April 16, 2012

Books this month: May 2012


I've been reading A LOT this month for some reason, and I've discovered HOLDS at the Berkeley Public Library (where I can log in online and request to "hold" a book when it becomes available- then I'll receive a little email and I'll trot down to the library to get my book without all of that anguished hand-wringing because I can never find the books I want!)

1. How I Became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely
I was really quite offended when I first started reading this! The basic plot premise is that a guy sets out to trick legions of readers into believing that he's the voice of a generation when really he's just playing on a few tropes of "good literature"- "lyrical" language, convoluted plot with characters of varying races (to appeal to the broadest audience), and vague metaphysical wonderings underpinning the entire endeavour.
Which is a little insulting to an English major, since I have basically spent my entire college career READING those novels and then ANALYSING them based on those very characteristics.

But he is very very funny/ snarky and there is a lot of truth to that, and ultimately the sanctity of writing and literature is preserved. So hurrah.

2. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
This is definitely not for the faint of heart. It's about anorexia, and the death of a friend, and absolutely chilling and beautiful and terrifying. I've always enjoyed reading Anderson's books (I think I borrowed SPEAK 15 times from the library in secondary school), but her other books can seem a little disjointed and awkward in terms of the prose (in a way that detracts from the fluidity of the story). Not the case for this book.

3. The History of Sexuality by Michel Foucault
Foucault is a genius, and he is such a good and compelling writer that reading this isn't work at all. His ideas about sexuality/ power/ knowledge have really underpinned a lot of contemporary writing, and my (one of many) AH-HA moments came when he asserted that sexuality has, in recent years, become less about the act itself (of intercourse/ perversion) but has become an IDENTITY. In that sense it has become even more condemning because then judgement on acts of sexual perversion aren't just cast on the acts itself, but on the PERSON who committed it (e.g. why homosexuality is so condemned, because the person is a "homosexual" and not only because "sodomy is bad")

I just think this is a really great book (Jorel agrees I'm sure), and I think it's really important to read especially in this era of "slut-shaming" or "virgin-shaming"-- to understand the deeper structures of power that cause us to think this way.

OKAY. Enough provocative words that will cause my blog to become R21. I need to run off for ballet but have a great Monday, and let me know if you read any of these books and what you think!

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