Updates: New (used) books, Green Girls, and NW

So, school has begun.  I’m on top of things so far, but starting school every year requires quite the transition — from having loads of time to all the sudden having to fight for time to read. I love my job and won’t complain, but the transitions are my least favorite aspect of it. This semester feels different to me, though, since I know I won’t be returning to teach in the spring. I normally have an image in my mind of the teaching year running from September to May, but now it’s only September to December, and then … everything changes, as people keep telling me.

Last weekend Hobgoblin and I had the pleasure of seeing our book-buying friends (here and here) and visiting the fabulous Book Barn in Niantic. The store is awesome, partly because it’s HUGE — it has three different locations around town, and each one is sizeable. We visited all three, of course, with a break for dinner. Here’s what I found:

  • Michael Holroyd’s A Book of Secrets:  Illegitimate Daughters, Absent Fathers. The kind of nontraditional biography I like.
  • Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth, a book discussed by a number of bloggers, but most especially Rohan.
  • Edmund White’s A Boy’s Own Story, to add to my memoir collection.
  • Frank Baker’s Miss Hargreaves, for when I’m in the mood for something lighter, possibly post-childbirth.
  • Willa Cather’s O Pioneers, for when I’m in the mood for another classic-type book.
  • Theodor Fontane’s Effi Briest, ditto, or I should say, for when I’m in the mood for a classic in translation.
  • Eugen Herrigel, Zen in the Art of Archery, for when I want something more philosophical.

As for reading, last week I finished Kate Zambreno’s novel Green Girl, and liked it a lot. I heard about it through the Tournament of Books where it got eliminated immediately (by The Marriage Plot, which got so, so, so much more attention, but which wasn’t as intriguing as Green Girl was). Apparently a lot of readers found the main character, Ruth, unlikeable. She IS unlikeable, in some ways at least, although I found myself getting fond of her and certainly sympathizing with her, but that unlikeableness is part of the point. She’s a young American living in London, trying to scrape by on low-paying jobs. She’s isolated and bored and unhappy. She doesn’t have what I can only think of as internal resources to get her through — she’s not interested in much beyond pop culture and fashion, movies and boys and parties. She doesn’t know much about the world and doesn’t know how to reach for anything more meaningful, or even that anything more meaningful exists. She’s a depressed and depressing creation of modern media, consuming as much as she can but never finding any satisfaction in it. She’s full of surface-level images of what girls should be and she does her best to live up to these images while finding the entire enterprise horribly empty.

It’s the critique of fashion, celebrity, party-girl culture that I liked. There is a sense, if only a vague one, that Ruth will eventually move on and grow up, but for right now, she’s trapped. There is also an interesting narrator who in the beginning of the book self-consciously conjures Ruth up and then continues to comment directly on her throughout — a commentary that is both critical and sympathetic and is a pretty good guide for figuring out what to make of the character.

I’ve been reading Zambreno’s blog for a while now and am looking forward to reading her new nonfiction book Heroines. She is a writer I plan to follow.

Then I started Zadie Smith’s new novel NW, which I was lucky to be able to get quickly from the library. I haven’t finished it yet — I’m about 70 pages from the end and hope to finish it today — so I won’t write much about it now. But so far I’m enjoying it. Having a lean, tight structure is not exactly Smith’s thing — the book feels a bit all over the place — but it’s never been my thing either, and I like the book’s different sections with different writing styles. I’m liking the characters and the way Smith conjures up a particular part of London. More on that one soon (hopefully).

Finally, here is another pregnancy picture. I’m going to give you the 19-week one instead of the 20-week, which I wasn’t happy with. I’m past halfway now!

8 Comments

Filed under Books, Life

8 responses to “Updates: New (used) books, Green Girls, and NW

  1. I love to hear about your book shopping adventures! Green Girl sounds really interesting. Zadie Smith’s new one has been getting lots of buzz. She is going to be in town in October. I doubt I will have read the book by then but I doubt that it will matter all that much. And you are definitely looking pregnant now! Halfway already? Very exciting!

    • I think you are going to see Smith at some point soon? Or perhaps you already have? Anyway, she’s really good! She reads very well and you will enjoy the reading whether you’ve read the book or not.

  2. That book barn sounds terrific, and you came home with a great haul. I also have the Michael Holroyd and the Edmund White to read, so will look forward greatly to comparing notes with you. Green Girl sounds so interesting – a courageous book, to stand up to popular culture in that way, and courage in writing always interests me. And I love your recent photo – you are carrying that baby very high. I know it’s supposed to be indicative of gender but I can’t for the life of me remember which way around it is!

    • I’ve thought about your carrying the baby high comment a lot — I wonder if that explains my trouble with heartburn :) I’m not sure if it’s supposed to mean a boy or girl either, but either way, I’m sure it’s not true! I think you might find Green Girl very interesting if you are ever inspired to read it.

  3. I read this post a few days ago and I thought I’d left a comment. Glad I came back and found that I only thought about commenting, but never did. Well, I’m here to say you look wonderful… and the expression on your face is just precious. Anyway, glad you’re sharing your progress with us. As for books, I’ve been really curious about ZS’s new book, and I’m on the wait list at the public library, so’s Cloud Atlas, so’s a few others. But then again, there ARE so many new fall offerings, books and films. I just may have to settle with reading about them rather than reading all that I’d like to. But for films, it’s much easier, just a couple hours are needed for each. My highly anticipated ones are Anna Karenina, of course, as I’m doing the read-along, and also Life of Pi, Midnight’s Children, which I’ll be going to its Western Canadian premiere at a Film Festival Opening Gala here in my City, and later on in the year, the film adaptation of the musical Les Miz. (it’s more based on the musical than the book).

    • Thanks, Arti! My list of fall releases I’d like to read is quite long too, but I’m glad I made it to the Smith book. As for films, I’m just not watching that many movies lately, I think because I want to spend my limited free time on reading. Still, I should probably watch a movie a little more often! I do enjoy it.

  4. The bump progresses charmingly :D I didn’t know Kate Zambreno had written non-fic as well. Have been dying to try Green Girl and must add Heroines t my list as well now.

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