First off, I just have to say how much I LOVE the cover! It’s eye-catching and fits the subject perfectly…although to clarify just in case, know that this book is not about robots and AI (not directly, anyway), but about Silicon Valley during the growth years.
This was one of my most anticipated reads of early 2020 (can’t believe I posted that in January, seems like a lifetime ago). How’d it stack up? I was maybe a little disappointed by it overall, but it was still an entertaining and informative read.
If you like WWII-era historical fiction, you’ll love this book. There’s romance, political intrigue, LOTS of heartfelt emotion and heartache, and to boot, it’s well-written and fast-paced. It’s told from two perspectives: Alina as a young woman during the war, and Alice in present-day discovering her grandmother’s past, which culminates in an unexpected trip to Poland and a shocking family secret (put that way, almost sounds like Buzzfeed clickbait). The idea behind it is pretty original (to me, at least), and I enjoyed reading it.
This was a fun one. After finishing, I totally understand why a lot of people couldn’t stand it and DNF’ed, but I just took it at face value and enjoyed it for the light, easy read that it was. Is Kya’s situation unrealistic? Absolutely. Are there excessive descriptions of nature alongside weak dialogue and flat characters? Definitely. But there was also enough heart in the story itself that I could suspend my disbelief and just appreciate the beauty of the marsh.
Invisible Cities is one of the strangest, most haunting books I’ve ever read. There’s no particular plot; every page is just a short, lyrical description of an imaginary city Marco Polo passes on his travels. Some of these cities are more realistic than others – marble palaces, frangipane trees, bustling markets. Others are completely impossibly and theoretical – a city delicately and entirely strung up between two cliff walls that knows one day it will fall into the abyss; a city that breathes earth instead of air; a city that is so crowded that people blot out the place and even the sky.
One of my favorite cities is Beersheba, whose residents believe in a heavenly, celestial city above made of gold and silver and glittering diamond, and a hell-like city underground made of waste and tar and trash. They strive every day to worship the city above and abhor the city below; but what they don’t know is that their greed and superficiality has blinded them, and that the city below is actually the one made of gold, while the city above is made of trash.
Intent on piling up its carats of perfection, Beersheba takes for virtue what is now a grim mania to fill the empty vessel of itself; the city does not know that its only moments of generous abandon are those when it becomes detached from itself, when it lets go, expands. Still, at the zenith of Beersheba there gravitates a celestial body that shines with all the city’s riches, enclosed in the treasury of cast-off things: a planet aflutter with potato peels, broken umbrellas, old socks, candy wrappings, paved with tram tickets, fingernail cuttings and pared calluses, eggshells. This is the celestial city, and in its heaven long-tailed comets fly-past, released to rotate in space from the only free and happy action of the citizens of Beersheba, a city which, only when it shits, is not miserly, calculating, greedy.
Even though it’s short (only 160 pages or so), it isn’t the type of book you read in one sitting. I found that I could only digest a few cities at a time, in order to think about them more closely and visualize them in my mind. Maybe that’s how it was meant to be read – slowly, savoring every city individually and appreciating all the beauties or horrors of each one.
You guys, what a week it has been. Amy Cooper, George Floyd, and now violent riots and protests happening all across the country 😔 In a way, I feel like the country’s been long overdue for a major correction as far as our attitudes and behavior towards race go – whether these events will be the ones to trigger it, I guess we’ll only see.
Like a lot of people, I’m feeling intensely sad and frustrated and angry all at once. I’ve been seeing and reading all the BLM content on Instagram and sharing what I can on my own feed. The most important thing I’ve learned the past few days, something that I’ve thought about a lot now, is that simply being non-racist isn’t enough anymore and we must be more directly anti-racist. Police brutality is nothing new – there are photos from the 1960s and earlier that look eerily similar to the protests now (the only difference is that people were better dressed back then!) – and it doesn’t need to be said that racial issues have persisted over the generations as well, but as the saying goes, you’d be a fool to keep trying the same thing and expecting different results. We are the fool now. We’re distantly aware that implicit racism surrounds us every day, but we tell ourselves “I know I’m not racist” and keep our heads down because we aren’t personally affected. I’m guilty of it myself. But…this is the approach we’ve operated under for the past several decades; it clearly hasn’t worked and there hasn’t been enough change, and at that point we have to try something new, like taking a more active role in defeating such systematic racism.
Honestly I didn’t think I’d be so affected by all of this, precisely because of the above. Whenever this has happened in the past – Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, etc – I’ve felt the requisite sadness and indignation, but never did anything about it because I resignedly thought, “This is just going to happen again – I hate it all but can’t do anything”. But I’m starting to learn now that we can. For example, we can…
donate to causes that support black communities
educate ourselves through books and articles by black authors who describe in excruciating detail what it’s like to live every day in America
spread awareness on social media
make a commitment to shop more from black and other minority business owners
there’s an excellent list on Medium on 30 ways people perpetuate racism every day, usually implicitly, that I think everyone should read over and consider how often (not if) they engage in any of the items. The title says it’s written forAsian Americans, but honestly it applies to most people
I didn’t expect this to post to get as long as it did! But I had to write down some of the thoughts swirling around right now. There’s a lot going on even without the specter of coronavirus still overhead (after seeing how PACKED the NYC protests have been, I’m totally preparing for another spike in cases in 1-2 weeks), but I really hope people start thinking about these long-pervasive issues more. Maybe this is the start of a sea change or maybe it’s just another blip, but either way, I believe we’re headed for change, no matter how slowly.
Highs of the week
Making a new section to put down things I appreciate/am grateful for/am just happy about!
Food is always gonna be one of my highs 😆 My friend sent me a box of doughnuts from a local bakery because she knew I’d had a hard week, and that was the sweetest thing! (literally) We also cooked a ton this week – these beef empanadas that turned out fantastic, walnut brownies from Dorie Greenspan (I love that anything by Dorie always turns out well), pasta al limone by Frank Prizinsano who’s famous for not using recipes, and a GIGANTIC crunch wrap that took an epic 5 hours and served 14!!! (B somehow missed that and made the entire thing…for two people). And yesterday I made a quick batch of rose sangria at noon…and thus the day drinking started. Also discovered one of my favorite new accounts grossypelosi, who shot the frittata above. It just looks SO GOOD. drools
Never Have I Ever – Such a fun watch! The main character Devi was so sassy and relatable and and full of life, and I thought the whole series was a pretty good reflection of what high school is actually like – chaotic, stressful, more than a lil messy. And I’d be remiss to not mention the Asian American representation of course. It’s so refreshing to see more Asian actors on the screen, let a series almost entirely Asian/minority, especially done in such a realistic way!
Beauty and the Baker – I’m still on early episodes but I’m already low key obsessed with this show. A middle-class baker happens to meet one of the most famous celebrities/models at a restaurant after he turns down his girlfriend’s wedding proposal, but as they’re falling in love they have to navigate the many class and wealth differences. It’s criminally underrated!! If you’re looking for a super cute romcom series that’s actually good, this is it.
Too Hot to Handle – Finally watched the last episode where they all reunite, what a wild ride haha. I’m pretty sure Harry’s ring-pop proposal to Francesca over Zoom was a joke?! Maybe for publicity?? But at the same time, I can’t be sure. Anyway, this was such a perfect trashy series to stream in the background 😂
Hope you’re all safe from whatever it might be these days – viruses, riots, murder hornets?!? Have a good weekend!
Opening lines! Some of them are grand or intriguing or unique enough to set the tone for the whole book, while others are conversational and drop you right in, as if you were speaking to the narrator yourself. Here are some of my favorites below…