writereaderly

writing of readerly reviews of writings

Month: April, 2013

Review: E.M. Forster’s “A Room with a View”

e.m.forster room with a viewI’d been hankering to reread this one, so I snaffled it at the Sunday hippy market and didn’t resist temptation for very long. What a pleasure to reread it, now as an adult – Lucy Honeychurch’s coming to passion and life, thanks to Italy, tourism and Fabian philosophies held by joyous-contemplative Mr Emerson and depressive- contemplative son George (leave feminism out of this rescue scenario, you’re bound to be disappointed). I’d been suckered in to this story by the Merchant Ivory production I saw as a teenager, all afroth with frocks and Italy-worship, and reading the novel was like playing the movie in my head (sorry, Mr Forster, but it works to your favour, it really does). The characterisation is deft, the plotting faultless, the accesses of world-worship radiant. Fabulous; divine, even; highly recommended.

Where it came from: Market stall
Time and manner of reading:
Evening snippet and devoted morning lie-in
Where it went: Keeper Shelf, possibly via MM
Reminds me of/that: The movie-from-book you see had better be a good one – there ain’t no gettin’ those actors out of your head on the reread
Who I’d recommend it to: Seekers of a good book, classic but light and full of beauty
Also reading: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon; Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; The Seven Sisters of the Pleiades by Munya Andrews; The Politics of Ecstasy by Timothy Leary

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Review: “Car Maintenance, Explosives and Love, and Other Contemporary Lesbian Writings”, edited by Susan Hawthorne, Cathie Dunsford and Susan Sayer

susan hawthorne et al car maintenance, explosives and loveI confess: I bought this for the fabulous Tina FiveAsh cover photo. I’d owned this book when I was young and impressionable, passed it on in some travelling bookshelf cull, and was recently reminded how great this photo was. Unfortunately, the internet’s language–image interface is not yet sophisticated enough to let me key in “lesbians car kissing 1950s” and have this shot delivered to me, so I’ll be happy to keep it in book form.

I confess more: having reread more than half of the anthology, I thought I’d *only* be keeping it for the cover. This is a 1997 compilation of Australian and NZ lesbians’ writings, with a healthy representation of Maori and (one) Aboriginal woman. Many of the pieces are stylistically dated, quite a few are downright average, and it is unflattering to the reviewer to find one’s own writing good by comparison to others’ poor offerings (naughty me). However, by the end I had been convinced that there were enough smart, witty, well-written pieces among the drama, poetry and short stories compiled here to justify a couple of inches on my shelf. I think the book is best considered as a contribution to an ongoing dialogue of lesbian writers, a way of dejando constancia (leaving a record) of lesbian life, lives and culture. And as such, it is valuable and necessarily of its time. Recommended on those terms.

Where it came from: Market stall
Time and manner of reading:
Twenty-five hours of every-spare-minute reading, more because it existed than because it was fantabulous
Where it went: Keeper Shelf
Reminds me of/that:
Who I’d recommend it to: Dykes and dyke-curious
Also reading: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon; Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; The Seven Sisters of the Pleiades by Munya Andrews; The Politics of Ecstasy by Timothy Leary

Review: Jeanette Winterson’s “The Passion”

jeannette winterson the passionSpurred on by my recent Winterson experience, I gobbled this down and was entranced by it. Winterson writes of chicken-cook Henri from rural France, Casino-dealer Villanelle from Vienna, and Napoleon Bonaparte and the passions which bind and separate them. Slimly and wisely written, a zesty and careful faerie tale, excellent read. Recommended.

Where it came from: MM’s Bookshelf
Time and manner of reading:
One all-in-together-girls evening armchair read
Where it went: Home
Reminds me of/that: The first Napoleonic section’s stateliness reminded me of Jennifer Mills’ writing
Who I’d recommend it to: Readers who need reminding of the pay-offs and costs of passion
Also reading: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon; Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; The Seven Sisters of the Pleiades by Munya Andrews

Review: Thomas Pynchon’s “The Crying of Lot 49”

thomas pynchon crying of lot 49A surprise reread, getting some points on KAM’s mega-list. The 1966 tale of the randomised adventures of Oedipa Maas as she executes an ex-lover’s will and tracks down the history of a rogue postal system. Bewildering but gripping once you’re in the zone, eloquent and zany and fun, I can imagine this would have had scads of revolutionary charm 50 years ago. I’d still recommend it as a good read.

Where it came from: MM’s Bookshelf
Time and manner of reading:
A few confused sampler reads, followed by an absorbed-and-slightly-running-late-but-what-the-hell morning read
Where it went: Home
Reminds me of/that: Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace (although an awful lot briefer)
Who I’d recommend it to: Readers after a quick, quirky qulassic
Also reading: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon; Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; The Seven Sisters of the Pleiades by Munya Andrews

Review: Marie Darrieussecq’s “A Brief Stay with the Living”

marie darrieussecq brief stay with the livingA tragedy happened 25 years ago in the lives of Mother and daughters Jeanne, Éléonore and Anne. What was it? How were the women affected? Darrieussecq has a heavily worked style, telling this narrative in the four women’s internal voices (plus a token Father chapter). I had fun with the trilingualism of the text – English, French, Spanish – but the sloppy Spanish and slightly unrealistic Buenos Aires (mango picking on the Tigre Delta?) annoyed me. No plot was really required or supplied for this revelation of characters, and I can’t say I found this book enjoyable – too much effort for solid Froggy cleverness but too little entertainment.

Where it came from: Opshop
Time and manner of reading:
Multiple sample reads – dense, so segmented
Where it went: ???
Reminds me of/that:
Who I’d recommend it to: Readers wanting to keep up with modern European style
Also reading: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon; Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; The Seven Sisters of the Pleiades by Munya Andrews

Review: Jeanette Winterson’s “Art Objects: Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery”

jeanette winterson art objectsI had pretty much written off Jeannette Winterson under the comment “My god, she can write, but my god she’s a wanker”. I even confess that when I recently put together a Must-Read Literary Lesbians list for a newcomer to the sisterhood, I included only one short story, ‘The Poetics of Sex’. These essays have renewed my faith, however, and made me eager to (selectively) reread JW to see what I can understand in her now. Here, she writes of poetry, artistic need, social need, purpose, transcendence, sexuality, and book obsession, with insightful pieces on Woolf, Stein and others. The pretentious introductory “why we should love pictures” essay aside, this is a fine and challenging collection. Recommended.

Where it came from: MM’s Bookshelf
Time and manner of reading:
Sleepy bedtime sample and devoted morning hoe-in
Where it went: Home, but I wish I had a copy for the Keeper Shelf
Reminds me of/that: Anne Fadiman’s Ex Libris
Who I’d recommend it to: JH, MOD, EC
Also reading: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon; Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; The Seven Sisters of the Pleiades by Munya Andrews; A Brief Stay with the Living by Marie Darrieussecq

Review: Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse-Five”

kurt vonnegut slaughterhouse-fiveI blithely marked this off KAM’s list years ago, but having just (re?)read it I think I must have been a) asleep or b) in someone else’s body while this book was being read. A sharp, clever and terrible account of the dog-days of WWII, particularly the fire-bombing of Dresden, Vonnegut flings his hero Billy Pilgrim into time travel, zoos on other planets, and prisoner-of-war camps in doomed German cities. Compassionate and grounded, I can highly recommend it. Enjoy.

Where it came from: MM’s Bookshelf
Time and manner of reading:
Padding reads around dinner this evening
Where it went: Home
Reminds me of/that:
Who I’d recommend it to: Readers seeking a witty, savvy classic
Also reading: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon; Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; The Seven Sisters of the Pleiades by Munya Andrews; A Brief Stay with the Living by Marie Darrieussecq