Cathy is running the summer reading challenge that aims to clear some books off your To Read pile again this year – hooray! I’m joining in with my usual ten book goal. As a target, it worked out well for me last year, despite being fooled by some tiny old books into thinking they were short reads. I only missed my goal by one. I’m confident that I’ll hit my goal this year, though, especially since I’ve averaged a book a week so far.
The challenge runs from 1 June to 1 September and you can find out more about what’s involved in Cathy’s introductory post on 746 Books. The main rule is that the rules aren’t tightly binding. So if you choose a book and then don’t fancy it, it’s more than okay to swap it for something else. Or if you have a bit of a reading slump and your target starts to feel like a stretch, then you should feel free to recalibrate to something more realistic. As long as something gets cleared off the To Read pile, you’re golden. Continue reading →
Crudo is Olivia Laing’s first novel. I read her excellent exploration of how loneliness informs art, The Lonely City, a handful of years ago and kept meaning to read more by her.
In The Lonely City, I liked the way Laing included memoir in what is, essentially, a biography of eight artists. Her first novel is a memoir of sorts, a fictional one this time. Inspired by Chris Kraus’s biography of Kathy Acker, as well as by Acker’s own approach to literature, Laing has imagined an alternative Kathy who is also partly Laing, too. Continue reading →
The starting book for this month’s chain is Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair, about extramarital love in a time of war. Although I haven’t read this one, I like Graham Greene’s writing and am interested in reading this novel at some point.
January disappeared quickly, which is most unlike it. Here we are at the first Saturday in February, which makes it time for Six Degrees of Separation, hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best.
This month, Kate has chosen a recent novel that made the Booker shortlist last year, No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood. I haven’t read it myself, but I have read other people’s opinions of it.
I had Kiley Reid’s debut novel Such A Fun Age on my library wishlist but took it off again after I read some lukewarm reviews here in the blogosphere.
Then my employer decided to set up a reading scheme, that they’re calling The Big Read. It aims to encourage staff to think about different perspectives and think more critically about our work and our audiences. Our first book is Such A Fun Age, and we were each given a copy at the start of December. It seemed rude not to read it.
The story concerns Emira, a 25 year old black woman who is drifting a little in life, working as a transcriber and a babysitter, and Alix, one of Emira’s employers, a 33 year old mother of two. It explores the friendship groups of both women, shining a light on Black experience through Emira’s story as well as on the pressures on all women to be someone, to have purpose, to be fulfilled, all while looking good, through the stories and interactions of all the female characters. There’s also a story arc around the differing relationships between men and women, in particular men who want to appear as feminist and Black allies but whose actions are still underpinned by a certain level of chauvinism and white saviour behaviour.
It’s a book that got some hype. It was longlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize. The cover is blazoned with praise, as is the front fly, and there are three pages of praise quotes. I’ve a friend who said that the hype is to be believed. I’ve a workmate who said that it’s good but a bit overegged. But what do I think? Continue reading →
It’s 2022, so a Happy New Year to you. 1 January was also the first Saturday of the month, making it time for Six Degrees of Separation, hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best.
Our starting book this month is one that I included in my January chain two years ago – Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. This is a book I read before I started this blog. It was recommended to me by a good friend in New York, and I loved it.
I’ve been thinking about Shirley Jackson’s short story The Lottery, which was the starting point for the October 2021 Six Degrees of Separation. In particular, I’ve been thinking about the character Tessie, and what she represents for me. I found a few essays online analysing the story in relation to public reaction, symbolism, the purpose of ritual, even Marxist theory. I didn’t find anything about gender roles that satisfied me, though, so I decided to marshall my random thoughts on the subject here.
My second read for the 20 Books of Summer reading challenge is Frankenstein Unbound by Brian Aldiss. I’ve known Aldiss’s name in relation to science fiction for a while but never read anything by him. I picked this novel up in Bookmark, a second hand bookshop in Falmouth, drawn by its cover art.
It is simultaneously, as with most science fiction, a reflection on concerns about the contemporaneous era, and a projection of where current science might lead. It is also a meditation on Mary Shelley’s gothic masterpiece, Frankenstein.