March 19, 2019

Some marginalia on some books

I’ve been reading a few books recently, so here are some notes I scribbled in my virtual margins as I read them:

Don’t Call Us Dead, Danez Smith

There are verses in this collection that shook me so deeply that it felt like the words were carved into my skin, and that I would wear them like a tattoo for life as a reminder of just how beautifully violent and poignantly visceral Smith’s words can be. This is poetry that we need, today; this is poetry that can’t, and definitely shouldn’t, be ignored. This is poetry that captures our contemporary existence and forces us to wear it like carvings on our body, always there to be touched and felt and lived.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation, Otessa Moshfegh

You know when you read a book and hate the characters and hate the story and pretty much hate how you feel after reading it, but realize that it was one of the best books you’ve read in a long time? That’s what happened to me after reading this: I was enthralled and enraptured, but really didn’t like how I felt after it all. A beautiful and conflicting juxtaposition, and one that makes me want to avoid Ms. Moshfegh’s next book, but devour it as soon as it comes out, all at the same time.

An Ocean of Minutes, Thea Lim

I’ve been reading a lot about the AIDS crisis from the 1980s, and how, in face of a lack of interest or support or even basic compassion from lawmakers and people in power, people had to make incredible sacrifices to try to save the people they loved. I thought a lot about that time when I read this novel: what would I sacrifice to ensure that someone I love could survive? Would I sacrifice my ability to ever see them again, sacrifice our happiness together in service of their health and life? These are the questions people had to grapple with in the 1980s; these are the questions I wish we could have grappled with more in the novel.

Lucky Boy, Shanthi Sekaran

What is luck, really? As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned to be more critical of the things that I’ve been told I’m lucky” to have. Luck is contextual, and it is personal: what looks like a stroke of luck for you can be punishment for me, and what seems like misfortune for you can feel like liberation from my point of view. I thought if this idea of luck as I read about Ignacio’s lot in this novel: is he lucky to have landed where he has, or is this the wrong twist of fate for him? We’ve all been told a narrative of luck in our lives by others; it’s time for us to see if what seemed like luck was really good fortune after all.

→ Marginalia