What We’ve Been Reading: February 0 Comments

What We’ve Been Reading: February

What did you read in February? EdComm’s Cathy, Izzy, Rafael, and Sean give their recommendations.



I’ve been reading Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan. This is my fiftieth time attempting to reread this book. The first time I finished it I spent two hours crying before I recovered enough to just lay down and think about why Lanagan couldn’t just give happy endings to those who deserved it. I think part of what makes it difficult to reread is the knowledge of all the bad things to come–which is saying a lot because so many disastrous and confronting things happen right from the get go. It’s marketed as a young adult novel, but its themes are challenging for any adult. What gets you through is the beautiful way Lanagan writes and her ability to create totally unique voices for both her lovely and hateful characters. She also gives kind doses of happy moments in between the devastating ones, luring you into thinking maybe things will be ok. It’s a beautiful book, the first one to make me fall in love with Lanagan’s work. Just remember to take deep breaths.



Before I left for Scotland, I was reading Oblivion, a collection of short stories by David Foster Wallace. My friend Cass recommended it to me years ago. I had to sacrifice it at the airport when my baggage was too heavy (a half-read book wasn’t worth the packing space). I like reading short story collections generally, partly because the time and attention commitment required to get through them is pretty low–you don’t have to remember the narrative thread for too long.

David Foster Wallace is the kind of writer that makes you feel like you want to do interesting and insane things, not just read about them. The language is intoxicating, and at times kind of swollen–page-long sentences that you race through, holding your breath. The twists, turns and humanity in these stories is really rewarding and he gets your brain ticking without it being painful or overwrought.

My favourite of the stories I read before leaving was ‘Good Old Neon’. Killer story. ‘Mister Squishy’ also made an impression despite the convoluted and marketing jargon-heavy language. Well worth a read, this collection is invigorating and distinctive stylised prose with a sharp, critical wit that questions the modern world without being smarmy or presuming to have the answers.



I started reading Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad in preparation for White Night, as I thought the hugely contrasting narratives and scattered timeline would perfectly reflect the kind of madness of trying to write a book in a night. However, I just got distracted by the excellent writing. I find it hard to deal with tonnes of characters/ lack of clear plot, so in that respect this book is my kryptonite, but the utter beauty with which Egan writes totally makes up for it. There are times when I’m not really sure how the characters relate, or even when this is happening, but the uniqueness of their perspectives, combined with language used just buoys you along.



For a novel with so much graphic sex, His Wife Leaves Him by Stephen Dixon is probably the most unsexy book I’ve ever read. More or less a meticulous dissection of a passionless marriage, the book is truly obsessive with detail. After his wife dies following a prolonged series of strokes, Martin Samuels—an obscure writer and academic—is left to remember everything that has happened in his romantic life from its outset. But His Wife Leaves Him is the furthest thing from a warmly lit nostalgia fest. It’s a frank (at times brutally so) story of domestic instability, sexual ineptitude, and the lengths we will go to avoid dying alone. A huge downer of a novel, in other words, but a long and engaging one at that. Worth a look if you’re into Lydia Davis or Phillip Roth.
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