruit

oh my lord, Laurie Colwin - I have all of her books! I love them so!

"Shut up, Jane Louise. I'm the depressive in this family, not you. So, march nicely, and let's have a little fun." I say that to myself all the time when I'm trying to pick myself up! also, MISTY BERKOWITZ: total honorary 'Pinner.

cat_ballou

@stonefruit Totally agree on the Misty Berkowitz as honorary 'Pinner. She wouldn't really even need a handle! (Although she'd probably want one, & come up with something incredibly clever.) Maybe MistyBerkowitz should be @harebell's new pseudonym?

stonefruit

@cat_ballou @harebell DO IT DO IT DO IT!

How much do we find Holly insufferable, though, even though I sense we are supposed to like her? A lot, right?

churlishgreen

@stonefruit Misty Berkowitz is why I love that book...

ETA: ...and Holly, yes, kind of insufferable, but still, I like prickly characters

stonefruit

@churlishgreen I also like prickly characters! With Holly, I was all, lady, why you gotta be such a collections of Unattainable Lady Stereotypes? Closet full of bespoke shirts made from the finest material! Full tea service for breakfast in bed! Going on a retreat at a monastery because I'm pregnant, because SILENCE!

churlishgreen

@stonefruit yeah, I know, you're right. But she kind of won me over with the wedding breakfast.

stonefruit

@churlishgreen THE CROQUEMBOUCHE.

cat_ballou

@stonefruit @churlishgreen I kind of loved Holly, almost from the get-go. I wanted to be unattainable, too! (Sometimes I am so attainable it is pathetic.)

And when Misty realizes what Holly's fight is, when what she's really doing is (forgive the poor paraphrase) trying to keep a little corner of the world calm and pleasant and livable, it's so wonderful, because really that's something we can all fight for. Very attainable!

noReally

Laurie Coooolwin! Misty, and Geraldine, and all those girls in The Lone Pilgrim. Anna Qindlen's awesome obituary. So sad she died so young.

stonefruit

@noReally :( yes. I was so very sad when I learned that there would be no more books from her. Her writing feels like home.

Decca

@Nicole Cliffe I considered this angle too and I think it definitely plays a part in a lot of the media discourse about her. She's young and talented, but she's also arrogant and (apparently) mean and maybe bad at giving interviews, which is cool if you're a dude writer but if you're a pretty woman a lot of people are like "...wuh?".

Edit - blame a glitch, this is obviously in reply to Nicole upthread!

sparrow303

I love everything Zadie Smith has written, awkward sex scene or no. My favorite though has been "The Autograph Man", which I found so painfully charming.

travelmugs

@fishiefishfish Say more about liking "The Autograph Man." I hated it so much and was so bored by it, despite loving everything else Smith has written.

fleurdelivre

I just withdrew On Beauty this morning from the library's collection and thought to myself, "I need to read this." HAIRPIN SYMPATICO!

stuffisthings

This is a terrible choice, Nicole, because I have nothing bad or sarcastic or critical at all to say about On Beauty.

Fiddle dee dee

I hated White Teeth sooooooooooo much, I couldn't possibly try On Beauty.

Lucienne

@Fiddle dee dee You could, though! They are the opposite of each other.

Megasus

I have read...none of these! Woooo!

EastCoastGirl

Yes! "Happy All the Time" is my absolute, hands-down, favorite novel of all time. (Novella? Novelette? It's pretty short...) If you are feeling sad and worn out and are losing hope that you could ever be happy in love, read this book. Then read everything else Laurie Colwin ever wrote. Try her recipes from "Home Cooking," too. I thought my heart was going to break when she died unexpectedly nearly 20 years ago...

churlishgreen

@EastCoastGirl I still remember hearing about her death on NPR while on my way to a class...so awful, she was so young.

The Home Cooking books are wonderful, I love and make so many of the recipes but probably my favorite is the buttermilk chocolate cake (I think attributed to Karen Edwards). It's actually better when made the day before!

Melusina

Clearly someone needs to write a thinly fictionalised novel about Zadie Smith writing On Beauty. And then someone else needs to write a thinly fictionalised account of that person writing the meta-novel. It could be ghostwritten by E. M. Forster's, um, ghost.

I smell burnt toast

@Melusina I was thinking today if someone wrote '50 shades of grey' fan fiction...

eileengill@twitter

I read Laurie Colwin whenever I am unhappy and in need of humor and comfort. "Happy All the Time" is my go-to favorite, but see also "Another Wonderful Thing." And her cookbooks, "Home Cooking" are sublime and the recipes delicious. I make her pot roast and her gingerbread all the time.

vunder

I'm so excited about this new feature generally. I really hope one comes up soon that is either Mine or Applies Very Much to Me. I'm also curious how many in the 'pintariat had overlapping picks and what they are and if this means they are actually good to read.

maybe partying will help

@vunder

I'm sort of nervous that my three will never be used, since I am trying and failing to come up with a way to connect them. But I have faith in Nicole's brilliance and encyclopedic knowledge of Books!

vunder

@maybe partying will help I suspect Nicole has powers to find patterns where mere mortals cannot see them. I think the main things that mine have in common is that they are all really very long.

ironhoneybee

Whichever of the pinners it was who mentioned The Dud Avacado in the comment stream last week, thank you! I bumped into it in a bookstore on Saturday and read the entire thing on Sunday in one long, crippling sitting. Loved.

Bean Rua

@ironhoneybee This is nuts (although avocados are technically fruits)! I wasn't the one who initially recommended that, but I *did* just give that book to a friend of mine as a birthday gift because she's a sassy lady who is very interested in the 50s. Yay for The Dud!

gtrachel

I am just SO excited that this is happening. My to-read list is about to get out of control.

chrisvol

Soo...I tried very hard to like House of Leaves - but it mostly just made me tired.. what with the twisting of the book to get to the whatever point of whatever endless hallway that so-and-so and whosit were forever going down while I thought why why an I actually turning this book to read this nonsense. If it weren't for my absolute love of Poe and her Haunted album I would have tossed the thing against the wall earlier than I did. (I am a big tosser of books I find infuriating - Dinesh D'souza is responsible for several holes in my wall- and look, I was a sociology major with an emphasis on race, class and gender, I felt I had to know my enemy - but to know him was to hate him all the more). Okay, wait what? yes, Austen and bronte or what-have-you don't mind me.

sudden but inevitable betrayal

My only experience with Zadie Smith is a few years back when she was judging or running (or both) a short story contest and declared that there was no winner and everyone sucked and people were pretty mad about that and also that she refused to refund entry fees. I don't remember how all that played out now...

girlandtonic

I bought On Beauty solely because I thought the cover was just, well, beautiful.
And then I liked it! I didn't love it, but I did appreciate it. Then I lent it to my nanny, who read a ton and had fantastic taste in books, and she didn't care for it.

girlandtonic

@girlandtonic (That link up there shows a super boring cover. This is the one I'm talking about --> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:OnBeautybookcover.jpg !)

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