Can I mark a book five stars purely because my own ideas have been going haywire since I started reading it? That seems fair, doesn’t it? I have such a love for Aimee Bender despite the fact that I’m not nearly quirky enough to understand half of what she is saying. She gives me pause, though. The kind of pause that is hopeful with regards to my own self and my own abilities. I have lead a life of such rules. Always. This is what you have to do to be an acceptable girl. An acceptable scholar. An acceptable human. All the wrong things I have blamed on myself: my unacceptableness, my inability to grasp the rules. The rules of how you should be in order to be acceptable. But all of Aimee is just bonkers a bit. And if Aimee can go around being bonkers and making up her own rules and just writing whatever the hell story she feels like writing even though sometimes they don’t make sense even when they do make sense. Well then maybe I can give up this list of rules and just do what I want to do too, right? I love you, Aimee. Thank you.
When I grow up I want to be Aimee Bender. What’s that you say? You’re already grown up? Don’t be a cow. I’m still little. Little little. Little little little little.
My first Aimee Bender book was The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake which I only chose to read because of its title. I do that, you see. Choose books because they have either lovely covers or lovely titles. It was a weird book that I didn’t particularly enjoy reading. She did everything wrong. She didn’t use quotation marks, for instance. It annoyed me that for some reason she didn’t need to. I knew which parts were dialogue without them. No man… you can’t do that. What about the rules?! And then? The protagonist had the most insane affliction. That poor girl…
Yet it started opening up a niggle in me…
She wasn’t doing the things right but I understood. And other people even said the book was beautiful which was REALLY weird because this isn’t a normal book people shouldn’t like it because those are the rules.
And yet she could say crazy things and not use punctuation like you’re supposed to and the story was sticky like it stuck and the lemon cake tasted like deceit and I understood even though everything was wrong. The story was sticky.
It was so sticky.
And then I bought some of her short stories because why not and those stories were even stickier all sticking in my head like they were super important but they weren’t important they were just true even though they were about mad things like boys who shrink into amoebas and wow… I’m re-reading them all now so I’m feeling happier than usual. Isn’t that nice? For an author to make you feel happy?
So when I grow up I kind of want to be Aimee Bender but the Nadine Rose Larter version (which will probably be sad) because Aimee is so true and real and she just writes whatever crazy thing she wants and even though maybe they’re not important they still really feel like they are.
Because they’re so real and they don’t make sense but that’s kind of really delicious…
Hmmm…. I will admit (as I already have on numerous occasions during the consumption of this book) that I may be a little lacking in the amount of intelligence required to “get” it. I imagine others got it from the beginning but it took me a really long time! That said: I think I finally did “get” it and so by the time I got to the end I was very glad to have persevered even though I considered giving up quite a few times.
Basically Nora and Effie are telling each other stories about their lives. Effie’s story takes up most of the book (and if it feels like nothing happens the entire time) with Nora adding her little bits here and there. All if it a long pre-amble to the point which nicely ties up at the end.
I think, in part, that Kate Atkinson might have been poking a little bit of fun with this novel. Of course I could be entirely wrong and maybe obnoxious, and maybe I should just shush with my assumptions… but someone once credited me for parallels in my own novel that I certainly didn’t put there on purpose and it was kind of lovely because I felt like it made me look clever so maybe other authors also like it when people go “oh maybe this is what she meant”.
The thing is this: I remember reading so many novels in the late 90s and early 2000s that seemed to have very little plot. Like you got to the end and you were like, “ok…but…and?” and it was quite confusing. I specifically remember these sorts of stories because they kind of made me feel hopeful for my own career as a writer. Like gosh, Nadine, you don’t even really have to come up with a plot if you’re not capable, you can just write things and then say it’s a book and no one can say “that’s not a book” because look here this has no plot and it IS a book it has a cover and everything!
So I think KA was playing with the idea of that trend a little. Poking fun at it. Pointing it out. Nora moans that Effie’s story is weird and plotless and that there are too many characters and how must she remember all these people etc and she bemoans the lack of intrigue. All the while KA is threading the story with actual intrigue that you only get to enjoy once you have consumed it as a whole.
So it’s sort of like those weird plotless books that I used to read in my late teens, but at the same time it isn’t because it’s only pretending to be that.
I’m quite impressed really.
And very untalented…
I’m not sure whether I should be writing about this here or on my more personal blog. This space is kind of where the reader comes out to play, while my Nadine Rose Larter blog is more for the over-sharing writer. This particular topic tends to fall under both banners though. And honestly considering my first Sue Grafton novel was devoured in a very small hotel on the Island of Koh Samui, Thailand, an argument could be made that it might even fit nicely on my travel blog.
I digress though.
Sue Grafton died at the end of 2017 and for some reason it has had a sort of sobering effect on me. She is the writer of what I’ve always referred to as The Alphabet Series. I’m sure you’ve seen her books. A is for Alibi. B is for Burglar. C is for Corpse.
I was collecting her books. For no reason other than I like the alphabettiness of her titles. I thought it was cute. I only have a few of them. Three to be exact. It’s a silly challenge but I always imagined that somewhere along the line I would manage to locate all of them and in my retirement I would start at A and make my way through to Z.
But Sue Grafton died.
And she only got to Y. Y is for Yesterday.
And I am surprised by how much this upsets me. This small bit of someone else’s unfinished business.
Because she only got to Y. I cannot help but feel the tragedy of this in my bones.
I didn’t even know her. I’ve only read A.
I’m sorry that you died, Sue Grafton. And I truly hope that one day I will have your 25 letter alphabet on my shelves.
I have a weird confession. For the last couple of years I’ve been collecting Kate Atkinson books even though I’ve never read her. The collection started with Case Histories, I think. Because I liked the cover. And then I think I might have bought one called Emotionally Weird because I understand that title. And then I just started buying them because I had already started buying them. So now I have a collection.
I finally picked up Case Histories last week (for some reason I have three copies of it!) and I must admit I’m kind of glad that I have a collection to indulge in now. Kate Atkinson is rather lovely, to say the least. And I’m really looking forward to getting to know her better through her work. Sometimes you meet an author and your heart just says yes. I think this is probably why I like to read so much…because the more you read the more likely it is that you’ll get that fuzzy yes feeling that is so rare but so wonderful.
Sadly my collection does not include books #2 and #3 in the Jackson Brodie series, but I’m sure I will have the most delightful time trekking through to all the second hand bookshops and markets around here as I try to track them down. (forgive me, please, for being unable to afford new books…)
So if any of you are looking to get rid of Kate Atkinson’s One Good Turn or When Will There Be Good News I would much appreciate the head’s up.
I like you, Kate. You are quite charming. And I’m very glad we’ve met.
I’m charmed. I’ve been a crime fiction reader pretty much for as long as I’ve been a reader. In Case Histories, Kate Atkinson kind of blends this usually more “easy reading” genre with just the right amount of family drama to make you feel like you’ve read something significant. I won’t say it was a very twisty-turny sort of read, but her style of writing plays well in the mind and her characters are quite memorable. The sort of reading that leads you to kind of smile and feel grateful that this time you got through a work of fiction without too many traumatic wounds. Sadly I don’t have the next book in the Jackson Brodie series (I have the 4th) so I’m certainly going to have to do some searching at my local second hand book stores. I’m weirdly excited about this prospect…
Probably no. But I’m going to try anyway. Because I’ve kind of failed at it for the last 5 or so years (I’ve been trying to pull this off for a while) and I imagine that if I keep trying I might eventually get it right. Oh…and I suppose I should mention that I’m back to book blogging for the year. Or at least I hope to be. Of course a re-start is necessary so it will take a bit to time to put my site back together.
But I want to read this year. Because above everything else it is important to read if I want to write. And I really want to write. Even if it has to wait until life is a little less chaotic. That’s fine.
And of course: since I’m a bit fan of watching too much telly I can at least use this space to share a bit about all of that too, now can’t I? Of course I can… It’s my blog.
There’s this episode of Sex & the City where Carrie is feeling a little broke and she suddenly figures out that she has spent around $40 000 on the shoes in her closet. Sometimes I look at my bookshelves and feel that way a little. Although, unlike Carrie, I almost never buy new books (nevermind new releases!) and the replacement value of my bookshleves is easily about 10 times higher than what I actually paid for it. I think…. I hope…
The thing is though… I currently have (no joke) 712 books on my TBR list. There are 712 books in my personal library that I have not actually read yet. This is ridiculous!
And yet… I still can’t resist a book sale…
Anyone who knows me knows that JK Rowling is my queen and that I’d be the first to vote for her as world president. For one: you can tell a LOT about someone by reading their books, and she is no exception. Her heart, humour, and humanity is written all over those pages. She is so beautiful to me. She always has been.
But with this Lumos video? She’s outdone herself. I can’t stop thinking about just how much sense this makes. And I cannot fault how right she is. Thank you. Jo, for being the beautiful humanitarian that you are. We all have so much to learn from you.
The only thing I could say to him was, “Me too, baby.”
We then went on to discuss how wonderful it would be to own a TARDIS.
I could see he was in pain. This lack of magic. This lack of a blue box. It hurts him. He’s a happy child. But this lack of magic really hurts him.
And I thought…this poor kid. If he’s anything like me it’s really not going to get better. He’s not going to “grow out of it”. He will probably try to stifle it. He might tell himself that his longing for otherworlds is silly and childish. And for a while he might believe it. He’ll try drugs and alcohol and they’ll be fun for a while. And hobbies. Sex. Girls. Boys. But it probably won’t go away. That need for an adventure is a parasite. Burrowed deep. And it wants more than what planes and money can do.
I know it won’t properly go away because I’m 33 years old now and I still wish I was magic. I still look at flowers and imagine that a fiary might pop out. I still think, “one day I’m going to walk into a cupboard and end up on a mountain” and I still think one day I will be able to type out blog posts using only my thoughts and not my fingers who are feeling a little cold right now.
I’ve been reading Lev Grossman’s The Magicians now for well over a month. The character of Julia is killing me which is making the experience kind of painful – which is why it is taking me so long to read. But then….it’s kind of always painful, isn’t it? It pains me that Hogwarts exists only in a netherrealm which is only accessible to my mind and not my body. It kills me that here is just here, which at the same times seems such a strange way to feel considering my capacity to be delighted by earthly things.
I sometimes wish I wasn’t a reader. I wish I wasn’t a creator. I wish that I could indulge in the quiet content that everyone else seems to manage so easily. I wish reading made me happy happy instead of devastated happy.
Some books take the sad away for a little while. Sometimes. When you find the right ones (which takes work). But only for a little while.
But then you get back to life and life is kind of lacking unicorns.
Well… That’s over…. I was kind of hoping for some sort of magical plot twist or something. I was happy to discover that for once I was completely wrong about who the killer was, so yay for that. Either I’m losing my touch or some actual intrigue was employed. Honestly I haven’t read about such two dimensional and not-really-believable characters since Fifty Shades of Grey. Although that said, the whole Fifty Shades phenomenon makes more sense to me now than it did before. I guess this is jut the kind of writing that a lot of folks prefer. I just didn’t feel like there was any depth to it at all. I get to read my new Lev Grossman novel now though. I’m actually salivating at the thought.
I made a booboo in my last review. I referred to this series as the “LA Confessions” series. It’s “LA Connections”. My apologies. Otherwise it seems I’m flying through these which is great because I need to move on but I can’t move on until I’m done so at least it’s quick. Still not much happening to thrill me much. I don’t believe anything anyone says. It could be that I’m in a mood and just find anything anyone says to be disingenuous, or maybe that’s just how it is. I don’t know. On to the last instalment though. So maybe I’ll be surprised? I think I don’t know who the killer is so far so yay for that. Unless it turns out to be who I think it is. In which case I’ll be annoyed. I always guess. Every single time. It’s not the writer’s fault. Apparently I have really loud spoilery spirit guides.