When I last posted, I was in the midst of a selective Booker longlist read-a-thon of selected titles. When the shortlist came, I was disappointed my favorite – The Colony by Audrey Magee – was not on it. From there, I didn’t much care who won. I was soured on the whole thing and just hoped they didn’t choose one of the two novels I’d read and disliked – Oh! William by Elizabeth Strout or The Trees by Percival Everett. Ultimately, they didn’t, which pleased me.
Oh! William annoyed the living hell out of me. Though it was a short novel, it took strength getting through it. I’d read and loved Olive Kitteridge, so it follows I’d expected this book to be just as good. Oh! but it was so not. It started well enough but ended a kitschy mess.
The Trees was a better book but had it won it wouldn’t have been for its merit as a written work so much as its civil rights theme. While I support great writing about social issues, and the Emmet Till story deserves to be told over and over lest we forget, it’s not that good. I saw what he was trying to achieve – a lighter take on a dark subject – it just doesn’t work. It’s my first book by Percival Everett, so I don’t know how representative it is. I just don’t quite understand what possessed him. Because of the social justice atrocity at its center, no reviewer called him to task, which is the downside of criticism in 2022. I do not judge Percival Everett, I judge the work he puts out. Critics are muzzled now, afraid to tell the truth about sensitive subject matter. Utimately, if a writer doesn’t succeed, they should not be lauded. I don’t care what their reputation is or what they’re writing about.
The 2022 Booker winner, The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Sheehan Karunatilaka, didn’t make it to my TBR but it sounds kind of wonderful. I pre-ordered it, since it hasn’t yet been published here in the States. As usual, I have loads of books on the go but I’m hoping to squeeze it in before the end of the year.
Haha, sure. If I don’t take time to sleep, maybe. But it’ll be here, and where there’s presence, there’s hope.
For those who don’t follow me on social media and weren’t inundated with pics, in mid-September I traveled to Ireland for a few days, visiting Kilkenny and Galway. I regret I didn’t have longer, and I regret I listened to those who encouraged me to avoid the dangers of Dublin – which I now believe were overblown. Originally intent on revisiting Scotland, the nightmarish stories of connecting through an overwhelmed Heathrow, coupled with a threatened UK rail strike, prompted my change of plans. I’m hoping for a 2023 return to Scotland in the off-season, when it’s more afforable.
I had a glorious time, regardless, and didn’t even contract Covid – despite all the coughing, hacking people I ran into. Before I left I got the Omicron booster and flu shot, which might have helped on that score. I visited museums, walked around a medieval city center, and found several bookshops. The food was magnificent, the people kind, and the weather shockingly perfect. I encountered no rain! Zero! In Ireland!
Last week the prints I ordered – of the hundreds I took – arrived and I’m getting those framed and on the wall. Ireland really is lovely.
I’ve read loads since my last update, most of which I’ve entered on Goodreads without commenting much. They were good to very good reads, no pun intended. Here’s a sampling of what I’ve finished:
The Colony by Audrey Magee (easy 5 stars)
Dangerous Ages by Rose Macaulay (4 stars)
The Past is Never by Tiffany Quay Tyson (ugh… my 3 star reads only mean it’s above mainstream fiction by a hair)
The Door by Magda Szabo (another easy 5 stars)
Case Study by Graeme Macrae Burnet (4 stars and a massive crush)
The Promise by Damon Galgut (5 stars and a vow to read much more by this stunning South African writer)
Currently I’m re-reading Bleak House (huge favorite), Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver (Ron Charles of The Washington Post says it may be the best book of the year – I’m wary of such sweeping statements, though it is quite good), and Philip Roth’s The Facts, an autobiographical work. A fair mix, I’d say.
Last week I went to my first author event in years. I saw Rebecca Makkai at Woodstock Opera House and she was brilliant. She spoke about the writing of her Pulitzer-nominated The Believers, which I still haven’t read – mea culpa. It’s largely about the AIDs crisis, as it was experienced in 1980’s Chicago. Of course it made me want to pull it off the shelf and start it immediately but I simply have too much on my plate already. I do, however, have the ARC of her upcoming February release beside my bed.
This coming week I’m attending a David Sedaris event in my very own hometown. I saw him at Roosevelt University in 2019 and he is screamingly funny. I highly recommend going to his readings if you aren’t easily offended. Even if you are, to thicken your skin. Can’t wait to see him again. He’s brilliant and inappropriately funny, the best possible combination.
On the homefront, I’m excited to report I had my new Ikea furniture assembled this week! Without context that sounds bland but if you knew how many times I’ve moved in the past several years, and how tough it’s been settling anywhere longer than a year, the significance is more apparent. I like this place. It’s large enough for me to have an office, and, now that I have a job that allows me the means to spread out, I can see myself staying a while. Wanderlust is all well and good, but not so much when you feel like a nomad. Nothing can match the splendor of Scotland, and even my prior apartment in Elgin, IL was more charming, but I’m trying to balance out the benefits of living in a major metro area with the lack of history and character. That’s what travel is for.
Am I caught up? Reasonably so. I’m not pleased I’ve crammed so much into such a small space, but glad I can pick up here with more substantial posts. If you blog and find coming back from pauses as stressful as I do, you’ll get it. And there’s no reason I can’t expand on any of this later – Ireland, for instance, there are loads of stories as you can imagine. As for the books, there’s no statute of limitations on that score. So I’m well-pleased with myself, as it should be.
Next up on the Bluestalking docket, November is National Novel Writers Month (NaNoWriMo). While I’m not planning to write a novel, I am looking forward to writing a short piece a day through next month. I’ve written up more than 30 writing prompts, stuck them in a jar, and I’ll pull one a day. To keep myself accountable, I’ve told people about it – including the writers group I founded ages ago at the library I used to work for – and promised to post the day’s prompt, in case they’re interested in giving it a go. At least one of them replied they’re excited and that’s enough inspiration for me.
Since I find myself doing little outside my apartment, I’m planning to attend a local reading group of ladies who meet at different local independent restaurants every month. The upside’s obvious: I get to discover local eateries while talking about books. The downside’s what has kept me from participating in any book group, that is, they tend to read the kind of books that get a million positive reviews on Amazon, popular books that blow up social media because they please everyone. Books that please everyone are seldom those I enjoy. Until and unless I form my own group, or find one suited to my tastes, this is it.
So much to do, so little time. So many distractions, so little discipline, more like.
Happy almost November.