Do you ever feel sad but emotionally blocked and you go watch a movie that just hits the right note, it makes you start and then you’re crying for yourself and for the movie and for the world, and then you feel so much better afterward?
If you need that, read this:
Top five, people. Maybe even top three. 97th percentile. Maybe now isn’t the right time to read it for you, but know it’s here. When the time is right, this will blow your mind. And your heart.
And so my darling, when the killer comet smashed into the earth cleaving off chunks of iron, oxygen, silicon, and nickel the size of the Pacific Ocean and throwing them into space but gravity trapped the Runaway Bunny planetary fragments and wore them down through spin and pressure because, no matter how you try, you can’t really get away. But she’s a beauty, isn’t she? The moon? Now sleep well my darling…
I’d pay extra for the airplane version of a “quiet car” and for putting kids in a separate section. And it’s not that I hate kids. My life is full of them. But I do not enjoy their screaming, kicking, coughing, puking, and squealing when I’m trying to read/work/sleep on a plane.
“Edgar sees someone dangling from the wall in right-center field. These men who drop from the high walls like to hang for a while before letting go. They hit the ground and crumple and get up slowly. But it’s the static drama of the dangled body that Edgar finds compelling, the terror of second thoughts.”—
Holy crap this book is beautiful, in that painful-beauty sort of way, both visually and in content.
I don’t really know how to explain it, but the images in this book, and more specifically the colors, speak to me at a visceral level. Like a Rothko painting, there is some inexplicable emotional punch that comes from the color itself on each page, its depth and complexity and flow. It makes my chest feel tight, like good cello music or the feeling right before wrenching sobs take over. Most of the illustrations were created using a process called “cyanotype,” where the paper is treated with a chemical and then exposed to light. “The idea of doing some kind of primitive chemistry had a lot of resonance with the story…But I chose it mostly because the color that radium glows is blue,” Redniss claimed in this Wall Street Journal article. So the art is the result of a fascinating type of integrity to the story that I really appreciate, especially in nonfiction.
Now, for content. It is terrifyingly apropos right now.
Like Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, RADIOACTIVE is one of those fabulous hybrids that forces its reader to grapple with the amazing and horrible implications of scientific discovery. Redniss has you rooting for Marie Curie, rah rah, a female scientist accomplishing amazing things, but she also demonstrates the conflict that the Curies felt as they gained knowledge of the potential danger of their discoveries, both for themselves and for the future of humanity. Throughout the narrative, she weaves stories about the future effects of radiation — Hiroshima, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl — and of course the horrors that are still unfolding in Japan as I write.
Do yourself a favor. Read this book, and then turn off the light and watch it glow in the dark.
“After several long moments — or it might have been half an hour — or possibly several sunlit days — they broke apart.”—OMG 1st kiss scene from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, who woulda thunk it…
“Those companies that would fire their affiliates simply to maintain an inequitable competitive advantage over retailers that obey the law clearly show their true colors. A belief that laws apply only to those who are smaller or who are unwilling to resort to threats or loopholes is characteristic of the worst sort of corporate citizen. We certainly hope companies like Amazon.com rethink their decision to fire affiliates, and we remain grateful that the governor took the tough, principled stand on behalf of in-state retailers.”—ABA CEO Oren Teicher, remarking on Amazon, and Illinois’ passage of sales tax fairness legislation. (via jjchristie)
To this I would totally add Samuel R. Delaney (gay SciFi writer) and Marilyn Hacker (lesbian poet), and I’m surprised not to see Dave Eggers & Vendela Vida or Michael Chabon & Ayelet Waldman on this list.
So, last weekend I found out about a concert that I REALLY wanted to attend, and I wasn’t sure if I 1) had the money or 2) should go if I couldn’t find anyone to go with me. It is fascinating to me that some people would never in a million years consider going alone to a concert (or a movie or a restaurant). It’s not so bad, so ultimately, I said “Fuck it,” and it’s the best decision I’ve made in a while.
The concert (Kaki King at Largo with Zoe Keating opening) was down by the Beverly Center, so I hopped on the Red Line subway, and then hopped on a bus, and $3 and less than an hour later, I was there. I stood in a small line to get my seat assignment, and then had about 2 hours to kill. I decided to try out Real Food Daily, an organic vegan restaurant a few blocks away. I tried rice beer for the first time, had a BLT wrap with fake B and no T, and finished Nina Revoyr’s Wingshooters over a piece of amazing chocolate cake. It totally made me tear up in public. I don’t think anyone noticed though.
Now, the concert. Oh, man, what a pair of über talented women. I knew that I would be floored by Kaki King's playing (and all of her beautiful guitars!). There were 7! Her hands moved so fast sometimes that I almost couldn’t see them. My jaw was on the floor for most of the show. Maybe that’s why I didn’t pick up any cute ladies — I was literally struck dumb. Also, the lesbians were in every row but mine, which was populated exclusively with older couples and younger male guitar dorks. Just my luck. :)
I suppose I should have suspected the same of Zoë Keating from what little exposure I’d had to her avant-cello music. I guess what I was unprepared for was just how her music would affect me. I think that because I play guitar, I can’t help but try to break it down or imagine trying to play it myself — very cerebral ways of processing. But Zoë’s music hit me in the chest, the heart — at a much more emotional level. Does that have to do with the cello itself, especially when wielded by someone as talented as Keating? It is certainly known for its warmth and its melodrama. Or is it more because of me and the way I process music, especially from instruments I’m less familiar with? Perhaps I’ll never know. But either way, I was moved, impressed, dumbfounded, awestruck, whatever. She recreates the experience of playing in a full orchestra by playing lines and looping them and layering them! It is so cool. I laid down my 3rd $25 for two of Zoë’s cds.
After the show, I had them make this for me. I’ve been having musicians (and artists) do this for a while now. I like having some measure of the hands that create such beautiful things. It reminds me of the human element, and it commemorates being there, with them in the same room, as they create music. Kaki got Sharpie all over her hand, and I’m worried she thought I was playing a trick on her. But really, it’s just this thing I do. And this turned out really cool. Zoë’s a lefty, hence the nice mirror effect.
And then I took a cab home. It was late, and rainy, and I didn’t want to ruin it by bothering with public transit. The fourth $25.
But it was so worth it, the whole thing. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.