The past few months have been a busy time for me. I started a new short-term position at my work, which has been draining but rewarding, I was also working on a costume (or rather, cosplay) for an expo at the end of April. Being creative but in different outlets takes a lot of energy and does not leave much energy for reading. I did, however, do some reading. The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph Cassara tells the fictionalized account of the House of Xtravaganza, an influential house of drag that was founded in New York in the early 80s. For those who have watched Paris is Burning would be familiar with some of these characters and some of the events that transpired. It was an interesting read, but I must admit I was not a fan of the writing, and did not feel connected with the characters. Next I read a Man Booker International shortlist nominated book, The White Book by Han Kang and translated by Deborah Smith. You can read my review here. I do prefer The Vegetarian, although this was a good read.
Cannibalism by Bill Schutt, was an incredibly fascinating read about the history of cannibalism both in the animal kingdom and within our own specie. An interesting tidbit I remember is that there are over 1,300 species that practice cannibalism but we don’t, so which one is normal? I like thinking about it in that manner. Although, it’s not something I think about doing, I do find it compelling to explore and talk about the subject matter. Schutt also debunks some animal cannibalism, which is greatly appreciate and something I can now store in the “useless trivia” part of my brain. I recently finished The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, which follows a teenage girl, Starr Carter, and the events that revolved her witnessing a friend get shot by the hands of a police officer. Although a powerful book with a powerful message, I did find it forced at times and contrived. It did lose a considerable amount of traction halfway through and did not pick up much after that. But don’t listen to me, the ratings for this book are some of the highest I have seen.
Last but certainly not least is Brave by Rose McGowan, which I thought was beautifully written riddled with passages, which I could not believe happened to her when she seemed so…well-adjusted. She lifts the veil behind her life and Hollywood to speak candidly about her abuse at the hands of people she trusted or people who had too much power. It is a thought-provoking memoir, which I would love to reread in the next year. I think there is some braveness that comes with writing about your life when you have experienced so much sadness and had little control over your life. She’s taken back control and it’s great to see. Although she’s not perfect – none of us are as we are cursed with being only human – she still manages to be a hero.
Currently, I am tackling several books at once, as I am severely behind on my reading. I am hoping to get more reviews and criticisms out for the next issue and begin work on my next diagnosis piece.
As most people know, I am deep in the rabbit hole of translated literature. So when the Man Booker International longlist was announced I was quick to attempt to read it in entirety. I had only read one of the thirteen already, which is Frankenstein in Baghdad, which is reviewed in this issue. I ordered every book that my library had and ordered some of my priorities. While I have not had the best of times with the longlist I have discovered two new favourites. First was Argentinean novel Die, My Love by Ariana Harwicz (translated Sarah Moses and Carolina Orloff). The other was a book that seemed tailor made for me, The 7th Function of Language by Laurent Binet (translated by Sam Taylor), it had everything I look for in a novel;it was thrilling, and there was plenty of philosophy and literary criticism. While Virginie Despentes’, first instalment of a trilogy, Vernon Subutex 1 (translated by Frank Wynne) was a lot of fun to read and I felt I could relate, I have to read more of the series to make up my mind.
I still have a few more novels to read from the longlist but at this point I am sick of been bound by the longlist and I keep looking lustfully at some of my other books. I tend to read whatever I feel like when I feel like it, so having a set reading list has been a bit of a struggle. Besides, there are so many others out there that look interesting and I am forever being distracted by other books.
All of my reading for the past two weeks has been for university, but luckily the books I was assigned have been ones I’ve wanted to get to for a long while. For my module on the American city I read Anne Rice’s Interview wit the Vampire which had been on my list since I was younger and became fascinated with the gothic subculture. I found the novel rich and complex in it’s treatment of gender and sexuality, and the representation of New Orleans was saturated in it’s gothic and carnivalesque history. Set in the same city, I also read A Confederacy of Dunces which is one of the funniest books I’ve read on the module and plays on stereotypes of American masculinity.
My second module had me revisiting one of the winners of the Costa Book Award – Emma Healey’s Elizabeth Is Missing. This is a spin on the detective novel and follows an old woman with dementia as she attempts to solve a 70-year-old crime. I haven’t seen a detective novel so removed from it’s original roots in the genre and yet so uniquely portray the uncovering of a mystery. The treatment of characters and the way clues are dispersed through the narrative is incredibly clever.
In my down time I’ve turned to poetry, reading work from some of my favourite poets such as EE Cummings and TS Eliot just in order to give me a break from fiction. I find that Eliot’s poetry can quickly grate on me the further on you read into his work, but Prufrock and The Waste Land are still two of the best pieces of read. Cummings, on the other hand, is a poet I will never get sick of reading, and I truly recommend him to anybody interested in American literature or beautiful poetry.