I would probably adopt this book as a political manifesto, but maybe I shouldn’t talk about that in my new, impartial, internet space.
“But I have to say this in defense of humankind: In no matter what era in history, including the Garden of Eden, everybody just got here. And, except for the Garden of Eden, there were already all these games going on that could make you act crazy, even if you weren’t crazy to begin with. Some of the crazymaking games going on today are love and hate, liberalism and conservatism, automobiles and credit cards, golf, and girls’ basketball.”
“There are also men in the world. Sometimes we forget, and think there are only women—endless hills and plains of unresisting women. We make little jokes and comfort each other and our lives pass quickly. But every now and them, it is true, a man rises unexpectedly in our midst like a pine tree, and looks savagely at us, and sends us hobbling away in great floods to hide in the caves and gullies until he is gone.”
Not only did Lydia Davis basically invent a new genre of fiction, “flash fiction,” she’s also an acclaimed French translator. Like, Madame Bovary and Swann’s Way level acclaimed. Just thinking about her also existing in the world is enough to fill a morning.
These stories stop me cold and then pick me up again. I’ve drawn stars on the corners of all my favorites so whenever I’m sad or uninspired or lost I can just flip straight to them. They make everyday life seem so striking that it’s hard to imagine we’re just living it without event.
“In late August a baby was born, or, as it seemed to me, a puma moved into my apartment, a near-mute force, and then I noticed it was December.”
Rivka Galchen has the kind of name that gets stuck in your head for the rest of your life. I regularly find myself whispering it when I’m stuck in traffic or trying to do math in my head or walking to get the mail. This book has the scattered, wry puzzle piece, anecdotal feel of Lydia Davis, which you either love or you don’t really get. I would rather die a slow and painful death than deprive the world of Lydia Davis, so one can assume I fall on the love side.
So the book is about her baby, the puma, and other babies, and literature, and a lot of other things. It is good.
Rating: I originally started to put this book up here because Caleb told me that I couldn’t have all books that were rated 10/10, I had to do some that I liked less. Unfortunately, upon further consideration, this book is also a 10/10.
I, like you, have read 1,000 ways to Be On Your Phone Less. I have switched it to greyscale, I have really thought hard about turning off notifications, I have snuck off to the bathroom to check it for the 30th time to appear less rude than I was actually being. But then came this book!!!!!
It is maybe made of witchcraft, but it is witchcraft that has changed my life. All of the sudden I, who’s thumb automatically swung to Instagram every ten minutes, on the second, is sleeping with my phone in another room, has turned off all my notifications (besides messages and phone calls), and forgets that I even have a phone for large swaths of a day! The book is structured in two parts, the first part explains why you’re so addicted to your phone and why it’s so important that you become less addicted, and the second part is a 30 day plan with a small task each day that get you to Phone Freedom. I have hours on my hands that seemingly sprouted from nowhere, I feel more focused and less spacey literally all the time, I have sprouted wings and I now use them to travel instead of my car. This is sounding more and more like an infomercial, but they’re not paying me or anything.
Oh last thing! She does a very amazing job of addressing the benefits our phones bring to our lives. She’s not trying to get you to never be on your phone, or delete all your apps permanently. The goal is to get you in a relationship with your phone that is healthy and that you control.
I think I set a personal record for taking photos of pages of books with this one. She says things about marriage that we can’t even admit to ourselves, and things that we need to whisper to ourselves every morning when we wake up. “‘The hardest lesson in a marriage,’ says my friend Asia, ‘is understanding the truth of the other person, believing in your heart that they are as real as you are, and their feelings matter as much. We all think that when something is wrong it will feel wrong to us, but that’s the biggest lie. So many things that your partner will see as betrayal will feel to you like nothing. One of the biggest challenges of marriage is to acknowledge that your own feelings aren’t the end of the story. We have to hold so many realities at once: here’s me, here’s you, here’s us, here’s the rest of the world.”
As repellent as it is when someone declares a book “required reading,” this book is?
“When the journalist asked me about my body, it was like she was asking me to awaken her from the most gorgeous dream. I have seen that dream all my life. It is perfect houses with nice lawns. It is Memorial Day cookouts, block associations, and driveways. The Dream is tree houses and the Cub Scouts. The Dream smells like peppermint but tastes like strawberry shortcake. And for so long I have wanted to escape into the Dream, to fold my country over my head like a blanket. But this has never been an option because the dream rests on our backs, the bedding made from our bodies. And knowing this, knowing that the dream persists by warring with the known world, I was sad for all those families, I was sad for my country, but above all, in that moment, I was sad for you.”