What We Owe by Golnaz Hashemzadeh Bonde and Clock Dance by Anne Tyler
While I was in the Blue Mountains recently I read two very different books: What We Owe by Golnaz Hashemzadeh Bonde and Clock Dance by Anne Tyler.
What We Owe is a short book that reads like a punch in the face, but I found it compulsive and engaging nonetheless. Nahid is an Iranian refugee who has wound up in Sweden and wears the effects of the many traumas she has faced in her life. A final indignity: she has been diagnosed with cancer and is furious at her lot in life. This novel shook me up while reading and has resonated long after, not least because Australia recently passed five years of keeping asylum seekers in detention. It gives harrowing insight into the trauma that refugees face, and the echoing effects of that even once they reach safety.
A very different book, but equally enjoyable is Anne Tyler’s 22nd novel, Clock Dance. I have never read anything by Tyler (for shame!) but I love similar writers like Ann Patchett, so this was a real treat. I found her style effortless and the story to be slightly meandering but it was a masterful character study. Willa is an incredibly passive woman who has let life roll over her – she is now in her 60s and makes a decision that goes against the grain by moving cities to look after the child of a woman she’s never met. I’ll definitely track down more of Tyler’s work after this one!
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
This month I have continued with my reading of contemporary rewriting of the Greek Myths. Despite the extraordinary violence and misogyny, I find myself devouring these books. Maybe it takes me back to my high school days as a student of Ancient History as it was then known – I was fascinated with Herodutos, The Histories. Here were characters and events that totally shocked and fascinated this 16 yo country girl. So I have read Madeline Miller’s Song of Achilles that won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2012. In her version of the epic Trojan War, Achilles joins the almighty battle between kings and gods. By his side is Patroclus who is not a warrior – the two share a special friendship that develops into a tender love. The story is a marvelously rich account of love, tragedy, violence and glory.
Puddle Hunters by Kirsty Murray and Karen Blair
After Kathy Acker by Chris Kraus
After reading Crudo by Olivia Laing, a work of fiction based on the life of experimental writer Kathy Acker, I’ve moved onto the biography of her life by Chris Kraus, author of cult classic I Love Dick. It traces her career from her early days writing cut-up short fiction, working as a stripper, her complicated love affairs and the struggles of living in New York. I love Acker’s writing, so hearing about her process from someone that can critically analyse her work is satisfying, while learning more relationships has been interesting. This is a biography of Acker’s life, her struggle for recognition as an experimental writer, her compulsive lying and search for love but it is also a biography of New York and the emergence of a new experimental writing scene that gave birth to the autofiction that is becoming so popular now. Kraus is a peer of Acker’s and knows and has researched the people that knew her thoroughly, including finding her extensive correspondence through letters. An amazing writer and a fantastic biography!