november! i hit my goal of reading 52 books this year! huzzah! and now let's see how close to 60 i can get!
fifty. strong motion, jonathan franzen.
a decadent society teaches people to enjoy advertisements of violence against women, any suggestion of the yanking down of women’s bra straps and the seizing of their breasts, the raping of women, the tying up of women’s limbs with rope, the puncturing of women’s bellies, the hearing of their screams. but then some actual woman they know gets abducted and raped and not only fails to enjoy it but becomes angry or injured for a lifetime, and suddenly they are hostages to her experience. they feel sick with constriction, because all those sexy images and hints have long since become bridges to span the emptiness of their days. (470-1)
franzen’s oft-ignored second child — i liked it a lot, more than i thought i would, not because i had low expectations for it but because i had no idea what it was about, other than earthquakes in boston. it’s a very franzen novel — big, full world with complicated social issues — and he navigates it all well, not perfectly (but who’s perfect?) but confidently and without hesitation. he’s incisive but fair (particularly in his handling of the church leader), and there was a moment where i was prepared to turn on the novel (i won’t give it away), but it all turned out okay in the end. (not in an annoyingly gratuitous way, though, thankfully.)
fifty-one. telex from cuba, rachel kushner.
suppose you get only fifteen minutes.would you travel three thousand miles to speak with someone you love for just fifteen minutes, if you know that it’s the last time you’ll ever see that person?
how far would you travel?
suppose you could speak to someone you love who’s no longer living. would you cross a continent to speak to that person for just fifteen minutes?
when it’s someone you love, the answer is that fifteen minutes is limitless if it means getting information about how to proceed without them. the chance of a clue is worth the journey. because you don’t know what that person will say to you. you can’t guess what you might be turning down. (308-9)
what a beautifully rich, vivid world. i read this book in super saturated tones and found it all intriguing and intoxicating, but i must confess that i didn’t buy the first person sections — i didn’t really think the first person worked or was necessary. to be honest, i wasn’t all that keen on the first person in the flamethrowers either, but that was all in first person, so it was okay — but, here, in telex from cuba, the first person sections were a little jarring because the other parts are in third person, and the first person didn’t really bring anything different or significant to warrant it.
still enjoyed the novel, though.
fifty-two. the fall, albert camus.
yes, hell must be like that: streets filled with shop signs and no way of explaining oneself. one is classified once and for all. (47)
always a joy to read — it’s such a slim volume but so thought-provoking. what a pithy little statement. when it comes to camus, i always find myself coming back to the fall and the myth of sisyphus.
fifty-three. a tale for the time being, ruth ozeki.
“so of course i feel angry,” i said, angrily. “what do you expect? it was a stupid thing to ask.”
“yes,” she agreed. “it was a stupid thing to ask. i see that you’re angry. i don’t need to ask such a stupid thing to understand that.”
“so why did you ask?”
slowly she turned herself around, pivoting on her knees, until finally she was facing me. “i asked for you,” she said.”
“so you could hear the answer.” (169)
i. loved. this. if you haven’t read it, please do.
loved how contemporary it was, how immediate it felt, how relevant the issues are. loved how ozeki integrated japanese so smoothly and loved the footnotes. loved how sassy nao’s voice was — how teenager her voice was — loved how the boundary between ozeki the author and ruth the character felt blurred. loved the contrast in setting, the quiet island ruth lives on versus the metropolis of tokyo. loved how ozeki didn’t shy away from discussing issues like bullying and sex without getting on a soapbox. loved how prescient it all was, even though nao had written her journal years before ruth found it washed up on the beach.
loved also the experience of reading it, of posting photos on instagram and receiving comments — it’s one of the things i do unreservedly like about the internet, how it’s allowed us to create community globally. it’s fucking awesome, and i’m so thrilled to have found and connected with people who love books as much as i do.
i’ve been binge-reading a lot these days. read belzhar in its entirety today, and i’ve been ploughing through meghan daum’s the unspeakable and just started station eleven. reading is the only thing i can really focus on at the moment, but, hey, i’m all for it!