Thursday, February 1, 2018

January Reading Round-up

My January was full of poetry and books by New Zealand writers.

I wrote about January's poetry highlights in a previous post. Other January highlights include:

Electrifying Short Stories: What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah. 
Audiobook [5 h 20 m] narrated by Adjoa Andoh.

Well-crafted, sad, nuanced and energetic. These stories are all quite different from each other, yet unified by themes: the place of women in society, particularly in relation to class, status and men; family relationships; and female friendships. Some are set in Nigeria, some in USA. Some have supernatural elements, one is set in the distant future, one a retelling of a traditional tale. Outstanding.

"And he should chastise the girl, he knows that, but she is his brightest ember and he would not have her dimmed."

Epic Fantasy: The Fifth Season by N K Jemisin.
Audiobook [15 h 27 m] narrated by Robin Miles.

Absorbing first volume in a trilogy with great female characters in a world where life is constantly under threat from volcanic eruptions. Three separate storyline voices come together in a most satisfying way. I've got nothing but praise for this audio production and eagerly await my turn in the hold queue at the library for the next in the series.

"Home is what you take with you, not what you leave behind."

New Zealand Fiction: Potiki by Patricia Grace

A fabulous--in all senses of the word: phenomenal, heroic, mythic--and moving novel about a group of Maori people and what happens when developers want access to their land. Deceptively simple writing style, finely crafted and told in multiple viewpoints. I was aided in my understanding by having some previous exposure to elements of Maori culture and language, plus the fact that I was reading a special copy of the book. It had belonged to a deceased friend, who taught this text in her high school English classes. I felt like she was at my shoulder with her helpful marginalia, including handwritten translations of Maori words. The characters, setting and story remain vivid in my mind.
"We had become tellers, listeners, readers, writers, enactors and collectors of stories. And games are stories too, not just swallowers of time, or buds without fruit."

"The gift has not been taken away because gifts are legacies that once given cannot be taken away. They may pass from hand to hand, but once held they are always yours."

Memoir in Comics Format: Pretending Is Lying by Dominique Goblet. Translation from French by Sophie Yanow.

Memoirs told in comics format make my heart beat faster, especially when they are as breathtaking as this one by a Belgian artist, professor of comics and illustration, and certified electrician, plumber and welder. Fragmented scenes--Goblet's estranged alcoholic father and his bizarre wife, G's young daughter, and G's new boyfriend who was not yet over his ex--combine into a compelling literary whole.

The afterword is an insightful piece written by Goblet's partner Guy Marc Hinant. Hinant doesn't come off well in the content of the book, where he's portrayed as disturbed and deceitful. Goblet also illustrates him shadowed by the ghost of his ex. I was pleased to learn that he contributed to this book's creation and is able to feel at a distance from it because it is art. "How have we created, in ourselves, that which we consider to be our own reality? The past is fiction, re-memorization, re-interpretation, fleeting obsession, projection, hypothesis and opacity."

Blandine is always shown with a face reminiscent of Munch's Scream.
Nikita [author's child]: That's my friend.
Blandine [author's stepmother]: Ah, does your friend have long hair?
N: No, why?
B: You just said that it's your friend and that she has long hair!!
N: Ha, nope, it's just a character! [...] just for pretend!
B: Then you are a LIAR! Pretending is lying! It's LYING!

I found a great reading spot at Devonport Library in Auckland.

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