Who’s That Girl?

Life through a phone is a lie.
It always feels a bit like betrayal, when I call chick lit/romance smart because it so easily implies that all books in this genre are dumb, drab or both. I don’t like the term chick lit for starters anyway, why is it called ‘slice of life’ or ‘coming of age’ for men but for us again cut down to ‘chick’ and ‘lit’? I’ve never met a woman that called herself (unironically) chick. But this is a side note.
Who’s That Girl? has a premise that made groan a bit; the main character allows the groom to kiss her on his wedding day and she flees the absolute mayhem that follows. All that, and it needs almost 500 pages? Honestly, I can’t even remember why I took this book from the library, but I’m glad I did. Because Mhairi McFarlane shows oh so realistically how the victim is blamed, how bullying isn’t just something for (high) school and that it’s easy to outrace yourself and your needs without really noticing it. So Who’s That Girl? is definitely a coming of age, lessons learned book for the thirty-something woman.
Besides all that, it’s fun. It’s heartfelt, whatever Edie does and tries, especially when she starts adjusting to being back in Nottingham (having fled there), connecting with her family and neighbours (in a way), and finding satisfaction from work (ghostwriting the biography of an actor). She tries and she stumbles but it never looks like it happens For The Plot or as filler. Okay, of course there’s some stuff that will make you harumpf in (embarrassed) disbelief, but none of it feels quirky because it has to be quirky. Honestly, if this can happen when you’re half way into your thirties, I’m looking forward to it.
Who’s That Girl?, Mhairi McFarlane, Harper Collins 2016

De zaak 40/61

Zolang de historische mensheid bestaat, heeft zij het tafereel gekend van een eenzame man, oog in oog met zijn vernietiging, belichaamd tegenover hem in een college mannen, dat de samenleving vertegenwoordigt.

Om ons te schamen, hoeveel opmerkingen en ideeën uit dit boek (uit 1962) zo in het hedendaagse geplakt kunnen worden. De schuld die bij de slachtoffers gelegd wordt, “kunnen we nu er niet eens over ophouden”, het afschrijven van acties als ‘monsterlijk’ of ‘onmenselijk’ om zo geen verantwoordelijkheid te nemen. Combineer dit met de afwisselende beelden van Israël en hoe men zich er doorheen beweegt (van de Amerikaanse toeristen tot de journalisten) en je kan heel dit boek makkelijk afschrijven als te vreemd/grof/surrealistisch om waar te zijn.

Maar ja, tussendoor is er nog een zaak tegen Adolf Eichmann in Israël, de zaak uit de titel, de nazi die één van de hoofdverantwoordelijken was voor de Holocaust. Het boek is gedateerd, door de taal en sommigen van de gedachten, maar de conclusies zijn duidelijk.

Je zou denken dat we ten eerste dit allemaal al weten en ten tweede er ook naar leven, maar haha. Net zoals de herdenking elk jaar weer wordt betwist, is het lezen van zulke boeken, zo’n zestig jaar later, zeker ook nog nodig. Omdat beide opties niet als waarheid zijn aan te nemen.

De zaak 40/61, Harry Mulisch, De Bezige Bij 2010

Of Things Gone Astray

Mrs Featherby had been having pleasant dreams until she woke to discover the front of her house had vanished overnight.

For a few months, I’ve only read books from my To Read list. It’s satisfying to see the number go down, but now there’s mostly nonfiction and yet unavailable books, I gave myself the freedom of going to the library without a list. Yes, wild, I know (I still managed to find two books of my To Read list, but it’s not about that right now).

Of Things Gone Astray got my attention with its cover, and the description was appealing enough for me to ignore it being a collection of stories (pro: there have to be at least a few that are nice. con: the nice ones will never last long enough).

Even though it’s a collection of different characters, some of them slowly move into each other’s orbit, making it feel more like a world building from different angles than completely stand-alone stories. I feel like this made me like the story more, making it a bit more eerie than playing connect-the-dots.

Still, it’s not a novel that will stay with me forever, it was different and random enough to be something weird and quirky in my reading. A bit like a pause, maybe.

Of Things Gone Astray, Janina Matthewson, HarperCollins Publishers 2014

Fitness Junkie

“I can’t believe you ordered that.”

This gives you much more to think about than you might expect looking at the cover and summary. All that, and some fun and heart!

Main character Janey is told by her friend and business partner Beau that she’s getting fat and that he can’t have that. Because of their toxic relationship, she just doesn’t laugh in his face, but attempts to change her “fat” body. Probably also because he doesn’t want her in the office until things change; it’s that kind of toxic relationship.

What follows is all kinds of exercise someone with less free time on their hands probably couldn’t come up with. This happening in New York City makes the divide between satire and reality quite thin sometimes.

But the best part is probably how much Janey discovers about herself, her body and how society views it. How she starts to have fun with food, dating and exercise (all is that one based on dodgy ground). Maybe you’ll be motivated to start exercising, but have at least your take away from this novel be that it’s your body and your decisions.

Fitness Junkie, Lucy Sykes & Jo Piazza, Doubleday 2017

It’s a readathon!

I had much fun doing this last year, and this time around I don’t have any family visits/events getting in my way!

I’ll be reading:
Salman Rushdie’s The Golden House (probably finish it, as I’m already on page 185/380)
Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys
Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues (a pdf of the ebook can be downloaded for free from her website)

For back up I have the weekend newspaper (I don’t look too strictly at the readathon rules for a reason), plus the seven Express Service books I’ve got on hold (among them Son of a TricksterManhattan BeachYou are a Badass). Pretty sure I have these 24 hours covered. Is it weird that I’m a little bit nervous about this?

10.30:
I’ve got tea, a book and silent surroundings. Here we go!

12.30: 

“It is a large apartment and to be alone in it feels like being a fly buzzing inside a bell. I hear the echo of myself and it is not a sound I love.”

The Golden House isn’t such a story you long to read, but binds you in such a way that it’s hard to put down. Still, a laundry break.

14.30:
Page 249 and 250 are just a summary of Trump’s actions pre-election and they just baffle me again. Bubbles, indeed. Like mentioned on Twitter I got distracted by the fancy kitchen I’m house-sitting in, so still on The Golden House, just started the final part. It’s becoming …dense. I might have to take a break after finishing it. Hey, I still have to tomorrow 10.30 anyway, right?

15.30: 
I finished the book, and was right about needing a bit of a break, although I think that could definitely because I’ve just been reading for a few hours in a row. It’s funny how right now there’s absolutely no appeal to checking Facebook, Twitter and the rest of the Internet. I like to stay in this the read – the reader bubble. I think I’m lucky that both of the planned following books are very different (subject wise) from The Golden House, but I don’t know which I feel like right now.

19.30: 

What mattered was that it was the kind of fight that’s so painful it takes the top layer of skin off your heart.

For such a heavy subject (the abuse of the LGQBT community in the past century), Stone Butch Blues is a very quick read. Or maybe just enticing, or both. I’m 145/347 pages in.

22.30: 
And the first twelve hours are gone. I have six chapters left, the endless abuse, pain and emotional distress of Stone Butch Blues is slowing me down a bit. If I’m honest, I also got distracted by two episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Tomorrow is a new day!

09.00: 
I woke at eight, finished Stone Butch Blues just now. How can one person go through so many things and still survive, but also, possibly — still live? It might not have been the most positive start of the day, but I’m glad I read it. Just no clue yet how I’ll review it.

10.30: 
And here we are again. Maybe reading twelve to eighteen hours (I like sleep) in one go is too much, but the thing I like most about these readathons is how you allow yourself to disappear in a book. As mentioned before, that for hours I don’t care about social media and the internet, and try to add my book to whatever thing I have to do (laundry/cooking). I love to read, and with the right book I can easily read several hours in one go. I wish that feeling upon many (casual) readers.

 

 

Elementen ontraadseld

Toen ik een kind was, begin jaren tachtig, praatte ik vaak met dingen in mijn mond – eten, slangetjes bij de tandarts, ballonnen die anders wegvlogen, noem maar op – en als er niemand in de buurt was, praatte ik gewoon door.

Is dit de eerste non-fictie die ik lees dit jaar? Jeetje! Nou ja, het is in ieder geval weer eentje van mijn To Read list op Goodreads, een lijst die ik met groot genoegen verklein tot ik vind dat ik wel weer een dozijn mag toevoegen.

Hoe dan ook, Elementen ontraadseld. Zoals non-fictie wel vaker de neiging heeft, vertelt de titel gelijk waar het precies overgaat. Ik heb zeer weinig tot helemaal geen connectie met scheikunde (behalve dat de wereld om me heen en ikzelf er uit bestaan), maar het was het ‘passie, gekte en geschiedenis’ deel dat mij wel aansprak. Plus dat ik vind dat je ook buiten je eigen tuintje van interesses moet kijken, zo af en toe.

Er is in ieder geval genoeg scheikunde en natuurkunde. Het scheelt erg per hoofdstuk of passie enzovoorts ook langskomen, waardoor het voor de leek echt een één-hoofdstuk-per-keer-boek is. Ook dan blijf je vast achter met het gevoel over hoe vreemd deze planeet in elkaar zit, en al het leven daarop zeker ook.

Elementen ontraadseld; De verdwijnende lepel & andere verhalen over passie, gekte en de geschiedenis van het periodiek systeem, Sam Kean, Little Brown 2010

Young Jane Young

My dear friend Roz Horowitz met her new husband through online dating and Roz is three years older and fifty pounds heavier than I am, and people have said that she is generally not as well preserved, and so I thought I would try it even though I avoid going online too much.

Someone told me that this was “similar to the Monica Lewinsky story, but from Lewinksy’s point of view”. It is, except you don’t just get the victim’s view, but also her mother’s, her daughters, and of the wife of the cheating politician. This little difference took some time adjusting to.

But when you do, you not only get a ‘behind the scenes’ view of the Jewish community (through the mother and grandmother), but also a take-no-prisoners view on how this relationship and its falling outs should have been handled, opposed to how it had been handled.

Also surprising; none of the characters are dealt softening characteristics and/or circumstances to support their motivations. Women make stupid decisions as well, and do or don’t suffer the consequences. Women can hate and despise each other, men (can) stay assholes.

It’s refreshing in a slightly bitter way.

Young Jane Young, Gabrielle Levin, Viking 2017