Reading Roundup: March 2019

What If It’s Us by Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli. This book arrived in the mail, a surprise gift from a friend. It is a delightful read, a sweet story about two teenage boys who meet cute in New York and try to date, and I can’t argue with its charming optimism and love toward its genial characters. What if your teenage romance was good, though? What if everyone tried their best?

Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi. Another surprise: apparently I bought myself this book at Christmas and it arrived electronically on March 1, on schedule. Gingerbread is a novel, and I have to concede that the author’s novels don’t snatch my breath away and colonize my imagination the way her shorter fiction does (What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours; Mr Fox). So it takes me a little longer to follow her into this world, this strange family with its surreal memories of a place half out of fairytale and half out of history. But I did enjoy dwelling there, for a bit.

An Untamed State by Roxane Gay. Holy shit. It’s going to take me some time to recover.

Elsewhere on the Internet

I visited the Chicago Museum of Design early in the month. It’s free and just occupies one room, which at the time featured an exhibition on bicycle design. In addition to old blueprints and advertisements, there was an interactive that invited visitors to draw a bicycle from memory. I found this exercise delightful; as a noncyclist, I managed the handlebars, wheels, and seat but hadn’t a clue of how to connect those three elements, so I drew an x under the crossbar. I was relieved to see that I wasn’t the only one who attempted some guesswork, and it was fascinating to see what different visitors left out and what they added in.
For the same reason, I am absolutely charmed by this New York Times writer who asks authors to sign her copies of their books by drawing a bunny in 10 seconds.

At Christmas, my mother unearthed a plastic storage container full of Nancy Drew books and asked me what I wanted to do with them. “Donate!” I said without hesitation. “I thought you’d want to keep them for [my friend’s daughter],” she said. Truly, it hadn’t occurred to me, and I’m still on the fence. This series is in much better shape than most other well-loved books of my youth; perhaps the sunny yellow hardcovers invited me to treat them more carefully than the paperbacks I read in trees, in the pool, or in the bath. The physical objects have been sealed away for a decade or more and suffered fewer of the ravages of time than my other childhood favorites. I’m less certain how what’s on the pages has fared. I remember snatches of these books as intimately as my own memories–the spider sapphire, the lilac tree–but I have a nagging suspicion that the volumes featuring far-flung destinations reflect an understanding of the world that we have tried to leave behind.
I don’t know. But learning that the Nancy Drew books were produced by a stable of freelancers makes me more interested to reread rather than less. I’ve never been interested in close-reading the mass market books of my youth; perhaps this multiplicity of authorship is one reason why.

Literary. Burn. Book.

I love me some savage reviews. This collection emerged out of a Twitter thread about “red flag” books–books that would give you pause if a potential online match listed them as favorites. Several of mine are on there; for example, back in my online dating days, I’d think twice about connecting with someone who listed Fight Club as a favorite book. Once a dude offered to read Bukowski to me while cuddled under a blanket (*shudder*), and another dude literally had a username that referenced Lolita’s Humbert Humbert (which… wow).

Liking books is not a personality!

Chaucer’s hot pants and other details previous biographers may not left out

Courtesy of Critical Distance, a compilation of critical writing about the Mass Effect trilogy (including a post by me!)

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