This concludes my last set of books read in 2017. I’ll follow this up with my traditional yearly book analysis in a bit.
The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell: Tales of a 6’ 4”, African American, Heterosexual, Cisgender, Left-Leaning, Asthmatic, Black and Proud Blerd, Mama’s Boy, Dad, and Stand-Up Comedian, W. Kamau Bell. I enjoyed reading/listening to this book, just like I enjoy listening to most of Bell’s work. I would say that for fans of Bell’s this book is most enjoyable at the beginning and end – I am deeply familiar to the point of boredom with his politics and opinions on the past few years’ events, but still appreciated the moments where he provided some of his internal conflict and personal events that shape his perspective.
Caucasia, Danzy Senna. This book, narrated by one of two biracial daughters of activist parents struggling, fighting, and trying to live in 1970s America, feels like an otherworldly dream that is deeply rooted in true historical events. The levels of commentary and conflict around color, race, identity, are so so good! Recommended.
Made for Love, Alissa Nutting. MADE FOR LOVE is totally different from Tampa, but also kind of about sex, but this time set a little bit in the future and focused on a woman who leaves her husband the CEO of a tech company called Gogol, because he was trying to put a chip in her brain. But also there are many other weird events and characters, but all of it is sharp and hilarious and unreal. Recommended.
Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?: And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House, Alyssa Mastromonaco. I would have recommended this book for anyone who wants to reminisce about the Obama years, or if you just have no idea how getting jobs in politics works and are curious about the industry. Mastromonaco makes clear that the book is geared towards young women looking for advice on being a career woman in male-dominated fields (although she mentions at one point she aims towards high school and early college, which seems a bit too early – 3 years out from college I feel like I really appreciate the advice and find it critical right now).
The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros. Apparently, I had this book laying around my house and, in an effort to read more young adult fiction, picked this book. THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET is evocative and devastating, making me feel both the joy and pain of being in an immigrant community as a kid in America and not totally understanding. Reads like poetry, I savored every word. Recommended.
Just Kids, Patti Smith. JUST KIDS is Patti Smith’s memoir of her life with Robert Mapplethorpe. Together, they were bohemian artists living in the Chelsea Hotel in the sixties and seventies while exploring and growing the crafts they are both famous for. I loved Patti Smith’s writing before, and I feel like this book explored content and experiences that were in some ways missing from the more introspective life of Smith after Mapplethorpe in M TRAIN. But I felt like in a way she undercuts her own autonomy and creative presence - she describes her work and process very matter-of-factly but describes in much more detail how Mapplethorpe explored and grew his sexuality and process, or how other relationships like that with Sam Shepard influenced her work. It’s a fascinating and rich autobiography that stuck with me in great detail because of her writing skill. Recommended.
We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I feel a little duped, because I thought this was a popular book but it turns out to be the text of her popular Ted Talk. To everyone else’s credit, I had not listened to the Ted Talk in its entirety, so it was not a totally wasted set of time but it was much shorter and more brief than I expected.
What Happened, Hillary Rodham Clinton. I wish Hillary had written this book before the election, as well as after, as well as all the time. This book is like what HRC would sound like if she had a blog - well-researched and methodical but also personal and digressing into the things that matter to her, like her family and her friends and things she finds interesting. We put HRC on a pedestal so much, and I feel like this book is what you get when you stop asking anything of her – I loved it but I also hated that I had to read so many other HRC books when this is the one I wanted to whole time (HARD CHOICES was so long). I get that these are all parts of a singular multidimensional person, but I liked this book so much that it made me irritated that I hadn’t gotten it earlier in my life. Anyway.
Clayton Byrd Goes Underground, Rita Williams-Garcia. This book was nominated for the National Book Award, so I wanted to read it. It is a young adult novel about a boy named Clayton Byrd, and it is a journey and an adventure! The book has joyful and sorrowful notes, but I really liked the way it captured and described moving through New York through Clayton Byrd’s story.
Speedboat, Renata Adler. This novel makes me feel like I met a very cool journalism person at a dinner party and am now seeing them everywhere (or internet stalking them a lot). Speedboat is ostensibly fiction, but written like autofiction or a prose essay – I didn’t really have a strong passion for any specific part of the plot, but the way Adler’s narrator observed and commented on everything I liked.
The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt. Someone told me this book was like a “highbrow Da Vinci Code”, which is probably not true unless you think the Da Vinci Code was about someone stealing the Mona Lisa. Someone else told me this book was stunningly sad, which I didn’t actually find true at all – this book is a fun, adventurous bildungsroman that I would actually liken to a highbrow-non-fantastic Harry Potter than anything else - youthful boy undergoes a lifechanging trauma, and has to carry some secret while being drawn to random friends and allies who help him find himself. The end felt a little preachy about the value of art, but maybe deserved after crafting such an engrossing novel. Recommended.
The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu. I LOVED this book. It was recommended because it had the eclipse and some other-worldly concerns that motivated a new sense of humanity and appreciation for our world, but no one told me it also had (a) a great narrative around use of virtual reality that wasn’t goofy or cheesy (b) MULTIPLE technical, scientific, plot-driving women who were interesting and different and weren’t just love interests (c) basically a more philosophical, thoughtful version of the themes of To Serve Man, my favorite Twilight Zone episode (aliens are coming, what do we do? note that this comparison is not a spoiler at all bc this book is complex and very different).
No One Can Pronounce My Name, Rakesh Satyal. This book is a luminous, joyful and heartbreaking look at a number of Indian Americans (immigrant and US-born) in Cleveland Ohio and how their stories intersect and influence each other. This book is also notable for being such a lovely account of coming into one’s gayness as an Indian or Indian American, both in how the charcters explored it themselves and how they expressed it with each other. I laughed, I cried, I really loved this book and am so happy it exists in this world. Recommended.
Sour Heart, Jenny Zhang. Jenny Zhang had already written one of my favorite poems, so I knew this collection of stories would be amazing. What I was not prepared for, however, was the emotional darkness. Some of the stories are intellectually gutting, but some are just physically graphic in a way I really did not anticipate. All the stories, with their sweetness and grittiness, focus on young girls in Chinese American immigrant families in Queens-New York-Long Island. I found the range and depth of perspectives really captivating; it is rare to see so many young, unique girls in one book. Recommended.
Blood on Snow, Jo Nesbø. Did you know Patti Smith reads the audiobook version of this book? I have to be honest, I was kind of over Nesbø, or at least the Harry Hole books, but knowing that Patti Smith had read the audiobook inspired me to read BLOOD ON SNOW late one night when I wanted a moody noir. The quality is about the same of other Nesbø mysteries, but he really captures a dark, dreary Oslo monotony that I loved falling into.
Midnight Sun, Jo Nesbø. This one is strictly worse than BLOOD ON SNOW. Worse, dumber protagonist, worse, dumber storyline, worse, dumber twist ending in that it was HUGELY dumb and unrealistic.
Emerald City, Jennifer Egan. I don’t adore Egan like other avid readers – VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD was good; LOOK AT ME was eerie and totally underrated, so I expected the popular EMERALD CITY to fall somewhere in between. I hated Why China?, Emerald City, and Sisters of the Moon. I loved Spanish Winter and Sacred Heart enough to make up for it. I constantly thought about how aimless all these women seemed, not powerless but mostly affectless; this quality is similar to the protagonist of LOOK AT ME but without the urgency.
Signs Preceding the End of the World, Yuri Herrera. This book is a weird, kind of mystical narrative surrounding a woman who crosses the Mexico-US border to find her brother. It reads kind of like a fever dream, and has really lush descriptions and characterizations.
A Colony in a Nation, Chris Hayes. This book was one of those “preaching to the choir” kind of books - I am already on Hayes’s page when it comes to issues of race and power and policing, but I liked the way he explained and presented many of the facts of our country. He does a good job describing systemic and political forces first introduced in the writing of Michelle Alexander and Ta-Nehisi Coates. I would recommend this book to help convince any centrist family or friends you talk to of the urgency of certain issues in this country, or to prepare your own arguments against center-right family/friends.
The Answers, Catherine Lacey. This is a cute novel with many nice elements and plotlines but ends up becoming less than the sum of its parts. There is a bit about New Age-y treatments for chronic pain, and the kind of work people are forced to do to get treatment for the health issues, and then there is another plot about simulating a perfect relationship, which is interesting in and of itself. The first plotline felt very similar to things written by Miranda July, whereas I feel like the second was missing some satirical subtext to give it a bit more depth.
In Between: The Poetry Comics of Mita Mahato, Mahato, Mita. Mita Mahato constructs these paper-cut collage-style poetry comics, and this book collects them. The comics are visually spare and beautiful. The poems range from incomprehensibly funny to more serious, and I liked the form of integrating the visual and the text for poetry in this way.
Tender Points, Amy Berkowitz. This book stayed with me for a long time after I read it. In a prose-poem essay style, Berkowitz captures her continued existence as a fibromyalgia patient grappling with issues of the body, pain, feminism, her sexual assault, accessibility, pop culture, and how to live with an illness no one really understands. I learned a lot about fibromyalgia and its history as a “woman’s disease”, but beyond that the book is stunningly well written and really well scoped in how it discusses pain, womens voices, and what it means to talk and listen and be heard. Recommended.
Lonesome Lies Before Us, Don Lee. This book described (theoretically) the ex-country musician Yadin Park and his girlfirned Jeanette Matsuda in a dying resort town in mid-California. It has some tropes very characteristic of Don Lee, an author I typically enjoy, but the book was so oddly paced and meandering. It also suffered deeply from a tell-instead-of-show syndrome. I didn’t really feel anything about this book.
Electric Arches, Eve L. Ewing. Lovely, luminous mix of prose and poems and visual art on black girlhood and womanhood in Chicago. I think there is a piece for everyone in this book (mine is The Device) but the writing throughout is evocative and engrossing. Recommended.
Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America, Barbara Ehrenreich. I agreed with the thesis of this book – unambiguous focus on positive feelings and outcomes is good for capitalism and bad for people. Ehrenreich does a good job outlining how the arguments of positive thinking have seeped into many different Industrial Complexes. She doesn’t really provide solutions; from a writing perspective, to be honest, the book ends rather sharply with little resolution. The sections that shine are the ones where she can integrate her experiences with the topic or the interviewee into the narrative. I started skimming the book in the middle when those sections waned.
All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders. I was told this book was scifi but also a love story and I guess that’s what I got? I would more fairly characterize it as “future tech + witchcraft + young love”. There are some cute “young people in SF” angles that I liked. The beginning of the book was really unique and clever. The middle and end felt a little contrived and also a litlte like Big Hero 6 in the idealistic Future Tech vibes.
Eleven Hours, Pamela Erens. This is the story of a woman’s eleven hours in labor. It is a great encapsulation of a singularly woman’s experience that I don’t read enough about? I find labor really enigmatic and mysterious and this was a great piece of fiction constructing a narrative around the women who bring life into this world – the mother, the attending nurse, etc. Really cool and interesting book. Recommended.
The Story of My Teeth, Valeria Luiselli. What a strange and funny book! It is literally a man describing the story of a set of teeth he replaced his own with, the story of them, and everything that happens. I read this book seeking a story set in Mexico City, which it definitely satisfies with even though most of the narrative takes place in a specific neighborhood. The narrator and the storyline is so beguiling and fun – it has been a long time since I have been so amused by a book’s premise. Recommended.
Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, Mason Currey. I remember reading the blog this book is based on, where the author does some research and finds some description of how a famous artist works and posts the description on Tumblr. This is that in book form, so, it’s mildly entertaining and interesting but pretty hard to read exactly like a book, given that there is no exposition between each description. Interesting if there are specific people you want to learn the working habits of, although it ultimately boils down to “everyone you think is great got here through hard work”.
Sudden Death, Álvaro Enrigue. I didn’t like this book, which describes a tennis game between historical greats with satirical edge. I don’t know – I might be missing the historical background to get this joke, but it could be a narrative crafted from an intricate web of historical trivia and historical fictions, or a random mishmash of history and fiction without any rhyme or reason, depending on how you read it. I think I read it like the latter.
Suite for Barbara Loden, Nathalie Léger. Oof, I love books like this – dreamy meditations by women about other great women. This book is ostensibly about Barbara Loden, who the author is tasked to write an essay about, but it ultimately devolves into a haphazard meditation on women in creative careers and how they carry themselves through the male gaze and expressive themselves around it, mixing in the author’s own events with Loden’s history. I didn’t know anything about Barbara Loden but loved reading this. Recommended.
American Street, Ibi Zoboi. This book is about a girl who immigrates from Haiti with her mother to join her aunt and family in Detroit, and how she adjusts to life as an immigrant, life in a certain portrait of black America while also feeling like another. It is about how people survive under different circumstances, and kind of the different intersections of undertanding we have for each others’ struggles. I felt a little emotionally manipulated by the end, but the writing is very capturing. Recommended.
Stephen Florida, Gabe Habash. I read this book because Roxane Gay said she loved the writing. I would agree. It reminded me of Napoleon Dynamite in a way, because of the stilted, self-centered narration and the midwestern setting, but is otherwise a pretty unique book. Follows a wrestler (Stephen Florida) during a year in college. Really interesting book. Recommended.
A Kind of Freedom, Margaret Wilkerson Sexton. I enjoyed reading this book, a portrait of New Orleans across three generations, but was left underwhelmed by the formulaic structure. I really fell in love with some of the characters in certain generations and could have gladly read whole books about them – Sexton does a great job writing each of the storylines individually, and together the portrait of the family and how American racism affects their lives is very impactful.
Rainbows End, Vernor Vinge. This book was recommended to me as a good example of a VR speculative future. I didn’t really like anything about it - way too many characters and interweaving plots, not a ton of charcter or plot development, weird pacing. It inspired me a little, but I found much of it incoherent or cheesy.
An Untamed State, Roxane Gay. This book is AMAZING. It is intense, and it is gripping, and I prepared to be left alone for a number of hours so you can scream, white knuckle, cry, laugh, etc. in peace. Roxane Gay is a master of pacing. This book elucidates many of my fears, and is very cathartic. Recommended.
Miss Burma, Charmaine Craig. This book, which I listened to as audiobook and then re-read as a real book, was suggested on the front page of the Seattle Public Library when I was looking for an audio book, and it was read by the author so I was interested (that’s the only kind of audio book I really like). It is a fictional novel following a family, in which the daughter becomes the first Miss Burma beauty queen - so in some ways, it follows a family growing and changing through the shifts and wars of Myanmar-Burma’s history. I didn’t know a lot about this topic, so I learned a lot from this book, including my own culture (Bengal)’s relation to the topic, as well as the long history of nationalism and genocidal wars that have occurred. It is a really complex and challenging book, occasionally littered with emotional speeches that feel like lectures from a textbook than conversation, but is kind of necessary given how little a reader may know about the subject matter. I felt even more emotional about the narrative knowing that Craig is fictionalizing the history of her own family (her grandmother was Miss Burma). This is probably one of the most beautifully written and impactful books I read this year. Highly Recommended.
Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, Carlo Rovelli. Nice pop science book trying to capture the scientific elegance and historical context of physics across a series of lessons. Like all pop sci, I expect this was likely watered down and didn’t read for the content so much as the style, to read a new way of describing physics concepts to non-physics folks.
Arbitrary Stupid Goal, Tamara Shopsin. Tamara Shopsin describes her family’s history in Brooklyn through a series of short interweaving vignettes and narratives. I wasn’t interested in this story at first but over time felt so attached to the portrait of New York she was painting that I felt compelled to become invested in their pain. I did not see the New York she describes but I feel like I have, and lived it - she makes a unique and romantic experience feel like a secret we share. Very nice. Recommended.
Sister Outsider, Audre Lorde. Well, this is a book I am embarrassed I am only now reading. How did I even see the world? Audre Lorde has such a clear way of articulating what we all see, and describing what we see but do not understand. She is so thoughtful and insightful and generous, to us, the reader who cannot know what she doesn’t but to whom she explains so clearly. I listened to this as an audiobook, then reread the meaningful parts in a book I could annotate, but will probably read again and again. She enunciates so clearly things I didn’t know I understood deeply. Highly Recommended.
The Dark Forest, Cixin Liu. I was really disappointed with this follow up to THE THREE BODY PROBLEM, which was brilliant, because this book was just tiresome. Some interesting elements, but pretty much everything I loved about the first book was absent from this one (focuses only on poorly drawn macho-men characters, very little happens in the VR world, weird tonal shifts throughout the book).
Sorry to Disrupt the Peace, Patti Yumi Cottrell. This book is probably what people call “darkly funny” because the narrator is hilarious but the actual content of the story is quite dark. The protagonist, Helen, goes back to her dysfunctional adoptive-parents’ home to “investigate” why her (also adopted) brother committed suicide. Through her search she also reflects on her own life and how it compared to her brother’s, discussing how it feels to be an artist around other creative people and also not around them, growing up as a Korean adoptee with white parents, and just general interactions with dry wit.
The Guide, R.K. Narayan. The Guide is a Narayan story that I picked up so I could read a book published during my parent’s birth year for Seattle Book Bingo (which I didn’t finish). This book is a cleverly written story about a man who becomes a spiritual guide and the way in which he falls into this life, which is not as wholesome as his followers may believe. Interesting, clever, and really evocatively written. Recommended.
We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, Samantha Irby. This essay collection is funny and far reaching, covering a range of complicated issues and feelings (poverty, fatphobia, blackness, queerness) with very easy grace and humor. The essays made me laugh out loud and I loved reading them, but at times felt like as a whole the collection was maybe overly long. Recommended.
Faces in the Crowd, Valeria Luiselli. Another dreamy piece of fiction about a woman writing about another artist. I didn’t know that much about this book but picked it up after loving STORY OF MY TEETH – I don’t want to spoil anything more about the actual contents of the book but it is so interesting and weird and expertly written. Recommended.
The Kardashians: An American Drama, Jerry Oppenheimer. What a hateful, racist, sexist book. I picked this up thinking I would get a better picture of the Kardashian family after listening to an interesting interview between Kris Jenner and Janet Mock. I would have been interested to read from an unbiased, critical source about the rise of the matriarch momager and how she grew her family’s success, but instead got a cruel, gossipy, hugely unfair to women in general summary of some hurt feelings regarding Kris Jenner and Robert Kardashian. Also, why write a book about an Armenian family if you hate Armenians? Or a book about a matriarch-run family if you hate women? I guess I’m glad to have gotten some history and a window into how some awful people think, but I’m still waiting to get my unbiased, antiracist/sexist critique or biography.
Symptomatic, Danzy Senna. I loved this book, a kind of feverish, haunting thriller about being mixed-race and passing. Apparently this book is very similar to Nella Larsen’s Passing, which I haven’t yet read. Senna’s writing is so artful and I feel like there are so many ways she plays with tropes of standard thrillers, the “tragic mulatta” narrative, etc. I really loved reading this and the “Study Notes” questions at the end were surprisingly thoughtful! Recommended.
Reset, Ellen Pao. I was excited to read this memoir from Ellen Pao, who famously sued a prominent venture capital firm for discrimination. Her experiences were relatable and familiar but when put so clearly on the page it made me feel really bummed, yet again, that she had to go through this, that she lost, that she was so clearly pushed off the glass cliff at Reddit. I didn’t like the beginning or the end of the book, which were kind of like “life updates without comment” and I didn’t feel like she did a good job of interrogating her privilege, her opportunities, or the choices she’s making going forward. Not to say I don’t agree with them, I just didn’t feel like those parts of the book were very introspective. Anyway, Ellen Pao is amazing and I hope many people learn from what she has brought to light. Recommended.
Little Tales of Misogyny, Patricia Highsmith. This title is very misleading! The book makes a lot more sense if you think of it as “Little Tales for Misogynists”, which is what Goodreads tells me the German title of the book translates to. In any case, these stories are either cruel, hateful screeds on how awful women are or biting, witty critiques of how people refuse to interpret women as anything but awful. Really great. Recommended.
The Girls, Emma Cline. I’m pretty late to the party on this buzzed-about 2016 novel describing a fictional Manson-esque cult and the women who drive it. Cline is an engaging, observant writer who does a great job capturing the kind of seen-and-be-seen-but-not-too-much internal conflict of a certain kind of girl at a certain age, and pairing that with the hindsight perception of the narrator grown up was a nice balance.
Life on Mars, Tracy K. Smith. What a strong and imaginative collection of poetry. Smith does a beautiful job capturing humanity and drawing contrasts between the kinds of pain felt with each other and the emptiness of outer space. I really enjoyed reading this collection. Recommended.
Hackers, Steven Levy. I hated this book when I started it in 2016 and now that I’ve finally finished it I can confidently say it is Not A Good Book. I persevered through reading it because I did genuinely want to learn the history of the hacker community, who the movers and shakers were and what motivated them, but my god this book is so congratulatory and unintrospective about the people involved. I’m also still cranky about how few women were interviewed and how this was never at all mentioned at any point, even in the (even more self-congratulatory) 10th and 25th anniversary epilogues. It’s also a great example of how not to mythologize a bunch of nerds, given that a lot of the metaphors for transistors, programming in different languages, and software writing are so circular and flowery that I feel like any accessible understanding was lost.
The Case of the Missing Servant, Tarquin Hall. These Tarquin Hall serialized mysteries were very much a situation of me judging a book by its cover and wanting to read it. Luckily, the books are fun, cute, with some depth. The detective in question, Vish Puri, is not a perfect hero, a relic of conservative affluent Indian men that is coming to grips with India’s rapid modernization and continued class struggle, but Hall cleverly uses the mysteries and the detective’s outlook to give more background on social issues that pervade decades after colonialism. This case, in particular, dealt with the servants that support most affluent homes, and the class and gender lines that dictate how people operate. There was also a B-plot involving Puri’s mother, that was fun and enjoyable as well. The books leaned too much on exposition about India at at times, but the mystery was interesting.
The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing, Tarquin Hall. Another interesting mystery from the Vish Puri series, this time concerning the more extremist religious sentiments and the cult-like following around gurus. I found the social issues in this one to be a bit less pressing than in the first case, and felt that there were way too many characters and moving parts for this case to be really cohesive. The Mummy-ji plot in this one, regarding a theft at a kitty party, was an interesting window into how idle affluent married Delhi women spend their time and money, both socially and in beauty parlors, but ultimately that case also lacked the adventure of the first novel.
The Case of the Love Commandos, Tarquin Hall. This Vish Puri novel, the fourth (I am still waiting for the Butter Chicken mystery from the library) goes back to the more controversial social topics, this time regarding love vs arranged marriages, anti-Dalit sentiment in India, and all the kind of race and class issues that are introduced at the intersection of these issues. The main mystery I really enjoyed because it did a good job showing the extent of impact politically, socially, and emotionally that these issues have on a Dalit community.
The Dig, Cynan Jones. I didn’t get into this book at all. At first I was bored, then I thought it would be an interesting meditation on grief, but I think the violent animal imagery (the book is farming centric) and lack of conversation and focus on two dudes whose interiority I didn’t get into at all bored me away. The writing is lovely but I just couldn’t follow or feel anything for anyone involved after the first third of the book.
Eat Only When You’re Hungry, Lindsay Hunter. This book was a really interesting and artfully written take on addiction, from the persepctive of an obese man Greg searching for his missing drug addict son. Hunter has a really good handle on how much to reveal about characters when for maximum kind of depth and understanding – this book made me think long after I finished it.
Ghachar Ghochar, Vivek Shanbhag. This book is important because it’s one of the first Kannada-written books to be published in America, and why I felt excited to buy it. Turns out, it’s also a lovely book in its own right, efficient in the brevity of the narrative but still very deep in how well Shanbhag expresses all the subtle feelings and intimations of an Indian family. A lot happens in this short book! Recommended.
A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf. I’m embarrassed to have not read this sooner as well, but, well, here we are. What a great book, straightforward and frank and joyous and angry. Woolf really was one of the greats. I feel odd writing a review about such a lauded classic piece, so I guess all I will say is Woolf made me want 500 pounds per year and a room of my own as well. Recommended.
Hope in the Dark, Rebecca Solnit. This book was recommended after the election, when many were kind of dejected and a commitment to activism (which as far as I can tell has greatly receded) was everywhere. I found it really hard to read at the time, because Solnit’s optimism and expansive view seemed to kind of gloss over the tragedy of every moment she cites as a time of great change. Also the short length and intense depth of each chapter made it hard for me to maintain a reading rhythm – the pacing of these essays was much worse than the Men Explain Things to Me collection. 10 months later, I pushed myself to finish it, and no longer have my initial complaint, but now feel totally overwhelmed by how recent many liberties and comforts I took for granted were (especially coupled with A Room of One’s Own). Also there is a weirdly racist description of an Asian woman at the end that I was surprised to see from someone so “global” in radical intent.
The Hour of the Star, Clarice Lispector. Another dreamy Lispector short novel. I didn’t love the plot, but the style and the writing is so clever, and the narrator so frustrated by the act of writing and writing about this woman that I was really taken by the whole setup in the end.
Sula, Toni Morrison. Sula is a few things mixed together - a devastating portrait of an early 1900s-1960s city, a painful illustration of friendship between girls who grow into women, and also a portrait of a family of women. Obviously Toni Morrison is a brilliant writer and while this book is slim it is to be savored. Recommended.