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Books Read (Hopkinson, Valentine, Wright, Krohn)

Looking at the year so far, I realised I'd read almost no novels for fun. The year before that, I was doing my MA and then reading for The Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women: short fiction was the majority of my reading material. I love short fiction, but I love novels too. I love sinking into a bigger sea. I'm enjoying my Tor.com column about Post-Binary SF, but there's a definite difference between reading to engage with the text and reading for fun, even if the fun involves minor blogging -- as below -- to talk about what I've been reading, the books I liked and the books I didn't. I have a few months until I start my second Masters, when I suspect I'll stick to short fiction, so I've decided that I'm going to spend the summer reading (mostly) novels, clearing my to-read pile (the concept of a to-read pile annoys me) and (hopefully) having fun!

Here are the first few reads, including one or two from a bit earlier in the year.

Nalo Hopkinson, Sister Mine (Grand Central Publishing: 2013)

I didn't finish this one. Partly because gods-are-just-like-bickering-humans is a trope faar beyond my personal preferences. Partly because the relationship dynamics in the family - specifically towards Makeda - were too emotionally abusive for me to stomach.

Genevieve Valentine, The Girls at the Kingfisher Club (Atria Books: 2014)

A breezy read with a bit of bite. I liked it. I don't know the fairytale it retells (Twelve Dancing Princesses), but it has a bit of a fairytale feel: a certain neatness to some events, the image of twelve sisters going out dancing. The love of dancing suffuses the book, as does the tense relationship between the sisters and the prison of their father's house.

The focal point of the book is Jo, the oldest sister and "the general": her role in organising her sisters' false freedom, in keeping them safe -- in complicity -- and, ultimately, her realisation about what real freedom is. That tension -- complicity, support, freedom -- is deftly done and really quite remarkable: it's an approach to an oppressed life rooted in real complexity.

I found the book in some ways a little too quick. I wanted to see more of the lesbian sisters, in particular. I wanted a bit more examination of the ending, particularly marriage-as-freedom. But, overall, I'd recommend it.

T.M. Wright, Blue Canoe (PS Publishing: 2009)

Free at WFC 2013. I read it in one sitting and laughed at bits like "I must protect my orgasm. Grab cock and spin." (ACTUAL QUOTE) but, really, this is a bad book: it's steeped in misogyny -- every single woman is described through the lens of her sexual appeal, even the narrator's mother, with my favourite adjective being "consumable" -- and it keeps calling attention to the fact that it's presenting an unreliable reality, as if the reader can't be trusted to notice.

Leena Krohn, Datura, translated by Anna Volmari & J. Robert Tupasela (Cheeky Frawg Books: 2013)

Datura is another book about unreliable reality, but it's far better! It's about a woman who works at a magazine that publishes articles about "strange" phenomena, who meets the people for whom the "strange" is real, and who experiences her own reality grow ever-more-uncertain as she consumes datura seeds to help her asthma. Reality is questioned, asserted and undermined in a light, tongue-in-cheek way, a little too fond of the people in the book to out-and-out mock them, a little too uncertain about the true definition of reality to disbelieve them. I found it fun, although there were one or two moments (describing a woman's beauty as "exotic", an unpleasant description of an obese woman, casual, meaningless use of "yin and yang" -- a drinking game all by itself at this point) that it could have done without.

It also made me reflect on the pleasures of short novels. The Girls at the Kingfisher Club, Blue Canoe and Datura can all be read in a single sitting (although I was interrupted before the end of The Girls at the Kingfisher Club and read it over two nights), and there's a particular pleasure in doing so: digesting the book as a single object, experiencing its characters, its plot, its voice all at once, interconnected. It all sits in the mind, coherent, viewable from multiple angles. All three books are non-linear, to a certain extent, which makes the single-sitting read especially rewarding: viewing the pieces as they slot into place. I like a long novel that I can return to over a longer period of time (I read Nicola Griffith's Hild over several months), but a short, single-sitting novel is a definite treat.

Comments

"I must protect my orgasm. Grab cock and spin."

Aaaaaaa*snerk*aaaaaaagh.
I was reading out bits like this to my partner. She was SO HAPPY. Yes.
I'm just trying to visualize how this works. Both the spinning and how it protects one's orgasm. Does he stand up and start twirling like a ballerina? That's the first thing that came to mind....

Though the more I think about it, it could be a quote from the dude's partner who is all "no, away with you, cock! I'm done!"

There is nothing I don't like about these possibilities.

Edited at 2014-07-22 11:25 am (UTC)
vomiting foxes

October 2014

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