Monday, September 30, 2019

A Month in the Life: September 2019

And somehow now it's fall! After a long, hot August, the return of a little bit of crisp to the air has been very welcome. It even snowed enough for chain controls to be issued on some of the roads at higher elevation in the middle of the month, and it's been in the 50s and 60s for the past several days now. It's hard to believe the end of the year is just around the corner, but October is my favorite month of the year so I'm excited to be heading into it.

In Books...
  • Tower: An interesting look at the history of a very important building...the Tower of London. It's served as a fortress, a palace, a prison, an executioner's grounds, and even a zoo! A little too detailed/fact-dense for the kind of popular fiction it seems like it's trying to be, though, and it never really grabbed me.
  • Seeing: It's hard to tell at first that this is a sequel to Jose Saramago's Blindness, a book that is incredibly bleak and that I devoured. It takes place in the capital city of an unnamed country, where one election day, voters suddenly turn in blank ballots in overwhelming numbers. The government goes into crisis, searching for answers...which leads them back to four years previous, when everyone went mysteriously blind. This is only slightly less bleak, but takes a while to get going and generally felt less strong.
  • My Year of Rest and Relaxation: This is an odd book, about a young woman in millennium-era New York City who decides that the cure for what ails her is to sleep as much as possible. There's not really a central conflict driving the narrative and pretty much everyone in the book is varying degrees of unlikable, but Ottessa Moshfegh's skill with storytelling renders it strangely compelling. 
  • Empire Falls: I feel like if I'd read this Pulitzer-Prize winner several years ago, I would have thought it was brilliant. Reading it here and now, though, I was struck by the misogyny with which the female characters were painted and frustrated with its lack of subtlety or nuance...and a major plot development near the end felt very cheap and hackneyed. 
  • Zone One: If you don't think of yourself as the sort of person who likes zombie books, this might be the zombie book for you. Gore is minimal in this tale of a man, jokingly called Mark Spitz, working to help "clear" Manhattan of residual zombies as humanity works to restore some semblance of society. Gorgeous prose, but there's something removed about a tale that should be visceral. 
  • Soon The Light Will Be Perfect: This debut novel bit off way more than it could chew. Telling the coming-of-age story of one summer in the life of a pre-teen boy, it wrestles with religion, poverty, fraternal bonds, the serious illness of a parent, and a fledgling romance in 250 pages, which gives none of it any room to develop and the constant shifts in focus left it feeling incredibly unfocused. This was like reading an early draft of an epic...all bones, no actual meat.
  • The Hours: I'd seen the movie, so I had a good sense of the plot already, but I wasn't ready for how beautiful the language of this book would be. The stories of three women are told through a single day from the perspective of each, all linked by Mrs. Dalloway: Virginia Woolf as she begins the novel, Laura Brown, a housewife in the 1950s who is reading it as she wrestles with the constraints of her role as a mother, and Clarissa Vaughan, who is preparing to throw a party for her best friend and ex-lover, Richard, who has just won a literary prize but is dying of AIDS complications.

In Life...
  • Weekend at Lake Tahoe: As usual, I joined my husband for his work conference at the lake this month, which is always a treat because it's gorgeous up there.

One Thing:

On the surface, this is an essay about an influencer by the person who helped ghostwrite the internet persona that made her famous. But it's also a story about toxic friendships, and jealousy, and mental health, and growing up, and the writing is beautiful. It's inspired a lot of discussion on the internet about who (if anyone) is in the wrong, and I found it very ample food for thought.

Gratuitous Pug Picture: 


  1. October is my favorite month, too. I’m not a hot weather person! I love the pug photo, and the lake is beautiful. I hope you have a good October!

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

    1. I am definitely prejudiced towards October because it's my birthday on the 9th, but I love the crispiness in the air and the changing leaves too! Thanks, and I hope you have a lovely October too!

  2. I loved reading The Hours. I enjoyed My Year of Rest and Relaxation too, it's a really compelling (albeit very strange) book, though I found the ending very abrupt. I don't think I have a problem with books about unlikable characters when the author has writing skills like Ottessa Moshfegh's. (I've gotten both Sally Rooney's Normal People and Conversations With Friends on hold from the library recently, and I'm finding that her writing style plus the characters being kind of unlikable make both books impossible for me to get through.)

    1. The Hours was gorgeous. My Year of Rest and Relaxation was my first experience with Moshfegh and I was really impressed by how engaging I found it even though I'm not usually into "weird" books. I'm looking forward to reading Eileen at some point! I haven't read Rooney yet, but I'm curious how I'll react to her...people seem to be all over the map with her stuff!