Fiction

Reflection: Great Expectations by Kathy Acker

I feel like I come across authors at just the right time in my life. In my early 20s, as a young and terrified queer woman, it was Jeanette Winterson. She was gifted to me on my twenty first birthday by a schoolfriend. Ten years later (and late to the party), it was Angela Carter. She was a writer whose urgency leaked through the page and into me. Most recently, it has been Kathy Acker. Her rage, her despair, her passion, resonates with me right now. I don’t know if it’s because she seems a long past oracle of the current zeitgeist; her depictions of toxic masculinity, written during the early 80s could have been written last week. She is a Casssandra. Her Great Expectations, made me work as much as Dickens’ rambling tome did. But where Dickens’ skill is in setting scene, hers in in unpacking a character.

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Fiction, Uncategorized

Reflection: Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

I admit straight up that I have an obsession with water. My mother always called me her waterbaby, and I am never happier than when I am immersed in cool clear waves. There is a caveat: the water must be clear, I like to see exactly what I’m swimming with. It was in just such circumstances that I started reading Invisible Cities.  I had water up to my chest, and it was crystal clear. I stood in the bay, my legs dancing with the pull of the current while I read this book in the pink evening sun. It was the most perfect way to begin this book about journeys.

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Fiction

Reflection: Crudo –A Novel by Olivia Laing

Some books come into your life at the right time. Like a new friend they hold your hand, pull you away to a quiet corner, snaffle a bottle and two glasses on the way across, and then pull you into a couch, proclaiming: Let’s talk. Laing’s book does just this. It offers the reader a startling “What if”: What if Kathy Acker were here, now? What if she was on Twitter? Or Instagram? What if she was still writing, confronting readers with their darkest selves? What if Kathy Acker ended up in some middle aged respectability? We’ve seen how that worked out for Trent Reznor, no?

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Fiction

Reflection: Oronooko by Aphra Behn

One of my concerns of late has been the reclaiming of classical literatures from regressive frameworks. If that sounds euphemistic it’s because it is. My concern, more simply put, is that regressive ideologies have claimed the classical literatures that came from Europe as their own, and this is at the expense of progressive ideologies. I’m not saying that these texts are the only texts of merit, nor am I saying that they should be studied at the expense of texts that have been marginalised under, let’s admit it, settler-colonialist pedagogies that are premised on European-supremacy. Nonetheless, given settler-colonialism is one of the after effects of European invasion and colonisation, I do think it is important to understand the texts that gave shape to that mindset, if only so that the systems built on those readings can be dismantled from within. Colonised peoples know that the systems are fucked, finding ways of teaching colonisers (and I count myself among that number) about the ways in which their world views are not universal, nor even coherent, and are certainly not materially applicable in a universal sense (ie. they’re not just “the way things are”). To this extent Aphra Behn’s novel, Oronooko provides a valuable insight into the early spread of colonialism and the ideologies that underpin it.

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Fiction

Reflection: Heather, The Totality by Matthew Weiner

When I’m anxious I go to bookstores. I worked in them for years, and for some reason, I still find it’s soothing to stroke spines and neaten piles of books. This is not the best news for my bank account, because I always find new friends I should bring home. My To Read pile grows higher every day and the days I have left I which to do this reading grow fewer.

 I picked up Heather, The Totality while I was having one of my mismanaged anxiety clouds. The cover was dynamic. It looked like a fast read and right now I am not above an easy win. I finally settled down to read it while soaking in a tub full of hot water and Epsom salts. It had been a long day, one of those days where my worries about my father’s health collided with my concerns about my own mortality and my choices that had lead to the fact that, in my late thirties, I can soak in the bath and read a book without being interrupted. The solitude of steam and salts is a mixed blessing. Every blessing is also a curse, I suppose.

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Fiction, Life Writing

Sounds of Silence: Audiobooks and the Reader

I’ve been listening to audiobooks. I’ve had friends and colleagues tell me that this is a thing that I should be doing for ages. This makes sense, I’m busy, I’m overcommitted, I commute and I do a lot of walking. Audiobooks should be a way of maximising productivity and pleasure in one hit. In some ways, they have been. I enjoy being read to, there’s something delightful and childish about it. I find it comforting.

I also find it hard to concentrate, and I often have to go back and repeat entire chapters. I realise that as I’ve been cleaning, walking, staring out of the train window, whatever, I’ve lost half a story. In one ear, out the other.

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Life Writing

Reflection: By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart

I’ve been reading a lot of florid fiction of late. There was Jenny Hval’s Paradise Rot last week, Djuna Barnes’ Nightwood, and Beverley Farmer’s Alone. These books have allowed me to sit with some fairly deep and conflicting emotions that I’ve had to process over the last twelve months, feelings related to my position as a Dedicated Spinster, feelings related to the likelihood that I won’t be a mother (old, single, precarious employment/no mat leave) and the reality that even if I do, my father, who is very unwell, won’t ever meet any of my children (beyond the furbaby, Dr Felix). This is, like, a lot. And I often find that the clean, fresh, pared back language that is favoured in contemporary writing doesn’t do justice to the messiness of these deep, but reasonable, feelings. By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept  was a glorious means of understanding the fury, focus and frailty that arises when we see the future we had imagined thwarted.

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