It’s Been A Minute

Hi friends. Long time, no speak. Still inside? Yeah, us too. We’ve missed you, we’ve missed each other. We’ve missed being able to backorder wine during happy hour. Our hope: that this dumpster fire of a year births a beautiful phoenix from the trash of this world (can you tell that we watched Chamber of Secrets recently? And haven’t spoken to a person in a while?)

We’ll be back with more of what we’re reading and loving and learning. Stay tuned.

The Drinking Club

The Happiest Hour – 5/31/20

During a weekly dance party (aptly named Dance Your Rona Off), we concluded that winter was two days ago. How is tomorrow June and I haven’t gotten a sunburn drinking frose outside?

Here’s what you missed this week:

  • This is by far the most important and urgent recommendation we will ever share here. This anti-racism resource contains the content we must engage with in order to do the necessary work white people must to create an antiracist world (myself included). It can’t wait a moment longer.
  • Summer reading roundups are here, and I feel compelled to pretend I’m back at this delightful Catskills diner. (NYT)
  • Is it okay to turn every door into a bookshelf? (On The Bookshelf)
  • Speaking of bookshelves: here are the celebrity bookshelves we’re judging (Town & Country)

Cheers,

EV

Trouble Reading? Us too.

I have a friend who worked as a tour guide in NYC before *gestures at all this*. She regularly made the trek by ferry from Lower Manhattan to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island with a gaggle of tourists. She visited so much that she began to feel as though Lady Liberty were speaking to her as the ferry approached. To my friend, her voice sounded like Owen Wilson’s (she’s a gifted storyteller). I share this because I think the books on my bedside table might start talking to me, and they won’t say anything nice.

Even before we woke up in Stephen King’s nightmare, I had trouble diving into a good read. It has taken me longer to become absorbed in a book, and I can’t blame my phone for it. Our current circumstances have made it even more challenging. This informative Vox piece explains that we can’t concentrate these days because we’re anxious (duh). While anxiety manifests differently in all of us, we generally can’t concentrate because we’re living in uncertain times, and our search for the answers reinforces this uncertainty. Hence why we can’t read more than a page of the latest Emma Straub after our deep dive into antibody tests.

Not only have I not been able to read, I haven’t been able to write. I took the vacations days I had planned for LL’s wedding, imagining all the reading and writing and organizing and learning I would get done. I had outlined this post almost two weeks ago, envisioning the blogging benchmarks I would smash by the end of the month (the ego knows no bounds). Then Memorial Day rolled around, and all I could do was bake cobbler and watch Sweet Magnolias (the ego seeks solace in Ben & Jerry).

During this time, I reorganized my bookshelves to collect all the books I hadn’t read. It’s half a Billy bookcase. The guilt and inadequacy are crushing. And what makes it worse? Realizing the only books you really want to read are “beach reads.” I want charm and decadence and hometown crushes. The things the guy in your MFA program would put his cigarette out on (who am I kidding? He vapes now). The anxiety-guilt-inadequacy spiral becomes a vortex.

It has taken a pandemic to learn this lesson: have compassion. Will the world stop spinning if I don’t read 10 chapters of Manhattan Beach this weekend, or pen 6 posts a month? Am I less of a person because of those things? The answer is obviously no, but it’s harder to reach that conclusion when it seems our output is the only thing we can control these days. We all need reminders to find enjoyment where we can, and let go of the judgments of others. Emma Straub put it best: “the only feeling that people should have about books they haven’t read yet is HOPE!”

Now, instead of anticipating taunts, I imagine soothing voices coming from the spines on my shelves, saying they will be here when I’m ready. The itch for an afternoon spent watching the sun pass over the edges of a paperback is slowly returning, and I hope to spend more days this summer (safely indoors or masking in the sunshine) tucked into a book. Whatever book I freaking want.

Until next time,

EV

The Happiest Hour – 5/9/20

Here ye, here ye: everyone’s favorite cringeworthy teenage obsession is making a comeback. That’s right: Midnight Sun hits shelves this summer. 14-year-old EV would have been out of her mind that it publishes the week of her birthday. DD has suggested a Twilight-themed sleepover to mark this momentous occasion.

Here’s what you missed this week:

  • Who knew NYT critics had a lot to say about books and breakfast? (NYT)
  • In honor of Mother’s Day, find out which literary mother you are (I’m Marmee). (NYPL)
  • Here are some of the more surprising titles readers are choosing to get them through quarantine, from the greatest tastemakers around–booksellers. (The Strategist)

 

Cheers,

EV

The Happiest Hour – 5/3/20

The Drinking Club caught up this week and decided that next pandemic, we’re hiding out in New Zealand. Hope they start stocking up on the Sauvignon Blanc.

Here’s what you missed this week:

 

Cheers,

EV

The Drinking Club Reads from Quarantine

After reading multiple articles about all the things we could be reading during this time (some of which I shared here), we figured it was time the Drinking Club compiled its own recommendations, on this the 37th week of quarantine. Recent reports, however, indicate that people no longer have the attention or desire to read due to our collective hell. To which we say: fair.

However, if you do feel inclined to spend an evening absorbed in a reality that is not…(gestures to all this), below are some books you can’t go wrong with. And because it’s us, there are a few we recommend you steer clear of. This list is provided by DD, quite possibly the most well-read member of the Drinking Club (AM is also in this category, but is occupied at the moment with her own consumer research project). So, without further ado, here are the books keeping us on the brink of sanity, and a few we’re regifting once this is all over:

  • Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
    • DD says: A perfect romantic comedy escape from the sad state of single quarantine life.
  • Circe by Madeline Miller
    • DD says: Another wonderful escape, this one set in the world and lore of Greek mythology. It’s told SO well and I flew through it… and am now very invested in learning more about the Greek gods.
  • Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin
    • DD says: A modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in a Muslim community in Canada! It’s wonderful, quick, and fun!
  • The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
    • DD says: I’ve never read the books OR seen the movies so I am very excited to finally check this off my bucket list!! Fully expecting these to take me through at least the next 2-3 weeks!
  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    • DD says: I KNOW THIS IS ON YOUR BOOKSHELF AND I PROMISE NOW IS THE TIME. I LOVE IT SO MUCH. It’s great.
    • Editor’s note: it’s moving over to the bedside reading stack.
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
    • DD says: After reading Ayesha at Last I couldn’t stop thinking about this OG Austen novel so here I am, having reread it for the zillionth time (the limit does not exist).
  • The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
    • DD says: If you are a fan of fantasy this is a MUST. It’s a long read, perfect for a quarantine project, and has all the elements of a great fantasy novel (magic, love, revenge, mystery).
  • Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
    • DD says: For all the acclaim it just did NOT do it for me. Maybe I’m not in the right mindset for it but I really had to force myself to get through each chapter and when I finished the book I just kind of felt “meh.”
  • A River of Stars by Vanessa Hua
    • DD says: I tried to read A River of Stars and got through maybe 60 pages and gave up.

 

Until next time,

EV

The Happiest Hour – 4/18/20

A coworker said it best on a recent virtual happy hour: “can we finish this game of Jumanji and put it back in the box?”

Here’s what you missed this week:

  • Next time you want to disguise the fact that you’re taking that conference call from your bed, whip out one of these bookish backgrounds. (Library Journal)
  • The literary world is hard at work on its COVID novels–check out these opening lines, and this pandemic poem. (Medium, Twitter)
  • And if the anxiety from reading the previous bullet is causing some wild heart palpitations, take a breath and read these. (Bustle)

 

Cheers,

EV

The Happiest Hour – 4/11/20

It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again: frozen margaritas make everything better.

Here’s what you missed this week:

  • Are all you cool cats and kittens feeling aimless after bingeing Tiger King? These reads are better than the meat that falls off the Walmart truck. (NYT)
  • You could use some of this free time people keep saying we have (if you see mine, please send it back home) to catch up on the classics. Or you could check out these drawings and get back to your puzzles. (LitHub)
  • What does The Drinking Club love more than a good happy hour? Judging people, especially about their books. (The Guardian)
  • The minute this is over, we’re treating ourselves to one of these. (BookRiot)

 

Cheers,

EV

The Drinking Club Could Use Some Magical Thinking Right About Now

I hope everyone is staying healthy, safe, and well stocked on their wine. I don’t think many of us are far off from throwing in some Baileys to our whipped coffee one morning. The days blur, the stress builds, and you can’t unwind with a peaceful walk along the NYC riverfront because there are TOO MANY PEOPLE OUTSIDE.

As we wait for the next shoe to drop with each news alert, it gets harder to remember the petty grievances we once held, while the memories of happy hours and brunches and movie nights begin to feel like a part of a good dream you just remembered. Now seems like as good as any time to recap what The Drinking Club was up to before it all went to hell in a handbasket (I know this update is months late. I KNOW. The shame is relentless):

  • We read Cherry, and probably got ourselves banned from a posh Midtown wine bar. It might have been for calling the waiter out for his bartender’s crappy pours. It might also have been for leaving six credit cards to split a bill out of spite when said waiter suggested that “Venmo was a thing.” We have no regrets.
  • We read Daisy Jones & The Six, and feasted on grandma pizza and roommate horror stories in DR’s cozy new studio apartment.
  • We read Where The Crawdads Sing, and had very polarizing reactions to it. Some of us also stood on an Amtrak train from Baltimore to get to the gathering, and were probably not the greatest company.

As fate would have it, The Drinking Club gathered about a week before we were told to stay home for the foreseeable future (but not before buying all the yeast we could get our hands on). I had recently ditched MV for another club member, moving into a spacious and sunny bedroom in MM’s apartment. We gathered in my new living room that Friday night, inhaling sea salt chips with our Cabernet Sauvignon and letting loose after a long week. We spent a significant amount of time discussing bodily functions (were we possessed by 12-year-old boys?) and getting LL to dish on all the wedding planning updates (which has now, sadly, been postponed to 2021). It was my turn to select our read, and I chose a book by my favorite author, one that had been sitting on my shelf for nearly two years. The author: Joan Didion. The book: The Year of Magical Thinking, her exploration of death and grief after her husband suddenly died and their daughter became gravely ill. None of that is relevant to today at all.

This was not the cheeriest read, I will admit, especially once you know Quintana, Joan and John’s daughter, dies after the publication of the book. However, those of us that worship at the altar of Joan know that she can make dried paint sound fascinating. What is captivating about her writing is how perfectly she can distill a feeling or experience to the reader. She unravels our most complex actions into their simplest truths, removing any bias to show them as they are. In Magical Thinking, she untangles her grief thread by thread, taking us along as the time from John’s death grows from days to weeks to months. She documents her cool responses in moments of crises, her refusal to accept his death, and her overwhelming sadness as she puts her mourning on hold to care for her daughter. The moment she buys hospital scrubs at UCLA sticks with me still. This scene encapsulates how warped her reality is, and understandably so. Her world, at that moment, is one of trauma. She dissects this and her lowest moments scientifically, but also with compassion. This, combined with her in-depth reporting, gives the reader an unparalleled look at grief on a larger scale, as well as how it infects an individual.

If I’ve learned anything from this book, it’s that we won’t understand how our current crisis has changed us until we are well past it. We will develop quirks that will seem strange to our future selves, but were essential to coping during these quiet days. I’m hopeful Joan will be with us on the other side of this, helping us understand why we did what we did. No one will be able to do it as well as she can.

The Drinking Club is supposed to gather later today, where we’ll hear how DR is accomplishing her very necessary work at a hospital, how DD is managing working from home, and how AM is managing with her relatives in the age of COVID. MM and I will brag about the donuts we made (they were phenomenal). We’ll remind LL how much we’re looking forward to celebrating her wedding in 2021. And we’ll be grateful for each other, our health, and the books that helped us through this time. But mostly we’ll be grateful for the wine.

Until next time,

EV