Books I Read in August

August’s been a pretty good month reading-wise. I finished a novel and read another for the #2016classicschallenge – Ingrid Bachmann’s Malina and Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon – and a wide range of other books:

Ingrid Bachmann: Malina

I picked up this book at my parent’s one weekend in July, and decided to read the novel as my July #2016classicschallenge. Malina is the first novel of Austrian poet and writer Ingrid Bachmann. It’s excellent, a love story of sorts and also an exploration of language, self, mental health, and the post-WWII generation told through the first-person narrator, a woman writer living in Vienna with her roommate Malina. The narration is so complex, intimate and intensive that it took me awhile to get into it and was hard to finish (for personal reasons) but I definitely recommend it.  

Dave Zirin: Brazil’s Dance with the Devil: The World Cup, The Olympics, and the Struggle for Democracy 

Dave Zirin is maybe the most interesting sports writer today. His blend of sport reporting, class analysis and leftist politics here comes in form of a report on the impact of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics on the people of Rio. The book includes a brief, concise history of Brazil, and I was especially impressed by the way Zirin connected Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine to the sports sphere.

Jeannette Walls: The Glass Castle 

I can barely believe this memoir is true. The childhood story of journalist and writer Jeannette Walls is one of abject white poverty, both neglect and love by her parents. The layers abuse sometimes made me so mad that I could barely keep reading, but Walls prose is so enthralling that I stuck with it. Overall it’s a coming of age story of a future gossip journalist that could be the plot of a Toni Morrison novel. The role of reading as escape, escapism and as habitus marker alone is fascinating.

Toni Morrison: Song of Solomon

My August classic, and one of the novel mentioned by the Swedes when Morrison received her Nobel prize. I’m always awed how compact her narrative and prose is. In this comparatively brief novel, Morrison tells about a century of African-American history, posits questions of race, gender and family, the role of lineage, death and love in Black communities, and creates  complex, messy characters. Perfect.

Paul Beatty: The Sellout 

An odd book to follow Morrison for a number of reasons. Paul Beatty’s novel about a man in the agrarian hood of Dickens in LA county who wants to bring his town back on the map and in the process unintentionally becomes the master a slave and intentionally (faux) segregates the neighborhood is being hailed as one of the best satires of recent time. I don’t really agree.  I don’t think the book is that well written, the scorching snide side remarks and references are at times just packed to tightly, and the book does make a lot of use of the nword (always ending in -er. never in -a) and reproduces a lot of racism and sexism. I know that that’s the point, but sometimes he overdoes it. Also, I’m not so sure if it’s a satire at all. A lot of the book is hyperbolic and satirical, but I didn’t read it as hysterical or humerous as a many (also white) critics did. At first I thought it really was supposed to be “Swiftian satire” as one of the blurbs claims, but halfway through I started reading as more angry than entertaining. It does critique pretty much every contemporary aspect of U.S. society, both mainstream and Black, and once I understood it to be a extremely eloquent “Shit’s Fucked Up and Bullshit” sign, I connected to it more.

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