Archive for June, 2017

Pleb Summer: Summer Reading

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

It’s summertime, which means it’s time for trips to the beach house, a cross-country road trip, or travel to exotic vacation destinations.

But for those of us who can’t spare the time or the money to make a getaway, it’s PlebSummer! At the Guild, we’ve got plenty of PlebSummer plans:

  • Raising tiny humans in order to have an alibi for spending the summer at public pools and water parks
  • Writing an exhibition catalogue for an art show
  • Visiting our nearest U.S. National Parks (for instance, The People’s Beach, Teddy Roosevelt’s House, and Stonewall Park )
  • Coney Island. Brighton Beach.
  • Design and crochet a baby blanket – in time for friend’s baby!
  • Teaching typography and graphic design
  • Crafts
  • Presentations and reading series attended by other PlebSummer-ers
  • Rooftop barbeques
  • books, Books, BOOKS

Reading is one of the great joys of summer. (It’s one of the great joys of the rest of the year too, of course.) And you don’t have to be at the beach, by a pool, or at a hut in the mountains to enjoy proper summer reading.

Here’s what some of the employees at the Guild are reading this summer.



I’m finally reading a book that’s been on my list for years: Moss Hart’s Act One, a classic memoir of a life in the New York theater by one of the most famous writers and directors on Broadway of the mid-20th century.

I’m also working my way through Richard Holmes’ The Age of Wonder: The Romantic Generation and the Discovery of the Beauty and Terror of Science – stories of the adventurers and scientists at the end of the 18th century who built the Romantic era. It’s an eclectic book, mixing scientists and poets in a particular Romantic way. The book wonderfully captures a sense of enthusiasm and wonder of these insatiably curious people and how their adventures helped shape our world.



Currently reading:

-Gelett Burgess’ Are You a Bromide?  fyi free at

-Robert Reich’s Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few

-George Saunders’ Pastoralia 

-lashings of P.G. Wodehouse and Moby Dick (always)

-collections of local and regional ghost stories from all over the USA (as acquired)

-Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century 

…you know: ideas and art and what haunts us.



I’m reading Kristen Ashley’s Dream Man series.

Why? Excellent beach read romance novels that feature hot guys who ride motorcycles.

The plots include a souped-up version of the classic damsel in distress who gets rescued by a bad ass alpha hero. The twist: these damsels are very self sufficient and sassy. They give the heroes lots of attitude (along with big hair, high heels and cosmos galore)!



I’m continuing my reading of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series – I’ve already read volumes 1 & 2.  I like graphic novels, but this sort of thing is not my usual speed. I’ve come to Gaiman late; somehow I just completely missed him.

I’m thinking about getting Gaiman’s latest – Norse Mythology – which sounds excellent.
Finally I picked up at stoop sale a copy of Barry Unsworth’s Ruby in her Navel. 12th Century Sicily, Muslim financiers, Norman Kings, Crusades – how can one resist?



Around this time of year, I like to read the sorts of novels where you get to know the characters and live their day-to-day lives alongside them, and I especially like to read them in parks and on roofs. Two years ago I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, which follows a striving immigrant family in Williamsburg through more than a decade at the turn of the century. As a Brooklyner I particularly enjoyed my familiarity with the book’s geography — it was like putting myself in a time machine and transporting back to when my great-grandparents were raising a family here. It’s one of my favorite novels. Right now I’m reading Modern Lovers by Emma Straub, which follows two middle-aged couples and their kids in Ditmas Park, my old neighborhood. I like walking around with the characters in familiar locales — I just read a love scene that takes place at the playground next to my old apartment — but you don’t need to know the neighborhood to enjoy the book; it’s a great story both of young people falling in love and of married people confronting complacency and malaise. I enjoy reading books that expand my perspective with foreign places and experiences, but every now and then it’s nice to read something closer to home.



In anticipation of Blade Runner 2049 and because of a recent re-watch of Total Recall, I’ll be dedicating most of my summer reading to Philip K. Dick’s sci-fi catalog. To date, I have Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? under my belt. I happily discovered that, for me, it’s one of those rare instances where the film is just as an enjoyable as the book it was based on. (Dare I say that I liked Blade Runner more?) Next up in the queue is We Can Remember It for You WholesaleA Scanner Darkly, and The Man in the High Castle. Although I don’t consider myself to be a big sci-fi buff, it seemed preposterous that I’d gone this long without reading the source material for some of my favorite genre films.



This summer I will be reading Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan. UPG designer Eric recommended it to me a while back in part because of the role typography plays in the narrative, but ultimately I have a serious weakness for books about reading books. Throw in a bit of wit and fantasy, some stuff about print vs digital media and the future of reading (hi there, undergraduate thesis), and I’m essentially required to read it. “Mr. Penumbra” looks to be on the lighter side, which I’m told is what people prefer to read during the summer months while they’re “at the beach,” whatever that means. At least the cover is a sunny yellow. And if for any reason Mr. Penumbra comes up short, I will happily reread If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino and be contented.



I am going to finish Crime and Punishment before I do anything…..

Murakami’s new book of short stories: Men Without Women: Stories
David Sedaris: Theft by Finding
Kurt Vonnegut: Slaughterhouse Five
Sherlock Holmes!!



What I am currently reading:

Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey

My mother gave me this book maybe 5 years ago and urged me to read it, but like most of the books my mom gives me I put it on a shelf to read later, thinking I wouldn’t like it all that much. And just like every single book she’s ever given me, I find myself loving it more and more. Why do I never remember that my mother has excellent taste? This book feels like listening to a family member tell an anecdote you’ve heard over and over again. The characters feel familiar, but distant – archetypes you know but have never met. Which is especially impressive given the narrative style of the book. This book pairs great with peanuts and beer.

Night Shift by Stephen King (a collection of short stories).

I’m picking my way through this collection, reading a story here or there. There is something about horror in a small dose that works perfectly – you are given just enough to be thoroughly spooked, but not enough that you start picking away at the facade. I am reading this mostly before bed. This book pairs well with waking your partner up every night at 2 A.M. because you “heard something in the living room – for real this time.”

What I plan on reading:

A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald by Errol Morris

Errol Morris’ take on the Jeffrey MacDonald case. Pairs well with a continuing sense of misanthropy and confusion over our legal system. And maybe whiskey?

What I will read again for the 15th time:

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie is like candy to me. I can’t stop reading her and I don’t care to. And especially with the movie coming soon (don’t get me started on the abomination that is Kenneth Branagh’s mustache) I think it is worth reading this classic again. Pairs well with literally everything because this book is perfect.

Pleb Summer: Solstice Fun

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

It’s summertime, which means it’s time for trips to the beach house, a cross-country road trip, or travel to exotic vacation destinations.

But for those of us who can’t spare the time or the money to make a getaway, it’s PlebSummer!

No matter what your summer plans, the sun has plans for all of us, so today’s post is on the Summer Solstice.

Observing the solstice is a great way to experience one of the hundreds of traditions that have come down to us. Some traditions are somber, some are occasions for revelry. Here are just a few of the many ways to party, solemnize, or otherwise celebrate the solstice:

– On the solstice, the sun aligns with the stones of Stonehenge every year, but just because you can’t wing your way to Wiltshire doesn’t mean you can’t build your very own hengeBuild it with marshmallows and you have an excellent closer for that rooftop barbecue. (Other U.S. Stonehenges here.)

– The ancient Chinese celebrated femininity and “yin” on the day of the Summer Solstice. Identify how you identify and celebrate femininity today!

– Since 1996, the Summer Solstice has marked National Aboriginal Day in Canada (or Journée nationale des Autochtones as they call it in French Canada). You Canadian readers can see a list of activities here. For those of you who can’t attend an event, the government of Canada has published this helpful list of suggested activities.

– There are many Pow Wows around the time of the summer solstice, and they are open to non-Natives. If there is no Pow Wow nearby, you may attend virtually.

– In ancient Greece, slaves could feast and compete in games, and participate in solstice celebrations with freemen. (Seems like the least they could do in an ancient democracy, right?) Some calendars began the countdown to the Olympics from the solstice. You can start counting down now.

– Lots of cultures celebrate with bonfires (good – it’s not hot enough). In France and Scandinavia, and Estonia, where they build a bonfire and then jump over it. All you need for this is a match and something to burn. Cheap!

– In fact, if you’re up for some fire jumping (hey, Estonians!), along with other entertaining and educational events, you might spend the evening at the Peabody and the other Harvard Museums.

– In the United States, you can celebrate the solstice at social gatherings such as picnics and potlucks, scientific lectures and demonstrations, and cultural events and religious rites open to the public. Check your local listings, then get out and experience the pluribus of our unum!

Pleb Summer: Green-Wood Cemetery

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

It’s nearly summer, which means it’s almost time for trips to the beach house, traveling across country, or to other exotic locales.

Except for those of us who can’t spare the time or money or leave our jobs for long stretches of time. This summer is Pleb Summer at the Guild – we’ll be posing about summer for the rest of us.

Today’s post is about an unlikely place where working-class New Yorkers used to go to relax in nice weather: Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery.

Founded in 1838 on the site of a Revolutionary War battle, Green-Wood quickly become a major tourist attraction. Why? 478 acres of wooded hillsides, gardens, and ponds, covered with statuary and mausoleums. Before there was Central Park and before there was the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Green-Wood was the place your average urban New Yorker could go to experience nature and art. Back in those days the mausoleums were open to the public, so picnickers could explore all kinds of lovely architecture as they strolled down Green-Wood’s paths.

It may seem odd to treat a cemetery like a public park, but people had a different relationship to death back in those days. And in fact, the popularity of Green-Wood led to a competition to deign a park in Manhattan that became – you guessed it – Central Park.

Green-Wood is now a National Historic Landmark and still a lovely place to stroll – for free! – on a nice summer day. It’s also an exceptional place to bird watch, with its own colony of parakeets!

So if you’re stuck in a city somewhere this summer, check out your local cemetery. The people there are much quieter and considerate than the people at the beach.