Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day!

Hi, everyone! Happiest of Valentine's Day! I thought I'd share four festive links that I sent to some students this morning! Enjoy your sweet, sweet day and tell your friends, family, close ones that you love them.

1) Listen to these atypical love stories from This American Life.

2) The love story of Alexander Graham Bell and Mabel Gardiner Hubbard.

3) If you're feeling dejected/cynical this holiday, check out Liz Prince's funny "Alone Forever" series. 

4) VIDEO: The Single Life: The Science of Love (SoulPancake)

P.S. Did you read the Love Letters series? They're sweet.

Photo via Hoopsy Daisy Etsy shop

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Love Letters: Kurt Vonnegut

We seem to be getting farther and farther away from that Keatsian love that is so utterly romantic in every over-used sense of the word. But here I share some snippets of letters written by Kurt Vonnegut (this book just came out and I'm dying to read it!).

To his first wife/high school sweetheart while away for work (they later separated, but I like to think this isn't just word fluff):
Dearest Jane:
Your charming package of messages arrive this morning, made my love and loneliness acute. Such pang. I'm a homesick little boy. . . . There are alleys everywhere. I had forgotten how romantic alleys are.
This is a very unique "love" letter, and I think it still counts for our purposes. Vonnegut wrote a lovely letter to his students that was instructions for their term papers. I can't think of a better way to tell your students that you care about their work, progress, labors of love than a letter instead of instructions:
This course began as Form and Theory of Fiction, became Form of Fiction, then Form and Texture of Fiction, the Surface Criticism, or Hot to Talk our of the Corner of Your Mouth Like a Real Tough Pro. 
. . . .
I want you to adore the Universe, to be easily delight, but to be prompt as well with impatience with those artists who often your own deep notions of what the Universes is or should be. "This above all..."
. . . .
The grades should be childishly selfish and impudent measures of your own joy or lack of it. I don't care what grades you give. I do insist that you like some stories better than others.
. . . .
[Write not] as an academic critic, nor a person drunk on art, nor as a barbarian in the literary market place. Do so as a sensitive person who has practical hunches. . . . Be yourself. Be unique. Be a good editor.
Lovely, yes? I very different idea of love letters is starting to form in this series, and I have to say,  I very much like it.

Photo via 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Producing a Book

Fellow readers, have you seen this incredibly intriguing book produced by J. J. Abrams? Yes, it is produced, not authored by him. "S" is a mystery novel written by Doug Dorst. Here's a quick breakdown of it:

"S" looks like a really old copy of Ships of Theseus (Dorst wrote Ships of Theseus, it wasn't just an existing story used as a template, so it's like a fictive fiction.)

Then Dorst wrote marginalia throughout the entire book, complete with different underlining, notes, as well as scrap newspaper, post-cards, etc.

This is all subsequently "produced" by J. J. Abrams into what is a breathtaking design feat. I looked at a copy the other day and it is aesthetically beautiful. Moreover, it's intellectually stimulating, because you're considering the dialogue beyond the text.

It's a little pricey, but I'm pretty sure it's worth it. I'm so excited to eventually get my hands on it.

Photo from this great New Yorker interview with Abrams and Dorst.

Love Letters: John + Abigail Adams

Last week we read the love letters of John Keats and Fanny Brawne, and they are unbearable dear. This week we look at one of the truest real relationships: John and Abigail Adams (portrayed beautifully in the HBO miniseries) have a correspondence that can only be described as common-sensical. Their love is obvious, not flowery, not extravagant. They speak of health, average daily routines. In some ways the opposite of Keats and Brawne, their relationship just works.

Abigail writes to John:
My wishes for your Health and happiness and my anxiety to hear from you are an old Story. Should I tender you my warmest affections, they are of a date, almost with my first knowledge of you, and near coeval with myexistance, yet not the less valuable I hope to a Heart that know now a change, but is unalterably the treasure of its ever affectionate...
They are practical; they are honest. It is a simple, pure relationship that seems to stand the test of time, Declarations and civil unrest, and many miles. Beautiful, is it not?

More of their letters can be enjoyed here.

Photo still of HBO miniseries via

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

{Currently Reading}...Norwegian Wood

Of course, I'm reading many great books for many great classes right now. But I also try to read things for fun on my own time. It does take me significantly longer to finish books during the school year, but it's well worth it.

For Christmas my parents got me Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami, the author of IQ84 (which I've admittedly not read...). I'm only a little over 100 pages into it, but thus far I'm enjoying it. It's kind of heartbreaking, as most coming-of-age stories are.

At first, it seemed really superficial and flat. It was just this boy wandering around his university being a university boy. However, now that I've gotten a little more into it, the novel has taken a much more reflective tone with the introduction of some significant characters.

It was adapted into film, and I'd really like to see it after reading the novel!

I'll let you now how it goes! This is also one of my first experiences with reading a contemporary novel that was first written in a different language and then translated to English. Do you have any good book recommendations? I also got White Teeth for Christmas, so that's next on the list, but I'm always game for suggestions!

Photo from film via 

Monday, February 10, 2014

{Weekend Update}...Coffee + Books, Naturally

What did you all do this past weekend? Abby and I tried something new (kind of) and went to Nina's Coffee Cafe and Subtext Books. Located on Cathedral Hill of Saint Paul, Nina's is a dark, moody/cozy cafe that made me feel like I was in New Haven, CT (don't ask me why, but it felt East-Coast collegiate). The sun was perfectly bright that day, so it was only natural to grab a delicious cup of coffee and buy a new book.

Subtext Books is amazing. It is directly underneath Nina's and interior stairs connect them, so it feels really intimate and perfect. Subtext is painted primarily white and is colorful due to the gorgeous array of book spines in their floor to ceiling shelving. Plenty of light streams in from a sunlight-esque window and minimal furniture. I'm in love with them for having real seating. Like couches, tables, chairs! Finally a book store that gets seriously everything right.

We love you, Nina's and Subtext!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Love Letters: Keats & Brawne

It's February and love certainly seems to be in the air. I'm conveniently reading Romantic poets in an English course, snow flakes are fair and frosty on lashes, and coffee shops are playing affectionate tunes. So, dear readers, I invite you to read some of the sweetest love letters ever penned. The lovely John Keats (one of my favorite poets) wrote the most heartbreakingly beautiful letters to his "sweet girl," "fair Star," Fanny Brawne. One of my favorite passages:

I am almost astonished that any absent one should have that luxurious power over my senses which I feel. Even when I am not thinking of you I receive your influence and a tender nature stealing upon me. All my thoughts, my unhappiest days and nights have I find not at all cured me of my love of Beauty, but made it so intense that I am miserable that you are not with me.
 More of the letters can be found here. Read them and your heart will glow, your eyes will sparkle. I am now inclined to read this poem and re-watch the delicate romance film based on John Keats and Fanny Brawne's romance, Bright Star. Swoon.

Photo still of Bright Star film via

Monday, February 3, 2014

{Weekend Update}...A Day for Doing

In an effort to be more adventurous and also become unofficial experts on the Cities, Abby came up with a brilliant idea...

Every Friday we'll do something new in our area. A "Friday Try-day," if you will. The name may sound a little juvenile, but it encapsulates the basic premise. Last year one of our New Year's resolutions was to try more new foods and it went so well that we're extending it!

Starting last week, every Friday we'll either try a new cafe, go to the art museum (this MIA event looks amazing!), see a cool movie, check out an unique store, or something "culture-y" and new. In an effort to keep it sans arrogance/hoity-toity, some Fridays might be something as ordinary as going to the ice-skating rink or going to a new public library.

(This past Friday we went to Birchwood Cafe in the Seward neighborhood. They are a farm-to-table restaurant that use organic, local ingredients––No GMOs––and have a fun, quirky atmosphere. Their coffee is delicious; it's rich and full without being overly bold and the savory pancake (see above) was insanely delicious! Two words: bacon tidbits.)

By the end of the semester, we will have (hopefully) tried a ton of new things our lovely Twin Cities have to offer!

Do you have a day for doing? I have a friend who doesn't spend any money Monday through Friday, so weekends are super special for her. In the summer, my mom and her friends have a Coffee Talk Tuesday at the local cafe. It gives you something to look forward to. But is there something weird about "ritualized fun"? Perhaps. I'd love your thoughts!

Top two photos me; last photo Abby Carlson