book club

Magpie Book Club: No One Is Talking about This by Patricia Lockwood.

After a slow reading stretch, I’ve clipped back in. (Thank you for all of your tips on emerging from a reading slump. The most spiriting suggestion was to give myself some grace in the aggressive reading pace I had set for myself. Where’s the fire?!) A couple notes on the books I’ve recently read:

+I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Lauren Bacall’s memoirthat voice! — though the first portion, written earlier in her life, moves much more quickly and interestingly than the second portion, written later in her life, which reads more like a series of obituaries for the beloved friends that preceded her in death. Still, an elegant, bright, generous woman with fetching humility.

+I am now nearly done listening to one of Elin Hilderbrand’s Nantucket series books, which has been kind of the most delightful thing ever. Sort of a thriller-meets-beach-read (thriller with training wheels? not particularly scary or dark), the main attraction here is imagining the spectacular setting and luxe lifestyle. Absolute perfect escape while my mind is spinning with all of the decisions and logistics in front of us. I have loved unwinding to this book while washing the dishes, walking Tilly, showering. Diversion! Next on my audiobook list: intrigued to listen to Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (one of my favorite books from my high school years and I’ve read and loved other Du Mauriers since — a fantastic thriller) and The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse, a newish thriller that seems to have all the markings of a good Gothic novel. (“An imposing, isolated getaway spot high up in the Swiss Alps is the last place Elin Warner wants to be. But Elin’s taken time off from her job as a detective, so when her estranged brother, Isaac, and his fiancée, Laure, invite her to celebrate their engagement at the hotel, Elin really has no reason not to accept.” Someone goes missing, yadda yadda, it looks fun.)

+Now onto the meat: No One Is Talking about This by Patricia Lockwood. I found this book exceptionally challenging. I wrote that Shuggie Bain was difficult to read, but Lockwood took “difficulty” to an entirely different level. I found the first half insufferable — irreverent, self-absorbed, inane, occasionally disgusting, and in its free-wheeling, wildly allusive stream-of-consciousness format, unfriendly (though not un-artful) to the reader — and the second half emotionally unbearable, as I wept and wept and wept while reading it. Trigger warning and spoiler alert: it involves a baby born with an ultra-rare and terminal medical condition. In a sense, the second half made the first half worth wading through, as the trauma and grief of the niece’s birth and death incite deep and meaningful reflection. What is life? Are we entitled to expect certain things of it? Why did this happen? But even harder to witness: the raw grief and love that consumes the narrator and her sister as they care for a baby born dying. Because my family lived through a somewhat similar situation, I was profoundly distraught by this and the memories it dredged up. The book was, simply, emotionally untenable for me. Whew. I cannot determine whether I am glad I read it or not. From an artistic standpoint, Lockwood is undeniably talented — brilliant, even. I respected though did not enjoy the intertextual wilderness of the first half of the book, and I admire the sharp, brave intellect and enormous heart she demonstrates as she navigates unthinkable tragedy. But you have been warned: this is about as difficult as reading can be.

+I think I am going to read the heavily-touted Klara and the Sun by Nobel prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro next, which tells the story of “Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, who, from her place in the store, watches carefully the behavior of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass on the street outside. She remains hopeful that a customer will soon choose her.” This book is getting a lot of press.

+I also finished Lisa Unger’s Confessions on the 7:45 and Anna North’s Outlawed last month and received both tepidly. Would not recommend either.

+On the TV front, we’ve been watching “Lupin,” a gentleman thief series in which a Bond-Bourne-like protagonist sets out to avenge his father for an injustice inflicted by a wealthy family. The series is in French, and I always find subtitles mildly off-putting at first, but I quickly forgot I was reading them and found myself thoroughly absorbed in the clever and fast-paced action. Highly recommend. We also watched the four (!) hour (!!) “Justice League” superhero flick on HBO. Possibly to your surprise, I don’t mind superhero movies — they are endearing in their own way, a part of Americana, and interesting to think about as manifestations of cultural yearning back at the time of their inception in the conformist, lockstep 1950s. Mr. Magpie and I recently talked about whether these movies are counter-cultural or not — interesting to ponder. Anyway, the movie was way too long and we discussed whether it would have been easier or harder to watch if marketed as a four-part series instead of a four-hour movie. (Funny how Mr. Magpie and I often ask each other: “is it a movie night or a TV show night?” when we will end up more or less watching the same out of of screen time regardless of format — it’s either two hour-long episodes or one two-hour long movie, so what’s the difference? But there is a difference!) Still, I didn’t mind the superhero flick — explosions, attractive mega-stars, imminent doom to set the pace, and occasionally amusing script-writing.

What are you reading and watching?

Post-Scripts.

+Adorable pearl and wicker bag. I almost prefer it in the black — is that shocking? What is even happening? Has Manhattan gotten to me finally? I also love this $36 basket bag with the little gingham handle!

+Scalloped, pintucked blouse. I’d rate this highly as a Zoom-friendly top. Interesting details but still professional.

+In case you’re new in these parts and haven’t yet heard me blather on about it, treat yourself to this counter spray, which smells like heaven and makes cleaning almost enjoyable.

+If you’re looking for more audiobook recs, all my faves here.

+On a related note: my favorite laundry products. An update to this post: this is the best starch on the planet and these wool dryer balls are just the best for so many reasons, including that they help bulky items like towels and sheets dry much more evenly and quickly, and without as many wrinkles, because the balls keep the fabric from clumping up.

+Tuckernuck now carries Pink City Prints, which I know many of you love (!) — this dress and this dress are dreamy for everyday wear in the summer. Sort of an elevated version of the Amazon nightgown dress we all wore last summer. What I like about this style of loose-fit, blockprint dress is that they are easy to move in, with no straps or cleavage situations or short hemlines to contend with. Great for chasing little ones around.

+I have saved and featured the Etienne furniture series from Frontgate about 10,000 times but I really cannot stop thinking about this seafoam green dresser. Just so interesting and unusual.

+Saw a little girl in our building wearing these rainbow boots. So cute on her! More great Target steals here.

+$20 white maxi dress with bows on the shoulders — reminiscent of Juliet Dunn.

+Align leggings in short form — these would be great under a tennis skirt. (They have varying lengths available.)

+My goodness are these children’s pajamas sweet. An alternative to Petite Plume.

+This grocery list is so up my mom’s alley, I can’t even tell you.

+In case none of the pairs in this list met your fancy, these $38 shades in pink are SO good.

+A lemon wall basket – would be cute by a backdoor for things like gloves, mittens, face masks, etc for little hands to reach on their own.

+This scalloped ceramic side table!!!!

+This rainbow kickball has made us the most popular family at the playground. I don’t know what it is about the design that every single child is drawn to. There was one day we almost gave it away to a little boy, who was crestfallen when we were packing up to head home!

+LaCoqueta continues to reign supreme in the beyond perfect children’s occasionwear category. I have so many precious pieces from here that mini has worn. I adore this gingham baby set and I have my eyes on these for mini for this spring. And this is beyond for the Fourth of July.

+Just bought these inexpensive tortoise hair clips.

+More book suggestions here.

+More recent musings on things I’ve read and watched here.

+Looking for new fitness finds? Will be refreshing this roundup soon with the warmer weather heading our way, too.

19 Comments

  1. Finally able to comment here (I’ve had this post bookmarked for a long time!) as I finished No One Is Talking about This last weekend! Oh my … I thought it was amazing. I understand where you’re coming from, but I was kind of taken with the absurdity of the first half (and, like Anna, follow Lockwood on Twitter, so maybe I was more prepared for that?) and the second half had me weeping nonstop as well. I loved this book but might hesitate to recommend it unless I had a good handle on the preferences/tastes of the reader, if that makes sense.

    I’m excited to read your post about Klara and the Sun, as it’s on my list! I recently DNF-ed Laura Hankin’s send-up of The Wing (A Special Place for Women) as I didn’t like the writing, and found it sort of boring … though I hear there’s a twist, so I may revisit it. Right now I’m reading Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being and enjoying it very much so far, though I’m only maybe 40 pages in!

    Also, I’m glad you posted those Align bike shorts — my parents very generously gifted me a Lululemon gift certificate for Mother’s Day so I picked up a few pairs! Excited to add them to my summer rotation 🙂 The sales associate was intent on warning me to heed the care instructions — do you have a specific way that you care for your Aligns? I’m almost inclined to hand wash!

    xx

    1. Hi MK! I put on the gentle cycle in cold water and then line dry/hang dry. I know a few Lululemon enthusiasts (and even former employees) have chimed in via the comments section here to urge this kind of care to prolong the lives of your Lululemon pieces. One big suggestion that I am trying to follow is washing athletic wear together — all those performance fabrics do better when not mixed in with other materials, I believe — though it’s not always practical to wait until I have enough for a load given how frequently I exercise. I have to say that even when I have been tough on my Lululemon pieces (like, drying them in the machine…) they have still miraculously stood up to the test of time and wear. All to say — I am still sort of astonished at the quality of the pieces from this brand given how big/ubiquitous it seems!!

      Thanks for your input on the Lockwood! Totally agree that the second half had me absolutely weeping…so moving.

      xx

    2. Thank you so much! This is great advice — I will stick to the same method, as it’s how I wash most of my clothes anyway (delicate/cold, except I do end up using the dryer a lot…) I admit that I only really have one other pair of Lululemon leggings but they are from probably 2005 and are still going strong after many trips through the washer & dryer! The Align fabric seems more delicate, though, so I wanted to check 🙂

      xx

  2. I know I’m a little late to respond, but when I saw your response to Heidi saying “and am in the mood for something with a little more…lift.” , I decided to jump in.
    As I loved By Myself, this next book is TOTALLY different, yet it too is a favorite of mine. The premise of the book is one which causes me caution to suggest to many as it is a very personal book. Religious in a day to day sense because the author finds a different person/stranger to pray for everyday for a year. The book is titled “Praying For Strangers”. I think I recommended it for your father at one point. It is just such a moving, loving, caring book, and shows how a prayer can change someone’s life and your own all at the same time.
    They are very short yet poignant chapters that make this easy to pick up and down.
    Just a suggestion.
    As always, relax and enjoy the read!

    1. This book sounds so heart-warming. I do remember your suggesting it! Thank you, Cynthia!

  3. A book rec for you: Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead. I read it last year, but thought about it as a good palette cleanser for all the intense books you’ve been reading! It’s so well written- I laughed out loud many times 🙂

    In other news, I gave the Stanley Tucci show another try and we’ve both been loving it! Maybe it was my mood when I first watched?? He’s definitely no Bourdain, but very entertaining nonetheless.
    XO

    1. Thank you so much – I’ve heard such good things about Shipstead! Grazie!

      Glad you gave Tucci another look. The videography alone…! So appealing.

      xx

  4. I’m almost done reading Jenny Colgan’s Bookshop on the Corner. Her books are fun, light, and take place in the UK! I also recommend Louise Penny. Her book Still Life is the first of her murder mystery detective books, taking place in Montreal. It reminded me of the show Midsomer Murders. If you like murder mystery thriller shows, I recommend Harrow, which is about a forensic pathologist which takes place in Brisbane. It’s convenient my partner is from there and he and I have been there together too.

    1. Oo these sound delicious! Thank you! Love the connection you have to Brisbane — makes watching a show / reading a book that much more personal.

      xx

  5. I’ve just started a Masters degree so my reading for pleasure time is zilch – but as soon as I finish my first two assignments I’m reading Klara and the Sun – he’s amazing. I have no doubt our hearts will be broken apart and put back together with a little snag. I am also bursting with excitement to read his daughter’s new release ‘common ground’. Have you read it? It sounds terrific.

    Can I ask you something – what font do you use? It’s so pleasing on the eye to read. As I am in the world of writing long essays I’d like to be kind to the poor academics.

    1. Hi Kirstin! I had not heard about his daughter’s book. Thanks for cluing me in! Interesting!

      I honestly do not know the font by name – it came as a part of the design of my wordpress theme! Thank you for the compliment, though! I agree that some fonts are much easier on the eyes than others.

      xx

  6. I devoured Patricia Lockwood’s first book, Priestdaddy. She is such a remarkably vulnerable and moving writer! I felt like I had been forced to watch someone through their front window…but also I didn’t want to look away? And then I was a little disturbed by the fact I didn’t want to look away? Haha. I’ve been looking forward to No One is Talking About This since I read an excerpt in the New Yorker last fall– it bowled me over. Linked if anyone wants to dip a toe before they dive in! xx

    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/11/30/the-winged-thing

    1. I was also profoundly moved by the book — she is particularly good with details that she does not belabor but that carry shocking emotional potency. I think your assessment of “vulnerable and moving” is spot-on. I still can’t come to terms with the first portion of this book, though, which I found difficult to get through and absent of her very human, deeply poignant writing in the latter half.

      xx

  7. Wow, thanks for the heads up! I’m intentionally steering clear of any books that won’t DELIGHT me right now (self-preservation). I’m wrapping up Good Apple by Elizabeth Passarella and it’s been the refreshing read I’ve needed. Have you read it? The subtitle is “Tales of a Southern Evangelical in New York” and it reads like a collection of essays. Breath of fresh air! xo H

    1. Hi Heidi! I’m in a similar boat re: book selection. I have read so many difficult, gutting books in the last few months — Hamnet and Shuggie Bain principle among them — and am in the mood for something with a little more…lift. Thanks for the rec — had not heard of this book or its author!

      xx

  8. Funny timing, I also just finished No One is Talking About This. I enjoyed it much more than you did, however- probably because I was already a fan of her singularly hilarious and bizarre Twitter presence, as well as her previous book. I have a hard time imagining anyone who was not already familiar with her very specific voice enjoying this book, which your experience seems to bear out. She’s definitely not for everyone! But one of my favorite discoveries of 2020, for sure.

    1. Hi Anna – So glad you enjoyed it (truly, is there anything better than finding yourself on a literary joy ride with a voice you enjoy? I feel that way about Roxane Gay, Nora Ephron, Joan Didion — just following their logic and imagination unfold in writing is a pleasure). I did find her supremely quotable (I can imagine her being incredible on Twitter for that reason – pithy, smart, observant), and there is something almost…synchretic? (can’t find the right word) about the associations she makes between subjects, current events, memes, the physicality of living, etc. I admire her intellect!

      xx

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