I’ve read some excellent books this summer–here are a few bits and pieces of them that I’ve been carrying around with me.
Citizen by Claudia Rankine
“When a woman you work with calls you by the name of
another woman you work with, it is too much of a cliche
not to laugh out loud with the friend beside you who says,
oh no she didn’t. Still, in the end, so what, who cares? She
had a fifty-fifty chance of getting it right.
Yes, and in your mail the apology note appears referring to
‘our mistake.’ Apparently your own invisibility is the real
problem causing her confusion. This is how the apparatus
she propels you into begins to multiply its meaning.
What did you say?”
The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
“Perhaps it’s the word radical that needs rethinking. But what could we angle ourselves toward instead, or in addition? Openness? Is that good enough, strong enough? You’re the only one who knows when you’re using things to protect yourself and keep your ego together and when you’re opening and letting things fall apart, letting the world come as it is–working with it rather than struggling against it. You’re the only one who knows [Pema Chödrön]. And the thing is, even you don’t always know.”
Kindred by Octavia Butler
“‘I don’t have a name for the thing that happened to me, but I don’t feel safe anymore.’
I sat very still, trying not to fall off my chair. The floor seemed farther away than it should have. I reached out for the table to steady myself, but before I could touch it, it was gone. And the distant floor seemed to darken and change. The linoleum tile became wood, partially carpeted. And the chair beneath me vanished.”
Nevada by Imogen Binnie
“Because shaving and putting on a bunch of foundation every day are emotionally exhausting reminders of being trans, she gets a step removed from them by monologuing like she’s explaining them to someone. Secret trick one is to boil water in a kettle on the stove while you get dressed and brush your teeth, then stop up the sink and make yourself a little boiling lake. If the water is so hot that truly hurts your fingers when you splash it on your face and you kind of worry that you’re doing permanent damage to your skin, you are doing it right. Super hot water makes the shave closer, who knows why.”
On Immunity: An Inoculation by Eula Biss
“Our bodies are not war machines that attack everything foreign and unfamiliar, this metaphor suggests, but gardens where, under the right conditions, we live in balance with many other organisms. In the garden of the body, we look inward and find not self, but other.
If we extend the metaphor of the garden to our social body, we might imagine ourselves as a garden within a garden. The outer garden is no Eden, and no rose garden either. It is as strange and various as the inner garden of our bodies, where we host fungi and bacteria of both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ dispositions. This garden is unbounded and unkempt, bearing both fruit and thorns. Perhaps we should call it a wilderness. Or perhaps community is sufficient. However we choose to think of the social body, we are each other’s environment. Immunity is a shared space–a garden we tend together.”
Before coming to med school, I went to Italy (Venice, Bologna, Florence, and the Cinque Terre.) Here are a few Florence tips that I think Rick Steves probably won’t tell you about…
Santo Spirito: After seeing the big sights, spend all of your time on the south side of the river. That is my greatest piece of advice to you.
Grab a pizza at Gusta Pizza. Pop over to the steps of Santo Spirito, meet some nice strangers, people watch. Walk across the river, again and again.
Osteria Santo Spirito: I accidentally ordered two entrees here. The best rigatoni I have ever tasted. Ever. Gnocchi that melts in your mouth. Gorgeous place, super gorgeous people, gorgeous food.
Chicco di Caffe: traveling alone means…dinner on the house. Small, wonderful, off the beaten path. (not shown)
Libreria Brac: unapologetically hip. Divine. I want to live here.
amblé: quirky little cafe/furniture store with cute, friendly people.
My two favorite gelato places…
Gelateria La Carraia: go to the one next to the river, sit on the bank of the river, try to not let it drip.
Gelateria della Passera: delightful little triangle-shaped square. Same idea…sit, eat, love life.
Leather: I bought this bag at the leather market. Bargaining was essentially ineffective and far less dramatic than Asia (lame). Navy leather Madewell x Superga sneaks from…New York.
Florence Town Vespa Tour: yup, this is what dreams are made of. It involved a castle, a lady in purple sparkly eye shadow, and lots of wine. And driving on winding roads at golden hour. !!!
A happy me, wearing the same t-shirt, with my post-Italia glow. Happy traveling.
Bits and pieces of things I read over the holidays:
Being Mortal by Atul Gawande
“Being mortal is about the struggle to cope with the constraints of our biology, with the limits set by genes and cells and flesh and bone. Medical science has given us remarkable power to push against these limits, and the potential value of this power was a central reason I became a doctor. But again and again, I have seen the damage we in medicine do when we fail to acknowledge that such power is finite and always will be. We’ve been wrong about what our job is in medicine. We think our job is to ensure health and survival. But really it is larger than that. It is to enable well-being. And well-being is about the reasons one wishes to be alive. Those reasons matter not just at the end of life, or when debility comes, but all along the way. Whenever serious sickness or injury strikes and your body or mind breaks down, the vital questions are the same: What is your understanding of the situation and its potential outcomes? What are your fears and what are your hopes? What are the trade-offs you are willing to make and not willing to make? And what is the course of action that best serves this understanding?”
This book is excellent. Read the introduction here.
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
“We did that often, asking each other questions whose answers we already knew. Perhaps it was so that we would not ask the other questions, the ones whose answers we did not want to know.”
Wonderful writing as per usual from Ms. Adichie, although I have to say I liked her others better.
All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks
“Love is an action, a participatory emotion. Whether we are engaged in a process of self-love or of loving others we must move beyond the realm of feeling to actualize love. This is why it is useful to see love as a practice. When we act, we can trust that there are concrete steps to take on love’s path. We learn to communicate, to be still and listen to the needs of our hearts, and we listen to others. We learn compassion by being willing to hear the pain, as well as the joy, of those we love.”
The words of Yuri Kochiyama, hand-lettered for Hyphen
“Life is not what you alone make it. Life is the input of everyone who touched your life and every experience that entered it. We are all part of one another.”
Mostly because of the lettering. So pretty. [x].
Maria Popova on Rebecca Solnit’s “The Blue of Distance” in A Field Guide to Getting Lost
“This relationship between desire and distance, Solnit argues in one of the most poignant passages in this altogether brilliant book, is also the root of our deep-seated unease with desire — a state we approach with a single-minded quest for its eradication. We seek to demolish it either with grasping action, through consummation, or with restless resistance, through denial and suppression. We can’t, it seems, just be with desire — bear witness to it, inhabit it fully, approach it with what John Keats memorably termed ‘negative capability.’ With extraordinary elegance and sensitivity, Solnit offers a remedy for this chronic anxiety:
‘We treat desire as a problem to be solved, address what desire is for and focus on that something and how to acquire it rather than on the nature and the sensation of desire, though often it is the distance between us and the object of desire that fills the space in between with the blue of longing. I wonder sometimes whether with a slight adjustment of perspective it could be cherished as a sensation on its own terms, since it is as inherent to the human condition as blue is to distance? If you can look across the distance without wanting to close it up, if you can own your longing in the same way that you own the beauty of that blue that can never be possessed? For something of this longing will, like the blue of distance, only be relocated, not assuaged, by acquisition and arrival, just as the mountains cease to be blue when you arrive among them and the blue instead tints the next beyond. Somewhere in this is the mystery of why tragedies are more beautiful than comedies and why we take a huge pleasure in the sadness of certain songs and stories. Something is always far away…After all we hardly know our own depths.'”
This blue is everything.