Books for 2019 (After the 2018 Cambridge Literary Festival)

During the 2018 Cambridge Literary Festival, writers spoke and gave readings and fired up self’s imagination. Though the list below is heavy on British authors, their books are no doubt available here (in the U.S.)

  • Flights and Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, by Olga Tokarczuk
  • Holding and A Keeper, by Graham Norton
  • Building and Dwelling, by Richard Sennett
  • In Extremis: The Life of War Correspondent Marie Colvin, by Lindsey Hilsum
  • The Stopping Places, by Damian LeBas
  • What a Carve Up! and The Rotters Club, by Jonathan Coe
  • Hello World: How To Be Human in the Age of the Machine, by Hannah Fry
  • The Merchant of Syria, by Diana Darke
  • Seven Types of Atheism, by John Gray
  • The Bastard of Istanbul, by Elif Shafak
  • We That Are Young, by Preti Taneja
  • Let Us Sing Anyway, by Leone Ross
  • Take Nothing With You, by Patrick Gale
  • On This Day in History, by Dan Snow
  • All Along the Barley, by Melissa Harrison
  • The Light in the Dark, by Horatio Clare
  • The Essex Serpent and Melmoth, by Sarah Perry
  • Ghost Wall, by Sarah Moss

2019: Projected Reading List

2019 will be a great year. Self can feel it in her bones.

First, she’ll start the year trying to read Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle series. If she makes it through just three or four of the series, she’ll be happy.

It will be the year she gets back to reading Jeanette Winterson: Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal.

She’s going to try re-reading If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, by Italo Calvino.

Then she’s going to work her way through The Guardian’s Best Books of 2018 list. Which includes:

Almost everything Sarah Waters recommends: National Service, by Richard Vinen; In Our Mad and Furious City, by Guy Gunaratne; The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter; The Vet’s Daughter, a 1959 novel by Barbara Comyn; Swann’s Way by Proust; and (a re-read of) Anna Karenina, by Tolstoy.

Self’s reading list in 2019 will still lean heavy towards fiction. Here’s a partial list from The Guardian’s Best Books of 2018. All the authors are new to self, except for Liz Nugent and Pat Barker.

FICTION:

Ghost Wall, by Sarah Moss; Milkman, by Anna Burns; The Silence of the Girls, by Pat Barker; Melmoth, by Sarah Perry; Red Birds, by Mohammed Hanif; Friday Black, by Kwame Adjei-Brenyah; West, by Carys Davies; Sight, by Jessie Greengrass; Everything Under, by Daisy Johnson; There There by Tommy Orange; Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday; Brother, by Canadian David Chariandy; All the Lives We Never Lived, by Anuradha Roy; Convenience Store Woman, by Sayaka Murata; Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, by Olga Tokarczuk; Normal People, by Sally Rooney; The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock, by Hermes Gowar; Washington Black, by Esi Edugyan; The Western Wind, by Samantha Harvey; Now We Shall Be Entirely Free, by Andrew Miller; Painter to the King, by Amy Sackville; Murmur, by Will Eaves.

CRIME:

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, by Stuart Turton; The Stranger Diaries, by Elly Griffiths; November Road, by Lou Berney; Brothers in Blood, by Amer Anwar; Lullaby by Leila Slimani; Skin Deep, by Liz Nugent (who I’ve actually met); Fear, by Dirk Kurbjuweit; London Rules, by Mick Herron; Thirteen, by Steve Cavanagh; Tombland by Matthew Shardlake; The House on Vesper Sands, by Paraic O’Donnell, and The Vogue, by Eoin McNamee.

Many, many more.

Stay tuned.

Self Can’t Even: MIRROR, SHOULDER, SIGNAL

Heavy reference to Girl With the Dragon Tattoo author Stieg Larsson, pp. 32- 33 (Ellen is the narrator’s massage therapist):

She loves a good crime story. She’s read all the novels by Stieg Larsson, and she’s also read one by Gosta Svensson.

“Now, I do prefer Stieg Larsson,” she says, but that must only be because, during her last massage, Sonja blamed Gosta for wrecking her wrists. For naturally, Ellen must be wild about Gosta. A big reason for Gosta’s success is his tight grip on women. The tweed jacket and the way he’s always photographed in the rain.

Snark!

Stay tuned.

Angst in Dead Letters and Missing, Presumed

These two books are mysteries. And each has a ton of angst.

Actually, there’s angst as well in Tana French. But French’s angst doesn’t approach the level of angst in either Dead Letters or Missing, Presumed.

Of the two, self much prefers the hysterical, over-the-top angst in Dead Letters. In fact, now that she knows how Dead Letters end, she’s started re-reading, and it is simply delicious: Nadine, the matriarch, pitches wine glasses at her daughter’s head, the same  daughter who has just returned from Paris, leaving behind graduate studies and a nice French boyfriend, all for the sake of grieving for her twin sister, who stole her boyfriend.

In Missing, Presumed, the angst is due to the main character’s being almost 40 and suffering from a bad case of FOMO. The first half of the book gives almost as much attention to her blind dates as to the missing person case itself. Pardon self if she much prefers the angst in Dead Letters. At least, in Dead Letters, the angst is due to having a horrible, living mother and recently deceased sister (burned to a crisp in a raging barn fire — how can this not be the most delicious of set-ups?)

In Missing, Presumed, there is one really bad guy, and it’s not the perp. It’s that horrible, no-good systems analyst from Ely who hooks up with the main character and softens her up by leaving her eye drops (delivering them in person to the police station!) because she’s developed a raging case of conjunctivitis, which — take her word for it — looks horrible during televised press conferences

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

A Walk: Suggested by Missing, Presumed

A typical boy’s walk in Cambridge:

“. . . along Mill Lane to the news agent where he can buy pick-and-mix; to sit on the swings in Sumatra Road; to Fortune Green where friends from his school congregate in the park and scale the wire fence into the play centre. He is about to turn twelve, is well over five foot, and now walks to school alone.”

The Aggravations of Being a Woman Detective

Missing, Presumed, p. 329

“Listen, he’s a prick,” says Bryony, “top totty like you.”

“He might still change his mind,” says Davy, who seems back to his old self.

“Davy,” says Bryony. “Let’s not give the patient false hope.”

lol

lol

lol

Stay tuned.

 

Manon Bradshaw, Growing On You

Missing, Presumed starts out like some bad comedy.

Detective Manon Bradshaw, based in Cambridgeshire (Somewhere, maybe Huntingdon) goes on a blind date, engages in anonymous bad sex.

She will have two more dates.

In the meantime, a missing persons case unfolds purely by-the-book.

The point, self thinks, is not the case, but the characters around the police station. Characters like the lovely 26-year-old man with jug ears, Davey. Or their fierce, completely work-obsessed boss, Harriet. Envy is aroused by a workmate who has a brand new iPad. And so forth.

You want to know how Secret Santa is played by police in Cambridgeshire? Head to Missing, Presumed for answers!

Out of sheer luck (or author feeling generous with readers), Manon Bradshaw gets AN ADMIRER! Who is a systems engineer! Wears trainers but so what, he has “elegant hands”!

They have the same taste in movies, end up watching My Life As a Dog together. They spend the entire time snogging (Bradshaw is 39, the engineer 42. Self doesn’t know if these two spending an entire movie snogging is delightful or EEEUUUW)

After, they have coffee.

p. 259:

He loops his maroon scarf over the back of the chair, saying, “I loved the stuff about the dog sent into orbit by the Russians. Think of him and nothing is that bad in comparison.”

Oh, she thinks, you were concentrating.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: DNF

Shorthand for “Did Not Finish.”

First of all, it was so big. When it was mailed to self at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig, she couldn’t believe how big it was.

Two English cities (London and Oxford) later, she was still just on p. 21 and it looked like she’d be lugging this book to Cambridge.

Which then led to her asking the crucial question: Is this big fat heavy book that seems well written but doesn’t have a single character self feels she knows (though why should she know them? They’re from rural Wisconsin, for heavens sake!), worth the shoulder strain? Despite fantastic Stephen King blurb on back cover?

The answer, after yet another frustrating evening reading about dogs, was no.

So she’s moved on to an English mystery, Missing, Presumed, which has a very interesting title, much more interesting than the book self just finished reading, Dead Letters. Titles do not, obviously, say everything because Dead Letters turned out to be a fascinating read.

The front cover of Missing, Presumed (which was mailed to her from Kenny’s Bookshop in Galway) shows this:

Missing, Presumed

72 Hours to Find Her

Ooh!

The first scene is a blind date which is very pedestrian but the main character is so lonely that she sleeps with the guy anyway.

Will this woman turn out to:

  • be a self-hating alcoholic?
  • be facing misogyny  in her (police) department where she will undoubtedly turn out to be one of only two, at the most three, women detectives?
  • harbor a deep, dark secret — incest? murder? Or something never before written about in the 101 mysteries inspired by Gone, Girl (which self never read)?

And will the missing really be dead, or just pretending to be dead, in which case would this be similar to the book self just finished reading?

Whatever. Self needs Missing, Presumed to be interesting for at least four hours: the length of the bus trip to Cambridge.

Stay tuned.

 

Still Reading THE STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE

Haven’t reached the dog point-of-view chapters yet. When self does, that may very well spell The End. But David Wroblewski’s writing style is quite lyrical. And very spare. For the first time in her life, self understands that a dog obssession may not be the worst thing to spend a week reading about. Who knows. She’s still on the fence about dog point-of-view.

To help her along, she re-reads wicked letters from Zelda Her Malevolence in Caite Dolan-Leach’s over-the-top but strangely magnetic novel, Dead Letters. (What Follows Is Not Really a Spoiler, Since Zelda Could Just Be Pretending To Be Dead) To show you how fabulous this Zelda is, her funeral photo (selected by her father) shows her in a see-through caftan, an image of pure, feral Untameability. Picture of course taken by her strait-laced sister, the one whose boyfriend she stole. Do you see how over-the-top this novel is? Why isn’t it set in some British stiff-upper-lip society drawing room?

When self started this trip, she thought she’d be unloading books as quickly as she went, leaving them behind after she’d done reading them. But oops, she found herself wanting to re-read Emma (Jane Austen). Then Autonomous (Annalee Newitz). Then All Systems Red (Martha Wells). And now, Dead Letters.

What. Is. Going. On.

Stay tuned.

Suggested Places in Oxford for His Dark Materials fans (Courtesy of Twittagazze)

All locations in Oxford (or adjoining):

His Dark Materials locations:

  • Exeter College (Jordan College in the books)
  • The Bodleian Library
  • Oxford Botanical Garden (Lyra and Will’s Bench is here)
  • The Pitt-Rivers Museum
  • The Covered Market
  • Christ Church
  • Story Museum (to see Philip Pullman’s head-of-chapter drawings from His Dark Materials)

The Book of Dust locations:

  • Walk Paths Along the Isis
  • Port Meadow
  • Wolvercote (a 1-hour walk from Port Meadow): The Trout and the nearby priory
  • Jericho area: Juxon Street and The Butterfly Tattoo
  • The Ashmolean
  • The White Horse Pub next to Blackwell’s

It was a spectacularly beautiful day. Self started out from Oxford City Centre and made it all the way to the Oxford Botanic Garden:

DSCN0047DSCN0048

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

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