August Roundup

Archaeology & History, Books, Monthly Roundup, Recs & Reviews

So maybe we’re a week into September already, but I was busy being very gay on holiday in Berlin last weekend, and didn’t have time to finish this post then. I’ve decided to try out these monthly little („little“) roundup posts, to keep track of things I’ve read that I might have opinions about and want to recommend. Let’s see how it goes. 📚💫

There will be:

  • Short Fiction/Poetry
  • Books
  • Articles and Interesting Tweets

Favourite books of 2018

Books, Recs & Reviews

I keep making lists with five entries! It isn’t on purpose, I swear. I think pretty much everyone’s finished with their 2018 retrospectives already, but I’ve been busy with moving and starting a new job, and I still want to tell you my favourite books I read in 2018. These are the books that most grabbed me by my feelings and refused to let go.

📚 The Only Harmless Great Thing – Brooke Bolander

I picked up this little novelette at Nine Worlds, where someone had left a few copies of it on the leaflets and freebies table. I kept it aside for a few months before reading it, because it seem very dark. And it is, it’s about a woman slowly dying of radiation poisoning without even the compensation she’s been promised, the enslaved circus-elephant she’s training to replace her, and the men and institutions that torment them. But it’s also about memory, solidarity, and vengeance, and I found it really cathartic to read. Also there’s some sweet science fiction worldbuilding woven through the whole thing like a beautiful architectural construct holding up the plot. It never overexplains or gives you more detail than you need.

I think there’s a criticism to be made about the enslaved people being sentient elephants when human enslaved people presumably existed in the history of this alternate world, and people of colour presumably exist within it, as much as I love the elephant folktale and the nod to ray cats. But I’m not the person to make that critique, and I haven’t found one so far in my cursory googling, so maybe I’m overthinking, but it raised a question mark for me.

Anyway this is a book extremely worth reading if you want to be validated in your anger at capitalism and men, and it’s Tor’s free ebook this month, apparently, so go forth.

📚 Autobiography of Red – Anne Carson

I was given this book as a present and had no idea what to expect from it, but it lodged itself in my brain and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for weeks after I’d finished it. I think I’d have to re-read it to give a proper summary, because the beginning of 2018 already feels like a different century, but it’s a gorgeously weird mixture of mystical fictional non-fiction, dreamlike vividness and harsh realism, queerness and monstrosity and brightly saturated colours. Honestly I don’t understnd how it burrowed its way into my ribcage so thoroughly but I’m glad it did. I’m gonna reread it soon.

📚 Revenant Gun – Yoon Ha Lee

Thank god for the Machineries of Empire series and for YHL’s continued willingness to just put his entire self out there with the fanficcy tropes, because I love every one of them with my entire heart. This final book of the trilogy somehow managed to ramp up both the gay suffering, the horror, and the weird worldbuilding to increasingly  beautifully absurd levels, and I was suitably emotionally destroyed. Do you like to be gay and suffer, for fun, in space, unashamedly? While occasionally being slapped with the horrors of war and also making friends with robots? This book is for you.

📚 The Traitor Baru Cormorant – Seth Dickinson

Do you like to be gay and suffer, in a fantasy archipelago? But no, the suffering in this book actually feels a lot heavier and more real than that in Revenant Gun. While the Machineries of Empire series definitely confronts you with the horrors of war in some shining gems of uncomfortable scenes, nobody is particularly likely to ever be faced with the teenage cloned self of their dead mentor whose ghost they ate in real life. Plenty of people have witnessed their culture assimilated into empires and been faced with the dilemma of how to interact with violent systems.

It does have a delicious romance in there for the emotionally satisfying suffering amongst all the genuine discomfort though. It’s an interesting tension, and I don’t know quite what I think about it, but I am interested in where it takes the themes in the next book, and I did love all the characters intensely and had to lie down on my living room floor furiously texting the friend who recommended it to me to process my emotions as I read the last few chapters of ever more rapidly spiralling awfulness.

📚 Weight of the Earth – David Wojnarowicz

I think this is the book that set me off on the non-fiction kick I’ve been on recently. I picked it up at an art gallery gift-shop on a whim, mostly because I liked the cover, and it really paid off.  I love reading about the thought processes and experiences of artists (and people generally tbh–I still miss LiveJournal a bit for that reason honestly), and David Wojnarowicz is very relatable in his questions about relating to people and being understood; whether it’s possible at all, or desirable if it is. Even the sections where he just describes his dreams are weirdly relatable. They’re not interesting to read, maybe, but compelling somehow. I also don’t think I’ve ever come as close to understanding what it might be like to be living with a fatal disease as I did reading the entries set after his AIDS diagnosis.


So there you go, a selection of good books to read! I’ve been slowly writing and editing this post on my phone and it’s honestly a painful process, so I’m releasing it into the world with any awkward writing & whatever weird formatting problems the wp app decides to throw in there intact. Be gone from my drafts.

Things I’ve read recently: oh boy I need to learn how to write more about things I actually like, not just complain about bad books.

Books

I’m trying to get back into the habit of noting down my thoughts in Goodreads!

I seem to be in the absolute minority in Goodreads re: Agatha Christie’s Autiobiography, but it’s just not that good, y’all.

 An AutobiographyAn Autobiography by Agatha Christie

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I wasn’t too impressed with this overall, I gotta say. The beginning was enjoyable, but mainly because Christie’s reminiscences about her childhood and parents made me think of my own family history. As the book goes on it seems to get less insightful, more repetitious, and less interested in making anything accessible to the readers; I tortuously dragged myself through the last third of it. She says that she’s talking to herself, in this book, and it does feel like sitting in a Cafe listening to Agatha Christie talk to herself. She doesn’t really introduce or describe any of the people or events in her life, she just expects the listener to be already familiar. At one point she mentions avoiding the press, and I did a double take, having been given no indication so far that her work had already gotten popular, or how she felt about it.

You don’t really get an idea of how she feels about most things. Sure, as she says in the introduction, she wants to reminisce only about pleasant things, but a little introspection would have made me much more invested in the story of her life. She also seems to have very little sense of perspective, of her life compared to others. About her Victorian childhood she says that her family weren’t really rich, they only had two servants. Later as she travels the world, she conspicuously gives the courtesy of using their names only to the white people she meets. Any „locals“, even ones she spends time with, only get a description.

She also repeats herself a lot towards the last half of the book. Maybe she got away with not editing out her repetitions because the was the great Agatha Christie, but it would have been a benefit to the book.

I did find the descriptions of her early life pretty charming, but I couldn’t recommend this book unless you’re a huge Christie fan and completionist.


The next two are great, tho.

The Second Mango (Mangoverse Book 1)The Second Mango by Shira Glassman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this one slowly, between other books. I picked it up whenever I was feeling sad or anxious or overwhelmed, and needed something easy. Its fairy tale quality was like a balm for my troubled brain. Simply written, with immediately loveable characters, and I was expecting a bitter-sweet ending and got an entirely sweet one instead.

The dialogue doesn’t always read realistically, and it has the feeling of a YA or children’s book, except for the open and matter of fact inclusion of adult romance and sexuality. It makes for a really calming and simple read, without any boredom.

This is a book about queer and (somewhat) gender non-conforming Jewish women (of colour) in a fantasy world, and I am not all of those things, but I felt very at home in this world. I’m so happy there’s a few more in the same universe to keep me company.


A Spool of Blue ThreadA Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a lovely reading experience. As opposed to the Agatha Christie Autobiography, which contained a lot of events but little feeling, not very much happens in this book, in the sense of action, but it’s full of complicated, relatable emotion and compassionate understanding of humans. I tore through it, completely invested in these people’s lives, and while sometimes a story where nothing much happens has unsatisfying endings, the last few sections of this book recontextualised what happened in the fist half of the book in a very satisfying way.

I recommend this if you love people and want to be absorbed in a beautifully ordinary slice of life.

Ein Lebens & Lesestoff Update

Books

Ich habe mir vor ein paar Wochen spontan meine Haare wieder kurzgeschnitten, und ich finde mich gut damit! Aber ich träume trotzdem schon wieder von langem Haar. (Letzte Nacht hatte ich wirklich einen Traum, in dem meine Haare schon halblang gewachsen waren.)

Was gibt’s sonst so neues. Wie immer dreht sich mindestens die Hälfte meines Lebens um was ich gerade lese:

Ich habe in letzter Zeit, sehr zu meiner eigenen Freude, mehr Energie und Konzentrationsvermögen zum lesen. (ein Buchklub ist sehr motivierend!). Im Moment lese ich vier zur gleichen Zeit: