André Aciman’s Call Me By Your Name

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3.0 Stars

Call Me By Your Name is written in a manner that is somewhat reminiscent of the days of old when people wrote about their love and lust for one another so painfully eloquent that it penetrated deep into the reader’s being. Their words bordered on the obsessive, “That foot in the water– I could have kissed every toe on it. Then kissed his ankles and his knees” (27). That is exactly what Elio’s thoughts are like. This book is so painfully relatable to my past self. Actually, to anyone who has been in love, been in lust, been so enamored by another being that all of your thoughts are a jumbled heap of praise, admiration, captivation, self-loathing, and brooding amongst over things, “What’s liking when we’re talking about worshipping?” (103). This is an ode to adolescent love, teenage lust.

In the instance in which a movie adaptation is created for a book, I usually favor and enjoy the book more. This is the first time I have loved both book and movie for telling the same story but in different ways, from different perspectives. They compliment each other, in my opinion. Perhaps I would have a different opinion had I read the novel prior to seeing the movie, but I’m glad it turned out this way.

Pointless Side Note: Towards the end of the book (not a spoiler, promise), Elio asks Oliver, “Do these things die out on their own or do some things need generations and lifetimes to sort themselves out?” I found this interesting mostly because it reminded me of something I read in Louise Erdrich’s LaRose, “Can’t solve that loneliness. It sets deep in a person. Goes down the generations, they say. Takes four generations” (71). The idea that feelings and desires can be so strong that they travel down familial lines is intriguing to me. Something worth delving into when I’m not lazy.

I paired this with Omission Brewing Co’s Lager. I originally wanted to pair this book with an Italian wine because I felt it would be more appropriate, but I’m broke and all I had in my fridge was this beer. I find it still an appropriate pairing. It’s light, crisp and easy to drink akin to the effortless read Aciman’s novel was. It’s a great summer beer and this story is the epitome of summer. See? A decent pairing haha.

Quotes:

“You can always talk to me. I was your age once, my father used to say. The things you feel and think only you have felt, believe me, I’ve lived and suffered through all of them, and more than once– some I’ve never gotten over and others I’m as ignorant about as you are today, yet I know almost every bend, every toll-booth, every chamber in the human heart” (58).

“Now, in the silence of the moment, I stared back, not to defy him, or to show I wasn’t shy any longer, but to surrender, to tell him this is who I am, this is who you are, this is what I want, there is nothing but truth between us now, and where there’s truth there are no barriers, no shifty glances, and if nothing comes of this, let it never be said that either of us was unaware of what might happen” (78).

“…and even if this is all he is willing to give, I’ll take it– I’ll settle for less, even, if only to live with these threadbare scraps” (104).

“In a few days, you’ll be back, and you’ll be alone, and you’ll hate it, so don’t let anything catch you unprepared. Be warned. I had rehearsed losing him not just to ward off suffering by taking it in small doses beforehand, but, as all superstitious people do, to see if my willingness to accept the very worst might induce fate to soften its blow. Like soldiers trained to fight by night, I lived in the dark so as not to be blinded when darkness came. Rehearse the pain to dull pain. Homeopathically” (212).

Format: Paperback & E-Book.

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Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air

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5.0 Stars

When Breath Becomes Air is heartbreakingly beautiful. A young neurosurgeon with a love for literature is diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer and in his attempt to understand morality and death, he teaches us how to live.

Kalanithi’s identity in this book is as both doctor and patient or as he puts it, as subject and then direct object. He gives readers an insight into his experiences and opinions as a doctor. Then, once diagnosed, he struggles with the idea of how to live. He says, “The future I had imagined, the one just about to be realized, the culmination of decades of striving, evaporated.” Always eloquent, Kalanithi recounts his struggles and his decisions. A great example, and one that I believe bears witness to the depth of his character and his capacity to live, is when he and his wife discuss if they should have a child:

” ‘Will having a newborn distract from the time we have together?’ She asked. ‘Don’t you think that goodbye to your child will make your death more painful?’

‘Wouldn’t it be great if it did?’ I said. Lucy and I both felt that life wasn’t about avoiding suffering.”

The hard choices that he had to face and the love and grief that are intermingled will bring you to tears many times throughout his book, but still, read on. Philosophical, raw, eloquent and powerful, this book’s premise is about facing death and about leaving something behind; yet what we really learn is how to live: ceaselessly striving.

Favorite quotes:

“When there’s no place for the scalpel, words are the surgeon’s only tool.”

“I don’t think I ever spent a minute of any day wondering why I did this work, or whether it was worth it. The call to protect life – and not merely life but another’s identity; it is perhaps not too much to say another soul – was obvious in its sacredness.”

“I searched for a question to bring understanding. None was forthcoming. I could only imagine the overwhelming guilt, like a tidal wave, but had lifted him up and off that building.” – describing how he felt when he found out a friend and colleague had committed suicide by jumping off the roof of the hospital.

“The secret is to know that the deck is stacked, that you will lose, that your hands or judgment will slip, and yet still struggle to win for your patients. You can’t ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving.”

“What happened to Paul was tragic, but he was not a tragedy. I expected to feel only empty and heartbroken after Paul died. It never occurred to me that you could love someone the same way after he was gone, that I could continue to feel such love and gratitude alongside the terrible sorrow, the grief so heavy that in times I shiver and moan under the weight of it.” – Lucy, Paul’s wife

I’m pairing this book with Boulevard Brewing‘s Tell-Tale Tart, a slightly sour ale. I chose this brew because even though not everyone enjoys a sour ale, the tartness seemed to fit this sorrowful yet powerfully inspirational book. Add that the name of the brew is a play on words regarding literature, Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart, and it seemed like the perfect pairing for Kalanithi since he was a lover of literature. He majored in English literature before turning to neurosurgery and always struggled with what to do first – medicine or writing. It’s clear that he was accomplished at both. As we see from this book, he was a brave and brilliant man. It was only time that was against him.

Format: Hardcover.

Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine

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5 STARS

I absolutely loved this book.Written in somewhat of the same vein as One Hundred Years of Solitude and House of Spirits, Love Medicine follows a family line that is connected through heartache, betrayal, and love.

Erdrich focuses on a community of women who do what is needed to provide for their families and keep some sense of order in their communities and their own lives despite the greed and the sabotage of the men around them. Although it appears these women lead chaotic lives, they remain the glue that keeps the tribe together. The themes of love, grief, strength, and motherhood can be explored through the lives of Marie Lazarre Kashpaw, Lulu Nanapush Lamartine, and June Morrissey (these are my girls, yo).

Marie Kashpaw is my favorite character. She has quotes that slay; one example: “I don’t pray. When I was young, I vowed I never would be caught begging God. If I want something I get it for myself” I love this so much, I guess because it reminds me of what my mother has always taught my sisters and me, and that is to not wait for help. Help yourselves.

Erdrich is a magician. She weaves an amazing story that fatally hits you in the chest and brutally crushes your soul. Her prose is beautiful and honest. I have no other words than, read it.

I paired Love Medicine with my own medicine (you like that? Haha): Rogue‘s Yellow Snow IPA. It has a hoppy, citrusy scent with a deep-rooted bitterness. I am very picky with IPAs but I enjoyed this one. The lingering bitterness reminds me of how this book kept me thinking long after I finished it. I am a Rogue fan girl so this is slightly biased (“Slightly” because I fucking loathe their attempt at whiskey, ugh. No one’s perfect).

Format: Paperback.