I’ve been making a special effort to read more in the last couple of months. It’s strange how something you love to do can fall by the wayside, even for the things you don’t like to do all that much. It’s a treacherous cycle, monotany. But literature is a passion of mine, and a good book is such perfect inspiration. It can take you out of your head, which is something I’m trying to do more. I’m trying to delve back into my passions, and out of my anxieties. Spend more time outside of my mind, enjoying thing and hopefully that spurs me to create my own things. I read seven books in the last two months, and each book removed from the teetering stack on my bedside table and placed away on my shelves feels like a little triumph of growth and learning and all that good stuff books do to you if you let them. Anywho, below is a list of September’s books and some words about them and words from them that I particularly liked.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
I toted this book all over Europe, thinking somewhere in between all the train rides and international flights I would find a moment to read it. I didn’t and I suppose in some way I’m glad. I’m glad I read this when I was feeling unsure and unsteady because it was exactly what I needed. It didn’t make me any surer or steadier, but it wasn’t the point. There’s some important and beautiful shit going down in those wobbly moments, it’s good to pay attention to them. I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane really quickly, in about two days, but it stayed with me for a long time after that. It is beautifully written, Neil Gaiman is a master of language and I mean, anything I say won’t really do it justice. At its end I sat with the book in my hands and cried a good long cry, and it wasn’t so much sadness as it was appreciation for the world inside it and the story and what it means to be a kid, and how that intensity never leaves you, and how that’s the way it’s supposed to be. How I want it. If it leaves you, then that’s a problem.
“Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. Truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.”
The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
I bought and read this for the same reasons everyone else did. J.K. Rowling wrote it, and I’m a Rowling stan if there ever was one. The Casual Vacancy has been sitting on my nightstand for a long time. I pre-ordered it and carried it around in my bag and had every intention to start, but I did not. I’ll get to it soon enough. I made the decision to delve into The Cuckoo’s Calling first. I’m glad I did. It is so good! You can see the skill with which Rowling wrote the Harry Potter novels in full effect here, and at the same time you are worlds’ away from Hogwarts in this London. I think a lot of people thought Rowling would never be able to replicate the success she had with the Potter novels, and I can’t express how happy it makes that she has, that she can. The attention to detail here creates a world just as immersive, but full of supermodels and scheming rich people and fame and scandal, but manages to avoid the paltry. There are layers here: money, poverty, mental health, fame, race, family. Rowling adds the same veritas to crime that she did to magic. Her planning and careful plotting and achingly full character development is such a pleasure. I can’t wait to see more of Cormoran Strike, a perfect addition to the world of grissled private eyes.
“How easy it was to capitalize on a person’s own bent for self-destruction; how simple to nudge them into non-being, then to stand back and shrug and agree that it had been the inevitable result of a chaotic, catastrophic life.”
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
I’m a huge Gaiman fan, and American Gods had long been on my list of books to read. I think it may be his most popular book so I’m unsure how I managed to avoid it and become a huge Gaiman fan all at once, but shit happens. I read the 10th anniversary edition with the author’s preferred text which I’ve had since it was released two years ago. I admit, that it took me a while to get into. I jumped into American Gods, however, immediately after reading The Cuckoo’s Calling, and I was still caught up in that other world. The cadence here is so different, like its protagonist and narrator Shadow, it’s methodical and delicate and subtle. About a quarter of the way in it had me. It is dense, but Gaiman is so good at creating this universe and its cast of characters. Its so rich with its own mythology, like much of his books are. I love that. It’s also kind of a sad book, about the dissolution of a lot of things. Life, love, belief, but it’s vaguely hopeful as well. I like that kind of ending, mostly you feel bad but there’s some aspect of moving on as well.
“All we have to believe with is our senses, the tools we use to perceive the world: our sight, our touch, our memory. If they lie to us, then nothing can be trusted. And even if we do not believe, then still we cannot travel in any other way than the road our senses show us; and we must walk that road to the end.”
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
The 1999 film version of this novel with Ralph Fiennes and Julian Moore is a favorite of mine. For some reason I got to thinking about the film not that long ago, and curiosity about how true it was to the 1955 novel got to me. Pretty true, it turns out. Although, I admit I have not seen the move in years. Still, it’s full of the breathy and rage filled desperation I was convinced signified true love back then. It is a very quick read, got through it in one very slow afternoon at work. I will say this about it, though, it goes on for far too long. About a two thirds of the way in, much of the story has been told and there are several points where I thought, surely this is the end or surely something else will happen. Not because I wanted something else to happen, but because it just kept going on and on. It felt like the only reasonable thing would be for something else to happen. Suffice to say, it overstays its welcome. It just feels like a lot of complaining and it’s get hard to root for your protagonist when he starts to annoy you. The first two thirds are top notch desperate clinging romance, however.
“We can love with our minds, but can we love only with our minds? Love extends itself all the time, so that we can even love with our senseless nails: we love even with our clothes, so that a sleeve can feel a sleeve.”