October Miscellany

My October Miscellany is going to be much shorter than last months as I really didn’t do too much additional reading. I seemed to have slowed a lot in my reading since late summer – has anyone else noticed that? The brighter evenings somehow seem a whole lot more conducive to reading than these darker nights.

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October was a good bookish month though, the best news being Anna Burns’ Booker win. It has been wonderful to see how it has played out in the media and although there has been some backlash in the mainstream press, there is a real sense of pride here in Northern Ireland and a feeling that there will be a greater focus on women writers from this area.

In work I had the pleasure and privilege of hosting the wonderful Paul Muldoon, who came to HomePlace to give a reading. He was charming, funny and read wonderfully as befits a Pulitzer Prize winning poet!

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I also attended the launch of Eoin McNamee’s new novel The Vogue. I’m a big fan of Eoin’s writing and am very much looking forward to reading this new one.

R.I.P Challenge

I didn’t do quite as well in the RIP Challenge as I had intended, although I did manage to read five of the seven books I’d hoped to terrify myself with. I actually picked a great bunch of books, with Slade House and Foe being the stand outs. I also started watching The Haunting of Hill House this month, but wasn’t entirely convinced, or frightened by it, but maybe I should watch more than two episodes before giving up?

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Here’s a round-up of the other books I’ve read in October that aren’t in the 746 or challenge related.

 Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile by Adelle Stripe

Black teeth

Playwright Andrea Dunbar is vividly depicted in Adelle Stripe’s wonderful Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile, which is a fictionalised account of Dunbar’s astonishing and devastatingly short life. A playwright, most famous for The Arbor and Rita, Sue and Bob Too, her raw tales of working-class life in a tough Bradford estate brought her national attention, a stint at the Royal Court and entry into the world of film. But Dunbar was never happy with the attention that came with her work; Stripe’s debut novel perfectly captures a young woman who struggled to adapt to life outside of the Buttershaw estate where she grew up. Stripe perfectly captures life on the estate, a world of daytime drinking, teenage pregnancy and the difficulty of getting work. Dunbar is encouraged to write by a teacher and her unexpected success brings its own issues through alcohol and self-destruction. Her need for something more from life is tempered by her fear that the only place she can fit in is the place that she knows.

Dunbar’s story is a tragic one, featuring domestic violence and abuse, but her spirit leaps off these pages, particularly through the sparkling dialogue and bright sparks of humour. This is an affectionate telling of Dunbar’s life, which never tips into sentimentality. Andrea Dunbar comes across as talented, sparky, difficult and altogether lovable. It is a shame she didn’t have more time to show us what she could do.

 

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Otessa Moshfegh

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There’s not much plot to My Year of Rest and Relaxation, Otessa Moshfegh’s follow-up to the dark and brilliant Eileen. Set in New York over a 15 month period from June 2000, the novel follows our 20-something narrator who, despite wealth and beauty, is bored with her life working at a stylish gallery and dealing with her on/off boyfriend so decides to sleep for a year courtesy of medication from her rather unhinged doctor.

For a woman who seems to have anything, it is a strange decision, but her ennui with the modern world is clarified through visits from her friend Reva, a bulimic whose life is not turning out the way she wants it to. As she falls into a haze of drugs, sleep and Whoopi Goldberg videos, it becomes apparent that her need to retreat may be the most sensible option.

How much you enjoy My Year of Rest and Relaxation will depend on your tolerance for Moshfegh’s sharp, caustic humour. She is excellent at eviscerating whole swathes of society – the art world, bankers, and the medical profession – with a dark humour that is particularly satisfying. For the seemingly slight nature of the plot, My Year of Rest and Relaxation reveals itself to be anything but, exploring the nature of grief, the emptiness of consumerism and societies bland and blind sense of conformity.

 

Milkman by Anna Burns

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I shouldn’t really be including Milkman as I am not quite finished it yet and a lot has been written and discussed about it already. Just to say though, it is NOT a challenging or difficult read – it is written in a particular voice and once you get into the rhythm of the writing, it really flows. It is also very, very funny, which seems to be getting lost in all the analysis. Granted, it’s quite dark humour and maybe particularly Northern in its outlook, but it has moments of real sharp humour. I’d hate to think that people would be put off reading Milkman with all this talk of it being a difficult book as it is a really important book, particularly in its depiction of life in Northern Ireland at the height of the Troubles and the effect that had on ordinary people trying to live ordinary lives. Milkman is timely and necessary and Anna Burns is an inspiration.

 

Coming up in November, I plan to take part in Non-Fiction November, which is well worth checking out and also Margaret Atwood Month hosted by Naomi at Consumed by Ink and Marnie at Buried in Print.

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Have you any challenges lined up this month? Or any exciting reading plans?

 

Reading Roulette Uncategorized

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Cathy746books View All →

I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!

20 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I’d been somewhat put off the Moshfegh thanks to its near-constant presence in my Twitter timeline which has the opposite effect to what publishers are hoping for in my case. Your ‘sharp, caustic humour’ description has persuaded me that it’s worth trying..

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  2. Great reviews: looking forward to reading Milkman once it’s released in the States! I finished Hill House last night. There are a few suspenseful scenes here and there, but the writing doesn’t pick up at the season unfolds. Aside from the title, it doesn’t share much with the novel.

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  3. I appreciate hearing your take on Milkman – I had no idea it was funny until now.
    I like Ottessa Moshfegh’s writing style and sense of humour, so I really liked Rest and Relaxation. I think I still might prefer Eileen, though.
    Thanks for mentioning #MARM! November is a busy month for book bloggers, isn’t it?

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  4. I’ve had my reading slow down since the summer as well: so many other activities to tempt me in the ever-darkening evenings. Plus, our time has just changed this weekend, so now it is dark at beginning-of-my-day and ending-of-my-day. Which is never a good thing when it comes to reading plans! (Thanks for mentioning MARM – I hope you end up reading something really good.) I’m reading some novellas this month as well. And some non-fiction. As others have already said: there are loads of reading themes to choose from this month!

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  5. I’ve struggled to reach much of anything since August. I finished one book in September and one in October. I’m working on one this month that I started in the middle of October. These shorter days are REALLY getting to me this year.

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