I am competitive. I try to keep this to myself, but oh, in my heart of hearts, I want to win anything that can be won. As a child, I needed to earn the highest grades and offer, when called upon, the most astute answers, the better to impress teacher. Yes, I was that girl. I have a national Scrabble ranking, though it is not impressive. When I sit across from other word nerds, I want to destroy them. I feel competitive when driving on the interstate, when following the career arcs of other writers, when reading a book and the Kindle tells me I have eight hours left. That is a throwing down of the gauntlet. I determine to finish in six.
— Read the rest: Food TV’s Sadistic Glee

This Month’s Book Club Recommendations. 

This Month’s Book Club Recommendations. 

This Month’s Book Club Recommendations. 

This Month’s Book Club Recommendations. 
Literary and other lists are popular because they are so often entirely arbitrary—the 10 greatest this, the 50 most unique that, the eight whomever you should watch for—all determinations made by one cultural critic or another, or the vague entity of staff. When these lists are published, we get to read, consider, dissect, and frantically comment about how we agree or disagree. We get to share how we might recompose the lists more appropriately. It’s a lot of fun.
— Read the rest at Slate.
Last night’s “Game of Thrones” episode “Breaker of Chains” was shocking, which is saying something in a show that has consistently expanded the threshold for shocking us. Sure, some of the show’s most perverse scenes come from George R.R. Martin’s brain. But the show runners continue to take strange liberties with the source material, particularly when it comes to sexual violence.

Gracefully Unmoored in Strange Cities

The day began early, five am. My alarm went off but I was awake, staring at the ceiling because I haven’t been sleeping lately. I have a lot on my mind. I need a confidant. I need to confess. Then, driving along winding country backroads as the day rose. Farm country is beautiful country. I wish I could show it to you, especially this time of year. The fields were freshly tilled, dark earth turned over. Some fields were budding tender green. I thought, “This is what hope looks like.” 

The airport was empty and the first flight I was seated next to a talkative man with a magnificent mop of sandy hair. He has one of those jobs that doesn’t feel real. He doesn’t make anything but he advises people and stuff. I suppose he makes money. I told him I’m a writer. He told me he doesn’t believe in large homes—says all a man needs is a place to sleep and a place to eat and a bathroom. I said I had no problem with mansions. We talked about being frequent travelers, how difficult it can be to have a clear sense of where we are, where we are going, where we have been. I mentioned having trouble remembering my hotel room numbers. Then he asked me, “Who pays for all your travel?” I was so surprised by the question I said, “My pimp,” and then put on my noise canceling headphones and that was the end of our conversation. At the end of the flight, he wished me a cheerful goodbye. He was a strange fellow, kept arranging and rearranging his items in his briefcase. 

Detroit, the airport was a little busier. I had a terrible lunch—a black bean burger and a salad, the lettuce of which was not the color of lettuce and it tasted like sadness. My waiter was epically bad. I became absolutely charmed by how terrible he was. He set my drink on the farthest edge of the table. He malevolently slid silverware tightly wrapped in rough paper napkin toward me. He took my order from about six feet away and basically said, over his shoulder, walking away, “I got it,” even though I was still speaking. It was glorious. I tipped him 20% because I like professionals. 

At the gate a woman from Tampa told me about the rude gate agent in Orlando who was reluctant to seat her with her young daughter. We commiserated about Rudeness. Her daughter was transfixed by an electronic device and she kept blowing her nose wetly and dramatically. The Detroit gate agent was much nicer.

On the flight to Philadelphia I sat next to a woman and she was very fit and pretty and she brought a snack for herself—sliced red peppers and cucumbers. I got the distinct impression she thought the snack was delicious. I pretended to sleep.

People don’t normally talk to me when I travel. I work hard to give off a “I have no desire to engage with you,” vibe. Mostly, I do this out of self-protection. I shield myself from the world as best I can. Also, I don’t like small talk with strangers.

My novel will be officially out in two weeks. It is overwhelming and exciting and I am grateful. 

Travel is lonely, though. A king-sized bed seems even larger in hotels, the emptiness more profound. I have yet to find a way to be gracefully unmoored in strange cities. I understand why on postcards, we so often write, “Wish you were here.”

This is a postcard. Wish you were here.


A Tired Rant About “Female” Writers

I have seen this list of 21 women authors you “should be reading,” passed around. I  have thoughts about the composition of the list, though I am thrilled to see Elliott Holt named because I loved her debut novel last year.  

No two lists will ever be the same and this list at least makes an attempt at diversity, albeit a… hmm… narrow sort of diversity, right? Like, no African American women? No Latinas? No South Asian writers? And at what point do we stop using Amy Tan and Louise Erdrich as the sole beacons of literary light for people who look like them? To be clear, these women are absolutely women of color (along with Smith, Adichie, Danticat, Selasi) you should be reading, but they are not the only ones.

We shouldn’t be reading anyone JUST because they are a woman or black or Asian or queer or any other mark of identity. We should be reading such that we can look at what you consume and recognize a diversity of perspectives from writers hailing from a diversity of backgrounds and ways of seeing the world. 

I have also been thinking about the ReadWomen2014 campaign. I have been thinking, “What a sad state of affairs it is, that people need to be reminded or instructed to read women.” If you need this reminder or instruction, I mean, come on! What is going on there?

It is exhausting that we are still trying to convince a certain segment of the population that women are equal to men, that women deserve respect and fair consideration in all professional and creative and personal realms. It is especially frustrating in the literary community, because I am part of this community. These are my people, or at least, that’s what I would hope.

I cannot believe we need to count and point out worthy women writers like we’re begging for scraps at the table of due respect and consideration. 

Sadly, we are there or we wouldn’t be reminding each other to Read Women and look at this list of great women and that list of great South Asian writers and this other list of queer writers you should know. And I, for one, will continue to read these lists and learn from them and contribute to them because the need is significant.

In a better world though, we wouldn’t read a woman writer because we’re women or ::insert identifying characteristic::. We would read a writer because they might be awesome or terrible or they might intrigue or infuriate us and we want to know more. We would take a fucking chance because that’s so much of what we do when we read. We take a book into our hands. We turn the first page. We wait to see where a writer will take us, what they will show us. We hope for the best and sometimes we’re disappointed and sometimes our faith is rewarded and sometimes when we are luckiest, we are utterly transported. Reading is the one realm where I am an idealist.

I look forward to the day we can stop obsessing over the tour guide and surrender to the sights. 

Shorter version: be better readers.



Monday, May 5 at 7:00pm

Brookline Booksmith

279 Harvard St.




Tuesday, May 6 at 7:00pm

In Conversation with Sari Botton

Community Bookstore of Park Slope

Co-sponsored by…


Micheline Bérnard always loved Lionel Desormeaux. Their parents were friends though that bonhomie had not quite carried on to the children.

Micheline and Lionel went to primary and secondary school together, had known each other all their lives—when Lionel looked upon Micheline he was always overcome with the vague feeling he had seen her somewhere before while she was overcome with the precise knowledge that he was the man of her dreams.

In truth, everyone loved Lionel Desormeaux. He was tall and brown with high cheekbones and full lips. His body was perfectly muscled and after a long day of swimming in the ocean, he would emerge from the salty water, glistening.

Micheline would sit in a cabana, invisible. She would lick her lips and she would stare. She would think, “Look at me, Lionel,” but he never did.

When Lionel walked, there was an air about him. He moved slowly but with deliberate steps and sometimes, when he walked, people swore they could hear the bass of a deep drum. His mother, who loved her only boy more than any other, always told him, “Lionel, you are the son of L’Ouverture.”

He believed her. He believed everything his mother ever told him. Lionel always told his friends, “My father freed our people. I am his greatest son.” In Port-au-Prince, there were too many women. Micheline knew competition for Lionel’s attention was fierce. She was attractive, petite. She wore her thick hair in a sensible bun.

On weekends, she would let that hair down and when she walked by, men would shout, “Quelle belle paire de jambes,” what beautiful legs, and Micheline would savor the thrilling taste of their attention. Most Friday nights, Micheline and her friends would gather at Oasis, a popular nightclub on the edge of the Bel Air slum. She drank fruity drinks and smoked French cigarettes and wore skirts revealing just the right amount of leg.

Lionel was always surrounded by a mob of adoring women. He let them buy him rum and Cokes and always sat at the center of the room wearing his pressed linen slacks and dark tee shirts that showed off his perfect, chiseled arms.

At the end of the night, he would select one woman to take home, bed her thoroughly, and wish her well the following morning. The stone path to his front door was lined with the tears and soiled panties of the women Lionel had sexed then scorned.

On her birthday, Micheline decided she would be the woman Lionel took home. She wore a bright sundress, strapless. She dabbed perfume everywhere she wanted to feel Lionel’s lips. She wore high heels so high her brother had to help her into the nightclub.

When Lionel arrived to hold court, Micheline made sure she was closest. She smiled widely and angled her shoulders just so and leaned in so he could see everything he wanted to see within her ample cleavage. At the end of the night, Lionel nodded in her direction. He said, “Tonight you will know the affections of L’Ouverture’s greatest son.”

There is No “E” in Zombi Which Means There Can Be No You Or We by Roxane Gay - Guernica


sydney-michellington asked:

I know you must be a busy, busy person so I won't be upset if you don't answer this - but I had to try: 1. What authors have inspired you to write? 2. How important are your character's names? 3. What do you consider your biggest accomplishment? 4. When did you realize you wanted to be a writer? 5. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors? 6. If you weren’t a writer, what profession would you like to have? 7. What literary character is most like you? (cont'd)


I know you must be a busy, busy person so I won’t be upset if you don’t answer this - but I had to try:

This is a lot of questions. I will offer some very short answers.

1. What authors have inspired you to write?

Laura Ingalls Wilder, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Edith Wharton, James Baldwin, Danielle Steele

2. How important are your character’s names?

As important as a person’s name is to them

3. What do you consider your biggest accomplishment?

Being alive

4. When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

When I was like 4 years old.

5. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Give a damn about what you do, work hard, know that sometimes your best won’t be good enough and that’s okay. It’s them not you.

6. If you weren’t a writer, what profession would you like to have?

Cake decorator like Peeta

7. What literary character is most like you? 

Gosh, I don’t know. 

8. Which of your own characters is most like you?

Hmmm. Emotionally, I am quite a lot like Mireille in my novel An Untamed State which is, BTW, out on May 6. 

9. What are your current ongoing projects?

I am working on a nonfiction book and thinking through an anthology project and some short stories and essays and three novels. 

10. Do you ever experience writer’s block and if so, how do you get rid of it?

I certainly do. I generally try to chill and read something awesome or go to the movies and find some kind of inspiration. 

11. What does your writing process look like?

I spend a lot of time thinking about what I want to write and really immersing myself in the topic or a character or a setting, and then I give myself over to the writing. 

12. What advice would you give to your younger self? 

Be kind to yourself. You deserve kindness. 

Ten Amazing Things About The Mellon Lifestyle

First read this awesome article about rich people. You may recall that I love when the New York Times writes about rich people. 

1. This guy’s pants. They are very fashion forward and I admire that.

2. “They are not exactly starting from the gutter.”

3. He called his ex-wife to let her know he had found his next wife. “It’s all very cordial.” SIR….

4. “Lifestyle website”

5. “I’ve never been to Africa, but I feel like I have this deep affinity for it,” Ms. Hanley Mellon said. “I’ve read every Hemingway, we collect Peter Beard, I’ve watched ‘Out of Africa.’ It touches your soul to visit and smell the smells, and you can’t recreate the experience without immersing yourself.”

This is something a human of New York actually said, out loud, to a reporter but more importantly, a human thinks that these things are approximations of Africa. 

6. “wardrobe staples for a jet-set life”

7. The children’s amazing names.

8. The name-dropping, old money, disdainful comments about “technology” whilst sharing an Instagram handle

9. See No. 5.

10. “dress shoes with sneaker soles.”