Hey there. How great was Kaveh's letter? So great. Ten salsa jars out of ten. Okay, eleven. Twelve! Missed it (in which case that salsa jar reference just blew right past you)? You can read it here. I got more fan mail about Kaveh's letter than anything I sent during my first year of sending these. Congratulations, Kaveh, you are the most popular "I Don't Hate It" author! Your selections were impeccable. We need poetry now more than ever.
Is this your first time receiving this newsletter? I know I got some new subscribers in the last two weeks. Welcome! The full archive is available here. I generally send these twice a month, on Fridays. This is a bonus letter, though; July has five Fridays. I wouldn't normally send one on the fifth Friday of the month, but I want you to like me as much as you like Kaveh.
I think we are in the midst of the dog days of summer, that period when it's so much easier to be still than it is to move. Last week I went to Texas for a few days and when my plane landed, after ten o'clock at night, the pilot announced that it was ninety-seven degrees and I thought, "Fuck. All I brought are jeans. I don't even own shorts anymore." And then Monday night I got home around midnight and found Virginia mid-heat wave, coming off of a run of 100-plus-degree days. The heat is following me. I think this is the hottest summer since I moved here.
Some things I believe in: climate change. Coffee. A woman's right to choose. Greeting cards.
I keep saying I'm going to talk about audiobooks and today I'm finally going to do it. Most of my listening takes place while I'm driving. When I lived in Texas and drove for longer stretches than I do now, I would listen to audiobooks for upwards of forty-five minutes at a time, a compelling plot or engaging narrator keeping me from raging at the Austin traffic. I'm in the car for shorter spurts now, because the town I live in is smaller, yes, and my commute is much shorter. This makes it hard to really get into an audiobook, pausing every seven minutes and maybe not starting again for another eight or nine hours or even until the next day. The truly great audiobooks are the ones that I keep listening to after I park the car. The ones that cause me to put in my earbuds and find things to do around the house that enable listening.
1. I have already recommended both Station Eleven and A Little Life, and I've told you that I listened to these via my Audible app. (Or I at least said that I listened to them; I use Audible for my audiobook consumption.) I found the experience of listening to these books so enjoyable, the performances of their narrators so animated, that I cleaned, I cooked, at one point I literally just sat up in bed with my earbuds in listening and staring straight ahead, silently.
Not too long ago, the weekly Letter of Recommendation in the New York Times Magazine argued that books—of all genres, but especially fiction and poetry—should be narrated by their authors rather than actors. I disagree. (You come here for the opinions, right?) Poetry is one thing, and I can get on board with that. But it is the rare case in which fiction should not be performed, something to which actors are, well, perfectly suited. The author of the aforementioned Letter of Recommendation, Wyatt Mason, chose as his example Jonathan Franzen's Purity. Perhaps that particular audiobook was not well cast, though Mason does not specifically suggest that Franzen read all of the characters' voices, which would include the central character, a young woman named Pip, but that is the logical extension of his argument. The trouble Mason seems to have with the audio version of Purity, rather, is that the dialogue that takes place during the portion of the novel that is set in Germany is rendered in German-accented English—the accent is apparently very good, mind you, but Mason would rather it be in German. He calls this choice "crazy because it's stupid." He would, presumably, rather have Franzen himself read the entire book, all of the characters' voices, in every language. To my mind, that would be crazy because it's stupid.
A listening experience is entirely different from a reading experience. As the reader, you are completely removed from the words on the page. There are times when this can be frustrating, sure. To not know how a character's name is spelled because you don't have access to the printed text, for example. Or when the dialogue is not in your native language.
2. When should authors read their own work? Memoirs. Especially celebrity memoirs. You haven't experienced life at its fullest until you've heard Rob Lowe tell the story of growing up as a child actor who befriends Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estévez, whose father is Martin Sheen—known to Lowe at that point mostly for his role in Apocalypse Now and therefore quite intimidating. He tells that story in his first memoir, Stories I Only Tell My Friends, and his Sheen impression is on-point. Other celebrity memoirs worth your time: Neil Patrick Harris's Choose Your Own Autobiography; Amy Poehler's Yes Please; Tina Fey's Bossypants; Ellen Burstyn's Lessons In Becoming Myself; Betty White's If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won't); and though she's not technically a celebrity, Jenny Lawson aka The Bloggess reads both of her memoirs and they are great listens: Let's Pretend This Never Happened and Furiously Happy.
3. After Sun is the new and improved aloe vera. It's not the seventies anymore, and it's time you told your medicine cabinet. Spending time in the sun this summer? Treat your skin the way it deserves to be treated with this balm, which can be used all over, not just on your face. (I've been applying it pretty much everywhere except my face.) After Sun is the creation of Adeline Koh, the genius behind Sabbatical Beauty: small batch, ethically handcrafted Korean-influenced skincare. I've been using it for about six weeks—the entire routine, not just After Sun—and the community that has built up around her is no joke. She is the real deal. If you use this referral link, you'll get 10 percent off your first purchase. (And if you're interested in exploring more than just After Sun, I recommend the Julie Got Grits set. Game changer for your pores. But use the referral link so you get a discount.) P.S. If you love me you'll buy me this throw pillow. Or these playing cards. These letters are free, you know.
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