This Week in Reading 11/14

To quote the great wise man, Eric Matthews, “Well, hidey ho!” I had Tuesday off because of Veterans Day, and one of my classes randomly decided that this was a good week for no homework. I couldn’t agree more. It’s such a good idea that it should extend for the rest of the semester. Thanks to all this extra time, I ended up finishing five books this week. Time for a lightening round of This Week in Reading.

Roxane Gay’s essay collection Bad Feminist is the second of two amazing books she’s published this year, and it’s hard to say which one is better. Her novel An Untamed State is astounding and intelligent, but probably not as smart as Bad Feminist. They’re both rough books, but they’re taxing for a reason. Gay is fighting for the rights for the downtrodden. The books are hard at times not because she lacks skill, but because she’s so expertly turning the mirror on American society and culture and it’s not easy to stomach. Everyone should have to read Bad Feminist.

I also finished The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. This was another very good book. Jackson’s descriptions bring the house and it’s lopsided terror alive, making me feel as if I were there in this experiment in stupidity (“Let’s get a bunch of people who have been exposed to ghosts in the past and put them in the most haunted house that we can find. For science!”). It’s a fun, scary book. I’ll be reading more of Jackson soon.

Book number three was Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez. It’s hard to stress how good my week in reading was. The book is brilliant. If you haven’t read any García Márquez, this would be a good place to start. At 120 pages, it’s an easier hopping on point than One Hundred Years of Solitude, which is also a great book, but is crazy long. If you don’t believe me about Chronicle of a Death Foretold, ask the folks over at Nobel who gave it their prize. His attention to detail, and the way he textures even the smallest characters is what makes him so great.

My roommate Chris, who is doing an awesome short story a day project on twitter that you should check out (@CMPoolehall), lent me a copy of The Girl in the Flammable Skirt by Aimee Bender, which I read in two sittings. I’d been familiar with Bender as being the weird writer, and I’m really glad I finally read her first book. What’s really worth talking about is the way she evokes entire worlds with a single detail. Her stories work because of the economy she gets out every word.

The last one was Doctor Strange: The Oath by Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin. The opening was spectacular. Iron Fist and Araña make small talk in the waiting room of a doctor who specializes in superhero treatment, and I’d honestly have rather spent the entire graphic novel there. The story isn’t bad, but the frame is just more interesting. Imagine a whole comic book series where a doctor treats superheroes and they tell him or her their story. I would read that. Anyone would be crazy not to.

Next week, I will definitely not be reading this many books. I’m working on The Stories of Eva Luna by Isabel Allende for class, but I’m already disliking it. It’s translated by Margaret Sayers Peden, who also translated Sweet Diamond Dust so it may just be that I don’t like the way she translates work. (Correction: Margaret Sayers Peden actually translated The Old Gringo, not Sweet Diamond Dust. I was incorrect, and apologize). I’m still working on The Space Traveler by Benjamin Grossberg and will be starting The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson.

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