A hodgepodge of things I have recently liked, and that kept me going while feeling crushed.
Well hellooo there!
The last time I wrote to you, I recommended an excerpt from Jessi Klein’s book—a collection of essays “on midlife and motherhood” called I’ll Show Myself Out. I’m happy to report that the whole book is a joy. I was chuckling and sometimes full-on snorting aloud next to Corey in bed as I read it—and not just because I may have also taken an edible to help me sleep. (Pretty unnecessary these days, because I am usually TIRED.)
It is mostly very funny, but also at moments heartbreaking and profound, which could very well describe my experience of parenting thus far (with many sweet and semi-uneventful walks in between). Especially if you have young kids, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
Before I got into I’ll Show Myself Out, I devoured Jennifer Egan’s new novel The Candy House, which I was so very excited for. Have you read her book A Visit from the Goon Squad? You may not actually remember if you have, because it came out in 2011, when we could never have imagined all the shit that would go down in the next dozen years.
I loved the Goon Squad then, and even retained a few things about it—a scene in the yellow-grey early morning on the banks of the East River, a diva-ish entertainer who performs for a dictator, a chapter that seemed to predict the way we’d use social media … and was there one that kind of looked like a PowerPoint? Anyway, it was wildly creative, populated with super-intriguing characters, and was the number #1 book I would recommend to people who just wanted something great and fun to read, well, pretty much for the last decade.
So when I heard that The Candy House would resurface some of the same characters and themes, I couldn’t wait. And wow, it really delivers. The moment I finished, I turned back to the beginning and started again, partially because I didn’t want it to be over, and partially because I was like, How tf did she do that? (I actually just came across the archived website for the Goon Squad and it is very cool and gives some clues to how she actually did it the first time—like where in her writing life some of these things originated. Writers and nerds among you may love it.)
In addition to being something of a social media soothsayer—perhaps not unrelated, I removed Instagram from my phone around the time I finished this book and have yet to restore it—and a mad architect when it comes to building a universe of characters, Egan is just a beautiful writer. The Candy House’s chapters are each narrated by different characters. Here is a summer moment I loved, as told by Molly, who is 13:
Speaking of summertime and teens, I also really liked the latest season of Stranger Things, once I got past the very graphic first episode. (Truth told, I probably stare exclusively at my knitting for a good 10% of each episode because it’s borderline too scary for me to watch.) I love this show for the same reason I think a lot of people do, which is the very likable characters fighting evil amidst some pure 1980s nostalgia.
This season, the Kate Bush song “Running Up That Hill” captured that feeling for its many, many fans. It is a very good song, which is now featured in like a gazillion remixes, and also the new trailer for the episodes coming out July 1. (Goosebumps!!)
I had my own mini Kate Bush-aissance when Phoebe Philo used the 1988 song “This Woman’s Work” (from the movie She’s Having a Baby) in her spring 2015 show for Céline, and I found myself spontaneously crying in front of a livestream. If you need some similar catharsis in the car, or wherever, I highly suggest this song. (If you need a late birthday gift for me, and can find something from that collection, I suggest that too.)
To that end, I need to shift gears for a moment—although there are still recommendations in here—and say that while I found some reprieve in the things above, my brain and spirit for much of the last month have been truly buried by the shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde. I may have been remiss in writing “Have a Good Day” because I was having a hard time doing that myself—but part of this newsletter is about it means to have a good day in these sometimes terrible moments.
Beyond the sheer horror, fury, and sadness of what took place, I was so frustrated by the widespread initial reaction that there was really nothing to be done about gun violence at a legislative level. I found a little relief in a Nick Kristof column that discusses the need to “complexify” the issue in an effort to reduce polarization.
“This will be painful for many of my fellow liberals, but I suggest that we work harder to engage centrists, talk about ‘gun safety’ rather than ‘gun control,’ and jump into the weeds,” he writes.
In the weeds is where we might make incremental progress with regulations that could save lives. It’s true that what’s currently in the bipartisan gun bill might feel laughably insufficient (“Enhanced background checks” for 18-year-olds who want to buy AR-15s?? Why do we even have AR-15s?), but it’s not nothing, and so much better than just sitting in a stalemate while more Americans die of gun violence.
Last week I joined a one-hour legislative advocacy workshop led by Moms Demand Action, the grassroots arm of the gun safety powerhouse Everytown, which is sort of like a counterweight to the NRA. (And not just for moms.)
It was a great introduction to taking action at the federal, state, and local levels, and also deeply comforting and inspiring to see the faces of many people who have been doing this work already (some for years) and find it in themselves, as one of their hashtags says, to #keepgoing.
One very easy way to take part is to text the word “summer” to the phone number 64433 to receive a series of weekly summer actions that MDA promises will take no more than 20 minutes each. (You can also sign up on this site.)
If you are feeling the urge to just DO SOMETHING, this is a good place to start.
And if you are feeling the urge to just feel an urge, then Beyoncé has a new single for you!
Please, please send me your summer recs too.
Much love and have a good day!
I requested your favorite make-ahead dinner recipes (or non-recipes) in a previous newsletter, with the promise of integrating them into a future edition … which I have yet to do! That’s basically because my cooking life has remained recently in a state of triage, but I will recover and share these faves, so if you’re still holding onto some make-ahead miracles, sheet pan dinners, Instant Pot potions, slow cooker go-to’s, etc, etc, please reply with them or drop them into the comments below. Thank you!