I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately. And by “lately” I mean the last 20 or so years. But in the last few months it feels like my volume has increased a lot, and I’ve been needing more and more outlets for doing a little shouting about the books I’ve been reading–both excited “HOLY CANNOLI PLEASE READ THIS RIGHT NOW” shouting and “THIS BOOK KILLED ME AND NOT IN A GOOD WAY” shouting. Also every couple of months I start thinking about doing a book blog, and then a few incorrigible people try to get me on Goodreads, and usually I just take it as a sign to slow down on the coffee but today I had the thought: “hey what if you just did a short post every week to informally shout as much or as little about the books you finished that week and maybe that would be fun and also get everyone off your back about Goodreads. Also you should literally start this TODAY before you lose your nerve.” So here goes. Expect a lot of run-on sentences and all-caps.
In the last week(ish), I finished:
- Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
- WOW. THIS BOOK. WOW. If you’ve even once had the thought, “I wish there could be a book like Jane Eyre but with a heroine who has clearly never read Jane Eyre,” this is the book for you! I was completely unprepared for how much I loved it, despite having gone into it with a hearty endorsement from a good friend. The book’s covers nowadays often connote a pulpy gothic romance, which is…not that far off.EXCEPT THAT IT’S ALSO SO GOOD. A naive young woman falls in love with a wealthy, brooding older man whose first wife died under mysterious circumstances a year ago. They marry and return to his enormous family estate where things get REAL SHADY REAL FAST. The first third is a bit slow moving, but by the end I was completely bought in. [so much so that I put a picture of it on Snapchat with the caption “Holy shit. This was a perfect book.” which I’m sure is definitely what the creators of Snapchat had in mind when they created an app for transient photo-sharing.] There’s also a delightful 1940 movie adaptation directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring an awkward and doe-eyed Joan Fontaine (but ON PURPOSE) and a brooding, damaged Laurence Olivier. And also THIS INCREDIBLE ROOM that I literally had a DREAM about:
- The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
- The experience of reading this book felt like punishment for how much I enjoyed Rebecca. I wish to waste no more breath on it. I read this because one of my weak spots on the GRE Literature practice test was “20th century American white dudes and their frustrated protagonists” and I had the sneaking suspicion that I had gotten away with something by never having read Faulker. Turns out I was right. I had gotten away with an intact soul. Okay. I’m being dramatic. But I really hated it. Maybe I just wasn’t ready for more stream-of-consciousness after battling my way through Ulysses this summer. Maybe I wasn’t prepared for Faulkner’s expectation that the readers would know all about [or CARE AT ALL ABOUT] the rise and fall of the decaying Compson family that features in many of his novels and short stories. Plus its treatment of people with disabilities and people of color…the kindest thing I can say is that it’s very “of its time,” but even that feels like cutting it too much slack. OKAY. I’M DONE. NO MORE BREATH ON FAULKNER AND THE HORRIBLE COMPSONS.
- The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
- I feel SO divided about this book. In a reverse Rebecca, the first half of this book has a lot of momentum that had me actually breathless, wondering what the intrepid Lily Bart would do next. The second half…didn’t quite live up to that. Nevertheless, the characters were dynamite all the way through; Lily Bart is a fascinatingly flawed character, who I wanted to succeed even when I wasn’t sure whether she was in the right. By the end I had a lot of questions about class and gender that will probably be stirring around in my mind for several weeks.
- The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin
- I really wanted to like this book. As a counterpoint to all of the GRE-related reading I’ve been doing, I’ve been throwing a lot of sci-fi into the mix to shake things up. (Sometime soon I’ll do a Throwback Yell about Dune.) I give LeGuin a lot of credit for being a pioneer in the sci-fi world. And her dedication to putting a solid foundation of anthropology at the base of her world-building is something I really appreciated. However, as a whole, I found the narrative uneven. And as the book went on, the themes of androgyny and inter-planetary-and-species interaction called to mind Octavia Butler’s Dawn (the first book in her Xenogenesis/Lilith’s Brood series–I’m going to be reading the second book soon so I’ll shout more about this later) which I think was a more engaging book.
Okay. Well. That’s #1 of this little experiment. Please shout back (in like, a respectful way), especially with things like “wow! this is such a good idea! ur so brilliant and funny and ur hair always looks good!”
* a note about the links: I’m linking to Amazon because it’s easy, but if you’re even considering buying the book, I would highly recommend supporting a local, independent bookseller if possible. Also libraries are great. Use your libraries.