Lucy Knisley is known for her confessional, thoughtful, and fearless graphic novels. From her very first one (French Milk), she has illuminated each phase of her life with watercolor, grace, and humor. She’s written about everything from discovering your place in the world, caring for elderly relatives, making delicious food, and finding your ideal partner.
Her latest is called Something New and, in it, Knisley tackles a doozy: the modern American wedding. She does this in her usual way: with insight, history, and a serious deep-dive into the personal. She approaches the “industrial marriage complex” from the wide angle of society, but manages to inflect her exploration with her own personal experiences.
Both Kate and Corey read Something New this summer and, while they both love Lucy Knisley’s work but have fairly different perspectives on weddings, they decided to have a chat about it.
Corey: Weddings are such a personal topic — people seem to get anxious even when talking about hypothetical, future weddings — so I hope we’re still friends after this.
Kate: Um, of course we will be! But I agree, there’s so much emotion and stress inherent in weddings and marriage and wedding planning, which I think is why this book strikes such a chord. Knisley doesn’t try to paint a wedding as this wonderful, beautiful, perfect day — it’s a day that symbolizes a couple’s commitment to each other that, as so many things in life are, is inherently flawed.
Corey: Absolutely. But I think Knisley’s book is truly exceptional at capturing the best about weddings: the bringing together of everyone you love to celebrate love. The day after her wedding, as Knisley ponders the event, she is struck by how lovely and how important it was to gather everyone together in this way. Most often, you will never again have those people in a room together. I’d never thought about weddings that way!
Kate: Yes! I think she did a great job of unpicking all of the stuff that comes along with weddings and making it clear that it was the people there that were ultimately most important. (more…)
Since it came out earlier this year, Rebecca Traister’s All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation seems to have skyrocketed to the top of every feminist booklist. And with good reason! Traister is curious, thoughtful, and thorough in her examination of the current state of affairs for unmarried women in America.
In All the Single Ladies, Traister explores the multi-faceted experience of being a single woman with sensitivity, insight, and more shocking statistics and facts than you can shake a stick at. Did you know the U.S. House of Representatives didn’t have a women’s restroom until 2011? That the median net worth of a single African American woman in 2014 was just $100? That the American marriage rate is dropping, but so is the divorce rate? All the Single Ladies is, if nothing else, a parade of thought-provoking factoids.
But it is so much more. Much like my reading of Only Child, All the Single Ladies made me think much more deeply about my own personal experiences, in this case as a single woman. Traister looks at every aspect, from the importance of female friendships to the choice to have or not have children to the effect of singledom on one’s career. Her sensitive, even-keeled approach to all these potentially explosive topics was revelatory.
Which isn’t to say there weren’t things that bothered me about the book. (more…)
Well, we’re about halfway through summer (already? Already!), so we thought we’d check in on our 2016 summer reading list and see how things have played out. Share your summer in reading so far in the comments section!
Summer Traditions & Rereads:
The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling (reread) — I think readers of a certain age are conditioned to read Harry Potter books mid-summer. The books were always released to much fanfare at the end of July when they first came out, so as the temperatures skyrocket, I like to reach for a cool drink of J. K. Rowling’s books. I reread the first book and it was just as transportive, funny, and full of hijinks as I remembered. For some reason, I was particularly struck by Rowling’s invention of Quidditch this time around — who just invents a sport wholecloth like that? And how is it so easily understandable right away? Her creativity and ability to make strange things seem normal still blow me away, even 17 years later. (CFB)
Classics (Old and New):
Twilight Sleep by Edith Wharton — This is set a lot later than most of Wharton’s books: 1927, the heart of the Jazz Age. It was an interesting study of the hypocrisy that Wharton saw during this age, which does seem fairly modern, in a lot of ways. One of the main characters goes from guru to guru seeking release from her stress, trying yoga and something akin to therapy to help herself deal with the trials of everyday life. However, as is typical for Wharton, the novel ends bleakly, without hope and instead with an exposure of the rotten foundation underneath the gilded surface. (KW)
The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton — We seem to be on an Edith kick this summer! I picked this one up somewhat randomly and was treated to a bevy of Edith’s deeply flawed characters, frequently doing awful things to each other. Mostly, the book was interesting for the extreme lengths Wharton goes to with her plot and characters to make her point: namely, that the choices for women longing for independence at the turn of the century were plain old terrible. (CFB)
The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Robert Fagles — Truth be told, I started reading The Odyssey in my old copy from high school, a Barnes and Noble classic with a high Victorian prose translation by Samuel Butler. It didn’t ring true, so I went out and got the Fagles translation (newish, from 1996). This was an excellent decision since Fagles’ version preserves the poetry as well as the immediacy of the language. I’m about halfway through right now and I am really loving it! Also, something about nautical misadventures on the Mediterranean seems like an appropriate thing to read during this drought-filled, hot summer. (CFB) (more…)
I have finally gotten back to creative writing. Nothing huge, just some fooling around, but the mere act of writing has become so all-encompassing that I can think about little else these days. While copying and pasting at work, I’m working out a plot line in my head. Chatting with friends, I’m bursting with sitcom ideas, some of them good, some of them silly.
And, whenever I can sneak away and write upstairs for a few hours, my husband invariably comes in and asks what I’m doing, occasionally trying to read over my shoulder. I’m sure he totally appreciates me slamming my laptop shut and throwing myself at him, yelling, “STOP LOOKING IF I TELL YOU I’LL NEVER FINISH.”
(Does anyone else find this? That talking about what you’re writing destroys some sort of fragile magic that you’re weaving? Talking about writing doesn’t do it, but talking specifics somehow sucks the life out of everything that I’m doing.)
Anyway, so while I have been reading, the reading I’ve been doing has been so different. (more…)
It was something of an epiphany for me as an adult reader that no, you don’t have to finish every book you start. Life is short, books are practically infinite, and you as a reader have the right to prioritize your reading and not finish things you aren’t liking for whatever reason. I think most readers have this moment at some point and it changes your reading life.
Recently, I had a similar realization about another facet of reading: you don’t have to read something in one go. Breaks are allowed. You can start and stop reading, you can read something else in between, and you can pick right up where you left off whenever you like.
I first realized this last year when I spent most of the year reading (and alternately not reading) John Galsworthy’s The Forsyte Saga. The Saga is particularly well-suited to start-and-stop reading: it’s broken up into shorter books within one larger one, with even shorter “interludes” between the books. Decades gallop past between each book, with the same familiar characters, personalities, and problems cropping up in each generation. (more…)
I have been carrying the first volume of Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s Velvet for quite literally years. I love Brubaker’s run of Captain America comics and, when I heard he was doing a stand-alone mystery series starring a female spy, I preordered the first volume. It arrived in summer 2014 and I’ve been moving it around with me every since.
Upon its release, Velvet got glowing reviews, so I think I waited to read it like you wait to open presents until Christmas morning: you want to savor something good as your expectations grow over time. Fortunately for me, Velvet delivered. This is a book worth saving, savoring, and then enjoying repeatedly.
As promised, Velvet is an espionage-style mystery, taking place in the 1970s with flashbacks to the ’50s and ’60s. Our hero (the titular Velvet Templeton) is a middle-aged, lowly secretary at a super-secret spy agency, but, of course, nothing is quite as it seems in this stylish graphic novel. (more…)
Summer is now properly upon us — how is it July already?! — so we here at Literary Transgressions pooled our To Be Read lists and made our own Summer Reading List. Is it as nostalgia-filled as the ones from school? No, but we still think it’s a pretty great list.
Check out our list below and share what’s on the docket for your summer reading this year in the comments!
Summer Traditions & Rereads:
The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling (reread)
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (reread)
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas (reread)
The Fencing Master by Arturo Perez-Reverte
OR The Wind from the East by Almudena Grandes
(I always read something Spanish each summer, still not sure why! – CFB)
Classics (Old and New): (more…)