Hello there! It is I, Lola, your third (and delinquent) guest blogger for this month at the Pursuit of Harpyness.
Now, I do have a companion piece to my heterolifemate M’s piece on our queerplatonic relationship, which is almost ready to go. In addition, I had thought to write something feminist-y, class-related, or politically relevant – and I might – but I can’t seem to pull my thoughts together beyond you know, basic grooming and getting on the bus. This month has thus far been full of work shit-shows and big feelings, so my emotional reserves are pretty tapped. And what do I do when things are woeful? I read books, so I’m going to tell you about my newest acquisitions.
Earlier this month, I happened to come upon a Border’s closeout sale – it was one of the few remaining stores and was finally shutting down. It made my conscience feel rumpled because all of those employees are losing their jobs and we’re gleefully circling like seagulls around a clam roll cart. However, I had several cultural studies moments, which livened my day (this is perhaps too self-revelatory). First, all of my favorite sections – fiction, history, poetry, and mystery – were 20% off and the romance novel section was like, 40% off. I may explore this though further in a post about the cost of books in relation to their perceived reading demographic – or as it was once explained to me “rich-people books and regular-people books” (I leave it to you to imagine which type was being derided in the conversation). I’m not even going to discuss how all of the BBC miniseries were still full-price. There was also a bad moment when I thought to myself, “Borders, if you are going to file Glenn Beck with actual historians, then maybe you shouldn’t be in business.” But that was unkind of me. It is also interesting to see what people will buy when they believe they are getting a great deal, even when the discount is actually quite small – the mob-mentality of close-out sales. File those with post-Christmas sales, the thought of which lead me to finish off the cookies and wine and refuse to leave the house. Also, people were not buying poetry or Christian romances. Upon reflection, and with a large coffee in hand, I decided that if I was going to wait in line, I should make it worthwhile. So finally, if you’re still with me, they are:
How Proust Can Change Your Life, Alain de Botton
I had actually meant to read this book since college, and of course never got to it. Probably because I was busy studying American class disparities and actually reading Proust. Which I didn’t get at the time. But here’s a funny, WASPy, trivia note for you: The senior yearbook of my alma mater, Smith College, is called the Madeleine. Get it? Proust’s madeleine…causes him to remember his past…not unlike a yearbook???? So pretentious, but also gives me a warm feeling of gleeful nostalgia…not unlike watching episodes of the L-Word. Anyways. I have started reading this book – favorite quote thus far “As for Miss X, to his mother’s distress, Marcel had never been receptive to her charms, nor to those of the Misses A-Z; and it was a long time since he had bothered to ask if there was a younger brother at hand, having concluded that a glass of well-chilled beer offered a more reliable source of pleasure than lovemaking.” You can read about this book for real, right here.
The Water Room (A Peculiar Crimes Unit Mystery), Christopher Fowler
I have never read a book in this series, but my sense is that if you combined Jasper Fforde with a British version of Statler and Waldorf (yes I mean the Muppets) you would have the team of John May and Arthur Bryant. For me, British detective fiction, the more eccentric the better, is the literary equivalent of mac and cheese – what I choose when I need to eat my feelings. Like, if P.D. James could live forever I would be happy. Plus, the covers are great, and I’m superficial that way. You can read a legitimate review with great quotes on this blog that I just found with a Google search.
The September Society, Charles Finch
This is the second mystery in the Charles Lenox series, which endeavors to bring cozy, undemanding British mysteries to an art form. It also rather a rip-off of The Sign of Four, but I don’t mind. The atmosphere is quite lovely, though the plots manage to be a little thin. I keep buying these books even though they’re not great. I don’t know why. I sort of really like them and halfway through I just want to be all YOU’VE MADE YOUR POINT WITH THE TRAINS AND THE EVENING PAPERS AND THE FIRE-WARMED SLIPPERS. I just want them to be a gloomy Sunday panacea. It’s a compulsion.
The Cellist of Sarajevo, Steven Galloway
Speaking of compulsions, this book has been on the periphery of my radar for a while and I just decided to pick it up. It’s not my usual choice these days – my professional life requires that I encounter some terribly grim realities, so my reading choices reflect a desire for a little more light-heartedness in my life. The novel is inspired by cellist Vedran Smailovic who played in bomb-ravaged Sarajevo for 22 days, in response to the deaths of 22 people killed in a mortar attack. It follows the cellist and three strangers drawn into his world – a bakery worker, a young father, and a sniper. I don’t really have anything jokey to say about this.
The Painted Drum, Louise Erdrich
I have been meaning to read Erdrich’s work for some time and the description of this book was right up my alley, as they say. The story follows the discovery, in an attic in New Hampshire, of a rare drum made by an Ojibwe artisan. The novel journeys in time, revealing the history of the drum and the people whose lives are touched by it. I really enjoy material culture as a discipline and like fiction that uses items like instruments, houses, books, or furniture to drive the narrative. Like Nicole Krauss’ Great House, which is on my list, or George Howe Colt’s The Big House (a forever favorite). The book also kind of sounds Red Violin-ish (a side note, I have a real thing for novels that involve luthiers and stringed instruments of all kinds, if you do too, you should read Paul Adam’s The Rainaldi Quartet and Robertson Davies’ The Rebel Angels).
That’s all I’ve got for today and I might have tested your patience, given the length of this post. I also pulled some great library books this month, plus a few for my birthday, so I might follow-up with those at some point. But who knows? Perhaps tomorrow I will rise feeling Especially Political.