Welcome to The Librarian Is In, The New York Public Library's podcast about books, culture, and what to read next.
Hey all! Join us this week as Crystal and Frank give themselves a (hybrid) celebrity name!
Frank gives an update regarding all the construction at his branch, Jefferson Market Library, and whether or not some of his design choices/hopes for the branch are influenced by Anna Karenina (which he is still reading). Then Crystal discusses her reading pick: Brown Girls by Daphne Palasi.
Tell us what everybody's talking about in your world of books and libraries! Suggest Hot Topix(TM)! Send an email or voice memo to podcasts[at]nypl.org.
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[ Music ]
[Frank:] Hello, and welcome to the Library Is In. The New York Public Libraries Podcast about books, culture, and what to read next [brief laughter]. I'm Cranky [brief laughter]. That's Crystal and Frank, Cranky. Crank, Frystal [brief laughter]. We haven't had a celebrity name Frystal [assumed spelling]. I feel like we have to [brief laughter].
[Crystal:] It's pretty good.
[Frank:] I guess Crank is --
[Crystal:] More descriptive, yeah.
[Frank:] It's also a variation of a street drug, if I'm not mistaken.
[Crystal:] Oh [brief laughter].
[Frank:] Which I don't think applies here.
[Crystal:] Oh, I thought the opposite.
[ Laughter ]
[Frank:] Scandals. Scandals.
[ Laughter ]
[Crystal:] How have you been?
[Frank:] So how you doing, hon? What's going on in the Crystal world?
[Crystal:] I'm all right.
[Frank:] The world of Christel. Crystal [brief laughter] you trying to hold your face on?
[Crystal:] I feel like it's one of those mornings. I'm just like my sinuses are driving me up the wall.
[Frank:] Oh really?
[Crystal:] Yeah, always. I use a lot of temperature changes. So it looks like so bright and sunny and I'm just like, I don't understand. Is it spring yet?
[Frank:] Somebody said happy summer on the street yesterday. I was like --
[Crystal:] Oh, really [brief laughter]?
[Frank:] Yeah, I'm like, not yet hon [brief laughter]. It was like 50 degrees. I was chilling.
[Crystal:] Wishful thinking, yes. I think today is going to be another warm one, which is nice. Yeah. Just my sinuses can't handle it [brief laughter].
[Frank:] The fluctuation.
[Frank:] They can't handle the fluctuation, but I hope your sinuses can handle me today.
[Frank:] Because I'm going to give you a whole lot of "Anna Karenina" baby.
[Crystal:] Yes [brief laughter].
[Frank:] A whole lot of it. But so we're still under construction-ish at Jefferson Market, which everyone knows and is exhausted with hearing. And we were -- actually, I should say this publicly, because everyone understands, but when you're in a construction site or like renovation site, you realize that sometimes very small things or seemingly small things to a lay person take forever to manage. And that's just the way it is. Like, you know there's a pipe leaking and then you have to go through the whole system like two floors away to figure out where it's coming from. And that could take a long time. And then, you know, when you tell somebody, like, "What took you so long to open?" Its like, "Well, there's a leaky pipe." They're like, "What? That doesn't make sense." Actually the most sympathetic people are people who say, oh yeah, I had work done in my apartment and I know full well what you're talking about." But you know it's just frustrating. I want to get going.
[Crystal:] It's a long process.
[Frank:] My domain to create and run wild with -- so it's true, I'm very distractible, which is unfortunate. I probably said this before, like I'm literally reading in a car, which I'm loving and then I'll suddenly start thinking, should I paint the Chrome legs on that table? Because I'm just thinking about getting ready to open and making things really special and so I'm just like I'll drift off and I'll be like, I need to get another bar stool, counter height stool for the reading one. And [brief laughter] I'm like, oh wait, wait, I'm reading about an ill-fated love affair. Sorry.
[Crystal:] But I mean, are you sparked by things that are happening or descriptions in the book where you see --
[Crystal:] Or read about a Chrome to you or some version of that and you're like, oh, this would be nice.
[Frank:] Well, I doubt there's a Chrome table [brief laughter]. And if you --
[Crystal:] Just some version of that.
[ Laughter ]
[Frank:] But maybe. Actually, I never noticed that. It's just a focus issue, which I already have trouble with as it is.
[Frank:] I mean, reading is usually just my way to block everything out, but I've been less inclined to. I'm having, I think, a low level, which might get bigger, and hopefully I've learned from the past because I've been through some big projects in my career, that I'm not going to get too anxious and concerned about reopening and having everything be perfect, and the public to be like amazed and knocked out. I want them to be happy. But they will be. And I can't, I realize now I can't -- I did not plan on talking about this and of course I am.
[Crystal:] Keep going, keep going.
[Frank:] I've realized the long time it's been taking has enabled me to realize certain things. And I've realized that I'm never going to be 100 for reopening. Like, well I'll always be in process.
[Frank:] I mean, just as a person, like as a manager, I'll be always in process of creating things. Like, the minute I like go, all right, I just want that shelf painted, and then the shelf gets painted, then I'm already like, oh wait a minute, we need to do that door now. So I'm already onto something else. And I didn't really realize that about myself until lately, which is such an obvious thing. Like I'm never quite not under construction [brief laughter]. But I guess I want special and magic. I want to at least create something that's aside from the sort of mechanics of the adding a bathroom and an accessible ramp, which is very important to the branch, but something special. So hopefully I won't get too emotionally wrought about it.
[Crystal:] I mean, I think it's good that you're thinking about those things. I think they're very relatable, the idea of like, it's never going to be perfect, and you want to keep working on it until it's to this kind of impossible standard, in which case like it'll never get done, and realizing that, you know, it's always in progress, all that kind of stuff. I think like your motives are like so pure and beautiful that you want to have this really beautiful space for everyone. But I know so many people who are just going to be excited to have the library open. Like there could be zero renovation and just to have it open again, I think people will be thrilled [brief laughter], and to see the sign and all that kind of stuff. So don't be so hard on yourself. Yeah.
[Frank:] Well, yeah. And it's also not pinpointing the one person who's sort of like what took -- you know, complains and not making them the whole show because I think you're right, in general, people will be very happy.
[Crystal:] I mean, now that said, I don't think it would be bad to have a purple velvet chaise lounge to be added to the floor, just so dress it up a little bit.
[Frank:] But don't even think you're joking [brief laughter]. Don't even think you're joking [brief laughter]. There's a room upstairs.
[Crystal:] Really [brief laughter]?
[Frank:] That we call the Mae West room, which is a small program space that doesn't have a lot of architectural details. My fantasy to that room, which is sort of coming true, is turning it into like a reading salon.
[Crystal:] Oh, yes. With art?
[Frank:] Like a Victorian-esque salon with art, which I've already had some like gilt-edged mirrors. And I want to get a chandelier. And I think I have wallpaper. But I was online looking for, a red velvet Queen Anne sofas. And I'm not kidding you. I was.
[Crystal:] That sounds amazing. I think you should go to was it the Frick to get like lots of inspiration there [brief laughter]. I would like to help you. I want to help you choose the art. I'd like to go to museums. I went to the Brooklyn Museum recently to see their Climate in Crisis exhibition. And one of the things I love about museums is like I like to admire their frames [brief laughter], which sounds really dumb because we're supposed to be there for the art. But I especially love elaborate golds or neat frames.
[Frank:] Exactly [brief laughter]. There is a spot in the new lobby that was created here that has a giant wall. And I want like a literal, like 20 foot by 15 foot gold framed mirror. And also faces stained glass. So I want to see the reflection and I mean --
[Crystal:] A two way or one way?
[Frank:] You know one of those giant painting frames that are in the Met or the Frick, I mean like those humongous ones.
[Crystal:] Yes, yes.
[Frank:] That's unaffordable my darling. Not on a budget.
[Crystal:] This is what you do, because this is what I did. You go to IKEA --
[ Laughter ]
[Frank:] And then you paint it.
[Crystal:] Yes. I got like one of those cheap ornate frames. I think it was actually like a picture frame. And then I used some kind of metallic gold wax so it looks very fancy in gold.
[Frank:] You know, I should talk to you because --
[Crystal:] We call that DIY craft this. I think that'd be amazing,
[Frank:] You know -- all right, we'll get off this, but like --
[Crystal:] No, we have to.
[Frank:] Well, actually I'm -- what you said really resonated with me because -- about your creativity, because for the most part, like when I do something, I want to do it for real. Like, I feel like Jefferson Market and the Library deserves nothing less. Like if I'm going to get a frame, it's got to be antique; it's got to be a real deal thing. And then I struggle to figure out how to do it. But since I've been away, like working at other branches and working with other librarians who are crafty, like you, and because to be honest, I felt I had a little less to lose in other branches because it wasn't my own home branch and I could just sort of do whatever. So whenever another librarian would come up with a project, like, you know, let's take that thing down and patch up the wall and paint it or something. I'd be like, all right, I don't care if it looks good because it's not Jefferson Market [brief laughter], which is a terrible thing and an honest thing to say. But then I did it and I realized, oh, I can actually do this. Like I actually, you know, have a little bit of skill that I could do. So what I'm saying is that when you said what you just said about the wax and the gilt, it's like now I feel a little more embolden to actually do things myself. Before, I would struggle to get them done by people who were really know what they're doing, but then I realized I could do some things myself and make some mistakes and it could be imperfect, but the effect could be quite glamorous. And believe me, there would be somebody who would think, oh, that's a nice antique frame. And you're like IKEA with gilt edge [brief laughter]. So I think you're right.
[Crystal:] Think of it --
[Frank:] Being crafty is important.
[Crystal:] Think of it too as like, I think of as like kind of a little adventure, a little foray into something new, and like a placeholder for when you do come across that perfect antique frame [brief laughter] at some auction house, right? Then you get it later.
[Frank:] Well, see you just -- see, you're so smart. You just hit on my psyche that I've learned a lot about, is that before I would be like, no, we have to get the real deal frame now. And then as I just said, I realized, you know what, you're always in process and construction. So you've done things that you thought were a real deal then you replaced them anyway because you found something that worked better. And it's never like a set thing. I mean, certain things stay stable, but, you know, for the most part it's like, we're always up for grabs to keep evolving and to keep making it better and adding new things and blah, blah, blah. So oh God, I have so many fantasies. In that salon, Mae West or I might want to -- there's a beautiful like flat surfaced wall, like it's a very strangely shaped room, multiple angles. And I want an artist to paint something romantic on it. Like have a mural like in Café des Artistes or something like that. Like something that people will be like, ooh, I want to see the mural on Mae West. I don't know. We'll see. Fantasies, but it's all about fantasies [brief laughter], but --
[Crystal:] There's a lot of drilling that's happening above [brief laughter]. I keep trying to like mute past. Can people hear that?
[Frank:] Oh I don't hear you, I don't hear --
[Crystal:] Okay, its actually good.
[Frank:] You're actually quiet on my end.
[Crystal:] Well, it might be the Google Meet noise cancellation or something like that.
[Frank:] Well, let's get to books before I lose my thread.
[Crystal:] Okay. Yes. But I was going to say, send me pictures. I want to see this wall. I'm very excited for you.
[Frank:] Here we go, not talking about books. I'm going to have -- I'm going to have -- meeting with an artist that I know to talk just about that. So I'm making it happen. Like I want to make things happen.
[Crystal:] Yeah. And --
[Frank:] That's what I miss most about not being a Jefferson Market, I'm making things happen. I don't have as much authority in other branches because they're not mine, even though I made some changes, but whatever. What did you say?
[Crystal:] I was going to say like, I can totally tie this conversation to books by saying like, I think thinking about like crafty ways to do these projects is very much a library worker's bread and butter. We know the value of a good deal, much like "Jack Reacher" and the "Lee Child" series [brief laughter], Reacher, who is always obsessed about the value of a good deal. See, I've tied it to books. There you go.
[Frank:] Is that what you read?
[Crystal:] No. This is like -- I've been trying to read the Reacher series for a very long time. And I've gotten pretty far in them. And as I read the books, I've been, what's the word, analyzing Reacher as this sort of interesting moralistic vengeful character who's actually not really good at like saving people people's lives, but is very good at getting revenge [brief laughter] for people who die on his watch. Anyways, that's a whole different thing, but there's like a prime Reacher series that came out recently. So I think there's been a renewed interest in the book.
[Crystal:] Sorry. I think I want to say Amazon Prime, one of those screenings types.
[Frank:] Oh, like a TV or --
[Crystal:] It's a TV series. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And I think people like really like it. Very different from the Tom Cruise series, so I don't know. Maybe that's a series to talk about later, after you finish "Anna Karenina." [multiple speakers].
[Frank:] [multiple speakers] over in boredom. Sorry.
[ Laughter ]
[Crystal:] No, it's alright.
[Frank:] Not exactly my style. So I always say not exactly my style but then if I watch one, I might be like, this is fun because I'm --
[Crystal:] Yeah, It's like --
[Frank:] I kind of know myself very well.
[Crystal:] Least procedural type, I don't know.
[Frank:] Well that leads into what I was going to say [brief laughter]. I mean, when I say [brief laughter], I don't know myself very well, or actually when one says, "Oh, that's so not me," we might be saying that because we're sort of cleaving to, and I've said this before in last "Anna Karenina" discussion about, we might be cleaving to a certain illusion or delusion we have about ourselves that we need to believe. Like I said before, about "Anna Karenina," which is 1870s Russia, Tolstoy, big passionate love affair at the center of this book among like seven or eight main characters. Where -- what was I going to say -- about cleaving to an idea of the self that may or may not be fully true? I mean, the characters in this book have that all over the place. I mean, that was interesting, because I thought about now that I'm like more than halfway through it, like 500 pages, it's 800 pages, I'm getting a better sense of like what Tolstoy is all about really in this novel. And it's definitely -- made me think of a lot of things, because there's like I said, eight characters, it's -- you know, you could say that Vronsky and Anna Karenina love affair is at the center of it. She's married. She's having an affair with this guy and that causes a lot of scandal. So it brought a lot of ideas up about like, what is soap opera? Like you could call this like one original, giant soap opera. And why do we think negatively of the term soap opera, if we do think negatively of it. And in a way, I was thinking like soap opera deals with trenching deep emotions. Like, that's why it's so persuasive and attractive. It's like deals with real emotions. And I think in some ways, you could describe the difference like in "Anna Karenina," which obviously is a book, but there are soap opera-esque books, but that in soap opera characters have like -- are one basic realm of emotion, like they're villains, or they're good, or they're struggling, or they're all sorts of things. And they're pretty much one thing. And if they change, there's like a turning point where they become something else and they become like a hero or an antihero or they turn bad or whatever. And in a way, Anna Karenina into the book, the characters in the book don't have turning points. Like they don't -- you'd expect it. They have like just another point in their life, just like our own lives that we live. Like when we are living a life, we don't say, oh my God, this is the turning point. Or if we do say this is the turning point, it doesn't often hold. Like you can look back in your life and say, oh, like when I was in college, I had this moment revelation emotional revelation where I thought, oh, this is a turning point in my life. I mean, you look back; you're like, yeah, right. You just did the same things after that anyway, didn't change that much. So what I'm trying to say is that these characters have fluctuating emotions but they don't necessarily turn into something new. They don't change. Like for example, well really great scene at the beginning of Part 4, well this is a spoiler, which I said spoilers about this is that Anna who's married to her husband, Alexei, gets pregnant. And it's clearly pregnant by her lover, Vronsky. And she's bedridden and sort of not feeling well in the throes of her pregnancy. And it happens that her husband and her lover both come to her at the same time and are in the room with her, like the three of them, which is sort of a verboten thing like the husband said at one point, like, I don't even want to know about him. He cannot come into this house, but he's there. And so it's obviously high emotion. And they are both husband and lover, are very distraught and crying and Anna is sort of being a little bit like, you know, in pain, but sort of just like wanting to emotionally get everything together. And Vronsky is a great image the way that Tolstoy describes him. He has his hands over his face, because he's so upset and maybe being a man and not showing him crying. And Anna says to her husband; remove his hands from his face, like take his hands away from his face. So the husband, Alexei, pulls Vronsky's hands away from his face to reveal his crying face and also to see his own crying face. And in that moment, like I said about points and turning points, the husband, Alexei, has a shift emotionally. He said he feels like this guy is suffering, "I feel for him in a way. And I love my wife. I can go on with forgiveness." Before, he was not forgiving. He was going to divorce her. He was going to shame her. And now he was like, I suddenly feel forgiveness for this situation. And he says as much, and it's sort of like a love thing that happens. And Anna is just like, "You are wonderful. My husband, thank you for that." And Vronsky -- but then Vronsky feels a shift in him. He's suddenly -- the lower of the two men because he's being forgiven, and therefore, if he's being forgiven, he must be a deceiving, not so great person. And that doesn't make him feel good about the situation. But before, he felt like he was the better man because the husband, here we go into politics at the time, the husband wasn't challenging him to a dual or wasn't sort of making a situation with being a man and making a situation with the lover. He was just sort of staying away from this situation. So it shifts the power there. And then, so Anna is very loving of her husband that he's being forgiving, but still wanting to move on with Vronsky. And so when I said about points and turning points, you think this would be a big shift in their three-way relationship, so to speak. By the way, Anna has a dream at one point in the book where she's imagined sleeping, literally just sleeping with both her lover and her husband, which is a very progressive thing when you think about it, as her way of solving her problem. So the point, you'd think it'd be a big turning point in their relationship, but what happens? And this is very Tolstoy. They eventually go back to their same roles that they had before. Alexei sort of loses that forgiveness ability and Anna starts to hate her husband again. And it doesn't change them. So like in a soap opera, when you have a big shift, much is made of the turning point and those characters become so new. In this, these characters are going through points in time, but they don't necessarily change in a soap operatic way where they become something different than they were before. They're just; it's just like a different shading of color in their character. And that really is the hallmark of this book, in that you get -- like the love story that counterpoints Anna and Vronsky is Kitty and Levin. And Levin is the farmer who's very preoccupied with agriculture, and Kitty is a socialite. And actually Kitty fell in love with Vronsky. And she does a great scene where she sees Vronsky falling in love with Anna. And you actually see Anna and Vronsky falling in love through another character, Kitty's eyes. But she falls in love with Vronsky and Levin is in love with Kitty, but she doesn't want Levin, she wants Vronsky. And then she sees Vronsky falling in love with Anna and she's humiliated and destroyed because obviously Vronsky doesn't want Kitty. And she goes to the country to try to convalesce. And Levin is still in love with her, but he feels horrible because he was rejected humiliatingly by kitty. So he is in love with her, and Kitty is in the country, coincidentally. Levin has a farm there, and he hears that Kitty is not well because she's really nursing her broken heart over Vronsky. And he's upset about that, but he goes out to his farm and there's a great description about him getting physically into the farm work. And he's so into it that as through deep physical labor, you can almost be brought out of your head and brought to another level of like almost, you know, ecstasy in a way, like people work out endorphins, that kind of thing. But it's beautifully written in that way. And he's so into it that he actually says, "What was I thinking about before?" And then he goes, "Oh, right. Kitty is not feeling well." Like I'm giving this as another example of this sort of many shades of character in this book, like Levin, this is the love of his life, Kitty. And it's not being presented as an unwavering thing. It's being presented -- like the way it's written, you read, you know, like, oh, he forgot all about Kitty for his second. And then he even -- to add to that, he goes, "Oh yeah, right. She's sick." And then he goes, "Well, good. She deserves it. She rejected me and I'm glad she's sick." And he goes on with this farming. And that's not exactly what you expect from a romantic hero, that kind of shade of character. You know, even Vronsky like has a moment where he realizes he's hanging out with this Russian prince trying to entertain him. And he sees in the Russian prince, you know, the debauchery and sort of like shallow lifestyle. And Vronsky says, it's really like looking in a mirror. I'm like looking at myself and I don't like it. And he even sees himself in that moment and admits he doesn't like it. Like, he's the romantic hero and he is sort of saying like, I'm not really a great person. And then what does he do like most of us do? Immediately tries to fill that self-awareness with like, "Well, it'll be okay. You know, I'm a really not that bad." And when we realize something about ourselves that we don't particularly like, again, like I started this whole conversation off with a self-delusion about ourselves, we might have a moment of honesty to ourselves. And then we might seek to actually push that honesty away and go back to the delusion we had. So Vronsky says, "Well, I'm not as bad as him. And, you know, I didn't like seeing that, but like, I'm a good guy and, you know, I'm going to get through," and then get preoccupied with somebody else and not pay attention to it. So I mean, I could go on forever and ever and ever, because there's so much here and so many characters. But I just love the idea. Oh, go, go, go.
[Crystal:] Well, no, I think it's really interesting what you're saying, like this idea that their, I guess their internal nature doesn't really change, even though these different things are kind of changing around them. I guess I want to like speculate for a moment to be like, you know, do you think, because you still have how many books of the eight books left?
[Frank:] I'm on five, so three more.
[Crystal:] Do you think that it will change them [brief laughter]? Like when you get to those other three books, like, is it setting up maybe a situation where, I mean clearly something -- Anna Karenina, like something definitely happens to her or she has a change, you know. I don't know. What's your thought process so far in terms of the future [brief laughter]?
[Frank:] I thought of that. Like, I really wish I didn't know [brief laughter] what generally happens to her because I really wouldn't even have -- I mean, it's called Anna Karenina, and sometimes I question why, because there's so many other characters. But I think he is -- I think Tolstoy is definitely not building to radical change in any of them. I think part of his pleasure is illuminating the truth of these characters, and there's that word again, truth. But by doing what I hopefully just explained, like showing the shallowness and loftiness of one person, of all of us, like we all have that. We're not just one thing, certainly not one good thing. There's so much negativity and darkness in us and complaining and pettiness. And he shows that, and that's startling for a so-called romance. I mean, Anna is like a royal pain right now. She's just complaining and unhappy, and she just keeps saying she suffers and suffers. I mean, at one point she gives birth to that child. She survives that sickness and she's so in love with the new baby, especially since it's her lover's baby, it says she never thinks about her son that she had earlier. I mean, before she was like, "I love my son." It's like very human, but a little bit startling for a romantic hero. She's just not. But I do think there's going to be something to be said literally about what happens to Anna. I don't think the characters are going to change all that much, but I think there's going to be some sort of culmination of emotion.
[Crystal:] Yeah. Right?
[Frank:] With what Anna does to herself. Because I mean that also brings in, which I wanted to talk about too, but to maybe talk about the next time since I'm going to be talking about "Anna Karenina" for a long time kids [brief laughter]. Everyone listening is like, "Maybe it's time I streamed my favorite show instead of listening to him," [brief laughter] is the society in which they live because -- and how has society "changed" because so much of what propels this forward is about Anna misjudging her culture's milieu, her society in which she moves, judging their censure. So seeing where she goes to the opera and she sort of knows that she's on the outs because she's like a scarlet woman, but she just misjudges how much hate she's truly going to get. And she's shocked by it. And that's a core of Anna too, like she doesn't quite understand, even though she knows this society when she lives that her love is not honored her that way. I mean, her character, Anna, I think the reason why it's named "Anna Karenina" and why that character is so resonant, I think there's more to come certainly, is that she's pure, emotional expression.
[Frank:] She doesn't think that much about anything other than her love for Vronsky, her love, lust, desire, call it many different word. I don't know. We'll see. But I think there's going to be an emotional climax, so to speak, that Tolstoy is working towards with that suicide.
[Crystal:] So --
[Frank:] But --
[Crystal:] In this time period, just speculating because I'm not really familiar. So it is very uncommon for her as the wife to take on a lover and I'm presuming it's like much more common for the husband to do such a thing and et cetera, right?
[Frank:] Totally. There's -- see its again confused. Or not confused. It's just multiple things. It's how you play it. There is something made of how a wife doing it is far, far worse than a husband. Like everyone expects a husband to and certainly there's yet a third. There's a third love story about a married couple where he's just a goofball philanderer like everyone likes him because he is a nice guy, but he is always like, I forget that I'm even married. So yes, it's much worse, but if you play it right and whatever that means she could get away with it. Society would accept them if it was played in "right". You could even divorce at that point and still retain your name. It's in the book. A lot of it's in the -- described in the book, it's like how the husband handles it, how the wife handles it. But I hope you're understanding the core of this is that -- -- is that there isn't a rule book, just like we don't, you and I, Crystal and everyone listening doesn't have a rule book. Unfortunately, we might think we do. And certainly, we buy and read lots of self-help books to help us give us a rule book. There isn't quite a rule book to get through it. It's that. And then this is like totally think Tolstoy is saying this, it's that [inaudible] mocking a God thing that will take or give happiness without apparent reason, will punish a character, will reward a character or punish then reward, punish again a character for maybe no real understandable reason. Like the mechanics of this affair and then the possible divorce are gone through a lot. And sometimes it seems to be about to work and then someone emotionally changes, and it stops working and then they talk about the society and about how the society would accept them if they just did A, B and C, but then you get a character who's extremely religious and extremely sort of moral majority. And then that character starts causing a little bit of trouble. I mean, it's like in life, there's no quite guarantee. And we always think we might, if we just did what we were supposed to "do" we'll get away with it, but you don't necessarily get away with it. I think this book could also be called "Nobody Gets out Here Alive" [brief laughter]. You know what the -- oh, go ahead.
[Crystal:] No, it's interesting to hear you talk about, and again, this is like very much speculation on my part, but I do wonder if, you know, what you were saying about Anna being kind of pure emotion, if that is in some ways like tripping her up, because the way you've described her as a character, she seems kind of unlikable, but that aspect of like being under to control of your emotions to your own detriments and your societal standing and whatnot is like kind of really relatable and makes her sympathetic, if that is what is happening [brief laughter]. Yeah.
[Frank:] What I meant by pure emotion is like, she can't see out of her current emotion and we all have lots of different emotions during the day. So and you know, with a love affair, eventually the love turns into suspicion and paranoia that you're not as loved. And so a lot of what she's doing right now is sort of like, do you still love me? Because she's not feeling it sometimes. And sometimes she's honest with herself and she doesn't feel it. She doesn't feel it, but then she wants it from him to make her feel assured that it's all okay.
[Frank:] You know how -- yeah. And you know how, like when you're in love or like, it goes up and down and sometimes you're like, oh, get away from me. But then you're like, oh my God, no, I love you. I'm sorry. So she can't function outside of that up and downness, she can't sort of just say, okay, I know it goes up and down. I'm going to be okay or all right. She's just in it every second. And she can't therefore get out of it. What are you going to say?
[Crystal:] Oh, I was just going to reference your earlier statement about like self-help books. I feel like she needs that self-help book, the five love languages or something [brief laughter].
[Frank:] She totally does.
[Crystal:] She needs that like verbal reassurance or I don't know. It's very interesting hearing about --
[Frank:] Well, you know, oddly enough, which startled me, and I'm not sure I fully understand it is that, you know what the quote that opens the book is, it's unattributed, but it's from the Bible. Before you start reading "Anna Karenina," the quote "Vengeance is mine, I will repay." That's the quote that opens this book and I don't -- you're thinking what, who's going to get vengeance. And then the more I think about it, and the more we just discussed it, like I said, about how you can plan and plan and sort of think you're doing right, even within the understandable structure of society and still make a misstep and be canceled or kicked out, I think the vengeance is mine. I will repay is almost the God figure or God saying vengeance is my business. Like, I'm going to get you if I decide to get you. You can't do it yourself. Meaning ultimately, you can try all you want and you might succeed because I, God might let you, but sometimes I'm going to throw you a curveball kid, like Zeus throwing down a lightning bolt.
[Crystal:] I mean --
[Frank:] Go ahead [brief laughter].
[Crystal:] I like that quote as a, sort of a contextualizing note for "Anna Karenina", but I just have to say, as you read that quote and describes, the I as like gods, I also feel like it's very relatable to "Jack Reacher" except the I is him. He's the act of conscious [brief laughter].
[Frank:] I don't know who --
[Crystal:] You miss my tie in to Jack Reacher.
[Frank:] -- I did. I know, I heard it. I just didn't give a snorty response.
[Crystal:] A hoot [brief laughter] you didn't give a hoot about it [brief laughter].
[Frank:] I didn't get to go; I don't really care [brief laughter], yeah [brief laughter].
[Crystal:] No, I feel like, listening to you talk about "Anna Karenina" -- -- makes me want to, I know I'm not going to read it [brief laughter], but makes me wants to read it. I think that says something to your ability to like really investigate the book and interrogate in an interesting way. But yeah, I think it's really interesting.
[Frank:] I'm really glad. I mean, thank you. That's so sweet. That's the point.
[Crystal:] I'm not going to read it, but --
[Frank:] I know.
[Crystal:] You know, it makes me want to read it.
[Frank:] But I'll keep telling you about it. I mean, it's really like, it's almost like the only novel that ever -- it makes me feel like it's the only novel that counts because it sort of has everything in it that writers since have tried to do. I mean, different periods of literary style have emerged, like modernism and things like that. This is sort of, you know, not that but, and it's also historical in that, like everything, we think we're in a world that's so unique and because we're emotionally in it, but then you realize, oh, that's happened before. And maybe that's a delusion where we can't let go as human beings because we have to survive to realize we're just a, in some ways an emotional treadmill that it's all been done before.
[Frank:] And we're just going through it ourselves for the first time. Like, politically just said I would finish, but now I'm not, there was a, you know, Karenina, Anna's husband was a politician or just like a functionary and there's this passage described that's identical to today where he politically makes a choice and then his rival does a strategic counterpoint and tries to like tear him down. And, but the way it works, seems so familiar in that, yeah, I don't, actually I don't have to get into the details of it, but it's just politically totally of today. And then the underpinning of this political fight is and Tolstoy totally makes fun of it, about how we understand truth in politics and in the news, which is what's more current than that. And he describes, well, the politicians get their facts from the local governors and the governors get their facts from the parish priests and the parish priests get their facts from their flock. And so therefore it all must be true because these authorities are then relaying all this truth on up the chain. And so it's sort of like polls and data we've referred to now that underpin our sense of what is factual. He's sort of making fun of like how, yeah, right? Like this is how, he said problems that have been around since the beginning of time suddenly are solved because these eight dignitaries decide yeah; we have enough facts to make it so. And it's sort of just like, what is truth? I leave you with that [brief laughter].
[Crystal:] What is truth?
[Frank:] What is truth? The big question, I think about it all the time. Truth is like, we all agree on something, whether we all believe it or not. And that's what Tolstoy is saying and then say, yeah. Okay. That's true that 80% of American housewives do X, Y and Z. I mean, how do we know? It's living with a new ability that maybe scares us. We can't do it. Please say you read something funny.
[ Laughter ]
[Crystal:] I mean, it was fun, not funny. This is a --
[Frank:] What were you going to say?
[Crystal:] Total side note, but have you read the book called, Sham -- no, not "Shamela." That was a parody, "Pamela"?
[ Laughter ]
[Frank:] Oh yeah. Samuel Richardson?
[Crystal:] Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I know it was like; it was making me think of it. I think it was like erroneously thinking. It was the first like romance novel, but I think it's like the first novel, novel or something, but I don't know. Some of the stuff that you were saying was reminding me of that book. And of course, when you think of that book, you have to think of "Shamela," which was like the parody.
[Frank:] The parody.
[Crystal:] Which I still love that name [brief laughter].
[Frank:] Yeah. But it's written at the same time. Well, "Vanity Fair" is also -- by Thackeray is also considered like the first novel.
[Crystal:] Is it? Okay.
[Crystal:] This though has emotional complexity that I always seek out that you don't really get in those other books.
[Frank:] Which you don't have to, I mean, you know, books can do different things for you and that's what's sort of frustrating about "Anna Karenina" though, because it's like, you know, for all my desire for sophisticated emotional experiences, sometimes just like, I want to root for somebody here and everybody is so sort of shaded complexly that, you know, you can't, you're always like, oh, okay. That was sort of negative about that person. And then they do something nice and it's like, you can't really -- it's an unstable environment just like living life. You know, it's like not an escape in that way. And that you can sort of think, all right, we're going to root for this guy. And then be sure we're going to get the payoff. Like the love payoff or whatever, or the tragic payoff or something, some payoff, I don't know what the payoff, well, that's what you asked earlier. Like if you think it's leading to something and I don't think it's leading to a payoff in terms of satisfaction in life's goals. The payoff just might be an emotional sort of climax of tears, overwrought trauma, and staring into space for about 20 minutes [brief laughter] after you finish. Good times.
[Crystal:] It's somewhat relates to the book that I chose. But I think its interesting hearing you talk about that because I think as I've gotten older, I am less resistant and I want to say more welcoming to those kind of complex ideas in books. I think, you know, like when you're young, you are reading on the kind of very binary, like good versus evil. And for me personally, like my entry way into a lot of books was like relating to the characters, rooting for the characters, wanting to be them or, like, you know, fight the dragon, et cetera. But as I've gotten older, it's like; I think the books that have that kind of nuance and complexity where some of those things aren't always like resolved. It's like, you know, much more interesting than when I was younger. I think when I was younger, I would've just like rejected those books outright as like books that were very oblique to me that I couldn't find entry point because my entry point was always through like characters that I felt strongly for. And sometimes it's like, that's not very realistic anyways. But that said [brief laughter] although I didn't [brief laughter], I bring up that kind of -- that sort of tension of like, is this resolved? Is this not resolved? Because I experience that bringing this book and it's called "Brown Girls". Have I -- okay. The camera is kind of half showing it.
[Frank:] The camera is wacky.
[Crystal:] [Brief laughter] it's because of my backdrop.
[Frank:] Oh, "Brown Girls"?
[Crystal:] Yeah. "Brown Girls" by Daphne Palasi Andreades, if I pronounce the name correctly, hopefully who is an author from, I think Queens, New York. Yes. Born and raised in Queens, went to Columbia University and in the book itself, it talks about like young women of color, like Brown girls basically, right? And it uses like the, we, as a POV constantly. So I'm going to maybe like read because I for once you see my post-its aren't you impressed?
[Frank:] Very. Are we going to get a reading by Crystal?
[Crystal:] A few, because there was a few -- it -- it's a very -- it's not like a super long book. The chapters are a very short, it's very, I think very accessible. There is this, I would say a kind of rhythmic lyricism that when I was reading it reminded me a lot of, if you've read the memoirs, "Ordinary Girls" by Jaquira Diaz. Have you heard of that one?
[Crystal:] And also maybe a little bits of a "Priestdaddy," which I think is such an interesting name by Patricia Lockwood, you've read that one, right?
[Frank:] "Priestdaddy," yeah.
[Crystal:] Yeah. But I think the writing, it's similar because I find it to be very vivid with this kind of like strong sense of place and time. So what she does in that is kind of like reference this "we" constantly. So let's see. One of the earlier chapters, it talks about like, people getting like names wrong in school. Our classmates roar with glee at their errors and purposely call us the wrong names for the rest of the week too. They call us Kateisha [assumed spelling], Akansha [assumed spelling], Marybeth, Peninnah, Brianna, Sharelle [assumed spelling], [inaudible], Yun [assumed spelling], and Ellen. They call us Josie, Roxanna, Sonia, [inaudible], Annabel, Kira, Jenny, Cindy, Esther. During lunchtime, we call our teachers different names too, dumbass, idiot, old lady B [brief laughter], you know, we steal at permanent markers, scroll stupid on their classroom doors above posters that read knowledge, wisdom, discipline. From the corner of our eyes, we study each other while we hold our Styrofoam lunch trays, wait on bus stops and stretch in gym class. Our sneakers skidding against scuff floors stink her body is not mine, is not mine, is not mine. And yes, there's this kind of real sense of like lyricism, almost like poeticness to a lot of it. Let me see if I can find another one. Let's see. And she uses this we, the we, the word "we" is very interesting to me here, because this, "we," I think will start to reference specific experiences that maybe internally I presume that maybe the narrator has experienced, but then it's also meant to be this very expansive thing, describing the experiences from a variety of Brown girls whose sort of ethnicity is implied by like the naming of their names and these individual experiences. And so another part it says, we are 3,000 miles away in New York City. We are in Boston, Philly, DC and other East Coast locales. We have not gone far. We are two years out of college, American girls with American degrees, never mind that some of us majored in art and others so-called impractical fields, poli sci, English, international relations, even biology, anything that wasn't a pre-professional track, a clear-cut road to our future selves, but what will rest on multiple occasions, are you going to do with that degree exactly? When we graduated our families reasoned, well, degree is a degree, a subtext. Even if those degrees don't put food on the table, sub subtext, we are so American, we believe our college degrees have nothing to do with skills and salaries. This is our privilege, and it kind of like goes on, but I think it's interesting because that idea of this sort of complexity that's brought up and I don't entirely know, and this is something I'm still working through is whether or not it's entirely like resolved for me or does it even need to be resolved, right? And it's that like that "we" is so broad. And it's also like very specific because it is describing so many different kinds of experiences, but the through line is we are Brown girls. And in that there is this sense of like solidarity.
[Crystal:] But in that kind of expansiveness, it also sometimes feels really reductive, which also feels like really true to life. And I think maybe speaks to the larger challenges within BIPOC communities when we do try to strive for solidarity [brief laughter] if that makes sense. Like, you know, like when I --
[Frank:] You said reductive?
[Crystal:] In --
[Crystal:] I think in striving to be expansive, it can sometimes feel that way, right? Does that make sense?
[Frank:] Yes. It's very interesting though.
[Crystal:] And I say that, and I'm going to bring in a little bit of like my personal experience, which is like, you know, in terms of specificity, like I'm Chinese American, but I self-identify as Asian American as this kind of act of solidarity, right, with other people who are, I'm East Asian, who are like Southeast Asian, south Asian, right? And thinking about like solidarity within that community, but at the same time that term Asian American, and sometimes what's often used, which is Asian American Pacific Islander is very, very reductive because how can you condense experiences of so many different peoples into this one name? And even now, I think there's a real strong push from the Pacific Islander community to no longer be a part of this like larger Asian American, AAPI naming, because it ends up doing more harm than good, because we will often say, you know, we're doing an AAPI program, or we're doing this, but it's not actually inclusive or specific to Pacific Islanders. And in that way, it's harmful because we're not offering like the resources that we need to be, right? So like we need to make room for programs and other things to actually address those issues, right? That can be very -- I mean, I'm now going on this like weird rant, but it is this thing of like, in these acts of solidarity by trying to use maybe like an umbrella term, how is it good? Is it bad? I don't really know. And I think this book is interesting because it sits in that kind of uncomfortable gray space. Like I think in some ways I want more resolution, but I also recognize that resolution is not always like real life [brief laughter] and so I kind of appreciate that the book doesn't always give that resolution, but it does kind of offer --
[Frank:] That is -- offer what?
[Crystal:] I'll say like a platform to kind of engage with that conversation maybe.
[Frank:] Well, it's -- that's -- you really bring up a great question too, about just life too, about the "we," like, if there's a "we," then there's a "they." And if you're not the "they," and you're the "we," what is the "they"? Who are the "they"? I mean, when I was saying before, because "Anna Karenina" on the mind, what I read like society, whenever I say the word society, I feel like it's lazy because it's like, what do I -- it's such a shorthand for a "they," like, when we say society, we usually mean something bad. Like, well society tells me that my body should be this way and they shed my -- that my -- the society's beauty standards and it's like, well, and I think this is what you're saying partly it's like, what do we mean by society? Because like when you think about it we are society, they are society, but we are as well, like we are part of it. Like you can't really say, oh, society says, because you are also in that society, right?
[Frank:] Although you mean predominantly or how you perceive it, how you take it in and if it's you -- its how one takes in a message from the outer world. And then if we don't like it. We can almost blame it on they or if we are truly getting, as we discern, truly getting negativity shall we say, then you legitimately can blame the, they, you know.
[Frank:] It does seem like the -- when, well, when you were reading that passage, the, we, as I was listening to you, part of my feelings was that, oh, I'm excluded. It's not just because of the content. Well, no, I guess maybe because of the content, I was like automatically thinking, and then when the, we, was used, it's just like, well, that doesn't mean me, obviously. How do I feel about reading that?
[Crystal:] Yeah, I mean, it's interesting because I don't think I'm technically part of the, we either read.
[Crystal:] But I like what you were saying about the idea of the, they, because the, they is not really referenced, but because of the use of the word we, like that is kind of ever present because it is pushing against that idea, I think. I do have another chapter to read it's like two pages [brief laughter].
[Frank:] Hey, it's a marathon [brief laughter]. We're going to end up with three-hour podcast. Coffee, coffee.
[Crystal:] I know, let's finish by 12:30. I think that's fine. But this chapter is called, hyper slash, I don't know if I'm supposed to read the slashes, hyper/visible/in/visible. I'm just going to read it out loud like that.
[Frank:] That's the name of the chapter?
[Crystal:] That's the name of the chapter? Hyper, visible, invisible basically.
[Frank:] Oh, okay.
[Crystal:] Brown girls, Brown girls, Brown girls, who in a nutshell become big shots. We sit at top stages in London, Sydney, Hong Kong in the front of lecture halls at Princeton, NYU and Oxford who speak on panels and give interviews and lead conferences and are quoted as experts on the state of X, Y, and Z. Who other sentences that begin the ways in which and the intersection of, and its apparent this work is emblematic of blah, blah, blah, blah. Oh Lord. Excuse us. But could somebody please cut out our tongues? We touched the mask, we've learned to wear. Gazed at the mirrors at our better selves, library. Sorry, sorry. Library. We stutter lie, lie library, library. We are congratulated. What a splendid presentation you gave an excellent performance. We mash our fingers to our straining smiles. Thank you, we chirp. It's so wonderful to be good. It's so wonderful to be good enough. Afterward and bathrooms replete with air fresheners that automatically spurts a cucumber and cantaloupe perfume at specific intervals, a sense that does not completely mask the underlying smell of piss and S [brief laughter] we perch on toilets. We grasp the edges of our mask and find; we cannot tear them from our faces. We gain recognition for our work. How does it feel to have achieved so much as a woman of color in your field, what does your community think of your work, are you their hero, villain, savior? What do you make of the state, fill in the blank, in the U.S. with regard to your art, your research of racism, immigration, the newly elected president, formerly a businessman and reality TV star, do you know he's from Queens too? We stiffen; we are determined to keep our responses apolitical lest we offend. We are afraid to bite the hand that feeds us because we are the good immigrant daughters, the, oh, so hardworking ones, the paragons that the mayor can dream, aren't we, but for what's, for whom, nobody asks about the work itself, we are so visible we have become invisible. Odd that in this moment we dreamt of we are faceless. I really love that chapter because I do feel like at that point, I think it's like sitting with that, the duality of those kind of ideas would be like hyper-visible, invisible of being like very expansive also maybe like reductive in some ways. And I also do feel like, you know, just like reading through that chapter again, even though I don't think I'm specifically the, we, like the we, of "Brown Girls," right? I do feel like anybody who sits at the margins in different ways, in different parts of their identities will find a wage, like enter this book and grasp it and really relate to it. And you know, anyways, I really like it. I enjoy this one a lot. So I recommend.
[Frank:] It's interesting. I mean, it really does bring up a lot, like I mean like what I was saying before about truth, like what is truth? And it brought it up for me, for "Anna Karenina", like what is emotional truth? Forget about truth and news and who reports to whom and what we believe and how we get what we get. But emotional, how do we know what we feel is true? Like I made the note of it when I said about Vronsky, who said, I'm really not that great a person, because he saw himself reflected in this devout sort of dissolute cad. And then he was like, I don't like that. And then he even says later, at one point he felt like a deceiver in the house of his lover, Anna. And he says, I don't like feeling like a deceiver, I'm a good guy. Like how do we know it's emotionally true? We decided, we decided, because when you were saying -- when you were reading that quote and then you were saying, you know, anyone on the margin could identify and its like, how do we know we're on the margin? How does one know? And how do -- how does one know that they're invisible yet visible? Like how do we know that? Like how do we emotionally feel that, you almost could choose, could maybe choose to feel differently, but maybe it, as Anna points out just by her existing, you can't always choose your emotions for sure [brief laughter]. They are what they are and sometimes, they're just not surmountable but it's interesting how we know what we know.
[Crystal:] Well, I think society is like telling us constantly [brief laughter].
[Frank:] Well, there's that --
[Crystal:] Not always, not always in very like obvious ways, like, oh, you are at the margins of society, but you know, in different ways and how certain things kind of rise to the top, you know, like, you know, for just like a very general generic example, fashion, beauty magazines, right? Where light skinned people are constantly on the cover, right? And I think that is an unconscious way of society kind saying to you, beauty is a White European standards, right? And so that's the ways that I think we are constantly bombarded with this and it takes a lot of like internal assessments of the kinds of things that have taken roots and uprooting that and rejecting those things too because we can very easily then output that kind of ideology, ideas. I don't know.
[Frank:] Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I wasn't even asking the question for an answer. I mean, I'm just --
[Crystal:] Oh, okay. I was giving you an answer [brief laughter].
[Frank:] No, no, no I didn't mean that. I mean -- I meant --
[Crystal:] I mean, I think it's a little topical situation.
[Frank:] -- I don't know. Yeah, the answers are difficult, but they are, you know, it's sort of like that thing, it's like that line from the musical Chorus Line.
[Crystal:] Never heard of it.
[Frank:] You never heard of it?
[Frank:] Chorus Line?
[Frank:] Oh, dear. Anyway. What I think about a lot, like, you know, that phenomenon, like in, let's say middle school, when we're young, whether you could say society gets to us early, or I don't know, but how, you know, when you start developing a sense of like, whether you're pretty or not pretty or whatever you are like you're sensing the almost the animalistic hierarchy, which we tend to want to hierarchize the world of human beings, emerges. And the line from the Chorus Line as a character says, like, you know, she's real, this --the character realizes that she's not pretty, she's different. And her mom says that, you know, you're different, which is really good, which is good. And the girl says, yeah, different is nice, but it sure isn't pretty, because pretty is what it's about. And she says, I never met anyone who was different, who couldn't figure that out. And that's really true of like high school or younger, like when we realize, oh, I'm not really -- I'm not one of the cool girls or I'm not one of the in guys, like you sort of get your sense in the hierarchy right away. And then you might even fight against it. Like, you know, oh, this is just high school. That's why when I get out, I'll become better. And I don't know, I guess --
[Crystal:] And enact your revenge. Yes. Yes.
[Frank:] And then God says vengeance is mine.
[ Laughter ]
Well, but it's just riffing on what you said about identity and about how we know what we know about ourselves and whether we're in or out by the society's standards. And that's really also "Anna Karenina" again, like what, you know, with her affair, how they play it will define -- decide whether they're in or out of that society. But I guess the empowering message is that, like I said before, like we are also society, so and like you said, you can change it. Like the standards of beauty you were talking about, those standards can be changed and they do change automatically. I don't know. It's an interesting time for that kind of thing.
[Crystal:] Yeah, yeah, yeah.
[Frank:] No, what?
[Crystal:] Oh, I mean, I'm thinking about the idea of change, right?
[Crystal:] Because I feel like, yes, I would agree, but I think it's like a lot of those things require like systemic change and that can be a lot more like difficult in some ways [brief laughter]. But I think we're maybe --
[Frank:] It's all really --
[Crystal:] I'm going off topic.
[Frank:] Just so interesting. Like I was, when you were talking about streaming before, like I, and I was --
[Crystal:] Streaming, I was talking about streaming.
[Frank:] Well, you were talking about -- we were talking about shows. I don't know.
[Crystal:] Oh, yes, yes.
[Frank:] Two and a half hours ago we started this podcast or yesterday. And I saw the -- and I was singing the Go-Go's the last time, the "Go-Go's" documentary. And --
[Crystal:] Not familiar.
[Frank:] You know the Go-Go's, like the first, most successful female, all female band of all time.
[Crystal:] Do you want me to lie to you?
[Frank:] Don't, no, of course not.
[Crystal:] Okay, then I don't know them.
[Frank:] Anyway. Well, the "Go-Go's" yeah, they're in their early '80s. So it was like when I was young. But the lead singer, Belinda Carlisle.
[Crystal:] Okay. The name sounds familiar.
[Frank:] As she also was a solo artist later when, you know, ooh baby, do you know what that's worth.
[Crystal:] Oh, yes. Okay. I've heard of that.
[Frank:] Heaven is a place. It's used on TV shows.
[Crystal:] See, this is why you should sing more. So once I hear I'm like, I recognize that. Okay, great.
[Frank:] "Ooh, baby, is a place on earth". All right.
[Crystal:] So I do know the Go-Go's. Okay great.
[Frank:] Yeah. Well, that was Belinda Carlisle when she went solo, but in the documentary and also what she said since is that she was like -- they were an all-girl band and believe me I'm riffing on what you said. She was, I don't know. See now I don't know what to call her. Beautiful, I think. And so a lot of the world did, but a lot of the press, shall we say, said she was plump or chubby, cute, but plump, pretty but chubby, you know, that kind of thing about her looks and Belinda Carlisle in interviews said that, you know, it messed her up a lot like that more than anything else, like sort of did a number on her. But what I thought was interesting, what she said, was that up until that point, she'd like never thought twice about her looks that way or, and certainly never had trouble with boyfriends or being attractive. And so when you were just talking, it reminded me of that because it sort of has a split between what we say society says and experiences as it's actually lived. So in that story, Belinda Carlisle is basically saying, they called me plump or chubby, which I guess they're not good things, but in my actual life, I was fine. I felt fine. Boys wanted me, girls didn't make fun of, I mean everything was fine. Like suddenly when I'm in this role as a pop singer, suddenly I'm chubby. I guess what I'm saying is that the standards are sometimes very separate from life as it's actually lived. And so when we get caught up in standards, are we really -- what are we really saying? Like as an outsider to that story, what am I taking away from it like, oh, she's saying she lived a perfectly fine life but yet the society said, oh, but you're not perfect. You're this problematic person, chubby, plump, you know what I mean? Like, what am I saying? It's sort of an interesting thing when we get caught up in standards of so-called society. Again, we are society. So if her experience was not that, what is society doing? Or what is the standards doing? Try to make money, I guess, or be mean, like, just to be mean, like, are we just mean naturally and being nice is sort of secondary [brief laughter].
[Crystal:] Well, you know, I got to go on that rant about capitalism, which is serious [brief laughter].
[Crystal:] Like that whole thing about like how I think in a certain kind of societies in order for things to be like at the top good, there has to be people at the bottom bad, right? And that's a terrible way to like set up society in some way. But what I liked about what you were saying too is like, even the language that you use, I think it also shows that maybe the power of language, because when they're saying she's pretty, but plump, it automatically puts plump as like diametrically opposed to pretty versus using the word and, right, because you could be both plump and pretty and all that kind of stuff. But like that kind of language specifically puts it in this category of like anti-pretty, which I want to say she isn't the only author, but let me -- the author of "Thick" which is Tressie --
[Frank:] Oh yeah.
[Crystal:] McMillan Cottom has like a great essay or a few essays that really kind of addresses the idea of like beauty and rejecting that. And I feel like there was -- I want to say another author I read recently, which I can't remember that also did something similar to that and maybe we discussed it, but my memory is gone. Anyways, I feel like we should pick a tarot card.
[ Laughter ]
I'm about to say -- [brief laughter].
[Frank:] Hi, welcome back to day three of The Librarian Is In [brief laughter]. All right, well, at least, I don't know we could edit it up and just turn it into like one low hum [brief laughter] for five minutes and then move on. All right, well, I don't care. You know, the producer just hopped on. She's like, what's going on?
[Crystal:] What happens when I have like coffee with friends, and we talk about -- we start talking about books and we start talking about all these other things and whatever happens. That's fine.
[Frank:] All right. Now --
[Crystal:] And then we get a tarot card reading at the end.
[Frank:] I just -- okay. So I pulled an Ace of Cups.
[Crystal:] Oh, okay.
[Frank:] But I pulled it upside down.
[Crystal:] For the [inaudible].
[Frank:] Does that mean something? Doesn't it mean something when you're -- when it's right side up? It's reversed. All right.
[Crystal:] Okay. So --
[Frank:] So Ace of Cups looks very meaningful because it's sort of like so -- it's not like, you know, overcomplicated with numbers [brief laughter], whatever that means. All right, let me -- I'm looking at my little book, whereas you guys know what am I doing? Cups. Oh, I opened right to it.
[Crystal:] It's reverse.
[Frank:] Ace of Cups. The waters are beneath, are upon which are water lilies. Oh yeah. The hand issues from the cloud, holding in its palm the cup from which four streams are pouring, a dove bearing in its beak, a cross marked host like a religious host, wafer descends to place the wafer in the cup. The dew of water is falling on all sides. It is an intimation of that which may lie behind the lesser arcana, whatever. Definitory meanings, true heart, joy, contentment, abode, nourishment, abundance, fertility, holy table, felicity? Now I did pull it reverse, does mean upside down or yeah, right? What else could it mean? So the reverse means false heart, mutation, instability, revolution.
[Crystal:] Oh, revolution. I like that. I don't like the instability part that does not sound like a good time.
[Frank:] See, you want us to appear on personal delusions about your life [brief laughter] and therefore, reject instability, because it makes you uncomfortable. So you have to cleave to what you believe is true about yourself rather than accepting the fact that it might be being stable, but let's go with revolution [brief laughter].
[Crystal:] Let's go with revolution.
[Frank:] In other words, the revolution the producer is going to commit on us for actually talking for so long [brief laughter]. One girl revolution. There she goes.
[Crystal:] Wait, so what were the other words? You said revolution.
[Frank:] I put the card away.
[Crystal:] Oh, boy.
[Frank:] False heart.
[Crystal:] False heart. Okay. What does that mean?
[Frank:] I don't know. What does it mean?
[Crystal:] Like a fake relationship? This is, maybe this is in relation to "Anna Karenina".
[Frank:] Yes. Representation of, yeah, of what you think it might be like being deceived, deceived.
[Crystal:] I'm looking at the biddytarot.com and it's saying that it could also mean repressing your emotions. So not wanting to express yourself fully to the outside world, which I feel like we talk about everything. I don't know, unless you're holding secrets from me. Okay [brief laughter]. And then it says --
[Frank:] Like, okay. Moving on.
[ Laughter ]
[Crystal:] And oh, so you may worry that if you allow your feelings to flow, they might turn into an overwhelming flood that can't be switched off.
[Crystal:] In a relationship reading, which clearly this is a relationship; the reverse Ace of Cups can show that you are withholding your emotions for fear of getting hurt. You know that you must trust in your partner for the relationship to move forward. But for the time being, you are holding back. So whenever you're ready to trust me, Frank, I'm here for you.
[Frank:] You know, we could go on and on because you do inspire me that fear of when you just said fear of being hurt. For some reason that knocked into my head and I thought, what does that really mean?
[Crystal:] I think it's your relationship with customers?
[Frank:] Like, how can we be fearful of being hurt? Because we don't know what's going to happen. In a way fearful of being hurt might just be fearful of revealing something that we don't think will be liked, I guess.
[Crystal:] But I like to think that this --
[Frank:] Or we don't like it about ourselves and we don't want to acknowledge it ourselves.
[Crystal:] And I like to think that your most important relationship is the relationship that you have with me and Christy. But I also sometimes think it's really about you and Jefferson Market. So maybe you need to think about this in relation to how you feel about Jefferson Market.
[Frank:] All right, I think we are going to end this right now because you just touched on the sore spot of my life that I am actually in a relationship within the library.
[Frank:] And I'm talking about a full --
[Crystal:] And you're afraid of getting hurt.
[Frank:] There is nothing else.
[ Laughter ]
And I never thought I could be -- because I thought I would be safe with an inanimate object, like a library.
[Crystal:] You --
[Frank:] That it has betrayed me and that it has needs that I can't fulfil like its pipes that need to be fixed. Like -- [brief laughter].
[Crystal:] But the lesson from the Ace of Cups is that you need to like trust in that relationship that maybe like all of those projects will get done and it'll be fine. And you can move forward with the opening.
[Frank:] How do I know you're not being a false heart [brief laughter]? Oh, I love how we end up with love at the end. It's all about love [brief laughter]. Oh, boy. All right, thank you everybody for listening to this. This was cool.
[Crystal:] Like Crank logging off. That's what we should say.
[Frank:] We really got a groove on. Crystal signing off [brief laughter]. See you later Crank.
[Crystal:] Crank out [brief laughter].
[Frank:] Crank out, Crystal in [brief laughter]. Bye, and thanks for listening to The Librarian Is In.
[Narrator:] Thanks for listening to The Librarian Is In. A podcast by the New York Public Library. Don't forget to subscribe and leave a review on Apple podcast or Google Play or send us an email at email@example.com. For more information about the New York Public Library, please visit nypl.org. We are produced by Christine Farrell. Your hosts are Frank Collerius and Crystal Chen.