Ilana Teitelbaum was born in New York City but lived many years in Jerusalem, where she worked as a freelance journalist. Her writings have appeared in Salon, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Huffington Post, and The Globe and Mail. Her debut novel, an epic fantasy, will be published by Tor/Macmillan in 2015 under the pen name Ilana C. Myer. These are her good things.
Good things to read.
The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt. Painfully moving and deeply hilarious is how I’d describe this book, overuse of adverbs notwithstanding. It’s massive and brilliant and seems to take up its own category in the world. With inimitable genius, Helen DeWitt explores the sublime agony of being a genius, and somehow makes it relevant and touching to those of us who occupy the somewhat lower stratospheres. I realize I’m not doing justice to this book. Just read it, if you love books.
The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett. Dorothy Dunnett is a goddess. Her series of six novels about the adventures (and traumas) of a Scottish nobleman in the sixteenth century is mindblowingly intricate and emotionally powerful at the same time. The books will twist your brain and break your heart, and sometimes the other way around. As Lymond travels around Europe, from Scotland to France, Malta, Constantinople, and Russia, a truly wonderful and often horrific tapestry emerges. I’m not sure I’ve ever read books more challenging than these, but few are more rewarding.
Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay. It’s tough to know which Guy Gavriel Kay novel to recommend—each is exquisite in a different way. But perhaps because Tigana was my first, and I recognized even at the age of 16 that it was something special (before rerereading it many times since), it will always be the book I suggest as a starting point. It’s also the book that first showed me that while I enjoy the standard tropes of fantasy—the journeys, the battles, the ragtag bands of companions—it is a genre that can also take us to a richer place, the magic revealing complexities about the world and our own hearts.
Good things to watch.
Ripper Street. Not enough people are watching this amazing show, so two seasons are all we get now that BBC has canceled it. But what a stunner of a couple of seasons. What begins as a Victorian procedural grows into a show that uses its wonderful characters and involving plots to deliver, consistently, in just about every episode. Instead of using each episode to load the gun for an explosion in the finale, Ripper Street fires the gun at the end of almost every episode and builds to a fantastic finale. These are writers committed to telling great stories.
Top of the Lake. There are elements of Veronica Mars in this show about a tough, tormented young woman with trauma in her past, but without the bright colors and soft focus. Elisabeth Moss is perfect in the role, along with a great cast and a chilling, suspenseful story set against the awe-inspiring backdrop of New Zealand.
Slings and Arrows. A show about a witty, dysfunctional Shakespeare director in a struggling public theatre. Each season explores a new theme based on the Shakespeare play being performed…so basically if you have any interest in theatre or Shakespeare or both, this is a must to track down. And of course, when it ends with King Lear, prepare for some high-voltage intensity.
Good things to use.
All my life I’ve avoided buying things so I could save up for plane tickets. But there’s almost no point if you don’t also invest in good shoes—even sneakers just don’t cut it on unevenly paved or cobblestone streets. Merrells and Keens are a good option—I got the former, but it’s whatever works best for your foot.
While working on a new book, I’ve discovered the wonders of the Anti-Social app. I use the internet while I’m writing sometimes—for music or research—so would rather not turn off the router. Anti-Social blocks social media and any other site you specify, in set blocks of time.
I love my insulated coffee cup, because it takes me hours to drink one cup of drip coffee. (Espresso is a treat!) This way it stays warm the whole time.
Connect with Ilana on Twitter, @IlanaCT.