A book or two to keep me company.

When I left for my job interview (screening) on the mainland last week, I needed a book or two to keep me company. The stack by my bedside were all related to keeping chickens and making pickles, plus a couple heavy tomes from the GLBTQ Reading Challenge that I really couldn’t deal with (Trumpet is just so sad, people… How are you getting through it?!! I gave up!).  Wanting the comfort of something familiar, I looked to my shelves of books that I’ve already read.

What I needed was something inspirational, a story about making it, or at least trying to make it, even when you feel like puking and your lips are scabby with stress-induced cold sores… My eyes landed on Sarah Hall‘s The Carhullan Army. I first read it when it was shortlisted for the Tiptree Award (which it won!), and found it so perfect and dark and freeing and terrifying. Would that make me feel better or worse, in my current context, I wondered? Better, something inside me said. Much better.

Yes, it was perfect. Fighting the patriarchal systemic oppression in a dystopic future society is hard, and by comparison, being chosen to compete for a coveted trades apprenticeship is easy-peasy.

I also brought along Derrick Jensen‘s How Shall I Live My Life?: On Liberating the Earth From Civilization, which I find to be a welcome detour from Jensen’s other more philosophical musings: This volume returns to his talent for thoughtful interviews with awesome people, and is great for every day inspiration.

Mandatory supplies for an out of town job interview: Fiction, non-fiction, and a surprise box of treats from my love

I finished The Carhullan Army on Thursday afternoon, on the way to the panel interview. Afterwards, I had some spare time in downtown Vancouver before my friend PBall was picking me up, which I was happy to spend at MacLeod’s Books.

MacLeods is the sort of used bookstore that simultaneously infuriates and delights me, because it is so completely packed with piles and piles of books. The shelves are overflowing and there’s stacks every where you look, even on the floor in front of the shelves, blocking the view of their contents. I asked for memoirs and was told that they are incorporated throughout the store, according to theme. What…? Okay, I suppose I can see the sense in that… But as a browser simply looking for someone’s recollections of their somewhat interesting life, it’s not a particularly useful system. That said, I found a book about women singers (in the Music section!) that I thought I’d enjoy (turns out it’s terribly written, but I’ll still try to finish it), and then bought Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue, and a copy of Sarah Hall’s first book, Haweswater.

I also eavesdropped as a woman came in with a wishlist, and was impressed to see that the staff were able to find most of what she wanted. Given the chaos, it was an impressive feat.

Slammerkin wasn’t quite what I expected, and I’m glad I didn’t read it before the job interview, because it’s not exactly… Triumphant.  Well, I suppose some may say The Carhullan Army isn’t either, but to my mind it is.  These are the sorts of discussions I’d like to have with a book club, as I’ve mentioned here before, but since that’s not something I’m likely to get going in the near future, I’ve joined Goodreads… Please be my friend.

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6 responses to “A book or two to keep me company.

  1. Slammerkin is on my TBR list, but now I’m a bit nervous about it! Is it very depressing??

    Also, re: Trumpet, we’re not planning on reading it for a few more months, so hopefully by then I’ll be ready for a sad read. Maybe. I did just read Judith Halberstam’s In a Queer Time and Place, which includes a chapter analyzing Trumpet, and she made it sound like something I could handle because she argues that the depiction of the trans man is done well. We’ll seeeeee….

  2. I didn’t find Slammerkin depressing until the end, so all I can say is: Steel yourself.

    I’d love to read In a Queer Time and Place! I once dated someone whose academic work was severely critical of Halberstam, because my date’s supervisor was competing with Halberstam for the same funding/projects/etc. Ever since then, I’ve kinda liked Halberstam simply because I know my ex doesn’t.

    From the small part of Trumpet I read before returning it to the library, I believe that Halberstam may be correct in saying that it’s a good portrayal of a trans man. Which, as you well know, is all to rare, so yay for that! However… I just couldn’t take the sadness, the absolute tragic horror of being Millie: Losing one’s partner, being the subject of transphobic public ridicule, and facing rejection by her adult child. I’m sure this is all about me, and my own fears of the scrutiny my genderqueer partner and I face, but hey… That’s the baggage I bring when I read! I’ll try Trumpet again, at some point.

    Have you read Donoghue’s Hood? It also begins with a woman losing her partner, yet it somehow avoids making me feel depressed.

    Do you know Zagria’s Gender Variance in the Arts blog? It’s an excellent resource… Also, the related blog A Gender Variance Who’s Who. I love going through both these sites when I’m wanting inspiration for novels and memoirs to read.

  3. Hmmm. I’m so torn! I was initially rather wary of Trumpet because my partner is a trans man and I was worried it would be too much to read about grief etc…but then Halberstam assured me…but now… lol. Sounds like I WILL HAVE TO SEE. And have a box of tissues handy.

    I love your anecdote about Halberstam. Interestingly, I also connect Halberstam to an ex: Female Masculinity was a big help to my trans-masculine ex and myself when he was at the beginning of his–for lack of a better phrase–gender journey.

    I’m planning on reading all of Donoghue’s work, so I’ll keep that bit about Hood in mind when I decide what to read next.

    Thanks for the link to the blog, it looks really interesting.

  4. I can’t wait to hear what you think about Trumpet… Maybe I’ll try to read it again at the same time… I actually feel better about it now that I’ve read many other reviews, because when it comes to stuff that hits me hard, I prefer as many spoilers as possible.

    Oh, Halberstam gets around! Yes, that ex of mine too was on a gender journey, which may not be the best phrase (because aren’t so many of us on a gender journey, whether we recognize it or not…?) but sure conveys the meaning.

  5. Hope you don’t mind if I chip in. I found Trumpet to be a powerful good read. To me it was about absolute and unquestioning love. True, the very realistic depictions of perceptions, views, reactions and criticism were hard. Life can be hard especially if it’s not mainstream. Watching/reading someone adjust to the death of a loved one is difficult too. But to me the book was uplifting, in the end.

  6. Hi AnitaC, thanks for your comment… I’m glad you liked Trumpet, and especially pleased to hear that you found it uplifting in the end! I’ve yet to talk with anyone who’s actually read it, so it’s good to get your feedback. When Amy and Cass take it on in a few months, I’ll join in and try again.

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