(I know I said I wasn’t going to write for a while, but…)
Always Coming Home
Ursula K LeGuin
I read this at the beach, dipping in and out of it in between spooning and freezing swims and laying on the floor watching nature shows and doing the dishes. I’ve read it more times than I can count since I was about fifteen years old, and even though I now find some of it a bit dream-catchery, I still feel like I know all the people in the book and that I’m visiting the Valley every time I read it. I will never stop reading this book.
How To Be A Woman
A friend was reading this at the beach and I saw it on the bestseller shelf at the library, which is a place I have not been for ages which is very sad, and I decided to pony up the five dollar bestseller fee because my sister is a librarian and heaven knows libraries need all the help they can get. Anyway, Caitlin Moran is just my age but she is married with kids and was an indie music reporter when she was like sixteen or something. It’s a very fast and fun sort of writing style which accounts for my blasting through it in one sitting, and I was easily able to sort of ignore all the ‘Getting Brazilians is wack!’ and ‘Phwoar, now that I’m in my thirties my BOOBS SURE ARE SAGGY amirite ladies??” stuff in favour of the exhortations to forget about what we’re going to be, as women, and concentrate on what we’re going to do. I go back and forth on whether that’s a good idea, for me, to concentrate on doing or being, so it was cool to read a bit about that. Also I liked the stories about her family in Wolverhampton and all the Brit Pop references.
In Other Rooms, Other Wonders
A nice tight set of slightly interlocking stories about Pakistan (and London, and Paris, and other places) that were smoothly absorbing to read, if that makes sense. Most of them were about women, one way or another, and I thought a lot about love and relationships with men while I was reading this.
Voice of America
E. C. Osundu
I banged right through this in one sitting as well, which was an absolute luxury. Stories about Nigeria and America—or maybe about Nigerians and Americans. My favourites were the letter a Nigerian mother writes to her son abroad and the description of an expat bar run by a former prostitute.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Another set of short stories. I think my favourite was the one about a child actor’s crush on his best friend’s sister. Actually as I think of it a lot of these were about family relationships—I pretty much never tire of reading family stories, it would seem.
The Great Frustration
This was a very thinky, sneaky set of short stories that I finished off in one setting. They were all so weird but in a great way for me—not weird for the sake of weirdness, for the sake of blowing your mind, man, but because the world is a sort of weird place and so the stories, I guess, that come out of it, are going to be weird. I totally loved the story about the scientists who work on a mummy named Loeka, and the one about a kid who performs in a racist play. Also, from an imaginary lecture to imaginary students about imaginary one-celled creatures: “We must begin to approach the idea that, perhaps, emotion exists for emotion’s sake, and that what makes our inner events so intense and manifestly difficult to understand is the end toward which all emotion is moving is unknown even to its own components.” Very goddamn salient, I tell you what.
A friend lent me this and I quite enjoyed it, in a sort of innocent, happy, mildly interested about the world sort of way, the way I enjoy most of the Bill Bryson books I’ve read. Like, it doesn’t make a lot of sense organizationally but I learned some interesting facts about Victorian servanthood (which of course I already knew all about thanks to the possibly-slightly-rose-coloured-glasses of Downton Abbey), fossil records, architecture, the formation of cast iron, the miseries of the spice trade, and what used to count as breakfast in middle-class English homes.
I don’t know why I was thinking about this book today, but I happened to get a ride home from work and get dropped off at the library—hooray for instant gratification. Finished it in one sitting this evening at home, which frankly wasn’t hard because there are a lot of white spaces in between the paragraphs, in the edition I read. I felt sorry for the man and the boy, even as I appreciated the writing style that didn’t really tell you anything about them or what had happened or why they were doing what they were doing or what. Lots of imagery re: ash, dust, snow, wind, etc. As with all dystopian novels I read, underneath my mind while I was getting into this story was the very evidenced-based conviction that if there is some sort of apocalypse then I am guaranteed to be killed and eaten the first week thereafter, which is probably a blessing given that I have no useful survival skills whatsoever.