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 Gets Preppy

Before we get down to business, an important Corrections Corner:

It has come to my attention that some members (*cough* DR *cough*) feel recent posts have inaccurately portrayed them as “weird.” To which I reply: since when is that a bad thing? I revealed in the last post, dear reader, that I was enamored by a six-year-old’s story about talking animals that want to transform into breakfast items. Hardly what the grand dames would consider appropriate conversation material.

It amazes me how badass women, myself included, still give credence to what is considered “normal” and “weird.” Why, when confronted with a flawless Instagram story or a gaggle of women who seem to know the right thing to say, do we suddenly feel like the girl in middle school who isn’t wearing the right Abercrombie top?

Nothing could have induced this feeling more than our latest read, Prep. Curtis: you took me back to places I didn’t want to go. I’m not sure I’m happy about it. But here we are.

Sittenfeld’s first book received high praised, and you can see why: she manages to capture essential truths about our world, and ourselves, and place it alongside the putrid reality of high school seamlessly. Several of us had trouble getting into it, because these characters, especially Lee, can be so unlikable. But then–who actually likes teenagers?

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Following Lee’s journey through Ault, the prep school she imagined would transform her life, stirred memories I was convinced I left in the Comb-Over (we called our high school’s renovated entryway The Comb-Over because it resembles a certain President’s hairstyle. If only we knew).  Lee’s desire to connect, most evident in her obsession with knowing the intimate details of her peers’ lives, is uncomfortable and understandable. She wants to see others, and be seen in return. As teenagers, we all wanted to be understood (cue eye rolls and door slamming). But at Ault, an insular world ruled by byzantine social codes, you have to conform to be seen.

How does high school pan out for Lee? Not so great, but she makes it out in one piece, which is all most of us can ask for. As she narrates her high school years to us from some distance in time, it’s clear that the issues she had developing connections at Ault translated into adulthood. As a narrator, she’s cool, and while she reveals much of her inner thoughts, you get the sense that these are shared with some resistance. There’s more to Lee Fiora than she’s willing to let on.

Adulthood has a way of relieving some of the inhibitors that kept you pressed against the gymnasium wall at the school dance, because you quickly learn that no one care as much as you think they do. You learn how to spot your people, and allow those who bring you down to drift away.  I’m beyond lucky to know the members of The Drinking Club, who are some of the most generous women out there, with their time, energy, and love. They are all unabashedly themselves, and I love them more for it (but DR the most. Obvi).

And to demonstrate this, I thought I would share some of our “weird” quotes from our last gathering, because: a) they’re genius, and b) I don’t actually know how we made it from one subject to the next. But we covered a lot of ground.

  • “European men know what’s up with pants”: LL and AM vacationed in Iceland and Ireland and found a lot to admire in the scenery. Never underestimate the power of a well-constructed pocket.
  • “You just boil them alive”: The Donner Party we are not. MV instead has enlightened us to the art of cooking lobster after recent adventures with le boyfriend in California. And has maybe inspired a future Drinking Club activity?
  • “It’s either romantic, or where you plan a murder”: where else would this be, but Maine. DD traveled there for a half marathon and anticipated that she would be smitten with New England, as maybe a gorgeous fisherman. We’ll hand the second part of that statement over to Stephen King.
  • “I want to skin her and wear her–relax, it’s a Real Housewives quote”: I don’t know why LL shared this with us. I will say: you can’t go wrong adding a little Bethenny or Rinna into a conversation.

 

What else is new with The Drinking Club?

  • Wedding bells are ringing for LL, who has asked us to clear our calendars for spring nupitals in the South. Congrats!!!
  • Expect to see DR in the next Free Solo documentary, as she conquered the National Parks and did not fall off a cliff. (We’ll resist the I-Told-You-So. For now.)
  • MV is killing it at a new job, and will now be supplying us with bathing suits for life.
  • We thought we lost MM and AM there for a minute. But then MV and I found them on Independent Bookstore Day, when we ventured to Books Are Magic and learned just how long it takes to make a quiche.

 

Until next time,

EV