I am regretting two things about my reading year. The first was even trying to do a themed approach. The second was not numbering my reads, as I did last year. I haven’t been writing them down, haven’t been keeping track. Possibly this is because of guilt about point number 1.
Last weekend I finished Deborah Levy’s HOT MILK. The voice grabs you by the throat/gut or some tender place of your body and drags you along. You’re noticing all the things – medusa jellyfish; mother-daughter dysfunction; daughter dysfunction; odd doctor and odder daughter; strange German; estranged father. Trying to make sense but not even caring that it seems like scattershot and you can’t pull it together because it’s so readable and entertaining and compelling. I recommend it though you might have to just submit to it in a way, without expectation of getting it. If you do ‘get it’or get something other than just a surface decoding of the words, please let me know what you thought. I had the feeling that if I had more of an inclination I could try to to work some stuff out, or if I knew more/some classic Greek mythology I would have been able to pull some more threads together than I did, but if there is an underlying layer of meaning, it’s much more subtly arranged than, say, Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies and consequently less frustrating/irritating. (I’ve read some people say they loved this one, and not the other one [Swimming Home] and vice versa. I have Swimming Home to read and it came emphatically recommended by Tracy Farr, and I trust that woman.)
Yesterday and today I read THE LAST INTERVIEW, a slim volume containing a series of interactions between David Foster Wallace and various people, including Dave Eggers (whose interview is one of the better ones.) Sadly, to me, it seems Wallace’s edge comes off in the final interview, possibly unsurprising as it was conducted the year he died. I think he was a great mind and a tragic type and how lucky we are to have anything of his writing. One summer I will read Infinite Jest and The Pale King, uh oh there I go making parameters again.
I read half of Hannah Kent’s THE GOOD PEOPLE before I gave it away, overwhelmed by the inclusion of ‘too much stuff’. It wasn’t for me. I would love to hear from other readers about this one.
Lastly, I read this essay by Maria Tumarkin which was published in the Sydney Review of Books – was it Friday last week? It’s a ripper (I thought; some won’t like it) and it’s another fine example of someone saying ‘you know what, this is what I think and I’m not scared.’
What have you been reading? Any recommendations? Do you find it harder to like novels the older you get? Is this why people can switch to non-fiction? I remember Helen Garner saying something similar years ago, that she was saturated with fiction and found she couldn’t read it anymore. This is problematic, isn’t it? I mean, come on, we need novels. Don’t we?