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.