Tag Archives: Reading

The Womb Police

This blog first appeared on BlogHer.

When I was six months pregnant with my third child, I had the honor of toasting one of my closest friends at her wedding. I stood, wine glass in hand, extolling the great gifts of a well-met marriage rubbing my expanding belly for emphasis. After I sat down, one of the men at our table took away my wine glass and said, “I know you know your baby doesn’t need this.” Now, it should be noted, I hadn’t taken a sip from the glass, but that was not the point. This guy was just another in a long line of well-meaning men (and the occasional woman) who felt compelled to tell me what to eat, drink, and generally do while I was pregnant. Funny thing is, my doctor had actually advised me (off the record) to have the occasional glass of red wine. Continue reading

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The Importance of Boredom

This blog first appeared on Invincible Summer.

Let’s s call it what it is: being a teenager is just damn hard these days. Back in the Stone-age when I was sixteen, I didn’t spend six months planning my summer in order to ensure I was filling the requisite boxes for my college apps. No, I was  busy perfecting my tan (grease up with baby oil, wait 15 minutes, turn), chasing down my latest crush (is he at the beach, the swim club, or the movies today?), and reading every Jacqueline Suzanne or Judith Krantz novel I could get my hands on. Sure I had a summer job. I babysat my neighbor’s kids in the mornings so she could go to her yoga class (Yoga? What weirdo does that?). It was a great summer. I was bored all of the time. Bored enough to realize that when three of my friends got pregnant, it was time to do something. I decided to volunteer at Planned Parenthood which lead to a lifetime commitment to ensuring women and girls, men and boys, have access to good sex education. I have taught classes, marched in Washington, volunteered, and given money. I even spent six years on the board of the Planned Parenthood Golden Gate Affiliate. None of this would have happened if my sixteenth summer hadn’t been boring. Sadly, my son won’t be bored this summer. He is too busy planning for his future. Continue reading

Those Lazy Days of Summer

This blog post can also be read on BlogHer at http://www.blogher.com/those-lazy-days-summer

Lazy Days of Summer

In less than twenty four hours I will have my kitchen back and my quiet mornings with tea and the newspaper and my voice. You see, I lost my voice as I do every summer yelling at the kids to get ready, turn of the TV, stop Facebooking, Tweeting, IMing, texting (didn’t know those were verbs), clean up your room, pack your suitcase, don’t forget your bathing suit, unpack your suitcase, go outside, and have fun god dammit! I hate summer. I hate the lack of routine that requires me to fill their days and the guilt that comes with realizing I am not providing my children with a meaningful, life altering experience that will a) get them into the college of their choice and b) keep them out of my hair. My mother can’t relate. She just sent us out the door, poured herself another Tab and vodka, and spent the afternoon lounging around with friends. She loved summer. Continue reading

Why We Read

imagesSummer is soon upon us and the issue of summer reading has again raised its head in the magazines and newspapers that, in an effort to stem the tide of irrelevancy, eagerly provide a list of books that must be on our bedside table as the evenings grow longer. They promise their recommendations will allow us to get lost in the dream of the narrative (and thereby lose our interest in the mendacity and/or trauma of daily news, am I the only one to see the irony of this?).

But what is summer reading? Is it different in some appreciable way from winter reading? Lighter, less literary, more guilty pleasure? The very idea of summer reading harkens back to a time when we spent our winters struggling through the subtext of the Scarlet Letter or some other “classic” anticipating the day we would be lounging by the pool with Danielle Steel or to be more au courant, Nora Roberts. This implies that reading is work, or at least a certain kind of reading. For me, reading was never a summer occupation. It has always been a year round sport. I am as likely to read a sci-fi thriller in December as I am to delve into Faulkner in July.

Which leads me to my next question: why do we read? Is it simply to escape the reality of our daily lives, boring for some and far too dramatic for others? Or does reading fill some deeper yearning, some need to find connection, to dance across the boundaries of our souls and touch and be touched by another? There have been passages in novels and short stories that have more than moved me. They have assured me that I am not alone, that someone has felt as I have felt, someone has struggled as I have struggled, someone has desired as I have desired. If the loss of heaven is the corporeal reality of human life, then reading affords me great hope that transcendence has not been forsaken but simply postponed.

And so, here is my list of what to read this summer, this fall, this winter and spring. Enjoy.

Short Stories (in order of preference):
“Brokeback Mountain” by Annie Proulx
“Hateship, Friendship, Courtship. Loveship, Marriage” by Alice Munro
“Bablyon Revisted” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
“Everything That Rises Must Converge” by Flannery O’Connor
“Old Boys, Old Girls” by Edward P. Jones
“Xmas, Jamaica Plain” by Melanie Rae Thon
“A Distant Episode” by Paul Bowles
“Why Don’t You Dance” by Raymond Carver
“It Wasn’t Proust” by Sam Shepard

Short Story Collections:

Gorilla, My Love by Toni Cade Bambara

Cathedral by Raymond Carver

The Shell Collector by Athony Doerr
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Boat by Nam Le
Birds of America by Lorrie Moore
Runaway by Alice Munro
Enormous Changes At The Last Minute by Grace Paley

Fiction Since 1960:
(Edited from a class taught by the incomparable Cynthia Nixon)

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Maquez
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys (which can’t be fully appreciated without a reread of the sister novel, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte)
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
Old School by Tobias Wolff

What Will I Be Reading This Summer?

Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges
Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
The Periodic Table by Primo Levi
Blindness by Jose Saramago
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The Known World by Edward P. Jones
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
July’s People by Nadine Gordimer