On My Love for Taylor Swift // 1989 Out Today!

Taylor Swift 1989

As you may or may not should be aware by now, Taylor Swift just popped out a new album TODAY. I may or may not have just picked the deluxe edition at Target on my way to work. (Answer: yes, that happened. And yes, I was that person waiting at the door as they opened, running down the aisles to get my hands on it and get back out to my car.) A new Taylor Swift album means a whole new set of lyrics my best friend and I can text back and forth to each other, and a whole new soundtrack to get me through the colder months. (If you didn’t know already, Taylor always releases her albums in the fall, i.e. they’re all I listen to on repeat through February or March. Maybe April.)

If you’ve reached this point in reading and decided I’m another one of those T Swift lunatics you can’t stand, #sorrynotsorry. You might want to skip this one.

But that does bring me to a point—why are people so quick to judge Taylor? I get it if her music isn’t your cup of tea. Well, I don’t get that, but I can respect it, I guess. But all those people who just can’t stand her? Why? Does she really seem fake? Because I find her to be one of the most genuine stars out there. She is fully aware of her privilege, and tries as hard as she can to run her life like a normal person. She runs her own social media accounts, and often takes time to personally reply to her fans and give them advice. She has admitted to stalking the social media accounts and blogs of her fans, just like the rest of us. She could be reading this right now. (Doubtful, but one can hope.) What other star has planned a secret mission to attend a fan’s bridal shower, and gifted her with her own baking and a freakin’ Kitchenaid? If this all seems like an act to you, then I really think you’re overestimating her acting skills. The girl is on it all the time.

Other reasons Tay Tay is awesome/quite possibly secretly my best friend:
  • She appreciates the awesomeness that is Friends.
  • She appreciates the awesomeness that is the 80s pop sound.
  • She’s obsessed with her cats.
  • She isn’t afraid to dance like no one is watching.
  • She loves baking, and shares her recipes with her fans.
  • She doesn’t need to be followed by the media to help a good cause.
  • She is true to herself and her image, and doesn’t need to resort to fitting in with the “sexy” or “edgy” trends in Hollywood to be successful. She’s never fallen into the partying bandwagon, either.
  • She plans her album releases around my birthday, every time. (Let me keep this fantasy, okay?)

Anyway, I’m sorry, I just really don’t understand her haters. I mean, I’m pretty convinced Tay and I are secretly best friends, so maybe take what I say with a grain of salt, but I don’t know how you couldn’t at least respect her, if not become completely charmed by her, if you were to pay slight attention.

Haters gonna hate

As a last point, if your issue with her is her dating history and/or its involvement in her songs, I will just leave you with two points for thought. First, how unusual is it, really, for a woman her age to have had a grand total of 6 boyfriends? No one would care if these weren’t famous people, and it’s no one’s place but her own to judge her dating history. PLUS, how many male celebrities do you see chastised for the same behavior? Haters gonna hate hate hate hate hate but she’s just gonna shake shake shake shake shake it off.

Secondly, writing songs about love is what songwriters do. Taylor does use her music as a form of a diary, but who are we to judge her for that? And why do no other songwriters (ESPECIALLY men) receive such flack for writing about their current and former love interests? The men who date Taylor must be fully aware of the probability that they will be featured in one of her songs, whether in a good way or a bad way, just as the people who date any other songwriter must be fully aware they’ll appear somewhere in the songwriter’s lyrics at some point. At least Tay’s mostly coy about it.

End rant. If you got through all of that, I applaud you. I’ve been needing to get some of that off my chest for a while now. Now, on to listening to this album on repeat. SO EXCITED.

Are you a Taylor Swift fan? What’s your favorite song?

p.s. if you need any more help learning to love Taylor, read this.

love always, Delia

All About Those Books

Did you imagine singing that title in the tune of “All About That Bass”? I can’t claim complete credit for that—there’s already a pretty awesome video remake of the song that made the rounds of the university book publishing email list serve a couple of weeks ago.

In Its Time

Today I’m here linking up for The Circle with Kiki of In Its Time to talk all about books. Books, books, books. I don’t get make enough time to read for pleasure anymore, but the child who couldn’t keep her nose out of a book and felt her heart flutter when the Beast shows Belle his gigantic library of wall to wall books is still a huge part of me. And while I don’t read as many books as I’d like to at home, I’ve got to say I’m pretty happy reading them as part of my job.

What book did I just finish?

The book I most recently finished reading is My Salinger Year, which I actually wrote a full review on here. Let me just say that having not even known about it until my mom got it for me from the library, I was in for quite the treat with that one.

What book am I reading next (or reading now!)?

Right now I’m reading Catching Fire, after having finished The Hunger Games just before starting My Salinger Year. These are examples of the very few books I’m guilty of reading after having seen the movies. I know! I’m sorry! I just couldn’t get down with the concept until someone finally talked the movie up enough for me to watch it. And then Jennifer Lawrence did her thing and I was hooked. Don’t worry though, I’ll definitely be finishing Mockinjay before I go see that movie. :)

There are quite a few other books I hope to add to my list before the end of the year, too, including another UNM Press book Sophie’s House of Cards, along with, perhaps, The Year of Magical Thinking, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, and The Happiness Project. We’ll see!

What are my favorite books of the year?

I’ve been reading a whole lot of great books this year, which makes me very happy to say. While I’m not reading as much as I’d ideally like to, I am reading a heck of a lot more than I did last year! Woot! Faves include Love Letters to the Dead (review here), Looking for Alaska, Leaving Tinkertown (by UNM Press!), and My Salinger Year. So, you know. Basically all of the books I’ve read this year.

What were my favorite books as a kid?

I was still am ALL ABOUT Harry Potter. I haven’t re-read them all the way through in a couple years. Maybe that needs to be my holiday reading :) Aside from the magical world of Harry Potter, though, I grew up loving the Eragon series and Watership Down.

What book would I take with me on a deserted island?

Do I have to choose just one? I’m pretty sure I’d be content with any one of the Harry Potter books, although books 3, 6, and 7 are my faves. If I could take them all, then I’d truly be 100% happy. Hmmm. The Great Gatsby would be another winner. I did my senior thesis on that book, so if I’m not tired of it after that, then I’m good for life, pretty sure. Perks of Being a Wallflower and Love Letters to the Dead are both future classics I could definitely live with reading over and over. I can’t decide. Please don’t make me!

What about you? What are some of your favorite books? What have you been reading, or hope to read soon?

love always, Delia

If you love books, you’ll love My Salinger Year.

Book My Salinger Year, Joanna Rakoff

Today I want to talk a little bit about the latest piece of literature I have had the opportunity to read. It’s not often that I write a review post—in fact, by my count this is only my third one in total—which is actually kind of weird because I silently write reviews of every movie I see and book I read all the time—so you know that this is something that really struck a chord with me.

The book in question today is a memoir called My Salinger Year, by Joanna Rakoff. Joanna is a young woman who, fresh out of grad school, moves to New York City and lands a job as an assistant to the literary agent who represents J.D. Salinger. When Joanna first enters the world of this literary agency where typewriters and Dictaphones still reign (though it is 1996), she is struck by the different approach agents, particularly her boss, take towards literature. While she grew up loving to read classic literature and pursued an English degree, her boss thought of all manuscripts as potential business deals. Money, it seems, is more important to the literary world than she had thought.

It is also more important to living in New York City than she might have hoped. Though she notes the wealth all around her in New York, Joanna cannot even afford a decent sandwich on her lunch breaks, and shares with her boyfriend a one bedroom apartment that has no heater and no kitchen sink.

This memoir is about the year Joanna worked for J.D. Salinger’s agency. It is about the year in which she was tasked with answering Salinger’s fan mail, in which she spoke with the somewhat legendary (and secluded) Salinger on the phone, and brought herself to read all of his books in one emotional weekend. But do not think this memoir is about Salinger.

No, the best thing about this memoir is that it is all about Joanna, about the literary and publishing worlds, about New York City, about the state of the world as computers first began to step foot on the scene, about reading and writing, about youth and growing up and love and hope.

I would suggest that anyone with any remote interest in any of those things read this book. You will see the timeless New York City come alive with Joanna’s eloquent language. You will feel her conflicted emotions working for an agency, wanting to be a writer. You will see her struggle living with her boyfriend, wondering if she made the right choice leaving her college boyfriend and California behind. You will see the world of publishing unfold; talk of contracts, rights and permissions, and electronic rights (a newfangled idea the agency always denied publishers) eventually make their way into Joanna’s vocabulary, something that particularly moved me, as I myself experienced those same new learnings just over a year ago. You will find yourself immersed in the not-so-distant past, where email is a controversial subject and cell phones aren’t even on the radar. You may find yourself wanting to read or re-read many of Salinger’s books. But above all, this book will leave you wanting to live a little deeper, to love a little deeper, and to find something, some experience of your own that might move you to tears and make your mark.

Love Letters to the Dead is the next book you need to read.

It has been a whirlwind of a couple weeks, I’ve gotta say. Despite all the ups and downs and I’m-not-sures, though, I managed to finish this book in three days flat. Three wonderful days of me getting home from work, popping some cheese and crackers and apple slices on a plate, and settling myself into my corner of the couch to delve into my new favorite novel.

Love Letters to the Dead YA novel by Ava Dellaira

That’s why I am writing today to tell you all why this wonderful book called Love Letters to the Dead should be the next thing you read. Not only was it written by Ava Dellaira, a fellow alumna of my high school, but it is also actually really, really that good.

Love Letters to the Dead is a story told completely in the form of letters that the main protagonist, Laurel, writes to various dead people. It begins as an English class homework assignment: write a letter to a dead person. Laurel is dealing with the very recent death of her older sister, May, and finds solace in communicating with the lost celebrities she continues to write to.

Soon, Kurt Cobaine, River Phoenix, Judy Garland, Jim Henderson, Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, and an assortment more, along with us privileged readers of their letters, learn all about the world of this girl who is just starting high school, trying to make new friends, falling in love for the first time, and dealing with a broken family and the loss of her big sister.

The metaphors that Dellaira sprinkles throughout the book actually seem to glitter, they are so moving and lovely. Her background as a poet truly shines through with her way with words. And Laurel’s grieving for her sister is so heartrending that I felt like I gained and lost a sister, all at once. I grieved for the big sister I never had to look up to, and along with Laurel for the one that she had to lose.

I felt with Laurel, too, the trepidation that is prominent when transitioning into high school. I was there with her, going to school between the Sandia Mountains and the Rio Grande, wondering how I was going to fit in, and whether a boy might ever want me in the same way I wanted him to. I felt a personal sense of joy in seeing my hometown simply flower as a setting with Dellaira’s careful descriptions.

It is hard to imagine that this is a debut novel. Ava Dellaira gives me hope as both a reader and a writer. I hope that one day I might weave a story that will mean enough to earn a cover, book tour, and bio about my path from the Academy to being a published author. What’s even more inspiring and wonderful is that Ava is a really lovely person, with incredible work ethic and an insight that translates perfectly in her writing. If that’s not enough, she’s good friends with Stephen Chbosky, who wrote The Perks of Being a Wallflower and made it into a film (which she helped produce. And if you aren’t familiar with that bit of work, I suggest you also do that. Now.) I had the opportunity to meet her at her book launch event at our alma mater, and was drawn to her humble and charming personality. I felt like we could have even been friends.

I felt like I could have been friends with Laurel and the group she finds herself in, too. This is a book that you finish and immediately want to re-read, to re-live. So go. Get the reading and re-reading started now. Go relish reading paragraph upon paragraph of beauty like this:

“…there is something fragile like moths inside of him, something fluttering. Something trying desperately to crowd toward a light. May was a real moon who everyone flocked to. But even if I am only Sky’s street lamp, I don’t mind. It’s enough to be what he moves toward. I love to feel the wings beat.”

“Maybe when we can tell the stories, however bad they are, we don’t belong to them anymore. They become ours. And maybe what growing up really means is knowing that you don’t have to just be a character, going whichever way the story says. It’s knowing that you could be the author instead.”

You can thank me later.

love always, Delia

How Not to End a Nine Year Show

HIMYM series finale = major disappointment

*Fair warnings: this post will contain spoilers, and it’s a long one, so fasten your seatbelts.

So, let’s talk about that How I Met Your Mother finale. Let’s talk about how it is possible to undermine in less than 60 minutes nine years of character development and hard work on the part of the writers, cast, and crew of a beloved television show. Yeah. Let’s just talk about that.

I’ll start off with a brief summary of the final hour. After an entire season focused on the few days building up to the wedding of Barney and Robin, the finale ripped the rug out from under the fans of the show and yelled “PSYCH!” when it announced that they simply get divorced three years later. Robin then proceeds to disappear almost completely, until conveniently reappearing for a little goodbye session the night Ted and The Mother finally get married, and then the reveal that it’s actually her this entire show has actually been about. That’s right. Turns out, The Mother, who finally gets a name, Tracy, apparently dies, and when Ted finally finishes the story that makes up the whole narrative of the show, his kids tell him that the story was actually all about how he loves Robin. They proceed to encourage him to go get his “happily ever after” (quotes mine) with the “one that got away” (quotes also mine; can you sense the irritation?)

The writers of the show knew this ending from the very beginning.

Okay. I get that life is not perfect. I get that the show is often not only about creating laughs, but also about depicting the reality of life, which is frustrating, doesn’t often make sense, and doesn’t always end well. But this is a sitcom we’re talking about. People do not watch sitcoms for a daily dose of reality. They do not watch sitcoms for nine years, in anticipation of one event that is built to be the most momentous of one main character’s life, only to have their anticipations completely dashed.

The thing is, I could probably buy most of what happened as a plausible plot twist to the show. I could buy that Barney and Robin get divorced. I could buy that Robin loses touch with everyone. I could buy that The Mother dies, and that is why Ted is telling this story to his kids in the first place. I could even buy that after The Mother dies, Ted and Robin ultimately end up back together. But in one episode? After nine years’ worth of episodes? After one entire season that is completely focused on Barney and Robin getting married and the final moments before Ted meets the true love of his life and the mother of his children? That is where I take big issue.

I take issue with the fact that Barney falls back into a flat character for the last episode, after nine years of being built into a true, well-rounded character with redeeming qualities. I take issue with the fact that his ultimate redemption comes in the package of a baby girl from a one-night stand, twenty viewing minutes post-Robin split. I take issue with the fact that The Mother’s death merited only a few half-hearted seconds of screen time after Ted talked about her being the true love of his life for nine years, while his reunion with Robin merited the last several minutes.

I feel like this was a classic case of writers of a show writing themselves into a narrative trap. They filmed the ending of the show at the same time they filmed the beginning. They thought they knew where they were going, and probably figured the moral of the show is that it’s about the journey. While that’s true, the ending to a narrative journey must be still complementary. Things happen when you write the middle that you just can’t anticipate, and that’s a beautiful thing. But it also means that sometimes you have to adjust the ending so as not to negate everything you worked on writing.

Let me just say—I am a writer. I get it. I have written stories myself where I just knew how I wanted to end them. And sometimes, it works. But it doesn’t always work. There was one story I wrote that stemmed entirely from an idea I had for how to end a story. And you know what? I brought the completed work into a writer’s workshop, excited to share in what I thought was a most satisfying ending, and they told me that they couldn’t buy it. They wanted me to change the end. And with some added perspective, I could see why.

When you take so much time to develop characters, as the writers of HIMYM have done, you have to do them justice when the time comes to wrap it all up. You can’t rush it. You can’t undo already-tied ends only to tie them in a different way. It’s impossible to see all the plot twists that you’ll come up with in the coming years from the very beginning, so you really can’t see exactly how to go about the ending. But Craig Thomas and Carter Bays had already filmed their ending—so what were they to do?

For starters, they could have better built up to this ending they envisioned. That is where the real disappointment stems from. So the mother is a plot device; fine. Still, give her the proper amount of screen time with Ted to satisfy the fans who have been waiting so long for them to get together. Give him the proper amount of screen time to feel his pain in her loss—throw in a few flashbacks from the show, I don’t know. Make these nine years of the viewers’ time worth it.

And furthermore—so Robin has to be Ted’s final love; fine. I still can’t really buy it—they didn’t work out the first, second, or third times for a reason—but maybe that’s just me. Still. Her divorce from Barney should merit much more attention, especially given the fact that Barney completely changed for the better because of his love for her over the span of nine years, and even more especially given the fact that an entire season was dedicated to their wedding. Why so much time on a wedding? viewers wondered all throughout the final season. It must be leading up to something. Well, in a way, I guess…but it’s mostly an unjustified amount of focus. PLUS, I think just the fact that so much time was spent illustrating Robin’s distance from the group for several years undermined the writers’ hope that viewers wouldn’t be too skeptical of her reunion with Ted. Aunt Robin? When did she go from being called “the bus lady” to Aunt Robin? I’m just not buying it.

Now, I know you can never please everyone. And I’m the cheesy romantic who cried her heart out when Rachel got off the plane in the Friends finale, and would have liked to have seen gray-haired Lily and Marshall, Barney and Robin, and Ted and Tracy hanging out on a porch together. But I would have been able to understand better the need for Ted’s wife to pass away, along with all the other listed plot twists, if they were given the respect they deserved. Cristin Milioti played the perfect Mother, the perfect woman for Ted, and to treat her character in the end as a total plot device is just a cheap trick. (If anything, I had begun conceiving the kids themselves as the plot device, and wouldn’t have minded if we didn’t get to see them again in the finale at all. But maybe that’s just me.)

I sympathize with the writers of the show. I understand their devotion for all of these years to lead up to this final big moment. I admire their dedication to their vision. But it’s incomplete. They went too fast. Instead of leaving the show off with the feeling of satisfaction in that all the ends are tied, if not perfectly, at least as neatly as life will allow, it leaves viewers like me with the bad taste of an ending that could have gone so much better with the proper execution. The poignancy that normally tugs at my heartstrings in this show was just not there, and that is what I am truly sad about knowing that now it’s over.

Thanks for bearing with me there–emotions have been running a little high around here, and I needed to get some of this out. Anything you want to add?

Stuck in Love

Stuck in Love

A few days ago, Ryan and I had the chance to check one independent movie we’d never heard of off the list. We stumbled across Stuck in Love on Netflix and decided to give it a try, and I am so glad we did.

One of my favorite things is to find a movie to watch with no expectations of how it is, and be blown out of the water. It’s even better than watching a movie I know I’ve been wanting to see that simply lives up to its expectations. This movie falls under this category of one of my favorite things. I loved it.

As I said, when we decided to try Stuck in Love for some weekend entertainment, we had little idea of what the movie was really about. We skimmed the brief and typically uninformative Netflix description, surmised the general tone of the movie based on its poster art and screenshots, and decided to give it a go. I had no idea that the entire movie is basically about writers, their lives, and writing in general. I had no idea how many literary references would be dropped throughout each scene of the movie. And I had no idea how real these characters could be–so real, in fact, that they seemed like extensions or fictionalized manifestations of our family.

The story, in case you’re wondering, is about a broken family. The father, Bill (Greg Kinnear), is a famous novelist whose wife, Erica (Jennifer Connelly), left him for another man three years ago. Sam (Lily Collins) and Rusty (Nat Wolff) are their daughter and son, also writers, thanks to their father’s insistence that they keep diaries throughout their lives, to keep them writing.

Stuck in Love

Bill remains obsessed with the idea of getting back together with his ex-wife, though she has appeared to move on with the other man, and he hasn’t written anything since she left him. Sam, pent up with issues from her parents’ divorce, seems closed-off against any relationships other than those with her father and brother. She hasn’t spoken with her mother in over a year, and takes out her pessimism on any boy who seems like he could be an actual emotional investment. Little brother Rusty, on the other hand, is the exact kind of guy Sam avoids, a complete romantic. He devotes his whole heart to one girl he barely knows, hoping for a day when they might actually be able to be together.

Stuck in Love quote

When Sam comes home and makes the big announcement that she has published a book, each family member is affected by the news differently. Bill is both thrilled for her and disappointed that she had never consulted his help on the manuscript. Rusty is jealous of her success, but sparked to be more bold in his everyday life, like she is, in hopes of bringing himself some inspiration in his writing. Erica, who must find out Sam’s news through Rusty, is painfully reminded of the rift between her and her daughter, and wishes that she could share the exciting time with her.

The ensuing action involves Rusty, in his new approach to life, finding his chance with his crush, Kate (Liana Liberato), who has vices he, blinded by love, finds a way to ignore. Sam meets a boy named Lou (Logan Lerman) from one of her creative writing classes, who manages to reach her emotionally in such a way that terrifies her. And as the day of the launch of Sam’s book nears, Bill half-heartedly attempts to move on, yet remains hopeful of a reunion with Erica, while Erica hopes for a new chance to reunite with her daughter.

Stuck in Love

My plot summary does not do the reality and complexity of this film justice. There is a closeness between Bill and his children that warms my soul to see. There is a solidarity between Sam and Rusty that I admire, yet there is also a competitive tension between them that is so familiar to me, it felt like their characters were drawn from people I know. I definitely knew the girl behind the shield, Sam. Her cold treatment of love is frustrating and saddening, but not unfamiliar to see, and not immune to a resilient hope that she may have an opportunity to change her views. Luckily, such a hope is inspirationally maintained by Rusty and Bill, and not to mention, Lou, whose character is so open and charming, you just want to be his best friend.

Stuck in Love

“Stuck” in love is an apt title for this film. Each character is stuck in his or her approach to love, though it’s unclear how good or bad each of their conditions are. This is a fantastic story, in both senses (I have to say that the idea that Sam gets published by a major publisher at age 19, and moreover that this happens within a matter of months, is quite the fantasy, for us in tune with publishing), and it is a story filled with characters and relationships so real it feels like family.

As a writer, you also can’t go wrong with a movie about writers. At least I can’t. There is something so pleasing about seeing writerly quirks you thought only you had played out onscreen. There is something so intimate about knowing that there are other people who can see the world the way you do, who can appreciate the significance of a great line when it falls into place. One of the greatest moments of the movie is when Bill reads Rusty’s diary and tells him he couldn’t help it, for when he caught a glance of one line, it struck him so much he had to keep reading: “I remember that it hurt. Looking at her hurt.” Bill told Rusty he could start a novel with that line, and he’d have his reader hooked. He was right. And there are plenty more brilliantly quotable lines where that one came from in this movie.

But don’t just take my word for it. Watch it for yourself, and see what you think. And to anyone who has seen it–what did you think? Do you have any unexpected favorite movies?