I heard an interview with Havrilesky on the NPR Books podcast one day and while I am not usually one for advice columns, there was something I really liked about her. On a whim, I checked into Netgalley to see if I could get a copy and there it was!
These are “Ask Polly” advice columns from The New York Magazine’s The Cut that cover a variety of topics. Havrilesky is mostly answering the questions of twenty-something women, women who are trying to find their place in the world or their voice or someone to love. Most of these questions are exactly the kind of thing that any woman can relate to.
Polly’s advice is great. She does not fuck around but she’s also, for the most part, gentle. Most of her advice can be boiled down to telling yourself the truth, accepting yourself, loving yourself, and allowing yourself to grow and change. It’s advice that all of us need, at least at some point in our lives. Even when I was reading about something that didn’t pertain to my own life, like looking for love with commitment phobic men or feeling like you’re too weird for someone to love, it felt like Polly was getting to the heart of other things wrong with my life. Why am I lying to myself? What am I afraid of? Why am I so afraid of being weak?
I enjoyed this one. I found myself thinking a number of times of friends who I thought would benefit from reading the advice, even if it didn’t perfectly fit their situation. Each answer felt empowering and smart and it’s nice to have advice with someone with a mouth a lot like my own.
My suggestion: Read it straight through and bank all of the wisdom for later.
- Petals on the Wind by V.C. Andrews
- Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris
- Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink
- Lumberjanes, vol. 4 by Noelle Stevenson
- The Complete Chi’s Sweet Home, vol 1 by Konami Kanata
- The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows by Rudyard Kipling
Look at that. My TBR pile is closer to being under control finally. I think that’s mostly because I gave up on a book this week. Kindred by Octavia Butler. I know, I know, I know. I have heard it a million times from a million different sources: Kindred is an IMPORTANT book. It’s lauded as the first sci-fi written by a black woman. It deals with important things like race relations and history and relationship dynamics. But I just couldn’t.
I feel bad because Kindred was a selection for my book club and I felt like I should have ridden it out. I just could not. You know? I don’t like time travel. I felt like the characters were kind of wooden and uninteresting. And it was, well, a bit dull for me. I couldn’t make my way through it. There are too many other things to read that I really want to read and it is my reader right to put aside things. Life is short.
Then I tore through Chi, which ended up being so much better than I expected. And I broke my summer rule of not checking out any paper books by taking out a V.C. Andrews when I felt the need for some particularly bad melodrama, which as been fantastically satisfying. I started reading Shrill by Lindy West, my first Book of the Month Club pick and it has me thinking and looking around at the world with some critical eyes while looking at my self a little clearer. I’m also reading How to be a Person in the World by Heather Havrilisky, which I got an e-galley of, and enjoying that.
It’s been a strange summer for reading. I’ve been trying to get my stack down and I’ve done such a good job of managing my impulses to check out every damn book that I may want to read right this second but won’t get around to for months. It’s starting to wear on my though. I’m starting to get serious itches that I just want to scratch. I want to read some melodrama, like V.C. Andrews and Valley of the Dolls. I want to delve into some horror. I long for some Hemingway. (Something about the heat and humidity makes me always think of Hemingway and not for the reasons you might expect but because of the short story “Big Two-Hearted River,” which takes place in the U.P. and is not actually about the Two-Hearted River but about a secret fishing spot that Hemingway didn’t want to give away.) I want Faulkner. I want stories about quirky little towns.
And just when I’m getting my TBR stack under control, my audio stack starts to get out of control. It’s perfect weather for a staycation, a staycation spent putting together puzzles and coloring to audiobooks. But, lo, it isn’t in my cards.
This week I hope to dabble a bit here, dabble a bit there, and just feel happy about reading. I wish the same for you.
Earlier this year, I was playing that cat game on my phone. You know, the one where you put out food and toys and they bring all of the cats to your yard and rarer cats have clever names and such? That one. I was playing pretty heavily because cats and I came across this list of books you’d like if you liked the game. I requested this one through the library but I have no idea why I chose this instead of another book on the list. I probably thought that it would be less likely to be sad because sad cat books make me sob like a tired toddler. After a couple of months I deleted the game and considered returning the book unread because, eh, whatever.
But I am so so so so glad that I read this book because I loved it.
Chi is a little kitty who is easily distracted. One day she is out on a walk with her mother and siblings, becomes distracted, and gets lost. She has no idea how to find her way back home but she misses her mama and milk and her warm sleepy spot. Eventually, she lays down in the grass and cries. A little boy trips over his own feet and lands on the ground in front of her. They both lay on their bellies, both crying, and then the little boy’s mother lets him take the kitten home even though they are not allowed to have pets in their building.
What follows is a book about the cute things kittens do when they are just learning about the world and how they wiggle their way into human hearts and also the hijinks of trying to keep a cat secret from the super. These are all things that I have actually witnessed so they made me laugh in recognition and reminiscence. I snuggled my cats a little extra.
I almost made it through this one without crying. Almost.
I’ve decided to make this list about clothes that I miss. Clothes that are so far out of style and so long gone that they would be ridiculous today but that I would love to get my hands on again.
- My Kikwear. I had a pair that had 42″ legs and the stash pocket and red piping and I LOVED them.
- The Candy Corn Outfit. Okay, check it out. When I was like 4 or 5, my mother made me an outfit. It was a skirt and a vest made of black fabric with candy corn printed on it. And I loved that damn thing. I would still wear it. Even the vest.
- My little red shoes. I refused to wear anything but the little heeled, pointy toed, red shoes for about three years of my childhood.
- Basic Vans. I used to buy the basic black Vans at the mall for $15!! Now they are $55 and so I will never own them again.
- My first Korn shirt. I bought it with my own money when I was 14 and it somehow was ridiculously soft and not like all of the other Korn shirts around at the time and I wore it until it fell apart.
- The Gray Purse. An accessory, but I’m counting it. I actually still have this purse in my closet because I can’t bear to part with it but it’s falling apart.
- The Houndstooth Coat. I got it when I was 20 and wore it until my mother snuck it into the trash and made me buy a new one but it was a perfect pea coat with the right flare to with an big black buttons and it looked SLAMMING with my purple purse.
- The Blue Outfit. I started wearing color again when I was about 20 and at some point I managed to pull together this blue outfit. Blue and white striped flares with a blue shirt with a sewn in white shirt. I wore it lots and then I fell down the bleachers at a basketball game where a friend was proposing to his girlfriend and tore the knees out.
- The Plaid Pants. I had this part of black and red plaid pants that I fucking loved and that drove my ex crazy. He hated them. I wore them constantly. Why can’t they make work pants like that? Belled and plaid and soft and perfect?
- Black, pointy toe, kitten heels. I had three pairs of shoes almost identical, wearing each until they wore out, and they were absolutely perfect. Every year I read about how pointy toes are in and every year it’s a lie. Round toes make my feet look too small.
Even though I swore my dedication to this comic when I finished reading the last trade, I was a little worried. I didn’t like how disjointed the last run felt and I was afraid that Lumberjanes was losing some of it’s sparkle for me. I mean, all good things must come to an end, right?
This was just as good as I hoped it would be. Antlered wolves that speak? Yes. Kittens? Totally. Ancient monster potentially destroying mankind? Definitely. That’s not all Lumberjanes is, though. These are stories about bravery, friendship, and being who you are, plus supernatural creatures and kittens. What more could you ask for?
Oh, hey, and I was left with questions that I can’t wait to find the answers too!
What is a beach read?
I used to love going to Barnes and Noble and looking at the Summer Reads and Beach Reads piled on the tables. I remember so many of them being classics and I loved talking around the tables and ticking off the ones I knew and recognized.
I think Barnes and Noble is where it became ingrained in me that summer reading was about getting to those classics you’ve been meaning to read for years.
One summer, I read Stephen Kind’s The Gunslinger and fell into the post apocalyptic/fantasy/western/scifi/horror head first.
One summer, I fell in love with a musician and dedicated my days to learning guitar and reading about rock’n’roll.
For the past couple of summers, I’ve set myself impossible reading tasks that I’ve swiftly forgotten.
Something about summer makes me want to read Faulkner.
This summer, I promised to make a dent in my TBR. I am hammering away at it. The dent is barely visible to the untrained eye.
This summer, I keep thinking of beach reads as mass market paperbacks. I keep thinking of them as grocery store trash. I want to pick up thrillers and romances and V.C. Andrews. I want to melodrama. But I also want to read my way through Hemingway, one book after another.
What do you want to read in the summer?