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I’m just going to say it: I think Colson Whitehead’s novel, Sag Harbor, is perfect.

Does that make for an interesting post? No–I guess it will be more like a commercial:

Buy this book! Take it out of the library! Borrow it!

sag-harbor3

Having been unable to get into The Intuitionist, I used to find it hard to justify why I still really liked Colson Whitehead; I just did. Now, I realize I was completely justified because he had this book in him. Sag Harbor is really special. It is the story of fifteen year old Benji (Ben, as he longs to be called), during the summer of 1985, hanging out with his ex-twin brother, Reggie, and their friends in the affluent black vacation enclave of Sag Harbor.  He and Reggie were born less than a year apart and until their mid-teenagerhood, when ten months suddenly matter, had essentially been twins. As they diverge, Benji is forced to become his own person, which he does over the course of the book, struggling through his first job–scooping ice cream, his first make-out session–he touched her boob over her shirt, his first experience surviving without his parents, who join the boys in Sag only on the weekend, and many hilarious, poignant exploits with his friends, the most memorable of whom is called NP, for “Nigger Please.”

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I never would have picked this book up if it hadn’t been sitting eye-level on a shelf at the library, Adrian Tomine’s fantastic cover art staring me in the face:

lowboy

Even after I checked Lowboy out and started the first chapter, I wasn’t convinced I was going to read it. Everything I’d assumed when I perused its reviews were confirmed when I got started–it was too-cool Brooklyn boy fiction. There was a show-offy knowledge of the subway system, clever word-play (“bricktiled” as one word–descriptive, even great, but again, show-offy! for a first page), a delving into schizophrenia that seemed fetishistic. I was predictably annoyed and put the book down for a couple of days. I even started a new book–Colson Whitehead’s Sag Harbor (which I can’t wait to get back to–it’s amazing). I packed Lowboy up in my purse to return on my way home from work.

Ironically, a very lengthy subway ride saved Lowboy from the fate of being returned the library unfinished. I got bored waiting for the 7 to make its interminable journey crosstown and finished the first chapter, started the second and found myself actually hooked. Read the rest of this entry »

A couple of weeks ago, Dan wanted to take a book out of the library; having no card of his own, he tried to borrow mine. At that point, we discovered that my fines were so hefty, there was a hold on my card (you will remember, perhaps, that I guiltily buried Bonfire of the Vanities on my coffee table for about two months last year). This was embarrassing. So, I sucked it up, went to the library, paid my fine, and have since rediscovered the joys of the library.

The first book I took out was Ms. Hempel Chronicles by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum, a book that has resided on my Amazon wish list for so long that people probably think I don’t want it anymore. Well, I do. Or I did. I don’t need it anymore because, of course, I’ve read it now!

It was on my list for three reasons:

1. It is about a teacher, and I love teaching and talking, seeing movies, reading etc. about teaching.

2. It is a book of short stories, linked by the title character of Ms. Hempel, and I am writing a collection of linked short stories.

3. The cover art is by Amy Cutler, who is super awesome. See?

hempel Read the rest of this entry »