Saturday, July 7, 2018

A Little Fiction, A Little Non- My Summer TBR

I've been accumulating summer reading material like libraries are going to be closed. They won't of course, and I won't be out of town for that long, but I love to plan out my cottage reading list. This year is a mix - a little fiction, a little non, some books by women, some by men, some mighty tomes and slimmer volumes too. It's all very North-American- I'll have to work on that for next year. 

I devoured two of these books already in between cycling and cleaning at my cottage. I read Rachel Kusk's Kudos in my hammock while wearing a wet bathing suit. to keep cool in the 39+ Celsius weather. Like all of Kusk's trilogy, I devoured the book, but remembered very little of it when I was done. The novel is about a women who goes to a writer's festival and meets all kinds of interesting people who monologue to her about their lives and philosophies. Having read all three books I'm not sure what my take away is, but somehow I don't care. There's something about Kusk's writing that makes her books hard to put down. 

I also read Naomi Alderman's Disobedience this week. In this novel a Jewish woman, Ronit, returns to the ultra-orthodox childhood of her family upon the death of her father. She goes to stay with her cousin Dovid, only realizing that he has married her teen lover Esti. Having written about ultra-orthodox lesbians in my YA book Gravity, I was fascinated to see what happens to the women who leave orthodoxy and the women who stay. Ronit struggles with the on-going tension between the identity she was raised with and her adult self. I especially liked the way the book adresses the silence that is expected of women in this particular community and how both Ronit and Esti move out of that imposed silence.

 A film adaptation of the book just came out, and despite my better judgement, I saw the film before the book. I enjoyed comparing the two and thinking about the choices the screenwriter made in translating the book to film. The novel is far more subtle, whereas the film is dominated by a sex scene that is only mentioned in the book. Whereas the movie shows that there's no place for lesbians in orthodoxy, the book offers a more complex balance between sexuality and religion. Mostly I think the director Sebastian Leilo couldn't resist filming an explicit lesbian sex scene. I left the film with the following quandary: is it actually sexy to have someone spit in your mouth the way actress Rachel Weisz does to Rachel McAdams? A quick survey of friends confirmed what I thought: this doesn't appeal. You can watch the trailer here

I have a raft of other books I'm looking forward to reading this summer. 

I've loved everything else Michael Ondaatje has written, especially The Cat's Table and Anil's Ghost, so I'm sure I'll love Warlight too. 

Paul Auster's massive tome 4321 is apparently one story told four different ways. I've read and loved other Auster books, but mainly in French, so I'm looking forward to reading this in my first language. This book also comes with the a high approval rating from my super-reader friend Nancy. 

Also on my list is Jessmyn Ward's Sing, Unburied, Sing. I haven't read anything by Ward yet, but I've read high praises about this southern tale. I'm looking forward to her lyrical writing style. 

In non-fiction I have two titles both purchased at the Kingston Writer's Festival. I was so taken with listening to Adam Gopnik speak at the festival that I purchased his Paris to the Moon.  Gopnik describes married sex as "like civil war re-enactors; you know how it's going to turn out -no surprises- but it's still enjoyable." On a more poignant note he also said that you should never underestimate other people's insecurities. He said, "everyone's life feels like failure on the inside." I'm still thinking about that statement nine months later. It helps me through moments when I'm not sure I'll ever publish another word. 

My other non-fiction title is Glenn Dixon's Tripping the World Fantastic: A Journey Through the Music of Our Planet. I boght this for my husband for Christmas and forgot to give it to him. It has a terrible cover, but it promises to explain why music has such a powerful hold on us. Since I have been plagued with earworms thanks to my children belting out Arrogant Worm tunes, I'm curious what I can learn. The book blurb also promises to explain whale music, and why some songs give chills up our spines. 

The book I'm most looking forward to devouring is Maggie Nelson's Bluets. This slender volume of prose poems is about my absolutely favourite colour blue. I'm a little obsessed with blue - it's shown up in both my home decorating and my writing. I know very little about this book and I'm resisting reading reviews because I don't want other people's experiences of the book to shade my reading. Right now I'm happy to gaze at what I think may be the most beautiful book cover ever. Perhaps I'll let ya'll know what I think when I'm back in the fall. 

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