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· April 20th, 2021

TO READ · 02/16/2018

Books We Love: “Tokyo Fiancée” by Amélie Nothomb

“Tokyo Fiancée” is a charming and poetic (and highly autobiographical!) tale of two unlikely beings merging

It’s 1989 in Tokyo, Japan. Amelie is a 22-year-old Belgian on a quest to reconnect with her Japanese roots. She needs a job and puts up a notice offering her services as a French tutor. That very evening, the phone rings. On the other end is her one and only student, Rinri.

“Tokyo Fiancée” is a charming and poetic (and highly autobiographical!) tale of two unlikely beings merging. With cultural differences and language barriers galore, Rinri and Amelie discover each other, their friends, family, and Japan. It is a story about koi, rather than love. What is koi, you ask? The term used in Japan to describe a relationship that is “light, fresh, fluid and devoid of seriousness.” While Amelie delights in koi, Rinri, ever the diligent student, plays at love. No other type of fancy could be more suited to our heroine as, in addition to seeking companionship, she equally strives to retain a strong sense of identity and independence.

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TO READ · 08/30/2017

Summer Reading: “Arbitrary Stupid Goal” by Tamara Shopsin

Shopsin’s is technically a restaurant in New York City, but it’s also a state of mind, a lifestyle, and a philosophy for existence.

Shopsin’s is technically a restaurant in New York City, but it’s also a state of mind, a lifestyle, and a philosophy for existence.

The restaurant started as a Greenwich Village greasy spoon run by proprietor Kenny Shopsin, his wife, and their children. The menu featured items that only a very hungry maniac could dream up, like Cheeseburger Soup and Mac ‘n Cheese French Toast Sandwich and “Aztec” pancakes (served with avocado, cilantro, jalapeño, key lime, and ricotta cheese). The restaurant was (and is!) famous for its strict rules: no copying the order next to you, no asking for “the best thing on the menu,” no allergies, no parties larger than four, and no jerks. If you violated one of these rules, you were kicked out.

One of Kenny Shopsin’s children is Tamara Shopsin, who has written a memoir of her youth in the restaurant called Arbitrary Stupid Goal. It’s a record of lost New York, mingling history with geography with recollection with dirty anecdotes. It’s delicious and mystically sui-generis, like the restaurant at the heart of it. Read it and plan a pilgrimage.

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TO READ · 08/04/2017

Summer Reading: “The Gift” by Barbara Browning

What do you do when you receive spam email? Do you ignore it like the majority of the world, or do you choose to respond? One day, a character in Barbara Browning’s novel “The Gift” decided to do the latter.

What do you do when you receive spam email? Do you ignore it like the majority of the world, or do you choose to respond? One day, a character in Barbara Browning’s novel “The Gift” decided to do the latter. What ensues is an exploration of the character’s “inappropriate intimacies” with a variety of people. A habit of boldly spamming people with her ukelele covers leads the character to a gifted yet troubled musician living in Germany. “The Gift” follows their correspondence and eventual collaboration. They share music. They share hand dances. They share life stories. It’s marvelous.

Through music, art, dance, and the various means of communication at our disposal, Browning makes us ponder age-old questions. How well do we ever know the people we are with? How well do we even know ourselves? Laugh, cry, reflect: Browning’s “The Gift” is sure to bring some enlightenment to your life.

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TO READ · 07/26/2017

Summer Reading: “The Answers” by Catherine Lacey

The title of this novel is extremely well-suited for vacation reading. Who WOULDN’T want to recline on a breezy beach or poolside lounger, calmly reading a book called “The Answers” while people around you wonder what could possibly going on between those pages and in your head?

The title of this novel is extremely well-suited for vacation reading. Who WOULDN’T want to recline on a breezy beach or poolside lounger, calmly reading a book called “The Answers” while people around you wonder what could possibly going on between those pages and in your head?

The Answers” is the second novel from Catherine Lacey. Broadly, it’s about technology and the mysteries of romance. Specifically, it’s about a young woman in New York City who is hired by a male celebrity to serve as a freelance girlfriend (but not in the way you’re thinking). What unfolds is a journey through our modern social habits, with enough thrills to count as a page-turner and enough insight to count as a brain-improving artifact.

In other words, the perfect summer wormhole in which to disappear!

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TO READ · 06/29/2017

Summer Reading: “Fly Me” by Daniel Riley

Recent Vassar graduate Suzy Whitman couldn’t have known that within months of moving across the country—ostensibly to skate, surf, and steward the clear blue skies aboard Grand Pacific Airlines’ 747s— she’d be smuggling drugs and even flying the planes herself.

Recent Vassar graduate Suzy Whitman couldn’t have known that within months of moving across the country—ostensibly to skate, surf, and steward the clear blue skies aboard Grand Pacific Airlines’ 747s— she’d be smuggling drugs and even flying the planes herself. But it’s 1972, skyjackings appear in the papers every week, and our russet-headed, antics-prone heroine is soon at the center of a strange and mostly forgotten chapter of American history. Led Zeppelin plays on the radio; Walter Cronkite’s face seems always to be on TV. Pog is the nonalcoholic beverage of choice, and Reverend Jim Jones is posting flyers on the boardwalk. Suzy, meanwhile, is learning just how dangerously she’s willing to live.

“Fly Me,” Daniel Riley’s debut novel, is funny, poignant, and attentive. Sun-soaked and warm-hearted, it almost seems as though it were *written* on the beach.

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TO READ · 06/19/2017

Advanced Bookworming: Pamela Paul’s “My Life with Bob”

One of the least surprising facts in the world is that people who enjoy reading books REALLY enjoy reading books about reading books. There’s a whole genre of books-about-reading.

One of the least surprising facts in the world is that people who enjoy reading books REALLY enjoy reading books about reading books. There’s a whole genre of books-about-reading. Nicholson Baker wrote a book about reading John Updike. Elif Batuman wrote a book about reading Russian literature. William Deresiewicz wrote a book about reading Jane Austen. We could go on. The list is lengthy. (And girth-y.)

The newest title in this succession is Pamela Paul’s “My Life with Bob.” Who is Bob, you ask? Bob is the author’s Book of Books (B.O.B.), which is a notebook in which she scribbles the title of every book she has ever read. The author’s relationship to Bob is similar to Gollum’s relationship to “The Ring,” in the sense that Paul’s Bob is precious to her and gives her life. Bob is the one item that Paul would grab from her house if her house was burning down. Bob is almost thirty years old by now, and he sits on a shelf over Paul’s desk. Paul loves Bob, and by the end of her memoir, we love Bob too.

Give your summer reading list a postmodern *twist* by reading this delightful book about reading.

(Bonus assignment: and then write about it!!!)

 

 

 

 

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· 05/31/2017

Books We Love: “The Idiot” by Elif Batuman

Selin is a student at Harvard. The year is 1995. Email is a thing, but not yet a Thing. “The Idiot” is Selin’s story, and it is the debut novel of Elif Batuman, whose work we first read in n+1 and have followed obsessively ever since.

Selin is a student at Harvard. The year is 1995. Email is a thing, but not yet a Thing. “The Idiot” is Selin’s story, and it is the debut novel of Elif Batuman, whose work we first read in n+1 and have followed obsessively ever since.

The Idiot” tracks Selin’s first year at college and the summer that follows. She falls in love for the first time, stays up too late, behaves in mildly reckless ways, and discovers important truths about being a person. She is lovably odd and funny and—terrible word, but it must be said—”relatable.”

We loved Selin and we love this book. Maybe you will too.

 

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