Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Reading log

I used to do these posts about what I'd been reading and at the time they were undoubtedly of very small interest to anyone except for me, and maybe not even me come to think of it. So it's definitely a good idea to start doing them again.

In terms of noting and bridging the gap of about six years between the unplanned demise of SASB and its recent unplanned reanimation, well, I think the reading log would go something like this:

2011 up to end of April: some of the Miles Franklin longlist, a binge on Sookie Stackhouse novels, Naomi Wolf, Katha Pollitt, Rosalind Belben, Jenny Diski

the rest of 2011: Baby Love by Robyn Barker, some Dr Seuss. My Brother Jack was the only book in the lunatic asylum I spent some time in at the very end of the year, so I did read that. I'd read it before though. Also read, very slowly and traumatisedly,  a really strange book debunking Flora Rheta Schrieber's book Sybil, that I think is called Sybil Exposed. I was fascinated by Sybil thoughout my whole adolescence. Just writing this down is making me want to read it again. Thinking about it now I feel worried about why I read it so many times. That can't have been healthy. I also think now that it's bizarre that I could ever have not been sceptical about the reality of some aspects of Sybil's childhood experiences as described in the book. I was, and to an extent have remained, an overly credulous reader especially when something outrageous is being asserted.

2012: Many books, but only one that I hadn't read twenty or thirty times before, always held in just one hand and usually being wept upon and read simultaneously. The single exception: Elisabeth Badinter, The Conflict.

2013: feverish orientation of self within new disciplinary field: philosophy of higher education. Peter Serafinowicz's One Billion Jokes vol 1.

2014: see 2013, plus Freud, Melanie Klein, Donald Winnicott, Wilfred Bion, Jessica Benjamin, Adam Phillips. Those stupid vampire plague novels, I can't even remember what they were called. By Justin someone.

2015: Kim Stanley Robinson's three enormous novels about Mars, then all of the other books about Mars ever. All of Doris Lessing's Children of Violence novels, then the Canopus in Argos novels. Lena Dunham (Loathed it loathed it loathed it.) Had the joyful experience of discovering two new to me novelists and going back through their work to date: Coulson Whitehead and J. Robert Lennon.

2016: All of the books about war memorials, war, wars, wartime, killing, being a soldier, being the child or spouse of a soldier, gender and war, drugs and war, animals and war, race and war, the environment and war, the politics of war memorialisation. Plus Morrissey's Autobiography, again, just the first 200 pages or thereabouts. Cintra Wilson.

2017 (OMFG this is exciting, isn't it? Don't answer that)

Hadley Freeman, Life Moves Pretty Fast: The Lessons We Learned From Eighties Movies and Why We Don't Learn Them From Movies Any More I've been a huge fan of Hadley Freeman, who writes consistently excellent, subversive, brilliantly comic cultural commentary, for at least fifteen years and I was relieved to find that this book is just as awesome as her Guardian columns. It's also been interesting to see her advancing a version of an argument I recently somehow found myself trying to make - that certain aspects of our world have deteriorated dramatically within living memory and there are no signs that the decline isn't terminal. She's talking about the fate of artistry and ideas in American mass culture and, well, I bought her argument. The other notable thing about this book is its tonal gymnastics. It's a bleak outlook with a rich and warm comic streak - not gallows humour - there's a sweetness to it. I add this book to a small group of delightful American works (like William Dereciewicz's Excellent Sheep) which are cynical and bitter about the imminent decline and fall of western culture but at the same time, touchingly enthusiastic about the idea that great works of art teach us stuff.

Rebecca Solnit, Men Explain Things To Me Mostly re-reading the essays in this collection. The title essay is a far thinner thing than I remembered it being. The other essays, especially those about violence, are more useful because Solnit is extremely good at lifting what could be just a passionate and well-written hot take on crime against women into the realm of purposeful activist writing, with anger that burns but doesn't impede the clear-eyed assessment of what needs to be done, right now.

Owen Hatherley, The Ministry of Nostalgia what a great book this is, far from perfect but such an incisive, timely and in the main accurate diagnosis and demolition of the grotesque prancing farrago of crap that Hatherley names 'austerity nostalgia', epitomised by the monstrous and offensive leviathan that is Keep Calm and Carry On. The idea of the book is that the aestheticisation of things about the past that were crappy, and things about the past that never actually happened that way, is not just how Jamie Oliver has built his empire but also explains why the Left is unable to effectively resist neoliberalism, drawing as it does its narratives from a weak and fictive idea of a lost golden age of working class solidarity. I was quite sceptical about Hatherley before picking this up but I'm a complete convert now. Great book.


elaine said...

I want to read The Ministry of Nostalgia now!

kate said...

I'm loving you blogging again.