Ooh baby, baby, how was I supposed to know… what my thoughts were on books I read six weeks ago because I’ve got a memory like a sieve and didn’t get round to writing the post until I’d mostly forgotten I’d read the books in the first place? That.
When You Are Engulfed In Flames by David Sedaris
David Sedaris is someone who has been on my radar for a few years, mentioned in passing on podcasts, in articles or popping up on my Twitter feed (not him himself though, he’s not on there). If you’re unaware of his work, he’s an American-born satirist and humorist who is known for his essays which mainly revolve around his life experiences which have been published right across the shop from the New Yorker to the Guardian. On the surface they may appear humdrum but are told in such a way that they become these eloquent examples of human life and all the characters in it. Sedaris is gay and lives with his partner of many years – they’re currently in the UK I believe, however, during this particular collection of his work (published 2009) they live in France and for a short while in Japan.
I read a few of his pieces online and then decided to seek out one of his essay collections – I picked one at random from a bookstore in Cambridge when I was there back in January but only got round to reading it this month. It just so happens that this particular collection seems to deal a lot with his youth and sexuality and could almost be said to be an autobiography in scope. Given most of his pieces are autobiographical in sense, I found it very interesting to read how he painted his life’s events, his phrasing, his ability to tell the story and lead it to a worthy conclusion. I don’t want to compare myself to the lofty heights of Sedaris but quite a lot of his musings within this volume seems similar at times to things I’d use as content on the radio: that thing that happened in the barbers, the person I came across in the street that intrigued me. He made copious note of these events over the years then fleshing them out a later date.
There’s a real satisfaction to each of his pieces. That might seem a weird word to use in reference to his work but the collection was just a really pleasant read and I’ll certainly be aiming to get a few more under my belt before the year is out.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
You know those people who walk around in band t-shirts or own band memorabilia but can’t name any of their songs, thus sending hard-core music fans mad? That was me with Brave New World. I was culturally aware of the novel prior to purchasing a poster of a cover for my new flat (the cover pictured, in fact) but thought it only right that I get round to reading it given it looks down on me everyday. The tattered paperback copy I found on my flatmate’s bookshelves was slim enough and seemed doable during the course of my city-break to Nice so I took the plunge.
I’d class myself as a fan of dystopian and alt-history fiction and yet I’ve barely read any in the grand scheme of things. Brave New World to me delivers itself well in that it doesn’t fall into the trap of over-explaining the scenario the novel revolves around. Of course, there’s an element of that at the beginning with a ‘guided tour’ (solid technique) but it doesn’t feel like you’re being overwhelmed with large amounts of information. It’s not too transparent in its delivery, things aren’t being hidden from you, the reader, as such but it all just comes into focus over the course of the novel.
It’s interesting that the novel’s basic premise revolves around an incredibly uniformed class and caste system, something that had been steadfast for centuries but was starting to crumble during the period the novel was written. It’s undoubtable that there is still a broad class system in society, but the lines between them are blurred and you no longer necessarily have ‘jobs for life’, a family trade or a myriad of fulfillable roles dictated by your caste.
You only see so much of the ‘brave new world’ through the course of the novel, and little outside of the country (the US?) that it’s set. I would have been fascinated to know if the rest of the world is similar or not, or if this brave new world is some kind of pariah.
Long Reads & Articles
Lorde All Mighty Oh, Lorde. She’s an incredible person and I’m eagerly awaiting her second (or sophomore as the Yanks say) album – this NYT profile of her is a stunning read.
Beano Keeno I was big into the Beano as a kid – in fact, if you ever bump into me, get me to tell you about my life’s biggest regret… it involves the Beano. ANYWAY, I can’t remember for the life of me how I stumbled across this blog post but it’s fascinating. How the Beano ubiquity and recognisability became rife as a method for satire and pastiche across the years.
Fastlove 2.0 An extended mix of George Michael’s Fastlove exists! Brb, gotta get up to down.