No, don’t worry. June isn’t almost over already. I know this post usually comes out at the end of the month, but I’ve moved it forward for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that I have a lot of books on my pile at the moment and it’s helpful to stop and reflect on those I’ve finished (or still working through) before time moves on and the memories fade. The second reason is that I’m currently working on several podcast episodes (I know! Huzzah!) and, as ever, I’m discovering just how time-intensive they can be to put together. I’m excited – but more about that in the coming weeks.
As promised before, I will start with Michelle Wright’s Fine. It is a wonderful collection of short stories and flash fiction. I enjoy well-written flash fiction because they are tricky to write. All forms have their challenges, I know, but there’s nowhere to hide in short stories if you miss your mark and that danger is amplified when the word count drops again. You have to ask yourself these questions: How can a writer leave an impact without going into too much detail? How can something so short feel complete, or be completed?
To me, they’re like musical chords – individual elements coming together for a lovely, specific effect.
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl is also another carry-over from last month. As coincidence would have it, my library reserve came in just after I finished The Tattooist of Auschwitz and it was another powerful reminder of the horrors of concentration camps. Frankl’s book is one of the most famous and favoured of all-time, and I can see why. The stories of his suffering and the suffering of those around him in the first half of the book are then discussed in the second half through the framework of logotherapy – a theory of his own devising which holds that it is natural for man to seek purpose in life and that meaning can be found through that particular journey. As he says, “Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.” Because each individual is different, thus each person’s search for meaning will be different. His message is compassionate and comforting. For example, he spoke of prisoners who were not afraid of the process and cycle of suffering they endured and were not ashamed to cry, “for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer. Only very few realised that.” I think I need to buy a copy for myself.
The next book is Brave by Rose McGowan. I can’t remember why now, but I was in the biography section of the library with Riley showing him something when I spotted it on the shelf. I grabbed it because I’d heard a lot about it and I couldn’t believe my luck as it’s a relatively new release. I was expecting to put it aside so I could get back to it in time for next month’s recap (which is why it’s not in the above collage), but one evening in the bath I opened it and I basically couldn’t stop until I was done. Brave is an apt title – McGowan’s tale begins with her childhood in the Children of God cult in Italy, through her teenage years of homelessness and abuse, bad relationships and coming to a sense of identity as an adult within a fractured and problematic Hollywood lens. It is helpful in determining why she now uses her voice to advocate for those who’ve suffered the kinds of abuse she did and prevent it happening to others.
I’m only part-way through the final two books. I can already see that Warlight by Michael Ondaatje might require greater levels of concentration than I have to give to it at the moment. But we’ll see. I’m further into An Uncertain Grace by Krissy Kneen – again, another example of bold, speculative-y literary fiction that has excited me in recent years. It also reminds me of Siri Hustvedt’s The Blazing World in places. Very much enjoying.
What are you reading this month?