Take what you want and pay for it, says God

This has been a nice, relaxing weekend. WALL-E was, predictably, adorable, although for some reason it didn’t exactly strike as much of a chord with me as it has with other people–maybe it’s because I like dialogue so much I can’t stand it when there’s no talking in a movie for forty-five minutes. But the animation was spectacular, the story was cute, and WALL-E was full-on the sweetest little robot you ever saw on screen. Still, I probs don’t need to ever see it again.

Wanted, on the other hand, blew my mind. I loved every freaking second of that movie, also predictable, because it stars the lovely, amazingly talented, HOT James McAvoy. It’s also insanely violent, and while that never fails to make me cringe it was done in such an interesting, humorous, off-the-wall way that even I enjoyed it. I think what makes the movie great, besides the talent and the flawed-but-engrossing story and the kick-ass action sequences, is that it has such a personality to it. You feel–at least, I felt–that only one person could ever have made this movie, and that person is Timur Bekmambetov, who must be an absolute psycho in real life, but an entertaining, brilliant psycho.

I also got a lot of time to read this weekend, which has been really awesome. The only social engagement I had (outside seeing Wanted with my roommate), was brunch with some old friends from Chicago, both of whom work in publishing in some way or another. We went to the Sunburnt Cow in Alphabet City, which has all-you-can-drink mimosas and bloody marys, and some really excellent food–we will definitely be going back there, despite the fact that it is SO FAR from the train.

I spent all weekend reading The Likeness. It would be wrong to call it a sequel to In the Woods, but perhaps it is in spirit–the narrator this time is a main character from the last novel, Cassie Maddox, who takes a little getting used to. I really, really loved Rob Ryan, the completely fucked up but lovable narrator of In the Woods, and it was tough being back in his world and having to let go of the fact that he’s no longer germane to the story. Cassie has her reasons for avoiding him, but naturally he pops up in her thoughts from time to time, as does Operation Vestal, the investigation that brought Cassie and Sam O’Neill, another Murder detective, together, broke Rob and Cassie apart, and separated Cassie from herself in more than one way.

God, if I could just be as good a writer as Tana French. The woman has talent coming out of her pores, her language is so excellent and yet completely unpretentious. I don’t know that I’ve ever admired a living writer so much–her deftness with words is really remarkable. Anyway. So I missed Rob, but Cassie is a likable person, and the story is just so different from In the Woods, but retains the personal connection between the detective and the crime that made the previous book so intense. I wouldn’t say I loved it as much as I loved In the Woods, because the connection I felt to that book was so surprisingly strong, but The Likeness is very, very good and I think, with its less vague conclusion, more people will like it than liked In the Woods.

It also made me think a lot about one particular thing–is there anything more sinister than a group of impossibly close, young, intelligent friends in a murder mystery? Is there? It’s a really common trope, if you think about it–The Likeness is but the most recent example I’ve come across, but there’s the classic The Secret History by Donna Tartt, or the more recent group of Bluebloods in Marisha Pessl’s Special Topics in Calamity Physics. The Likeness revolves around just such a group, which Cassie, who looks creepily like the victim of a stabbing, infiltrates in order to uncover who really killed her when the police can find no leads or suspects. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

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4S of July!

Whoa, where the hell have I been? The answer: right where you left me, in temperate (really! I have been far more comfortable walking the streets of this city recently than I was a few weeks ago) New York City. I was playing hostess to my super-best-friends Kim and Jenny, numerous photos of whom you can see on Flickr. We had tons o’ fun! To make it easily digestible, let me break it down for you:

  • Tuesday: The girls got into town. I met up with some former classmates from the University of Chicago at a place called Grassroots on St. Mark’s, where we caught up (our last get-together was in January–February? Whatever, a long time ago) and drank Brooklyn Lager (thumbs down, in case you care, but my taste in beer is pretty low-brow…I actually find Pabst Blue Ribbon palatable, and not ironically). I left around nine and went to Bri’s place in Williamsburg; the girls got in around 10:15, and since we were all starving and ready to drink we cruised around Lorimer for a while until we found a weird little joint called the Alligator Lounge where they comp you a personal-sized pizza when you order a drink! What a wonderful, not to mention delicious, way to lure booze hounds into your bar. After a drink and a pizza I went home because I had to work in the morning. The girls stayed with Bri in Williamsburg.
  • Wednesday: Kim and Jenny met me for lunch. We picked up food at the Whole Foods in the Time Warner Center, then went to the park to eat. I dragged them back to my office to fetch my subway map, where a fateful meeting occurred in the break room (more on that in a hot minute!). After work, Kim and Jenny met me and Bri and Katie and Eric, a coworker of mine, at Dempsey’s for trivia. We won…for something? We don’t know, but we ended up with the soundtrack to Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous, which I put up on Muxtape for funs. Prepare to have your head blown open. Anyway, after trivia we went to National Underground, a fun cheap old man-type bar that has a nice jazz band on Wednesdays, where we contended with a couple of characters Bri met at Dempsey’s and invited out with us: Trevor, a really big douchebag of the “I’m a genius, I make lots of money, let me impress you with my arrogance and self-centeredness” variety, and his friend Mike, who tried to convince me that democracy is the same as mob rule, which it isn’t. Anyway, Mike was sweet enough but they were both pretty annoying, and Eric, as the only other guy in the group, was very, VERY irritated. He and my friend Jenny hit it off very well, to say the least. The girls went back to Brooklyn and I went home.
  • Thursday: I had a half-day of work, after which I headed down to Union Square for lunch with Katie, Bri, Jenny, and Kim at the Heartland Brewery. Eric and my boss met us afterwards, and we went to Petco to look at the kittens, Bri’s favorite activity, before hitting up a bar on University for happy hour and telling embarrassing stories about each other to my coworkers. The girls went to Brooklyn and I went home; we changed and ate separately, then met at Fat Black, in the Village. Oh, the characters we met there. Two older gentlemen, old enough to be our father’s most definitely, approached us and bought us drinks and talked to us for what seemed like hours, even going so far as to invite us to go sailing with them on the 4th. We had plans with Eric, plus none of us can sail, so we declined, but they were nice (and foreign!) and entertaining. I went home, the girls went back to Brooklyn, and we made plans for the morning
  • Friday (4th of July!): The girls took a car to my place on the Upper West Side and got settled. They went to the liquor store and grocery to get some snack food and, naturally, booze. Eric was supposed to join us in the city for the holiday, but then he texted me and asked if we wanted to go out to his friend Matt’s house in New Jersey, promising food and booze and fireworks (real ones, not, like, Roman candles in someone’s backyard, which Cambria was sure to make sure of before agreeing to go). So to New Jersey we went! It was really a foregone conclusion as soon as I got the TM, because it was so obvious that sparks were flying between Jenny and Eric that even though I told him I had to check with the girls before agreeing, I was all, “Damn, now we have to go to Jersey.” It was so fun, though! The trip out was a nightmare, and the trip home in a cab was expensive, but the food was great, Eric’s friends were so gracious and a genuine blast, and the fireworks were so close! Best line of the night: Eric picked us up from the PATH station in Newark, I get into the front seat and go, “Are you wearing madras shorts?” He was. (Oh, and not to overshare, but the 4th went very well for our lovebirds.)
  • Saturday: Saturday we woke up and went to Times Square to the TKTS booth to get half-priced theater tickets. It was so ridiculous. That place is super organized until you get to the actual place where you can buy the tickets–then it’s chaos. Somebody actually cut Kim in line, some seventeen-year-old blond touristy girl, and Kim was all, “I believe I was first.” She ignored Kim, so this obviously local woman behind Kim started going off on the girl. The girl’s grandmother stepped in and was all, “This is my granddaughter! I’m buying these tickets, this is my granddaughter!” It made little to no sense, and all of them (even though I really appreciated the local woman’s willingness to go to bat for Kim, although technically she was being cut, too, so…) were crazy. It didn’t matter, Jenny got to the front of her line and got us four tickets to Young Frankenstein. Wait, did I say four? I meant five. Yes, they gave us an extra ticket, which we didn’t pay for. Yes, it’s sort of unethical to keep it, but were we seriously going to get back in line and wait for four hours again just to give it back? No. We didn’t scalp it, though. We invited my roommate, who was putting up with having us all in our tiny two-bedroom apartment. Before the show we went to Dallas BBQ which, if you like to drink and you’ve never been, hie ye to the nearest one (there are five Manhattan locations and one in Brooklyn) as soon as you next come here. The drinks are enormous and frozen and delicious, and the food’s not half bad, although Nikki, who’s from Texas, claims it has nothing on real bbq–she’s probs right. Anyway, the show was so fun! Sure, Megan Mulally basically played Karen Walker, but she has an excellent voice and a brilliant stage presence and, as Bri put it, “That’s what the people want.” After the show we went to Carmine’s for a delicious, HUGE after-theater dinner. Then we went home and laid around like cobras.
  • Sunday: Sunday, Jenny and Eric had a date (squee!) so Kim and Bri and I went to Pinch and S’Mac, a really great pizza/gourmet mac and cheese place near the American Museum of Natural History, for lunch and then wandered down the Upper West Side buying things like typewriter-key-pendants and Russian wedding rings and chair earrings. Then we went down to Rockefeller Center; we’d planned to go to the Top of the Rock, but it was expensive and we’re lazy. Instead we perused the NBC Store where I found that they’d ripped off my t-shirt idea, then went to Dean & Deluca for confections and J.Crew, where I bought two skirts on sale for a grand total of less than $60! And to think, I’d been whining about going. Then we headed uptown back to my ‘hood to Jake’s Dilemma, where we met Jenny and Eric and drank like kings on very little cash (Jake’s has a really nice happy hour deal), and then up to my apartment where we drank some more. After Eric left, we played a TV trivia game (I couldn’t find my Phase 10 cards, sadly) and then went to bed.
  • Monday: I had to go back to work, but the girls met me and Eric for lunch. We had sushi, which I’d been craving for a while, at East, a chain with a restaurant near my work that’s never crowded at lunch. I ate there with Katie, Brigitte and the MN crew when they were in town for the City Breathing concert. After work, Eric and I met Cambria down on the LES; we had planned to go to Happy Ending, but they’re closed on Monday nights, as is EVERY SINGLE FUN BAR ON THE LES. So we ended up going to drag queen bingo night at Bowery Poetry Club, where Cambria won a tickety-tack wall clock and Kim and Jenny met us. I was one card away from winning the whole damn pot of money! Then we got a slice of pizza and went to the only open bar on the LES, apparently, Welcome to the Johnson’s, which is this really tacky (in a good way) dive bar that looks like a living room from the ’60s. $2 PBR, people! And a working jukebox. The cute couple said a sad good-bye, but they’ll see each other again soon so it’s okay, and we cabbed it up to my apartment (note to people who party on the LES but live on the UWS–have your cab driver take the FDR to 96th and the transverse across the park–it’s cheaper than having them take the West Side Highway, I have now learned this from experience). Then we crashed. It was a long weekend.
  • Tuesday: I woke up and said goodbye to the girls, then went to work. I think they went to the Met, then to LaGuardia for a nightmare flight home. I miss them so much already. Thanksgiving in SD!

And that’s what I’ve been doing that has prevented me from blogging, writing, reading, eating properly, drinking moderately, cleaning my apartment and doing laundry. Now it’s back to business as usual–I’m reading The Likeness, the follow-up to that Tana French novel, In the Woods, that I adored so much, trying to get back into the writing rhythm, sleeping (not enough, because I’m still bushed every single night), working, and cooking healthy meals for myself. It might be more productive and better for me, but it’s WAY less fun. (Except reading and writing–I like that.)

No new news on the book front as yet. I hope to hear something soon!

Bits and pieces

For some reason (I think it’s sleep deprivation due to the uncomfortable sauna-like levels of heat in my apartment) I’m super tired, and I don’t have enough energy to put together a coherent post, so I’m falling back on the crutch of all bloggers–the list!

  • Finished In the Woods by Tana French on Sunday and I literally had to lay down and take a nap afterwards because I couldn’t focus on anything else–I couldn’t read another book, I definitely couldn’t write, and I couldn’t even really read or goof off on the internets. It was SO GOOD, you guys. I kind of wish I’d saved Rites of Spring (Break) for after In the Woods because I really needed some kind of balm to soothe my flayed heart. I was very deeply affected by it, and as my dear, brilliant professor William Veeder always said (quoting Henry James), “In the arts, feeling is always meaning.” I wasn’t, unlike some people (a.k.a. facebook reviewers and my coworker Mary), disappointed with the ending, because I really, truly believe that Tana French is telling the truth when she says that she’s not done with Rob Ryan. I think I may have had such a strong reaction because the book is sort of similar to AUT, in that it’s a mystery involving the death of a young girl with a male narrator who is traumatized and fucked up by things in his past who solves the case with a female partner. Rob Ryan reminds me a lot of my protagonist, the character I spent six years crafting and living with, the one who still won’t fade away like an old soldier, who insists on having another book which I’m actually sort of pumped to write even though I know I won’t get to it seriously for a while…anyway. Read In the Woods–it’s beautiful, and I’m not even mad at it like I was at Donna Tartt’s The Little Friend, which means a lot. I’m super excited for The Likeness, which comes out July 17.
  • Discovered the perfect way to get over post-amazing-book depression: Anne Fadiman. (Sorry, this is not to say that Anne Fadiman writes non-amazing books, but I always find that the familiar essay lifts my spirit in the way other genres sometimes can’t.)
  • My busy weekend turned out to be pretty low-key after all. On Friday I had drinks at Cooper 35, this very very cheap Asian pub near Cooper Union, below Astor Place, that we go to sometimes, with Katie and Nikki and their coworker Caroline, then I went home to “do laundry”, a.k.a. read and write. On Saturday I actually did my laundry (er…most of it), then I went to Nikki’s apartment in Brooklyn for lasagna and berry cobbler and games. It was delicious (the food) and fun (the games) and nicely relaxing. The on Sunday I lazed around, finishing In the Woods and writing, and then met up with Carmen, my BFF from college, and her fiance Tim and his sister who lives in D.C. for dinner at La Lanterna in the Village and then drinks at Vol de Nuit, a Belgian beer bar I’ve been known to frequent, where Katie and Cambria joined us. Also, there was lots of lightning and thunder but no rain (which was good, because we were outside), and for a long time we thought it was late-night Pride-related fireworks, but actually now I think not. Yesterday I saw my friend Mike from my Review days (we met at Grand Central for a lunch and catch-up session), then back with Carmen and Tim last night for drinks at The View, the rotating bar at the top of the Marriott Marquis in Times Square, and then dinner at Patsy’s in Union Square. Tonight it’s drinks with University of Chicago people (there are not as many of us in New York as there are people I went to undergrad with in California, curiously) on St. Marks and then over to Cambria’s to wait for the imminent arrival of the San Diego chapter of the 4S–Kim and Jenny! You have no idea how excited I am about this. All four of us haven’t been together in one place since…San Diego, St. Patrick’s Day 2006? Over a year, in any case. It’s a watershed event! So, anyway, my life is full of goings-on, but not quite at the apocalyptic level I had been anticipating. What, me melodramatic?
  • No word yet on developments from the book front. You’ll know when I do/am allowed to say anything.

Um…I think that’s it?  Oh, and I got an air conditioning unit for the living room! So maybe the apartment won’t be sweltering when Kim and Jenny come to stay with me (they’re staying with Bri for the first couple of days). Here’s hoping our super puts it in the window tomorrow. Lata!