bookish updates // the man booker international prize and an almost-half-yearly-recap

 

Congratulations, Han Kang!

I had every intention of reading The Vegetarian, as well as several of the other short-listed novels, before the announcement of the Booker International Prize. But, lo and behold, time slipped away on me. Serendipitously, I went to the Booker website this morning to check the date that the prize would be awarded only to realise that it was yesterday! So, The Vegetarian has been bumped to the top of my reading pile. It’s a book I’ve really been looking forward to reading – the kind of book that blends all of the dark, surreal, unsettling, dream-like imagery that I love in Asian literature.

 

We’re nearly half-way through 2016 (where does time go!) so I thought now would be as good a time as any to share a recap of my year in books. In between work and university, I’m falling a little short in my ambitious target to read seventy books this year, but there’s still plenty of time to go, right? More importantly, after a realisation that the majority of books I read are by white male authors, my goal for 2016 was to read as diversely as possible. More authors of different nationalities, more translated works, a greater diversity in gender, unfamiliar genres and more classics. And I think I am definitely on track. Of the 23 books I’ve read (or am reading) so far, six have been translations and fourteen have been by non-American authors. Only eight have been female writers, but that’s a good step up from the four I read last year. Uni has given me an excuse to finally dust off a few of those classics that everyone should have read, but I never got around to (Frankenstein, Jane Eyre). I have strayed outside my comfort zone and read two fantastic young adult books (Lost Stars, Half World), which snapped me out of my literary snobbery and reminded me to enjoy not taking myself too seriously, and I’ve jumped back into the -pages of favourite authors (Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World). I have fallen head-over-heels in love with the dreamy, poetic, visceral prose of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando and Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, and I am currently savouring every last morsel of David Foster Wallace’s Brief Interviews with Hideous Men before moving on to Consider the Lobster.

As for the rest of the year? My book hoarding has been out of control, to the extent that I no longer have room on my bookshelves and stacks of books are slowly taking over my office, my bedroom, my coffee table. (Help!) While I keep telling myself that there are books I will definitely finish before the year is done (Infinite Jest, Outlander, The Dune Trilogy), I know how likely I am to become distracted by the next shiny new thing to come along.

 

What about you, reader? How is your reading year shaping up so far? Have you set goals? Are you sticking to them? Or are you simply reading whatever the wind blows your way?

 

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10 thoughts on “bookish updates // the man booker international prize and an almost-half-yearly-recap

      1. Haha, yes I am back to the world of blogging! It’s only been nearly a year 😉 And I still haven’t read Name of the Wind, even though it’s been gathering dust on my shelf for so long! That’s another one I want to knock out this year :) How have you been?

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      2. Silent_Dan

        Awful, but that particular book is doing wonders for me, it’s helping like few others can. And I’m getting interaction on Goodreads, Instagram and Twitter, so that’s kinda taking off.

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      3. Good to hear that at least some things are picking up! So many social media accounts – I struggle just to keep up with Facebook! Are you getting much response to your published books?

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      4. Silent_Dan

        Moreton Bay Library: check.
        Brisbane Library: no confirmation yet, but sent in the post.
        State Library: you’ll see… :p
        BWF: Haven’t asked, not sure when the cutoff date is, you probably do have to be confirmed before a certain date so they can organise everything, I imagine. *Probably* too late, however, I can’t confirm or deny anything about inclusion in a thing.
        I have 2 free promotion days for COF, one of which I’m saving for when I go to my highschool, and one for whenever a certain other thing is published. GOOD thing I held back and didn’t do all of them at once. Pity they only give you five days out of 90, and you can’t use both types of promotion. It should really be 10 days, at least – five of each. Or maybe 5 days a month and you choose which option to use for those five. (Free or Countdown deals, I mean.)
        Goodreads: found an author who writes about wounded male heroes in romance/erotica (and also seems to love superhero fiction too) and we’re really enjoying talking to one another. Her focus is on debilitating wounds and going against cliches. You really do only get able-bodied, able-minded Heroes in most commercial fiction! Rarely does the protagonist have a disability, physical, mental, acquired or born-with (what’s the word for that, anyway?). Not many major characters ever have disabilities, and those that do are usually saints about it, never let it get them down, chin up, all that positivity. It’s a good attitude to have, but *mostly* that’s kinda bull.

        And then there’s all the stories of cancer. Now, cancer is horrible, of course. But seriously, all the charity events are for cancer awareness. It’s like people don’t know what cancer is. But I mean, yes, their goal is to kick cancer’s ass. Which is good, of course. Which is difficult as hell. As is finding cures for many other diseases, and disabilities too. Terry Pratchett died of Alzheimer’s, but until then, no one talked about it. Society just brushed it under the rug and denied that it was a problem. Holy crap did that open doors!

        Sheldon Cooper may be to Autism what The Big Bang Theory is to comedy, but at least it does address autism. In the most Hollywood-ish way, of the awkward and OCD genius way, but still. It may not be anywhere near good, that show, but it’s at least getting the ball rolling, even if people who watch it are being misled on autism itself. Abed on Community, however, he is a realistic autistic (lol). The Big Bang portrait is a Hollywood portrait. But does anyone actually believe Hollywood’s portrayals of anything? I’m pretty sure we’re all smarter than that. Not Brilliant, necessarily, but not the utter morons TV executives of the 80s and 90s claimed viewers were.

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  1. Ooh, well if you get it into the Brisbane City library I will definitely have to go and check out a copy! :D

    I definitely agree with your comment about the way most “wounded male heroes” are portrayed in fiction, and it’s refreshing to hear that there’s someone addressing the theme differently. Watching TV series like Outlander (which I love!) and video games like Wolfenstein and Drake’s Uncharted, the main characters take suuuch a beating, but just pick up and keep going. Which is very admirable, but totally unrealistic, and I do find myself rolling my eyes a little.

    I haven’t actually watched much Community, but I’ll have to give it another go with that in mind about Abed! Not that I can speak from any position of authority, but I get the impression that Sheldon addresses a very narrow view of Autism, playing up social stereotypes. It’s interesting that we’re not seeing more characters in fiction where mental disability is really “integrated” into their character and accepted as part of who their character is, rather than coming off as a superficial afterthought – the only two books I can really think of off the top of my head that do this really well are The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and I’m also reading David Foster Wallace’s Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, which gives a spine-tingling insight into depression and anxiety. But as for characters with physical disabilities? Can’t think of a singe one that I’ve read.

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    1. Silent_Dan

      Sheldon is genius-level autistic, “Idiot Savant”. It’s a common, annoying character trope in soooo much sci fi. Rodney McKay comes to mind, too, though they realised, if he was going to be lead scientist on Atlantis, he couldn’t just be that. He had to learn to play as part of a team. Samantha being wiser and more social (for a dedicated scientist), she’s also a lot more likeable, not just for her ‘nerd girl’ cred. Though that’s a BIG reason she’s a popular character, and the fact that the actress is my childhood crush, well, that doesn’t hurt either :p You know, I think Daria would definitely respect her. And Lisa Simpson. Not that Daria’s a science or maths nerd, just a whip-smart outcast. Those three are the biggest icons of ‘nerd girl’ ever. Big Bang doesn’t even come close. But the fact that the scientist girls on that show aren’t all that pretty is a point in the show’s tenuous grasp on realism. Ugly men can get away with almost anything. Women can hardly get away with jack, and oh yes, society just loves to point out how pretty a woman is (or isn’t)! And if god forbid she EVER has a sexual thought… WITCH!

      Ahem.

      At least it’s nowhere near as bad as the worship of Ramona Flowers. Or Arwen (Eowyn’s way more interesting because she *has* a personality, even if her arc is tied to a man, and also her father somewhat, and the “I’m not a man” thing against the Nazgul (can’t get through the books without groaning, but I suspect that’s a movie change, because Tolkien was an upper-class white Englishman at that time in history, and I doubt very much he was a hit with ladies, so…).

      My own main characters I’m definitely exploring the aging process with. As they are, they “read hot”, and straight, and white. Kind of my insecurity about portraying Other, really. But holy crap, has the internet made me nervous about that. But you know what? Fuck the bigots and the ‘yes men’ types. Just because I’m a straight white male, doesn’t mean I will be only writing straight white males. Hell, I have FIVE females in my story as it is, at least important characters, and at least two more NPCs I can think of, at least off the top of my head. Dmitri, he’s a fan favourite. Greek male masseuse body builder with rocket launcher.

      Who’s gay.

      Jess is also bi. Sarah heals. Who’s to say she doesn’t eventually grow to like pain? And then there’s Tiffany, the sassy bandit queen who is sadomasicistic but drunk on her own power and immature about that kind of lifestyle, but in book 3, realising maybe her approach was not exactly pyschologically healthy… well. And then there’s the man made of fire, who can’t change back to human, who is stuck as a sun-god, and thus can never have sex.

      Also there’s an immortal assassin in the other world. I read up on both of these through a site called Springhole.net, and it discusses what it would actually be like to be those things. Hint: assassin’s don’t wear black. Or take on more than bosses and spouses for more than “four figures”, whatever that amounts to (probably more than my pension, at least…).

      The guy who plays a vampire in True Blood, I think, one of the Skaarsgard brothers (there’s 7 of them!) says that his character is noble and proud… and 1000 years old. His view on life is way different even from living human royalty.

      Have you managed to see Deadpool?

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  2. Silent_Dan

    Video games have regenerating health bars. It’s so it’s not too challenging. Really holds you hand, these days. I remember the good old days when you had to get medi packs and the cover didn’t really do shit, and you didn’t just press A to lock yourself to it, you had to hold that space bar down!

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