Appetites: Summer Reading

Take a look, it's in a book

Dear friends,

This morning one of my astro apps (come on, you know I have at least three) flashed its daily notification on my screen: Be decadent, it suggested. No problem, I replied. This app in particular often tells me what I need to hear, and occasionally tells me what I want to hear. Today feels like a little of both.

The truth is, with few obligations beyond consuming and producing a few thousand words per week and maintaining a steady diet of tomato toast and Earl Grey, well, daily life can feel pretty decadent on its own. Little things amplify the luxury: long weekend morning chats with friends, fancy body wash, eating potato chips for dinner while watching hours of music documentaries.

I cringe at the malappropriate use of the term self care in reference to my Aesop habit, and the way it cheapens Foucault’s ideas about care of the self as an ethical project. Of course, I think we’re in much deeper trouble if we see self care as something decadent in the first place, something to counter the self-discipline, self-denial, and self-criticism that define our systematic rules of conduct.

Foucault’s concept of self care is similar to the way Giddens discussed identity formation. Building on the idea, Foucault sees care of the self as a set of efforts with the aim of transformation, of treating our lives as a body of work, an identity project. To this end, to indulge ourselves is, in a way, to become our best selves. To be decadent is to allow ourselves to live up to our own ideals of happiness and satisfaction, even if just as a temporary allowance, a break in our otherwise strict regimens.

So let me flash this message–one I know you need to hear, too–onto your screen today: Be decadent.

Summer Reading List

And speaking of decadence, despite an entire summer absent of days entirely dedicated to languorously lounging in various positions of repose in relation to the angle of the sun, I’m still (always) spending as much time as possible with my nose in a book. 100% less sand in uncomfortable places, 90% less sunburn, 50% fewer potato chips and 0% celebrity gossip mags consumed. I’ll get back to the beach next year, but in the meantime, here’s what I’ve been (or want to be) reading.

Essay Study

I’m working on writing essays–sort of an unfamiliar territory for me–so naturally I’ve been devouring essay collections to learn the ropes. My favorites so far:

Chloe Caldwell, I’ll Tell You in Person

Michelle Tea, How to Grow Up

Leslie Jamison, Make it Scream, Make it Burn

Briallen Hopper, Hard to Love

Up next: Nichole Perkins, Sometimes I Trip on How Happy We Could Be

The Big Summer Read

I like an ambitious summer reading project. Last year I was all about Henry James, this year I’m making my way through Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook. A pleasant synopsis: “It charts a smart, sensitive woman’s exhaustion with modern gender dynamics, “the men vs. women business.” Indeed! I’m thinking of it as my Infinite Jest, except that I’m actually reading it, enjoying it, and will finish it rather than just casually mentioning it as a signifier of my literary superiority. If I were going to write a paper about it, there’s a good chance I’d be throwing in a Salinger reference or two, so stay tuned for that.

Absolutely Shameless

Boy-band bodice-ripper meets literary fiction, a genre I never knew I needed, but now I don’t know that I can ever go without.

Next up (because I’m being decadent, after all): Taylor Jenkins-Reid, Daisy Jones and the Six

Are You Even Serious?

I am. I am very serious. The 90s were a long time ago, so writing about them requires some research.

Allison Yarrow, 90s Bitch: Media, Culture, and the Failed Promise of Gender Equality

Mary Pipher, Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls

Next up: Peggy Orenstein, Flux: Women on Sex, Work, Love, Kids, and Life in a Half-Changed World

Finally, some poems

Craig Teicher-Morgan, Welcome to Sonnetville, New Jersey

Welp, you know where to find me