What We’ve Been Reading: December 2 Comments

What We’ve Been Reading: December


I finally got around to Christos Tsiolkas’ biggie, Barracuda, this month. The novel seems to be the next chapter in Tsiolkas’ investigation of Australian class and identity. In it, you meet Danny, a lower-middle class character who’s lucky enough to get a scholarship to one of Melbourne’s most prestigious high schools—on the proviso that he attains athletic triumph. As you delve into the novel, you’re presented with a dual narrative, as Tsiolkas presents Danny from both youth and middle age concurrently. This is a book ripe with cultural critiques on modern Australia, so, if you’re wondering what’s still keeping you in this country, then maybe Barracuda can help.



Suckered in by the punchy (and confusing) title, I read through Michel Faber’s collection of short stories Vanilla Bright Like Eminem. There are a lot of magical realism pieces, and a few shocking ones as well, but in an attempt to be cool, I think Faber dismisses the depth possible within them. Some lovely lines (“Andy’s wife smiled too, a grin of infinite foolishness and shock, as if she were the victim of a surprise birthday party on the wrong day.”), but he doesn’t really know how to deal with female characters. They seem to be in the stories to either die or be slept with. Interesting but still slightly disappointing as a whole. The collection can be accurately assessed by looking at its title—surreal, a little funny, but without much point in the end.



I’ve been reading David Sedaris’ Me Talk Pretty One Day and it is pretty enjoyable I guess, apart from I’m concerned it will just be like “I grew up in the 80s, people thought I was weird and ostracised me because I seemed gay. I am now a funny, successful and, as it turns out, gay man. Suckaaaas.” I guess what I mean is, I hope it doesn’t continue so much like this. Can’t stop thinking of his funny voice via This American Life podcast. I’m also reading A Room of One’s Own on the train, hating the patriarchy somewhat and freaking out about how we can really change nothing. Also dipping in and out of Sophie’s World as a reread/refresher on some philosophy.



I’ve been reading so many balls-out brilliant books lately that it kind of makes my head spin. The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes was the most vivid and authoritative Australian history book I’ve ever read. I Love Dick by Chris Kraus challenged my ideas of fiction writing (and not in an insufferably postmodern way), while at the same time subverting traditional depictions of female identity in literature. And An Elegant Young Man by Luke Carman just rocked my fucking world. Seriously—there’s a fair bit of hype being generated around that book, but there’s no telling how good it really is until you pick it up.



I’ve been sick, so I’ve been listening to audio books: Stephen Fry reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone — his voice helps me sleep — and The Hunger Games. I’ve also been rereading Anna Funder’s Stasiland, which is both brilliant and terrifying.



What books have you been finishing the year with? Do you have any reading goals for 2014? 

  • http://elizabethredman.wordpress.com Elizabeth

    Oh Susie, I’m reading David Sedaris’ Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls and having a similar reaction. I keep thinking, this guy is funnier on This American Life! And, maybe I should have bought an audiobook instead of a book! And, am I missing something in all these stories about him growing up? If I don’t find them hilarious, am I reading the book wrong?

    • Susie Anderson

      ooh I just saw your comment Elizabeth.. I’ve been meaning to tell you I keep talking about your article about Cory Bernardi in public.. that is.. it keeps on being a relevant thing for me to refer to. Great article!
      Yeah I think some of them are hit and miss with Sedaris’ writing. Perhaps it’s because his voice is so distinct? Although what I do like is the perspective of growing up gay plus when his sister Amy features in his stories because she is one of my favourite people : )

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