Normal People by Sally Rooney was the second book I received for Christmas. It is the 2018 Man Booker Prize longlisted international sensation, so much so that British booksellers are keeping stashes behind their counters. I was curious (like many people!) to find out what the fuss was about, especially considering I haven’t read her other novel Conversations with Friends. I wasn’t disappointed. It achieves a wonderful balance of sharp observations about contemporary life with the intimate, uncomfortable and moving reality of long-term relationships/friendships. I’ve seen some online reviews that have discussed Rooney’s talent with a whiff of ageism, remarking on how well she writes considering her youth, that she’s come-of-age in a digital age to write not one but two excellent novels. I think she deserves all the success she’s enjoying.
I keep thinking about how to best summarise Less by Andrew Sean Greer. I think of that Dylan Thomas poem ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’ and imagine that Less is Greer’s way of lifting a strong gin and tonic to it, with a wink to follow. It features wit and satire throughout – honestly, I haven’t had as much fun reading a novel in ages, maybe because I recognise a lot of the faults of the literary industry – and wraps up with a big, romantic cuddle. It’s the first comic novel to win the Pulitzer Prize in years and I hope for more.
A girlfriend gave me Best Summer Stories edited by Aviva Tuffield for my birthday and it’s been lovely dipping in and out of it over the holiday season. I’m so glad that Black Inc decided to publish the anthology, for it helped fill the ‘Best Australian’ Essays, Stories and Poems-shaped hole in my heart when they announced they would no longer be publishing them. As I said last week, one of my favourite short stories from 2018, can be found in this book, but I also want to quickly mention the fact that these stories were previously published in other literary publications – some of which did not receive Australia Council support in the latest round of funding, and I’m sure ALL would benefit from continued support from subscribers/readers/buyers/gift-givers et al. It would be heartbreaking to anything that showcases Australian literary talent, which brings me back to my original point – it’s great to see anthologies like Best Summer Stories on the shelves.
What are you reading this month?