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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
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Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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Irreverent. Curious. Vaginas.

Our good friend David Farley recently held a launch party for his book An Irreverent Curiosity. The book is about Farley's adventures in and around Calcata, Italy, a bizarre village famous for once housing a holy relic: the foreskin of Jesus. In the mid-80s, the Holy Foreskin mysteriously disappeared. Farley spent a year in Italy searching for the story behind its disappearance. (It's an amazing book, by the way. It tore me away from Infinite Jest, which is not easy to do these days.)

Anyway. Back to the party! Farley and his wife Jessie—who, incidentally, was my friend way before Farley entered the scene—are friendly with Paulina Porizkova, the supermodel/writer/lovely human being, and she was also at the party. If you've been reading Finslippy for any length of time, you might remember my mentioning that Paulina's mom had been one of my midwives and had, in fact, delivered Henry. The last time I met Paulina, a few years ago, I shared this information with her. Then I got tongue-tied and couldn't think of anything else to talk about, so I backed away, waving and apologizing.

This time I felt a little more confident. Maybe it was all the wine? Hard to say. I suggested to Scott that we talk to her, and he turned this beautiful shade of lavender-gray. I couldn’t hear what he was saying but his mouth was moving frantically. I leaned in. He seemed to be pleading with me not to make him go over there.

"Aw," I said. "You're adorable! Let's go—I'll ask her if I can get her picture with you."

"No no no no," he whisper-shrieked. So cute!

"Oh, come now. At least we can say hello! Remember, her mom was my midwife. It's like we're related."

"I am not talking to Paulina. I had her poster on my bedroom wall. I… no. I will not talk to her."

But we were pushed inexorably forward by the party-tide, and soon we were abutting her circle. Then Paulina turned to us. And said hello.

Before I knew what I was doing I was reminding her that her mother had delivered my son Henry, and then I was showing her my iPhone pictures of Henry, and she was appreciating the pictures in a way that someone who has kids knows they're supposed to do. Scott was smiling and smiling some more. Also waving. But at least not apologizing, which I thought was a step forward for us as a couple. We're learning to socialize! It's never too late, kids!

I decided I was going to regale her with our favorite midwife story, which was when Scott accompanied me to a visit and I complained of yeast infections and Paulina's mom directed me never to wash my vagina with soap. (It was funny at the time.) (You had to be there.) As I was talking I realized that in order to communicate the hilarity of this story, which was not all that funny in the retelling of it, I had to 1) impersonate Paulina's mother, and 2) use the word "vagina" an awful lot. And then I became increasingly self-conscious at how much I was saying "vagina" and how the Czech/Swedish/Vampire accent I was affecting sounded a lot like I was just imitating Paulina, and not in a flattering way. I was horrified for me. Paulina looked concerned, but to her credit, she was not scanning the room for possible exits. I don't think Scott noticed what was happening, because while I yammered on he was sketching Paulina on a napkin.

To my credit, I ended the story quickly and also kept myself from telling Paulina how many stitches her mom had put in my hoo-ha. (That's polite code for "vagina.") Actually I never would have done that, because I don't really know. Maybe Paulina knew? Damn it, I should have asked her.

Miraculously, our new best friend managed to steer the conversation over to a more socially acceptable subject, for which I will be forever grateful. For the next twenty minutes or so we talked about our favorite books. The specific question she asked, which I think is kind of brilliant as a party conversation-topic-when-the-other-people-are-definitely-insane, is a three-parter. 1)What's the book you wish you had written? 2) What book do you read when you want something comforting and familiar? And 3) What book do you think everyone should read?

In response, Scott squeaked something about Noam Chomsky, and then he pulled his shirt over his head and flailed his arms about, shouting, "I'm a headless robot!" Or was that something Henry did this morning? At any rate, Noam Chomsky was mentioned. My responses were 1) To the Lighthouse, because I wanted to impress Paulina, 2) Anything by Laurie Colwin, because it's the truth, and 3) The Master and Margarita, because I wanted to impress Paulina. I'm going to have to think about what my real answers to 1 and 3 would be. The impressing-Paulina choices weren't far off, I think. I'm just glad I didn't say "The Big Book of Vaginas!" or "O, Vagina" or something equally off-kilter.

So. What would your books be?

Reader Comments (107)

The Poisonwood BibleThe Golden CompassWicked
July 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJasmine
Wish I had written: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

Comforted by: Feast of Love by Charles Baxter

Everyone should read: The Corner of the Veil by Laurence Cosse

July 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLaura Mayes
1. Wish I'd written: To Teach-Journey of a Teacher by William Ayers2. Comforted by: Vegetarian Cooking by Deborah Madison3. Everyone should read: Sabbath's Theatre by Philip Roth
July 29, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterrobert6011
1. Shantaram - but I wouldn't want to be a heroin addict, bust out of jail, live on the lam in a Bombay slum, get caught go back to prison for 13 years, so there's no way I could ever write this book - it's so beautifully written though I'd have to say that all that hell was worth it.

2. The Brothers K - I've read it 8 times and it's the only book I ever finished and started reading again immediately.

3. This is so hard because there are so many books that I think everyone should read I can't pick just one, but if I must...right now in this minute I'm going to say...Traveling Mercies by Anne LaMotte (which could also be my #2 answer)
July 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSusie
1. The Twilight Saga (yes, I admit it... I am a 30 something "twimom"...such a guilty little pleasure, I just can't help my self!)

2. Any Jane Austen novel. I reread them over and over and over again. They are so comforting to me.

3. To Kill A Mocking Bird. I first read it when I was just a kid and it is still my favorite book.
July 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChristine F.
#1 A TIE: The God of Small Things - Arundhati Roy, AND Self-Help - Lorrie Moore#2 Baby Catcher - Peggy Vincent (weird choice but good book)#3 L'espece humaine (The Human Species) by Robert Antelme

ties are allowed under my house rules that I just made up :)
July 29, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermfk
Wow I just read the other comments and noticed someone else has the same #1 choice! we should totally be best friends forever. Seriously amazing writing...

and I love Sarah's "first - and only - book I read" ... hahahaha
July 29, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermfk
Paulina was a godess to me as a teenage girl- she's so COOL. Married to a weird looking rockstar, happy forever with him, kids, a great career, awesome. New here- hello Finslippy. I'm Flux Capacitor. Nice to meet you

maggie may
July 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMaggie May
1) Infinite Jest. I am reading it now and my mind is totally blown at how brilliant DFW's writing is.

2) Catcher In the Rye. My comfort reading since I was 12. I can't wait to share it with my son.

3) The Odyssey and anything by Shakespeare. I feel that both have helped me to get more out of many other books that I've read.

July 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHolly
Lord how Bossy loves Laurie Colwyn too.
July 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBOSSY
I really do think everyone should read Master and Margarita and was just saying so to my roommates/tripmates as we drove home from the BlogHer convention.

Now I think I probably sounded like I was trying to impress a supermodel. Dagnabit.

And I'm doing this all out of order! And wordily! Crikey.

Anyway, I wish I had written The Blind Assassin. To the point that I cried with shame, when I read it, that I would never be Margaret Atwood.

And I recently read For Whom the Bell Tolls for comfort. (I know. I'm a masochist. WTF? But I needed to remind myself that people have always thought the whole world was ending, and it never really does. We just end in it.)
July 30, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjaelithe
1. My very first thought was _In the Name of the Rose_ by Umberto Eco. I will never be that clever and well-read. But then two people have also mentioned _Blind Assasin_ by Margaret Attwood and I must add that as my additional #1 answer.

2. _A Wrinkle in Time_ by Madeleine L'Engle and _The Sun Also Rises_ by Hemingway.

3. This is a weird one since it's not fiction but I'm going to say _In Defense of Food_ by Michael Pollen. It will change how you think about feeding your body.
July 30, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteramieable
Wish I'd written: Sirens of TitanComforted by: The AP StylebookEveryone should read: Catch-22
July 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCas
Comfort- The Narnia mother read these to me at night, tucked in under my covers and I was miles away in Narnia.

Wish I'd written-Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? by Lorrie Moore- a coming of age book written crisply and clearly

Everyone should read-When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris-the MAN IS BRILLIANT-laughed so loudly my husband kept giving me looks.
July 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBeth
1) Completely agree with Barb- the Twilights2) Riddlemaster, Patricia McKillip3) Robert Kiyosaki changed my life. But really, I just love it when people tell me they are reading, no matter what it is!
July 31, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterpaula
Laura! I was going to put down Housekeeping too!

OK then:

1. I wish I'd written Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping2. I go back to Alcott's Little Women for comfort3. Everyone should read the gorgeous, heartbreaking, hilarious Lolita
July 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBeth
1. Too many, I can't list them all. Probably someone totally off the wall like W.P. Kinsella, because he pulls it off.2. I am a total rereader. Illumination Night by Alice Hoffman and At the Sign of the Naked Waiter by Amy Herrick are my top two. I don't know why, they both just strike a chord with me.3. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, because, come, on, total rereading material and so well written.
August 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKatie
I'm so happy to find other Laurie Colwin fans :).

1. I wish I had written The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. That book really spoke to me.

2. For comfort: The Miss Read British cozies. Lovely, lovely stories. Both the Fairacre and Thrush Green books are well worth your time.

3. What everyone should read: This is the hardest for me to pick but I'm going with Plainsong by Kent Haruf. Really speaks to me.
August 1, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersassafras mama
Okay, I'm now forbidden from the phrase "really speaks to me." What I meant: I really understood how Didion was feeling and it was a comfort to know someone else had experienced life in the way I had.

And Haruf seems like a regular guy who values regular people. Great story.
August 1, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersassafras mama
This could change in ten minutes, probably less, but on Sunday, Aug 2, 2009 at 10:49 PDT I chose:

1. March, Geraldine Brooks2. The Marcus Didius Falco series, Lindsey Davis3. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
August 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFranca Bollo
Every month I do a follower of the month feature on my blog and in the interview I ask the follower to link to 3 of their favorite blogs. Your blog was one of the links this month. Just thought I'd let you know! :)
August 2, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterter
1. The Lovely Bones.2. Anything by Neil Gaiman3. The Brother Karamazov
August 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSierra
1. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte) - only read it for the first time this year and was blown away.2. Rebecca (du Maurier) or Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte) or Valley of the Dolls (Susann) or Gone with the Wind (Mitchell)3. The Ballad of Sad Cafe (McCullers) or the road (mccarthy)- a quick read and a great introduction to either author

Wow, very hard to choose one!
August 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJoeybb
Such good taste!

1. Mating -- Norman Rush2. No matter how many times I try to reduce my book collection, when I see my Laurie Colwin books from the 80's & 90's I just smile and leave them on the shelf where they belong.3. Paula -- Isabel Allende

August 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLee
1. Fear of Flying - by Erica Jong2. Anything by Robertson Davies3. Nickle and Dimed. Well, at least every American should read it.
August 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSgill

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