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Week seven in ephemera: Reads!

Decent Reads:

My friends know that I love to read. Saying “I love to read,” feels inadequate most of the time; I must read or I begin to feel frantic, unsettled, even desperate. A while back I shared an article about bibliotherapy and when I first came across the concept, nothing felt so real as that possibility. Besides comics and graphic novels, I haven’t shared what I’ve been reading (except for the online articles and essays, of course). Now, I’ll start sharing both current reads and some past reads that impacted me in such a way that I don’t forget them (and I forget things easily – whoops).

Current Reads:

Colson Whitehead’s Apex Hides the Hurt | First, I love Colson Whitehead. I loved Sag Harbor, The Intuitionist, and Zone One. Still haven’t read John Henry Days. I’m only partway through Apex, so I’m not going to say what I think about it beyond the fact that I’m enjoying it. I enjoy satire. Also, it’s common for me to read old stuff. I don’t like having hype in my head when I’m reading something, so unless it’s “summer reading” (more on that later), I’m going to be at least a few years behind. This one was published a decade ago.

Colson Whitehead's Apex Hides the Hurt (2006).
Colson Whitehead’s Apex Hides the Hurt (2006).

~Damn! After I saved the initial draft of this post and continued to waste time in FB-land, I saw this feature on Whitehead regarding his latest, The Underground Railroad. Hype or no (and there’s a lot), I’ll be reading this as soon as possible.~

Elizabeth Bowen’s The Heat of the Day | Speaking of old stuff, the publication date is 1948. It holds up, so far! I don’t know if it’s because I grew up curious about my family’s experiences of the Nazi invasion and occupation of Poland (and their subsequent shifts in identity, dispossession/displacement, place-making, and belonging), but sometimes I appreciate a good WWII novel. I imagine, sometimes, who my grandmothers were before they had children, especially when I read stuff from this era.

Summer Reads:

Lauren Groff’s The Monsters of Templeton | I read this a few years ago and was into it. It’s based on Cooperstown, New York, where I once spent a few humid and resentful days following my dad and brother around the baseball museum and not even bothering to be interested. Looking back it was actually a weird and cool place but at the time I thought sports were crap, unless we were talking about Wimbledon, the giant slalom, or basketball (basically everything my brother was disinterested in – note the theme). Anyway, back to the novel: it’s messy and is about the messes hidden in family lore and reality. I like that stuff.

More recently, Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies | Fates was on the fast-read shelf at the public library and I recognized Groff’s name. You’ll see in the review I’ve linked to that it was a huge book last¬† year but I’d missed that, such is the strength of my hype-aversion. Again, it’s messy and and is about the messes hidden in long-term relationships and family lore. There’s a Weeki Wachee Mermaid, there’s some weird intrigue, and apt descriptions of post-college house parties full of frenemies and acquaintances.

Colson Whitehead’s Sag Harbor | Noted above,¬†SH is one of my favourite summer reads. I was lucky enough to spend at least part of every summer by the coast in southern Maine, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, growing up. My extended family lives all over New England and I miss the region dearly the summers I can’t get back east. So many summer novels about vacation homes, islands, and beach living are about white people; white people with money and the mostly white townies whose world is disrupted/perhaps controlled by their brief presence each year. Sag Harbor, and Dorothy West’s The Wedding, an earlier example, share narratives of black Americans vacationing in beach towns (Long Island in the former, Martha’s Vineyard in the latter). Both novels describe parallel summer communities that have little to do with the more well-known white enclaves. For me, I love having that dominant narrative of summer life cracked; it’s only one story after all, and there are so many more.

Transformative Reads:

Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels | Definitely an exception to my hype-aversion; I didn’t know about them at first but got into and read all of the first three just before the release of the final, fourth, novel. Lifelong friendships are complicated, just as family is complicated, but women are sold a particular idea of being bosom buddies that’s crap, much like romantic comedies are crap. These novels are brutally honest and beautiful. I’ve read several of Ferrante’s other novels as well, and recommend them. People have been talking about the infamously trite cover art of the North American editions. Here’s the latest on that.

Los Bros Hernandez’s Love and Rockets | I have a soft spot for this series and am reading new-to-me issues that I’ve missed. My absolute favourite is Maggie the Mechanic. I prefer Jaime’s work but Gilberto’s is bizarro good. Love, broken hearts, sex, punk rock, adolescent punks, aging punks, California – all the good stuff. Why was it transformative? I love the way these dudes write and draw women, loneliness, alienation, and home.

Lucy Knisley’s Relish | The guy whose comics drawing class I’m taking (Gareth Kyle Gaudin of Perogy Cat fame) loaned me this book right when I started the class. Before reading this, I kinda felt too uncool to attempt sharing stuff via comics but on reading Relish, I recognized my own relationship to food and art and travel in Knisley’s storytelling. I aspire to her way of telling the story visually.

Marsha Hewitt and Claire Mackay’s One Proud Summer | I read this book as a kid and given that my grandparents were part of the Polish expat and Anglo communities in Montreal and my dad was a year old at the time of the 100-day cotton millworkers strike in Quebec, it blew my mind. My mind was blown by Lucie, the 13 year-old protagonist, who Norma Rae’d her way around for justice. I was used to young adult fiction about American (hello, Newberry Award winners), but this was about Quebec, and it was about something that actually happened, and it was radical.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading this far!