Read and received lately


Jonathan Franzen
Fourth Estate

Of course you’ve heard of it. I liked it. I appreciated it, really. It took over me a little while I was reading it. I felt really blue. The characters get inside of you, because they’re so fully-formed, and there’s much space for them. The opening reminded me of Richard Yates. Why did I feel blue? Because of the overpopulation stuff. Powerful. And the exasperation and powerlessness, and the desperation, and the sarcasm, and the disconnect. This isn’t a review. Enough people have reviewed this book. Here’s a good one, which isn’t really a review either. But it’s a now book, too. I wonder how it will stand up. I was creative-lethargy-blue, too, because in my WIP and thesis I am in some ways trying to express the kind of ideological nature, the orthodoxy, even, of freedom – in the West, in consumer society – and there Franzen is expressing it so well. I just have to say, too, in regards to all the hype (and remember this isn’t a review), I don’t think it’s the most wonderful book, but I did find it a very rewarding reading experience – difficult, deep, moving, complex. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

I also recently read Iran: My Grandfather by Ali Alizadeh (wonderful), which I’m reviewing for Mascara Literary Review; and I’m currently reading Catherine Harris’ short story collection Like Being a Wife (Vintage), which I might knock up a blog review for soon.

Received (and dipped into)

The Empty Family
Colm Tóibín
Picador, released November 2010

You may remember I interviewed Tóibín a few months back about his novel Brooklyn, which he has now followed up with this collection of short stories. I have dipped my toe in this deep and quiet pool – I read a story about something missed, and it just dangled from the heart-strings. The press release says in the collection, Tóibín ‘delineates with a tender and unique sensibility lives of unspoken or unconscious longing, of individuals, often willingly, cast adrift from their history’. More on this one to come…

Kill Your Darlings Issue 3

The latest issue of the hottest new journal on the Aus lit scene includes an interview with Booker prize-winner DBC Pierre, about his new novel Lights Out in Wonderland. There is fiction from Karen Hitchcock, Nick Smith, Annie Condon and David McLaren. I read Condon’s story ‘Nothing Broken’, about a family welfare/abuse worker who is having personal trouble – accomplished and moving. I really liked it. There’s a mixed-bag of nonfic, including an essay by Antony Loewenstein on his continued frustration, post-election, with Australia’s  bipartisan support of Israel; Emmett Stinson on tertiary creative writing programs; Andrew Mueller on his perilous book tour of the UK (I read this one, entertaining); and Clementine Ford on returning to the Centrelink queue.

GriffithREVIEW30: The Annual Fiction Edition
released November

So, I picked it up and saw some familiar names. Thought I’d start with Chris Flynn’s ‘Panther’, which opens with a mutt dog discovering a severed kangaroo foot. I found it quite amusing, after conversations Chris and I have had about how much we enjoy reading sex scenes, that there’s a hot sex scene with a character called Angela, but anyway… cool story. I plan on soon hitting up stories by Krissy Kneen, Peter Temple, Anna Krien, Eva Hornung, Kate Holden, Linda Jaivin, Luke Davies and Patrick Allington.

Also recently received

The latest in Affirm Press’ Long Story Shorts book series Gretchen Shirm’s Having Cried Wolf – stories revolving around friends Alice and Grace, in a small coastal town. From the blurb: ‘Having Cried Wolf draws their partners, families, friends, neighbours and strangers into a rich tapestry of shared experience: of love, tragedy, success and failure’.

John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Harbour (Text), where a girl disappears into thin air on the ice of the Swedish archipelago. By the author of Let the Right One In.

Author of The Reader, Bernhard Schlink’s latest The Weekend, where in a secluded country home, a group of friends and lovers meet for the first time in 25 years.

Toni Jordan’s Fall Girl (Text) – which sounds like so much fun, about a professional con artist, and the good-looking millionaire she meets… I do plan on getting to this one soon.

The Taste of Apple by Jaimes Laider & Don Stewart – a book, verse novel, CD, ebook, something radical. But that’s the format. The story is about a guy called Pedro, living in housing commission with his Filipino immigrant mother (his father has fled). He gets involved with a ‘mad’ street busker and the East Timor freedom movement. The blurb calls it a ‘gritty story of self-discovery, justice and belonging’.

supersadI’ll read very soon Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story as it seems in the genre/s I’m writing towards – a sort of tragi-comic absurd near-future or alternate reality love story. Yep. I like David Mitchell’s quote on the press release: ‘Super Sad True Love Story is an intoxicating brew of keen-edged satire, social prophecy, linguistic exuberance, and emotional wallop…’

And last but best, for my birthday my lovely man gave me A Tragic Honesty: The Life and Work of Richard Yates by Blake Bailey, which was recommended by one of you in a blog comment! It’s a massive book, with tons of praise on the inside cover. I have just been falling in love with Yates’ writing and I like that this is a biography of his work as well as his life. I think it’s going to be quite a heartwrenching journey but I’m looking forward to it. I might try and save it for when I have some time off in January.

NB: I’m definitely sending out some of the received books for guest reviews.

One thought on “Read and received lately

  1. Hey,

    Nice blog, have come back a few times recently and always enjoyed having a quick read. Agree that Freedom was worth it. “Rewarding” is the right word as I did feel it was “hard work” at times. Initially, didn’t want to buy it but I found a good copy from for £2.99 (cheapskate!) delivered so I thought I would give it a shot.

    Might give your other recommendations a try now. Keep up the good work.


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