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RidgewayGirl Reads in 2017 -- Part Three

This is a continuation of the topic RidgewayGirl Reads in 2017 -- Part Two.

Club Read 2017

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Edited: Oct 19, 10:44pm Top

A fresh thread for the final quarter of the year.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, like his fellow artists of a certain age (he was born in 1880), fought in WWI only to see his life's work declared degenerate when the Nazis rose to power. Over 600 of his paintings were destroyed by the Nazis and in 1938 he committed suicide.

Kirchner used and reused his canvases. He would paint over earlier paintings or restretch the canvas so that he could paint on the back of an earlier painting.

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Edited: Oct 19, 10:32pm Top

Alvaro Enrigue (Sudden Death)

Noo Saro-Wiwa (Looking for Transwonderland)

Mohsin Hamid (Exit West)

Pascale Kramer (Autopsy of a Father)

Sana Krasikov (The Patriots) (country of birth)

United States
Charlie Jane Anders (All the Birds in the Sky)
Ramona Ausubel (Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty)
Lou Berney (The Long and Faraway Gone)
Julie Buntin (Marlena)
Michael Chabon (Moonglow)
Dan Chaon (Ill Will)
Hillary Rodham Clinton (What Happened)
John Darnielle (Universal Harvester)
Sarah Dunn (The Arrangement)
Michael Eric Dyson (Tears We Cannot Stop)
Helen Ellis (American Housewife: Stories)
David France (How to Survive a Plague)
Siri Hustvedt (The Blazing World)
Amy Johnson Frykholm (Rapture Culture)
Roxane Gay (Difficult Women, Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body)
Kaitlyn Greenidge (We Love You, Charlie Freeman)
Yaa Gyasi (Homegoing) (country of residence)
Nathan Hill (The Nix)
Samantha Hunt (The Dark Dark)
Joe Ide (IQ)
Eowyn Ivey (To the Bright Edge of the World)
Joshilyn Jackson (The Almost Sisters)
Gish Jen (The Girl at the Baggage Claim)
David Joy (The Weight of this World)
Joseph Kanon (Leaving Berlin)
Rachel Khong (Goodbye Vitamin)
Katie Kitamura (The Separation)
Sana Krasikov (The Patriots) (country of residence)
Catherine Lacey (The Answers)
Paul La Farge (The Night Ocean)
Shari Lapeña (The Couple Next Door)
Min Jin Lee (Pachinko)
Edan Lepucki (Woman No. 17)
Kelly Link (Get in Trouble)
Patricia Lockwood (Priestdaddy)
Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich (The Fact of a Body)
Philipp Meyer (American Rust)
Lydia Millet (Sweet Lamb of Heaven)
Ottessa Moshfegh (Homesick for Another World)
Viet Thanh Nguyen (The Refugees) (country of residence)
Joyce Carol Oates (A Book of American Martyrs, Dis Mem Ber)
Dexter Palmer (Version Control)
Donald Ray Pollock (The Heavenly Table)
Francine Prose (Mister Monkey)
James Renner (True Crime Addict)
Michelle Richmond (No One You Know)
Emily Ruskovich (Idaho)
Rebecca Solnit (Men Explain Things to Me)
Dana Spiotta (Innocents and Others)
Elizabeth Strout (Anything is Possible)
Michelle Tea (Black Wave)
Amor Towles (A Gentleman in Moscow)
Kayla Rae Whitaker (The Animators)
Emily Winslow (The Whole World)

Viet Thanh Nguyen (The Refugees) (country of birth)

Oct 5, 8:31pm Top

Where do you get the time???

Oct 6, 7:58am Top

Jane, it looks bigger all spread out like that.

Oct 7, 1:02pm Top

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body is Roxane Gay's book about what it's like to live in the world as an obese woman, approaching the experience from both universal and starkly personal angles. She's so honest and unflinching in her examination of her own weight, as well as why she is fat, that the book is often difficult to read; I felt that I really shouldn't be privy to such personal information. But Gay is unable to not be completely open, and it's that rawness that makes this book so powerful.

Gay ties her very personal experience to the wider one of how society treats larger women, pulling from her own life to demonstrate how ill-equipped and judgmental we are of people who we perceive as lacking control, and especially of women who take up more space than they should. Gay is also a tall woman, at 6'3" making her even more conspicuous than she would be at an average height, making ordinary things difficult, from airline seats to finding clothes.

While she was on a book tour for this book, she traveled to Australia and did an interview with a website which subsequently wrote an article about the unique problems accommodating Gay's size posed for them, from having to find a sturdy chair to the onerous task of checking how many pounds the elevator could carry. It was amazing how very much a publication which intended to be sympathetic missed the mark and the whole sordid tale proved Gay's points. It should be noted that had this company planned an interview with a man of similar size, they would have gone about their preparations with a great deal less hysteria and certainly never considered it fodder for an article.

Oct 9, 1:28pm Top

Frontier is an experimental novel by Chinese writer Can Xue set in on the northern border in Pebble Town, an odd city dominated by the mysterious Design Institute. Each chapter follows a different character or group of characters, but the story centers on Liujin, a woman living on her own since her parents retired to Smoke City. As she, and those she comes into contact with, go about their lives, odd things happen.

Frontier is described as surreal and there is a folk tale feel to this novel, with wolves and snow leopards wandering through the marketplace, a garden floats and young woman's hand occasionally transforms into a scythe. Sometimes the bizarre is remarked upon, at least by newcomers, but mostly the residents of Pebble Town continue to live their odd lives and think their random thoughts. Most of the book has the feeling of a dream sequence, where events occur unrelated to the events that precede or follow. Time and space are equally unstable.

This book defeated me. I read the entire thing, but each new, weird occurrence left me increasingly disconnected from whatever Can Xue was trying to communicate. The writing was stilted and varied between short lyrical segments interspersed with jarring, technical-feeling language. I'm uncertain of what was the intention of the author and what is the result of a tone-deaf translation. I have other issues with the translation, which leads me to think that the translators did the author a disservice beginning with the odd decision to give half of the characters random westernized names. What I'm left with is having slogged through a novel-length first draft of someone's dream. I suspect that had I a decent knowledge of modern Chinese literature and folklore, or had read this as part of a class, I might have been able to find the substance in this vaporous vision. It was interesting to venture so far from what I usually read, but I can't call the experience a rewarding one.

Oct 9, 10:54pm Top

14> Too bad it was disappointing. The folk tale aspect sounds intriguing.

Oct 13, 7:18am Top

Jane, it was disappointing for me, but I lacked the necessary background to make this book understandable.

Edited: Oct 13, 10:59am Top

Interesting review of the Roxanne Gay memoir, thanks.

I saw over on the "What are you reading?" thread that you are still, like me, listening to the Clinton book. I just listened to the chapter "Those Darn Emails," a chapter I thought I might skip (we've heard it all, haven't we?), or at least not like rehashing it all, but I found it very honest and certainly interesting for various reasons. I sometimes forget that she is older than I by 7 or so years and much less digitally-adept.

Oct 13, 11:23am Top

Lois, I found the email chapter to be hard to listen to. She was honest and forthright and it just felt lousy to listen and think that this is a large part of why we have who we have in the White House.

Clinton has a lovely, lovely voice. While she's clearly not a professional reader, the voice is one I enjoy listening to. And the chapters on policy, which is clearly where she shines and what she's interested in, were so much fun.

Oct 13, 12:38pm Top

>17 avaland:, >18 RidgewayGirl:

I am so dispirited by the election I thought I'd skip Clinton's book, but you've both make me think I should try it. I can't say I thought her public persona was all that inspiring, but good lord, who cared about that when she had so much experience and knowledge, and so many connections? Right now I'm reading Ta-Nehisi Coates's We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy, which is enforcing for me the reasons we ended up with the clown: racism and misogyny, pure and simple. So now we have a man who hates anyone darker than himself, anyone poorer than himself, and anyone who has ever dissed him, turned him down for something, or voted against him. IOW, almost everyone, and especially Obama, who fits most of these categories. Oh, and of course a man with no knowledge, experience or connections. Sigh.

So do you all think listening would be better than reading Clinton's book?

Oct 13, 1:32pm Top

Marge, she's not a great reader. It's pretty clear she's reading her book. But it is in her voice and for me it's easier to hear her story in her voice than it would be to read it on paper. And while I'm a terrible audiobook listener - I rarely get audiobooks because my mind wanders as I listen - but this book holds all of my attention while I'm listening.

I just finished listening to the episode of the NYT Book Review podcast where Pamela Paul discusses What Happened with former NYT editor Jill Abramson and it was both an interesting and frustrating experience. Abramson has covered the Clintons since Bill ran for Governor of Arkansas and she stated that while Clinton is a trustworthy and honest person and that everything she says in the book about Russia, Comey, etc... was true, Clinton is unfair to the NYT who covered the emails exactly perfectly. So a funny blind spot there.

I've got the Coates' book on a shortlist of books to read soon, so I'm looking forward to your thoughts on it.

Oct 13, 5:31pm Top

The Dark Dark is a collection of short stories by Samantha Hunt that were often weird and always a little off-kilter, some stories veering directly into George Saunders/Karen Russell territory, and other stories remaining superficially more ordinary, but with an undercurrent that hints of something else.

This was an excellent collection of stories, where each story felt completely different than the one before. The book begins and ends with two variations on the same story and were the strongest of the stories, although there wasn't a dud to be found. And while the stories stand out for how imaginative they are, Hunt never fails to make her characters fully realized individuals or to give the stories a beating heart.

Oct 13, 9:31pm Top

Finding myself very interested in all your comments here. You left me really interested in Roxanne Gay and her issues (and it has me thinking of the memoir I recently listened to my Jennifer Weiner). Frontier has me wondering about Chinese culture. Your comments on HC has me thinking about trying it (where as previously I wasn't interested, no clue why not). And The Dark Dark sounds terrific. Anyway, enjoying your thread.

Oct 14, 10:06am Top

>22 dchaikin: Funny you should mention your reading of the Jennifer Weiner book, Dan, because as I was reading the Roxanne Gay review above, I thought about your review.

>19 auntmarge64:, >20 RidgewayGirl: I agree completely about her voice. Maybe it's just that it's the extreme opposite of the voice and language coming out of the White House these days, and/or maybe I just found her voice comforting. I will tell you that I unexpectantly fought back tears in the first 20 minutes of listening... I listened to Clinton's 2nd book via audio because she read it, but not the previous book to this one, which she only read a bit of. I've also listened to Madeline Albright and Anita Hill reading their own memoirs, both were excellent.

Oct 19, 12:28pm Top

This is a book. Going in, I knew that it was a modern classic of South American literature and both Worthy and Important, after all, I've had a copy for at least three decades, the bookmark sitting sadly between page 36 and page 37. I was unprepared, however, for the experience of reading it. Reading Love in the Time of Cholera is a brilliant, immersive, frustrating and fabulous experience.

Set a hundred years ago, in a coastal city in Colombia, Gabriel Garcia Marquez tells the story of Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza, from the moment Florentino first catches sight of Fermina and falls madly, desperately in love, until they are both elderly. It's not an easy path; Florentino is awkward and weird and Fermina's father disapproves of the relationship. She marries another, and while his heart remains hers, he spends much of his time juggling a number of lovers as he waits for her to become free.

First published in 1985, Florentino's sexual ethics are presented as laudable and perhaps by the standards of the time and place, they are. But by modern standards, many of his relationships are coercive, if not blatantly abusive. This is the dead insect in the glorious feast of this book. Which is not to negate the importance or the beauty of this excellent book. I'm eager to read Marquez's other novels now.

Yesterday, 6:52am Top

I've been playing with the idea of reading through much of Marquez next year (I've never read anything by him before). So, read your review with interest...this review is really encouraging.

Yesterday, 10:29am Top

Daniel, I could not put it down. I hope to read One Hundred Years of Solitude next year.

Today, 9:27am Top

The premise for Joe Ide's debut novel, IQ, is unbeatable. Sherlock Holmes in the form of a young black man living in the 'hood, more specifically, East Long Beach. Isaiah Quintabe is an orphan, his brother dying suddenly while IQ is in high school and seemingly bound for better things. Scrambling to find a way of supporting himself, he makes a life for himself solving crimes in a neighborhood the police would rather not enter, being paid with whatever his client can afford. He's broke and has a debt to pay, when an old roommate resurfaces with a job offer from a wealthy rap singer, who wants to know who is trying to kill him.

The central mystery is pretty thin, and most of the book is made up of IQ's backstory, which is more interesting than the mystery in any case. Ide concentrates on the setting and atmosphere, vividly describing life in the grittier corners of Los Angeles in a way that allows the reader to hear the freeway noise and see each location as though watching a movie. On the other hand, Ide falls back on stereotypes to create his characters, who all seem pulled directly from a list of stock characters, none of whom ever make an attempt at individuality.

The book was a mixed bag for me. I loved the setting, which isn't one often encountered, but the thinness of the plot compared with the dullness of the characters made reading this book less enjoyable than I had hoped it would be. Still, there is the kernel of a good series here and the first book in a mystery series is rarely the strongest. The second book in the series has just been published, so I'll be waiting to see if Ide develops as an author and breathes some life into his characters and creates a plot worthy of a Holmes-inspired character.

Group: Club Read 2017

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