So we’re done with the first part of the holidays. I hope your yuletide was much gay. Before wrapping up this year and driving everybody crazy with New Year’s resolution lists, I am sharing with you some interesting literary- and other discoveries from 2019. Most of them will be absolutely topical next year as well.
I read remarkably much nonfiction this year. I have covered most of the books in more detail in earlier posts and have linked some of them for further information should you still hesitate.
Ronan Farrow: Catch and Kill. The whiz-kid who broke the Weinstein-story. The trial is scheduled for January, so prep yourself by reading this book.
Lisa Taddeo: Three Women. Another blockbuster by a journalist (like Farrow above), a study about three (real) women and their relationships with men. Taddeo illustrates the omnipresent power imbalance between men and women that kind of seeps into a relationship. What she argues with her stories is that there is something systematic to this imbalance, and it usually works in the man’s favour. Another way to read the stories is to observe how the society at large approves of women acting on their sexual desires.
Carmen Maria Machado: In the Dream House. It’s difficult to categorise this book, because it is written like a reconstructed novel, but it is based on a true story. A stunning story about violence in a relationship. Not depressing, despite the subject.
Lili Anolik: Hollywood’s Eve. Sorry, can’t help it. Eve Babitz and Joan Didion will forever be the ultimate California girls for me. They are spirit animals like Fran Lebowitz on the East coast. And by the way, given that the New Year is coming and we are supposed to interpret (read: buy) crystals about how we should live our best lives in the 2020s, I absolutely urge you to read the Fran Lebowitz Reader, a collection of short stories that call bullshit on everything, including consulting bits of rocks for how you are feeling.
Speaking of short stories, I also read lots of those.
“You Know You Want This”(Kristen Roupenian), “We Love Anderson Cooper” (R.L. Maizes) and everything by Lorrie Moore was fabulous, more here.
Rachel Cusk did not disappoint with Coventry, neither did Zadie Smith with Grand Union (how could she?!). Rebecca Solnit’s two collections, “The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness” and “Whose Story is This?” were both excellent. For laughs, you will want to read Lindy West’s “The Witches Are Coming”.
Of course, not forgetting some great novels like My Life as a Rat by Joyce Carol Oates and Testaments by Margaret Atwood. The latter was of course good, but no Handmaid’s Tale. Obviously.
There were books read in all seriousness, as in to learn something, or simply to admire the writing, and then there were some for absolute entertainment, such as Rabbits for Food by Binnie Kirschenbaum, a painfully funny but also cynical take on a mid-meltdown author in a psych ward in New York.
I discovered women stand-up comedians. Not that I didn’t know of their existence (one of my best friends used to be one, so), it is also possible that they were finally given more space in media. We all know about Amy Schumer, Tina Fey, Ellen DeGeneres and the rest of the funny bunch, but there was also someone like Hannah Gadsby, who probably was actual news for most of us until this year. I went to see her in Antwerp in October. Loved.
My latest discovery, and I say “discovery” with the similar embarrassed hush as admitting that it took me until very recently to figure out the fuss about Tess of the D’Urbervilles, is Iliza Shlesinger. I don’t know which Earth I have been inhabiting for having escaped her the past years, but you will do good to see her latest show Unveiled on Netflix.
My latest thing? Literary criticism. As in reading it. Yeah. No crowd-pleaser I know, but I just discovered the late Elizabeth Hardwick and her essays about the Brontës, Virginia Woolf, George Eliot, Sylvia Plath, Zelda Fitzgerald, Jane Carlyle – not forgetting Ibsen’s Nora.
On Instagram front, I fell in love with Syncopated Ladies, @syncladies, mainly because I will be reviving an old hobby of mine come January. I already have the shoes, so there’s no excuse. Because the shoe fits, and all that.
Photo credit: Wildfang, New York.