Happy Friday, friends!
It’s been a mixed bag of a week. I had a wonderful weekend in Santa Barbara, as planned. California has just had its wettest winter in God-knows-how-long, so the drive through the Grapevine and the valley farmlands of Fillmore and Santa Paula were unbelievably stunning. I’ve driven through that valley countless times and have never found it so lush and fragrant. If you follow me on Instagram you’ll have seen lots of snippets from the drive and the trip at large. We travelled well, we dined well, we book-shopped and walked and drank well. It was glorious.
Naturally, returning home was a landing with a thud, particularly as my insides were not best pleased with the overindulgence. The research on the link between the gut and the mind is anecdotally true, too. I felt really, really down for a day or two. I finally spoke with one of my best friends from home and when she asked how I’ve been doing, I said I could only describe it as beginning to feel like I’m catching my stride, then falling into a well. Progress isn’t linear, nor is adjusting to living in a new country. There’s a lot of hard work to be done, and just as you feel like things are getting easier, reminders that life is just that your life is constantly just a little bit more difficult can creep up and knock the wind out of you.
But after those stumbles, (I hate that word, but can’t think of a better one for it) I often find I can muster a little more strength. I’ve had a few interactions this week that required me to take a deep breath and firmly stand my ground, and while those moments often exhaust me, I felt they actually gave me a bit of a boost. Why is it that everyone seems to want something from you in the same week? More on those another time, perhaps.
Meantime, how about some links?
EXHILES & OTHER ISLES
I’ve told you about how much I admire Valeria Luiselli as a writer, right? Here’s an interview where she discusses her latest essay-book, Tell Me How It Ends, and an excerpt from the essay itself. I also came across this cute Vogue piece about Luiselli and her husband, Álvaro Enrigue, whose novel Sudden Death I also loved.
From Xiaolu Guo: My village didn’t even have a traffic light. Now it has 1.4 million people. In case you’re wondering how much your life could change without moving.
I recently realised that I’d unsubscribed from the Millennial podcast, and I don’t remember why or if I’d done so intentionally. In catching up I marathoned all 4 episodes of their recent mini-series on Cuba and what it’s like to grow up there. I guess the title of the first episode also resonated: No Es Fácil. (Although, for me, it is comparatively muy fácil.)
I’ve been very much into Season 6 of Girls. The show has lost its way once or twice, but somehow it always reins it back in my eyes. Episode 3 was another of its famous two-handers, which is essentially an exploration of the topic of consent. If, like many of my friends, you’re a couple or a few seasons behind, please catch up so we can talk about it.
ON MY SHELF
I got quite a few new books on and around my birthday. My policy is: if no-one else is going to buy them for me, I’ll buy them myself.
Despite the influx of books, I haven’t read much this week. But I did finish The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips: a short fabulist novel that takes the mundane reality of being a twenty-something pencil pusher in a post-crash economy and turns it into an eerie, unpredictable parallel reality with an element of playing God. I didn’t love reading it at first but it kept compelling me to continue until its absolutely brilliant ending. I can’t remember the last time I celebrated a novel for its ending.
Last week I also read and took a moment to digest Flesh of the Peach by Helen McClory. It’s filled with another form of twenty-something struggle within a character who doesn’t realise how fucked up she is and whose meandering takes her to unexpected places. I found it wonderful on the sentence level, with observations and descriptions that are just so. Sometimes surprising, other times like you’d already thought of them, there’s some kind of satisfying alchemy that makes them slot into your brain and reside there, like you’re better off for having read them. Also, the characters are constantly drinking tea, which is very much my sensibility. It’s out from Freight Books on 20 April.
What’s on your nightstand?
TIL NEXT WEEK…
Your turn! Read anything good this week? Hit reply or tweet me, won’t you?
Have a lovely weekend!