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Fri, Apr. 18th, 2008, 06:33 pm
Reading List 2008 (15/89)

Almost caught up! Here’s my reading from the last two weeks:

Smart Girls, Barbara A. Kerr
By Frequent Anguish, S.F.X. Dean
Such Pretty Toys, S.F.X. Dean
Voice of the Whirlwind, Walter Jon Williams
A Hell of a Woman, ed. Megan Abbott
J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century, Tom Shippey
The Fever Tree and Other Stories of Suspense, Ruth Rendell
Rain Fall, Barry Eisler
Hard Rain, Barry Eisler
Rain Storm, Barry Eisler
Killing Rain, Barry Eisler
The Last Assassin, Barry Eisler
Rising Phoenix, Kyle Mills
Point Counter Point, Aldous Huxley
Scaramouche, Rafael Sabatini

I’m writing this post between grading my students’ papers and getting the house ready for Passover (eek!), so I don’t really have the time to respond to my reading. Sadly! Because a lot of it was delightful! On the other hand, I really don’t want to put this off, because this batch of books means I’m all caught up with this year’s reading. That number in the post title means 15 books since I last posted - about two weeks’ worth - which takes me to 89 books for the year. Ah, such lovely and delightful reading …..

Since I can’t review them all, the three books I’ll point you all to are the Shippey, the Abbott and the Kerr. (Two non-fiction! What’s gotten into me?)

Kerr is part of my ongoing project to read about feminist issues, particularly surrounding gifted women (yes, I am one). I found the book powerful and very personal, to the point that I’m having a hard time writing about it. She has a bit where she talks about how brilliant women have to come to terms with “the cultural disability of being born female,” and looks at the various stages of grief that gifted women go through when they realize how handicapped they really are. I was just kind of like … whoa. Yes. That’s me. And I hope I never get past the anger stage into acceptance!

I thought her analysis of how gifted girls transition from being interested in things to being interested in people was quite fascinating as well, and I’m still not sure how I escaped making that transition. The book made me feel incredibly lucky that I’ve kept work, learning and ideas at the center of my life - and makes me see that the people who argue that love “should” be at the center rarely actually put it there themselves.

Not that love isn’t also at my center. But it hasn’t shoved my work-esteem-production-orientation aside as it does for a lot of women - I think because I’m pretty consistently willing to say “fuck you” to the culture of romance.

So: FUCK YOU, CULTURE OF ROMANCE.

Which, by the way, is the next book on my feminist reading list! Er, the book that explores the culture of romance is, I mean. Though someone should really write a book called “Fuck You, Culture of Romance.” I’d buy it.

Seriously - if you’re a gifted woman, go read this book.

After that you should pick up A Hell of a Woman, while you’re at it. I just read Megan Abbott’s Queenpin, a totally brilliant female-centered hard-boiled noir, and so as soon as I saw she’d edited an anthology of women in noir, I had to pick it up. My faith was totally justified. These stories range the gamut from entertaining to genuinely compelling. “High Yellow,” in particular, totally captivated me with its portrayal of “passing” in 1950s Washington, DC. I really like hard-boiled pieces that reach out beyond the emotional lives of the characters to touch something larger about how our world works, and this one was brilliantly done. Nobody - or at least nobody I know - is so stuck in their own heads that they aren’t affected by money, work, race, class, power, and, of course, the book’s key issue, gender.

Even better, the authors all list their favorite female noir at the back of the book, which means I’ve got a totally rocking reading/viewing list.

The Shippey is part of my book club with my friend A.; he’s been meaning to read it, so I challenged him that we should read it together. I don’t read that much non-fiction that isn’t for work or school, but I found this one absolutely delightful. I re-read Tolkien every year (Hobbit through </i>Silmarillion</i> only, thank you, I’m not crazy enough to read all the tales), so his analysis was totally ringing all kinds of lovely bells. I wasn’t that impressed with his bit about evil - though only because I thought what he was saying was relatively obvious - but his analysis of the use of myth and allegory was totally super. Really it was all great. I loved all the research and the historical background, like the “filling in the gaps” of the linguistic oddities he encountered in his professional work with myth.

Oh. My. God. Tolkien wrote fucking midrash. My mind is so blown right now.

I’ll close with that, then. Shabbat Shalom and happy Pesach to you all. I’ll see you post-Seders!