I read a great essay a few days ago in the Guardian by Margaret Atwood about some of the unusual things she’s doing in this time of isolation. She’s such a witty, clever writer that if she wrote about the proverbial telephone book it would be worth reading. In this essay, titled Margaret Atwood’s Lockdown Diary, she describes making firestarters out of egg cartons, dryer lint, and candle ends to give to friends. Aside from the firestarters–which I now really want to make–and her grandmother’s knitted washcloths, she mentions the plethora of remote events that are “multiplying like mice.” An apt phrase!
My calendar, which has been pretty empty, is now filling up with these event mice, some of which I quite enjoy so I thought I’d tell you about some of them. I have a reservation for a book discussion this week at Poster House, the new museum in Chelsea. I’ve been there several times; they always have interesting exhibits. I particularly enjoyed the one of handpainted movie posters from Ghana (called Baptized by Beefcake) and saw it twice. The posters were mainly for horror and scifi movies and were trucked from village to village around the country with portable screens and projectors. Vibrant, scary, and huge, I’m sure they brought in many viewers! The book discussion this week is related to the current exhibit, titled Sleeping Giant: Posters and the Chinese Economy. The book for discussion is Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu, published in January, 2020. I’ve been listening to it in preparation for the book talk. Great reader, quirky and insightful genre-bending story about the paradoxes of life for an Asian immigrant who wants to graduate from being “Generic Asian Man” to “Kung Fu Guy” on the silver screen.
I also signed up for a “writerly chat” this evening between Rebecca Makkai and Jean Hanff Korelitz. Makkai is the author of The Great Believers, one of the best novels I read in the past year. Korelitz runs an organization called Book the Writer, where she connects writers with reading groups. She also holds what she calls “Pop-Up Book Groups” where a small group of people meet with a writer in someone’s home in NYC. I’ve been to several of these events and they’ve been wonderful. Since there’s no way now to meet in person, Korelitz has created these online chats. I’ve heard Makkai speak before, so I knew I wanted to attend. She said some very interesting things about the writing process the last time I saw her, so I’d like to hear more.
The Film Society of Lincoln Center is streaming a movie this week that is a delight to watch. It’s called The Booksellers and it’s about the antiquarian book trade. Ho hum, you think. Not at all. It’s a lively and engaging look at the people who are passionate about hunting down, collecting, and selling old and rare books. There’s some history, some of it referencing Book Row, the stretch of Fourth Ave. in New York that housed dozens of antiquarian bookshops from the 1890s to the 1960s. Most of the film consists of interviews with book dealers: how they got into the business, what they love about it, and their thoughts about how it has changed and where it’s going. Fran Lebowitz provides some funny interludes. These collectors are interesting, thoughtful folks; you will probably feel differently about rare books after seeing this film. And, if you haven’t seen the movie Bathtubs Over Broadway, another film about collecting, now is definitely the time to stream it from Netflix.