After wandering around New York City with Lillian Boxfish in Kathleen Rooney’s novel, Lauren Elkin’s Flâneuse seemed a natural follow-up. In a series of essays, each targeting a city – Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London, Elkin introduces the concept of the Flâneuse – a woman who is “determined, resourceful…keenly attuned to the creative potential of the city and the liberating possibilities of a good walk.” Whether or not you are familiar with each city, her attention to the idiosyncrasies of the neighborhoods connects you to the landscape. As she addresses famous women who have walked the cities – Jean Rhys, Virginia Woolf, and others – a connection between creativity and the dangers of women’s striving for independence in a man’s world emerges. I have not yet finished the book – had to take time out to take a walk.
I was determined not to read this book, but too many like-minded friends urged me to try J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy. Although Vance’s conversational style makes the book easy to read, the misery detailing the violence, poverty and addiction in poor white communities makes it hard to digest. So much has been written about the book, both as social commentary and political influence (see reviews in The New Yorker and major newspapers), but basically the memoir is sad and depressing – despite the author’s rise from poverty to the Marines and finally Yale Law School – yet, raising awareness and asking questions.
The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down
The English translation of Korean Buddhist monk Haemin Sunim’s The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down offers a series of short essays followed by short messages based on his 140 character tweets about faith and mindfulness. The book reminded me of a gift I received years ago when I was in the throes of career building – Meditations for Women Who Do Too Much. Open either book at any page to get a short fortune cookie message with advice. Sometimes it is amazingly appropriate.