(I…really fell off on bookblogging)
Crazy Town*, Robyn Doolittle: I guess this is the part where I have to talk about Rob Ford. I know Rob Ford has mainly been a punchline for people outside the city, but it’s actually been horrible, going through this…whatever, as a city. I mean, not as horrible as I’m sure it’s been for his kids. I think about his kids a lot, but I’m not going to write about them, they don’t need that.
I was hanging out with a patio with friends the other day and something Ford-related came up, and everyone agreed that it’s been…really nice since he’s been away at rehab.
The thing about Rob Ford is that even before the now-multiple crack videos, he wasn’t a very good mayor. I didn’t really want to read Crazy Town - I’ve tried to keep Rob Ford out of my thoughts as much as possible, just as a measure of self-care, but he was basically the only thing anyone in the city talked about for months, so I felt like I should just dive in. I’m not sure how it would read to someone from outside Toronto who doesn’t remember all the various “zany” incidents (the time he charged at a reporter who was just outside his property lines; the time he showed up to a military ball so impaired they had to ask him to leave; the time he and his brother wanted to build a ferris wheel and a monorail at the city’s waterfront; the time he got fired from coaching his high school football team for saying some pretty negative things about the mostly minority players; the time he almost got kicked out of office over a conflict of interest but then got off on a technicality; the time he called the police on a nationally beloved comedian; the time his mother and sister went on TV after he’d admitted to smoking crack and said that he just needed to lose some weight); but to me it was kind of almost a relief to see everything catalogued and discussed and printed in black and white. Like, this really has been happening. This is a real person who is really in charge of the biggest city in Canada and also slowly falling apart in front of our eyes.
He’s supposed to be coming back to his re-election campaign on Monday. I don’t like to diagnose people, but I can’t imagine that would be good for him.
*IDK about the title, I know it makes some people uncomfortable because ableism, it makes me uncomfortable because it sounds more jokey than it needs to, but I read it anyway.
Karate Chop, Dorthe Nors: I’m pretty sure I lost all my notes about this. I remember it being good, occasionally great. Small, dark, weird stories that have a sense of otherworldliness even though nothing really otherworldly happens, really — which is impressive in and of itself. I had sort of convinced myself that this was good but didn’t really stun me, but then I started reading some reviews to remind myself and I remembered “The Night Garden,” about the kid who goes to live with his dad after his parents get divorced and how much it did with that moment when you stop looking up to your parents and start feeling sorry for them in like, 10 pages, and I’ve convinced myself it was actually pretty amazing.
The People In The Trees, Hanya Yanagihara: I am going to very enthusiastically recommend this book but also say that probably some people will find it hard to read. It’s not like anything I’ve ever read. It’s about an anthropologist who discovers an island where people can halt the aging process — and the aftermath of his discovery and exposure of this previously completely isolated place. It’s framed as a memoir he has written while in jail for molesting one of the many children he adopted from the island. The memoir is being “edited” by a former colleague who wants to stand by him in his disgrace, who thinks that the man’s genius is big enough to excuse his evil. I wasn’t sure I was going to like it because it involves spending time with two different pretty unlikeable people, but it’s really smart and compelling that you kind of can’t help reading on with this kind of book-length sinking feeling.
Life After Life, Kate Atkinson: I was a little shaky on this at the beginning because of the “Let’s kill Hitler” of it all - so British, seriously the most British, I lived in London from 2010-early 2012 and I saw so much television about Nazis, I mean I realize that they got bombed and the Channel Islands were occupied so it’s going to be something people remember, but still, most British. I don’t really have anything else to say about it, great prose, great characters, great ways of having characters remain consistent but not consistent as their lives go differently.
A Tale for The Time Being, Ruth Ozeki: This was the best book, you guys. It’s about a writer named Ruth who lives in coastal BC, and finds a package on the beach with the diary of a teen girl from Tokyo. It’s also about Zen Buddhism, quantum physics, suicide, aging, memory, the relationship between writers and readers, and pretty much everything else. It’s a very smart, very “intellectual” novel in the sense of weaving together a lot of disparate and beautiful ideas about the world but it’s never cold about it. In the “making me blink back tears on public transit” count, this one got me a couple of times, once about a cat, and once about the relationship between a father and a daughter.
An Untamed State, Roxane Gay: This novel is about a woman who gets kidnapped and held for 13 days, and has horrible things happen to her, and then has to try to go back to her life. I’m not sure what it means that I read this very quickly (I am usually pretty slow). I felt it tugging at me even when I wasn’t reading it. Given what Mireille goes through, it’s unsurprisingly tough to read, but also…kind of easy? It keeps a grip on you, you kind of just want to make sure she will be okay. Also, even when she’s describing really viscerally horrible things, there’s an elegance to Gay’s sentences. It’s a really interesting tension, because it’s definitely a novel that’s very much about about experiences of a body and as a body, but it is not written in the style I associate with “difficult woman” type novels. There’s no intentionally messy, rushed feeling prose, no confrontational “ugliness” to it. Every sentence feels carefully considered, has a weight to it.