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

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 – 6/2/19

Blessed be the boss that releases you early from the hallowed halls of the Crystal Palace, after a week of attempting to stem the frustration of book nerds who missed the galley drop by minutes.

And now, my watch has ended.

Here’s what you missed this week (or really, what I missed this week. Cell service in the Javits is abysmal):

 

Cheers,

EV

Review – We Like Our Aperol Spritzes With A Dash Of Homicide

By now, dear reader, you’ve deduced that we’re not known for our follow through. Our book reading rate for any given meeting hovers around 30%, and that’s being generous. Which begs the question: what are we reading? And what are we enjoying?

As I write this, it’s raining in Brooklyn, and the first signs of crisp, fall air are sliding through the open window. While there are a couple weeks left of summer, I’m reminiscing on sweet summer nights and lazy, hazy afternoons (and ignoring the swampy city smells and unattractive but inevitable butt sweat that comes with any good NYC summer). And as I long for one more Aperol Spritz before the season ends, I’m reminded of an equally delicious read from a few months back: Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions, by Mario Giordano.

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Told from the perspective of Poldi’s nephew, a struggling writer who doesn’t have a whole lot going for him, it recounts Poldi’s first foray into the criminal underworld of Sicily. Upon her sixtieth birthday, Poldi leaves her beloved Bavaria behind and moves to Sicily (Torre Archirafi, to be exact). While the island is home to her recently deceased husband’s family, and collection of nosy but well-meaning brothers and sisters-in-law, what she really wants is to drink herself to death in relative peace. However, Poldi is forced to put her plans on hold when the young handyman helping repair her rundown seaside home goes missing, and she suspects something has gone terribly wrong. When she finds his body on the beach, she vows to bring his killer to justice. What ensues is a thriller as twisty as the Sicilian roads, with Poldi playing Miss Marple as she interrogates possible Mafia members, Bavarian officials, and down-on-their-luck aristocrats, all while throwing herself directly in the path of the police detective she can’t seem to forget. Poldi is not the most reliable of sleuths: she’s impulsive, and probably not the sharpest tack in the box (alcohol aside). What she does have is heart, and an intuition that (eventually) leads her on the correct path. Giordano has assembled an oddball supporting cast that add to the book’s charms and make Poldi’s madcap schemes to catch the killer endearing and entertaining. Don’t pass on Poldi: she’s the fierce aunt we not-so-secretly wish to have, and hope to be.

 

Verdict: A charming mystery that will have you longing for distant shores and adventure.

Pairs well with: Aperol Spritz, obviously.

 

 

 

The Club Celebrates the 4th…With a Book

Hello Readers,

It’s July 4, a day for sparklers, a cold Bud, and blisters from walking endless blocks to secure the perfect firework-gazing spot. While our political climate seems more contentious than ever, there is one thing we can agree on: it’s the perfect day to kickstart your summer reading. What do we have on the docket? Let’s start with our latest club pick:

 

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Sloane Crosley’s latest collection of essays, Look Alive Out There, hit shelves a decade after her first collection, I Was Told There’d Be Cake. She’s back with more hilarious adventures, from scaling volcanoes to crashing shivas. MV was reading this in the park last weekend, and might have spent more time laughing while reading, than actually reading. More of our thoughts are coming later this month.

 

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As I wrote in our last missive, I have a massive writing crush on Joan Didion. An entry about summer reads (especially on ‘Murica’s birthday) seemed incomplete without Didion’s latest book, a collection of her notes from the 1970s. The first set, “Notes on the South,” documents a road trip she took with her husband through Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. She vividly documents a world of horse shows, political soirees, and empty highways that, to today’s reader, may not seem that different from the South of today. The second portion of the book, “California Notes,” reflects on Didion’s childhood in Sacramento, and what “The West” means to those along the Pacific Coast. If you want to get a glimpse into a brilliant mind, and understand what America’s varied landscapes mean to the people that inhabit them, then add this to your list.

 

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To me, summer reading has often meant a bone-chilling thriller to dive into at the beach (as if the seagulls aren’t terrifying enough). A few of my favorites: The Woman in Cabin 10, which I recently finished on a hot summer morning in the park (while MV read Sloane Crosley). Ruth Ware fills the pages with badass women who refuse to be held captive, something we can all aspire to. Sharp Objects premieres on HBO this weekend; if you haven’t dipped into Gillian Flynn’s twisted thriller with more mommy issues than any one person should have, then I highly recommend jumping in. This last title is one of my favorite series that my Dad and I read together. Relic introduces readers to the rule-breaking, justice-seeking Special Agent Pendergast as he investigates mysterious murders inside the Museum of Natural History.

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I’ll cap off our list with an essential summer read by an author often called The Queen of the Summer Read: Elin Hilderbrand. While I have yet to read her latest summer hit, The Perfect Couple, I thoroughly enjoyed The Identicals, a book that solidified herself as a mainstay on summer reading lists and in beach totes nationwide. Twin sisters living on Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, respectively, decide to swap islands and lives over the course of one summer. There’s family drama, romance, and plenty of lobster rolls and wine consumed while gazing at the Atlantic. What more could want? Oh, right: some more wine to go along with your summer reading.

Enjoy,

E