This is what I read over the last two weeks.
Get in Trouble: Stories by Kelly Link. I really enjoyed Kelly Link’s previous short story collections- I’d rate them super high on my list of liked things. They’re magical and unexpected and special and odd. This collection is as well written, but not as strange as her other stories, which was disappointing. Many of the stories have to do with superheroes and there are some strong reoccurring themes, but I prefer her earlier collections, (Stranger Things Happen: Stories, Magic for Beginners, Pretty Monsters).
“So my question is this. Does Angel the vampire keep a pair of black leather pants in his closet? Just in case? Like fat pants? Do vampires have closets? Or does he donate his evil pants to Goodwill when he’s good again? Because if so then every time he turns evil, he has to go buy new evil pants.”
Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar is an absolutely stunning book. It’s so well written. Sometimes I forget how brilliant books can be. Then I read something like this where the words just sing and I remember. It’s an account of life with the Bloomsbury group- a group of bohemian artists and writers that included Virginia Woolf and her siblings, E.M. Forster, Duncan Grant and others. The book is written from the perspective of Vanessa Bell, Virginia Woof’s sister, who struggles with loving and being exasperated and eventually hurt by her mad, genius sister. Vanessa was an accomplished painter in her own right, and she and her siblings occupied a time in England where gender and class roles were changing and adapting. Her voice is so clear in this book that it made me want to learn more about her. I’ve read a lot about and by Virginia, but there’s a whole other side to the story, and this book makes an excellent attempt at shining light on it. The writing is so honest and the language so beautiful. I really highly recommend it.
Getting Virginia to Cambridge had been like moving a pound of ants.
Thoby’s at homes have the soft, unpredictable feeling of a hat tossed high in the air.
I wanted Thoby’s friends to see her dazzle the way she can when she chooses to rake the conversation into a leafy pile and set it alight.
Friday nights-for artists. Shape. Colour. Light. Depth. The fractured, messy journey of image. I hope people come. I want so much. I want these nights to be brave. I want to elbow words out of the way and give art the floor. In Cornwall, I felt wrapped in such a sense of what was possible. Each canvas soaked up the paint hungrily. The brush thrummed with purpose. It was not the outcome that mattered but the doing. I want to bottle that feeling and serve it to my guests.
Where the Dead Pause, and the Japanese Say Goodbye: A Journey by Marie Mutsuki Mockett is a really interesting book about grief in Japan. Mockett is half Japanese, and her Japanese family runs a Buddhist temple in Northern Japan, near the area affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The book is a memoir of her travels through Japan as she attends to the services for her grandparents’ remains (their deaths were not connected to the natural disasters) and deals with her grief over her father’s death (also non disaster related). She decides to learn more about Buddhism, and as she does so, she learns more about how the natural disasters effected the Japanese and how they are grieving. It’s a thought provoking book, and it opened my eyes to a number of things about Japan. If I have one comment it’s that her grief was somewhat missing from the book- it’s mentioned but not felt by the reader. That’s fine, but for a book about grief it struck me as a lack. But I would recommend it to anyone interested in Japan and/or grief.
All across Japan people have been suffering for a long time. A long time. And the tsunami has revealed our modern problems, and the limitations of how we now care for each other.
He now trusted in the great wisdom that life was full of suffering and happiness and that wisdom lay in this tension.
I often felt in those day that to be stuck in grief was to feel kidnapped against one’s will and forced to go to some foreign country, all the while just longing to go back home.
Prudence (The Custard Protocol) by Gail Carriger. Any book by Gail Carriger is like a little tailor made present for me. I don’t know how she does it, but they’re just perfect. This book is the start of a new series that follows the daughter of Lady Alexia Maccon from the Parasol Protectorate series. Prudence (called Rue) is your typical Victorian young woman with a meta-natural mother, a werewolf father, and a vampire foster father, who herself has the ability to “steal” other people’s powers and use them as her own for a short time. Rue has been given the assignment from Lord Alkadama (her foster father) to go to India to investigate a new sort of tea, and so she assembles a crew for her new dirigible (The Spotted Custard) and goes off in search of adventure, which of course, she finds. It’s marvelous.
Lady Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama was enjoying her evening exceedingly. The evening, unfortunately, did not feel the same about Lady Prudence.
“I’ll have you know, infant, I was a madcap adventurer of epic proportions. Not that you should take that as permission, mind you.”
In the end, Queen Ivy gave up mothering her son, and Percy stopped poking her vampires with letter openers.
If Dama had taught her nothing else, it was that the outrageous was often one’s best disguise. It is a very great thing, my Puggle, not to be taken seriously, he had once said.
I’m currently reading The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison. It’s really excellent so far. What are you reading?