Monday, October 31, 2011

Review: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

A gorgeous book from fellow Californian Aimee Bender, "The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake" was an unexpected delight.  This being my first experience with Bender's work, I was immediately surprised and won over by the streamlined prose and momentary flowerings of poetic diction.

“Mom loved my brother more. Not that she didn't love me - I felt the wash of her love every day, pouring over me, but it was a different kind, siphoned from a different, and tamer, body of water. I was her darling daughter; Joseph was her it.”

Bender's novel opens with protagonist Rose Edelstein's discovery that food will never be the same.  Sampling a trial-run birthday cake made by her mother, Rose is overcome with a flood of complex and unpleasant emotions - her mother's.  After days of distress and a series of experiments with George, her brother's charming best friend, Rose learns that her skill extends beyond the realm of her mother's cooking.  Able to uncover the hidden longings of a baker, or the poignant "first love" flutterings felt by a sous chef, she turns more and more to "factory" food to escape the onslaught of information each bite introduces. 

“...a Dorito asks nothing of you, which is its great gift. It only asks that you are not there.” 
The reader tracks Rose from age nine to early twenties, a journey rife with humor, nostalgia, and deep-seated pain.  Unable to vocalize the nature of her gift for most of her life, Rose copes with the barrage of secrets she is forced to swallow, often in isolation.  Bender's portrayals of family, of favoritism and heartbreak, of a sneakily disintegrating marriage, are pitch-perfect in their quietude.  What is seen through the eyes (and tastebuds) of the youthful narrator is what the reader is allowed to access, and nothing more.  This lack of omniscience stemming from point of view, coupled with the progratonist's special talent, results in a multidimensional, resonant narrative that is haunting and magical.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hitting the Road

I never thought I would say this. I have started running, an activity that I have spent years of my life terrified to do. Thanks to my dear friend Chris, an epic marathon man and all-around athlete, I've found a shiny new outlet for all of this post-MFA energy.

My Running Gear
All geared up and ready to go!

Yesterday marked my first run in a very long time.  (We're talking years.)  I hit Holly Park in Bernal Hill and did just a smidge over a mile.  Thanks to a sweet app called RunKeeper, I've got a great way to keep track of my times, distances, and trails.  (The math of this keeps me intellectually motivated in a way I hadn't anticipated.)

And you know what? As totally freaked out as I was to start running (I'm a poet, not an athlete, people!), and as much as my lungs felt like a burning pit of doom, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  (Yup. Still pretty shocked.) I'm trying a trail in Foster City after work today and hopefully will get a little more distance in this time around.

Here's to getting speedy!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Literary Lust: Confessions of a Book Glutton

After reading Leyna's biblio-confessions over at the Bark, in which she readily admits to having once licked a book, I found myself considering my own brand of reading-related "isms."  And believe me, I've had plenty of time to stock up. 

Number one on the list is a big one, a habit that I (somewhat) jokingly refer to as my propensity to book-hoard.  Despite five moves in the last four years, and despite a tiny studio apartment, I have an insane amount of books.  Out of room on the bookshelves? No problem. Fill up the closet. And the bottom dresser drawer. And the cabinet over the fridge.  When I moved here, I had one book in my backpack: "The Gunslinger" by Stephen King.  ONE BOOK came to California with me. 

The other 302,938,221 of them arrived in my apartment stealthily (with the exception of the tipsy "Game of Thrones" book-buying extravaganza,) and I didn't really take stock of the situation until a bookcase collapsed on my foot.  (Thanks for that, Ikea.) I tried to do a bit of purging at this point: everything came off the shelves, was dusted, was pored over.  Marginalia was reviewed. (Admittedly, I spent a moment sniffing "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," which still smells exactly like the man that loaned it to me.)  In the end, I got rid of five books and even that pained me. 

Add to this the fact that I live two blocks from a branch of the San Francisco Public Library, a place to which I am unhealthily addicted.  Every time some luscious new read pops up on a book blog, I am instantly requesting it from the SFPL.  There are about 30 books on my "hold" list, and I just got a glorious email that four of them have arrived and are ready for pick-up.  So tonight, all of these will also be in my apartment:

These are on my desk at work right now:

These are in my car:

And these are on my nightstand:

My name is Karen, and I am a book glutton. Thank you.

Friday, October 7, 2011

And... We're Off!

The weekend is certainly being inaugurated with a bang! In addition to gorgeous weather in the Bay Area, good friends in town, and lots of bands passing through (Girls, Chad Van Gaalen, etc.), I am extra-pleased about the following:

1) My review of Christopher Hennessy's poetry collection, Love-In-Idleness, has now been published on the Switchback website. I can't recommend this book enough, fellow poets.

2) Sarah did a feature on my writerly life on her blog, Desirous of Everything.  I've had so much fun working with Sarah and Andrea in our writing group, so getting interviewed was just a little extra glimmer on the already-awesome cake.
Have a lovely weekend! I'll see you on the other side.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Back in the Groove

The last several days have been a whirlwind of getting things done, with a heavy dose of fun thrown in.  Highlights have included Berlin-style ping pong tournaments, late night funk music in China Town, and nights at the theatre with awesome humans.  (There was also one fifteen-hour sleep-a-thon. Shhh.)

More importantly, though, I've started writing again. Thank goodness.  In addition to a new chapbook underway ("The Destruction Loop"), I've been working on a new short story.  You can check out an excerpt today at D.O.E. Finally, I have a book review (that I'm really stoked about) being published on Friday over at Switchback. (I'll post more info on that when the review goes up.) 

Other notable links for the week: 

My friend Michael has a beautiful and thought-provoking article up at Inside Scoop.

I stumbled upon more glorious steampunk fashion than you can shake a stick at.  Lady London really takes the cake.

HTML Giant did an excellent post about poetry students, the things they bring to the table, and how to handle common misconceptions about poetry with generative strength. 

Finally, I have a new favorite tumblr: My Nerd Boyfriend.  If you're into geek chic, you're about to spend hours cruising these fashionable dudes.  Personal favorites include Sir Ian McKellan and William Holden.

I hope you're all having a lovely week so far, Conceptual Receptionists!