Series Strength

Some people love to throw around the adage “less is more” without knowing where that saying actually comes from. We saw it first in a Robert Browning poem called Andrew del Sarto (Called The “Faultless Painter”), which tells the story of the Renaissance artist who possessed great technical skill in his craft, but lacked soul. You know… soul. That elusive aspect… that je ne sais qoui… that infusion of heart from the artist who created the work that hits you in the sweet spot and keeps you coming back for more. If you’re talking about a painting or interior design, I can understand how “less is more” is a popular critique. But if we’re talking about a story filled with the hearts and souls of its characters, more is most definitely more. Ask any fangirl who just finished reading the very last page in one of her favorite author’s recent books. She wants MORE. We can practically go crazy waiting for the next installment of that lit goodness from a writer we love, and it’s heartbreaking when we’ve reached the end of a series. Like saying good bye to an old friend that’s come along with you on your journey; or more accurately, you’ve come along with them on theirs. Either way, you’ve connected with the heart of that story and you want more of it–plain and simple. Don’t believe me? Series Strength I rest my case. However, I think we’re on the same side of the gavel here so I know you’ll be as excited as I was to check out Barnes & Noble‘s website for License to Spill, the second installment in the Pretenders series, and to see they’ve leaked a little more of the story for her readers to devour. Want the first 24 pages and missed the reveal? Here you go. Want more? Thought so. License to Spill drops June 24th. We’re in the home stretch! Lisi will be back next week with her usual post. We spoke this morning and she said she misses you guys. We’d love to see more of you here on the blah-g. What would you like to see more of each week?




6 Incredibly Inspirational Leaders to Know About Right Now

February is Black History Month. I’ve long noticed that very little attention is given to black figures who have greatly impacted history outside of this month, let alone black women who are nowhere close to being household names, yet definitely should be. I’ve compiled a crash course of several historical women I’ve personally been inspired by over the years who are seldom given the recognition they deserve. Needless to say, you won’t find Oprah or Beyoncé on this list; by now they’ve got a proper platform for recognition securely squared away, and rightly deserved. Maybe you’ve read about some of the women who are on this list in school before, or maybe each name will be entirely new to you and you’ll feel inspired to discover other influential women long after February draws to a close.

6). Angela Davis

Famed American Political Activist Angela DavisIf you  don’t recognize her name, you might at least recognize her amazing fro. Angela Davis was a nationally prominent counterculture activist and radical in the 1960s and was known for having a close relationship with the Black Panther Party through her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. She has been an activist and writer promoting women’s rights and racial justice while pursuing a career in philosophy and teaching at the University of Santa Cruz and San Francisco University. This short blurb barely scratches the surface of why Angela Davis is such an influential and powerful figure in our history, so check out the documentary The Black Power Mixtape to learn more about her. (Ask your parents first.)

5). Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith at the Women’s Prize for FictionWe cross over the pond to learn about British realist and post-modern novelist, essayist, and short story writer Zadie Smith. She is the kind of writer you kick yourself over for not having discovered her books sooner. Smith has won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2006, among so many other accolades for her writing. Her debut novel White Teeth, which was published when she was just 25 year-old, became an immediate bestseller and was included in Time magazine’s TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005  list. She is now a tenure professor at NYU and has written a few other books that have all been critically praised. And she’s only 38! Amazing.

4). Mae Jemison

Mae Jemison, first African-American Woman in Space!

Have you ever even heard of Mae Jemison? Don’t worry–it took me a while to discover her, too. I’m glad I did because she’s incredible. Jemison is the first black woman to go into space making her one of the most inspirational and adventurous women to change history. Many of us as kids dream of being an astronaut one day, floating around in a zero gravity chamber, and gazing back at planet Earth from lightyears away. Mae Jemison actually got to do this. Imagine the stories she has from her week-long space journey! She’s also a physician who volunteered with the Peace Corps before later joining NASA. Since then, she’s founded the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence, which brings science education to children. I’m floored…

3). Grace Jones

Music and Fashion Icon Grace Jones

Ps. Smoking is NOT cool. People back then just didn’t know any better.

One of my ultimate favorites on this list is cultural icon Grace Jones. A model, singer, and actress, she broke onto the fashion scene in the 70s and was so ahead of her time that she quickly became the muse for top designers and photographers like Yves Saint Laurent, Claude Montana, and Helmut Newton. She later took over the New Wave music scene and also began appearing in films. She is still a huge influence in the fashion world due to her unique and unprecedented ways of expressing sexuality and style. She was known for her androgynous looks and turned conventional ideas of beauty and sex appeal on their head. To this day, we still do not have many women like her who have influenced style and fashion in such a major way.

2). Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

 Nigerian Author Chimamanda Ngozi AdichieThis woman is an unstoppable force. I first discovered Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie when I came upon her TED Talk, The Danger of a Single Story, which “describes how she found her authentic cultural voice and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.” To my knowledge, her presence simply exploded after this TED Talk and she was everywhere. And I don’t just mean on stuffy radio shows and pretentious literary news spots either… A sample from her TEDx message titled “We Should All Be Feminists” can even be heard in Beyoncé’s 2013 self-titled album (so I lied, Beyoncé’s name definitely made a cameo on this list). TED’s blog describes what can be heard in Beyoncé song “***Flawless”:

The song starts out with a sample of Ed McMahon of Star Search, announcing Beyoncé and her friends in the female rap group Girl’s Tyme back in 1992. From there, Beyonce croons — with strong language that will likely be objectionable to some — on the pressure women feel to be perfect and to think of marriage as the main goal of their life. Adichie’s words come in at 1:24, and form a beautiful second verse of the song:

“We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, ‘You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise you will threaten the man.’ Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support. But why do we teach to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same? We raise girls to see each other as competitors – not for jobs or for accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are. Feminist: the person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.”

Chimamanda Adichie is absolutely someone to keep your eye on, for I easily foresee her contemporary work continuing to hugely impact our social climate.

1). Audre Lorde

Amazing Author Audre Lorde

One of my favorite quotes of all time.

I learned about Audre Lorde, not surprisingly, in a women’s studies course at university. Sadly enough, I don’t think her name comes up too much unless you’re a student enrolled in such a class, but hopefully that will someday change. She is on my favorites list because she was brilliant novelist and essayist, but mostly because she was an incredibly influential poet in my life. She was daring and provocative and feared no one. Lorde wrote what was in her heart, not what publishers deemed appropriate for publishing based on dated social conventions. She published her first poem while still in high school in Seventeen magazine after being rejected by her own school paper which said her poetry was “much too romantic.” Lorde shattered cultural expectations and was unapologetically outspoken about racism, feminism, homophobia and her identity as a lesbian. She called herself a warrior, and I call her a total BAD-A**. I highly recommend The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde and her autobiography, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name. (Again, ask your parents first!) These women are just a few of the hundreds or even thousands that could have made this list. Are you learning about any inspirational black women in school this month? Who would you have added to this list? Thank for hanging out with me on the blog-o-sphere today. Lisi will return next week with her usual Wednesday blah-g post! xx, Alisha, Office Elf

Printed Matter at LA Art Book Fair 2014

LA Art Book Fair

Literacy is making a comeback! Over the weekend I stopped by the LA Art Book Fair at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, an event presented by Printed Matter, Inc. If you haven’t heard of this major literary fair or aren’t too familiar with book fairs overall, it’s a “unique event for artists’ books, art catalogs, monographs, periodicals, and zines presented by over 250 international presses, booksellers, antiquarians, artists, and independent publishers.” Basically what that means is that it’s awesome and you must try to go someday, or visit something similar if at all possible. This year was only the second annual fair here in Los Angeles, but the turn out was HUGE for such a young event in the city. Take a look at the photo below to get an idea of what it looked like.


This room was only one of MANY in the multi-level massive exhibition gallery called the Ooga Booga space. If you are a book lover–and I’m assuming you love not only Lisi’s addicting page-turners but a few other titles as well–you would absolutely love this event. Especially if you’re the type that doesn’t always want to succumb to the e-book and kindle movement, this book fair reminds us just how special tactile treasures really are. There were so many amazing souvenirs for collectors to take home from vintage records, comic books, photography books, journals, handmade letterpress stationary, bags, paintings, zines, and of course, books. There were also some pretty fantastic stickers to take home like the one found below.


The fair housed hundreds of tables from independent publishers from around the world. The two photos below are from Aye Aye Books, a Glasgow-based bookshop and publisher. The girl who ran this table was so incredibly kind, stylish and oh-so Scottish. Really I would have purchased anything she told me to, her accent made each book sound THAT interesting. I walked away with a little book titled “Them” that held three short stories by Francesca Mirabella and came in a handmade envelope with a handwritten message from the author herself. Such a gem.




The next table we stopped at had all kinds of wonderful pieces. Notecards, photography prints, and posters of beautiful gemstones and natural elements. I got to meet the artist, who wore one of those Barmah bush hats, making him look like a legitimate explorer from down undue’. SOLD.


They were also the sellers of Afterzine, which is literally one of my very favorite zines (though it’s pretty substantial, so more like a thin book). Contributions from the likes of notable people such as Alexa Chung and Rookie Mag’s Tavi Gavinson have even been included in past issues. Needles to say, I picked up Issue 3 pictured below.


More zines upon books upon zines!


A super cool magazine featuring girl motorcyclists around Los Angeles.


If reading’s not your thing, then that’s kinda strange, but the book fair’s still got you covered. You could gaze at and often take home creative paintings, photography and collage work, like some pieces seen below.



Book fair VIPs probably put down a pretty penny to take home these original prints of Blondie’s Debbie Harry from way back when.


No money? No problem. There was a makeshift ever-growing area in one corner where people were starting to barter for books. 🙂


Another look at the book fair, just 1/25 of the maze of a layout when the crowd was winding down. Still crazy though!


The best part about this year’s fair was all of the surprising points of creativity that popped up around each corner. If there was space on a wall and it was around eye level, it was filled with art, micro stories, drawings, and funny or thoughtful messages. It wasn’t possible to leave the Ooga Booga space feeling  uninspired. I couldn’t help but feel a little more hopeful than usual for the literary community here in LA on a whole. In fact, it almost felt a little like the cute message tacked up on a wall that’s pictured below.


The LA Art Book Fair is the companion to the NY Art Book Fair that is held every fall and apparently MUCH larger than even ours here in Los Angeles. If you are ever out on either coast in the U.S. sometime in the future, it’s a must-attend event for all bibliophiles out there. I know not everyone can hop a private jet out to NY or LA on a whim and make that happen any time soon, but it’s food for future thought in the meantime. Thank you guys for reading today and letting me share a bit of my excitement that’s spilled over from the weekend with you. And if in your hometowns there are any cool book or zine related events you know of, please pass the info along in the comments section! I’d love to keep discovering similar literary happenings not just in the U.S., but beyond.

As always, Lisi will be back next week after she returns home from Mexico. Stay tuned.


Alisha, Office Elf, over & out

Fangirling for Gatsby

Which Gatsby’s Greater?

I’m listening to The Great Gatsby soundtrack as I write this, wishing I could be watching the movie a second time through instead of singing along with Lana Del Rey. I saw it over the weekend and still can’t get Baz Luhrmann’s fantastical interpretation of  Jay Gatsby’s decadent world out of my head. I’ll confess that 70% of me wasn’t anticipating to love or even like it as much as I did. Partly because I tend to be a bit protective over original versions and classic novels that get adapted into films, and partly because of all the canonical books I read as an English Lit major in college, The Great Gatsby was so distinctly my least favorite. I couldn’t wait to get to the last page so I never had to read about that stupid green light EVER. AGAIN. Several of my professors shared the sentiment and class after class, Fitzgerald’s “magnum opus” was the butt of every nerdy literary joke.


A few minutes into the movie and I knew I needed to run home after and re-read the book. I didn’t want to exit the magical world the movie had propelled me into. I wondered, is the movie by far better than the novel? Did I really dislike The Great Gatsby so much all those years ago? Or did I simply absorb the critical opinions of all my teachers in school?  I knew I wasn’t the only one who came to the movie with some reservations. Some were expecting it to be a “disaster” and critics are saying it’s way too much. It’s getting flack for being too exuberant and not refined enough to honor Fitzgerald’s “precisely tuned text.” This is exactly the kind of totally snobby, annoying thing I might have been saying in my head, but guys–I have to tell you–all these critics are just so wrong, and so am I. It will take all of five minutes into the film to realize that it isn’t doing a disservice to the original work at all. It’s resuscitating its life. In fact, the movie re-introduces Gatsby to a whole new generation that might never have the book cross their radar in the same way. It gives it an excitement not many are associating with F. Scott Fitzgerald since… the 1900s. It melds the heart of the classic with amazingly modern touches–like the soundtrack I’m listening to now, which features a number of old songs that have been repurposed and covered with new flare to fit the film. The movie is a lot like that: a marriage of the best of both worlds. In my humble opinion, of course.

Okay, I know I’m verging on fangirling right now, but Baz Luhrmann (the director) said at the premier that a decade ago when he revisited the book, he had a revelation. “It was us, where we are now, this great mirror to reflect back on us,” he said. I know just what he means because I felt the same ten years ago exactly, as I sat in my first college course holding this book and analyzing its message. Here we are a decade later and it’s even more relevant, reflecting the same cautionary tale as it always has. History repeats itself because we have yet to learn from it, but maybe with this movie out, Fitzgerald newbies will consider the world and their perceptions in a fresh way. Maybe the movie will actually bring people to the book. The director noted that that’s exactly what is happening and in the last week the novel has sold more copies than in the author’s lifetime. That kind of news makes my lit geek day and fills my book nerd heart with joy. I’ve also seen it firsthand. The friend I saw the movie with NEVER reads, HATES books (what a weirdo, I know) and has not once considered The Great Gatsby, but she’s coming over tomorrow to borrow my copy of the book. That’s one for Team Bibliophile!

The book she’ll be getting won’t look like the shiny posters for the film.

Modern Gatsby

It’ll look a little more traditional. Something like this:

Classic Gatsby

But it will still tell the same story and ignite the imagination, just like the movie did. Who knows–she may like it even more.

I want to know what you all think. Are you going to see The Great Gatsby? Have you already read it in high school or college? What did you think of it? And what great literary masterpiece do you want to see on the big screen next?

Thanks for reading, lovelies! Lisi will be back next week with her usual Blah-g.