Annnd The Drinking Club Is Back

To drinking, that is. You may have thought, based on past content, that this was a book blog. Guess again.

It’s felt harder and harder to connect over our shared love of wit and a good cabernet sauvignon since the worst Friday the 13th on record. And honestly, it hasn’t felt right to go about our business here like The Drinking Club can still meet up in a crowded corner booth at The Lovelace and gripe about our latest read. More pressing matters need our attention. Examples: the cops who killed Breonna Taylor haven’t been arrested. People are pretending we’re still not living through a pandemic. Breonna Taylor’s killers still haven’t been arrested. The US election will likely be a cluster (read: will definitely be a cluster). Breonna Taylor’s killers haven’t been arrested.

You did not need me, a white English major, to pontificate on these issues. Go to the experts–they are the people whose work we need to be learning and unlearning from. You know what we also don’t need? Another joke about these “unprecedented times.” Or a joke about how we keep saying “unprecedented times.” If I see it in one more millennial newsletter, my eyes will roll and become permanently lodged in the back of my skull.

What have we been doing, then? Not meeting to discuss the merits of 21st century literature. We’ve been Zooming, working, sleeping. Drinking. We’ve caught up a few times, but it’s hard to maintain a conversation past 30 minutes when no one has done anything except walk from their desk to their bed to the kitchen table and back to their bed (that’s not entirely true. DR works in a hospital managing the crap out of our essential workers and deserves more than a gold star, but that’s all we’ve got). As The Drinking Club’s (faithful? deluded?) scribe, I feel adrift without the companionship and snark of these incredible ladies. Maybe we are unmoored without the promise of a killer happy hour on the horizon.

Since we haven’t read anything together since A Year of Magical Thinking (what a time to read that), I’ll share with you what books have been filling my socially-distanced life:

  • The Nightingale – this was purchased at last year’s Independent Bookstore Day, courtesy of AM’s recommendation. I completed it at 1am on a Monday in April because I could not physically put it down. Historical drama at its best.
  • Bringing Down The Duke – I spent a few delightful spring evenings swept up in this smart regency romance. What could be wrong with a book in a series called A League of Extraordinary Women?
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses series- I finally read these after high praise for years from dear friends of the Drinking Club and DD. This fantasy is enthralling, but I have one question: who read the first book and thought, we should totally market this to teenagers? I read parts of the second book, A Court of Mist and Fury, along the East River and thank god I had my mask on to hide my girlish blush.
  • Manhattan Beach – I know, I was supposed to read this last year. This story of three interconnected people, and their search to give their lives meaning and purpose, was compelling.
  • Party of Two – we’ve talked about Jasmine Guillory before, and in case it wasn’t clear, this is a Jasmine Guillory stan blog. I couldn’t work once I had started this book. If you’re not reading her work, I don’t know what you’re waiting for. They’re smart, they’re swoon-worthy, and you will want to be friends with all her protagonists. I loved this immensely.
  • Evvie Drake Starts Over – this is another DD recommendation, being the fastest and most dedicated reader among us. It was charming and a touch melancholy, and the happy-for-now ending I was looking for.
  • Just Mercy – this needs to be required reading for everyone. Bryan Stevenson documents the harm our criminal justice system and our society’s racial inequalities do to Black people, and in particular, his clients on Death Row. He does this by shining a light on the humanity of the people he has worked with, the humanity that racist people and policies attempted to take from them. My favorite line from the book was: “the death penalty is not about whether people deserve to die for the crimes they commit. The real question of capital punishment in this country is, Do we deserve to kill?”
  • The Wife – this crime thriller was twisty and turny and left me with so many questions. I need a sequel. This book also has one of my favorite crime fiction protagonists. We need more stories with Detective Corrine Duncan taking charge.
  • Beach Read – oh, what I wouldn’t give to move to North Bear Shores. Specifically, to the house next to Gus Everett’s. I’ve already told DD about this plan, and she approves.
  • To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before – this was the second book selected by my grad school book club (the first being Just Mercy). We’re really running the gamut here. But there are few things better than sweet high school romances and even sweeter sister relationships. Though there was a consensus amongst the group that Movie Peter is better than Book Peter. You can keep your opinions about this to yourself.

What’s next on my illustrious reading list, you might ask? I will tell you.

Did we also just skim over the fact that I’m cheating on The Drinking Club with my grad school book club? Yes, I did.

Right now, I’m a quarter of the way through Ninth House, and just started Riot Baby. Thus far, both are phenomenal. I’ve also been working my way through Me And White Supremacy. I know it will be the most important book I do.

As the weather cools and PSL achieves world domination, we’ll be back with some of our regularly scheduled programming and biting humor. We do hope everyone is taking care. We’re lifting our last glasses of summer rosé to you.

Until next time,

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 Club Goes to Another Book Club (The Horror!)

Before you get all worried or something, The Drinking Club is fine. More than fine. DR moved into her own apartment, because she is the most successful of all of us. MM kicked her toxic job to the curb. MV is killing it at her new job. LL is planning THE WEDDING of 2020. DD is constantly on the road, advocating for a cure for a debilitating disease. And AM is lounging in the Hamptons (at least we think. Powering up the helicopter to confirm).

And me? I’ve been knee deep in drayage paperwork and traveling to California to sell books to nerds (that last one was basically a work-sponsored vacation and the highlight of my year. DR is drafting the proposal to convince my manager to keep me out there permanently). I was in the cavernous halls of the San Diego Convention Center, contemplating the deodorant choices of certain members of the cosplay community, when the last meeting of The Drinking Club was held. It was a beautiful gathering; the wine carafes flowed, the baked mac & cheese was abundant. Though I can only guess. MV volunteered herself to write the latest recap (still waiting on it) after she scheduled the meeting when she knew I was out of town (still not bitter). I guess you’ll never know what everyone thought of Manhattan Beach.

Fear not, dear readers–I still attended a book club, so you’ll get your monthly dose of wine-infused literary analysis. This month’s reading adventure takes us to Midtown and the teal halls of TheSkimm. As a loyal subscriber (but terrible Skimm Squad member–my follow-through was abysmal), I received an invite to a trial book club event they were hosting. The book: The Farm by Joanne Ramos, an unsettling look at privilege and surrogacy told through the lens of the hosts carrying the fetuses of the world’s uber wealthy. The main event, a Q&A with Ramos at their office, seemed like a great way to kill two birds with one stone: feed my obsession with TheSkimm, and do some research for my day job (we host a similar annual event, however, the median age of our readers is around 75).

Joined by the best intern NYC has ever seen (and actual Skimmbassador), I settled into the plush couches at SkimmHQ with a very buttery glass of Chardonnay. The group assembled was intimate and eager to discuss, though not in an overbearing way. I was a bad sport and forgot to write a book recommendation on my name tag, but that didn’t prevent me from passing along a few recs of my own. There was a real sense of community, or at least a desire to build one from the like-minded ladies in the room.

Joanne Ramos was relatable and authentic; her responses weren’t canned, or overly crafted. The discussion that night covered whether we thought the ending of her novel was a happy one (no spoilers, but I was convinced it was going to end in a bloodbath); whether the likability of the characters mattered to us (Ramos said she had no interest in writing saints or villains); how Ramos’s immigrant experience and today’s political climate influence the protagonists; whether privilege prevents you from “doing good,” and where privilege comes from.

Probably the most interesting part of the discussion for me was the author’s bio, and the circuitous path she took to becoming a novelist. Without having grown up in the Midwest as a first generation immigrant, worked in finance, became a reporter, she said she wouldn’t have been able to write the story that she did. She shared an analogy a former boss had shared with her: while we might like our lives to be a series of choices that place us on a linear path, our choices are often resemble a patchwork quilt. Each experience is unique and colorful, and when added to others, creates a more interesting tableau that put you where you were meant to be. I think that’s a lesson that, while cheesy, we could all use in our hyper-competitive and Instagram-curated lives.

Another important takeaway: Gemma Chan, Saoirse Ronan, and Matthew McConaughey should keep their schedules open, because we want them for the movie. It’s been decided–they can’t back out now.

Until next time,

EV

 

The Club Reminisces on 2018…and Cringes

With only a couple of weeks left to 2018, everyone is looking back at what the universe dished up in the past 350-ish days. The Winter Olympics feel like a lifetime ago. We have more gray hairs than we care to admit after reading the news each day. And our future children will mock us when they see that we slung fanny packs over our shoulders like Jansports. Woof.

We might sending 2018 off with a “boy, bye” instead of a stirring rendition of Auld Lang Syne, but that doesn’t mean we won’t look back fondly on some parts of this year. There was a royal wedding. A selfie kid at the Super Bowl. Probably some other stuff we will remember years later in therapy. What we will remember from this year: the amazing things we read.

Not ones to be left out of a good fad, we present to you our Best of 2018 list. And because it’s us, we have to share with you our Worst of 2018 list as well. Note: unlike The New York Times and any other reputable outlets, not all the items presented here have been published this year. We just read them this year. Better late than never, right?

We’ve also shared our favorite drinks from the past year as a pairing with our favorite reads, because we love you.

THE DRINKING CLUB WITH A READING PROBLEM’S BEST READS OF 2018

DD: “How Anna Delvey Tricked New York“. Pair with: a perfectly chilled Veuve Cliquot.

LL: Beneath A Scarlet Sky. Pair with: a cucumber mint vodka cocktail.

DR: Manhattan Beach. Pair with: a Tom Collins.

AM: Beartown. Pair with: Justice (better than any drink out there).

MM: Sharp Objects. Pair with: a glass of Valpolicella Ripasso. MM also recommends noshing on some Trader Joe’s cheese with the purple rind. You know the one.

MV: Look Alive Out There. Pair with: Sauvignon Blanc and a LED floodlight for all the Jared’s in our lives.

EV: The Tokyo Zodiac Murders. Pair with: Pinot Noir.

 

THE DRINKING CLUB WITH A READING PROBLEM’S WORST READS OF 2018

DR: Swing Time

MM: The Nest

AM: That article about the auction of Sylvie’s stuff. We’re still a little salty about that one.

MV: Alias Grace