Thursday, August 20, 2015

What I'm Reading

1.  Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man's Fundamentals for Delicious Living, Nick Offerman (2014)

Amusing though repetitive, Offerman (Ron Swanson on TV's now defunct Parks and Rec) champions doing stuff with your own hands, as well as touts the wisdom of leaving well enough alone.

"Touts" sounds negative, and he is a bit of a badger, but mostly I agree with him. I am glad, for instance, to learn that some men do not like the trend of shaven pubic hair (Brazilians, etc.) on women. "Bring back the bush," Offerman writes. 

2. Railsea, China Miéville (2012)

An immensely imaginative tale of a future world, like a post-apocalyptic Moby Dick,  but I stopped reading this for the same reason I stopped reading Dune
the underground creatures––sandworms in Dune, giant moles here––were just too disgusting. I kind of hate that they were  even introduced into my brain.

3. God on the Rocks, Jane Gardam (1978, shortlisted for the Booker prize)

Highly recommended!
I'd never heard of British novelist Jane Gardam (b. 1928) until I picked up her Queen of the Tambourine at the Thrift Store.  
Since then I've also read Crusoe's Daughter, Faith Fox, and The Flight of the Maidens, and I'd recommend them all, but especially Crusoe's Daughter, which Gardam also says is her favorite.

With authors like Gardam, ordinary social circumstances can be as riveting to read about as post-apocalyptic or other extraordinary ones.
Gardam often writes about people--often women and girls--who are by virtue of [ordinary] social circumstances emotionally and intellectually in a condition similar to Robinson Crusoe's, or Jane Eyre's––i.e., marooned, and having to live on their wits. 

But, Gardam says  [in the Guardian], "We never know what the hell we're writing about, not even when the book's over."

4. A God in Ruins, Kate Atkinson (2015)

This follows Teddy, the brother of the main character in Atkinson's Life After Life, a novel that messed around with time warps, interestingly but unsuccessfully---like an ambitious cake that didn't rise but still tasted good. 
I've just started it, but AGiR appears to take place in regular time, though there's some time shifting. Teddy grows up to be a pilot in WWII who is sure he's doomed to die, . . . but then doesn't. 
Good, so far.

5. I haven't been keeping up with my plan to record all of What I'm Reading in 2015. I've missed a whole pile-up of books, now returned to the library.
They included Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman, the first draft of the book that became To Kill a Mockingbird.  

I only skimmed GSAW--it's not very engaging, but I entirely agree with Ursula K. Le Guin's great blog review "A Personal Take on Go Set a Watchman" that it was a missed opportunity to deal with the complexities of living among and even loving people you don't agree with (in this case, Scout/Jean Louise goes back home in her twenties and confronts Atticus's acceptance of racist norms). 

LeGuin write:
I like to think of the book it might have been, had the editor had the vision to see what this incredibly daring first-novelist was trying to do and encouraged and aided her to do it more convincingly. But no doubt the editor was, commercially speaking, altogether right. That book would have found some admirers, but never would it have become a best-seller and a “classic.”  It wouldn’t have pandered to self-reassuring images of White generosity risking all to save a grateful Black man.

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