Wow! Okay! Last regular post of 2018! And I’m also not going to do much of a preamble here (which I KNOW I always say and then go back on but today is DIFFERENT, OKAY) because I ran a bit out of time today, so the descriptions might be a little shorter than usual, but remember that next week you’re going to be getting a nice, juicy list of my favorite books of the year so you’ll be just fine.
You Think It, I’ll Say It – Curtis Sittenfeld
It’s been awhile since I got into the short stories, and I’d really been looking forward to this very buzzy collection; so buzzy in fact that it’s been optioned for a Hulu miniseries produced by Reese Witherspoon and starring Kristen Wiig. I have NO idea how that’s going to work because these stories aren’t narratively connected to each other, though there are several narrative threads that carry through. These stories are mostly about suburban middle-aged white people, which Sittenfeld (herself a suburban middle aged white lady) is very aware of and is interested in exploring the dissatisfactions and disappointments amongst herself and her peers. I feel like I’m making this book sound like kind of a downer, which isn’t quite accurate. Sittenfeld has a sense of humor that frequently cuts both ways, and her stories are populated by recognizable characters and crisp details and I enjoyed reading them. In particular, her story “Prairie Wife” had me feeling like Craig from Parks and Rec:
Some Tame Gazelle – Barbara Pym
There are a few writers from the last year that I read one book by and immediately knew I’d have to read their entire body of work. One of them is Barbara Pym. I read Excellent Women earlier this fall and felt deeply delighted and moved by it. Pym’s characters are mostly middle aged, single British church ladies in the 50s and the clergy and village people who populate their lives, all portrayed with incredible humor and compassion. I found this one (her first novel) to be a bit less focused and moving than Excellent Women (my thoughts here); her focus here is on the heartaches and joys of Bede sisters, spinsters who live together and alternately agonize over and delight in their neighbors.
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge
The title of this book comes from Reni Eddo-Lodge’s viral blog post from 2014, in which she laid out her exhaustion and frustration with the fragility and defensiveness she was frequently met with when talking about race with white people. The resulting book, published in this year, powerfully and succinctly goes into the historical and contemporary difficulties of having conversations about race in Britain. Throughout discussions on gentrification, white feminism, immigration, and many others, she lays out the necessity of naming and challenging structural racism. As she’s British herself, she mostly focuses on the U.K., which was interesting to read as an American. Almost all of the foundational issues and obstacles are the same, but given the specifics of each country’s histories, the particulars sometimes shake out a bit differently. Occasionally I knew I wasn’t grasping the full context of her point when it came to particulars of British education, politics, or geography, but that’s not at all a critique of the book or writing itself, which is specifically written to a British audience. And again, the basis of her material is very applicable to American audiences, and I personally learned a lot and will be thinking about how to more deeply integrate what I learned into my day to day life.
This might be the speediest I’ve ever written a post, soooo maybe don’t count up the typos/mistakes? Please drive safely if you’re traveling over the next few weeks and I’ll (kind of) see you next Wednesday!