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I’m speeding up again a little on the 2011 Reading List of Enormity. See my update for April and my update for August. This time I decided to, you know, try and stick to the actual original list a bit more, so here’s what I’ve been reading over the last few weeks:

  • The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery: I had very much liked the film, and the book didn’t disappoint. It’s about a French concierge with a rich and tightly-held inner life, and a young girl who lives in the same building who wants to see if there is anything in the world worth living for before she kills herself.
  • A rather good book, as yet unpublished, but one I cannot name as I promised the author I wouldn’t.
  • The Female Man by Joanna Russ: a re-read. It’s a feminist novel about four versions of the same woman from parallel worlds. It has its moments of amazing, and a lot of it makes me deeply uncomfortable. The final stretch contains some breathtaking transphobia that Russ came to very much regret.
  • Sapphic Slashers by Lisa Duggan: about the Alice Mitchell case about which I’ve recently blogged! An excellent read.
  • The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley: Another re-read. I like the idea of a feminist rewriting of the Arthurian legends, but I have many issues with the way Bradley executed it here, from the prologue that breaks the meaning of the epilogue, to the epilogue that doesn’t redeem the simplistic and often misogynistic attitude towards various religious practices throughout the book – look, I have issues with this book – more to the point, I have issues with a lot of things the author said and did both in and out of the book – and re-reading didn’t make them better.
  • China’s Muslims by Michael Dillon: tied in with
  • Between Mecca and Beijing by Maris Boyd Gillette: and now I know many many things about the Muslim population of China!
  • The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson: is about the transformative potential of story, and it may mess with your head in excellent ways.
  • The Winter Vault by Anne Michaels: was something else. I love discovering a new author with immense talent, and that Michaels is a poet really shows. It’s about nationalism, home, love, history, parenthood. There’s a lot on displacement and WWII, so be warned, because it hits hard.
  • Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson: because clearly one cannot simply read just one Canadian poet called Anne and leave it at that. I can’t even tell you how good this book was. It’s a smashing together of the twentieth century and classical Greece, of verse and novel. Perhaps you remember when Herakles has to confront the monster Geryon, kill him, and take his red cattle? Well, a poet called Stesichoros wrote about this from Geryon’s perspective. And Carson takes this up and weaves a story about lost love, photography, and what it is to be red.
  • The Enchanted Woods by Shirley Barber: because sometimes one just wants to read a picture book from her childhood.
  • Holding the Man by Timothy Conigrave: it’s been a regret of mine for some years that I didn’t see the stage production, which I am told was beautifully done. It’s autobiographical, and about Tim’s life, mostly focussing on his relationship with his lover, John, until John’s death from an AIDS-related illness. Tim himself died soon after finishing the book. His writing really didn’t hold back, and it’s amazing and terribly sad.
  • Playing in the Dark by Toni Morrison: because whenever I start talking about my interest in literature and the invisibility of whiteness, people ask me if I’ve read this, and up until now I’ve had to answer no. Well, now I have read it, so there.

I have just started David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Joy, which is over one thousand pages long, so I may take a long time at it or simply give up or leave it be for a few weeks and pick it up again in the holidays. As for Middlemarch? It is still staring at me, daring me to finish it. One day soon, Middlemarch, one day soon.