NEW YORK IS SCARY: Or, I arrive on bus and feel a wee tiny bit out of my element.
I honestly had no idea that four hours on a bus could bring such pain. After one hour my tail bone was all, “WHY?” and I was all (frowny face) “Let me stand up and see if that makes it better,” to which the woman sitting next to me was all, “You’re weird.”
(Standing up, in any case, did not make it better. I have no idea what could be causing the pain. I am 23. I should be able to sit for extended periods of time. Yikes–time to make a doctor’s appointment.)
When I did finally arrive in NYC and managed to relieve my old lady aches and pains, there were SO! MANY! PEOPLE! In my defense, my arrival at Penn Station was on the day of the NYU graduation, so there were about eleventy billion people around. My friends Christine and Maribeth from Long Island had come in to meet me and keep me from, oh, vomiting, so I made it through the day pretty well.
- Where we ate: Toon Thai Cafe in Midtown. Delicious! I had a particularly delightful mojito with lots of fresh mint.
- Poor choice #1: The only hot day of my three days in New York and I wore jeans.
- Bookish adventure of the day: After Christine & Maribeth left, I walked to the Strand. I bought a hardcover copy of Emma Larkin’s Everything Is Broken, a book about the Cyclone disaster in Burma, for half price (!). Yes, I am one of those people who actually bought a book during BEA week. *ducks head*
- The Gershwin Hotel: For $39 dollars a night, there’s not really a lot of room to complain. I do wish they had been more upfront about not having outlets available in the dormitory rooms, but I understand why they’re not provided. More distressing, I had to sleep on a top bunk on a very creaky metal bunk bed set, which made it difficult to a) get in and out of the bed and b) sleep without worrying the whole thing would come crashing down on the poor girl on the bottom bunk. …Other than that, it was fine.
- Birch Coffee: Honestly, everyone should go here. Amazing coffee and ridiculously friendly baristas. I spent a majority of my evenings at the cafe, being cozy and reading. (Do all cafes in NYC serve beer? Can all cafes in Boston do this, please?)
PART 1: BOOK EXPO AMERICA: Or, I obtain more books than may be legal in some countries.
- Most Cass event of the day: I lost my phone on my way to the Javits center. I think I left it in the cab. I always lose something, no matter where I go, but to lose my phone less than 24 hours after arriving in New York was a record.
- While Waiting In Line: I met a rather hilarious librarian from Vermont who not only helped me figure out just what was going on, but entertained me for the good half hour we waited to get in to BEA. (Hi, Megan!) I was freaking out about the phone quite a bit by then, so having good company was very helpful.
- Understatements: I picked up a few books. They were kind of heavy.
- Stand out authors/editors I met: Richard Kim & Betsy Reed, who edited the Going Rouge: An American Nightmare, a collection I’ve been meaning to buy/read; Ariel Leve, who made me laugh by getting endearingly excited that she was making a book out to Cassandra, also the name of the character in her book, It Could Be Worse, You Could Be Me; Arlene Alda, who was very sweet, and I managed to avoid having a total “You’re Mrs. Hawkeye Pierce!” fan girl moment; and Marcy Demansky, author of Bad Marie, who remembered me when we met again at the Book Blogger Reception–and the first book I’ve read of all the ones picked up at BEA. (It was very good. Still processing.)
- How Did I Almost Just Forget: I also met Laurie Halse Anderson. My sixteen year-old self is still smiling. (In sad news, I didn’t get to meet R.L. Stine. I hope at least one book blogger did, and I want pictures.)
- Secret Sigh of Relief: That the previously mentioned Ariel Leve is, in fact, not Ariel Levy, who is completely different and not nearly as cool.
- WEIRDEST THING THAT HAPPENED EVER; or, I met Oliver Twist: I was waiting in line at a signing for a memoir about a woman’s scientist father. I had this conversation:
Man: It’s a book I could never write. I didn’t know my father.
Me: …I’m sorry to hear that.
Me: …It sounds like a very sad story.
Man: No, it wasn’t sad. The orphanage took good care of us.
PART 2: BOOK BLOGGER RECEPTION: Or, I remain horrified about my lost phone and try to not throw up.
- The picture on your left is an approximate rendering of what I looked like at the reception. I think it’s pretty accurate.
- It is quite likely I made bad jokes, said mildly inappropriate things, and had several cups of coffee.
- What I learned: Mingling is hard.
- I also hit a man in the face with my pen. By accident, I assure you! It was very Matrix-y. I would draw you a picture, but I’ve used up my photoshop skills for the day.
to be continued…
Jennifer at Crazy For Books hosts the Book Blogger Hop every Friday through Sunday. I usually don’t have time during the weekend to participate, but with BEA and the Book Blogger Convention coming up so soon, I thought it would be fun to join in this week.
I kind of want to dress up like one of those dancing books for Halloween. Thoughts?
Woman From Shanghai: Tales of Survival from a Chinese Labor Campby Xianhui Yang
Translated from the Chinese by Wen Huang
This cover is a disaster of the highest degree, similar to the awful original Ameircan cover for Justine Laribaster’s Liar–only instead of insinuating the book is about a white girl instead of a girl of color, we are provided with a photograph of a well dressed woman in lipstick that (in combination with the left-out subtitle) thoroughly misrepresents the book and thoroughly misleads the potential reader. Based on the cover only, what would your guess as to the subject matter of the book be? If you guessed “a fictionalized account of real stories from Jiabiangou, a Chinese hard labor camp where over 2500 (out of 3000) accused Rightists died of starvation,” then, uh, major points to you.
I can say with certainty that I would not have read The Woman from Shanghai had I come across it at the library with no prior knowledge. I might have assumed it was a romance, or maybe a story about the sex trade (beware of Google results from a “Woman from Shanghai” search). Had I not seen a recommendation in Bookmarks Magazine, without a picture of the cover, I might have missed this gem of a collection.
The Woman From Shanghai, a short story collection based on conversations the author had with survivors of the camp, are stark, unembellished stories of hunger and pain and people who are forced by matter of circumstance to do terrible things. The story from which the title is taken follows a woman who travels for days to visit her husband, a prisoner at Jiabiangou, only to discover upon her arrival that he has died. She stays for several days on a quest to find his body, but when she does she discovers just how horrible the conditions at the camp are.
The prose is direct and carefully avoids being excessively gory. Some of the changes in the translation might be considered condescending–or at least eye-roll worthy–such as when characters refer to directly to the “Chinese New Year” or the “Chinese saying.” Otherwise, The Woman From Shanghai is an authentic, stirring revelation of a terrible event in Chinese history.
Recommended: History nerds; human rights advocates; fans of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
For further reading: Woman From Shanghai and the marketing of Chinese Literature in Translation
Finding George Orwell In Burma
by Emma Larkin
Finding George Orwell In Burma
was the first book I ever purchased because of a book blogger–thanks, Eva!
Even though I was really excited about it because of my unabashed love for George Orwell, the book ended up sitting on my shelves for over a year, forgotten. Then, two weeks ago, I stumbled on an amazing documentary, Burma VJ: Reporting From a Closed Country
while channel surfing. It made me cry, made me angry, and made me want to understand just what’s happening in Burma; lucky for me, I just happened
to have a book about Burma on my shelves.
Here are three reasons I loved this book:
1. Investigative journalism at its finest. Reporting like this is what we stand to lose from declining newspapers (well, unless they all get book deals). Larkin, a pseudonym the author uses so she can continue to write from Burma (if discovered, she could face hard labor/prison and even death), is an accessibly informative writer.
2. It’s perfect for that often neglected book-nerd-and-human-rights-activist. Not only do we learn about the history of Burma, its current political climate, and the strength of its people, we are given a great analysis of Orwell’s work and how it compares to Burma’s history.
3. Despite being an “outsider,” Larkin manages to treat the Burmese people with a respect I find rare in Western accounts of non-Western life.
Larkin has just released a new book, Everything Is Broken: A Tale of Catastrophe in Burma,
which brings new insight and much needed reporting on the devastation of the cyclone that hit Burma in 2008. I can’t wait to read it–and I am chalking up another point for book bloggers and excellent recommendations.
Recommended: History and book nerds; human rights advocates; fans of George Orwell
Please check out my guest post at the GLBT Challenge blog! There’s even a giveaway of one of my very favorite books!
By the Numbers
15 Young Adult
02 Non-Fiction (1 memoir, 1 history)
01 Graphic Novel
01 Short Story
13 Audio (113 listening hours or 4.7 DAYS)
17 Print (3,933 pages)
5 Books Owned
25 Borrowed from the Boston Public Library
5 Books Toward GLBT Challenge
Favorite Book Read: Flight by Sherman Alexie
Least Enjoyed Book: Bite Me by Christopher Moore
Oldest book: A Wrinkle In Time by Madeline L’Engle
Newest book: Bite Me by Christopher Moore; Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan