breaking news and also books; 7.31.19

ONE DAY AT A TIME IS SAVED!!! Sometimes, sometimes we get nice things! This happened several weeks ago, so it’s very likely not breaking news for you, but if it is that sounds LOVELY. Today’s post will be a little shorter than usual (if I can actually stick to my word here) and I strongly urge you to go directly from this to a ODAAT rewatch!

Black Leopard, Red Wolf – Marlon James

Image result for black leopard red wolfI severely underestimated what a difficult read this would be. “High fantasy!” I thought. (correctly) “Escapism!” I thought. (incorrectly)

This 600+ page novel is the twisty story of Tracker, a man with the ability to find anyone via scent. Theoretically, the plot focuses on his search (among a group of other paid mercenaries) to find a missing boy, but the story is much more complex and dense than that, spanning countless cities and wildernesses and encompassing a cast of characters that takes nearly three entire pages at the beginning to list. There’s betrayal, witchcraft, sex, and a whole lot of “story within a story”-telling. 

As many on Twitter and Goodreads have mentioned, there are a lot of references to a variety of African mythologies that are likely helpful signposts for those familiar with them, which I’m not. However, there are also a lot of ways in which the dialogue and narrative seems purposefully meant to obfuscate and confuse, which absolutely adds to the tone of the book…and also makes for a complicated reading experience. In a reversal from my usual preferences, I really enjoyed the descriptions in this book, plus I absolutely respect a book in which I can feel the deliberateness with which each sentence was crafted and placed. 

Also it seems to be the week in which both authors happen to be faculty in Minnesota? (I think this is because these were on my list to read before a local literary festival, which…I didn’t do.) Anyway, James is Writer in Residence and faculty at Macalester, so that’s cool!

cw: violence, in particular sexual violence (like. A LOT.)

Dear Committee Members – Julie Schumacher

Image result for dear committee membersIt would be difficult to find a book more different in tone than this, which is the exact kind of passive voice that the professors at the book’s “Payne University” would hope to teach out of me and would also sneakily use themselves in passive-aggressive missives to the administration.

The book is structured as a series of (one-sided) correspondences between Professor Jason Fitger and everyone with the misfortune to hear from him, most of which are “Letters of Recommendation,” for writing programs, colleague promotions, supermarket jobs, publishing contracts, and the occasional plea for protection from building construction. Schumacher, a faculty member at the University of Minnesota, delightfully satirizes academia and its place in the world. As with Black Leopard, Red Wolf, there are likely particular signposts which, if you’re already familiar with them, will contribute to your enjoyment of the book, so I can only speak for myself, as someone who loved academia a lot as an undergraduate, worked in the administrative sector of it after graduating, and tried (and failed) to rejoin as a graduate student, I found it enjoyable and was glad that the book was short enough that it didn’t wear out the charm of its conceit.

Bye for now!

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