So there we have it – month 2 of 20 Books of Summer is over! It goes by so fast doesn’t it?
As it stands, I’m still on track, although by this point I had hoped to be a little bit ahead, but a return to work put paid to that. Still, I’ve read and reviewed 13, have read 2 more and have 5 still to read, so I am hopeful I’ll be able to celebrate come September 1st!
How is everyone else doing with their challenge?
A Luminous Republic by Andrés Barba
This year I decided to take part in Spanish Literature Month hosted by Winston’s Dad as I had the new book from Andres Barba on my Netgalley shelf.
San Cristóbal is a quiet town in Argentina, surrounded by river and jungle. Life in the city is thrown into confusion when a group of mysterious children, ranging from 9 to 13 years old, arrives on the city’s streets. “The 32,” as they are referred to, speak an unknown private language, hang around public places and at first appear to pose no larger threat than any usual group of your people. But they soon become more menacing. There are reports of assaults and threats, pointless attacks and thefts. Tensions culminate in an attack on a supermarket which leaves two customer dead. The 32 go underground. The town’s children become obsessed with finding them, as do the authorities. Where have the come from and now, where have they gone?
Like his previously translated novel Such Small Hands, A Luminous Republic captures that strange balance between the real and the imaginary in children’s play and explores how, without guidance, the two can become terrifyingly blurred. This is a subtle allegory on how the state fails damaged children, and charts the dark and often unsettling side of childhood and early adolescence, but doesn’t quite capture the same sense of claustrophobic terror as he did in Such Small Hands which I reviewed last year.
Sing Backwards and Weep by Mark Lanegan
I am a real sucker for a music memoir, even if I am not a fan of the musician. I don’t know much about Lanegan’s career before he went solo, when he was part of the Seattle grunge scene with his band The Screaming Trees.
This is an arresting and often terrifying memoir, dealing as it does as much with Lanegan’s struggle with drug addiction as his music. From what I can tell, facilitating his drug addiction was top priority in his life. From a rough and loveless childhood, through a turbulent and criminal adolescence, there is no doubt that Lanegan was in some respects, saved by music, but the main feeling that comes from Sing Backwards and Weep is one of amazement that he actually made it out alive.
As you would expect, there are some crazy stories and memorable cameos (mainly from Johnny Cash, Liam Gallagher and a very strange meeting with Anthony Kiedis’s father) but what strikes the most is how many of Lanegan’s friends didn’t make it, most famously Kurt Cobain. Lanegan hasn’t shied away from anything here, so the book is not for the fainthearted but is highly recommended nonetheless.
Women in Translation Month
August is the annual Women in Translation Month and I am hoping – if my 20 Books of Summer reading goes to plan – to read one or two books for this challenge. I have a few options:
Are there any here you would particularly recommend?
A return to work has meant a reduction in TV and film viewing (going to bed earlier!) and lately we have been having a run of bad luck in our Netflix choices.
One standout was the brilliant Funny Cow, which features a triumph of a performance from Maxine Peake as a woman trying to extract herself from an abusive marriage and make it on the comedy scene in England in the 1970’s. The film features fantastic support from Stephen Graham and Paddy Considine and contains a swoon-worthy soundtrack from Richard Hawley. Highly recommended.
A third series of the always hilarious The Young Offenders came as a nice surprise last week, but with only 6 half hour episodes, we made short work of it. I adore this show because, like Schitt’s Creek it has me crying with laughter one minute and crying for real the next. It has a big, big heart and I hope it comes back for another series.
Finally, proving just how far behind the television-viewing curve we are, we have finally started watching Breaking Bad. Considered one of the best TV shows ever made, I remain slightly unconvinced at the moment (we are on Season 2) but am assured that it improves.
This month I have been indulging my inner Country girl and listening mainly to two fantastic new albums. Gillian Welsh and Dave Rawlings released an album of cover versions called All the Good Times are Past and Gone and the honey-voiced Courtney Marie Andrews has released a gorgeous new album Old Flowers.
So that’s been my cultural month – what have you been watching and listening to?
I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!