I Remember – #966

I remember the sudden rapidity of Anna’s heartbeat very late one night in 2005 when it suddenly became clear to her that I was laying the groundwork, building up my courage, to say – I love you.  And, forgive me, I said something along the liens of: I don’t just like you, Anna, I love you.  Youth.  Youth.

-14 May 2017

This post is part of the I Remember series.

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I Remember – #965

I remember a late drunken night when I was, oh, 23 or 24, following on from seeing Anna’s friends’ band, when our relationship was still very young.  And we were walking across the Story Bridge, arguing, while she texted on her phone.  And I had an irrational desire to take it from her and hurl it out over the bridge and into the water.

-13 May 2017

This post is part of the I Remember series.

The Journal of Failure – Week 5 of 2018

Goals

Reading

  • Goal – 100p / day, or 700 / week
  • Achieved – 776/700 – Success!

Writing – I Remember

  • Goal – 21 / week
  • Achieved – 12/21 – Failure

Writing – Fantasy Project

  • Goal – 1,120 words / week
  • Achieved – 0/1,120 words – Failure

Writing – Small Projects (Fragments, short stories, etc)

  • Goal – 12 minutes, 15 seconds / week
  • Achieved – 15 minutes, 20 seconds/12 minutes, 15 seconds – Success!

Writing – Large Projects

  • Goal – 24 minutes, 30 seconds / week
  • Achieved – 0/24 minutes, 30 seconds – Failure

Getting myself out there

  • Short story reviews – One (Two total for the year)
  • Submissions – Zero (Zero total for the year)
  • Rejections – Zero (One total for the year)
  • Acceptances – Zero (Zero total for the year)

Commentary

Nice to see the reading has picked up!  I had an ok start to the week in terms of reading, but a really strong finish.  I cannot in any way place this at the feet of my daughter, who decided, on Saturday night, when her father (me!) was looking after her on his own, that she would be hysterical for hours and hours.  Extremely unlike her, so I put it down to her missing her mother.  I did, too, but I didn’t cry about it…

Anyway, reading went well.  A good chunk of the reading was another massive fantasy tome, but I feel now as though I have done my dash with those for a little while.  I wanted January to be an easy reading month, and so it was.

February will be, I think, an exercise in Spanish-language literature, or tangentially related literature (eg Luke Stegemann’s fantastic The Beautiful Obscure (twitter)).  I am going to avoid rereads, I think – so no Aira, no Marías, no Bolaño, and so on.  I will dedicate a different month to rereads, and it would, I think, be a mistake to devote a month to Spanish literature only to read those authors I already know I love.  Instead, I want to discover new and interesting writers.  My mind is ravenous for exciting literature.

March?  Perhaps focus on a publisher.  For me, that would be either Dalkey Archive Press or Open Letter Books.  I’ve heard rumblings on twitter that Dalkey seem to be going through a rough patch, so perhaps my reading attention is better spent with Open Letter.  They are a fine, fine press.

In terms of writing, I didn’t do any fantasy writing or ‘long writing’.  The fantasy writing is intended to be a cleanser, a way of stretching muscles, a loosening.  It is not intended to be serious (though fantasy can be serious), so much as warm me up for proper writing.  There’s something very therapeutic in writing about kingdoms and made up fantasy nonsense, and so that goal exists to ensure that I write.  By that I mean, if I am having trouble putting pen to paper, then I will instead bang out a hundred words or so to do with some long forgotten gemstone or order of knights or what have you.  All of this is to say that it doesn’t matter too much if I don’t hit this goal if other writing is completed.

Long writing is a bit different.  That basically means novel and bigger – and I don’t have a clue at the moment as to what I’m writing in that space.  I have had on the backburner a novel about Rasputin coming to a small Australian town to wreak havoc (kind of a Master and Margarita blended with Distant Star), but it has, I think, been too long since I worked on that piece, and perhaps now it is lost to me.

The short writing was good, and I was pleased with the result.  I wrote by hand, which is very much my preferred method, even though my penmanship is horrific at best and chthonic at worst.  But I liked what I wrote, and I think it could develop into a full-blown story which deserves proper attention.  I am having some trouble, however, in avoiding echoing ‘funkytown’, which is a horrible story I read about on reddit recently.  Don’t google it.  Just don’t.  But it’s colouring the direction I want to take the story, and I think for the ill.  Everything I do permeates everything I write.

Each week I aim to provide an update on the Journal of Failure.  These reports are intended to provide an impetus for me to achieve as much as I should/more than I do, and also to provide a further ongoing record of my life, as it is. 

Books, Read – Nos 1 – 10 of 2019

The first ten books for 2019 have now been read.

I have a few soft and a few hard goals, which I’ll outline below.  Essentially, I want to focus on translated fiction, and I need to read more widely from female writers.  The two hard goals I have are –

50% of all books I read should be translated.

50% of all books I read should be written by women.

Otherwise, I don’t want to read too many fantasy books (though I seem to be on a bit of a bender in that respect at the moment!), and small presses should be a focus.  That last in particular tends to go well with translated fiction.

So, how did I do for the first 10 books of 2019?

The books were:

  • 10 – Herta Müller – Nadirs
  • 9 – Karolina Ramqvist – The White City (trans. Saskia Vogel)
  • 8 – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Dear Ijeawele or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions
  • 7 – David Gemmell – Wolf in Shadow
  • 6 – Alejandro Zambra – Multiple Choice
  • 5 – Peter Higgins – Wolfhound Century
  • 4 – Albert Camus – The Outsider
  • 3 – Brandon Sanderson – The Way of Kings – Part Two
  • 2 – Roberto Bolaño – Distant Star
  • 1 – Brandon Sanderson – The Way of Kings – Part One

In terms of the hard goals, five of ten were translations, which is great, but only three of ten were by female writers.  My collection of unread books (which is, fortunately or unfortunately, in the hundreds) is heavily weighted towards male.  This is my problem, but it perhaps explains the lower female figure.  I need to improve here, and will.

Too much fantasy, I think.  I’d prefer that to be two or lower, but January has been pretty heavy for fantasy, largely, I think, because it is the first month of the year and I’m easing myself into 2019 with some books that are easier to read.  Is this an excuse?  Perhaps.

Only two small presses!  Well done to Bison Books for publishing Herta Müller.  She’s a really exciting writer and I’m very glad she won the Noble.  Otherwise, Granta pulled off an amazing feat with Alejandro Zambra’s Multiple Choice, which is simply exceptional.

Some brief thoughts on each book:

10 – Herta Müller – Nadirs

I have a soft spot for Soviet-era literature from Eastern Europe, and while I don’t necessarily want to be too reductive, Nadirs certainly fits that bill.  On top of that, it’s very focused on Müller’s childhood and developing womanhood – fascinating.

9 – Karolina Ramqvist – The White City (trans. Saskia Vogel)

I had a lot of trouble reading this while having a very young daughter.  The protagonist is depressed young woman in a terrible life state due to her husband, who has abandoned her, being caught up with the police after a life of crime.  That aspect is nebulous in detail but clearly understood to represent an end to her pampered life.  We see the toppling wreckage in the days before it all falls.  The part that affected me the most was her disdain and disregard for her daughter and particularly the imposition on her body that comes from breastfeeding.  Hit pretty close to home.

8 – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Dear Ijeawele or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions

This very short book was excellent and exceptionally timely (for me!).  It is written as a letter to a friend of Adichie’s, a friend who has recently given birth to a little girl.  The book is broken into fifteen suggestions about how to raise a daughter to be strong and wise and ambitious and proud of herself.

7 – David Gemmell – Wolf in Shadow

Fantasy guff I loved as a child. It holds up – all of Gemmell’s work does, I think – and I definitely have a fondness for the gruffly competent heroic figure.  The bible portions are a touch heavy-handed, and the collapsed-world scenario is more overplayed now than perhaps when the book was first published, but it was good to return to it as an adult.  I think the last time I read this book I was a teenager, which is shocking to contemplate.

6 – Alejandro Zambra – Multiple Choice

Literary games can be so, so tiresome, but Zambra’s multiple choice questionnaire-styled novella was fabulous, fabulous, fabulous.  It is constructed in such a way that certain questions are sad, regretful, funny and hopeful all at once is something to behold.  Yes, there’s a lot of trickery happening here, so you need to appreciate that, but there’s also humanity, and understanding, and compassion.

5 – Peter Higgins – Wolfhound Century

I really liked how Higgins drew from Eastern European names and customs when creating his fantasy world.  I also liked the use of a detective/police officer as the primary character.  But much of it otherwise was a little flat for me, largely because the different characters didn’t have a lot of personality, and all kind of blended together for me.  The plot, as it started to ramp up, left me cold because of this.

4 – Albert Camus – The Outsider

My mother died in 2008, and when I first read this novella I thought about my own feelings in the days immediately following.  The Outsider is not a meditation on grief, and the protagonist’s mother’s death is never used as an excuse for his outlook or his behaviour, but nonetheless for me my own feelings are intertwined with this book, and colours it, and, in some senses, deepens certain aspects while, again at least for me, minimising others.

3 – Brandon Sanderson – The Way of Kings – Part Two

The climax of the book occurred.  I don’t know.  The writing has no colour to it, the characters have no personality to them, but the plot certainly exists.  That keeps me going, even though I find it a bit absurd at times (most of the time).

2 – Roberto Bolaño – Distant Star

An eternal writer, an eternal book.  I will write about this at length at some stage – but this is not that time.

1 – Brandon Sanderson – The Way of Kings – Part One

I suppose people read these books because the plot is good.  The first part of the first book needs to perform too much heavy lifting in order to put the 10 book series in its place, so, for me at least, this was quite the slog.

The first 10 books, in stat form:

  • Books by Nobel Prize winning writers – 2/10
  • Books by women writers – 3/10
  • Books translated from another language – 5/10
  • Books from the fantasy genre – 4/10
  • Books published by small presses – 2/10

Total statistics:

  • Books read for 2019 – 10
  • Books by Nobel Prize winning writers – 2/10
  • Books by women writers – 3/10
  • Books translated from another language – 5/10
  • Books from the fantasy genre – 4/10
  • Books published by small presses – 2/10

And the full list of books read were:

  • 10 – Herta Müller – Nadirs
  • 9 – Karolina Ramqvist – The White City (trans. Saskia Vogel)
  • 8 – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Dear Ijeawele or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions
  • 7 – David Gemmell – Wolf in Shadow
  • 6 – Alejandro Zambra – Multiple Choice
  • 5 – Peter Higgins – Wolfhound Century
  • 4 – Albert Camus – The Outsider
  • 3 – Brandon Sanderson – The Way of Kings – Part Two
  • 2 – Roberto Bolaño – Distant Star
  • 1 – Brandon Sanderson – The Way of Kings – Part One