twenty-two. meghan daum (ed.), selfish, shallow, and self-absorbed (picador, 2015).
any person who marries but rejects procreation is seen as unnatural. but a woman who confesses never to have felt the desire for a baby is considered a freak. women have always been raised to believe they would not be complete and could not be thought to have succeeded in life without the experience of motherhood. (did woolf believe that her husband’s life must also be judged a failure for reasons of childlessness? i doubt it.) that there could be something in the world that a woman could want more than children has been viewed as unacceptable. things may be marginally different now, but, even if there is something she wants more than children, that is no reason for a woman to remain childless. any normal woman, it is understood, wants — and should want — both. (sigrid nunez, “the most important thing,” 109-10)
when this collection was first announced, i immediately started making grabby hands for it, purely for selfish (heh) reasons, as i fall within the ranks of those who do not want and have never wanted or been fond of children. i was delighted when it was published, and, while i loved it, i admit to wanting more. i wanted more from people of color. i wanted more from younger people, people in their twenties and thirties. i wanted more from people who didn’t want children because they don’t like babies/children. i wanted more variety, which isn’t to say that the sixteen essays don’t have much variety — i just found myself wanting more. still, highly recommended.
twenty-three. michel faber, the book of strange new things (hogarth, 2014).
“you are …” said lover five, and paused to find the right word. “… man. only man. God is more big than you. you carry the word of God for a while, then the word become too heavy, heavy to carry, and you must rest.” she laid her hand on his thigh. “i understand.” (474)*
one of the things i found most impressive about the book of strange new things was that we were with peter the whole time, and yet his perspective didn’t get dull or boring. it added to the weirdness of the situation, of being on another planet, unable to communicate with earth except through this shoot, and it added a visceral sense of immediacy because, as he experienced everything for the first time, so did we. i liked how faber wrote about faith, even when peter was being so frustratingly narrow and pastor-first, husband-second — i found it frustrating in the ways that people [of faith] can be frustrating. i think that’s what struck me most about the book, how realistic it felt. like, even though it was mostly set on an alien planet with this unknowable corporation, the heart of the book was human and knowable and relatable. also, this is one helluva gorgeous book.
(edited: god, i was flipping through the book to find a quote, and pages 442-5 still reduce me to a sobbing mess. i don’t know why. there’s something about those pages that are a punch to the gut, this character’s desire to live, her faith that is so different from peter’s evangelistic faith in the rawness, the desperation, of it. in the face of that, peter’s faith comes across as privilege and indulgence.)
* a note: the oasans (the native population), can’t pronounce “s” and “t,” so, in the book, they’re written in special characters that i can’t mimic on my keyboard, so i’ve simply filled in the “s”es and “t”s.)
twenty-four. catie disabato, the ghost network (melville house, 2015).
“what does it matter if you’re not going?” (molly, 279)
i read this in less than twenty-four hours, starting in the late evening and finishing in the morning, pausing only to sleep. the ghost network is a fun, zippy ride that takes you around chicago, and there’s a mystery element to it (a pop star has gone missing!), with a weird sect, underground stations, and mysterious headquarters! there’s also plenty of sass and humor, and it’s just a lot of fun, a great way to pass a summer afternoon with some iced coffee and something sweet!