Self’s Life in Books

In 2013, she read a total of 30 books.

In 2014, to her great disappointment, she managed to read only 7.

Thus far, in 2016, she’s read 18 books. Oh happy happy joy joy.

2013 was a great year for her reading life.

She read:

  • Bicycle Diaries, by David Byrne
  • Anna Karenina
  • Don Quijote
  • Per Petterson’s Out Stealing Horses
  • Mildred Armstrong Kalish’s Litte Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression
  • Sister Carrie
  • The Leopard, by Giuseppe di Lampedusa
  • The Quiet American, by Graham Greene
  • Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel
  • The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin
  • City of Thieves, by David Benioff
  • The Lincoln Lawyer, by Michae Connelly
  • Henry M. Stanley’s How I Found Livingstone in Central Africa

In 2015, self’s great reads were:

  • Silas Marner
  • Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin
  • The Act of Love, by Howard Jacobson
  • Middlemarch, by George Eliot
  • Bad Behavior, by Mary Gaitskill

This year, self’s favorite books have been:

  • The Forever War, by Dexter Filkins (which she just realized she’d already read five years ago: She didn’t remember a thing!)
  • Anjelica Huston’s second memoir, Watch Me
  • The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
  • The Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Matsuo Basho
  • Swimming Studies, by Leanne Shapton

She’s struggling through Northanger Abbey. Really struggling. But she is determined to finish it.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Gatskill Sentence of the Day (Story # 8, BAD BEHAVIOR)

“Connie, yo!” Franklin appeared with his hair in his eyes and his pores flowing magnanimously.

— “Other Factors” (Story #8 in Bad Behavior)


What if Self Had a BFF Who Said Things Like

“You have a way, you know, of shoving your vulnerability right into people’s faces. Or something that you call vulnerability, anyway. You sometimes do it immediately upon meeting them. You force people to deal with it.”


“No, listen to me. You don’t do it as much as you did. But you used to do it a lot, and it’s kind of strange to be confronted so aggressively with somebody else’s frailty. Some people will want to protect you, as I did, but some people will want to hurt you.”

— “Other Factors,” Story # 8 in Mary Gaitskill’s Bad Behavior


Yesterday on the High Line: A Message

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Story # 8 in Gaitskill’s BAD BEHAVIOR

“Secretary” was over surprisingly quickly!

All self has to say is: the movie took a slight story (one of the slightest Gaitskill stories self has ever read) and made of it a fully realized film.

Who directed the movie? Must find out! He/She deserves kudos!

Self hardly feels anything for the character on the page, but in the movie, her heart went out immediately to Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character. Rent it on Netflix, if you haven’t already seen it!

Now to Story # 8 in Bad Behavior:

She remembered something he had said to her sometime before: “Don’t worry, Connie. In fifteen years, I’ll be doing my retrospective at the Whitney and you’ll be publishing regularly in The New Yorker.” He paused. “But by then we’ll be ugly.”


To close, another picture self took yesterday, while walking the High Line:


There is a Museum of . . . Sex? Self learns something new every day!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.



Gaitskill: “Secretary”

Self said she was going to stop reading Bad Behavior but that was an obvious lie.

She said she didn’t believe any secretary would let her boss spank her and she still believes that but she’s still reading “Secretary.”

Gaitskill’s corrosiveness is so amazing. Just listen to what she does in this single sentence:

In light of their enthusiasm, the only intelligent course of action seemed to be immobility and rudeness.

WAAAAH! Why can’t self nail her mood with Gaitskill’s precision?

Of equal import, today self achieved one of her life-long dreams: to walk the High Line!

It was freezing! Freezing! (She wouldn’t have been freezing if she’d only bothered to dress properly. But she thought she’d be spending the day inside the Whitney. Not walking the High Line. So of course all she had to defend against the elements was a jacket)

Of all the days self had to pick for this historic and groundbreaking walk, why oh why did it have to be the day when New York’s temperature plummeted to the 40s? But, never underestimate self’s stoicism! She made it from the Whitney all the way to about 30th street.

She’s going to be dropping the pictures she took over the next few days, so stay tuned.


Horizon, Sky: Walking the High Line, December 2015


Sky, Glass, WOW! Who are the architects? Stunning.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


Mary Gaitskill Sentence of the Day From Story # 6 in BAD BEHAVIOR

And you thought perhaps self had stopped reading Mary Gaitskill just because she hadn’t posted a quote from Story # 6? Ixnay!

Self is as committed to Bad Behavior as ever.

Self adores short story collections. And really good short story collections are her be-all and end-all.

The last one she really liked might have been The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis. Or George Saunders’ Civilwarland in Bad Decline.

Gaitskill, self discovered, has such a feel for women (and men) who adopt alternate lives. Like intellectuals who sideline as prostitutes. Or lawyers who like to patronize prostitutes when their wives are out of town.

Anyhoo, after multiple times checking to see if the Vampire Peeta fan fic she’s following has been updated yet (The author usually drops her new chapters close to midnight), she checks her dashboard and sees — whoa! More hits on her own fan fic, the one about Capitol Peeta. Oh no, what pressure!

She’ll just have to relax by reading more Gaitskill.

Without further ado, the Gaitskill sentence of the day:

They talked about how shallow and fake it all was, and once again Stephanie told the story of the twenty-three-year-old clerk who had driven her to despair with stories of his impending publication in Esquire and his subsequent book contract, until she found out that he was certifiably nuts and on lithium, and couldn’t possibly be telling the truth.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.



Words Like a Scalpel (Still More From Story # 5 in BAD BEHAVIOR)

It seemed as though her friendship with Leisha had never been what she would now call a friendship at all, but a complex system of reassurance and support for self-involved fantasies that they had propped up between them and reflected back and forth.

— “Connection,” Story # 5 in Mary Gaitskill’s Bad Behavior

Mary Gaitskill: Still On Story # 5

It is a grey day in New York City. Grey, but warm. In fact, it has been so warm here that self regularly breaks out into a sweat. Yesterday, she walked all around in a T-shirt.

Still reading Gaitskill’s collection Bad Behavior.

It’s very rare that a book coincides with what is going on in a reader’s life. Would you believe, self has wanted to read this book for over five years, ever since she read an article about Mary Gaitskill, might have been in the New York Times Book Review. She has read other books by Gaitskill, of course. Most memorable was Veronica. But why she never got around to reading Bad Behavior until now, she knows not. Perhaps self knew she would need those Gaitskill stories later? Because right now, there’s a beautiful symmetry between Gaitskill’s stories and self’s current situation. It’s almost a miracle.

  • During her first year in the city she gave spare change to anyone who asked her. Eventually she gave money only if she happened to have some in her hand when she was asked.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Story # 5 in Mary Gaitskill’s BAD BEHAVIOR

Two of the fan fic stories self is following dropped new chapters today. Hog heaven!

In the meanwhile, from Story # 5 in Mary Gaitskill’s Bad Behavior:

“I’m so sick and tired of hearing the words ‘directed’ and ‘career,’ I could scream.”

“But you do want a career, don’t you?”

“No, I want to work at Dunkin’ Donuts when I get out of school. I want to get fat. Or be addicted to heroin. I want to be a disaster.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


Mary Gaitskill Convo of the Day (Self Just Can’t Believe the Brilliance)

Still on Story # 4. It is taking her ages. Perhaps, a week from now, she will still be on Story # 4.

Brilliance, Lady, you are brilliance.

Celia to Joel: It’s so interesting. Now that I’m closest to success, I’ve become much less interested in it. I’ve always known that I would be successful, that I just had to work for it. But it was always out of reach, so I obsessed about it all the time. It was a goal. Now it’s more like a natural outcome, another element of my life to be experienced. It’s not even important anymore. There are so many other things in life. It’s silly to be so narrow.

Joel: That’s easy for you to say. Things are always less important once you’re assured of having them.

For years and years, self daydreamed about winning a MacArthur Genius Grant. If only, self would think, if only self had someone who had her back, who would say: As a reward for your immortal contribution to world literature, self, I hereby relieve you of the burden of having to work for a living, forevermore.

Now, after reading that passage from Gaitskill, self feels lucky that she never won. Because it is so much better to be still struggling, to still be looking up towards the goal. Not sliding down the slope on the other side.

But, is it really? If self had won a MacArthur Genius Grant, wouldn’t she be able to afford weekly or even daily massages? (Writers have terrible cricks in their necks. It’s an occupational hazard of the profession. Desk + writing = sore neck). And just think of how many more countries she could visit. Not to mention how much better-looking she would be from having monthly dermabrasions and stomach cleanses.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


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