I’ve decided to start doing monthly wrap-ups on here. My New Years resolution is to stick with it, but we’ll see how well that goes.
I read quite a few books in January, and most of them were phenomenal. Four poetry collections, and two novels. Not bad, I think.
Let’s get started!
THUS BAD BEGINS by Javier Marias – 4/5: While this novel was EXCELLENT, I felt it was too long. Marias made us wait nearly 500 pages before revealing the mystery of what heinous crime his wife had committed against him, and honestly, I lost interest in most of the characters around page 300 or so. But! I still enjoyed his writing style, and the book overall was pretty interesting. I also like that the title was taken from Hamlet (“Thus bad begins and worse remains behind”), and that it plays such a big role in the book. Very glad that I read this, but I’m not in any hurry to pick up his other stuff.
Favourite quotes: “Or if they do tell their story, they tell it only in whispers, so that it isn’t as if they has never existed, so that they do not remain with their grieving face pressed into the silent pillow, or visible only to the somnolent, half-open eye of the cold, sentinel moon.”
“We always arrive late in other people’s lives.”
BESTIARY by Donika Kelly – 5/5: OH MAN, did I love this poetry collection. Donika Kelly is such a brilliant writer, and her words, my god, HER WORDS. If I loved this collection less, I might be able to talk about it more. As the title would suggest, she takes inspiration for her poems from the natural world, so it heavily features animals and flowers as metaphors. If you’re new to poetry, I would actually suggest this as a great starting point. The poems are fairly easy to interpret, and she’s a beautiful writer.
Favourite quotes: “We recognize each other only in echoes.”
“Alive means you swallow each day like a stone.”
“Walk with me, love, that I might know what is real.”
THE WOMAN DESTROYED by Simone de Beauvoir – 5/5: It’s like she knows me. It’s like she’s writing right into my very soul. I’d tried to read The Mandarins several years ago and just couldn’t plug into it, so I thought “oh, maybe I just don’t like de Beauvoir.” OH BOY WAS I WRONG. I literally couldn’t put this book down. It’s split into three stories, each about women between 40 and 60, and they center around the relationships these women have with the men in their lives. I basically just copied most of the book into my journal, because she really does get me, and her writing is deep and heartfelt and raw and honest and scathing at times. If you’ve never read de Beauvoir, I’d recommend starting here.
Favourite quotes: “When I was a child, when I was an adolescent, books saved me from despair: that convinced me that culture was the highest of values, and it is impossible for me to examine this conviction with an objective eye.”
“I could not understand; my heart was heavy, and my sadness spread and spread, darkening the world; and the world gave it back food to feed upon.”
“This sluggishness of the heart is called indulgence and wisdom: in fact it is death settling down within you.”
“Words would shatter this anger and pain, this hardness in my heart.”
“I keep my end up, but a woman alone is spat on.”
“I want to live I want to come alive again.”
“In a dream the other night I had on a sky-blue dress and the sky was blue.”
BLUETS by Maggie Nelson – 3/5: I had really high hopes for this one, as I’d heard it praised by basically everyone, but I ended up only liking it. It started out really great, but by the end, it just felt a little pretentious, and the writing kind of petered out a bit. That said, the parts I did like were beautiful. The book is part poetry collection, part memoir, and part essay about her love affair with the colour blue, which I just found fascinating. I like how well she weaved it all together and made it all flow. She truly is an excellent writer, and I can see why so many people love this book. It just wasn’t my favourite.
Favourite quotes: “I like blues that keep moving.”
“Loneliness is solitude with a problem.”
“Mostly I have felt myself becoming a servant of sadness. I am still looking for the beauty in that.”
“We cannot read the darkness. We cannot read it. It is a form of madness, albeit a common one, that we try.”
“I have been trying to place myself in a land of great sunshine, and abandon my will therewith.”
FOUR REINCARNATIONS by Max Ritvo – 5/5: When I started this collection, I actually thought I wasn’t going to like it. None of the poems were particularly resonating with me, and I didn’t think his writing was all that special. I’m so glad I stuck with it, because holy shit. I’ll definitely have to re-read it at some point, because I basically just inhaled his words. So so beautiful. God. The pain he went through! Backstory: Max had cancer, and it killed him. His poems center around that, and how he dealt with it. Heartbreaking. Absolutely heartbreaking. Pick this one up. Seriously. Go right now, and get it. You can finish this post later. Go.
(RIP Max <3)
Favourite quotes: “When you leave my mind, the last piece of you to leave is your hands.”
“I am so sorry that you have come to this mind of mine.”
“A lullaby to quiet another lullaby.”
“Thou art me before I am myself.”
“I hold my face
in the bed.
Me: What is my future?
Shon: Flowers. You are marrying flowers.”
“Adore me to sleep before sleep can adore me on its own terms.”
A BESTIARY by Lily Hoang – DNF: I really couldn’t get into this one, you guys. I tried really hard. I don’t know if I just wasn’t in the mood for it, or the writing just isn’t for me, or if I read it too close to Bluets (it’s the same style), but I really just wasn’t feeling it. I’ll save it, and try it again a little later on in the year. Maybe it’ll click more for me then.
And that’s all, folks! Let me know in the comments if you’ve read any of these, or if you’d like to read any of these, and I’ll be back in a few weeks with my February wrap-up!