Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Takeaway: Expending tons of energy on worthless pursuits/destructive behavior, coupled with pretending not to care about anything, is an exhaustive way to live life! While the writing was good and I was mildly curious about the character's outcomes, I found this average. There was a lot of meandering- which ended up feeling pointless since there was no real change or realization upon conclusion.
Searching for meaning in your 20's is certainly a legitimate thing! The reality that we often make cyclical bad choices is also a truth. Vapid and self-centered characters are often engaging, but I didn't think this crew was entertaining enough to pull off these traits successfully. I ended up wishing there was a plot since the character study was so-so. This might be conducive to a readathon, as it does read quickly and is relatively short. However, I would recommend checking it out from the library.
Sunday, January 22, 2017
PLEASE READ THIS BOOK. There. Putting it first in case you don't read the rest of the review.
Where to start? I expected this to be a quiet, charming little novel about an older lady who reflects on a changing New York while strolling around New York City. I wasn't expecting a character so fully realized. Intensely intelligent, and genuinely interested in meaningful connection, Lillian starts conversations with bartenders, limo drivers, constructions workers, bodega owners, homeless people, young artists, and criminals alike in the same manner. There is no prejudice or distinction. The beauty in this can only be experienced by reading.
I had tears in my eyes during some of these chapters. You ask yourself, could I do that? Her encounters often start out mistrustful or downright hostile, assuming Lillian is a condescending old lady- based on obvious appearance and demeanor- before giving her a chance. The eventual realization that she is speaking intently and beyond the normal superficial exchange route (how's the weather? are you having a good day?) changes the entire situation. And it happens again and again in the most natural way- often with a hearty handshake and asking of the person's name. However, Lillian is not perfect. There is that side of the story too.
Fiction based on the real life of Margaret Fishback, who was the highest-paid female advertising executive in the 1930's due to her work for R.H Macy's, the author could not stop thinking about what her life might have been like and put pen to paper. New York City is a common bookish location, and particularly fit this narrative due to the variety of interactions that present themselves, along with the contrasts of gritty Subways/danger, beautiful parks, and famous literary/artistic venues.
As walking is the way Lillian makes sense of her professional and personal life, here is a great excerpt of her reminiscing on the origin of her walks for work: "I always took my walks on lunch breaks. That, in fact, was when I'd written most of the book. For me, a peaceful atmosphere devoid of noise and distractions is absolutely the worst place for poetry, likely to wind me up in a doomed attempt to stare down the blank page. My funny old brain, like those of many poets, has always done its best work sideways, seeking out tricky enjambments and surprising slant rhymes to craft lines capable of pulling their own weight. Taking to the pavement always helps me find new routes around whatever problem I'm trying to solve: phrases on signs, overhead conversations, the interplay between the rhythms of my verse and the rhythm of my feet."
Hands down my favorite Book of the Month selection so far, I could say you should read this if you like poetry, advertising, anecdotes about interesting people, or New York City. But that's not good enough. If you're alive and capable of social interaction, you should read this. An ultimately hopeful book about humanity, this could not have been published at a more important time given our political situation. It is easy to be enveloped in a culture of fear and avoidance. This is the best book I've read in a long time. It's profound, surprising, and even through the sad bits, somehow leaves you feeling uplifted. While only January, I'm sure this will make my best of 2017 list.