I had faith March wouldn’t let me down, unlike my crappy January and February. Lie: I had no such faith, but told myself things could hardly go further south. And there were no Olympics, no television distracting me. The TV reverted to its usual function: background noise for napping and covering the surface of my TV stand, while looking impressively large.
Size matters, friends.
Of course, March brings out my Irish. It’s also my birth month, meaning I have an excuse to binge buy books. This year, March threw in a nasty virus, gratis, getting me three days off work in which I was too sick even to read.
Still, I managed to fit in a few.
I’d hoped to take a short vacation in March. SPOILER: that didn’t happen. I was too ill, no desire to leave the warmth of my home and comfort of my sofa. It’s still cold here in Chicago. Distressingly so. On this April 1, it’s the coldest it’s been in years, hovering around freezing.
Will spring ever come. I’m beginning to wonder.
Books Read March 2018:
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (for library classics book group)
I’ve been putting off reading this one since the upset wrought by the first few minutes of the Kubrick film. Not a fan of random violence and rape, I wrote this off as not for me.
It’s about a young man literally addicted to violence, the leader of a pack which wreaks nightly havoc on an English town. The first part was difficult to read, partly for the made-up language Burgess creates (which wore on me) and constant, gratuitous violence. The second part is much more interesting, once main character Alex is finally arrested for his crimes, and re-programmed, for lack of a better term.
The best thing I can say about ACO is I finished it. Not a fan.
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward (Women’s Prize for Fiction, longlist)
The lovely Jesmyn Ward has written another moving story set in Mississippi, this one about a family ripped apart by the slow death of the matriarch from cancer. Told from shifting perspectives, including that of the ghost of a young black boy lynched decades ago, it’s a short and rich novel.
It deserves to be shortlisted.
Ruby by Cynthia Bond
This one, good God. Absolute brilliance, beginning to end. It’s been a while since I’ve read a modern book I believe has the staying power to become a modern classic. Ruby is it and then some.
The story, the brilliant and sensuous language, the characterization and use of magical realism… It’s huge in scope, so difficult to summarize.
The title character is born a beautiful young girl, her life of poverty dooming her to prostitution starting from a very early age. Having escaped the South for a privileged life with a relative in New York City, upon the death of a woman she’d loved she makes the fatal mistake of returning home. Ruby loses her mind, becoming feral, as she’s again pulled back into sexual abuse and violence.
Love enters, and Ruby resists, unable to believe anyone could truly love such a damaged, broken woman.
I can’t recall the last time I finished a book and wanted to turn back around and re-read it immediately. If I weren’t engaged in other projects, I’d have done so.
See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt (Women’s Prize for Fiction, longlist)
Schmidt’s book is a novelization of the story of possible murderess Lizzie Borden, she of the axe murders of her father and step-mother. Generally, I don’t care for historical fiction, but this was an exception. What bothers me about it is the inability to know what’s true and what’s imagination. I’d far rather read non-fiction, getting to the truth of the matter.
I enjoyed Schmidt’s approach, telling the story from different perspectives. And while the case remains unsolved, she lets the reader know what she believes truly happened. It’s what I’ve always believed, as well, minus a few suspicions on the details.
Though an enjoyable read, I’d be surprised if this one makes the shortlist.
The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar (Women’s Prize for Fiction, longlist)
Merchant shipman Jonah Hancock, one of his ships lost on a voyage, is handed a small, shrivelled “mermaid” as recompense. His only choice to help re-coup some of his losses is to display it as a curiosity, in PT Barnum fashion.
In the course of its travels, it lands in an upper class whorehouse, at which Mr Hancock meets the lovely courtesan and former mistress of a nobleman: Angelica Neal. Struck by her beauty, he’s lost.
Later, in order to win her love, she demands he bring her another mermaid, this one genuine. Believing it impossible, she believes she’s seen the last of him. When her fortunes change, however, Mr Hancock becomes much more desirable.
Ultimately, the creature Mr Hancock presents her with induces a terrible melancholy on everyone associated with it, begging the question what is the price to be paid when you get everything you think you want.
Not a candidate to win the Women’s Prize by any means, it’s an overly long book I nearly gave up at the 3/4 point. It meanders, interesting lesser characters never fully fleshed out. I finished it to find out what happens, and because I’d ordered it from Ireland and paid enough in shipping I didn’t want that to be for naught.
Books Bought March 2018:
In addition to a couple from the Books Read in March list (See What I Have Done and The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock), there were these:
Happy by Nicola Barker (Women’s Prize for Fiction, longlist)
The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror by Mallory Ortberg (for review)
And, for my birthday:
Nothing new read for the Muriel Spark project, unfortunately, but I’ll resume that in April. I thought I owned a copy of The Bachelors – next up chronologically – but can’t find it anywhere. Hesitant to buy more books after my slutty indulgence this month, I may have to skip over it for the next, bite the bullet and order it, then read it out of sequence.
I hate doing that, but needs must. One last search of my library, then I’ll do what must be done.
Such was my March. I’m happy with what I managed to read, definitely happy with the stream of new books. April needs to be a less expensive month. I went a little crazy, and need to re-coup. Still searching for that elusive sugar daddy to support my habit. Ah, but rare as mermaids are they.
April will hopefully herald spring, lifting my mood. I’d be lying if I said the first quarter of the year hasn’t brought me down. Still too early to plant flowers in the Chicago area – we’ve had frost as distressingly late as May, in years past – a warm-up, at the least, would be more than welcome. At least the days are lengthening, so there’s that. Sorry not to be more perky. I just don’t have it in me at the moment.
Spring’s hope’s eternal.