June 2006 Books

I ‘m having a hard time focusing lately so I have not been able to read very much this past month. I’m sure that will only continue to be the case for the crazy coming month of July, the month that we cannot mention in my house without clutching our pearls and closing our eyes and whispering “I’m sure it will all even out somehow.” So I don’t know if I’ll continue to keep track of what I’ve been reading. Well, I’m sure I’ll keep track but I don’t know if I’ll be able to post it because my internet access is about to get very spotty in a couple of weeks.

Regardless, here’s what I’ve been reading lately.

June 7, 2006
Mating by Norman Rush

This book, man. This book kind of killed me but I couldn’t stop reading it and even though it drove me insane while I was reading it I am also a little disappointed that there isn’t any more of it. Ostensibly about a couple of white people in a village project in 1980s Botswana, it’s also about…uh, well, I don’t really know what it’s about. It’s about expatriation, and philosophy, and Third World development, and socialism, and feminist principles, and all sorts of other things. It’s very talky. People get lost in the desert a couple of times and have long discussions about all sorts of things. The unnamed narrator is, to put it mildly, pretty neurotic, but in an oddly compelling way. She and the other protagonist really did drive me insane, and I did get the sense that they weren’t really people. They weren’t mannequins, either, though, so I don’t know what they were. Anyway, I will just say that a quarter into this book I was feeling very stupid and uneducated, and then by the time I was halfway through it (which took forever…I am losing my ability to read quickly as I age, it would seem, or maybe it’s a concentration thing) I was congratulating myself for understanding almost every word in every sentence. My favorite things in this book were a) the descriptions of how the village of Tsau worked day-to-day and b) the lusciously overboard vocabulary words that lay thick on the ground, some of which are in the dictionary and some of which aren’t: “umbrelloid,” “scionism,” “rubiconic,” ”noctiluminent,” and my personal favorite, “macropineapple.” I kept a running list as I was reading…I don’t remember the last time I did that.

June 13, 2006
The Parrot’s Lament by Eugene Linden

June 15, 2006
The Octopus and the Orangutan by Eugene Linden

I was attracted to these because they’re about animal behavior and cognition (oh, and there’s an octopus in the second title, which you’d think would be a reliable indicator of goodness, but apparently that’s not the case), and I was looking for something sort of light and easy as I lose all semblance of an attention span. They were light, for sure, but I wouldn’t say they were easy to read, unless you find rambling, uninformed prose interspersed with random observations about the crazy stuff the author’s cats get up to easy to read. Ish. I read them both though, so I guess there were some good things here; the parts about the elephants were pretty interesting.

June 15, 2006
The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

Now this was great. This was great. My favorite part is when Miss Brodie tells her class about going to Rome and wearing the frock that is perfect for her figure and complexion. She’s sort of tragic, I guess, and I admit I had a hard time understanding why her betrayer does what she does in the end (and then…becomes a nun? Huh?) but I was so in love with Miss Brodie that I didn’t really care. I’d like to think that I’d have been one of her girls but I have this disappointing suspicion that that wouldn’t have been the case. I have also been thinking about recognizing my prime…I don’t know that I’m as self-assured about mine (have I reached it yet?) as Miss Brodie was.

June 17, 2006
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

I am a huge fan of Dykes To Watch Out For so I was thrilled to see that Alison Bechdel has written a longer and more in-depth graphic novel about her own family. I actually bought this at a book store instead of getting at the library or borrowing it from Sarah downstairs (who actually got to see Bechdel speak when she was in town, lucky!) . Anyway, this book is brilliant and devastating and everyone should read it, as soon as possible. (You can borrow my copy). I remembered why I like a certain kind of graphic novel and so I immediately re-read Paul Has A Summer Job, Monkey Food, The! Greatest! Of! Marlys! and One Hundred Demons after this. Comfort reading that’s sort of kinked up and uncomfortable and very funny, that’s the best kind.

June 28, 2006
Not Her Real Name by Emily Perkins

I was feeling the need to read something written by a New Zealander and I’d not had much luck with getting through The Bone People, so I remembered that I had this in my bookshelves somewhere. I first read this years ago when I was in my own early twenties and stories about people in their early twenties seemed very compelling. I didn’t understand for a long time that the stories were set in New Zealand, I just thought that the characters used funny slang. Now, since I’ve been doing my research, I recognize the references to jandals and L&P and a couple of things make a lot more sense. The stories themselves, in fact, make a lot more sense to me now that I’m in my early thirties, and I don’t exactly understand why. They’re all about uncertainty and vague disappointment and misunderstood desires and…oh. Well. I guess that’s why.


  1. I love these lists! Please get a New Zealand library card soon!

  2. I’ve never read The Prime of Miss JB, but I have seen the movie (I’m sure the book’s far better) and the movie is *terrific*. Maggie Smith. Need I say more? I’d recommend it.

  3. I like Margaret Mahy. I’m rather ashamed to say that I can’t come up with another New Zealand author I know I like — I think not much published there and Australia makes it here, unlike British and Canadian books.
    Anyways, Tingleberries, tuckertubs and telephones : a tale of love and ice-cream is a hilarious children’s book of hers. (Here’s hoping my library link worked.) And I have A Catalogue of the universe, I think it’s upstairs amongst the young adult fiction.