Featured

Hi // Hallo

We Are Totally Normal

The music in the car was so loud that my teeth vibrated.

We Are Totally Normal, Naomi Kanakia, Harper Collins 2020

God, I hope not. I picked this YA novel because it was on a queer reading list; I did not expect this showcase of casual alcoholism in teens with absent parents and severe cases of word-vomit (and also regular ones).

Main dude Nandan (I assume he’s a teen?) is lost in life and in the societal hierarchy of things, while pondering if he’s confused about his sexual identity or just wants to use it to become popular (yes).

Maybe it’s a clear sign that I’m too old but I really hope that teenagers going from hangover to hangover, performing oral sex at a first meetup and walking home alone at night is a normal thing. Nandan may be confused about what he wants (until he very suddenly isn’t anymore), he manages to showcase that in an entirely unappealing way.

This is what I get for trusting library recommendations?

Mannen, ik haat ze

Op een dag schreef ik op mijn blog dat ik de apathie en het algemene gebrek aan interesse van mannen voor de vrouwenzaak moe was.

Mannen, ik haat ze, Pauline Harmange, atlas contract 2021

Kort maar krachtig. Pauline Harmange stipt aan dat mannen vrouwen geen enkele reden geven om ze niet te wantrouwen en te haten en dat is een fijn inzicht. Excuses om mannen te haten zijn dan ook niet nodig want de complete samenleving is er een verzameling van. Bondig essay, lekker duidelijk, ik ga zo door.

The Books of Jacob

Once swallowed, the piece of paper lodges in her esophagus, near her heart.

The Books of Jacob, or: A Fantastic Journey Across Seven Borders, Five Languages, and Three Major Religions, Not Counting the Minor Sects. Told by the Dead, Supplemented by the Author, Drawing from a Range of Books, and Aided by Imagination, the Which Being the Greatest Natural Gift of Any Person. That the Wise Might Have It for a Record, That My Compatriots Reflect, Laypersons Gain Some Understanding, and Melancholy Souls Obtain Some Slight Enjoyment, Olga Tokarczuk, Riverhead Books 2022

Loved The Silmarillion? House of Leaves? And 17th century mid-European history? This 900 page novel might just be the thing for you!

You don’t? Avoid this.

De onmisbaren

Als je studeert en hard genoeg werkt, dan kun je alles worden wat je wilt.

De onmisbaren – een ode aan mijn sociale klasse, Ron Meyer, Prometheus 2021

Sommige mensen zijn bang voor alles dat (mentaal) schuurt. Niet dat ik doelbewust op zoek ga naar oncomfortabele situaties, maar als je wilt leren, moet je confronteren. En nu we al jaren ervaren hoe “Ad en Ria” worden misbruikt door populisten, is het misschien eens tijd om bij hén achter de deur gaan kijken.

Dat wordt soms nogal melodramatisch gedaan, maar Ron Meyer verbindt wel het recente nieuws en (politieke) ontwikkelingen soepeltjes aan de (nieuwe) realiteit. Ik wist al een boel, maar nog niet alles. Voor hen die nog minder weten, zou dit verplichte kost moeten zijn.

Lessons in Chemistry

Back in 1961, when women wore shirtwaist dresses and joined garden clubs and drove legions of children around in seatbeltless cars without giving it a second thought; back before anyone knew there’d even be a sixties movement, much less one that its participants would spend the next sixty years chronicling; back when the big war were over and the secret wars had just begin and people were starting to think fresh and believer everything was possible, the thirty-year-old mother of Madeline Zott rose before dawn every morning and felt certain of just one thing: her life was over.

Lessons in Chemistry, Bonnie Garmus, Doubleday Canada 2022

Oh, I had fun with this one! It’s history and a commentary on society’s sexism (in the sixties), there’s a bit of romance but more importantly female friendships and why one should invest in it and oi – there’s chemistry.

Literally.

Elizabeth Zott, our protagonist, is a scientist, a single mother and an opinionated voice on telly. Neither of those are approved of by a lot of people.

Author Bonnie Garmus throws a lot at her, but she manages to do so that it doesn’t turn into a melodrama, but someone’s life story (which happens, there are very tough breaks). Also essential is the speed and style of the story; nothing feels frilly or extra.

I flew through the 300+ pages in a day.

Breasts and Eggs

If you want to know how poor somebody was growing up, ask them how many windows they had.

Breasts and Eggs, Mieko Kawakami, Europa Editions 2019

Why didn’t I read the blurbs: Haruki Murakami loved it, and it used to be a short novella. I think that shows very clearly: the second ‘book’ is more coherent and easy to read, although mostly in comparison with the first book – not others.

Once again this is an “I feel like I should like this more”-story, but there’s something that just left me lukewarm. Yes, interesting views on motherhood and surrogacy in Japan, but did it have to be put down like this? Hard to chew on, tough to invest in.

Honingeter

Dit hier is een plaats waar mensen smelten als kaarsvet.

Honingeter, Tülin Erkan, Pelckmans 2021

Tsja. Je moet deze sowieso niet lezen als je graag een duidelijke conclusie hebt en pointers naar wat er op zijn minst aan de hand is.

Is het sowieso wel echt, Sibel die doelbewust op het vliegveld van Istanboel verblijft en dat bijna niemand opvalt? Zijn de mensen die haar op den duur ‘ontdekken’ wel echt? En waarom heeft ze een stethoscoop bij zich?

Voor zij die wat vreemde, donkere-kanten-van-het-brein narigheid wel kunnen hebben of zelfs waarderen, en men die het niet erg vindt kop noch staart te hebben; Honingeter heeft wel iets.

Ben is Back

103 min.

For a Hollywood film they are surprisingly realistic about addition. Ben is back for the holidays, but not every family member is supportive of this development.

Probably the nicest is that the few Life Lessons aren’t supported by a swelling soundtrack and slow-motion close ups: they just slip past.

That makes this film frustrating, nerve-wrecking and probably more genuine than many other stories about an addicted family member asking for an umpteenth chance and having to deal with being mistrusted.

Infinite Country

It was her idea to tie up the nun.

Infinite Country, Patricia Engel, Simon & Schuster 2021

Less than 160 pages and I still walk around with it a couple days after finishing it. I don’t know if I consciously gravitate towards migrant stories and the generations after, but once again it doesn’t disappoint.

What Infinite Country adds is the clear question of “What’s so great about the USA anyway?”. It’s not the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for anyone involved, and the place the family comes from (Colombia) isn’t viewed as a crap shoot essential to escape from.

Combine this with a family literally ripped apart based on their place of birth and there’s something fresh and uncanny about this short story.