Friday Reads | Novels, Poetry, Comics, Dogs, and more | 30 August 2019


Hi there! I’m Jen. This is Remembered
Reads. This is gonna be my Friday or weekend reads for this last weekend in
August 2019. The book that I am midway through right now is Isabel Hammad’s the
Parisian. This is her first novel and is basically a fictionalized part of the
life of her great-grandfather the character does have the same name as her
great grandfather and some of the life story bits are apparently true so who
knows how much of it is novelized and how much is family mythology when Syme
finished this I am gonna look for more author interviews her great-grandfather
was a Palestinian man who had been doing his schooling in Istanbul and then went
to France for medical training or university and went to France in 1914
and so you think about what was happening in Palestine at the time which
was under Ottoman control and would soon become under British Mandate and I
believe that this ends during the British Mandate but you do have a kind
of a specter of it’s going to be under Israeli control eventually so it feels
like this is going to be quite a bit more depressing that it is and it is
depressing because here you have this character who’s in university during the
First World War and his French colleagues start disappearing eventually
in addition to the fact that there’s a lot of kind of Orientalism in the French
culture at the time and it’s somewhat about culture clash and culture shift
and fall of Empires but it’s also a bit soap opera a there’s a lot of characters
and interaction and the character kind of reinventing himself as he moves
within France and then goes back to Palestine there’s another character who
is a French a priest who’s in Palestine and there’s a bit of the same thing in
Reverse with him this is quite compelling although I feel like there’s
maybe slightly too much description this is the author’s first novel and I’ve
seen interviews where she said that her next novel will be shorter and
emphasizes that so I think maybe the too much description has been a complaint
she’s heard a lot of maybe but I do find this pretty compelling I will say I’ve
had conversations and on a couple of people’s videos recently about
code-switching and novels and how it’s often done poorly if the lines are
repeated in one language and then English if it’s an English book this
does kind of the opposite in that it presents it has a lot of language codes
switching it’s in English for their bits in French and bits in Arabic and at
first it seems like there’s supposed to be some intent to that so I initially
thought that the bits that were in French were this main character
misunderstanding something and then it’s clear that’s not what’s happening or
that the bits in Arabic for the priests misunderstanding something but that’s
not it and they’re not it’s not natural places where in conversation you would
switch so it just seemed odd it just felt like it was there for added flavor
but usually when an author does added flavor bits they end up putting in a
glossary and there isn’t that so it just seems like an odd choice and because I
have some intent behind it it was a little distracting at first until I
realized no this is just the way it is and I mean I thought that and I speak
French and I don’t speak Arabic but I have a reasonable vocabulary I like to
say I can swear pray and count which lets you get away with a lot but I think
if you didn’t know any French or Arabic it would be even more odd but I think
that comes that is almost part of the same problem that is the excessive
description of people in places and I would almost say times but I think the
time bid is symbolic in part of the whole fall of Empire bit just because
you have the three different calendars that are running it simultaneously at
first in any case we’ll see if my opinion of this changes once I finish it
but I would say it’s quite compelling but a little too descriptive in bits so
prior to that I read John Steinbeck’s travels with Charlie which is his memoir
of traveling with his dog across the United States some people like to point
out that a lot of this is fiction and he didn’t really travel alone with his dog
he wasn’t really camping he stayed in hotels his wife was there for a lot of
it but I think complaining that this is you know miss marketed is nonfiction I
think a lot of travelogues are fake or at least lightly faked because you’re
playing with memory so I don’t find that distressing but if you’re hoping for
something that’s absolutely nonfiction this is probably not exactly that this
was written I think in 1960 so it is trying to capture that moment in time in
the United States and I found it really interesting to compare how things look
today to how things looked in 1960 at one point he drives past a landfill and
comments on some day we’re not gonna want to see that and I was
kind of hilariously nodding like yes we don’t want to see the big piles of
pollution but then he also talks about having these disposable frying pans that
he throws in the water when he goes fishing so I thought but as someone who
just drove kind of the opposite direction of the United States with my
dog I did quite enjoy this regardless of how true it was but I am someone who
likes late Steinbeck how do I say my favorite of Steinbeck’s novels is the
winter of our discontent and not the ones that you’re supposed to like so I
thoroughly enjoyed this but I know it’s not going to be to everyone’s tastes but
I did think it was a really great portrait of that time it’s funny I think
I’ve talked about a couple of essays that are explicitly about socio-cultural
tensions in the United States over the past couple of wrap ups that I’ve done
but I think this did a really interesting job of presenting some of
that which again might be lightly fictionalized it might be him presenting
his own opinions but I thought the bit where he has the three hitchhikers and
they each have slightly different opinions on the civil rights movement I
thought that was kind of fantastic so I do think this is worth reading but be
aware this was written in 1960s so the Sun moment is going to be very dated and
maybe uncomfortable I think it’s more interesting for being uncomfortable and
I enjoyed the dog last weekend was also get graphic
readathon and since I’m usually reading a comic or two anyway thought I’d jump
on the bandwagon and I read another franchise book this is I think I talked
about one of these last week of the week before as well this is Dragon Age
knight-errant this is also written by Nunzio de Filippis and his wife who’s
his co-writer Christina Weir and drawn by Fernando Hinds Furukawa this again
has a similar writing style to the other book that I talked about which mixes
slightly cutesy faces with some realistic work as stories go I think
this was better than deception but not as good as whatever that first one was
cough I don’t remember basically about an elven Squire slash thief and heard
drunk war veteran boss night that she follows
around and they go on adventures and the main plot is them having to essentially
being forced into doing a quest for the Inquisition which if you’re familiar
with the Dragon Age universe you know what that means if not I don’t know why
you’d pick up a franchise book like this but I mean hey it is fairly
self-contained so I don’t think it really requires you to know the universe
but it would be an odd choice it does have a sebastian veil from dragon age 2
and varrick from dragon age 2 and inquisition if you are particular fans
of those characters so yeah this as I usually say that this series is good
enough there’s nothing particularly spectacular but if you like the setting
and you want to see a fun romp set in it there you go
next up I picked up a book of poetry and that was if they come for us this is by
Fatima Oscar and and I’ve seen this mostly described as being a set of poems
about partition which it really isn’t there are I think seven or eight poems
in here that are titled partition and which are mostly about partition but
most of this is actually about being a child growing up in the United States in
the kind of immediate post 9/11 world and the fact that her parents died when
she was quite young and her experience growing up as an orphan in that
particular setting so I was surprised by this because as I said most of the
reviews I’d seen seemed to be describing it as being about something that only
about eight of the poems were actually about a lot of the poetry in here is
very straightforward in terms of both the storytelling and the themes that
it’s dealing with so I thought that the most interesting parts were the ones
where she’s playing with the words on the page there’s one called map home
that it takes the form of a crossword but for example across six you chased
after a man and after a language that don’t belong to you seven across clouded
by these big words keys to the mind and small words you collect in your palms
one down he’s everywhere now that you’ve said no to down and spelled your
mother’s name wrong for most of your life eight across like here the way your
parents names small gifts show up in the mouths of the living three down despite
it all there’s a path that leads to love and so on so I thought that was great
there’s another one here it’s called script for child services a floor plan
which as you can see has kind of an apartment or house floor plan on it but
in the background there’s lighter text and a lighter text repeats repeat after
me he is not a monster nothing happened she isn’t feeling well right now that’s
why he called repeat after me etc and so that’s down the back and then
each room has separate things so bedroom one all the orphans were raised by
wolves I called them sisters we traveled as a
pack three to a bed licking each other’s fur no one could hurt us kitchen is this
how you bend someone’s mind to break nothing happened
we were wolves they said we could survive anything so I thought that was
all interesting but the there is quite a bit of standard poetry which I will link
to a video of her reading her own poetry so you can get a feel of it because it
is stuff that flows very nicely but is straight but because it was so
straightforward I was more interested in the bits that weren’t straightforward
but if you’re looking for straightforward poetry there’s certainly
plenty of that in here but I also read the first volume of tramp which is
called the trap I read this through net galley although it has already been
released it is another one of their biddy translations this was originally
published in the 90s and it is set in the 50s it’s a kind of
maritime noir story in which an older man his wife died during the war his
daughter has a disability that’s not completely explained but is implied to
have been caused at this by whatever the same incident that killed his wife was
and so he’s trying to do some kind of insurance scam that we find out bits and
pieces and there his secretary and the captain that he hires have a bit of an
affair and mystery it Sue’s from there it is very gritty and I would say isn’t
going to be something that’s universally appealing because all of the characters
are essentially unlikable the receptionist is maybe the most likable
character but needless to say in this kind of story she does end up being
raped and murdered at the end I don’t think that’s a spoiler because this
volume is a setup for the rest of the series I think there are 11 volumes in
this but I believe that seven of the 11 volumes have been translated into
English and it is and the art is quite well done only insert some of that here
and I’ll insert all the details below I also listen to the audio books of a
couple of memoirs this week the first of which was Tiffany Haddish as memoir the
last black unicorn she’s a comedian and now movie actor who’s kind of hit it big
over the past couple of years and her early childhood was horrific
her mother was horrific alia buse evac’d our brain injury her father had
abandoned the family when she was young she was illiterate until she was 13 she
had an abusive marriage and she intermingles these stories of her
horrific youth with a lot of the funny stories that she has already talked
about in interviews and the reason I picked this book up was specifically
because I’d seen some interviews with her that were quite funny but a lot of
those stories ended up being the same once told in the same style because this
is her narrating the audiobook so she’s essentially doing her routine about
things like if you’ve seen interviews with her taking Will Smith all swamped
or are having an old man die at a bar mitzvah party and things like that
interspersed with these horrific family stories but also interspersed with
stories about being a bit superficial there’s a bit of a story about a heavy
set person who is hitting on her there’s a story about disabled co-worker of hers
that she had a a brief affair with but then she broke up with him just because
she would be embarrassed to be with him in public and their their bits of that
so it was totally very odd and she did write this with a co-writer there’s a
co-writer credited on this so it’s not the case of I think there are some
celebrities who would write their own book and they’re not much of an author
so it doesn’t flow well but as a comedian she is essentially a writer
anyway and did co-write this so the mixed tone of it was really weird it was
still interesting but weird also she’s not very good at accents which was funny
because a lot of comedians are quite good at accents but there’s at one point
the the accent that she gives to her Eritrean father and the accent that she
gives to the Jamaican woman that she’s pimping out actual story are basically
the same so not created the exes and the voice
she does for her disabled coworker is a little ippolit but any case I mean if
you’re a fan of her comedy it’s probably worth listening to I mean if you’re not
it’s not I’m also about 3/4 of the way through with Maggie Nelson’s the
Argonauts which made the rounds on booktube about a year and a half ago two
years ago it is basically half academic pretentiousness talking about
philosophers and quotes pretentiousness that it’s just over-the-top but mixed in
with that is a very raw memoir of her relationship with the artist Harry dodge
and in particular the fact that when they decided to have a child together
she was taking hormones for IVF and dodge started taking testosterone at the
same point and when she fell pregnant dodge had breast removal surgery so
their bodies were changing at the same time and she has some interesting
commentary both about maleness and femaleness and identity and how they’re
as those changes were taking place their family was becoming more externally
heteronormative looking like dodge doesn’t identify as male or female
although by virtue of having had breast removal Serge
being on testosterone does yeah functionally become more male passing I
guess eventually and if you look on dodges website it’s funny because on the
Wikipedia page the pronoun used is they but on the website and mostly within the
text it’s all he but there’s a lot of that that’s left open-ended and there’s
discussions about the kind of open endedness of identity in between here’s
what Freud said in flop in between academic nonsense and I mean that’s her
shtick I know she writes poetry and other bits of makes genre nonfiction
that are kind of odd and it’s kind of funny to me that this is the book that
took off I think she’s American and I think her other books were not even
published outside of the United States so this was one where a lot of British
reviewers are saying this is her first book that’s been published in the UK
blah blah blah but it’s an odd choice for a crossover so yeah I as I said I’m
not quite finished with it but it’s an odd book but the bits that are
interesting are interesting but some of it there’s a lot of eye rolling because
she does when she gets into excessive sexual detail I do kind of roll my eyes
and think you don’t need to prove that you’re so exciting to me I don’t need to
know and also you don’t need to prove that you’re so academic to me with all
these references so maybe it’s just not quite to my taste but she is making a
lot of interesting points within some of the oversharing and the academic stuff
yeah so that’s right right now. If you’ve read any of these I’d love to hear what
you thought of them. Yeah, that’s it for now. Ciao! now Joe

12 thoughts on “Friday Reads | Novels, Poetry, Comics, Dogs, and more | 30 August 2019

  1. Gosh, this is the first video where I've felt compelled to take stuff off my overbooked TBR rather than add to it. 🤔 Total mixed emotions! If They Come For Us and The Black Unicorn both sound good but not super amazing. The Argonauts … uhh … * discreetly crosses it off the list * I'm loving how you finish the videos with your pup. What's his name? I hope your weekend is pretty awesome. 🥰

  2. Hi Jen.  I remember reading Travels With Charlie many years ago, and although it isn't the mot reliable travel book ever written, like you said it is a fun read.  I think I can live without the Haddish book, it doesn't sound like my cup of tea at all.  Isn't great how dogs can just chill out wherever they find themselves, wish I could do that.  Thanks Jen, have a good weekend.

  3. Omg I feel the same way about Maggie Nelson, I just can't. The way people fawn over her is so excessive. I read Bluets and yeah… pretentious and oversharey, no thanks!!
    I know nothing about tiffany hadish which might be helpful, I've had my eye on this audiobook.

  4. I think that travelogues would be boring if they were just strict reporting of what took place. I like that the authors thoughts before, during, and after the experience of traveling color their reporting of what they did and saw. I've never read Travels With Charlie or The Winter of Our Discontent thought I've had a copy for a long time. Steinbeck and I don't always get along.

  5. I'm intrigued by The Parisian. I've read The Argonauts and I think you've articulated how I felt about it when I read it. I wouldn't mind reading Bluets and some of her other writing, though!

  6. Ohhh!! Your dog is such a sweetie! I've seen several of Tiffany's interviews and I've heard her tell that swap tour story about Will and Jada and the Groupon. You always make your books sound very interesting. I'm always impressed. =)

  7. I love how your videos encompass such a variety of different books and graphic novels. I really liked what I saw of the artwork in Tramp. I worked in the comic book field throughout the 90s and wondered why I never heard of this one. Not 100% sure where my own art goes at this point, but have been trying to wrap my mind around that sort of noir, deep shadowed look fused with a simple modern feel. Mostly focusing on writing currently, but if I throw enough info into the slush pile of my brain, the pieces will eventually fall into place for the art as well 🙂

  8. I'm pretty sure Gunther-dog did a "slightly modified" sun salutation pose at the end of this video. I am old enough to have read Travels with Charley within a few years of its publication, and I am a lifelong Californian. John Steinbeck is a sentimental favorite of mine, so I am happy you enjoyed reading Travels with Charley.

  9. "I can swear, pray and count" – that kind of covers all the bases doesn't it? I've never read Travels with Charley but I should get to it one of these days.

  10. Yes! Thank you for saying that about the Argonauts. I read it because of the hype and because of the content on gender and identity but I strongly disliked how pretentious it was and don't understand the hype, tbh. Glad to finally hear someone say it

  11. So glad that my gut feeling about Argonauts seems to have been right.

  12. Again we are reading something at nearly the same time! I am about 50 pages from finishing Travels with Charley. I really like it overall, although some of the passages about Native Americans have been cringe inducing. I love the dog too. The bit about the trying to cross the border with Charley had me howling and nodding in recognition. I had to read it out loud to my husband it rang so true.

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