All posts filed under: essays

lighthouse - best audible books 2021

7 Basically Perfect Audible Books for 2021 and Beyond

These are my picks best Audible books (for 2021). If you pick the right one, there’s something incredibly special about the right audiobook — I don’t think books are generally improved by their film adaptations, but I do think some are even better in their audiobook format. To the Lighthouse is one of the 20th century’s perfect books — but the way Nicole Kidman reads those dense, twisty sentences helps crack it open in a way that’s impossible on the page. I have 70 books in my Audible library, and most I didn’t finish. Some were boring. With others — like with The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes and two Neil Gaiman books — I ended up buying the print version because I couldn’t follow the plot. These, though, are all wonderful, and if you’re looking for something to listen to next, look here first. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah I can’t even say what an incredible experience listening to this book was. I’ve read lots of books by TV comedians and those were fine and entertaining …

an image from the televised dnc roll call

If You’ve Been Sad About the State of the World/Country/Etc., The DNC Roll Call Is the Medicine You Need

The DNC roll call is wonderful. We are in for it, these next 76 days: If it’s not the pandemic or the murder hornets or the fire-nadoes or the sharks or the miserable inability of approximately 43% of this country to channel any sort of empathy or the spotted lanternflies or the assault on our arctic refuges or the assault on our post offices or the actual assaults on actual people by other people, sworn to protect them — well, if it’s not any of that, it’ll be something else. Myriad other disasters surely await us, in the double-overtime run-up to what could very well be lights-out, in many ways that matter, for this young nation of ours. It is a bitter pill to swallow, all that, but there is a remedy, and it is the DNC Roll Call. It is wonderfully homemade. It is the hand-sewn quilt that emerges after decades of Pottery Barn chenille throws. It is your grandmother’s favorite soup after years of Olive Garden minestrone. Mics are visible in essentially all of the …

Americans in Paris: Do Not Act Like This Lady

So late this afternoon I trundled off to BHV, my favorite department store in Paris and not only because it is a five-minute walk from my apartment. Two minutes into that walk, I realized I had made a serious error in not stopping to use my own bathroom (sorry if that’s too much TMI but this is a crucial plot point). I continued on, despite knowing that not turning around would mean using the bathrooms at BHV, which are always crowded, and would be circus-like on a Saturday afternoon. BHV has escalators, and my fifth-floor apartment does not, and so my decision was made.

project fi review

Checked Bags

When I first came to France, I brought yoga tights and Wheat Thins plus as much Diet Coke as I could carry. When I flew home, I brought cheese, macarons, morning-bought bread, rose jam. That list has changed over the past three years. Now I bring toothpaste and deodorant. (Ours are better.) And when I come home, I bring prescription drugs and contact lenses: the things that help my body survive from one day to the next.

a painting of three women combing their hair

Women of Science Have All the Answers

Maybe you let your subscription to Audible lapse? Or you’re all out of downloads for the month? (TBH this happens to me a lot.) May I suggest: this audio recording of me valiantly reading aloud my story Women of Science Have All the Answers, and I say “valiantly” because I’d just bitten my lip something major. Also, please enjoy the fact that I literally cannot pronounce an “an” sound, either in words like “hand,” “man,” “pan,” or, most tragically, my own name. I wrote this story an incredibly long time ago, something that will be clear from: – the Oprah references – discussion of “crack smokers” – “calling a car service,” which at least I was able to update to “calling a cab,” which in any case is sounding very 2013 – many other bizarro ideas Download it here.

gray wing of airplane seen from mid-flight

Bienvenue à New York

A week after the Bataclan massacre, I flew home to New York for Thanksgiving on an OpenSkies flight. Each of those details matters: That it was only a week. That it was the day before Thanksgiving. That I was flying to New York — which, as a New Yorker, I know to be the best city in the world, and thus, the most attractive possible target to those who would injure America, regardless of our own distinct politics, regardless of the fact that we are the best example of myriad communities living in fractious harmony, drooling on each other as we sleep on the Q train.

shoplifting paris

Today I Was Accused of Shoplifting and It Was Kind of Awesome

Un dimanche soir, Maubert Isabeau se disposait à se coucher, lorsqu’il entendit un coup violent dans la devanture grillée et vitrée de sa boutique. Il arriva à temps pour voir un bras passé à travers un trou fait d’un coup de poing. Le bras saisit un pain et l’emporta. … C’était Jean Valjean. First, as I believe it is customary, I begin my story about being accused of shoplifting by saying I am no Jean Valjean, stealing bread for my family — which is a terrible situation to be in, and something to think about as I share a city with thousands of migrants and refugees who cannot enter a supermarket as I can: with the knowledge that as long as I avoid the aisle with the very expensive whiskey, I can pay for what I see. I thought about that quite a bit after I was accused of shoplifting: how my experience, which, while amazing in a very sideways sort of way, was made possible — and ridiculous, rather than threatening — because of …

the view of a parisian protest from above

Protests Here, and At Home

My first real apartment in Paris was a one-bedroom sublet above boulevard Beaumarchais. This was exciting because I had never lived in a one-bedroom before, even if the kitchen was so small you had to walk through it sideways. Also, I stole my neighbor’s vacuum cleaner for three hours before putting it back. I feel bad about that.

a view of a bridge above a flooded seine

The 100-Year-Flood

In terms of localized natural disasters, I prefer a blizzard, ideally one that requires early departures from work on Thursday afternoons and necessitates a day off on Friday. At least while the snow still falls, and as long as you don’t have to work/drive/do anything during it, a blizzard in New York City is a beautiful thing. I have only experienced one earthquake in San Francisco, which was very fun, very small, and very confusing.

a vintage image of the interior of a french restaurant

Je T’Ecoute

Every Sunday I’m in Paris, even if I’m only there for a couple days, I try to go to Franglish, the non-sexual language-instruction speed-dating-style event I have mentioned here previously, in which you’re paired off with a French speaker and take turns speaking in the two languages. I love Franglish even if it always, inevitably ends with two language learners with their head in their hands, their brains about to explode from 90 minutes of trying to explain themselves in unfamiliar words. Here’s how my most recent Franglish ended: I tried to tell Romain, the architect I was paired off with last (after the 19-year-old French girl who said she’d returned to France from the U.S. to be with her boyfriend but that he worked all the time so now she used Tinder to make friends, to which my puritanical, American self responded: “Friends? Really?”). He had said he liked to draw, so I told him to send me an email if he put his drawings on a website: “Oh hey if you get a …