May: In like summer, out like a wet rag.
It has been a month as sometimes rainy, sometimes sunny as the weather. Battenkill Ramblers broke up, and I have been sad, and relieved. It’s been fun, and now it is time for some other fun. Differently shaped fun. We might even go on a vacation that doesn’t involve playing music. Haven’t done that in six or seven years. While it does mean we’ll have to pay for the trip ourselves (damn), it does sound pretty fucking relaxing. Still, I am going to miss performing all those songs.
On Young Germany, I put together a video about author Adam Fletcher, who writes amusing books about German language and culture. Two of those—Denglisch for Better Knowers and Make Me German—are being raffled off in a facebook giveaway. If you want to try to score them, you can enter here until June 15th. Or read about Fletcher’s take on becoming German.
But hot damn, what a month May was for books! I read so many mouth-wateringly, pen-quiveringly amazing books in May that choosing just three favorites, as I like to do, was damn near impossible. So what if I did not finish The Word Exchange (despite a great start)? I read the intense and stunning The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne, Lauren Beukes’ dark and visceral Zoo City, Aliya Whiteley’s strange and beautiful novella The Beauty, James Morrow’s satirical nuclear apocalypse This Is the Way the World Ends, and three more China Miévilles that have each increased my appreciation for his work (didn’t realize it was possible to like him more).
Lev Grossman’s The Magicians’ trilogy came to a close for me this month with The Magician’s Land, the roughest of the three books, though still one that left me with a happy warm fuzz on my brain. City of the Iron Fish by Simon Ings didn’t do it for me the way his other books have, and the damn thing was still impressive. Steven Boyett’s Ariel taught me that I don’t like unicorns, and The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell stole my ink heart while I wasn’t looking with beautiful language. Cormac McCarthy clubbed me over the head with Blood Meridian (which I read thanks to recommendations from Books, Brains, Beer and Admiral Ironbombs)—which is so fucking well written I wonder why other writers even bother.
Ultimately, I had to drop the month’s reads into the ring and let my favorites fight it out. The survivors were the meanest, of course. Violence tends to win in a cage fight. As does killer mold. So it was that Zoo City, Un Lun Dun, and The Beauty ended up on the top of the heap and in the photo at the top of this post. For the grit and violence, for the absurdity, and for the weird and the mold, respectively. Blood Meridian should have won in the violence category, but that book lives on another plane entirely.
You know what else I did? I went time traveling via yard sale book find and re-read the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series that my friends and I worshiped as kids. (Flash lights under chins. Girl scout camp. Graveyards. Seances. Ghost hunting. Ouija boards. Forts in the woods. Secrets in the forest. THE CALL IS COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE.) The stories in Scary Stories I loved then were the same stories I enjoyed this time around, usually centered around more modern tales of horror (though why I loved that poem about worms eating corpses, I can’t say today). The third volume was just as lame as I remembered.
Books Read in May (numbers reflect the year’s reading totals):
59. The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne
Did not finish: The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon (gave up on page 68)
60. This Is the Way the World Ends by James Morrow
61. The City and the City by China Miéville
62. Make Me German by Adam Fletcher
63. The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley
64. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark collected by Alvin Schwartz
65. More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark collected by Alvin Schwartz
66. Scary Stories 3 collected by Alvin Schwartz
67. King Rat by China Miéville
68. Un Lun Don by China Miéville
69. Zoo City by Lauren Beukes
70. City of the Iron Fish by Simon Ings
71. The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell
72. The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman
73. Ariel by Steven R. Boyett
74. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (audio, re-read)
75. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
I read all the books on the to-read shelf with “city” in the title. Zoo City, City of the Iron Fish, The City and the City, and I am currently reading City of Saints and Madmen. I read three apocalypses, checked almost nothing off on my alphabet challenge, and further fucked up my male-to-female author ratio for the year by concentrating on my current to-read pile (current count: 30 women/49 men out of 75).
Reading in June
Once the brick that is City of Saints and Madmen is over with, I will pretend I am going to finish Dietmar Dath’s Venus Siegt sometime soon while ignoring it entirely. Then I will contemplate finishing the two nonfiction books I started this month (one about Hiroshima post-bomb and one about punk in the DDR), but I will only ever look at the pictures and wish I had finished them while I was still interested.
While I am ignoring the books I’ve already started, I will become distracted by China Miéville and read Embassytown and Kraken. After which I will feel compelled to read a few review copies and blast through Dark Star (epic verse in space!) from Unsung Stories, The Aftermath of Forever by Natalye Childress from Microcosm Publishing, Fire Logic by Laurie J. Marks from Small Beer Press, and Falling in Love with Homonids, a short story collection by Nalo Hopkinson.
What are you planning to read this month?
And now for some raccoons who share my life philosophy: