The Books of November

These are the books that I read in November. I intend­ed to read a lot in November by not read­ing Facebook at bed­time. But it’s win­ter so most­ly I went to sleep.

Books that I read

Mr. Fox — Helen Oyeyemi (2011)

Confusing. I love Oyeyemi’s short sto­ries. And I actu­al­ly enjoyed read­ing this book. I just don’t real­ly know what hap­pened in it. There are three char­ac­ters. In some parts of the book the writer (St. John Fox) and his wife (Daphne Fox) are real and the writer’s muse (Mary Foxe) is fig­ment of the writer’s imag­i­na­tion. In oth­er parts of the book the muse is a real woman but the real­ness of the writer and his wife are in ques­tion. Or at least I think that’s what was going on.
I had to go and looked up a bunch of oth­er reviews to try to fig­ure out what I was miss­ing then I read this. There are, it seems, fairy tales (Bluebeard’s Wife in the main) and meta-fictions, and com­men­taries on state of mod­ern (male ori­ent­ed) lit­er­a­ture and it’s rela­tion­ship to the female. And a bunch of oth­er stuff that I man­aged to miss.
I was nev­er sure who the char­ac­ters were, where they were stand­ing, and which worlds were real and which imag­i­nary.  Am I read­ing at the wrong time day to absorb all this? Am I sim­ply an inat­ten­tive read­er? How can I claim to have loved read­ing a book that baf­fled me so thoroughly.
* maybe I’m just weird­ly attuned to qual­i­ty even when I’m not able to track the story *

Woman Hollering Creek — Sandra Cisneros (2013)

A short sto­ry col­lec­tion that touch­es on many of the same themes that Cisneros has been explor­ing since her first book. Identity is every­thing. For women in par­tic­u­lar, the task of find­ing iden­ti­ty in a world that denies us an iden­ti­ty at the same time that it forces it’s idea of our iden­ti­ty on us can be fraught with con­fu­sions and missteps.
In this col­lec­tion there are very short sto­ries (almost vignettes) that drop us into a sin­gle per­fect­ed moment, as well as much longer pieces that devel­op mul­ti­ple themes. All sto­ries are linked by loca­tion, that area of the southwest/Texas that strad­dles the US-Mexico border.
If you have no Spanish you might need to run a few things through the Google translator.
* being female is a uni­ver­sal dilemma *

The Whole Town’s Talking — Fanny Flagg (2016)

The Whole Town’s Talking traces the birth, life, and death of a Minnesota town and it’s inhab­i­tants.  Life, death, and the after life — lucky and unlucky in love — the machi­na­tions and com­e­dy of small town life, all of Flagg’s ele­ments, are here.
The slight­ly kooky but very wise woman who lives alone. The town may­or and his busy­body wife. The young lovers who age as we watch them. The town drunks (female and male). They all play out their parts on the town’s stage as the town itself moves from a farm­ing set­tle­ment in the 1880’s to a pros­per­ous middle-American town in the mid­dle of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry though it’s pass­ing away in the ear­ly twen­ty first cen­tu­ry as the inter­state and the mall and the big box stores kill off it’s old fash­ioned downtown.
The sto­ry is split between the char­ac­ters liv­ing in the town of Elmwood, Minn and those same char­ac­ters as they pass from life into the after­life  in the town’s ceme­tery — Still Meadows. It turns out that being dead isn’t quite as awful as we might have thought. The dead wake up in the ceme­tery and dis­cov­er that there’s com­pa­ny and con­ver­sa­tion.  It is a bit dull, gos­sip and par­lor games are about the only amuse­ments, but the arrival of a new (dead) per­son in Still Meadows is the occa­sion for much excite­ment as the res­i­dents catch up with the news from the out­side world.
I got an odd dis­tanced feel­ing from this book.  We, the read­ers, are in the same posi­tion as the dead at Still Meadows, not much hap­pens to us. We just watch the going’s on in a world that we don’t par­tic­i­pate in. Not my favorite Flagg.

* soft­ly lit and com­fort­ably homey, if not full of surprises*