Hannah Gadsby: Nanette

69 min.

Wow. Ik loop weer eens achter met iets kijken dat een poos geleden helemaal gehypet is/was, maar genoeg mensen zeiden ook dat je er echt wel de tijd voor moest nemen. Dat het emotioneel nogal pittig was, en dat is niet iets dat ik even voor de lol/uit verveling er doorheen jas.

Gadsby NetflixIk weet niet of ik het zou aanraden als ’emotioneel pittig’, Hannah Gadsby is gewoon heel erg eerlijk en geeft daar geen excuses voor. Ze vertelt over hoe ze dat gewend is, iets persoonlijks en ongemakkelijk vertellen om vervolgens er snel een grap van te maken want stel je voor dat iemand anders door haar niet comfortabel is. Ze vertelt ook hoe slopend het is om dat steeds weer te doen.

Ze vertelt over haar homoseksualiteit, haar jeugd, Vincent van Gogh en mentale ziektes. Ze doet het gortdroog en met emoties, en altijd onderbouwd. Er zijn zoveel opmerkingen en momenten waarbij je ofwel een ‘oh ja’- of een ‘oh shit’-gevoel ervaart. En dat hebben we allemaal wel eens nodig.

Dus ja, het is de hype waard, wanneer je ‘t ook kijkt. Maar serieus Netflix, waarom in vredesnaam Ellen hierna suggereren? Kon je echt geen andere link vinden dan “ach, het zijn allebei lesbiennes”?

Hannah Gadsby: Nanette, Netflix 2018

 

Dietland

It was late in the spring when I noticed that a girl was following me, nearly the end of May, a month that means perhaps or might be.

Gods, I wish that this would be mandatory reading for male teenagers. Okay, any teenager. Why? Because it hits home with several hammers the fact of diet culture and how women are viewed in society. I know, but so many still don’t, and it’s best to get them as young as possible.

Is this is an activist story? Is showing reality activist? Protagonist Plum is fat, and have been working almost her entire year to not be it. She’s not living, she’s functioning until she can live as a skinny person, a normal person. Things are changed around when someone reaches out to her.

Simultaneously, violence acts against male rapists and abusers happens. People are confused, shocked, motivated, because whenever do men get what’s coming for them? Maybe a few trigger warnings are at place here: Sarai Walker doesn’t avoid descriptions of said acts.

The comedy tag is mostly for the laughing in disbelief you might do. Because yes, they’re right, and yes, it’s really this stupid. Or maybe you just have to laugh to prevent from getting angry for the entire time of reading it. You wouldn’t want to be considered unfuckable, after all.

Dietland, Sarai Walker, Houghton Mifflin Company 2015

The dangerous art of blending in

I should have guessed something was up when I was walking home.

Somehow I expected a softer story: the title, the subject (teenager doesn’t dare to come out), the surroundings (a small American town). But the author doesn’t hold his punches, like the mother of the protagonist doesn’t. I know that’s considered a spoiler, but I feel like that subject should come with a warning.

Evan’s life isn’t an easy one. His mother views him as lazy and evil, and his father almost never steps in when she gets aggressive. He doesn’t dare to come out to anyone, and all his energy goes to keeping all his different worlds (home, church, school, friends) apart.

Things change when his good friend starts to change, and when someone from Bible-camp shows up. Collision happens, and Evan can’t stop it.

The language used is clean and honest. Sometimes the tone feels a little bit too much like that from an after school program, but one has to remember that first of all these are a teenager’s feelings, and second of all, this is all too often someone’s reality. Besides that, you just want better. And possibly push his mother into the Grand Canyon.

The dangerous art of blending in, Angelo Surmelis, HarperCollins 2018

There There

There was an Indian head, the head of an Indian, the drawing of the head of a headdressed, long-haired Indian depicted, drawn by an unknown artist in 1939, broadcast until the late 1970s to American TVs everywhere after all the shows ran out.

Disclaimer: even more () than usual; I don’t want my ignorance about other’s people culture to show too badly.

I feel like I can share how I’m discerning a certain kind of mood, element in books written by different contemporary Native (north) American authors. It’s not just in the style they use (non-chronological without clear pointers of time, multiple character points of view), also the subject. Life as a native in North America doesn’t seem to be very good a lot of the time.

After doing a bit of research on this story, it turns out that the conscious stream of thoughts around the same things, connecting every character in passing, was on purpose. There’s a focus on oral tradition with (some) Native people and this book should feel like that. Which changes things a bit.

With that, you get not just a people’s history, but the huge amount of weariness, pain and discomfort that comes with it. Plenty of minorities stories are slowly shared and heard more often, but what about the people that were first on the North American continent? So yes, maybe there’s a recurring element, but maybe that’s because that’s just something essential that has to be shared before anything else can.

There There, Tommy Orange, Penguin Random House 2018

Het achtste leven (voor Brilka)

Eigenlijk heeft dit verhaal meer dan één begin.

Is het te vroeg in het jaar om te zeggen dat ik mijn beste boek van 2019 heb gelezen? Want oef, dit is een boek zoals je het wilt hebben, dat je het niet weg kunt leggen, dat het stukjes in jezelf raakt waarvan je niet eens af wist (of af wilt weten). Tegelijkertijd begrijp ik dat dit gigantisch persoonlijk is, hoe een boek je aanspreekt.

Dus raad ik dit boek aan voor de mensen die van familie ‘epics’ houden: verhalen die decennia overbruggen binnen één familie. Het boek is ook voor mensen die in geschiedenis geïnteresseerd zijn: een heel groot deel van het boek speelt zich af in twintigste-eeuws Sovjet plus Georgië (dat natuurlijk ook om de zoveel tijd onder de Sovjet viel).

En dan kan ik het ook nog aanraden omdat alle hoofdpersonen vrouwen zijn. Ja, niet de vriendelijkste, vrolijkste types, en ze maken ook dingen mee die je geen mens toewenst. Maar als je eenmaal begint, is het moeilijk stoppen. Het achtste leven is voor Brilka, al die anderen zijn voor de lezer.

Het achtste leven (voor Brilka), Nino Haratischwili, Atlas Contact 2017

Run, Hide, Repeat

I was running along the Upper Blandford Road this morning, watching the little islands emerge from the morning mist, when I came upon a fisherman stacking lobster traps by his shed.

Truth again turns out to be stranger than fiction in this story that might make you repeatedly check if it really isn’t a dramatised/fictionalised version of events. That also means that pretty much everything I will put down here could be considered as spoilers, but at the same time you could look up the author and possibly learn the entire story without ever opening the book. Hm.

During a big part of her childhood, Pauline, her mother and her brother are on the run. She’s told why in her early twenties, but that doesn’t exactly put a halt to the running. There’s two large twists (do you call it twists when it happens in real life?) in this story, and Dakin writes with the right amount of insecurity (is it me, is this really happening?) to – as a reader – keep doubting things as well, even when rationale starts popping up.

This way it continues to feel like a slightly laughable and surreal story, instead of paint-by-numbers memoir of someone growing up in seventies Canada. The Mounties don’t even show up until the end.

So, you could read this one for several reasons. If you like memoirs, if you like truth-is-stranger-than-fiction, if you like a detective element without any detectives involved, if you want a slice of life view of seventies Canada.

Run, Hide, Repeat: A Memoir of a Fugitive Childhood, Pauline Dakin, Viking 2017

My Year of Rest and Relaxation

Whenever I woke up, night or day, I’d shuffle through the bright marble foyer of my building and go up the block and around the corner where there was a bodega that never closed.

This novel is an one woman on the ledge balancing act. The ledge here being ‘Is she terribly annoying or horribly sad?’. If it would have been a male protagonist, I would have given up on the book, but it’s not very often that women are allowed to be all of the above.

So what’s going on? The main character decides to sleep a year away, aided by a bucket load of medicine freely provided from possibly the worst psychiatrist in recent history. She seemingly has it all (money, looks), but none of it seem to satisfy or fill her in any way. There’s an ugly relationship with a so called friend, a permanent neglect from a man, orphan-hood. Basically, there’s no positivity and very little light in this life.

So, why read it? Because women can be absolute trash/go through periods of being absolute trash as well, and it’s not shown often enough. Because it’s an almost surreal trip through someone’s mind, and when there’s someone around living through worse things than you do, it definitely lights up your situation. Because it’s just kind of weird in an enthralling way, and that doesn’t happen (to me) often enough.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation, Ottessa Moshfegh, Penguin Press 2018