I have found myself reading quite a few debut novels lately.
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
I'm kind of in love with this book right now. A Nigerian woman has multiple gods living inside her (some Ibo spirits, Jesus, etc.) and they sometimes take her over and sometimes fight each other and sometimes just comment on human affairs. It's not going to end well for the woman, that much is clear, but I'm really into this.
Mikhail and Margarita by Julie Lekstrom Himes
It's a take on Mikhail Bulgakov and the censors in Soviet Russia. I just read The Master and Margarita during October, so I've enjoyed all the little parallels that crop up.
Pretend I'm Dead by Jen Beagin
(finished last month)
This felt a little unfinished, but it was good. A "finding your way in the world" novel with just enough weirdos to make it interesting.
The Strange Case of the Alchemists Daughter by Theodora Goss (finished last month)
Dr. Jekyll's daughter teams up with Sherlock Holmes, and the daughter of Dr. Moreau, and Frankenstein's female monster, and some others to solve crimes. This was ... a lot. I kind of lost my patience in the climactic fight scene, so I struggled to the finish.
The Pisces by Melissa Broder
(finished last month)
I've enjoyed Broder's poetry and essays, but this one wasn't quite as captivating. A woman suffers a breakup and house-sits for her sister in California where she falls in love with a merman. Broder is frank and sex-focused and a little bizarre. Interesting book.
There is something exciting about discovering a new author, and getting in early on their career. I follow a few early career awards (The Whiting Award, The Locus Award for First SF/F Novel, The Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, etc.) where I found a lot of the books above.
What have you been reading? Any up and coming authors on your lists?
Book Club! - This month the WGOM book club is doing The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett. Thanks to eschapp for setting that up.
This month I read Flights by Olga Tokarczuk, which won the Man Booker International Award for translated literature. It was really interesting, it made me hold a lot of ideas and themes in my head at the same time. There wasn't much overreaching narrative, but there were lots of vignettes that very clearly fit together with themes of travel, observation and preservation, and the futility of the human desire to keep things familiar and the same. I enjoyed it, although if you're looking for a "great story", this is probably not your book.
I also loved Not Hereby Hieu Minh Nguyen. The poems had absence and hurt, but with an enormous amount of tenderness that made them great to read. It reminded me of Slow Lightning by Eduardo Corral (another favorite - Corral just announced he's got a second book coming out, I'll definitely be buying that sight unseen).
It's the end of the semester, so now I have some free time and I can really get after it and read some books.
I recently tried to quantify all the translated books I've read, and they pretty much fell into three categories: European, Latin American, and Murakami.* But there were no African writers and very few Asian writers (not even African writers writing in European languages).
This past month I listened to Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag - translated from Kannada (spoken in India) - it was a very short, but very well constructed family drama, with an undercurrent of violence.
And this month I'm picking up Beyond the Rice Fields by Naivo. This is the first Malagasy novel that has ever been translated into English. Madagascar is already so strange and interesting, so I'm excited to see what the book is like.
So I've been expanding my reading in that direction, what have you all been reading?
* one notable exception was Han Kang's The Vegetarian (from S. Korea)- which is hallucinogenically great.
Our little guy has really been excited about music over the last few months. We've had a whole bunch of discussions about what is or is not music. So we've watched STOMP, found some hambone solos, listened to some ambient compositions, and some harshly modern classical stuff. Almost everything gets judged as "music".
I've been really surprised at how much he's into the atonal, non-melodic things. The kid loves all the KidzBop stuff as well, but pretty consistently he requests "that one where it sounds like nature" (John Luther Adams - The Wind in High Places).
Anyway, what music (or not music) are you listening to?
I heard a recording of this piece about eight years ago and loved it. It's been released on a couple of albums (including one by Eighth Blackbird), and every time I come across it, I like it again. It weaves between disjointed percussive notes and the full melodic totalist sound that Mazzoli does really well.
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Jace Clayton did an album where he applied his electronic manipulations to music by Julius Eastman - The Julius Eastman Memory Depot. I couldn't find any live performances from that album, but if you read this, you should give that album a listen. Every time I do, I realize again how much I like it.
Eastman was a queer black radical in NYC in the '70's, so his piece titles tend to be provocative. Fair warning.
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