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*