writereaderly

writing of readerly reviews of writings

Month: September, 2013

Review: Anna Dusk’s “In-Human”

anna dusk in-humanI bought this out of curiosity: the supernatural genre has been so flooded with sexualised vampires and werewolves and lang-legged beasties that an Australian vernacular narrative of adolescent girls being werewolves could only be interesting. Plus it had full-colour reproductions of paintings as the fold-out cover. And it was unusual, I can certainly give it that, but I didn’t really like it. Teenaged Tassie shazzas being gross and boganly visceral and getting dazzas to “put yer cock in me” in the playground and playing out their teen romance-controversies and rages by eating people, I just didn’t enjoy it. It was grimy without being beautiful. I’m glad the author’s voice is added to the world, though; I’m sure there’ll be others who are ardent fans.

Where it came from: Mega-opshop-books
Time and manner of reading:
Several days of curious but eyebrow-raised samples
Where it went: Opshop
Best line of the book:
Reminds me of/that: —
Who I’d recommend it to:

Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Returning the Gift edited by Joseph Bruchac; The Pea-Pickers by Eve Langley; When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön; The Gutenberg Elegies by Sven Birkerts

Advertisements

Review: Merlinda Bobis’ “White Turtle”

merlinda bobis white turtlePurchased because of Bobis’ splendid novel Fish-Hair Woman. I’m not very fond of short stories as a genre – I find them too neat, too writing-school trim to be truly emotive; I also love narrative absorption, which the genre cannot by definition [‘short’] provide. I think this collection is competent enough, interesting in terms of cultural awareness of the Philippines and a Filipina experience in Australia, but I’m not enamoured. If you’re planning to read Bobis, I’d recommend putting your energies into the above novel first.

Where it came from: Mega-opshop-books
Time and manner of reading:
A couple of lie-down reads
Where it went: SJD
Best line of the book:
Reminds me of/that: —
Who I’d recommend it to:
Culturally curious
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Returning the Gift edited by Joseph Bruchac; The Pea-Pickers by Eve Langley; When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön; The Gutenberg Elegies by Sven Birkerts; In-Human by Anna Dusk

Review: Kate Summerscale’s “The Queen of Whale Cay: The Eccentric Story of ‘Joe’ Carstairs, Fastest Woman on Water”

kate summerscale the queen of whale cayRequired reading for a bookclub I may or may not be able to make friends with, this biography is quite the ripping yarn. Marion Carstairs, best known as “Joe”, inherited some cool oil millions and did whatever she damn well pleased in life – claimed to have left home at 11, drove an ambulance in WWI, slept with every pretty lady who crossed her path into her 70s (including Tallulah Bankhead and Marlene Dietrich), raced speed boats to international acclaim, ran her own benevolent imperial dictatorship in the Bahamas, enacted piracy in the islands when her family annoyed her, and did it all accompanied by her faithful homunculus (man-doll) Lord Tod Wadley. Quite the life; amazing what you can do when you’re so rich you’re ranked as “eccentric” rather than “freak”. A pretty good bio, although I was disappointed by the author’s titillation at Carstairs’ life and loves as a classic invert. Recommended.

Where it came from: Library
Time and manner of reading:
Evening armchair reads
Where it went: Home
Best line of the book: A reminder of the power of perspective: “As the heady 1920s gave way to the sober 1930s, Carstairs’s verve, independence and experimentation were being interpreted as insalubrious and freakish.” (p.114)
Reminds me of/that: —
Who I’d recommend it to:
Readers dulled by ordinary [sic] lives
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Returning the Gift edited by Joseph Bruchac; The Pea-Pickers by Eve Langley; When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön

Review: Larissa Lai’s “When Fox is a Thousand”

larissa lai when fox is a thousandHypnotic and provoking. Lai takes Chinese folktales about Foxes (mystical tricksters), blends them with historical accounts of women poets, and leads those stories into the lives of a group of queer Chinese Canadian young women in contemporary Vancouver. It’s a highly sophisticated diaspora novel, questioning identity, race, sexuality and gender in classic 90s fashion, but with genuine and innovative flair. I found the 20-somethings’ dramas a little wearing – thank god for age — but that would be the author successfully reaching her intended audience. A really interesting book, worth chasing down.

Where it came from: Mega opshop book section
Time and manner of reading:
Pre- and post-yoga reads
Where it went: Keeper Shelf
Best line of the book: “She was crying with new eyes made of brown glass, beautiful and smooth as polished wood, so perfect that she almost believed she had her own eyes back” (p.193)
Reminds me of/that:
Who I’d recommend it to:
Seekers of something curious & modern & gender- and genre-bending
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Returning the Gift edited by Joseph Bruchac; The Pea-Pickers by Eve Langley; When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön

Review: Ariel Levy’s “Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture”

ariel levy female chauvinist pigsLawksamighty, another book which tells me the world is nastier than I’d imagined. Levy analyses women’s participation in highly sexualised modern culture as consumers, purveyors and designers of Raunch Culture – aka women acting like porn stars all the time is the coolest, dude. With chapters on mainstream US trends in public sluttishness, dyke misogyny, teen sex anxieties and TV consumer-sex in various forms, it’s classic New Yorker writing and research on a hideously demoralising topic. Ewk. And ewk again. I have nothing intelligent to say except that I wish none of it were true yet I fear that all of it is: skankfest is the new black. Good on Levy for writing the book, this analysis needed to be done.

Where it came from: AN’s Bookshelf
Time and manner of reading:
Evening reads
Where it went: Home
Best line of the book: “Hotness doesn’t just yield approval. Proof that a woman actively seeks approval is a crucial criterion for hotness in the first place.” (p.31)
Reminds me of/that: —
Who I’d recommend it to:
Dummy category – those who’ll read it aren’t the ones who’ll need it
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Returning the Gift edited by Joseph Bruchac; The Pea-Pickers by Eve Langley; When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön

Review: Sandy Balfour’s “Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8): A Memoir of Love, Exile and Crosswords”

sandy balfour pretty girl in crimson roseA memoir of travels and family interspersed with crossword clues, history and personalities (especially UK crosswordage for the die-hard fan). It’s quite charming as a memoir, Balfour’s style is dry and wryly entertaining, and for a while at least I put in a concerted effort to solve every clue as it appeared. The rarefication of the crosswording milieu started to get to me, however – although that may really mean that I was outsmarted more frequently and more resoundingly than I can stand – but I did enjoy the book and I’m looking forward to sharing it with my crosswording mentor. I did buy it thinking of her.

P.S. Oh, that’s right — whyfor no exploration of the fact that all the crossword setters, except a dead one, were blokes? Quite the patriarchal institution, the crossword page, classic Oxbridge Britishness controlling the grid.

Where it came from: Another lovely secondhand bookshop in these parts
Time and manner of reading:
Assorted bed and armchair reads
Where it went: Keeper Shelf via MR
Best line of the book: “the much-quoted wish of Louis MacNeice: ‘I would have a poet able-bodied, fond of talking, a reader of the newspapers, capable of pity and laughter, informed in economics, appreciative of women, involved in personal relationships, actively interested in politics, susceptible to physical impressions…’” (p.75)
Reminds me of/that:
Who I’d recommend it to: Devoted crossword “solvers”, and perhaps other passionate word nerds
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Returning the Gift edited by Joseph Bruchac; The Pea-Pickers by Eve Langley; When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön

Review: Angela Savage’s “Behind the Night Bazaar”

angela savage behind the night bazaarSomehow, as part of the dinner-table conversation with DC and offspring, this ended up in my bag to take home. Third attempt at crime fiction this week, and thank the deity that this one paid off. Australian PI Jayne Keeney visits her Canadian mate Didier in Chiang Mai, only to find her R&R break disrupted by murder most foul. Well-written; solidly political re AIDS, sex work, ex-pats in the “Third” World; culturally sensitive and observant re Thais from what I could tell; a decent unravelling of nasty crime. And even better, straight author and detective engaging with gay culture, AIDS and homophobia in meaningful ways. Fab. Hope I meet the author again at a DC party so I can tell her my thoughts in person.

Where it came from: DC’s Bookshelf
Time and manner of reading:
Armchair and torchlight bed reads
Where it went: Home
Best line of the book:
Reminds me of/that: Thank god genre fiction can think
Who I’d recommend it to:
Crime readers seeking a bit of political guts
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Returning the Gift edited by Joseph Bruchac; The Pea-Pickers by Eve Langley; When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön; Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8) by Sandy Balfour