Let's Talk About Everything

So far this year I seem to be reading at a far slower pace than I was last year, and I know this because I did that crazy thing in 2011 where I wrote down everything I read each month and then told you all about it at the end of the year. I'm still doing that this year—even though my entries are woefully short; I'm averaging about a book a month—but because it's only April and I don't think this can keep until December, I wanted to draw your attention to a book called The Rules of Inheritance, which I finished mid-March.

I loved this book so much; to say I devoured it would be an understatement. What's even more violent than devouring? Annihilating? Ravaging? Gorging? Well, alright then, I gorged myself on this book, gobbling it up in long, lazy stretches from my couch when I should have been doing something else. 

And then the author, Claire Bidwell Smith, came to San Francisco for a reading, which I couldn't make, unfortunately, although I did coerce her into meeting me at a wine bar, and when she walked up to me and said "Holly?", I was deeply engrossed in chapter two of her book and did a total double-take when I saw her standing in front of me, like she'd jumped to life off the page. "Whoa," I said. "I was just reading about you! And now you're here!" 

(That's not a creepy way to meet someone for the first time AT ALL.) 

Anyway, I enjoyed this book so much that I wanted to mention it now in case you're looking for something new to read. Wear your waterproof mascara for most of it—it's a memoir about losing both parents to cancer—but certainly don't be scared off by the sadness of the subject matter. It's so well-written that even the heaviest parts have a lightness and poignancy to them, and I was truly bereft when it ended. (Write more, Claire! More!)

********************

In other news, I'm sure you're on the edge of your seat wondering what became of our gopher problem, and I will tell you that after trying pretty much every solution that wasn't either illegal or crazy—like, ahem, waiting for the gopher to pop up out of his little hole so we could grab him with our hands, COUGHSEANCOUGH—we finally threw in the towel and called in the professionals. Did you know that there are professional gopher catching services? Because there are, and what's more, they have a sense of humor. The voicemail message on the one we contacted said "sorry we can't come to the phone right now, we've probably got our heads down a gopher hole." 

What? Jokes about gophers? You have my business, sir! Where do I sign?

This is a very humane gopher-catching service, I'm told—even though these assholes are ruining my life, I still can't bring myself to poison or drown them in one of several horrifyingly graphic methods I've stumbled upon on message boards—which I assume means the cheese in their traps is organic triple-creme brie from a sustainable dairy farm where the cows listen to Mozart while talking about their feelings. (Not really: it means they catch them and then release them out into the wild lalalalalala I don't want to think about where that is and how many gophers might be living there.) 

As gopher-trapping services go, this company is pretty confident about their success rate, so we're feeling hopeful that one day we'll be back to having a front yard that isn't just a large dirt pit with blue flags stuck in it to mark the gopher traps, which is very classy, I assure you. In fact, I'm sure if we could just find a burned-out car on bricks and a rusty bathtub to complete the tableau, we'd be the envy of the neighborhood! 

If there is a bright spot in this whole ordeal, though, it's that we come home every few days to a wonderful little note on our front gate telling us, Mad Libs-style, how our traps are doing. 
 
Aw, thanks, Eli. Better luck next time. 

I'm kind of excited to see what happens when they do catch one, actually, because the business model is set up so that you pay for every gopher caught. I had to make Sean explain this to me three times because it seemed so nonsensical to me—couldn't they just tell you they'd caught ten to make more money? What, are you going to ask to see the bodies?—but apparently this is pretty standard practice with gopher-catching services, and I have been forced to assume that clearly there is just some sort of gopher-catching code of honor that decrees that You Do Not Rip The Customer Off By Faking Your Conquests and everyone is just decent enough to abide by it. I'll let you remind me of that next week when I'm presented with a bill for five thousand dollars and eighty dismembered gopher heads.

*******

Say, you know what's really good for getting your brain to stop focusing on that horrifying mental image of eighty dismembered gopher heads?

Paris!

If, on the very slight offchance, you are planning a trip to Paris this year, might I point you in the direction of my friend Caroline's flat, which she is renting out while she's in London.  I've been to this flat and it is indeed very charming and central—when we knocked on the door one evening last November, Caroline was out on the fire escape watching a movie that was being projected onto the side of a building, GAH PARIS IS SO ROMANTIC—and I can personally vouch for her trustworthiness and loyalty, not least because she once fake-fainted with me at a Bon Jovi concert so that I wouldn't have to go to the emergency services by myself (is that dedication or what?) 

Anyway, you can contact me if you want to get in touch with her personally to ask questions about staying there, or you can just be like me and start thinking about which possessions and/or organs you'd need to auction off to swing a trip to Paris this year. I mean, when was the last time you even used your pancreas, right? You'd probably get a pretty good price for that on ebay. 

******
Last thing: Mad Men. Can we discuss? I feel like this season is KNOCKING IT OUT OF THE PARK and I finish every episode desperate to write a thesis paper on all the THEMES and MOTIFS and ALLUSIONS that are swimming about, which is a leftover habit from being an English major (young versus old! The passage of time! What do you mean nobody is going to GRADE MY MAD MEN VIEWING?) and if you feel like this too, I highly recommend reading the recaps on both the LA Times site and Entertainment Weekly, where you will feel slightly more validated in your obsessive cataloguing and cross-referencing of minor details. Truly, it is such a delight to watch at the moment, I never want it to end. Well, maybe I just want it to pause a little so I can watch a few episodes of the new season of the Real Housewives of New Jersey to clear my brain, but THEN I never want it to end. No, YOU confess to your slightly disturbing fascination with Joe Gorga. No, YOU. 

Filed Under:
1
Jane
Apr 17, 2012

I've been reading Claire Bidwell Smith's blog ever since she was featured in the Sydney Morning Herald all those years ago and am looking forward to reading her book. I cannot wait to start it and lucky you two to have met.
Paris - hmmm what I wouldn't give to go there again. But thanks for putting that idea back into my head!

2
Jo
Apr 18, 2012

Claire's book sounds fantastic, thanks for the recommendation. Thanks to your 2011 list, I'm working my way through Jonathan Tropper's books and loving them.

Ahhh Paris, that's set me off on such a tangent of 'if I win lotto' thoughts and memories from two fabulous past trips there. Apartment looks great!

3
Blair
Apr 18, 2012

Amen to the Mad Men! The recaps at Tom & Lorenzo are fantastic too. http://www.tomandlorenzo.com/category/television/mad-men

4
Ris
Apr 18, 2012

The Slate weekly recaps of Mad Men are also amazing and thought provoking: http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/tv_club.html

5
Krissa
Apr 18, 2012

I am exactly the same way about Mad Men! And I have to do it all by myself, too, because Stuart doesn't watch it. So I just sit there on Sunday nights, dissecting it by myself. We should start an email club.

6
Helena
Apr 18, 2012

Hi Holly,

Is your friend Caroline's flat available from June 17th to June 22nd?
Thanks.

7
Amy
Apr 18, 2012

I want to read that book, and I seriously wish I could go back to Paris.

And I'm glad I'm not the only former English major who wants to write a paper after every episode! SO MUCH TO SAY.

8
Maggie
Apr 18, 2012

Holly, thank you for making me feel better about my thesis statements I make post-Mad Men viewing. I blame my English in Film class from high school where I did a 10 page paper about Johnny Depp's character in What's Eating Gilbert Grape.

9
jennifer
Apr 18, 2012

fellow Mad Men geek here - wanted to point you toward my other favorite MM review sites for more opportunities to enthuse over hidden themes/motifs/symbols.

my top reviewers are Tom and Lorenzo (tomandlorenzo.com) who, incidentally, are also some of my favorite fashion bloggers... Alan Sepinwall (he used to write amazing Friday Night Lights reviews too)... the NY mag reviews... and Mo Ryan on HuffPo. I seriously come into work on Mon mornings and refresh until they have their reviews up.

okay, that sounded pretty pathetic. but the writing is generally excellent and the analysis spot-on.

good luck with the gophers!

10
Eunice
Apr 18, 2012

Another excellent Mad Men summary/review that I'd recommend is "What's Alan Watching?" on HitFx. Here's the summary for the most recent episode!

http://www.hitfix.com/blogs/whats-alan-watching/posts/review-mad-men-sig...

I will also probably check out Claire's book now. Been looking for something new to read...thanks!

11
Danielle
Apr 18, 2012

It's been so long since I've been excited about a book. Thank's for the recommendation, I'm going to check out The Rules of Inheritance.

Mad Men has been fantastic so far this season. I really thought it would be mediocre. Plus, it's the fifth season and that seems to be when shows start to get stale. Last week's episode was one of the best yet.

12
Monica
Apr 18, 2012

another great site for recaps.. (specially for Madmen) - Television without pity - http://www.televisionwithoutpity.com/show/mad-men/

13
Lana
Apr 18, 2012

thank-you for the book recommendation! Just finished reading "How to talk to a Widower" (love Tropper), so this came at the right time.

14
Nothing But Bonfires
Apr 18, 2012

Helena: The best thing to do is probably to check the calendar on her AirBnB listing (linked to in the post) which will give you the most up-to-date availability on the flat. Good luck!

15
findingmagnolia
Apr 19, 2012

Two things:
1. My daughter and I spent a good ten minutes today making eye contact with a gopher in a yard quite close to Lakeshore shopping center (Lakeshore Plaza, I think it's called? I never can remember; I like to call it "the suburbs.") and I feel this gopher would make excellent practice for someone who is hoping to catch a sneakier gopher with his bare hands. So if Eli doesn't work out, and Sean still wants to give gopher catching a go, I can direct you to practice grounds.

2. Mad Men! Oh, Mad Men. I always watch the episode too late at night to engage anyone in conversation about it, and then I sit there in bed, just mulling it over, because it is just too good this year. I can't sleep it's so good! Usually I would be itching for another episode right away, but this year I want time to consider each episode for a week, maybe do a second viewing. I hope they keep this level of depth the entire season.

16
Jan Ross
Apr 19, 2012

I don't watch Mad Men, but I do the same thing with wanting to write a research paper about tv shows, movies, etc. The themes! The characters! I also constantly rewrite tv shows and movies (in my head, needless to say) so they are MUCH better and my family is subjected to my revised scripts. They are surprisingly patient about it, probably because mine are actually better!! I think some of us just have that English major brain and it will never change.

17
Marcheline
Apr 19, 2012

Gophers? Good luck with that.

Books about parents dying of cancer? No thanks, been there done that in real life.

Paris? Worst 45 minutes of my life.

MAD MEN.... now THERE'S something I can get into! I am loving this new season, even the slowly creeping modernization of clothing and decor. Can't wait to see what happens with Pete Campbell's flippant behavior towards Roger, and can't wait to see what happens with Roger and Joanie! And Peggy! Oh, I just love them all to bits. Do you think "Zou Bisou Bisou" is going to last? I'm not at all sure...

18
Angela
Apr 20, 2012

Thank you internet... from the bottom of my poor husband's heart. Now in addition to being confused by me *shushing* him sternly when Mad Men is on only to then have to endure *my* comments during the show, now he'll have the pleasure of hearing what everyone else in cyberspace has to say about each episode! Yea!

19
Lindsey
Apr 20, 2012

I'm really in awe of your ability to write about nothing and make it so whippingly witty and wonderful. I always attempt this, but then I just have a blog post/melodramatic narrative/mental conversation about nothing. Bless my poor friends' hearts.

20
Carroll
Apr 21, 2012

Claire's book? Yes! Oh, very much yes indeed. And, to Marcheline (above) you would probably be surprised to find how redemptive Claire's take on that experience turned out to be. I know it has resonated positively with at least one friend to whom I have given a copy.

Your gopher saga? Why yes, in fact I *was* wondering how that's been going. What that company might not have told you is that there's a brisk (dare I say "underground") business related to gopher literacy these days. Those little white signs begin showing up in a neighborhood & bam -- gophers on vacation elsewhere for the duration. Call it quits with the pest control people & listen for that loud whistle those critters use to signal "All clear!"

And (sigh) Paris? Can we please make it a condition that whoever rents your friend's flat gets to do a guest post reporting on the adventure? Vicarious living through other people's blog comments -- it's the in-thing!

21
Home Sweet Sarah
Apr 25, 2012

Wait just a second! The RHONJ is back?! I am going to kill my DVR. First it just up and stopped recording the Orange County Housewives and now this?! Gah.

Anyway, I totally second the EW recaps. In fact, I am at this very moment discussing last week's episode with my friend over GChat. Mad Men! It's everywhere!

Also, Sloane Crosley's Esquire recaps are pretty hilarious, but also informative (like the EW...adding real-life tidbits from that time.)

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