This book is positioned as an essay collection, but it easily could’ve been called a memoir. Or one big essay in pieces. Or, as Meghan O’Rourke is quoted in the cover blurb, a “guide to the complexities of thinking about illness”.
The essays aren’t scholarly, though you’ll gain quite a bit of background knowledge, not just about her diagnoses, but mental health systems of diagnoses and treatment in general. They aren’t personal essays, in the “it happened to me” style, though there are plenty of personal details and even a little name-dropping. Wang doesn’t use schizophrenia as a metaphor, though she references the metaphors and plots of movies and books with ease.
And this book definitely, thankfully, doesn’t have the “overcoming adversity” inspirational feel of mainstream illness memoirs.
I noted that my first #20BooksofSummer20 review, of Real Life by Brandon Taylor, would likely be enhanced by a rereading of Mrs. Dalloway, a text that is alluded to from the very first line. The Known World immediately put me in mind of a another book too, and I even did some research this time! And reread the first chapter of said book! Don’t say I never did anything for you, gentle blog readers.
But after all my hard work, I think I’ve talked myself out of it. Let me explain…
I don’t know Brandon Taylor in real life, but it sometimes feels like I do. He’s prolific on Twitter, but doesn’t stick to a particular persona or schtick. He tweets all kinds of stuff and in all kinds of moods. It’s the kind of Twitter account that draws me in, and in this case, convinced me to buy a debut novel (see also: Colin Barrett).
So while I acknowlege that Twitter is not real life and I don’t actually know Mr. Taylor, after following him for several months, I feel confident in saying that he did not write Real Life to educate the likes of me, a 39-and-three-quarters-years-old white Canadian woman, about racism and sex. There’s also this article in the Guardian that says so pretty explicitly. And yet!
The story of how Emmanuelle Pagano’s 340-page French short story collection, Un renard à mains nues, became the 128-page International Booker Prize nominated English collection Faces on the Tip of My Tongue is almost as interesting as the stories themselves. Peirene Press, the English publisher, exclusively offers books that can be read “in the same time it takes to watch a film,” so Un renard needed to be drastically shortened. Translators Sophie Lewis and Jennifer Higgins narrowed down the stories to those that best conveyed the themes, then divvied them up, translating alone before trading drafts back and forth and critiquing each other’s work.
The result is a charming, disorienting, tightly connected collection that literally does something that many a novel tries to metaphorically do: forces the reader to consider different perspectives.
Once again, I have rashly decided to follow the International Booker Prize. I learned some harsh lessons in 2018 about how difficult it is to get new and obscure UK books in Canada, and I’m back to share my wisdom (and spreadsheet) with you.
This year’s longlist looks a bit easier to manage than the 2018 edition. I found at least one way to access each book in Canada. I was able to start Faces on the Tip of my Tongue immediately on my Kindle, for the low price of $5.59, and I will use an Audible credit for one of the three audio titles available, perhaps starting with the The Memory Police, which appears to be the most straightforward plot (that’s saying something, given TMP’s surreal premise.)
If you’re in Canada, take a peek at my spreadsheet for a variety of options, including bookstore cover prices, plus ebook, audio, and international ordering. For books that aren’t published yet, I noted the publication dates, though hopefully some will change – one book isn’t published here until September!
A few other things to note:
I didn’t include library options here as it will vary by system, but always check the library first! In my library, two titles are on order and one is available but waitlisted. See if you can request titles that aren’t in your library’s catalog.
I took my cover prices from Amazon and Chapters, but you should of course avail yourself of your favourite local indie bookstore.
I included Blackwell’s as my international ordering option because I’m not a fan of Book Depository, but it’s probably safe to assume anything at Blackwell’s is available there too.
Direct-from-publisher prices were converted to CAD by me, your credit card company may have different ideas.
Feel free to make a copy of my sheet and use it to track your progress.
I am not responsible for any TBR explosions or book budget overruns that may result from irresponsible use of this spreadsheet.
Canadians, and Americans of North, Central, or South varieties: are you reading the IBP this year? How are you getting your books?
I didn’t do a Goodreads challenge this year. I didn’t even use Goodreads (looking up one-star reviews of books notwithstanding), but I was keeping track of my reading, and as the the year went on, I could tell something was amiss.
I’ve never cracked 100 books in a year, but I usually get close. By Novellas in November time, I start doing calculations, and look for super-short novels to speed things along. This year, I was barely past 50 books read on November 1. No amount of novellas was going to get me out of this one.
Daily videos were great for a coupleofyears, but that’s gone out the window, so let’s catch up on the Short Story Advent Calendar with a few short reviews. It’s been a pretty good #ssac2019 so far, with a mix of old and new; and traditional and weird.
Day 1: Shelley Oria, “Beginnings” A song about the end of a relationship that was doomed from the beginning(s). Reminded me of the Feist song “Let it Die”, which you’ll recall as a Seth/Summer song from The O.C., right?
Halfway through #NovNov ’19, I don’t have as much to show for it as in previous years. Blame it on the Ducks. It has been an eclectic reading month so far, with a dud, a local success, a backlash, and a reading hangover that has me reaching for nonfiction to clear my head.
I’ve made my novella recommendations, now on to my own reading intentions. I will not finish all of these, mostly due to the fact that I am beginning the month 500 pages into 1000-page Ducks, Newburyport and 2 hours into the 24-hour audiobook The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. Whoops.