September 2, 2010 | by Radhika Jones
This is the second installment of Jones' culture diary. Click here to read part 1.
Morning I put in some book requests, per last night's TLS: Tom McCarthy's new book C, which is out September 7, and his first novel, Remainder, which I meant to read after the great piece Zadie Smith wrote in the New York Review of Books a couple of years ago, "Two Paths for the Novel," about McCarthy and Joseph O'Neill. Meetings and a quick edit eat up much of the morning.
Lunch with a favorite literary agent—one of those agents who turns out to represent all the writers you're hearing great things about. We fill each other in on what we've been reading. I make a mental note to pack Rosecrans Baldwin's You Lost Me There in the vacation bag.
Afternoon Gilbert sends me a 5 P.M. pick-me-up, in the form of the YouTube video for Cee Lo's hilarious single "F--k You." I love the typography! Thanks, Gilbert. I start working on my book review, which is to say, I write a sentence that may or may not be the lede.
Trailer break! The Social Network. I am bizarrely excited to see this movie1, which stars Jesse Eisenberg and his hoodie. And now onward to the trailer for the fake Twitter movie, which looks even more awesome.
In the NYT, I read a piece on the Shakespeare Quarterly opening up its traditional peer review system to open review online. As a former (recovering?) academic, I like this idea.
Remainder arrives. I check out the Literary Saloon, which leads me to New York's twenty most anticipated books of the season, and to a piece about Barnes and Noble, also in New York, by Andrew Rice. Paris Review alert! One of NY Mag's most anticipated fiction books is Danielle Evans' Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self. We published Danielle's first short story, "Virgins" (issue 182), which went on to be selected for Best American Short Stories. And Andrew Rice had a great piece of nonfiction, "The Book of Wilson," from his travels in Uganda, in issue 177.
I also read "Dear Prudence" on Slate. This is the only advice column I ever read. I'm not exactly sure why—I'm not sure why I read it, and I'm not sure why it's the only one2 I read. And I don't have time to puzzle it out, so it'll be one of the many things in life I just chalk up to mystery appeal.
Evening Bhangra class. A few years ago (actually, about six years ago, yikes), my friend Sailaja and I started taking bhangra classes. We had no dance background, and I have the flexibility of a No. 2 pencil. But our teacher, Ambika3, is brilliant, and after a year or so we had become, as Sailaja put it, not great bhangra dancers but passable bhangra students. Which we thought was pretty impressive!
- I wonder if Harvard will start showing it during first-year orientation instead of Love Story.
- Although my all-time favorite Slate column is from the nineties—the Shopping Avenger. He avenged consumer wrongs, until he got caught in a U-Haul spiral from which he never emerged, which anyone who has ever rented from U-Haul can understand. O Shopping Avenger. I miss you, and I try to make you proud.
- Last year Ambika took off for Nigeria to make films, but I knew that if I waited patiently and went on an exercise strike, she'd come back. And she has. And tonight is our first class.
- Have been on a Gawande rereading binge since his wonderful end-of-life care piece in The New Yorker a few weeks back.
September 1, 2010 | by Radhika Jones
MORNING Tea1 and the NYT Editor's Choice on the iPad. Morning commute: F train, relatively uncrowded because it's the end of August. Reading survey reveals it's a periodical-dominated morning: the Times, the WSJ, the Metro, the Post, and two people facing off with The New Yorker. I pull out my advanced reader's copy of Skippy Dies, which I am in the middle of, and which is so absorbing2 that I need to be careful not to miss my stop.
Second cup of tea steeping in office kitchen. Delightful news via memo left under my door: from now on, the motion-sensor light in my office will only come on if I push it. I hate the fluorescent light, but until now have been powerless to disengage it. Now I will just never turn it on!
Wake up computer and look at Time.com to see what my colleagues have been up to overnight. Also look at the NYTimes Web site, and the Guardian, and Talking Points Memo. And a few book blogs, an old Paris Review habit I've reignited in these slightly news-slow summer months—which is how I come across the sad story of the death of VQR's managing editor.
On deck for this morning: signing off on finished magazine pages; ideas meeting; edits for next week. Also opening all the mail that has piled up in the last few weeks. I should open my mail every day. Then it would not pile up. I know that, but sometimes I rebel3, and this time it has gotten so bad that random colleagues have begun stopping by my office and offering to help me open it. I am the office Collyer Brother.
Morning meeting over. Half an hour until next meeting. Office gloriously unfluorescent. Work takes on low-lit, romantic flavor.
E-mail from my brother wondering which Scrabble app he should download so we can play together. I want to play with him, but he lives in Andover, Mass., so if we are to play, I will have to join Facebook4.
Open InCopy. I love InCopy. It lets me work in layout, and secretly I've always wanted to be a graphic designer. This reminds me that I never saw that documentary Helvetica, all about the font. Turn on iPad and add Helvetica to Netflix queue. It's available for instant viewing! Maybe I will watch it this weekend.
Meetings meetings meetings. Lunch!
AFTERNOON Back at my desk after Italian food and a lovely chat with an entertainment publicist who fills me in on a few fall movies. Caitlin Roper (of Paris Review fame) alerts me to a tweet from Bill Burton saying the President just bought a copy of Jonathan Franzen's Freedom. I'm going to go ahead and assume that's because we put Franzen on the cover of Time. President Obama, if you need any more book recommendations, feel free to call me directly. I think you'd really like David Mitchell.
Heroically refrain from reading Skippy Dies during multicolor wheel spin while waiting for InCopy file to open.
Culturally with-it colleague Gilbert Cruz drops by, ostensibly with a work question but actually to recommend I watch the Free Willy horror movie recut on YouTube. It's fantastic. Then we watch The Shining recut as romantic comedy. Then, because I am a Harry Potter fan, I must read "Harry Potter and the Prisoners of Gitmo" on time.com, about the books on offer for Guantanamo detainees.
Call neighborhood bookstore, BookCourt on Court Street, to see about the first Paul Murray book. They don't have it, alas. Meanwhile, twilight is coming on, and it's kind of dark in here. May need to buy an office lamp.
LATER Writing headlines is hard.
LATER STILL I'm done for the day. Skippy and I are reunited!
EVENING Friday nights were made for catching up on Top Chef. Life before DVR—I've blocked it from my memory. Read More »
- P.G. Tips, half teaspoon sugar, half teaspoon honey, splash of milk.
- It's Paul Murray's second novel, out August 31 in the U.S., and I am going to review it for Time.
- Against myself? The post office? All the publishers who put out books and mail them to me?
- I didn't join at the beginning, and then I missed the second through eighth waves of enthusiasm and proselytizing. I figured I would just continue blithely through life, Facebook-free, forgetting people's birthdays. But now… Scrabble. Will it be my downfall? This is one of those luxurious dilemmas we face in the developed world.