a book about how dictionaries are made and the stubborn, chaotic, ever-changing English language. Stamper is funny and frank, denouncing most “grammar” as the preferences of a few dead white men and constantly making room for English to change its meaning and functionality (irregardless is now in the dictionary) without bitterness.
“Humanity sets up rules to govern English, but English rolls onward, a juggernaut crusting all in its path.”
following my tradition of discovering an author in reverse order, I read Susan Sontag’s journals, then her short stories, and next I’ll move to the essays. I really liked these, many of them are autobiographical or experiment with form, and they’re all beautifully written.
“She once told an interviewer that while the living room is fine for essays, short stories needed to be written in the bedroom. This distinction between outer and inner sancta seems a good way of approaching the contents of this volume. The stories are her innermost work.”
This book was so compelling I threw out my whole newsletter so I could write about it instead (& it will be waiting for you in your inbox tomorrow morning.) it’s poetry & memoir & philosophy all in one, all about the color blue, and about a lot more than that.
“Sometimes I worry that if I am not moved by a blue thing, I may be completely despaired, or dead. At times I fake my enthusiasm. At others, I feel I am incapable of communicating the depth of it.”
THIS BOOK ROCKED MY WORLD!!! Sheila Heti’s voice and her themes are definitely not for everyone, but if you like poetic, mostly plotless, and memoir-tinged writing you might like this. (if you aren’t sure message me, I can tell you.) this book is her journey to deciding if she wants to be a mother, “whether I want kids is a secret I keep from myself.” I read it furiously in one day, and I’m pretty sure I underlined 85% of it.
“Having children is nice. What a great victory to be not-nice. The nicest thing to give the world is a child. Do I ever want to be that nice?”
Hands down the most beautiful characters I’ve ever read, but also one of the hardest-to-read books I’ve ever encountered. Simone de Beauvoir nails female emotion so perfectly I couldn’t bare to look at it head-on. The woman she describes are everything we’ve been taught to avoid and to scorn, but they’ve been given the microphone. Very incredible.
“What nonsense, this intoxicating notion of progress, of upward movement, that I had cherished; for now the moment of collapse was at hand! It had already begun. And now it would be very fast and very slow: we were going to turn into really old people.”
Going to begin by embracing the collective you: In most books you read there’s probably something, small or large, you don’t morally agree with. But it’s likely you don’t feel the need to distance yourself from it or acknowledge it. I’ve never heard someone say, “read this book, but watch out, they steal something in chapter three and that’s uncool.”
Typically the things that are uncouth, that don’t mesh into polite society or our specific worldview, are described in a sanitized way, and especially when you’re talking about affairs, or desire, or sex in general, they’re often described from a male perspective. This book is different. It’s a little bit shocking, it’s supposed to be. But if you are disgusted by it, you’re sort of proving her right.
But really, this book is about a lot more than that. it’s about women, as people existing in the world. It’s about literature and art. It’s about marriage and affairs, and it’s about desire. It’s one of the books that strung together a lot of broken pieces that were already floating around my brain, and I think pretty much everyone should read it.
“This presumes that there’s something inherently grotesque, unspeakable, about femaleness, desire. But what I’m going through with you is happening for the first time.”
“I want to own everything that happens to me now,’ I told you. ‘Because if the only material we have to work with in America is our own lives, shouldn’t we be making case studies?'”