Tag Archives: love

Happy National Book Lovers Day!

9 Aug


“There is no mistaking a real book when one meets it. It’s like falling in love.” ~ Christopher Morley

Happy National Book Lovers Day!

I don’t read as much as I used to these days. Or, maybe I read more. It’s hard to tell. As an editor, I read all day at my job. But it’s a different type of reading. It’s more like a spot-the-difference puzzle, where I’m on the lookout for Briticisms and double punctuation marks. It’s not reading for pleasure, though it is pleasurable.

I am a book lover.

Much of my life is what it is because of books. My mother used to bribe me with books when I was a child. Books opened up a world to me. Reading became not just an activity but a refuge, and not just a refuge but a part of my identity. When I went away to camp, I took a sign language class. We were told to use the letter from our first name and the sign for an activity we enjoyed to create a unique name for ourselves. My name was an “S” opening a book.

Later, in high school, I dropped math class and took an extra English class in addition to my AP English class. My first or second semester of college, I took three English classes at the same time. It was wonderful! It felt so me. I felt like I was living out my true self. On spring break, I went to City Lights in San Francisco and dragged my best friend around the city, reading her Lawrence Ferlinghetti‘s poems.

I absorbed myself in the pages of books for hours at a time, discovering not just kindred spirits and captivating lands but turns of phrases and how punctuation influenced a reading. When I learned to read, I also began to learn to write. Reading and writing were two sides of the same coin for me. One inspired the other. I am at my best, I feel my most authentic, when I am involved in both.

A few years ago, while working full time in book publishing and going to grad school full time for creative writing, I co-authored Burning Furiously Beautiful. It was a wild, intense time. I would wake up early before work and edit, a habit this non-morning person is not a natural at. I turned down plans with friends. I surrounded myself with books. And you know what? I miss it.

I miss the intensity of reading and writing and breathing words. I miss being assigned books that challenge me. I miss being exposed to new ideas. I miss the deadlines. I miss the workshops. I miss the camaraderie. I miss the solitude. The quiet nights. The passionate flurry of ideas.

I recently did a writing intensive with some friends. We tried to push out twenty pages a week. That’s more than I was required to do in grad school. It felt good. It wasn’t necessarily sustainable, but it got me back into the habit. As well, I’m doing the Goodreads reading challenge and trying to read a book a week. I’m woefully behind. Woefully. But it has gotten me back into the habit of reading for pleasure. I ask people to recommend books to me, so I still am being exposed to things I wouldn’t normally select for myself. Sometimes my friends read the same books; sometimes I read the book for my book club; sometimes I read the book for Bible study; and sometimes I get around to reading the books I excitedly bought but remained on my bookshelves. I read on the subway. I read in bed. I read in the bathtub. I read on NJ Transit.

And I’m about to read right now before bed! I’m finally getting around to reading Vivian Gornick‘s The Odd Woman and the City.



The Quotable Greek: One Word Frees Us of … Pain

4 Nov

441px-Sophocles_pushkinCast of the bust of Sophocles from the Farnese Collection via Wikipedia


“One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life:

that word is love.”

– Sophocles

Clip: The Engagement Room

25 Jul

Rain2Random International. Rain Room. 2012. Photo via

Have you heard about the Rain Room at MoMA? I read a really sweet story about it the other day and blogged about it for Burnside. You can read it here.

“My life is not a story,” Wrote the Memoirist

28 Feb


After reading about how Benjamin Anastas describes his father as “a brooding Greek beatnik” who is “potbellied from lentils and with a beard down to his solar plexus chakra,” I knew I had to read his memoir Too Good to Be True. After all, I write about  Greeks and so-called beatniks. Too Good to Be True is the story of the breakup of his marriage and the dissolution of his writing career.

Its not told in an overtly emotional manner, yet its frankness is almost unsettling. These days we’re used to people baring all when it comes to relationships, but to tell the truth about money? To admit that even though he’d taught at an Ivy League and published in big-name magazines, he had to dig around in couch cushions to come up with money for his son’s dinner? That’s the type of honesty that’s hard to read because you worry he’s sabotaging his career by admitting his writing isn’t going all that well and putting it out there for editors and agents to read without the distance of time.

But isn’t that the struggle of the memoirist? While many critics claim that memoir writing is egocentric, a memoirist must lay down his ego. He must sacrifice self and present the truth. And while a memoirist may be introspective by nature, the beauty of memoir is discovering the truth along with the author.

This section from the chapter “Old Friends” is worth considering in terms of both memoir writing and living life:

How much of our lives do we write, and how much of them are written for us? I’ve been thinking about this problem lately, looking back over the trail that brought me to this place, and reading my progress at every step along the way—as adrift as I have been from the usual compass points, as unaware of my direction—for signs of an author, for the fingerprints left behind by some great invisible hand. My life is not a story. It has never been a story, not for me, not even while I’ve been taking great pains with this testament to tell it truthfully on the page. I am in too deep to call it a story. It hurts too much for me to understand it. But I am trying.

The contents of the book may center around infidelity and a mid-career slump, but the deeper story, the one that Anastas circles around to, is the relationship between parents and children, the relationship he had with his parents and the relationship he has with his son.

If I could request a follow up to Too Good to Be True, I would ask Benjamin Anastas to write a memoir about his childhood.

Modern Love

14 Feb
by William Hilton

by William Hilton

When I was still just a teenager, I fell for John Keats. He was a Romantic, prone to fits of passion and depression, the highs and lows most teenagers can relate to. He had studied and gotten his apothecary license, but who wants to be a doctor when they could be a poet? Both fix the heart, do they not? He sat under a plum tree and wrote an ode to a nightingale. Swoon. He wasn’t stuffy. He infused humor into his poetry and broke traditional rules, using false rhymes. He went on “road trips,” walking tours of the Lake District, Ireland, and Scotland. There’s a beautiful scene in the film Bright Star, about Keats’ romance with Fanny, in which a million butterflies flutter though a bedroom. And isn’t that just like love? Whimsical. Animated. Delicate. Fleeting. Memorable.

Gregory Corso, the poet associated with the Beat Generation, was a fan of John Keats’ poetry. It’s easy to see their resemblance to each other—the way they both referenced their hero poets in their poetry, the cheeky humor, their admiration for the Classics, the way they strayed from conformity, their struggling to make ends meet.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, here’s Keats’ thoughts on modern love.


Fragment: Modern Love

And what is love? It is a doll dress’d up

For idleness to cosset, nurse, and dandle;

A thing of soft misnomers, so divine

That silly youth doth think to make itself

Divine by loving, and so goes on

Yawning and doting a whole summer long,

Till Miss’s comb is made a pearl tiara,

And common Wellingtons turn Romeo boots;

Then Cleopatra lives at number seven,

And Antony resides in Brunswick Square.

Fools! if some passions high have warm’d the world,

If Queens and Soldiers have play’d deep for hearts,

It is no reason why such agonies

Should be more common than the growth of weeds.

Fools! make me whole again that weighty pearl

The Queen of Egypt melted, and I’ll say

That ye may love in spite of beaver hats.


3 Takeaways on Blogging Advice from A Cup of Jo

22 Aug

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything about social media, but when I ran across this article, “Blogging As a Career,” with A Cup of Jo’s Joanna Goddard, I knew I had to share it with you.

You’ll want to read the whole article because there’s a tenderness to it, touching on heartbreak and personality types, but here are my three takeaways:::

Follow your dreams. – As cliché as this may sound, you can’t force yourself to enjoy a career that isn’t the right fit for you (in Joanna’s case, law).  You’ll be more successful when you discover what you want and really go after it.  Following your dreams is not easy.  It requires sacrifice.  You may end up not even being able to afford to add a sliced tomato to your bagel with cream cheese.  You may have to work on your honeymoon.  But it’s worth it.

Don’t be afraid to fail. – Sometimes the things in life that feel like the most excruciating at the time, end up propelling you forward.  There is risk involved in work and love and life.

Stay true to yourself. – There are so many blogs out there.  Don’t try to copy other blogs.  Blog in your own voice.  As Joanna says, “When you write a post, imagine your mom or best friend reading it.”  To earn a living as a blogger, you need to secure advertisement; choose companies you love.

Joanna also gives advice on work-life balance, how to start a magazine career, and other insight, so check out her complete interview on her blog.

Accidental Speed Dating

23 May

Being a writer means spending a lot of time by yourself in front of a computer screen that just blinks back at you, waiting for you to make the first move.  Even when you’re a gainfully employed freelancer you rarely go into an office and meet your editor.  Interaction comes via emails, sometimes snail mail if you’re not linked up to PayPal.

A couple years ago, I was working as an arts writer for a hipper-than-thou New York blog that actually sought to foster their community of writers through social events.  The first time I got invited to an event, I still had never met my editor or any of the other contributors in person, and had no idea what anyone looked like.  The first time I got invited to an event, the bar where we were meeting also happened to be holding a speed dating event.  I’m sure you know where this is headed: I got a little confused, and almost ended up accidentally speed dating.

All of this comes to mind because I just read Frank D. Santo’s “Waiting for a stranger to roll her eyes: My adventures in literary speed dating” for NY Daily News.  Apparently, literary speed dating exists.  A book seems to serve as a great conversation starter, a little peek into a person’s interests—and reading level.

I Love Menominee: Student Speaks Endangered Language

2 Mar

A middle school student was reprimanded recently for saying “I love you” in her the Menominee language while at school.  Miranda Washinawatok was benched from her basketball game because her teacher couldn’t understand what she was saying.  The teacher said the Wisconsin student could not speak in the endangered Native American language because it kept the teacher from knowing what she was saying.

When I was growing up in New Jersey, it was common to hearing foreign languages—mainly Korean—in the hallways or on the playground.  Maybe there were times when I had to remind my friends to translate for me, but I don’t remember the teachers ever telling students they weren’t allowed to speak in their native language.  Of course, non-native English speakers attended ESL and encouraged to learn English, and you weren’t allowed to whisper or talk in class regardless of what language you were speaking in.  There was, however, never a sense that a student wasn’t allowed to speak in a foreign language among his or her friends.

However, that has not been the case elsewhere in the world.  My ancestors from my mother’s side were Sami, from the Swedish Lapland, and there are many stories of children not being allowed to speak their native Sami language and the language was not taught in schools.  Today there are nine living Sami languages, but some Sami languages are critically endangered.

Likewise, the Menominee language that the Wisconsin middle schooler said “I love you in” is a critically endangered language.  The language is an Algonquian language used by the Native American Menominee tribe in the Midwest.

Wikipedia reports:

According to a 1997 report by the Menominee Historic Preservation Office, 39 people speak Menominee as their first language, all of whom are elderly; 26 speak it as their second language; and 65 others have learned some of it for the purpose of understanding the language and/or teaching it to others.

If you’re interested in learning Menominee, check out this English-Menominee dictionary or this tutorial.

You may also be interested in the College of Menominee Nation, which is working on a grant called “Menominee Language Revitalization: Teaching the Community” that proposes the following:

The language project will focus on implementing weekly “Language Tables” at six sites on the Menominee Indian Reservation. A Language Table is a place where a person can go and learn Menominee Language. The Language Tables, held on a year round basis, are set up for beginning learners as well as for advanced learners. A fluent Menominee will be in attendance at all Language Tables. Most often, Language Tables will start with a pot luck meal.

Here’s the website for the Menominee tribe

So just how do you say “I love you” in Menominee?  “Tapanaew” means love.

Profile of the Greek Cupid

14 Feb


Out of the opposites-attract romance of the goddess of love and the god of war sprang forth Eros.  It comes as no surprise that his genes of love and war make him the god of passion!

Early depictions of Eros show him as a stunningly handsome man, but today he’s portrayed as a winged boy.  He is the Greek Cupid.  He has a bow and arrows, which he seems to shoot at random.

Eros is so handsome that he must shield his beauty from his own wife.  Go Greece tells the story:

Problems ensue when Eros (called Cupid in this story) falls in love with Psyche. His radiance is such that for her own safety, he insists that she must never look upon his face, and he only visits her at night. At first, she’s cool with this, but her sisters and family insist that her husband must be a grotesque and dangerous monster. Finally, to shut them up, one night she lights a lamp and sees his glorious beauty, which doesn’t blast her but does make her tremble so hard she shakes the lamp. A few drops of hot oil dribble on her beloved, burning him, and he flies away from her in physical pain compounded by the pain of knowing she doubted him.

The doomed romance of Eros and Psyche reminds me in some ways of the Japanese legend of the Crane Wife, which inspired the eponymous heartbreaking song by the Decemberists.

Provincial wisdom often says love makes you blind.  Too often that rings true.  However, these stories speak toward another type of love that is beautiful and sacrificial, and that sometimes we need to have more trust and more faith in the person we love.

Σ’αγαπώ: I love you

14 Feb

As a sea captain, traveling the world, my dad picked up words and phrases in many different languages.  “I love you” seems to have been his phrase of choice.  He can say it in practically every language.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the phrase everyone around the world wanted to learn how to say in different languages was “I love you”?

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My dad spent some time docked in Japan when he was young, and he was always particularly proud of his ability to profess his love in Japanese.

A few years ago, I traveled to Tokyo and visited the adorable cafe in the pictures above.  The decorations were all heart-shaped and even the foam of the latte was spun into a heart.  Yum!

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In Greek, the way you say “I love you” is: Σ’αγαπώ, pronounced s’agapo.

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Happy Valentine’s Day!