Obligatory Vanuatu connection… the Rivers, Trudgill and Sayers were all read in Vanuatu, in my little guest room/storeroom/library overflow at the top of the flats looking out over the Coral Motel to the port. If you want more specific information about Vanuatu, feel free to leave some suggestions in the comments ;)
Tales from Outer Suburbia – Shaun Tan. I was so looking forward to this book. And then I went and bought it and had it signed (and he drew a picture in my sketchbook as well) and as I flipped through it I thought, “Hmm, maybe my hopes were too high” because it looked wordier than his others. I WAS WRONG! I read it and cried on the bus home and read it out loud to my mother when I got home, and to my nephew in Canberra. The stories and pictures (and they breathe into and rely on each other) are beautiful and eerie and haunting – suggestive but not allusive (I do like allusion); elusive and original and funny and sad and just the way things should be or ought to be or are in Australian suburbia. Of course a sad home might be helped by an abrupt dugong. Of course there should be an inner garden between the rooms of a house (only in this country). I want to celebrate the ‘Nameless Holiday’ on the basis of a single scratchboard illustration (that and the gingerbread crows and pomegranate juice). ‘The Night of the Great Turtle Rescue’ went for one page, had no context and is the most suspenseful story I’ve read. ‘Stick Figures’ freaked me out more than Picnic at Hanging Rock. The story about what happens to unread poetry came true the very next day when I went to the busstop and found a bin of shredded paper had been tipped over in the rain. I now want a backyard missile (for entirely aesthetic reasons) and thanks to the answer of what is at the edge of a street map, my mother has been writing down her stories. There are so many styles of illustration: collage and oil and pencil and scratchboard – thin whispy figures, juicy colours, complicated text, faded salt-whitened suburban scenes. A beautiful and amazing book.
Little Brother – Cory Doctorow. I’m a Fahrenheit 451 girl: I don’t like the horrible inevitability of 1984 and I had a bad reaction to Brave New World. I like a touch of hope with my dystopias. And so I thoroughly enjoyed Little Brother, which was a combat-boot-first, high-speed, technobabble, name-dropping, near-future rollercoaster of a book. I read it in one day, a day on which I flew back from interstate, went to work and out to the movies after. It made me want to go out and do things, good and big and independent things, and to think about what governments and security are and do and are for. It’s available for free download and it’s fast and I don’t mean that (in this case) as faint praise.
The Yiddish Policeman’s Union – Michael Chabon. I enjoyed this very much, more than Kavalier and Clay (reviewed here). Literary genre fiction is a category I can definitely live with. This is a noir detective/alternate history set in the decaying city of Sitka, Alaska in the last days before the Federal District – created for Jewish refugees after Israel collapsed soon after World War II - dissolves and returns to American rule. It is perfectly noir (I do like hardboiled detectives) and odd and more real than some books I’ve read about real cities. It has seedy hotels and daredevil bush pilots and conspiracies and chess tournaments and was dark and funny and just an enjoyable book.
Redeeming Love – Francine Rivers. I’ve given a few answers I shouldn’t have, and I feel that telling the person who pressed this upon me that it was like The Da Vinci Code (I had problems with the theology, but it was very quick) was one of those answers. A resetting of the story of Hosea’s in mid 18thc America, I found it – ugh. I had problems with the theology (especially that of guidance) and the representation of the author’s theology (ask me about Christian fiction sometime), the sex scenes (coy but more numerous than any other book I have read and I once spent a week with a bad back and nothing to read but Mills & Boon), the characters, their motivation, and the cover art. The best part was when Angel went off on her own rescuing people, and even that got a stop put to it. I found it unbelievable, ridiculous and often offensive and yes, I did read it all the night I got it. Like The Da Vinci Code, it moved at a cracking pace.
Sociolinguistics – Peter Trudgill. (My room in Vanuatu was part of the SIL library). Recommended. I don’t know how it compares with current theories, but it made me think about all the currents and debates and factors which go into language: culture, class, gender, ethnicity, geography, nationalism, politics. Also, it produced plenty of interesting facts with which to startle people at the dinner table. Everyone should read some linguistics, but I am starting to consider sociolinguistics a very useful area of study for authors.
Murder Must Advertise – Dorothy Sayers. The first Sayers novel I have read, and it was like Agatha Christie with a touch of Wodehouse. Or Midsomer Murders with a hint of Fawlty Towers. Remarkable observation of what happens in a workplace, numerous puns only excusable because it is set in an advertising firm between the wars, and kept me reading through the description of a cricket match which ran for an entire chapter. I will not object to reading more.
Also, James, 1 Peter and then I lost track.