1. The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler is to Jane Austen as The Hours is to Virginia Woolf. I.e. a book about the experience of reading that performs all the particular beauties of its homage subject while solidly occupying the pomo shelf and, also, presenting an ensemble of characters who are far too complex and entertaining to serve as mere tools of homage or literary experiment.
But whereas The Hours can’t (and shouldn’t) get away from that whole filling-your-dress-with-rocks-and-walking-into-the-water thing, neither can The Jane Austen Book Club get away from the fact that Austen loved a fortuitous marriage and a happy ending. Hence the five women and one man that make up the titular club live mundane, middle class, precisely and wittily etched lives that careen toward happiness.
The book, perhaps like Austen herself at times (and you don’t have to really know Austen—I don’t, Gen Whatever slacker that I am—to like The Jane Austen Book Club) seems to ask: What up with the happy endings? It is a small, realistic, tainted, self-doubting happiness that Fowler offers, but I’ll take that any day over giddy, too-happy endings that just end up making me feel alienated. This is the sort of happiness that feels breathlessly reachable; like maybe we already have it, even.
2. The pepino con chile popsicle: not so into it. It wasn’t so much the strangeness of biting into a spicy popsicle, or the mixture of salty and sweet. It was the particular kind of sweet—kind of cloying, but pretending not to be, like an American Idol contestant singing a Morrissey song. It’s like, just be strawberry already. Just be Kelly Clarkson. I think I’d rather just eat an actual cucumber with actual chile on it.
The walnut popsicle, on the other hand, gave arroz con leche a run for its rice granules. La nuez is creamy and caramely and nutty. Sort of in the coffee ice cream family, not because it tastes much like coffee ice cream, but because it feels like a sophisticated, grown-up dessert. On a stick.
3. Ryan Tranquilla—my friend, former boss and the guy who popularized “It’s just literature” as our organization’s unofficial motto—is reading Wednesday night at the fabulous World Stage in Leimert Park. It’s a great venue with a warm, fun-but-serious vibe; Ryan is a warm, fun-but-serious poet.
Wednesday, June 7, 8:30 p.m.
The World Stage
4344 Degnan Blvd.
Los Angeles, 90008