Review: What Language Do I Dream In? by Elena Lappin

The title of this piqued my Freudian interest. I love dreams and I love languages. What Language Do I Dream In? is something I always ask myself. Having moved countries at a young age, I could see myself in these pages. The many countries and languages and immigrations this book follows made for quite the premise.

I love reading about the Russian-Jewish experience because it’s so rare to see in American fiction or nonfiction. The specificity of reading about Soviet jews and the feeling of being seen it grants never fails to amaze me. It’s like that feeling you get inside when encountering someone in real life who shares the same roots, like “good to see us.” This is what this book felt like, for me.
Like, it’s reading about the same stories I was told as a child of grandmothers spending years in evacuation.

“When my grandmother and my mother were evacuated to Bashkiria during the war, my grandmother worked in a factory seven kilometers away from where they lived. In winter, as she walked home every evening along an empty road in complete darkness, she saw wolves’ eyes following her from very close by. The wolves were hungry. My grandmother was petrified. But she had no choice, and just kept walking. This is how her generation faced everything in life: by doing what they had to do, despite the ever-present fear.”

I love that last line.

“Having lost our homes, we are jealous of the steadfastness of the homes of others. We need to latch on to their roots and connect with stories that will never be ours.”

This is why I’m so obsessed with nostalgia and looking for things that resemble the past.

Also, capturing the loss of a language while learning a new one. I loved seeing this brought to the page. Especially when she has her own child and notices how easily the language slips away from her. What a moment.

“It was like having a secret language for just the two of us.”

Oh, and the Russian-Jewish humor is so hard to find in other books because it’s so specific to the language. Case in point:

“I emailed him a photo of a similar gun I had found on the internet and asked if he thought they were the same make and period. He shot back in Czech, without missing a beat: ‘I wish I had your problems!’”

The only other author I’ve experienced this feeling with is David Bezmozgis. So I would love any book recommendations if you have them…

The only thing I do wish from this book: To have spent more time inside Elena’s head as each of these progressions in her life happened. I wanted more insight into what she was thinking when she met her future husband or when she had her kids. She has lived quite the life. Quite the rare life. So I wanted more insight into her thoughts. Like, in hindsight, was there some moment of foreshadowing now that she can look on things back? I wanted more of that. One of those moments where you wish you could write the author to talk in detail…

This is the funny thing about reading memoirs, you can actually go check on the people mentioned in it online and feel like you know them. Lurking online like a distant family member, but in reality, you’re just a curious reader…

Review: My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

I feel like this book succeeded only because of the cover?

“I trusted that everything was going to work out fine as long as I could sleep all day.”

I can see why this would get recommended next to The Idiot. They both feature that period between college and whatever comes after. But whereas The Idiot is focused on a more introverted introspective character, this book is similar to the art in it: living on those in-your-face shocking comments. Like, anyone wanna read about a character taking a shit on a museum floor? Go ahead and check out My Year of Rest and Relaxation.

I saw a reviewer mention HBO’s Girls, and I can definitely see fans of the show eating this kind of writing up. However, this wasn’t my style. It took me about halfway through the novel to realize there would be nothing new in this novel, just this endless rinse and repeat of self-loathing and drug intake. AKA: the point when I realized I do not like this storyline at all.

I just kept waiting for that moment to hit when there would be some introspective insight or some deep connection or moment of realization for the main character. Some growth. It never came. This is just a suicidal pact of taking in as many drugs as possible.

“Nothing seemed really real. Sleeping, waking, it all collided into one gray, monotonous plane ride through the clouds. I didn’t talk to myself in my head. There wasn’t much to say. This was how I knew the sleep was having an effect: I was growing less and less attached to life. If I kept going, I thought, I’d disappear completely, then reappear in some new form. This was my hope. This was the dream.”

When the goal is to disconnect from reality, this numbness can lead to the reader not feeling attached to the story at all. “Life was repetitive, resonated at a low hum.” The book, too. The whole of this book can be summed up as: “I can’t sleep, I need to dissociate, I’m taking this drug and mixing it with this sample from my drug dealer doctor…. and where am I and what happened these three days?” Rinse-repeat. I wish I were exaggerating.

Speaking of, Dr. Tuttle reminded me of that realtor in Broad City. She even has the same cursed neck brace, too.

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My favorite side character in the show. However, in this book the negligence on Dr. Tuttle’s part is too much to bear.

“There was no shortage of psychiatrists in New York City, but finding one as irresponsible and weird as Dr. Tuttle would be a challenge I didn’t think I could handle.”

Too much.

All I wanted from this book was for some emotion or some moment of clarity to shine. To give insight. It was all empty. Head empty, no thoughts. Or many thoughts, let’s drug them out.

– Spoilers from here –
And then the most infuriating is this abrupt ending where the main character (literally can’t even remember her name because all she does is… nothing throughout the whole book) gets up, brushes herself off, and she can seemingly walk away from her addiction with no problem, no withdrawals…. I am confusion.

Also: If I could count the number of times the main character (yep, still can’t remember her name even though I spent five days reading this book) goes out of her way to repeat how pretty she is and, oh, skinny. I wished any side character would be present in the book to condone her actions.

The only thing this book had going for it was the spark it ignited every now and then. That’s the sole thing that kept me going in my reading experience.

“Maybe I’ll ask my dad for money to pay a matchmaker.” “No man is worth paying for,” I told her.” This. “As an art history major, I couldn’t escape them. “Dudes” reading Nietzsche on the subway, reading Proust, reading David Foster Wallace, jotting down their brilliant thoughts into a black Moleskine pocket notebook. Beer bellies and skinny legs, zip-up hoodies, navy blue peacoats or army green parkas, New Balance sneakers, knit hats, canvas tote bags, small hands, hairy knuckles, maybe a deer head tattooed across a flabby bicep. They rolled their own cigarettes, didn’t brush their teeth enough, spent a hundred dollars a week on coffee. They would come into Ducat, the gallery I ended up working at, with their younger—usually Asian—girlfriends. “An Asian girlfriend means the guy has a small dick,” Reva once said.”

Now, I can’t stop spotting these dudes around the city.

“And then there were the dreams about my parents, which I never mentioned to Dr. Tuttle.”
“In a few dreams, I’d answer the phone and hear a long silence, which I interpreted as my mother’s speechless disdain. Or I heard crackling static, and cried out, “Mom? Dad?” into the receiver, desperate and devastated that I couldn’t hear what they were saying.”

These were the kind of moments I wanted more of in this story. Like this next line on her childhood home:

“I wanted to hold on to the house the way you’d hold on to a love letter. It was proof that I had not always been completely alone in this world.”

Moments like this almost made me like the main character. But then it gets drowned in her sea of drugs and numbness.

In all honesty, I think I might favor The Idiot over this any day.

Cynical Hopeless Romantic Reviews: The Kissing Booth by Beth Reekles

“Man, I really have got to stop reading so many of those cheesy romance books.”

It’s that time of the year again where I’m in need of some mindless romance to not think for a second and just enjoy myself. I’m here to receive my recommended dose of serotonin through someone else’s romance life. Is that bad?

So… She’s not like other girls, hm.

Funny how I thought the movie was over the top in its acting… turns out it’s pretty accurate to the book. If it’s not those over-the-top dramatic gestures and speeches that nobody in real life says, it’s the utter convenience of Elle running into Noah wherever she goes. Or the parents leaving just when Elle enters to hang out with Noah. Ah, turns out this college student kind of missed the nonsense of Wattpad stories.

For real though, the first half of this book gave me all the giddiness of staying up late into the night to finish reading Wattpad stories. I have to stop and give a shoutout to my favorites! Ahem:

  • The Cell Phone Swap – I’ve reread this story at least seven times by now just for chapter 16. I’m obsessed.
  • The Bad Boy’s Girl – This one is more for the nostalgia, less for the actual story. Every time I revisit this story I’m taken right back to the first time I read it. It’s so rare for me to remember my own state of mind during the books I read so this one stands out. Also, the game created on Episode for this storyline still makes me laugh out loud. I especially love the Youtube gaming series by jennxpenn playing the episodes. Give it a watch for a good laugh.
  • My Wattpad Love – I revisited this one recently and was shocked by the main love interest being kind of everything I hate now. But I still adore Shane more than Evan. I think the main attraction for this storyline was this edit made for the book that made me discover Jeremy Kapone as Maël in the movie LOL (2008).

I love how without even trying I reverse to 13-year-old me when talking about these stories. Like, imagine how big of an impression they left on my younger self, so much so that I can still recall specific details of the storyline and my original reaction. That nostalgia hits different…

Circling back to the actual book I’m reviewing: Love the romance, hate the couple.

The Kissing Booth reminds me of my reading experience with Summer Skin, where you’re hyper focused on the romance scenes even though you hate the couple.

Speaking of romance: CHAPTER TEN!! READ CHAPTER TEN!! I couldn’t have cared less for the storyline that didn’t center on the romance so I skipped straight to the kissing booth, and damn, what a good choice. The first ten chapters of this book add nothing to the storyline because all of Elle’s friends and school life get dropped to sneak around with Noah. So starting from chapter ten is the go-to move with this book.

I am here solely for the romance/rush of hormones. You know that feeling you get watching a scary movie, the scary music starts building up and you just know something is about to jump out – that moment of feeling your heart in your chest – that same thrill is what romance books give me. That feeling of a rapid heart rate when the main characters are staring at each other, waiting for someone to make the first move. Like, that drop in your stomach when something big finally happens, or really anything happens, is addicting. This is why I love romance books. The kind that focuses on drawing out the kisses and not just jumping to humping. This was the only thing addicting about Twilight: how the author can spend nearly five whole pages describing Bella and Edward leaning in for a kiss. They take it ultra slow and draw it out to the most so that we could practically feel everything Bella felt.

But with a love interest as controlling as Noah, I can only ignore it if the main character challenges him and doesn’t give in to his fake charm. I like it when the main character isn’t afraid to tell him what’s what – to keep him in his place and not let him step all over her. My favorite line in Summer Skin says it all:

This… was not that. In a healthy relationship, you aren’t afraid to voice your opinions. If you have a healthy relationship, you can explain your point of view and say, listen, this is concerning me for all these reasons. In Elle’s case, she would overthink how to word something to Noah so he wouldn’t overreact and yell.

“He looked me up and down, very slowly. Instead of blushing, I sighed internally. Here we go. I wondered how angry he’d be.”

Like, red flag, anyone?? And it drove me wild the number of times the author went out of her way to say Elle wasn’t afraid of Noah when he was acting out, but really that she was afraid of her feelings of him or some bullshit. Or the atrocity of Elle having to intervene and calm Noah down like she’s his horse whisperer. This is an almost 18-year-old boy, not some 8-year-old. He needs anger management, not a girlfriend caretaker. The bar is so low for these Wattpad girls.

I can’t stop laughing at the ending where Elle’s basically saying yeah, there’s no chance of him staying loyal to me at Harvard so maybe we’ll last, maybe we won’t… The expectations were so low of Noah.

This is what I mean with: Love the romance, hate the couple.

But if you’re looking to disconnect from reality for a bit and just dive head-first into a silly romance story, this is your sign: