I’m pretty disconnected from book culture (I’m trying! See here, here, here) but even I noticed that this is a big month. The Booker and Giller Prizes will be awarded, and a slew of reading events are running, one for every taste, including the geographic (Germany, Australia), the author-specific (Margaret Atwood Reading Month), and the category-based (Novellas in November, see below, and Nonfiction November, blog or booktube version).
I’m just here to read novellas, though I will have a bit of overlap with one other event. No need to break out the Venn diagrams in my case though!
A weird thing happened to me on Twitter the other day…
I’m participating in a Crime and Punishment read-along on Booktube this month. I’ve been dutifully tweeting my observations, but the readalong doesn’t really have a Twitter presence, so I’m mostly tweeting into the void. I might get a pity like from Michael, if I’m lucky.
Then one of my C&P tweets got retweeted by Ben Shapiro.
The biggest hit to my media consumption, bigger than blogs or ‘tube, has to be podcasts. I never had a long commute, only about 45 minutes or so in the car most weekdays, but I also used to drive to yoga classes, offsite meetings, and other archaic activites. Now? Well, I filled my tank (in a panic) on March 13 and didn’t get anywhere near empty till August…
My Booktube consumption took a bigger hit than my book blog reading when the pandemic hit. Not only were my usual contexts for watching gone (putting makeup on in the morning being the main one), but there was something about it, as a medium, that felt more frivolous than blogs. It certainly didn’t fit in with my new daily YouTube schedule, consisting of Justin’s morning chat at 9:00 am, and the Chief Medical Officer’s daily scolding at 3:30 pm.
For the first few months, I would mostly just peek at random channels, to see who was keeping up with the grind of wrap ups and TBRs despite it all, and who was adjusting their content. Now, I’m slowly getting back into watching, but the urge to create is pretty much gone. Never say never, but… it might be a never. There are plenty of reasons for that, most of which have nothing to do with the pandemic. Here are some of the channels that I’m still watching:
I don’t think my *book* reading has changed much at all, except in quantity. That was already on a downward trend. In 2019, I read 64 books, far from my usual 90+. The reasons for that are here. This year I’m trending towards forty books. The reason for that, briefly, is that…
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.