Happy Wednesday everyone! How are you enjoying 2022 so far? I hope that you are all doing well and are all healthy despite the risks that surround us. I hope that the pandemic will end soon. I am also praying that 2022 will be a year of hope, healing, and recovery for everyone. I hope that it will be a great year.
As it is a Wednesday, it is time for another WWW Wednesday update. WWW Wednesday is a bookish meme originally hosted by SAM@TAKING ON A WORLD OF WORDS. The mechanics for WWW Wednesday is quite simple, you just have to answer three questions:
- What are you currently reading?
- What have you finished reading?
- What will you read next?
What are you currently reading?
Reading-wise, I have been gaining momentum over the past few weeks. I have been immersing myself in works that were published in 2021. It has been two years since I read my first novel by Jonathan Franzen. I found Freedom a little too tedious for me. This was the reason why I wasn’t really too keen on reading his latest novel, Crossroads. However, I changed my mind after coming across several positive reviews of the book. Interestingly, I have read it ahead of the Franzen novel that I have had for the longest time, The Corrections. Anyway, I just started reading Crossroads and I have just completed two chapters, hence, I am unable to provide more insights into the novel. What stands out is the book’s heft, which reminded me of Freedom. Nevertheless, it is not much of a concern because, if my memory serves me right, it is already my fifth book this year that is above 500 pages. It was also amazing how in two chapters, Franzen was able to remind me of the brand of his prose. It is similar to Freedom, where the voice and the prose are concerned. I will be sharing more of my impressions of the book on this week’s First Impression Update.
What have you finished reading?
As I have mentioned above, I have been gaining momentum in the past few weeks and, for the first time this year, I have completed three books in the past week! It all started with Jason Mott’s Hell of a Book. Prior to 2021, I have never heard of Jason Mott nor have I read any of his works. Later in the year, Hell of a Book was awarded the winner of the 2021 National Book Award for Fiction. This immediately piqued my curiosity; I also read the 2020 winner, Charles Wu’s Interior Chinatown mainly because it won the award. Hell of a Book tells the story of an unnamed author who rose to prominence after his eponymous book became an instant bestseller. Mott takes us on a madcap of a book tour across the United States. Parallel to the nameless author’s story is the story of 10-year-old Soot, so-called by his peers because of his coal-black complexion. He was loved by his parents and because of their deep love for him, they train him to be invisible, so as not to earn the ire of the world. Mott, through the story of the two – three if you include The Kid who accompanied the nameless author in his journey – characters, underlined several seminal and timely themes, covering a myriad of subjects such as family dynamics, the publishing world, and even workplace discrimination. The book’s biggest message, however, lies in its exploration of what it means to be Black in contemporary America, a nation that is still at odds with itself.
From the United States, my reading journey next brought me to Cyprus. Unlike Mott, I have already read two of Shafak’s novels, the latest of which was her controversial novel, The Bastard of Istanbul. While I understand the book’s message, I felt that the book’s main subject was not fully addressed. I felt it was underexplored. This was the reason why I was initially apprehensive about reading Shafak’s latest novel, The Island of Missing Trees. I changed my mind after I have encountered several positive reviews on the book, some even calling it the best of Shafak’s oeuvre. Shafak’s latest novel commenced in contemporary London where Ada (Aditsa) Kazantzakis recently lost her mother. Her father, Kostas, was a little detached to look after her. The father-daughter dynamics was shaken by the entrance of an unexpected guest, Meryem, Kostas’ sister-in-law, and Ada’s aunt. From the present, the story travels back to 1970s Cyprus. We read about a nation that was slowly being divided between two warring sides: the Turkish Cypriots and the Greek Cypriots. Parts-romance, parts-historical fiction, The Island of Missing Trees is a rich exploration of contemporary Cypriot history. Again, Shafak scintillates in her exploration of the tenuous relationships between the Aegean nations, with particular emphasis on Shafak’s motherland. While I appreciated this – and the unique voice that changed the story’s complexion – I was still underwhelmed. I guess I was expecting too much?
Like Hell of a Book, it was towards the end of 2021 that I first encountered Chibundu Onuzo, whose latest novel, Sankofa was just released to critical acclaim. My insatiable appetite for new reading adventures and voices made me immediately add the book to my growing reading list. Thankfully, I was able to acquire a copy of the book without much of a concern. I was planning to read the book in late 2021 but because I was cramming by then, I just pushed it back to 2022. In Sankofa, the readers are introduced to Anna Bain in contemporary London. Already in her fifties, she found herself in uncharted territories following the fallout of her marriage and her mother’s recent demise. While going through her mother’s things, she came across a diary by a man named Francis Aggrey, Anna’s father who she has never met. Reading his diary made her understand the reason for his absence. Thus commenced a journey of reconnecting with her roots. But the Francis of the present was a far cry from the Francis of the late 1960s/early 1970s. Ever since leaving England, Francis has become the president of the fictional African nation of Bamana; it is not entirely fictional though as a quick Google search will yield Segu and the Bamanian Republic. Onuzo underlines several seminal subjects in her latest novel but it never becomes fully realized. Which was unfortunate because the book was brimming with promise.
What will you read next?
My goal for the coming hasn’t changed. I will still be immersing myself in works published in 2021, including translated works. On queue is Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Malibu Rising. To be honest, I have always been apprehensive about reading any of Reid’s works. This was despite my repeated encounter with her works. It was my erroneous perception of her works that kept me off of them. I thought that Jenkins Reid’s works were works of young adult fiction. But, of course, I soon learned I was wrong. I also have lined up Nobel Laureate in Literature Olga Tokarczuk’s latest translated work, The Books of Jacob. Despite the book being my third by the prolific Polish writer, I am honestly daunted not only because of the book’s heft – it is almost a thousand pages. What I am intimidated by is the fact that the book is often considered the best of Tokarczuk’s entire literary repertoire.
It was in 2021 that I have first came across Danish writer Tove Ditlevson. Three of her memoirs were collectively published as a single volume for the first time. By reading some materials on her, I have learned about some details of her life. This makes me look forward to reading her memoir. Honestly, I am reminded of Paul Auster’s The New York Trilogy and Pedro Juan Gutiérrez’s Dirty Havana Trilogy although I am cognizant that neither book is a memoir. Another translated work I have lined up is Mieko Kawakami’s Heaven. The Japanese novelist’s fan base saw incredible growth after the publication of an English translation of her novel, Breasts and Eggs. In 2021, the translated version of her award-winning work, Hevun, was published as Heaven.
That’s it for this week’s WWW Wednesday. I hope you are all doing great. Happy reading and always stay safe! Happy Wednesday again!