February was a relatively light reading month for me, so there are some nearly-done books in the stack at the beginning of this month, along with new additions.
Naomi Novik’s Black Powder War, N.K. Jemisin’s The Kingdom of the Gods, Baratunde Thurston’s How to be Black and the Margaret Millar omnibus have been keeping company with me for at least five weeks. Serious lingerers: I’m not alone in this, am I?
Novik and Thurston are rereads, and included for very particular reading moods, the former for humour and adventure (i.e. the political situation is weighing heavily) and the latter for a more alert version of the same mood.
Jemisin and Millar are demanding each in their own way, the former for its complexity and the latter for its size (the omnibus containing five complete novels). I’m not surprised they have lingered, but I expect I’ll finish reading them before the middle of March.
Comparatively, Héctor Tobar’s Deep Down Dark was only on a stack for a couple of weeks, but I have been reading it in short segments. Even though the story is very compelling (33 miners caught beneath the surface of the San José Mine in Chile in 2010), it’s also very emotional. Vascillating between hope and despair doesn’t feel far from real life these days (although I don’t mean to suggest that I’ve experienced anything like the particular kind of horror these men and their loved ones faced).
This year I’m aiming to read more non-fiction, and given it comprised only 10% of my reading last year, it wouldn’t be too hard to increase, but this reading experience – so gripping and engaging, qualities I associate more readily with fiction – is certainly encouraging.
Wayson Choy’s Not Yet, which chronicles his experiences recovering from a significant heart/respiratory attack, was also a story of survival (as is How to Be Black in some respects). And Lyanda Lynn Haupt’s The Urban Bestiary is a treat (Crow Planet is such a favourite that I delayed my reading of this one, but it, too, is very satisfying).
On the stack, but as yet un-begun, is Teju Cole’s Every Day Is For the Thief, which I imagine slipping into the place which was occupied by Michael Ondaatje’s Coming through Slaughter in February.
Both are strongly rooted in place and time: Cole’s in present-day Nigeria and Ondaatje’s in turn-of-the-century Storyville, New Orleans. Both works depend heavily on photographs, and I have a feeling that they will make a fine pair. Mainly because of this passage from Coning through Slaughter:
“I wanted them to be able to come in where they pleased and leave when they pleased and somehow hear the germs of the start and all the possible endings at whatever point in the music that I had reached them. Like your radio without the beginnings or endings. The right ending is an open door you can’t see too far out of. It can mean exactly the opposite of what you are thinking.”
That’s how I remember feeling while reading Teju Cole’s Open City. And a passage to which I randomly opened in Every Day Is For the Thief reads as follows:
“I have headphones on, and I am listening to ‘Giant Steps,’ that twisting,modal argument of saxophone, drums, bass, and piano that is like a repeated unmaking and remaking of the audible world. […] I have no right to Coltrane here, not with eveyrthing else going on. This is Lagos. I disagree, turn the volume up, listening to both the music and the noise. Neither gives way. No sense emerges of the combat between art and messy reality.”
Doesn’t it seem a fine pairing? That’s what I thought about Louise Erdrich’s Books and Islands in Ojibwe Country as well. Thinking it would mesh beautifully with my first forays into reading her fiction. Tracks was so profoundly rooted in landscape that I wanted to put this volume in, before beginning Four Souls. (So, if you are hoping to read along, there’s still time to read Tracks and catch up!)
The other volume in my stack is Edith Wharton’s The Reef, which I’ve chosen with LibraryThing’s Virago Modern Classics group in mind. Last year I finally managed to finish her classic The House of Mirth, and I have a nice stack of her books yet to read. The only others I’ve read are Ethan Frome, The Custom of the Country, and The Age of Innocence. And this time? I am expecting sorrow and disappointment.
Many of the women in my Mavis Gallant reading are disappointed as well. Maybe that’s why Janice Kulyk Keefer suggested leaving time between readings (which I am doing, reading about one story each week). But people – women and men – are often disappointed, are they not?
Also for March, I’m reading some Irish novels, inspited by Cathy at 746 Books and some Irish short stories, inspired by Mel at The Reading Life. For a classic, Kate O’Brien’s Not Without My Cloak. And, contemporary choices: Anakana Schofield’s Malarky and Lisa McInerney’s The Glorious Heresies. There may be chatter about them here, or perhaps just brief peeks online as I turn their pages.
How’s life on the page, in March, for you so far? Have you been reading something challenging or inspiring?
Have you already read any of these or do you have some/one of them on your TBR?
Is there something in particular you’re looking forward to later this month?