bookshelf: “the descendants” by kaui hart hemmings

The Descendants Kaui Hart HemmingsI’m sure most of you remember all of the 2011 Oscar buzz surrounding screenwriter/director Alexander Payne’s film adaptation of Kaui Hart Hemmings’ novel, The Descendants. George Clooney gave an understated but emotionally powerful performance as the novel’s protagonist, Matt King, and up-and-comer Shailene Woodley left her mark with an award-nominated performance as Clooney’s troubled daughter turned partner in crime, Alexandra.

I’d avoided seeing the movie, despite all of the acclaim, because I really wanted to get my hands on Hemmings’ original work first. I picked it up over the long weekend and could not put it down! Needless to say, a few hours later I’d finished the book—but it’s still all I can think about days later. Hemmings creates characters that stay with you. Their tragedies are so universal, so relatable, and when developed against the backdrop of Hawaiian paradise, this story offers an insightful, cleverly constructed reminder that the events, relationships, and misfortunes that shape our lives shape all of us, every human, no matter who we are or where we are. And, maybe more importantly, their triumphs are often so subtle and so seemingly insignificant that Hemmings successfully relays that exact message: that in trying times, it is often those minor improvements and those fleeting reminders of joy or beauty in the world that keep our days rolling forward. This is such a beautiful read—often harsh but always warm, honest, and even funny.

j.

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bookshelf: “the history of love” by nicole krauss

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This past weekend was one of those perfect, sunny, almost-summer, stay-at-home weekends that, every once in a while, you just crave. It has been a hectic few months with plenty of travel for work, trips to visit friends, drives up north to visit family, social engagements and volunteer commitments here at home, and as much as I love all of these things—and actually prefer thar my weeks and weekends be full of these things 99% of the time—I was ready for a low-key weekend at the apartment. I caught up on chores; I took my time at the gym; I did some cooking; I ran errands; and I spent hours sitting on my balcony with a drink soaking up the beautiful May sunshine and finally finished reading Nicole Krauss’ absolutely stunning novel, The History of Love.

Friends of mine can’t stop talking about this book, with many of them claiming it’s one of their all-time favourites, and I actually picked up a copy years ago just to see what all of the fuss was about. Like so many of the books I buy, this one has been sitting untouched on my overflowing bookshelf for far too long. I turned to it at long last a couple of weeks ago and, though it was a little slow to start, soon became entranced by Krauss’ intricate, poetic writing style and the heartbreaking but charming characters around which she’s created this tale. The History of Love is about many things: writing, art, immigration, family, friendship, heartache, loss, grief, time, life, death, and, of course, the beauty and the tragedy of falling in love and, ultimately, learning to let love go.

It takes some time to figure out what Krauss is trying to do, but once she hooks you, you’ll marvel at the heart and humanity at the core of each of her characters and the true delicacy with which she’s built their stories.

j.

beauty all around: let’s talk quotes.

It makes me a little sad that the world of social media has made quotes such a cliché. You see them everywhere: Tumblr accounts, Pinterest feeds, Twitter profiles, Facebook statuses, iPhone cases; I could go on and on. But I am sticking to my guns—I love a good quote. I think that, just like music, just like art, words have incredible power to take us away, transform our perspectives, calm us, excite us, and inspire us. (Is it any wonder I majored in English literature and now work in publishing?)

Here is a favourite of mine from Tyler Knott Gregson, otherwise known as the Typewriter Poet. You should check out his site; he does beautiful work. Let’s all remember to bring a little light to whatever, wherever, and whomever we encounter.

j.

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bookshelf: “grace: a memoir” by grace coddington

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I started this year off on a very fashionable note by picking up a copy of Grace, the recently released memoir of Vogue magazine’s iconic Creative Director, Grace Coddington. After a friend recommended that I watch The September Issue, a fascinating documentary on American Vogue’s ever-allusive Editor-in-Chief, Anna Wintour (if you’ve never seen it, check it out!), I became a little obsessed with the fiery, British redhead responsible for some of Vogue’s most stunning editorials.

Grace is exactly what you’d expect of Ms. Coddington—honest, witty, creative, and visually beautiful.

j.

musings on: the 20/30 transition.

I was out for dinner with some girlfriends over the weekend, and someone brought up the point that we are now an entire undergraduate degree away from having completed our undergraduate degrees (4 years, yikes), that we are now much closer to 30 than we are to 20 (can that be right?), and that if we want to have kids by the time we’re 32, we really should have met the guy who will be the father of said children, like, yesterday. A little frightening, no?

Let me start by saying that I have never been a big believer in the “biological clock.” I’m not denying that such a thing exists—it is scientifically proven that women who become pregnant and have children past a certain age are putting both themselves and their baby a little more at risk. What I mean is that I don’t believe in putting that kind of pressure on our bodies; I think that our lives unfold in different ways and at different times, and there is really no use in becoming frantic about the fact that we aren’t quite where we thought we might be by a certain age.

But this kind of anxiety is all part of what I’ve started to call the 20/30 transition—those few years in which you’re caught moving between the chaotic student life of a 21 year-old (whose main concerns are: exam schedules, flipcup, pub crawls, all-nighters, jeans vs. trackpants, and complex carbohydrates) and the somehow even more chaotic life of a burgeoning adult in their 30s (who is more likely to be dealing with things like the corporate ladder, RRSPs, car payments, credit card statements, mortage vs. rental, and, of course, that dreaded biological clock). For those readers who are still enjoying the relatively carefree life of someone in their early 20s, here are a few things you can look forward to. (The rest of you, you’ll know what I’m talking about.)

  • A weekend bender now results in bloodshot eyes, a killer headache, the dehydration bloat, and a seriously unproductive Monday at the office, instead of a 3:00pm wake-up call and a trip to the closest fast food joint.
  • “Dating” used to mean making eyes with someone over the beer pong table, maybe a late night study session or two, dancing the night away at the campus bar, and then giggling as all of your friends gush about what a cute couple you make. It now involves tracking down a bar with the appropriate demographic, self-help books, online profiles (cringe), awkward, not-so-subtle matchmaking from your couple friends, and sifting through endless man-boys (think Britney Spears’s “I’m not a girl, not yet a woman” anthem, the masculine version) who aren’t quite sure what they want yet (which is OK, because you really don’t either).
  • Monday mornings now begin by putting on your newest blazer, commuting to work, and arriving at your desk to find a massive to-do list courtesy of your boss, instead of rolling out of bed at 10:00am, putting on your newest school-incrested hoodie, and then falling back asleep in the back row of PSYCH 101.
  • Your relationship with your parents used to consist of hastily written emails telling them you were still alive as you ran out to either a class or a party (because where else would you be?). It now involves regular phone conversations in which you are hyperventilating over your lack of money, your lack of a decent job, your lack of a decent apartment, and/or your lack of eligible men—and them assuring you that it will all be OK.
  • Holidays with your family used to involve questions about what classes you were taking, what cool clubs you were a part of, and what you might want to do after you graduated. They now involve variations of the question: “Why haven’t you met anyone yet?”

Case-in-point: growing up is hard. But no one ever mentioned that “growing up” doesn’t end after you turn 18—in fact, it continues (and seems to become increasingly harder) as you make your way through your 20s towards the age where you can no longer pretend you’re not a real adult: 30. And, not to dampen the unique set of pressures faced by people in their 20s who are balancing the standard demands of building a life and a career on top of caring for a spouse and/or children (because I have mad respect for you!), but my experience suggests that the 20/30 transition is especially daunting for the singles of the world. Trying to figure out who you are on top of trying to figure out what type of person you want to be with—and how you are ever going to manage finding such a person—feels impossible. But here’s what I’ve started to learn: you can always count on Paul McCartney for some solid words of wisdom.

Take these broken wings and learn to fly.

We can work it out.

Let it be.

Time will keep turning. The biological clock will keep ticking. 30 will come, whether you feel ready for it or not. And you will be fine.

j.

getting organized.

A large part of starting this blog has to do with a promise I made to myself that I would make more time for writing this year; I care less about the type of writing it is and the topic I am writing about and more about the fact that I am making it a priority. And as much as I’d love to approach the blog with reckless abandon, posting every fun thing I come across or any random idea that pops into my head (a la Tumblr, Pinterest, StumbleUpon …you get the idea), the planner in me just couldn’t get away with it. So, I wanted to commit to a few key topics that seem most relevant to my life and that I knew I would be excited to write about. I figured if I could organize a handful of feature posts, it would be easier to commit to writing about the things I enjoy most, and commit to doing it often.

So, here they are. Some fun things to look forward to:

turntable: New musical discoveries and old favourites.

bookshelf: Books I’ve read. Books I want to read. Books worth reading. (Another promise I made to myself for 2013 is that I would read more, so hopefully this will help me stay on track!)

beauty all around: It could be a really beautiful photo I saw, or a touching story I read somewhere, or a really great vintage shop I tracked down on a random Saturday afternoon. I think it’s important to remind yourself that amazing things and amazing people are everywhere if you look for them.

glam squad: I enjoy yoga pants and a hoodie as much as the next girl, but I can also appreciate the creative genius that goes into a truly stellar runway show. I think breaking the bank in the name of fashion is completely ridiculous (sorry, die-hards!) but my heart still goes pitter-patter over all of the pretty things that compose a really killer look.

domestic goddess: Recipes either created or conquered. (Or that end up looking like this.)

musings: Let’s be honest—I basically needed a category for the things that don’t fit into any other category. Just some thoughts on some things.

on a serious note: For the days when musings don’t seem to be enough.

I like where this is going. This feels good.

j.