RESIST THE NEED TO MAKE EVERYTHING HALLOWEEN-CENTRIC.
Okay, folks, HERE’S THE THING: I think I would like Halloween a lot more if we all agreed to just celebrate it for like…a week. And not ALL MONTH PLUS SOME OF SEPTEMBER. This is probably a personal problem, as I tend to succumb to holiday fatigue faster than most, and I ABSOLUTELY AGREE that stores should start selling holiday-themed Oreos AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, but I didn’t read any spooky books this week! (I did, however, go buy the Shirley Jackson book The Haunting of Hill House, so…there’s a spooky book in your future.)
My one other concession to spookiness is that one of my favorite narrative podcasts, Limetown, FINALLY started releasing its second season this week!! The first season follows a [fictional] journalist investigating the decades-old mysterious disappearance of an entire town-ful of people. It’s creepy, interesting, and even though I KNEW it was fictional, there were parts that were so well-done that it actually made me second-guess whether it WAS actually fictional. The creators have been promising the second season for a long time now (to pick up where the first left off), but truthfully I had almost given up until the first episode of the second season dropped into my feed on Tuesday!
I’m trying a new thing this week where I link to Goodreads instead of Amazon, as part of my campaign to Make Everyone Be On Goodreads, and because Amazon is a terrible employer, and because I’m trying to be helpful and save you all a step! This might end up not working superwell, but since when do I truly know what I’m doing here?
Good Omens – Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
This is probably as close as we’re gonna come to a spooky book. It’s been on my to-read list for awhile (thanks Overdue podcast), but I pushed it up when I found out that there’s an Amazon original coming out in a couple of months. I’d been dragging my feet a little bit, because *brace yourself* I am not the world’s biggest Neil Gaiman fan. I don’t really have ~issues~ with him, it’s just that sometimes…I find his writing style kind of grating, and I don’t even know why! I read American Gods last year (also in anticipation for the Starz miniseries) and felt similarly to this one, which is that in my opinion his jokes and concepts are better than his plot, and in general just go on too long (and occasionally veer on the side of insensitive).
I don’t want to leave Terry Pratchett out, but I also haven’t read anything else by him, so it might be that he’s the reason I liked the first half of this book as much as I did. Because I really really liked it! I tore through the first half and found it really clever and funny and understood why it’s often referred to as a cult classic! [Other than that a humorous story about the end of the world clearly has broad appeal, which I love!] The second half, though, the plot kind of went all over the place, and I hope the miniseries is a little more focused. (p.s. If you can hear David Tennant’s voice in your head while reading it, I highly recommend that.)
Wanderlust: A History of Walking – Rebecca Solnit
So apparently when my roommate first saw this book laying around our apartment, she thought to herself: “there could not be a more Kelsey book,” which…FAIR.
HOWEVER. That was many months ago and I am now weary of it. Solnit is probably best known for her feminist essay collections (see: Men Explain Things To Me, which I read and remember liking, though I don’t remember feeling especially mind-blown by it) She has ALSO, however, written a number of books about walking/exploring/etc. that really appealed to me before I realized how dense they are. This is the first of those that I read, and as the title implies, Solnit is indeed trying to get into the whooooole history of…walking. She comes at this from a lot of different angles, with a chapter dedicated to theories on when our species actually BEGAN to walk, the walking done by famous philosophers, the history of pilgrimage, etc.
Now, if you’re thinking, “but who other than YOU would even be interested in this??” the answer would be…a surprising number of people. In fact, the months I’ve spent reading this I’ve also been locked in combat with 5 other library patrons who were trying to get ahold of the three copies of this book in our library system. Basically I would have this book for a couple of weeks, not be able to renew it because of the other holds, return it, then immediately place a hold, and I think I did this two or three times, because this book is sloooooow. There were some sections I found interesting and insightful, but on the whole it wasn’t nearly as engaging as I would have hoped, plus I think there were several areas where Solnit didn’t really engage with privileges of race, class, and ability in a meaningful way.
“The journey matters.”
This quotation from one of the early chapters in Jones’ book about a black couple separated early in their marriage by a false accusation that sends one of them to prison, could nearly be a thesis for the book. Jones takes us on a journey through the history of Celestial and Roy and their relationship, before, during, and after Roy’s incarceration. It’s heartbreaking and moving and full of tension and Jones’ writing hits a perfect balance between eloquent description, character depth, and plot movement.
I loved this book a lot. The characters are well-defined and Jones moves through different periods in their lives in a way that feels effortless to read. Though her characters are often at irreconcilable loggerheads with each other, their motivations and intentions are so fleshed out that you feel empathetic towards all of them. It’s also an enjoyable read! Fantastic for an evening curled up with a warm drink, or a weekend away, if you can get so lucky. (ps I’m excited to read her other books, like Silver Sparrow!)
Jones was also featured in one of the By the Book interviews that you know I’m obsessed with, in which she talks about both assigning a book so she could talk about it more and accepting a gig in Dubai so she’d have 18 hours of uninterrupted plane reading time, both of which are HIGHLY RELATABLE.
[Ed. note 12.4.18: in the event that you’re browsing through the archives, Bim Adewunmi just reshared a piece she wrote about Jones in February, it’s very good and if you’re not even MORE clamoring to read this book after reading the piece I just don’t know what more I can do for you!: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/bimadewunmi/time-for-tayari-jones]
After reading Jones’, I went on another “By the Book” deep dive, and wanted to share some of my favorites here as well [ps, if you don’t have an NYT subscription, as I don’t, you can preserve those “5 free articles a month” by right clicking the link and selecting “open in an incognito window” YOU’RE WELCOME]: starting with Reese Witherspoon, whom I love but whose book I probably won’t read: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/20/books/review/by-the-book-reese-witherspoon.html
Samantha Irby, who wrote Meaty and We Are Never Meeting In Real Life [both of these are on my to-read list and I’m VERY EXCITED]:
Jesmyn Ward, who wrote Sing, Unburied, Sing and Salvage the Bones and Men We Reaped and Where the Line Bleeds: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/31/books/review/jesmyn-ward-by-the-book.html
Krysten Ritter, who wrote Bonfire, but MORE IMPORTANTLY WAS IN JESSICA JONES: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/09/books/review/krysten-ritter-by-the-book.html
Nicole Krauss, who wrote The History of Love, Great House, and Forest Dark: and Man Walks Into a Room: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/07/books/review/nicole-krauss-by-the-book.html
OKAY FINE, ONE MORE CONCESSION TO SPOOKINESS. (talking about investigative journalists earlier reminded me of this)
As those who follow me on Instagram know, I devoted this last weekend to taking in Halloween/Jamie Lee Curtis content, starting with watching the 1978 original on Friday, followed by seeing the new one on Saturday. I did both of these by myself, because…reasons? I don’t know. Anyway, I actually found the new movie kind of…delightful? Like, it was just FUN, and I realize that watching Jamie Lee Curtis and her family attempt to decimate a serial killer (after, of course, he has decimated many other people) is maybe not EVERYONE’s idea of fun, but I had a very good time! Anyway, one of my favorite things about the movie was how much joy it takes in roasting two investigative journalist podcasters, who could basically be straight out of this Portlandia sketch that my friend Sam sent me.
Anyway, the more I think about this movie, the more I love it, and even though I tend to be more in the “don’t wear out your welcome” camp when it comes to sequels, I hope they make a dozen more of these movies and that I get to see Jamie Lee Curtis fight murderers forever.