What have you just finished reading?
Hilary McKay, Binnie in Secret. There are many things to like about McKay's families- the off-hand kindnesses, the 'getting it' about other people's feelings- but one thing I especially treasure is a very English acceptance of eccentricity. Over at Goodreads people howl about the 'terrible parenting' on display and I haven't a clue what they mean. What's terrible about taking a 6 year old off to your job at a retirement home? James loves the people there, the people there love James, it (sort of) does him good to be the centre of admiring attention, it (certainly) does them good to have a child around.
What are you reading now?
Hurston, Their Eyes were Watching God. Possibly qualifies for a Most Misleading Title Ever award. Doesn't that sound like good-hearted Baptists in the deep South overcoming their trials and tribulations by a simple-hearted faith in God? Sute it does. Does it sound at all like luminous prose about sex and sensuality in Florida? It does not. But that's what's there, so much so that I conclude grumpily that I must continue to give it shelf space until I figure out how she does it.
Which said, it's also about No-Good Men and the women who fall for them. I don't think it even passes the Bechdel, because though Janie has a best friend- which is nice- all they ever talk about is men. And just as I refuse to watch TV and movies because 'I am not interested in the doings of white American males, especially not criminal white American males', so I'm inclined to issue the ukase 'I am not interested in the love lives of straight women, especially not when they fall for No-Good Men.'
Smith, White Teeth. Which, so far, is about the love life of a straight woman who falls for a useless white male. But she does it in a gritty suburb of London, not in small-town Florida, and of course I'm all about the Sensaplace. Besides, in an odd way, White Teeth reads like the mundane version of the Midnight Mayor, if you follow, and I'm interested in seeing if this keeps on.
Tan (ed), Singapore Noir. Got for the Ovidia Yu story mostly, but also from curiosity. What image do I have of Singapore? Switzerland run by the Swiss-- clean, efficient, repressed, and given to grousing. Noir should be impossible in a place like that.
But then noir began in Los Angeles, which is also impossible. There's no there there. 'Down these mean streets'- what mean streets? You mean those six lane freeways in the middle of what may laughingly be called 'town'? New York has mean streets; of course it has mean streets. Los Angeles is just giving itself airs, pretending that its plastic palm trees can be gritty and authentic when the scale of the place isn't even human. But then again: Manhattan has fewer and fewer mean streets; maybe seventy or eighty years ago Los Angeles had a smaller human scale somewhere.
So, Singapore. Which may be Calvinist-clean, but doesn't seem to have the dour Calvinist attitude anywhere I can see. 'Religiously' it seems a much richer stew. Ghosts, vampires, demons, bogles, long-leggity beasties (oh- those are the indigenous insects)- well, anyway, the whole corpus of Malaysian and Chinese folk beliefs makes for quite another world entirely. That isn't noir, of course, but it's what one expects to find there, and the Yu story obliges. I shall have to read more to see what the Singaporean writers make of their city. And for comparison, I should look at Toronto Noir, because seriously I can't see how you do it here either.
Also Dr Dee, still, a work in progress.
What will you read next?
All the above, naturally. Bread and butter reading. Can't think what my next romp for pleasure might be.