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BOOK CLUB: A LITTLE LIFE


What's book club without cocktails?
(Photo taken at Hotel Delmano

            “A Little Life”, Hanya Yanagihara's latest work of fiction, begins under false pretenses. The opening chapter takes place in a dingy Chinatown restaurant as four seemingly carefree boys discuss banal topics such as the difficulty of securing decent real estate in New York City.  The first 400 pages of the novel ricochet between the perspectives of the main characters: Malcolm, the mixed-race aspiring architect from a well-to-do family; JB (Jean-Baptiste), the Haitian stunted artist struggling with addiction; Willem, the handsome, charismatic leader of the group who dreams of becoming a great actor; and Jude, the disfigured, brilliant legal mind with a mysterious past.

The second half of the novel focuses all attention on the evolving relationship between Willem and Jude, as we gradually get more details on Jude’s horrifying backstory. At times the book really tests the reader’s limits. I found myself unable to control my squirming during the scenes that relentlessly recalled Jude’s long-term sexual abuse in vivid detail. At times I felt Jude’s loneliness so profoundly that I thought my own organs were collapsing in on themselves. In one particular instance, after Jude has attempted suicide for the first time, I had to force myself to put the book down and take a break for the sake of my own mental health.

Yet, in spite (or perhaps because) of all the pain that these characters, and we as readers, are forced to endure, I can’t help but think of A Little Life as an optimistic story. True, it does not have a conventionally happy ending, but watching each of the boys experience life in both big and small ways reminds me that even on the worst days, there is eternal hope.

(Photo taken from my new room!)

For whatever reason, sexual abuse- both the actual deed and the various stages of recovery- has become a dominant theme on the bestseller list in recent years. While every survivor’s struggle is unique, Yanagihara’s depiction of the horrendous reality of what it’s like to feel worthless, used and unlovable as a result of what has been done to you will not leave you unaffected. Over the course of the month that I spent reading A Little Life, I felt my mind returning to the lives of the main characters again and again. When I finally finished it, I mourned. I mourned not only for the tragic endings that both Jude and Willem eventually met, but I mounded my own loss. I mourned for the hole that I felt in the pit of my stomach knowing that I could never return to that little respite I had found within these beautiful minds.

Eventually emerging from my narrative-induced haze, I was startled to find that the world around me had remained jut as I’d left it. ‘How could this be?’ I’d asked myself. How can ordinary life go on when such an extraordinary, inexplicable loss has been incurred (pardon the hyperbole) upon my soul? But that is exactly the magic of this book: you cannot go out the way you came in.


PARDON MY FRENCH



les filles aiment leur vin a la Brasserie Lippe

You could spend a lifetime in Paris and still not conquer everything there is to see and do in this magical city. Nonetheless it’s worth forgoing beauty sleep in favor of witnessing at least a tiny portion of what Paris has to offer. I’ve shared my views on how lovely Paris can be in the rain, but it can be equally mesmerizing at night.

Though it doesn’t run on quite the same 24/7 schedule as New York, it does become an entirely different yet still very much alive town through the late night hours. Most bistros and sidewalk cafes are open all night, or at least into the early hours of the morning, which contributes a constant, comforting glow to the otherwise desolate streets. Then of course there are the discos, bars, and nightclub, which are open as long as there is demand (which there always is).



While these are all promising options, my favorite kind of Parisian night is spent strolling. Strolling along the seine, through residential neighborhoods, alone main streets… It feels as though Paris was designed with the late-night roamer in mind. And if you start to get chilly, you can be sure un verre de vin rouge is never far away. 




LA VIE à MONTE CARLO



              At the risk of exposing my inner nerd, I have to confess that ever since I first saw ‘Monte Carlo’ (that cinematic masterpiece starring Selena Gomez) in high school I’ve been dreaming of coming to Monaco. While I was sadly not mistaken for a wealthy socialite nor was I ushered into the finest suite at the Hotel de Paris under false pretenses, I did absolutely fall in love with the petite town.

            The Principality of Monaco (of which Monte Carlo is the capital) is the second smallest country in the world. To satisfy my inner New Yorker’s need to relate everything back to NYC, the country is about half the size of Central Park. But what they lack in square miles, they make up for in extreme luxury. The country is still technically ruled by a royal family, The House of Grimaldi, the same family made famous when Grace Kelly married into it in 1956.


            Rather than staying in Monaco, we took a car from our base in Nice, which afforded us the most spectacular views of the dramatic cliffs and harbors along the Mediterranean. Though the area is technically tiny, they do make use of their limited space by building everything on top of something else. Allegedly there are elevators hidden around town to make getting around town easier, but failing to locate them resulted in some very sore thighs the next day.


After doing a bit of shopping and exploring the casino (where a group hilariously mistook my friend for Pharrell Williams), we felt it was time for another bottle of wine on the port. This is where our wanting to adhere to local customs slowly transforms into benign alcoholism… As with Cannes, I felt the overwhelming desire for my life to be set to a soundtrack- this time ‘High Society’ by Betty Who. As she croons on the track, “We'll drink Chardonnay through the day cause we say so.” Well said.


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Caroline Mason: 21. Native New Yorker (and one time North Carolinian). Assistant to Derek Blasberg. Just a girl who is OCD about all things fashion, drinks way too much coffee, and has an affinity for late night talk shows and travel books. FIT class of 2016. Previously with Karla Otto PR, Lori Goldstein and Lester Garcia.

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