Oh hi! VALIS be damned, I am behind in my monthly reading wrap-ups. Here it is, September, and here I am, talking about June. Ah well, who gives a shit? None of these were published in June; none of them hang on my every word.
June was stressful and the fact that I only read six books reflects it. Ho-ha-hum, business as usual, blah blah blah. I tried to combat the meh by reading books that were really fucking good—no I-am-going-to-force-myself-to-read-this-so-help-mes, and if doing that is success, then I was moderately successful.
Now, time for some book words, flash review style.
Bend Sinister by Vladimir Nabokov. *Shakes fist at Nabokov.* God dammit, he’s good. I stumbled over the pacing a few times, thought I could see him trying, but not committing to something really fucking cool, and talked some shit on the internet. I WAS A FOOL. The ending recast my doubts into hallelujahs of praise, and put Nabokov right back onto the typewriter-shaped pedestal where he lives in my mind. Lesson learned: Do not doubt the talent of Nabokov. Even if you hate him for putting in so many dream sequences.
Bend Sinister is about a dictator and a philosopher and the murder of intellectuals—dystopian government, repression, people being disappeared. I expected it to feel more timely than it did—an aburdist critique of bad government would inevitably hit a Trump chord wouldn’t it?—but the angle from which it tackled the subject left no room for intellectual transmutation in the details.
The World and Other Places by Jeanette Winterson. Still my favorite author, even when she is writing in my least favorite fictional form. These were all gems, a few even SFF-inal. I currently remember no details outside of the warm, happy feeling reading Winterson’s words always provide to my brain, so I will leave it at that.
Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit. More academically written than expected, but this tiny blue book is poignant and frustrating (frustrating not because of the writing, but because the subject is frustrating IRL, every single day) and interesting and sad. A feminist non-fiction classic from the alleged coiner of the term “mansplain.”
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. I thought I would hate this book. This is because I often hate horses books. Not the horses themselves, but the romance of the person-horse relationship that often follows. I have very little patience for any anthropomorphized animals—even when the anthropomorphism is set to like, level one. But dammit, Erika challenged me to read this book, and dammit I was going to do it. Erika has good taste, so I was only partially worried about the subject matter. Sort of. Ok, ok, I was still really worried, because if I hated it HOW WOULD I TELL HER? It’s a lot of pressure for a book. Spoiler: I got lost in this book, and I really enjoyed the romance between two teenagers who race man-eating sea-dwelling monster horses. Who’d have thought? Erika, apparently. (Good job Erika.)
“You’re reading a book about sea horses,” a friend said to me when I explained the plot. Totally dead pan. Totally unimpressed. I laughed for almost five minutes because my god does it sound dumb when you put it like that.
“THEY ARE MURDEROUS SEAHORSES OK,” I replied. Dark, murderous mother fuckers that are so believably other that I could sit back and enjoy their presence alongside the rugged setting and even the sweet budding romance, all of which being so well-written it felt real enough to touch.
White Tears by Hari Kunzru. Current contender for a favorite of the year, I loved the way this book built up its creep slowly, and to such a crescendo! As I started reading, Renay of Lady Business told me the ending had basically destroyed her, to just wait until I got to that B-side, and I could not fathom how the fuck the book was going to manage doing what she implied it was going to do. But my god, it did, and the ending is one of the creepiest things I have read in years. No gore, no jump scares, just…no, shit, I can’t say anymore. So I will say, White Tears is a music(blues)-based ghost story, a comment on both the legacy of racism in the United States and cultural appropriation, and I fucking love it.
The Brief Wondours Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. Hype hype hype, my god, did this book get the hype. Well, I have taken its road, and I am here to tell you that I did not like it at all. I admired the skill that went into its execution, found the style interesting, maybe even worthy of study, but I did not, could not, like it.