What We’ve Been Reading: July 0 Comments

What We’ve Been Reading: July

Ellen Cregan, VIC

I was lucky enough to get an advance reading copy of Tiffany McDaniel’s debut novel, ‘The Summer that Melted Everything’, through work. This is a harrowing novel. I savoured nearly every line, but at the same time, had a terrible feeling in my gut. I would almost describe TSTME as a mash-up of Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and Toni Morrison’s ‘Beloved’ set in the 1980s, with smatterings of Flannery O’Connor’s ornate descriptive style. While I enjoyed it enormously, this book is seriously dark. It’s the closest I’ve come to tears while reading in a really long time.

Thankfully, next on my to-read pile for July was Neil Gaiman’s ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’, which was the bookclub book of the month at my work. I read this book years ago when it first came out, and it is delightful. It was interesting to revisit the novel as a bookclub mediator — rather than just enjoying the descriptions of various breakfasts, I was forced to consider the underlying themes of the book, and rediscover what a wonderful author Gaiman is.

I am currently making my way through ‘So Sad Today’, a collection of personal essays by Melissa Broder. I’m a little over a quarter of the way in, and don’t know how I feel about it yet. All I can say is that I’m certainly absorbed and only feeling slightly alienated by Broder’s hyper-modern prose and internet references. I’ve heard she also writes poetry, which I will be checking out as soon as i’m done with these essays.

Katerina Bryant, SA

I picked up The Book of Unknown Americans after I saw the writer, Cristina Henriquez speak in Portland. The novel tells the story of young girl with a brain injury who moves to America from Mexico with her parents in the hopes she will recover. It is set in an apartment building in Delaware and shows the lives of men and women who have moved to the US from Central and Latin America. Henriquez beautifully captures the anxiety of being in a place where you are struggling to learn the language and yearn for home. Her writing is stunning and this novel is definitely worth a read if you’re interested in America’s political climate regarding immigration.

I’ve also recently enjoyed A Chess Story by Stefan Zweig. I don’t often read novellas (something I am working on) but I loved the concise nature of A Chess Story. It evoked many interesting ideas regarding chess: who plays chess and the class element to chess, the connection between chess and mental health problems and the nature of obsession. After Zweig, I think I will be checking out many more novella’s from my local library.

Clare Millar, VIC

I don’t normally read science fiction. I often find it unbelievable, and I just don’t find the technology aspects interesting. But my partner recommended I try Ubik by Phillip K Dick. I’ve previously read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and not enjoyed it very much, but I thought this was worth a go. I find with these types of works, the challenge is getting to the action but also introducing the world. There wasn’t a lot of introduction, and at first I felt that I just didn’t understand something obvious. It was written in 1969, but thinking of the future in 1992. At first I found some of the future technology unbelievable, but I realised that I was bringing my own hindsight to the novel. Once I understood that, I was better able to appreciate the art of scifi. I loved the passages at the beginning of every chapter that gave a new meaning to the Ubik product, advertising style. This was engaging and got me thinking about how we can have many meanings, or be told what something means whilst concealing a possible truth. Ubik definitely concerns reality, certainty and understanding, to the point where you can’t be sure who is alive and who is in the half-life. I wouldn’t say I’ve been completely converted to a scifi fan as I enjoy social commentary set amongst its own times, but I did enjoy Ubik.

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