Summer Reading Notes…

In the face of this hot and cold, grey and sun-streaked summer, and in the absence of the usual editorial grind, I determined to read more than usual–to read, for the first time in a very long time, for the simple pleasure of doing so. Here are this summer’s reading notes so far…

 

Roxane Gay in conversation at St. Paul’s Trinity Church, July 5, 2017.

Hunger, by Roxane Gay: Compelling. Searing. Honest. It made me sob-cry. An absolute must-read. So very lucky that I had the opportunity this past July to see Roxane Gay in person in Toronto (while she was on tour for the just-released Hunger) and hear her speak so eloquently on the craft of writing as well as the shenanigans of the Kardashian family. She is hilarious, fantastic, and inspiring.

The Princess Diarist, by Carrie Fisher: So much of Carrie Fisher’s retelling of her “affair” with Harrison Ford (if that’s what it can be called) during the first Star Wars shoot sounds so cold as if it had happened to her not with her. Her diary excerpts from the time demonstrate incredible self-awareness for a nineteen-year-old as she dealt with the massive internal struggle to understand “it” (the “affair”), “him,” and his terrible silences. Most interesting is the book’s third act in which Fisher details her foray into “lap-dancing,” aka, her appearances at Comic-Con to sign photographs of Princess Leia. In this section, she seems to be trying to come to terms with being the bodily vessel who happened to portray that character, the most iconic princess-general of cinema. It is a complicated negotiation that even at 60 she appeared to still be working through. A fascinating, but heartbreaking, read.

Nemesis, by Agatha Christie: I picked this and Third Girl up at a sale at The Monkey’s Paw a couple of summers ago. Written in the 1970s when Christie was well into her eighties, Nemesis is the final Jane Marple mystery, and while it has its engaging elements, it is unnecessarily long and repetitive. But most grating is its tendency to preach through the mouthpieces of numerous male characters about the perceived moral failings of the contemporary young woman. Cool covers, though.

 

My cat liked it too.

I Love Dick, by Chris Kraus: A little hard to get into at first, as most of the art references went over my head, but once I did, I was mesmerized. This work, coined in the Afterword by Joan Hawkins as “theoretical fiction,” traverses all manner of territory, in particular, the social, cultural, sexual, and political milieu of the art world. The “fiction” begins as the result of “two genial but not particularly intimate or remarkable meetings” (Dick’s works) between artist and filmmaker Chris Kraus, her professor / semiotician / husband Sylvere Lotringer and art critic / theorist Dick (Hebdige), that, to Kraus anyway, culminates in a kind of “Conceptual Fuck” between her and Dick. To deal with the sudden and obsessive crush that Kraus experiences in the wake of these “meetings,” she and Sylvere write Dick a series of letters, which in turn, becomes a full-on art project that also stimulates their somewhat dour marriage. As her obsession / crush / love grows, and her personal and professional life implodes, so does the scale of the project as it transforms from love letters to what Hawkins calls, “essay-letters,” in which Kraus weaves the personal with such varied topics as Guatemala, the work of artists Hannah Wilke and Kitaj, schizophrenia, and so much more. Simultaneously breath-taking, thought-provoking, and surprising, this is the kind of text that, in order to absorb it fully, requires a second, third, and fourth reading…

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