Last night, before going to bed, I thought about how this first half of 2016 has been really good in terms of reading. Not quantity-wise, because I haven’t read a lot, but what I have read has been good, with a few exeptions. Since the list is so short this time, I’ll add a few words to each book about how I liked it.
- Patty Smith: “Just Kids”. This book was okay. I didn’t hate it, but I also didn’t love it. Smith writes about a lot of fascinating things/events/people, but I couldn’t stand her obsession with Rimbaud. She writes a lot about how she was inspired with him in her work, her style (both in fashion and writing), her travels, basically everything. That could have been good, but in this case I just thought her writing and thoughts became annoyingly immature. I enjoyed reading the book, but during these parts I wanted to put it down/punch it.
- Chris Kraus: “I Love Dick”. It’s gotten quite a revival over the past year or so, which is understandable, because this book is seriously good! Kraus plays with reality and fiction, I like her writing style, I love how she puts “herself” so much out there, and becomes a… well, a person, really interesting and sympathetic, but also flawed as fuck. I like how “I Love Dick” makes you think about art, privacy, desire, misogyny, literary genres, love…
- Jenny Lawson: “Furiously Happy”. Now, this is my main exception to the sentence I wrote before, about books being mostly good. I HATED “Furiously Happy”. Hated. It’s all over the place, the stories are not very interesting, her main goal seems to be to tell others that she is funny, and she treats her various mental diagnoses like something that is only endearing and funny. Complete that with her near-constant bragging about how she’s too crazy for her psychiatrist, and you have awful Bridget Jones-y style chicklit that makes you think “I don’t even know what this book is about, but the writer is definetely among the most self absorbed people I’ve ever come across in writing” (which, honestly, says a lot).
- David Foster-Wallace: “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men”. I enjoyed this, although it took me a while to read. Some of the stories and feelings are still stuck with me, like that wonderfully hyper observant paranoia of the little boy climbing a ladder to a springboard at the pool.
- Michel Houellebecq: “Submission”. I read it for an ark podcast, and, well, it’s just not a very good book. And it gets so much worse for being Houellebecq. I mean, that guy can write the darkest shit with the driest humor that just scares the fuck out of me, while making mythoughts race, and when I’m done with whatever other book by him, Ijust want MORE. But Submission? It just falls flat, all over. I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t excited. I wasn’t deeply depressed with the human race. I wasn’t fascinated. I just didn’t care. There are moments where he’s wonderfully dark and sarcastic, and I thought “Yes, this is Houellebecq after all” but mostly it was just meh.
- Georges Bataille: “Blue of Noon”. Now, this was a surprise to me. In the beginning I kept going back and forth about how I liked it, but it grew on me. It’s kind of your typical inter-war period book, but on acid, and I found myself joining the characters in their nausea.
- Siri Hustvedt: “The Blazing World”. I felt myself comparing this to “I Love Dick” a lot. Both have portraits of remarkable women and misogyny in the art world, both mix elements of fiction with elements of reality, and both have a story telling form of relatively short chapters of confessions. I Love Dick has letters, while The Blazing World has interviews, but they’re comparable. I liked The Blazing World, but it took me a while to get into, and it’s not the kind of book I want to shout about from whatever rooftop I can get to. It’s a good read, though.
- Maggie Nelson: “The Argonauts”. Nelson writes wonderfully, but I felt a bit distanced from the words. The book is very clever and interesting; a kind of memoir, but in the form of theoretical reflections on what it is to be a writer, a mother, a gender, queer, in love, in a relationship, and many other themes. I want to read it again, and I have a suspicion that it’ll grow on me. I was fascinated, and I appreciated the writing, which contained great beauty, but I wasn’t emotionally invested.
- Jane Austen: “Persuasion”. After reading another Austen novel (“Sense and Sensibility”) I though that I didn’t like her. Then my friend bought me a copy of “Persuasion” and forced me to read it, and I actually enjoyed it. Yes, I still thought every character were close to one-dimensional, but I can see that for the time it was written, it was something else. I don’t really have a lot to say about this book. I liked it.
- Marguerite Duras: “Writing”. I can’t make up my mind about this book. Duras definetely has a style of her own, and the sentences are beautifully constructed and what not. However I’ve read so many derivatives of her style, because many writers from the Danish writer’s school (Forfatterskolen) admit to be heavily influenced by Duras. The elements of their books that I didn’t like were when they tried to emulate her style, and show their appreciation for her, and as a result, when I got to the real thing (although not for the first time, cause I’ve read “The Lover” before, and found that thoroughly beautiful and enjoyable), I saw the same elements that I didn’t like in other writers and I got angry. I want to read this book again in some years, when it’s been a long time since I’ve read books that were too obvious fans of hers, and then I’m sure I’ll read it differently. For now, I have to live with having mixed feelings about it.
That’s it. Ten books. I’ve read two more, since we hit the 01.07.2016-mark, and while they’re for another blogpost, I can say that I’ve enjoyed both books tremendously. Take a look at my Goodreads-profile or my instagram if you wanna know about my reading habits more immediately.