What We're Reading, Vol. 8
April showers bring May flowers is one saying. That they keep us indoors, reading away, is another here at the Attic. Especially with unexpected snow showers and blue spells brought on by tax season hanging over our heads, making this spring month an even moodier one.
Here’s what we’ve been reading to pass the time and embrace the change of seasons…
I'm currently traversing a dissertation hellscape so most of the reading I do is filled with medieval anchoresses. However, I burnt out a few weeks ago and decided that I would set aside at least thirty minutes a day for reading for pleasure. I've been yearning for the books I used to read in my late teenage years recently. They were filled with mythology (I really thought I was going to become a classicist at one point) and plotted with exciting worlds that are very different from our own. I picked up Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente and began a rather nostalgic re-read yesterday. Anyone that remembers it from its 2013-14 tumblr heyday will probably know it's a gorgeous book. It's bursting with delightful prose, wicked-sharp characters, and Russian mythology. I'd wholly recommend it to anyone that wants a reading reset or wants a bit of an escape from a pile of reading that all looks the same.
I’ve just finished The Two Towers by JRR Tolkien, but needed a break before moving on to The Return of the King – I read the Hobbit, The Fellowship of the Ring, and the Two Towers back to back! I am enjoying my Tolkien binge so much that my break might stem from the fact that I’m not ready for it to be over just yet.
In the meantime, I’ve started reading Florida by Lauren Groff. I read Groff’s other best-seller Fates and Furies last summer on holiday and was absolutely mesmerised by her melancholic writing style. Florida is a collection of short stories about the southern state – a place in which I’ve spent a bit of time and have always been fascinated by. Groff’s descriptions of the gritty, humid, and sometimes exotic environment in Florida remind me of my own experiences there; in the aftermath of a hurricane in 2007, when everyone was holed away in their homes, I saw a panther emerge from the woods behind my grandparents’ house – a scene that felt otherworldly and would not be out of place in Groff’s work.
Reading this month mostly took place on planes, and I feel like I spent a lot more time hanging out in bookshops and popping into Payot a thousand times in Geneva to see if they’d gotten a copy of Spring in early than actually reading. Still, I read some fantastic books this month – The Mothers by Brit Bennet (which I had just started in last month’s piece), An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, New People by Danzy Senna, The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory, and now, at long last, Spring by Ali Smith. Perhaps ironically, after all the effort I put into finding a copy, I’ve struggled the most with Spring. I hit a roadblock when I picked it up to finally read last week – due to a storyline I didn’t particularly care for – and though I’ve now gone back to it and am reading quickly, the novel is certainly heavier than the first two in the seasons quartet. It’s beautiful and stunning, but in a way that makes me need to frequently put down the novel.
As predicted last month, too many reads at once didn’t bode well for me. But I’m not shy about putting reads down for later, simply because I feel like most of reading has to do with being in the right moment for the right story… and accepting when the moment is no longer right. Upon finishing my reread of High Heel, and subsequently writing about that here, I abandoned my own syllabus of suggested follow ups, with The Bell Jar and Pain, Parties, Work making their way back into the TBR pile, as well as My Year of Rest and Relaxation. Finally over my cold, I needed to clear my head and starting fresh seemed like a good idea. Still, I couldn’t stop thinking about Leslie Cohen’s This Love Story Will Self Destruct and found myself rereading it just before meeting Olivia in Washington, and again upon my return home. Like any of its genre on television or Netflix, this romantic comedy lends itself well to repeat viewings.
When traveling I always feel drawn to travel themed reads, and so Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley and Mary Ventura and The Ninth Kingdom by Silvia Plath both made their way up to Washington with me, to be joined by a few more slim titles over the course of our bookshop tour of the city. With rainfall now arriving in Savannah, the balmy atmosphere is mirrored nicely in Katherine Mansfield’s short At The Bay, a Modernist tale of summertime in New Zealand with sumptuous descriptions of water, sand, and air, and a family living through a single innocuous-seeming day together. Another highlight of the holiday acquisitions pile, I’ve been slowly making my way through Elisabeth Murawski’s Heiress, a poetry collection about childhood and broken families that keeps knocking me out with every passage.
After a small hiatus, I am back to reading for pleasure. My love for binge-watching will never fade but I am glad to be back with a new novel! I have recently started The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas. The book mainly deals with the consequences of time traveling on the human psyche: four women are the scientists behind this much-awaited technology but one of them comes back from their travel unable to speak coherently. Betrayal, murder (possible? probable? how do you define a murder that hasn’t happened yet???), and more time travel of course ensue, and I personably cannot wait to read more. Original, gripping, and clever – I am enjoying it immensely!
One of my favourite things about changing courses has been the opportunity to throw myself back into reading for pleasure before a new year of academic reading begins. Thanks to my new job and library card, I’ve been able to treat myself to a quickly-diminishing TBR pile, with long-anticipated reads such as Outline by Rachel Cusk, You Too Can Have A Body Like Mine by Alexandra Kleeman, and Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend awaiting me. As the weather brightens in London, I’ve been dipping into Helen Oyeyemi’s What is Not Yours is Not Yours, a compilation of whimsical, sinuously told fantasies which place the reader in a strange, intricately crafted and pleasingly intersectional universe where anything seems possible. I also can’t stop re-reading Exposure by Olivia Sudjic, about which I recently wrote a piece for The Attic, for its sheer clarity and relatability at what can be a changeful time of year. Finally, I’ve been returning to my Ali Smith collection to draw out my anticipation for Spring, having stumbled upon Public Library in a local bookshop and, fittingly, devoured it in the library between admin sessions. A poignant, warming defence of the public library, it was a welcome counterpoint to my usual darker, more speculative taste in fiction, and one I’d recommend to literature lovers everywhere.
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