“Lit nerds and bookworms, this one’s for you. Nerd Jeopardy is an inebriated, team version of Jeopardy, focusing on literary and publishing trivia. So if you’re constantly groaning at how easy the “20th Century British Novelists” Double Jeopardy questions are, or if you’re hip to the twisted circle of NYC book editors, head to Lolita tonight to claim “modest glory and immodest prizes.”—
“There is always going to be a book that saves you. There is also a new lesson: You do not know how it will get to you.”—I, Reader by Alexander Chee (what’s that you say? You haven’t read his book Edinburgh yet? Boy, that is a sad, sad story. It’s one of those books that you don’t realize that most people are trying to make their books that good, until you read that book, you know?), which is fantastic from soup to nuts. Also notable for the beautiful deployment of the word chthonic.
What an incredible list. Like I needed a larger TBR pile (like any of us do) but hey, there is a certain joy in knowing that you could live forever and never, ever run out of quality reading material, yes?
In re: the book I chose: seriously, I love this book so goddamn much that if you come buy it from my store I will give you my employee discount on it. No joke.
As anyone who uses the site can attest, Tumblr is a great venue for people to come together and gush about the things they love (most of which tends to involve pictures of elaborate cupcakes and/or Banksy stencils—but I digress).
Lesser known, maybe, is that there’s also a strong literary community here. So I asked some of my fellow bookish types to recommend a lesser-known title that speaks to them in direct and unusual ways. Blogs generally tend to talk a lot about the news of the day, but this time I wanted to pin down some ironclad, desert-island picks—books that might give your perspective a healthy little kick sideways.
I’ve added all of these titles to the ever-growing list in my notebook. Maybe you’ll be inspired to do the same.
“On Colson Whitehead’sThe Colossus Of New York (2003): Though it may seem colossal at first, New York City remains a small town. Unknown forces make residents collide, buildings sway, and time move at unmeasurable rates. Colson Whitehead was born in Manhattan and is able to discern the ebbs and flows of urban life better than most. The stories in this book are as poetic as the views from the Empire State and as gritty as the subway below. When all is said and done this collection is not so much a set of fiction narratives, but a romance novel dedicated to those of us who will always love New York.”
So there’s the general retail-job pre-holiday stress, and my self-loathing for not going with my gut and ordering 50 of the Mark Twain autobio when I had the chance, and it’s the first time I’m leaving my cat since his hospitalization, and the other cat isn’t eating enough lately, and I didn’t have time to clean the floors before I left which normally I like to do before I leave, and I forgot to use the kale, and all else I can think about is the Day of the Locust shenanigans I’m going to hurl myself into at Penn Station in a few hours.
Was puttering around the kitchen, trying to decide what to toss out of the fridge, finding the right containers for the cat food, putting my chocolate milk in my bag and then taking it out again, and generally feeling peevish as my last six minutes at home ticked away. One of the Germans with whom I share my kitchen walked in to make coffee.
"Are you going somewhere for the holiday?" he asked, in his German accent and his flawless English.
And I told him I was, and that I wasn’t excited about it, and the cat and Penn Station and how loud it was going to be at the actual dinner proper. He seemed sad that I was sad about it.
"It’s sort of a strange holiday, when you think about it," I said, to encourage him that I was okay being sad about it. I am always very self-conscious about the strange things about the US when I am talking to the Germans.
"Is it?" he said. "I think it’s rather nice."
"I guess," I said. "The idea is nice."
"No, it really is," he said. "It’s so rare, you know, a holiday that hasn’t got anything to do with religion or anything, but everyone still gets the day off. Just a nice holiday to see people that everyone can celebrate. I wish there were more holidays like that," he said, in his German accent, and then, I felt better. It was a Thanksgiving miracle.
I told him the story of Sarah Josepha Hale, in exchange. And then I put my chocolate milk in my bag and kissed the cats and walked to work, my bag hitting the back of my thighs with every step, and enjoyed the perfect weather.
“Every young man starting life ought to know how to cope with an angry swan, so I will briefly relate the proper procedure. You begin by picking up the raincoat which somebody has dropped; and then, judging the distance to a nicety, you simply shove the raincoat over the bird’s head; and, taking the boathook which you have prudently brought with you, you insert it underneath the swan and heave. The swan goes into a bush and starts trying to unscramble itself; and you saunter back to your boat, taking with you any friends who may happen at the moment to be on any roofs in the vicinity. That was Jeeves’s method, and I cannot see how it could have been improved upon.”—
page 36, Very Good, Jeeves!, by he for whom the word inimitable was invented, P.G. Wodehouse.
Also considered for quoting, from page 1: “He uncovered the fragrant eggs and b., and I pronged a moody forkful.”
I like soup even better than sandwiches and would like a winter project. Please, if you know the answer, include the best borscht (which has got to be somewhere in Greenpoint, I’m hoping), the best udon noodle soup, or the best chowder. Potatoes a plus. Vegetarian soups appreciated.
If you were making a 101 Best Soups in New York list, what would you put on it?
Butterbeer recipe and the International Quidditch World Cup
Yesterday I spent most of the day at the fourth International Quidditch World Cup. We made our own butterbeer before we went; it looked and tasted nothing like butterbeer actually does in the books, but it was delicious anyway, and highly portable, so I share it with you now.
To serve four, you need to start with four bottles cream soda and two bottles chocolate stout. Pour the cream soda and stout all into a pitcher (might need to do half of each at a time) then pour back into the bottles up to the edge of the label. Drink the leftovers before you leave. Wait until noon when the liquor store opens and buy butterscotch schnapps, because there is no reason you would have it in your house already, I assume. Take to park down the street and fill bottles rest of way with schnapps. Try not to pour it on yourself because you WILL smell like butterscotch for the rest of the day. Put in purse; allow the gentle agitation of your walking to mix the ingredients before drinking. Repeat as necessary.
I had a really great time at the QWC, and not just because I am a fan of the Harry Potter books. This is the sort of event that it would be REALLY easy to mock, and lord knows that funnier people than myself already have. About a quarter of attendees appeared to be at the QWC solely to write an article/file a YouTube video about it. The article writes itself even if you don’t have a Quick Quotes Quill (oh yes I went there). College students think books are real and wear capes! News at 11.
The Harry Potter stuff was fun: the names that the players made up on the back of their shirts (and in fact all the Quidditch-themed shirts, including one school’s, which on the back said “because Hogwarts wouldn’t accept the FAFSA”), the random owls just hanging out at the back of field three, the scarves, the guy whose number was 9 3/4, the banners. It’s not the fandom I’ve pledged myself to, but I can appreciate dedication to detail when I see it.
What I really loved, though, was the quidditch itself. Though the game is based on the books and owes practically everything about its structure to them, it’s become its own sport, and a pretty damn exciting one. From eavesdropping on folks around me, I got the sense that most people came for the same reason I did: because they liked Harry Potter and thought it would be funny. But we all stayed until the end to watch Middlebury v Tufts in the final because it’s a lot of fun to watch.
It’s basically rugby without pads and with broomsticks. Almost no games didn’t require a visit from the EMTs. There is some real athleticism out there and, because regulations require a broom between the legs of all players at all times, it’s all performed one-handed, which is pretty impressive.
It’s also without a doubt the goofiest and most endearing sport I’ve ever watched. In the semifinal game, competing for third place, Vassar played by dancing and skipping up the field repeatedly, and at one point, performing the Flying V. The snitch is a long-distance runner with a good sense of humor. I’m not even sure there’s a good way to write about the role of the snitch, except to say that he or she is the epitome of the way that, despite requiring more referees than most college sports, Quidditch embraces the joy in the chaos of sport.
I watched most of the games with a funny sense of envy, because the spirit of the day (and the balanced and not-at-all-pandering way that women were important to the co-ed teams, and the ability to be competitive without being a douchebag, and many other things) are exactly what I have always wanted for the nerd basketball league we have at WORD, and the ways in which it falls short of my expectations. Quidditch does have a volunteer board of directors and someone runs it full-time and there are six refs on the field at any given time, so I’m trying to cut myself some slack, but I feel almost homesick for the ways in which the players could be so serious and still so chill about their sport of choice. I’ve been told by many people that my expectations for the league, essentially that people should be able to be competitive while still being civil to or even having fun with their teammates and whoever they’re playing, are too high and not in keeping with the nature of things. Maybe I’m just running a league for the wrong sport.
Anyway, you should all come with me next year. I’ll bring the butterbeer.
But, and I know I’m not alone here, didn’t you just want to smack Katniss upside the head and say, “look, obviously you live in a dystopia, and the system is broken, but maybe we could be a little less altruistic and STUPID all the time, and just colour inside the lines until you’re rich and famous and then, you know, change things from within? WIN THE GAME, okay?”
Most people would be loath to admit that they had never read a book, especially those employed in a bookshop.
Yet Sam Husain, the chief executive of London’s best-known book store, Foyles, has no such compunction. ‘I do not think I have ever really read a book from cover to cover,’ confesses the Pakistan-born accountant.
Perhaps the moment is finally right for me to start submitting my proposal for my take on the perennial Year Of Doing Something Vaguely Interesting Memoir? I want to write a book about what would happen if I didn’t read any books for a whole year. Would I be able to keep my job? Would I spend the entire advance on therapy bills after losing my primary source of self-medication? I, for one, am curious to know whether the subtitle would be The Year I Stopped Reading And Finally Did Everything On My To-Do List Including All The Sewing, Making Pickles, And Going To Space or (more likely) The Year I Stopped Reading And Watched Every Episode Of Law & Order, Even The Awful Los Angeles Version, Four Times.
(Seriously, though, I can’t be the only reader who sometimes wonders just what the hell she would do if it wasn’t reading. Or the only reader who wonders what horrors lurk in the depths of her skull that have led her to develop such an unhealthy dependence on regularly marinating her brain in the fantasy worlds of strangers.)
I am currently transcribing my notebook and am trying to decipher my notes from a tour of a history of women’s fashion exhibit at the Met I went on in August. I am pretty sure I wrote:
"THING TO BUY POST-HASTE: Gibson girl/turn-of-the-century button-up sweater"
But the Internet is not offering me ANYTHING in response to that and various re-worked search terms. I think I mean sort of a big cardigan with a thick V-neck collar and that very fitted Gibson girl look? I think. Questions ensue: