a reading recap for a month that kind of got away from me

I’m going to hit the reset button on my book reviews because I let them go for too long and the thought of writing 22 posts fills me with a kind of dread. But here are some highlights.

I’ve read a few books by writers who’re coming to our local writing festival next month. Charlotte Gill’s Eating Dirt was my favourite of those.

Margo Lanagan’s Red Spikes and George Saunders’ In Persuasion Nation were two books of short stories I read. The George Saunders one is amazing.

The only comic I read and loved recently was Chris Ware’s Building Stories. I loved it so much I feel like I need to write a huge essay about it, and probably will eventually.

What else? Michael Chabon’s Maps and Legends and Will Bingley’s Gonzo: A Graphic Biography of Hunter S. Thompson both made me want to be a writer.

I even read some nonfiction! (To me books about writing and literature don’t feel like nonfiction, which is why I separate these out from the two in the previous paragraph.) Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold Story of English was a great layperson’s guide to some linguistic issues with the language I know best, and David Graeber’s Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology was a good articulation of some issues I think I need to be writing more about.

There were some other things too, including finally getting to Pirate Cinema, which was yes, a novel, but a preachy one in a really good way. That will probably get a real review here as it falls squarely in my professional interests.

So yeah. Books. Reading. I’ve also been doing three storytimes a week since February started and our library’s Teen Advisory Group finally had its inaugural meeting yesterday. It’s been kind of busy.

book review: the gone-away world

Nick Harkaway’s The Gone-Away World is kind of a gonzo post-apocalyptic novel. One of the main characters is, in fact named Gonzo. But it’s also the story of how the world came to be this way, through the use of Go Away bombs that destroyed the world with no pesky fallout. Except for making the planet a place where nightmares become real.

The story starts with the narrator and Gonzo’s company of truckers and general bad-asses being called in to do a job, put out a fire, save the world. There’s a cataloguing of the various kinds of pencil-necks one finds in the world, ranked according to their dangerousness, and the idea that resonates through the book is introduced: being a professional means giving up your personhood to be part of a machine.

Can you see why I liked this one?

But then the first chapter is over and the trucks are rolling towards doom and glory and we drop back to childhood. We learn about being trained to fight ninjas by a daft elderly man, and having lots of sex as a political student, and absurd stupid wars featuring absurd terrible soldiers (and fearsomely brilliant ones) and terror and friendship. It’s awesome. And funny. And there are mimes.

I liked this better than Angelmaker, but that might be because I wasn’t trying to figure out how seriously to take it the whole time. It was the kind of crazy awesome book the world needs more of.