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: Netsuke by Rikki Ducornet

I spent a Sunday afternoon lying on the beach enjoying sun, a cool breeze coming off the water, and a book. I read the whole of Netsuke in one sitting. It has been a long time since I have given myself the time to dedicate to a book like that. Normally I read in snatches, before bed, or on public transport, or as a reward after finishing marking essays or transcribing interviews. None of this is my own research of course. I’m terrified of starting my own writing. It feels very far away, and I’m convinced of my own inadequacy as a writer (both scholarly and creative). I discussed this with my analyst this week. We’re unpacking my focus on productive and unproductive writing. I’m fond of binaries. It’s very Euro-centric of me.

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Fiction

Reflection: The Transmigration of Bodies by Yuri Herrera (Translated by Lisa Dillman)

I really enjoy the retelling and reimagining of familiar stories. I like that by shirting perspective, considering the viewpoint of a minor, or a peripheral character opens a story to new tellings, prioritises different concerns and positions readers to reconsider the ways in which they presume it is normal for power to be exercised. Herrera’s retelling of Romeo and Juliet does just this. Resituated in a plague-ridden Mexico (a plague on both your houses), The Transmigration of Bodies follows The Redeemer, a fast-talking negotiator, who has to clean up the mess that arises from the deaths of two young lovers from warring families.

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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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