Thursday, July 3, 2014

snippets (ceci n'est pas une booklog) (aussi ceci n'est pas une magritte)

After getting really really dreadful news -- I mean actually fucking tragic news, the kind of news that would delight your born enemy and worst persecutor -- I wound up rereading about half of MaddAddam; I skipped around at first, then settled in at about page 150 or a bit later. (Yes I was reading a paper book. I needed that, right then.) (Also that book's so much about writing and reading and learning and storytelling it does seem -- just a bit -- obscene to read it in pixels.) I am always surprised all over again, every time, at how great art cheers you and lifts you up and heartens you, like brandy for the soul, or something. Like Mozart. (I consider all three books of that trilogy masterpieces and if you disagree, I will fight you.) The great pleasure at being pleased. The older we get, the more like our childhood selves we grow, I guess; in reaction to horrible news, some people scream, some cry, some drink, some eat, some blog. I read. I've always been that way, since I was a kid.

Several days ago I fell through the wormhole of My Life as a Fake -- kept on reading, reading, reading: at first forcing myself into the story a bit but then utterly caught up in it, then going faster, too fast, gulping it all down. (Also read as a paper book.) Finished it in a day (don't look at me like that, it's not that long). I....don't know if I enjoyed it very much, actually. It really was quite well-written. I thought it would be much more about the Australian literary scene than Kuala Lumpur, and non-white people didn't really appear, except as rather violent and ignorant walking plot points. But it was a bit like when I first read The Moon and Sixpence, I didn't much like the people in it, but once the master storyteller starts talking in your head, you have no choice but to listen, "ensorcelled," as Anais Nin would say. Carey can create an amazing mental gravity well from sheer narrative drive, I'll give him that. -- But I also wasn't happy with the portrayal of women -- yes, it's narrated by one, but she keeps insisting she's sexless (and is yet also....a lesbian? what) and the other very few women who appear are just walking Animas. And then of course all my criticisms collapsed in the face of the absolutely wrongheaded Grauniad review -- it has that structure because it's BASED ON FRANKENSTEIN, you dolt! Not the movie,  the novel, which is all about people telling you what's in letters, and letters describing what other people said, about what still other people said someone else said. Gahh. I am sure I missed out on 90% of the Frankenstein references, it's been so long since I read that book (and frankly most of it is a slog), and even I got that. And Morrison misspells the hoax's historian's name as "Hayward," which is the kind of thing nobody but me ever cares about, but I got sore because it made the "definitive story" WHOSE TITLE GOES UNMENTIONED damn hard to Google. (For the record, it's The Ern Malley Affair, by Michael Heyward, which I will probably wind up getting out of the library, since it appears to have sunk into oblivion.) (There is, inevitably, a website:

Before that, I had utter period brain, and because I've reread the Pratchett Witches books (only my favourites: Wyrd Sisters, Witches Abroad, Lords & Ladies, and Carpe Jugulum as a chaser) so many times, I reread the Harry Potter series instead -- I think I'd read the first two books God knows how long ago, skimmed the third, and skimmed the last. This time I sat through it, I lie, I skipped four and five, again, four because it was so laden with sports competitions I just couldn't even try, and five because one of my giant red buttons is when a beloved shelter turns into a nasty horrifying trap. No personal issues THERE, I assure you. Was, as before, very unimpressed. Also, when you read the whole series straight through, the DIRE shift in tone about halfway through the fourth book is really jarring. It goes from something you could read aloud at an eight-year-old's bedtime to Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies -- for so long, I thought that was a joke! My problem before had always been that I loathed Harry too much to read an entire series about him, but he seemed wispy enough I was able to pretty much ignore him this time around. Loved Hermione, as usual (I was Hermione -- can there be any doubt? Jo was Hermione, too -- why, oh why, couldn't the book have been about her?). No, this time the giant stumbling block in my path was RON, who seemed like a horrible Nice Guy with terrible jealousy and anger issues. I took to tapping out "!" and "!!!" and "JERK" and "JACKOFF" on my Paperwhite screen every time he appeared. I liked Ginny more than most people did (even my friends who liked the series thought she had no personality), but that was probably because I saw her as a junior Molly Weasley, whom I adored. Some dear friends had to put up with hormone-addled e-missives like "OMG HEDWIG" and "someone tell me Ron goddamn Weasel fucking dies in the end" and "seriously wtf is this obsession Rowling has with fucking pumpkin juice, it shows up at EVERY meal" (I loathe pumpkins only slightly less than I loathe beets), but fortunately this was apparently somewhat entertaining. The epilogue still sucks, and I still think there's no sparkage between Hermione and Ron //shudders -- Rowling definitely shifted to Team Harry several volumes into the actual writing. But she stuck with her Seven Year Plan, which is why the epilogue sucks.

(From yet another email: "But the bit in Not!Heaven with Dumbleduns was puzzling. Who the fuck was the baby? D's sister? What?")

Oh yes, and today I reread Friend of My Youth, some stories (the title one, "Meneseteung," "Hold Me Fast, Don't Let Me Pass," "Oh, What Avails," and "Differently," which I believe I first read in the New Yorker) more than once. I don't think this volume is anyone's favourite, but it's the first Munro book I ever read, and I think a lot of it still holds up. I was meaning to read and reread all her books (in chronological order, of course!) after she won the Nobel, and this has been sitting around on my Paperwhite forever to remind me to begin that particular reading project, but I just reread it instead. Whoops.