I took a break from reading in January. Like Ross and Rachel in that one season of Friends, we needed some time apart, an “off” phase. I did read Hilary Mantel’s short story collection on the airplane, The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher, and loved it, especially this story. I just finished Jenny Offhill’s Dept. of Speculation, which I also loved. What an amazingly experimental, moving book, reminiscent of Renata Adler yet so, so, so much more emotionally involving for me. The break-up chapter which just consists of a page of “soscaredsoscared” typed over and over again is probably one of the most emotionally realistic things I’ve ever seen represented in fiction–a total Wow, have I ever been there moment. I am not there now, thank God (haha!). Where am I then? Carrying on in England. Reading Eliza Robertson’s Wallflowers and Jenny Erpenbeck’s The End of Days and relishing both. I reread some Bolaño essays in Beyond Parentheses and particularly enjoyed “Our Guide to the Abyss”, specifically its definition of writerly courage and humor. That’s why I love reading Bolaño, I think–I feel like he provides me with a guide, a roadmap of sorts, of how to live a life. Emphasizing hardcore qualities like KINDNESS and EMPATHY and OPENNESS and LOVE OF LITERATURE. Characters like Leopold Bloom make me feel the same way (up to a point, haha). Why else should we read if not to find out how to live, right?
That’s all for now… but here are some winter wonderland photos from a recent all-too brief visit to Portland and Bend.