November rewind

This is my slightly late overview of what I read in November.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac
I really liked this book. It’s really sad, and very beautifully written in my opinion. It’s about loss and trying to escape. It’s just really gorgeous. I found some things really odd. I couldn’t see why Sal followed Dean around, or why he wanted to hang out with him. I mean in the beginning Dean was exciting, and he was clearly a very important figure in the lives of the Beat generation, but he’s so irresponsible and he’s so certain of himself being just so awesome. And eventually I found him infuriating. I just wanted Sal to realize that Dean wasn’t a great friend. I think Dean was interesting, and beautiful, and probably had it tough, but I really wanted him to grow up and pull himself together.

Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
It’s so full of corruption and just the most amazing criticism of the church. When I read about John’s life I felt just really sorry for him. It’s about a black family in Harlem in the 1950s. The dad is some sort of minister, preacher, who spent his youth being a drunk layabout. Now he has this family, and he wants his son to be as holy as him. His oldest son John, who he doesn’t much care for, is also expected to be a holy man as well and he’s struggling to sort of align this with what he wants. He doesn’t seem to want it very much. It puts a lot of pressure on him. He wants to live up to his father’s image. He knows his dad is an abusive asshole, obviously, but he doesn’t know how his dad was before he moved to New York. It’s very interesting to see how John’s father spouts all this holiness, and how important god at home and in church, but also spends his days beating the shit out of his wife and sons. It was sort of achingly sad, and I thought it was beautiful.  

If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
This is the story of Tish and Fonny, who are 19 and 22, and are in love. Tish just found out she is pregnant, and Fonny was just put in jail for a rape he didn’t commit. The book tells of Tish and her family’s struggle to get to the truth and get Fonny out of jail. They are pushed back by the racism of the police, the justice system, and regular old white people. The young woman who was raped refuses to speak to them, or alter her story and Fonny’s friend has been scared to silence. It was really heart breaking. The writing was obviously beautiful, and the story was just so sad. It was so hard to read about these kids who have all the odds stacked against them, and they have to fight just so much institutionalized racism. And it’s very odd for me to read it, because obviously I’ve never struggled with the issues that they have to deal with, because I’m a middle-class white chick in the 2000s. So I found that really interesting, and obviously heart breaking. 

Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut

This was very different from what I expected, which isn’t the fault of the book, it’s my fault, because I didn’t actually read about this book before reading it. Anyways, it starts of with Kurt Vonnegut explaining that he wrote a book called Timequake, which he didn’t like so much, so he called it Timequake One, and he sort of cannibalized it and rewrote it. Timequake is about Kilgore Trout, essentially. It’s also about the Universe having a nervous breakdown and instead of expanding it contracts back 10 years. And everyone relives the last ten years on autopilot, they have no way of changing anything. And when it becomes 2001 again the world sort of panics and everyone stumbles and gets this feeling of ennui. The book goes off on weird tangents and it also tells the story of Vonnegut’s life. It’s sprinkled with biographical information. It’s funny, and sarcastic and cool, and I loved it.

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
This is part of my attempt to read what everyone else is reading, and reading non-fiction, and books by authors of colour. I shoved those three things into one. It’s good. It’s basically just a collection of Gay’s essays. They’re about sexuality, feminism, pop culture, racism, other stuff like that. It’s very interesting. I really liked it, and I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, but I just wanted to keep going all the time. She’s very clever, she has an amazing grasp of popular culture, and just culture in general. It was really interesting, and it’s obviously a perspective I don’t have, being not black, not being the child of immigrants, not being American. It’s always a little uncomfortable to be confronted by your own privilege and your own ignorance and all that, but it’s also important, and the uncomfortable-ness should be borne. It’s the only way to try to become better. To counteract your privilege. It also made me want to be more critical of how I consume media and culture, which I find interesting. Yeah. I really liked it.

Come on In by Charles Bukowski

This is a poetry collection, it’s a posthumous publication of some of his poetry. A lot of them are about writing and being a writer, which was really cool. They don’t look like, or feel like poems in any way I recognize poetry. A lot of them are very oddly structured rhythmically. I often find it easier to read poetry out loud, and some of them just made me very stutter-y and odd. I’m not used to reading poetry, so I should read more, to become more used to it, I guess. I liked it fine enough, I was just, it was a little confusing I guess.

Diary by Chuck Palahniuk
I fucking hated this, there’s no two ways about it. It’s about this woman named Missy Kleinman, who lives on an island outside New York. Her husband recently tried to commit suicide and is in a coma, and everyone wants Missy to stop working, and go back to painting. She has an accident and is given painmeds and she starts painting, apparently to save the town. It’s classified as horror, it wasn’t scary. It’s written in second person, sort of. I don’t know who’s actually narrating, or where this person sees it from. The concept might be sort of interesting, but it wasn’t well enough executed. It annoyed me, I got all pissed off and annoyed. And oh God!

Deadly Class: Reagan Youth by Rick Remender, Wesley Craig, Lee Loughridge
This is a graphic novel set in the late 80s. It’s about a young man named Mario Lopez who lives on the streets. He is sort of discovered and then put into a school for assassins. And he’s sort of failing at this school. It’s really raw and bloody and so very 80s. It’s lovely and at the same time so horrible and cruel and awful. I liked it.