2018 international women's day.

  1. hye-young pyun, the hole (skyhorse, 2017)
  2. han yujoo, the impossible fairy tale (graywolf, 2017)
  3. patty yumi cottrell, sorry to disrupt the peace (mcsweeney's, 2017)
  4. samhita mukhopadhyay & kate harding, eds, nasty women (picador, 2017)
  5. shobha rao, girls burn brighter (flatiron, 2018)
  6. carmen maria machado, her body and other parties (graywolf, 2017)
  7. kim fu, for today i am a boy (HMH, 2014)
  8. jessica b. harris, my soul looks back (scribner, 2016)
  9. rowan hisayo buchanan, harmless like you (sceptre, 2017)
  10. ayobami adebayo, stay with me (knopf, 2017)
  11. jenny zhang, sour heart (lenny imprint, 2017)
  12. julie buntin, marlena (henry holt, 2017)
  13. molly yeh, molly on the range (rodale, 2016)
  14. yoojin grace wuertz, everything belongs to you (random house, 2017)
  15. kamila shamsie, home fire (riverhead, 2017)
  16. kristen kish, kristen kish cooking (clarkson potter, 2017)
  17. kim thuy, mãn (PRH canada, 2014)
  18. chinelo okparanta, under the udala trees (HMH, 2015)
  19. julia turshen, small victories (chronicle, 2016)
  20. sylvia plath, the letters of sylvia plath, vol i: 1940 - 1956 (harpers, 2017)

here's my annual stack for 2018 international women's day, and i love making these stacks so much. i love that i can populate them with predominantly women of color, that finding queer women (and, more importantly, queer WOC!!!) is not like hunting for that needle in a haystack, that i'm left thinking, ah! i should have added this title and this title and that one, too!

diversity makes my cold, little heart warm and swell, and i'm not interested in any celebration of womanhood that celebrates only white women or straight women or mainstream women. in relation, i'm not interested in feminism that excludes certain economic classes, feminism that says that we can be a part of their community only if we have the means to gain admittance into their playground. i'm not interested in feminism that only pays attention to the marginalized when they fulfill a specific need, more often than not a PR one.

and i know that i have to do better, too; i'm not trying to claim that i'm perfect or so much better off than anyone. i know i need to widen my geographic scope and read more from women all over the world. i know i need to read more from trans women. i know i need to read more from women who are not able-bodied.

that said, if you want to start reading more from women who aren't white and/or straight, here's a place to start. for full disclosure, i haven't finished every single book in this stack, and i didn't love them all equal amounts, but i stand by them. there are definitely a few books i've been pushing harder than others — like, oh my god, if you haven't read patty yumi cottrell's sorry to disrupt the peace or julie buntin's marlena or jenny zhang's sour heart yet, i highly, highly recommend you hurry up and do so. if you want to get your heart wrecked, read shobha rao's girls burn brighter and kim fu's for today i am a boy. and, if you're wanting to get into the kitchen more but are kind of intimidated, julia turshen's small victories is so freaking fabulous — and julia's so worth following on instagram and twitter because she actively boosts other women, especially WOC, using her platform to bring attention to issues and pressing concerns and needs.

should i not be spotlighting a few books over all the others? but, wow, i shamelessly admit that i'm stealing time between tasks at work to get this post up sooner than later.

so, hey, to keep this short and sweet: to all my women out there, WOC or not, queer or not, keep telling your bombass stories. keep putting your voices out there and sharing your strength. keep being the heroes of your stories.

and keep listening to the stories of your fellow women and keep supporting your communities and keep lifting up the voices of your fellow women, especially those marginalized among you.

together, may we continue to thrive.

find my stack for 2017 here and 2016 here.

[PDX] cross my heart, hope to die.

perhaps when we find ourselves wanting everything it is because we are dangerously near to wanting nothing. there are two opposing poles of wanting nothing: when one is so full and rich and has so many inner worlds that the outer world is not necessary for joy, because joy emanates from the inner core of one’s being. when one is dead and rotten inside and there is nothing in the world: not all the woman, food, sun, or mind-magic of others that can reach the wormy core of one’s gutted soul planet. (sylvia plath, the unabridged journals, 193-4)

i don’t remember when i first read plath, but i know i was in my twenties. i didn’t start with her poetry either or with the bell jar — my first exposure to plath, as i remember it, was with her journals. i read them slowly over the course of a year-and-a-half, and i loved her language, her words, her thoughts and ambitions and struggles, but the thing that struck me most was that intense sense of recognition that strikes you sometimes and resonates within you. i see you. i know you.

i recognized her — i recognize her still because, in her, i see myself.

it’s not just the shared literary ambitions or frustrations with being a woman in a patriarchal world, carrying the burden of a specific set of expectations she’s to fulfill, and it’s not just that we’re both plagued by sinus colds. it isn’t just the depression, the suicidal tendencies and actions, the mental illnesses. it’s all of it.

it’s her rage, her desire, her hunger. at times, it’s her despair and hopelessness.

it’s how she’s so alive and vibrant and humming with want.

saturday exhausted, nerves frayed. sleepless. threw you, book, down, punched with fist. kicked, punched. violence seethed. joy to murder someone, pure scapegoat. but pacified during necessity to work. work redeems. work saves. baked a lemon meringue pie, cooled lemon custard & crust on cold bathroom windowsill, stirring in black night & stars. set table, candles, glasses sparkling crystal barred crystal on yellow woven cloth. making order, the rugs smoothed clean, maple-wood tables & dark tables cleared. shaping a meal, people, i grew back to joy. (310)

the night before i fly up to portland, i clumsily make tortelloni for the first time. i caramelize onions on low, low heat for two hours, and i make my dough, cracking my eggs into my well of flour, storing unused egg whites in a container in hopes that i’ll figure out some use for them in the future so as not to waste them. (i end up making a lot of mostly-egg-white omelettes. i still have egg whites to use.) my dough is stickier than it usually is, maybe the stickiest pasta dough i’ve made yet, because i thought i’d outsmart my previous attempt by adding a third whole egg because this is cooking, too, experimenting, thinking you’re smarter than you really are, making dough that’s too sticky it won’t come cleanly off the plastic wrap when it comes time to roll.

sometimes, i think it’s cooking that’s taught me best that it’s okay to make mistakes. it’s okay for things not to turn out perfectly, especially the first few times around. it’s okay as long as you keep trying because you will get better.

plath has an appetite as a child, often listing everything she’s eaten at camp in letters home to her mother. it’s pretty impressive, the amount she’s able to consume, and this is something that doesn’t change much as she grows older — if anything, it starts exhibiting, also, in the meals she cooks, once, even, on a tiny little burner stove when she’s honeymooning in spain with hughes.

i love that. i love that she’s expansive not only in her literary ambitions but in every sense. she wants to travel and experience the world. she wants to love, be loved, have sexual adventures. she wants to live her life, and she wants to have a family, and she wants to be published, and she wants this and that and this and that — she wants everything.


the last few weeks have been an exercise in hating myself and trying to talk myself out of that spiral. i’ve been hating myself for not being more level-headed, for having zero chill, for being effusive and open and unbridled about the things and people i love. i’ve been hating myself for having opinions, high standards, expectations and for having the outsized whatever-ness that makes me express my criticism instead of just shutting up and playing nice.

i’ve been hating myself for not being able to network, for being awkward with people, for not being personable, likable, desirable.

i’ve been hating myself for wanting.

i want so obviously, so desperately to be loved, and to be capable of love. i am still so naive; i know pretty much what i like and dislike; but please, don’t ask me who i am. “a passionate, fragmentary girl,” maybe? (165)

the days leading up to portland aren’t filled much with excitement, more with weariness than anything else. i think about hurrying from the office to the airport on friday night, of taking the light rail downtown, of arriving in cold and wet and hunger. i think about waking up at 3:30 am on monday morning, hurrying to the airport, then from the airport to the train station to the subway to the office. i haven’t even left los angeles yet, and i’m already exhausted.

i think about want, about wanting to be a part of something, instead of constantly on the outside looking in. i think about wanting to connect with people, to be friends with them, to be someone more than a casual hello or on-line comment or like. i think about wanting to create something of meaning. i think about wanting to be seen.

recognition, visibility, relatability — these aren’t things i thought about often, at least not conscientiously. i’ve never been the kind of reader or film-watcher or media-consumer who’s wanted to see herself reflected in the culture she inhaled, but the more i think about that in relation to my youth, the more i realize that that was because i was a young person who came up on korean pop, korean dramas, korean media culture, despite having been born and raised in the states.

because i didn’t feel a lack of recognition in my media, i didn’t feel the need to seek it in my reading. i grew up on the “classics,” that bastion of white, predominantly male figures celebrated as figureheads of greatness, of writing to aspire towards, and i never questioned that. i never questioned what i was reading, who i was reading, because the “classics” were safe, they were “classics” for a reason, tested through centuries and maintaining their staying power. i never learned to examine that, not until around 2004, 2005, when i stopped reading, found myself bored with these books i’d loved so much all along, and didn’t read seriously for around a year.

and then i picked up ian mcewan’s atonement. and then daphne du maurier’s rebecca. and then kazuo ishiguro’s never let me go.

this, maybe, is a tangent from where i started, but we’ll stay with it, anyway, because i think it’s important that we remember to question what we read, who we read, and why we read. we need to step out of our comfort zones from time to time, try to see the world another way through another person’s eyes, and, if we only stay within the safe, mainstream zones, we not only do ourselves a disservice but we also do nothing good for publishing at-large.

i don’t believe in living in bubbles, and i don’t believe in abstaining from the world. i don’t believe that things are apolitical — food is political; books are political; and they can’t help but be because policy is influenced by politics and policy determines what people can eat, what they can or cannot have access to. to deny that food is political, to deny that books are political, is to be so shielded by your privilege that you can pretend you aren’t complicit in the system when you’re contributing to the problem.

and this is why i love going to events, to festivals, why i love participating in the conversations swirling around. it’s why i love interacting with people, talking to them, hanging out. it’s why i love spending time with other writers.

because all of it reminds me that this is something. i come from a world that’s always dismissed (and still casually dismisses) literature as being pointless. the korean word often applied is “쓸데없다,” which literally translateㄴ into, “it has no use.” literature is cast off as something for young people; we’re supposed to “mature” into essays and philosophy and non-fiction, leaving the world of make believe for adolescence.

if we are to write fiction, we should write children’s books because those, at least, serve a purpose.

here’s the thing, though: we build our lives on stories. we build our identities on stories. we build our faith, beliefs, worldviews, practices, principles on stories — and many of these stories are fictions that we write in our minds of other people. that’s where prejudice comes from. it’s where stereotypes come from. it’s where bigotry and homophobia and racism and sexism come from.

just because we don’t all write them down in novels doesn’t mean we don’t spend every day spinning them in our minds.

and here’s where fiction, as it is written, comes in — that all fiction is true, that it reflects someone, some part of the world, some set of beliefs, that it has the power to take us away from the tiny little bubble of the world that we know and maybe make us see something new. fiction often gives us the space to say things we can’t say otherwise for whatever reason, and it allows us to imagine an alternative, whatever that alternative may be. it makes us sit in horror, sometimes, because good fiction is a mirror that reflects us back to us, and, sometimes, often i dare say, what we see isn’t pretty.


a brief recounting of wordstock? it was incredible to hear ta-nehisi coates speak; he’s just as eloquent, smart, and funny as you might imagine. a few soundbites i noted from his talk with jenna wortham:

  • re: “the cult of smartness”: the art of being an intellectual obscures the actual work.
  • i think about not embarrassing black people a lot.
  • the guilt of power and recognizing that guilt of power is being used in an unjust way
  • re. w.e.b. du bois: what [he] [an african-american congressman] didn’t get was that what white south carolinians were afraid of wasn’t bad black power. it was good black power. bad black power would reinforce white supremacy, but good black power …
  • they hate the fact that [obama’s] the embodiment of everything a black person is not [supposed to be].
  • i think a lot of writers think their credibility is rooted in being right. i think people expect me to be sincere.
  • chief among all of those is curiosity, and, when you’re chasing your curiosity, you’re going to be wrong.
  • every human life ends badly, but what happens in-between matters.
  • you have to figure out how to angle the thing you love toward the things you care about.
  • people want their king. when people vote, you see who they are.

anyway, that’s all for this part. two more portland posts to come, with more about plath, more about writing and social media and stories.


[dec 5] here's somewhere to be.

rooms. every room a world. to be god: to be every life before we die: a dream to drive men mad. but to be one person, one woman — to live, suffer, bear children & learn others lives & make them into print worlds spinning like planets in the minds of other men. (306)

some days, i run out of words, and today is one of those. (i also spent a fair chunk of time today working on an essay i’d like to pitch, which mostly explains the inability to pull together words tonight.) some days, the loss of words comes with a lack of inspiration, and, during such times, i find myself reaching for sylvia plath’s unabridged journals — so here are a few quotes, along with a few images of the new york public library.

in bed, bathed, and the good rain coming down again — liquidly slopping down the shingled roof outside my window. all today it has come down, in its enclosing wetness, and at last i am in bed, propped up comfortably by pillows — listening to it spurting and drenching — and all the different timbers of tone — and syncopation. the rapping on the resonant gutters — hard, metallic. the rush of a stream down the drain pipe splattering flat on the earth, wearing away a small gully — the musical falling of itself, tinkling faintly on the tin garbage pails in a high pitched tattoo. and it seems that always in august i am more aware of the rain. (123)


the dialogue between my Writing and my Life is always in danger of becoming a slithering shifting of responsibility, of evasive rationalizing: in other words: i justified the mess i made of life by saying i’d give it order, form, beauty, writing about it; i justified my writing by saying it would be published, give me life (and prestige to life). now, you have to begin somewhere, and it might as well be with life; a belief in me, with my limitations, and a strong punchy determination to fight to overcome one by one: like languages, to learn french, ignore italian (asloppy knowledge of 3 languages is dilettantism) and revive german again, to build each solid. to build all solid. (208-9)


simply the fact that i write in here able to hold a pen, proves, i suppose, the ability to go on living. (334)


very few people do this any more. it’s too risky. first of all, it’s a hell of a responsibility to be yourself. it’s much easier to be somebody else or nobody at all. or to give your soul to god like st. therese and say: the one thing i fear is doing my own will. do it for me, god. (435)


it is raining. steady straight streams of rain falling, falling, slicking the green tarpaper roofflats, the pink and blue and lavender slates of the slant roof, looping down in runnels, taking the color of the slates and tiles like a chameleon water. falling in little white rings in the puddles on my porch. dropping a scrim of pale lines between me and the pines, filling the distance with a watery luminous grey. (512)

what if our work isn’t good enough? we get rejections. isn’t this the world’s telling us we shouldn’t bother to be writers? how can we know if we work now hard and develop ourselves we will be more than mediocre? isn’t this the world’s revenge on us for sticking our neck out? we can never know until we’ve worked, written. we have no guarantee we’ll get a writer’s degree. weren’t the mothers and businessmen right after all? shouldn’t we have avoided these disquieting questions and taken steady jobs and secured a good future for the kiddies?

not unless we want to be bitter all our lives. not unless we want to feel wistfully: what a writer i might have been, if only. if only i’d had to guts to try and work and shoulder the insecurity all that trial and work implied.

writing is a religious act: it is an ordering, a reforming, a relearning and removing of people and the world as they are and as they might be. a shaping which does not pass away like a day of typing or a day of teaching. the writing lasts: it goes about on its own in the world. people read it: react to it as to a person, a philosophy, a religion, a flower: they like it, or do not. it helps them, or it does not. it feels to intensify living: you give more, probe, ask, look, learn, and shape this: you get more: monsters, answers, color and form, knowledge. you do it for itself first. if it brings in money, how nice. you do not do it first for money. money isn’t why you sit down at the typewriter. not that you don’t want it. it is only too lovely when a profession pays for your bread and butter. with writing, it is maybe, maybe-not. how to live with such insecurity? with what is worst, the occasional lack or loss of faith in the writing itself? how to live with these things?

the worst thing, worse than all of them, would be to live with not writing. so how to live with the lesser devils and keep them lesser? (436-7)

seven books i'd recommend:

seven books i’d recommend to an aspiring writer (but, really, in general, to anyone) (by request on instagram):

this is a weird list for me to think up, mostly because i feel like there’s something very personal about the books/writing we’re drawn to — and, by that, i mean that we’re drawn to different tones, nuances, narratives, themes, even styles that respond to our own unique experiences and preferences, and there are so many great books out there that speak to those differences.

it goes without saying that this is a list that’s entirely personal to me, given the type of writing i personally aspire to and the themes that attract me.  they aren’t really books about writing because i don’t find those personally useful/inspirational, but these are seven books that i find myself coming back to over and over again, especially when i could use some encouragement as a writer.  (:

01.  still writing, dani shapiro.
this is the only book on/about writing i’ve ever read.  i appreciated it a lot, too — i stumbled across this book in a very timely moment when i was feeling discouraged because i was struggling in my own writing.  i basically read this book thinking, YES!  i agree! the whole time and immediately recommended it to my illustrator friend because a lot of the things shapiro says were things my friend and i had been talking about over the last few months.  

shapiro doesn’t try to romanticize or glamorize the writing life (to be honest, i don’t know how anyone could.  there’s nothing romantic or glamorous about it at all, “it” being the work itself, showing up everyday and sitting at your desk and trying to bleed words onto the page), but she talks about it honestly and openly, even when she’s discussing something like envy.  i appreciated her frankness and that this book gave me a little kick in the butt and got me to stop moping and get back to writing …

02.  the unabridged journals, sylvia plath.
the first time i read plath’s journals, i’d find myself spazzing out over how much i related to her.  her internal struggles about being a writer and a woman and, oftentimes, a woman writer are laid out so bare on the page, and, to me at least, plath has always seemed so eminently relatable.  it doesn’t hurt that i enjoy her writing, too, because there’s a rawness to it, even if there is a voyeuristic feeling to delving into her personal thoughts and records of her life.  at the same time, though, it really is that rawness that i respond to, that humanness that makes her ultimately sympathetic and real.

03.  the english patient, michael ondaatje.
ondaatje’s prose in the english patient — it’s hard to find words to do it credit.  his words drip off the page, and there’s this liquid sensuality to them that wraps you up and doesn’t let you go — and it’s very languid, too, very smooth and rich but not overwhelming or smothering.  the story is haunting, too, with the specter of war looming over them, and the language just serves the narrative and the settings so well.  it’s so beautiful — read it out loud; the words roll off your tongue like lovely morsels.

04.  the history of love, nicole krauss.
if we’re talking aspirational prose, i automatically think of nicole krauss because she writes about loss in the most exquisite ways.  the last few pages of the history of love wring my heart — even now, just thinking about them, my eyes sting — and there’s so much heart in her writing, so much raw sensitivity and fragility, not of the weak sort but in the sense of the human body being a fragile, breakable but beautiful, living thing.  

i also highly recommend her debut novel, man walks into a room.  it’s not as stylized as the history of love, but it’s still beautifully written — and, again, the ways krauss writes about loss — i can’t get enough of it.

05.  never let me go, kazuo ishiguro.
there is no book i have read more than i have read never let me go — in fact, i just finished reading it for the second time this calendar year, and i’m sure i’ll read it at least once more before 2014 is up.  there’s a beautiful thread of unease running under this entire book, and it pulls tighter and tighter as you get near the end, until you’re just unravelled yourself.

ishiguro does first-person so well — i’ve probably said this before, but i think that, while there are many writers who are good at first person, there are few writers who are great at first person, and ishiguro is one of those few.  he inhabits voice with such ease, so there’s a beautiful naturalness to kathy h’s voice, and that just unravels you more …

06.  anna karenina, leo tolstoy.
i really should pick up the pevear/volokhonsky translation of this.  in my opinion, there’s just no reason not to read anna karenina — it’s engaging; it’s a fascinating portrait of russia in the late nineteenth century; and, okay, i will concede that not everyone will be as in love with nineteenth century russia as i am, but tolstoy gets a lot into anna karenina, delving into themes like jealousy and passion and happiness and marriage but does so by telling a story through these characters in a very realistic portrait of an actual world. 

and it’s fun!  i think it’s fun.  there’s such an opulence to this world that there’s a seduction to it.  it’s basically tolstoy’s fault that i’m fascinated by nineteenth century russia.

the other russian novel i’d recommend is dostoevsky’s the brothers karamazov.

07.  the corrections, jonathan franzen.
i can’t not put a franzen on here.  when i reread the corrections earlier this year, the main thought going through my head was basically, these are real, fleshed-out people occupying a real, fleshed-out world, which honestly negates any kind of argument about likability or whatnot.  and my thing with franzen is that he makes it all read so easy.  the effort of his prose isn’t on the page; you don’t read him and think, wow, this guy is trying so hard to do something; and i admire that ease because we know the effort that does go into these books, not only his but any good book, the writing, rewriting, editing, again and again and again until it’s just right.  and, sometimes, you can see that laboriousness dragging down the writing, but not so in the corrections.


and here’s a bonus thrown in:  the opening passage to enduring love by ian mcewan.  the whole book is brilliant and one of my favorites by mcewan, but that opening passage in particular is awesome.  i typed it up here, so now y’all have no excuse not to read it.  then go get the book and read it.

2011 reading review!

Most memorable:  The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen; 1Q84, Haruki Murakami
2011, for me, was indubitably the year of Jonathan Franzen, launched with The Corrections, the first book I read in 2011 as well as the first Franzen I read.  It took me about a week to complete — a week of doing the bare minimum of coursework and required school reading — and, by the end, I was drained and rather blue because The Corrections isn’t exactly happy, cheery, uplifting reading.  Then I read How to be Alone and The Discomfort Zone (love the cover art) then, a few months later, Freedom then, a few months after that, The Twenty-Seventh City.  Now, all I’ve left is Strong Motion, and how sad that thought makes me!

(Favourite Franzen is still The Corrections, though.  Freedom spawned a few weeks of thought and discussion, but I found myself unable to talk about Freedom without references back to The Corrections.  I still refer back to The Corrections; I don’t read much American literature; but I dare say Franzen does a brilliant job at capturing a sector of American suburbia in his writing.)

I’ve been anticipating 1Q84 since it was first published in Japan in 2009, and it didn’t disappoint.  It’s long — 925 pages — and meandering, and it’s by no means a perfect novel (the dialogue between Aomame and Ayumi is awkward, awkward, awkward, so disconcertingly so that I wonder if something were lost in translation because the other dialogue doesn’t read so stiffly) — but the thing with Murakami is that he’s a writer you read in big picture, ignoring the thought that the novel might be better serviced had it been a good two-, three-hundred pages shorter.

There seems to be something so wrong about entertaining even such thoughts because this slow burn is something Murakami does so well.  There were parts, yes, where I wished he would hurry on with it, but I only carry vague memories of such wishes because they were never so loud that I wanted to stop reading.  More memorable, I suppose, is the squeamishness that came hand-in-hand with the novel’s larger thematic elements, none of which I really want to dive into because I loved the surprise elements that came with diving in this novel without a single idea as to what it was about.

A new ritual:  rereading Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go every year.  It still gets me every single time.

Most monumental/regretful finish:  The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
This took me over three years to complete — intentional, really, because I wanted this to last a long, long time — so take my with it I did, picking it up every so often to read more, highlight some more, write down some more passages, all the while taking detours to read biographies, Letters Home, and some of Plath’s (and Ted Hughes’) poetry.  (Loving Birthday Letters thus far — they bleed of Hughes’ love for Plath.)

But all good things, like everything else, must come to an end, and I have finally finished my first read of Plath’s journals.  I anticipate that this is a book I’ll continue to come back to time and time again; my worn out paperback will travel with me everywhere I go; and her journals have only really whetted my interest and curiosity about everything Sylvia Plath — inevitable, really, because the aftermath of her suicide is something I find personally fascinating, that need by people to place reasons and assign blame because nothing can be left unexplained or unreasoned, because someone has to bear responsibility.

Anyway, this was an interesting read, partly because there’s a lot that she writes that I empathise with — her fears, her aspirations, her struggles as a writer, a woman, a mother, a wife, her battles with sinus colds, her insecurity.  Sylvia Plath wasn’t a perfect human being because no one is, and I rather dislike that about her following — that cut-throat need to build her up as more than she was — because Sylvia Plath was flawed, and her work is powerful and strong because she was flawed.

A long time finishing:  The History of Love, Nicole Krauss
It took me over three years to finish this, too, which isn’t a negative comment as to how I feel about this novel.  If I didn’t much care for it, I’d have dropped it instead of coming back to it  continuously, and Nicole Krauss is indubitably my favourite contemporary woman author — and she’s American!  My favourite by her is still Man Walks Into a Room, which I read two years after I started The History of Love, because The History of Love, sometimes, felt bogged down by its voice.  I could only read it in phases, in little pockets stolen here and there; it’s so saturated in emotion that my palate couldn’t take it in large mouthfuls (much like French cuisine); but I’d say this really is a testament to Krauss’ immense skill and ability.

The ending was a slow burn like Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go — a slow, wonderful burn that sapped me of tears because it just so perfectly tied up the novel.

Biggest disappointment:  The Tiger’s Wife, Téa Obreht
Téa Obreht has all the makings of a good novelist.  She’s young — my age — with a strong sense of language and story, and The Tiger’s Wife has the makings of a good novel — if you could break story-telling down to a formula, which you can’t without rendering it a series of cliches, and I’m rather tempted to say that, yes, The Tiger’s Wife toes that line.  (The Telegraph actually says it has fallen past that line.)

My main problem with the novel is that I couldn’t figure out what The Tiger’s Wife was.  I’m not typically a stickler for genre and don’t find it necessary to pigeon-hole novels into specific categories because a good story is a good story, pure and simple, but it’s a problem when questioning the -ism of a novel displaces you from a novel — and that was my main sticking point with The Tiger’s Wife.  It tried to be magical realism but fell short in the same way it tried to be realism, and this lack of commitment placed a limit on the novel — because it was neither this nor that, all the various story threads collapsed in a messy tangle.

My other problem was actually with the writing itself.  Obreht has potential — she does — but The Tiger’s Wife I felt could have used more revision, more tightening of language, more creative language.  As a narrative, it was almost bland and dangerously so, and, in the end, the novel read like a draft, a skeleton even, that could have been pretty enchanting had it been more thoroughly fleshed out and given a proper direction — and, honestly, it’s a novel that made me wonder if it would’ve gotten half the praise it has had it not been the début novel of so young an author.

Least Favourite:  Middlesex, Jeffrey Euginedes
I’ve written briefly about this novel before — or more like mentioned it and how much I disliked it — and I suppose it deserves its dues because I still haven’t been able to let go of how much I disliked it.  I don’t know what it is; I just feel like it betrayed me because I love The Virgin Suicides so — but, simultaneously, I’m also confused because there was nothing technically wrong with Middlesex:  it’s well-written, well-charted, well-narrated.  In short, all the pieces are there, and yet …?

My problem, honestly, was that the novel held me at arm’s length.  It kept its distance from me personally, blocking all the ways in which I could fall into it and love it and treasure it like I do The Virgin Suicides, almost like it was aware that it was too good for me, and it’s a pity, really, because Euginedes is definitely a skilled writer.  But, maybe, this just goes to show that there’s nothing formulaic about writing, that no writer is perfect (I mean, look at McEwan’s Solar — beautifully written [because when does McEwan write something that isn’t beautifully penned?] with an interesting enough story and interesting enough characters — but the sum of all the parts was a rather dull novel), that not everyone is going to like the same book (which just goes to prove my argument that there’s no need to be ashamed for not having read someone/something).

Of course, though, my dislike of this novel wasn’t great enough to deter me from picking up The Marriage Plot, which I hope will fare better, more positively in my book.  Euginedes is skilled and interesting enough that my dislike of one novel isn’t going to put me off the rest of his work; he’s definitely one of the more interesting writers writing today — or so I opine.

Favourite:  The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje
I. Loved. This. Novel. — and how do you measure this?  I’ve got it in paperback and as an iBook.  And am looking for a hardback copy.  And am reading it for the second time in two months.  If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.

Ondaatje’s language is absolutely masterful; the words drip beautifully — seriously, so beautifully — and languidly off the page; and, when read out loud (read this book out loud!), they slide off your tongue.  It’s been a while since I’ve read a novel that had me in such thralls over its language, but The English Patient doesn’t excel only in its technical form — the narrative is tightly woven and sweeping and romantic without falling prey to the usual saccharine or melodramatic traps of romantic endeavours.  There’s an aching sense of loss written into the entire novel, and, in so many ways, this is the sort of novel I aspire to write because it’s just so magnificent and successful in the story it sets out to tell and how it determines to tell it.

The problem with a novel like this is that all of Ondaatje’s other books fall under high, high, high expectations.  It’s rather kept me from diving into the rest of his back list, but, then again, Atonement set the bar high for Ian McEwan, and McEwan’s back list managed to raise that bar even higher (ugh, Enduring Love and The Comfort of Strangers are so perfect, I want to weep in despair).