vacation reading

I don't know why I actively avoided reading Bossypants by Tina Fey for so long.  Maybe, like your average high-school-aged person, I shrank away because it just seemed too popular.  But it's a memoir!  And it's funny!  And Mean Girls remains one of my favorite ever movies (for whatever that does or doesn't reveal about my twisted mind).  So I read it, and it was worth it.  It's not the best organized memoir ever, but Fey's musings on growing up weird in summer theater programs are totally worth it.  (I've always wanted to do everything, usual at once, and so I read this wistfully wishing that I had been a summer theater program kid.  It's like my periodic longing to have been born Joni Mitchell instead of, well, you know, me with moderate guitar-playing abilities.)  And so are her feminist observations on the impossibilities of women's fashion, totally worth it.  I laughed out loud at her impeccable use of the word "asshat" and, frankly, have still been laughing for days.  I can't explain it, quotes won't do it justice, as comedy is never as funny the second time around.  So just go read it already!

Also read by beautiful Lake Michigan in Chicago this past week:  Radio Shangri-La:  What I Learned in Bhutan, the Happiest Kingdom on Earth by Lisa Napoli.  Interesting memoir about a woman who is a successful professional journalist for NPR, but is nonetheless harboring the usual mid-life doubts (did I take the right path?  do enough?  create the right family, or not?) and struggling to find what it means to her to be happy.  When she is asked to be a radio consultant in the country of Bhutan.  Bhutan is a tiny country of about 650,000 people right between India and China that has only recently modernized enough to embrace radio and other outside (read: Western) influences.  It's famous mostly for being the only Buddhist kingdom on earth, and for having a commitment to "Gross National Happiness" rather than the usual GNP.  So Napoli goes, almost on a whim, to help them "professionalize" the station, and her readers are taken on a tour of the country and culture from a slightly inside perspective.  Napoli's story reads like the tale of a hard-headed realist and so is of an entirely different flavor from Gilbert's more famous and more fable-ish Eat Pray Love.  Napoli deliberately eschews the happy romantic ending, but what she gives instead is lovely.  I've been recommending this to my media activist friends already.  My only hesitation was her rather knee-jerk negativity toward her young friend who wants to emigrate to the U.S.--why?  yes, it's tough to do, but why not at least support her curiousity?--and said young friend runs off and tries it anyway, landing back in Bhutan and pregnant a little while later.  Still.  Very fun beach read, and one that touches on life's meaning in ways that make you feel solid, in the hands of an author with both feet on the ground.

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