I began reading the Fall-Big-Book-$2 million-advance-juggernaut and much to my surprise and chagrin, I am enjoying it. I’ll get to that. First things first, or, last things last. October was a crazy month during which I was quite ill, my Mom was in and out of the hospital twice, I had to cancel my long-looked-forward-to trip to NYC/Algonquin, I generated some much needed income with house/pet-sitting gigs (people, I STILL have Thanksgiving open – are you telling me NONE of you or people you know need me?), and I started doing the hand-written/drawn/full of clippings and pictures correspondence thing (if you’d like to be added to the rotation, send me your address in a private message and I’ll send you some Charlie-fun too — wow, that sounds a little – well, WHATEVER, it’s CHARLIE FUN!) — I am in love with this return to the snail-mail-hand-wrought missive trend — and, with all of that, managed to blog quite a bit, catching up and keeping up with the titular reason for this thing: Book Blogging. Thus, my latest reads.
This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! , by Jonathan Evison, Algonquin Books, 296pp My first sampling of Mr. Evison’s work was prompted by coming across it on New Release shelves in the library, Ms. Jami Attenberg’s blurb calling Mr. Evison a “ridiculously gifted storyteller”, and its subject matter of a woman nearing life’s finale, accepting her “diminishing capacities” while taking stock and discovering the truth of what has gone before. With a Ralph Edwards-ian, omniscient-ish narrator hurtling us through a guided tour of the milestones (and millstones), we revisit from birth the people and places who made her what she is — and is not. While the tone is light-hearted and suffused with humor, the elegiac subject-matter and theme to do with choices, lack of choices, bad choices, and chance, is ultimately quite grim. The discoveries and revelations are less than uplifting, often involving betrayal and deceit, a life-story full of hiding, shame, and purposeful ignorance of the obvious as survival technique. It is a fast read, it is well-written, but ultimately, its message seems without hope: Here was a sad life, any possible redemption happens only in death. It left me a bit blue – which may have been the aim, the point, its purpose, but, it’s not the romp its blurbs led me to believe it would be.
Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli, Balzer & Bray/Harper Collins, 303pp My foray into Young Adult lit for the month was longlisted for the National Book Award. About a 16 year old, closeted gay boy who is blackmailed out of the closet and, in the process, anonymous pen-pals his way to true-love, learning life-lessons and being imperfect in that cutesy-irresistible-happily-ever-after fantasy, cultural-romance trope manner all too prevalent in gay-YA-fiction. Look, far be it from me to say we ought not have fantasy-worlds in which closeted jocks come out in a blaze of geek-loving glory, but, uhm, this is the sort of story that results in Grindr & CraigsList internalized homophobic postings of “Masculine Only” and “looking for men who act like men” sort of thing. Yes, the world is changing but I’d really like to read some coming out/Young Adult/ Adult-Adult fiction involving gay characters in which the happy ending has less to do with someone stereotypically straight embracing someone semi-stereotypically-gay than it does with the hard-slog of realizing life is about discarding those culturally-entrenched stereotypes and re-shaping the world if one ever expects to find union, happiness, love and or light of one’s own.
Interesting (to me) that Harriet Chance — the journey of a senior woman — was penned by a youngish man, and Simon — the journey of a young gay boy — was penned by a straight, 30-something(guessing) woman. I am not of the school that believes authors ought only write about their own cohort, but I think the reason these both failed for me was a lack of authenticity; the experiences of Harriet and Simon ultimately seemed observed rather than lived, looked at from a distance rather than experienced.
So, there I was – gone, the tenth and eleventh of my October reads, and here I am, going, starting on my November reads with the buzziest of buzzes, City on Fire, the 900-plus page, $2 million-advanced (I know, how many times am I going to harp on that $2 million advance? until I finally shut-up? Your guess is better than mine – I’m bitter, but, old, so will forget about it eventually – although, I am QUITE gifted at grudge-holding) novel being talked about everywhere. I am on page 300 and while I promised myself I would get to at least page 100 before throwing it across the room (although I would NEVER actually throw it – since it’s a library borrow), I find that I (shhh- whispering now) actually am enjoying this book and finding it well written — it’s keeping me interested and involved and dammit to hell, I think I’m going to have to –if not jump on its bandwagon, at least not throw brickbats as it passes.
While reading City, I’ve also delved into Michael Riedel’s Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway because I love Broadway and I had to cancel my New York City/Algonquin trip because of my Mom’s and my own illnesses and because, there it was on the New Releases shelf at the library and I have absolutely NO WILLPOWER WHATSOEVER.
Thanks for reading along with me. Now, have to dash and check out the LONG LIST of Book Bloggers I follow and see what they are up to and what else I ought to add to my list. What are you reading this month?
Love and Light, friends. Love and Light.