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Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Summer Reads - Helen

Here's what I've been reading and liking so far this summer!

 
The Cold Song (Linn Ullmann; translated from the Norwegian by Barbara J. Haveland)
The Cold Song opens as a thriller would - with a sudden and mysterious death; however, it turns out to be a perceptive and riveting multi-character study of the inhabitants of a small Norwegian community after this violent occurrence. It's no whodunnit - the narrative focus is more diffuse and complex than that. Ullmann’s spare, perfectly restrained prose probes the borders of guilt and innocence, betrayal and loyalty to unsettling effect.

Everything I Never Told You (Celeste Ng) - out on July 1st!
I guess I've been in the mood for books that begin like thrillers but reveal themselves to be otherwise. Celeste Ng's intimate, haunting novel tells the unusual (in literature, anyway) story of the Lee's, a mixed Asian-white family reeling after the death of teenaged Lydia Lee. Isolated in small town America in the 1970s, Lydia's parents and two siblings each retreat into their own forms of mourning, avoidance and remembrance. Ng brings us through layers of guilt, blame and grief, revealing a devastating yet luminous portrait of a conflicted family coming to terms with itself. 

100 Crushes (Elisha Lim)
I have about 100 crushes on Elisha Lim and their perceptive and loving, not to mention gorgeous queer portraits and comics. 100 Crushes includes a series of portraits (with accompanying anecdotes) of butches Elisha has crushed on - from longterm dates to subway glimpses; a series of portraits of self-professed sissies and the femmes who inspire them; conversations about the pronoun "they"; illustrations and anecdotes about butches and genderqueer folks trying on men's suits in high-end boutiques; and - one of my favourites - the first few chapters of an ongoing graphic novel about queerness and America-philia at an all-girls convent school in Singapore! What more could we ask for? 

Believing Is Seeing (Errol Morris)
Errol Morris, esoteric and possibly genius American filmmaker, turns his attention to the detailed (and I mean detailed) study of still photographic images. Each chapter is dedicated to a photograph, or set of photographs - from Roger Fenton's iconic 1855 photograph(s) of a deadly valley during the Crimean War, to the infamous 2003 digital photos of tortured detainees at Abu Ghraib. Morris uses these images and the often apocryphal stories built around them to illustrate his rewrite of the oft-used adage: "believing is seeing". Not a light summer read, but definitely an engrossing one!

Moving Forward Sideways like a Crab (Shani Mootoo)
Okay, I will admit that I haven't started reading this one yet - but I'm excited to do so! Mootoo's latest is receiving glowing praise (check out this Globe & Mail review) and promises to deliver a expansive and insightful narrative of family ties, questions of gender and transition, and Caribbean diasporic experience in Canada.

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