Happy Wednesday everyone! We’re in the final stretch of the year. The future holds a lot of uncertainties but it also beacons with hope; hope, after all, springs eternal. But as the year slowly draws to a close, I hope that the rest of the year will be kind to everyone. I hope that you get repaid for all your hard work this year. I hope that all your prayers have been answered or that you have reached a level of peace. More importantly, I hope that you are all doing well, in body, mind, and spirit. Let’s rock the rest of the year!
It is time for another WWW Wednesday update as it is a Wednesday. WWW Wednesday is a bookish meme originally hosted by SAM@TAKING ON A WORLD OF WORDS. The mechanics for WWW Wednesday are 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?
Finally, after spending the past three months focusing mainly on my active reading challenges, I am reaching the end, at least on two of these challenges. My current read, Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy, is the last book in two of my most crucial reading challenges: my 2022 Top 22 Reading List and 2022 Beat the Backlist Challenge. I am hitting two birds with one stone. I am not only capping two of my reading challenges but I am also breaching 100 reads for the year, a remarkable feat for this is the first time I am hitting 100 reads in a year; I read at least 90 books in the past two years. This was a goal I’ve had for years but I never thought it was possible. I guess it is possible after all.
Anyway, I acquired A Suitable Boy about four years ago, if my memory serves me right. It was through must-read lists and the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die List that I first encountered the writer and the book. However, I have been pushing it back for its length. With over a thousand pages, it is quite hefty; this makes it the first 1,000+ pager book I read since Hungarian writer Péter Nádas’ Parallel Stories I read back in 2020; I did read a 900+ pager earlier this year. Despite its heft, A Suitable Boy is a book I have been looking forward to for so long. The story commenced with Mrs. Rupa Mehra, a widow who was arranging her daughters’ marriages. She had one last daughter, Lata, whose marriage she is still to arrange. Please note that the story was set during post-World War II. Lata was still in her late teenage years. So I guess the subjects, at least those that were introduced at the onset were some that I expected. It is now interesting to see how Seth spins all these elements together. Will there be other elements added apart from the cultural touchstones? The story was set during the infancy of the Indian Republic so should I expect historical context as well? I am excited and a little daunted at what is before me.
What have you finished reading?
When I realized that I am about to complete my reading challenges, I gave myself a chance to slow down a bit and try other works not part of any of these challenges. The first that came to mind was NoViolet Bulawayo’s latest novel, Glory. This is my second novel by the Zimbabwean writer. I previously read her debut novel, We Need New Names which I found underwhelming. It was also the reason why I was a little ambivalent about reading her latest novel. Had the book not been longlisted for the 2022 Booker Prize, I just might have passed on the chance of reading the book.
Apart from being longlisted for the Booker Prize – and eventually shortlisted, making the novel the first book from the six shortlisted books – what piqued my interest in the book was how it was written. From snippets I read prior to opening the book, the book satirizes Zimbabwe’s contemporary history and political atmosphere, which it did. Rather than human beings, the main characters of the book were animals. They were living in the fictional country of Jidada with a -da and another -da. It doesn’t take rocket science that the animal characters represented key players in Zimbabwe’s political arena and that Jidada was an allegory for Zimbabwe. I do have a bit of a background on the country’s history after encountering news about Robert Mugabe over a decade ago. However, it was sketchy and Glory provided me with a more comprehensive picture. Also, in a way, the book examined the heritage of colonization and how it has adversely impacted the nation, including its transition to an independent nation. The book provided details of gruesome events in the country’s contemporary history and its struggles against authoritarian leadership. I did find the story meander here and there but overall, it was an insightful book about a country whose history I rarely read about.
In a way, the past few weeks evolved into a mini-African literature reading binge. It was without design, of course. After two works of Nobel Laureates in Literature and a Booker Prize -shortlisted work, my next read was Akweake Emezi’s latest novel, You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty. I guess I am going to hit my target of reading 15 new books this year. It is lower than last year’s but I can make do since I have been more of a backlist reader anyway. Going back to Emezi, they first caught my attention with their – they are non-binary, hence, the pronoun – debut novel, Fresh Water. I was, however, a little unimpressed with their second novel but it did not preclude me from reading their latest novel.
You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty – the title alone was enough to convince me to read the book; even had I not known about Emezi, I would have still read the book. Emezi’s latest novel was their first venture into the romance genre. At the heart of the story was Feyi Adekola, a Nigerian American visual artist who, following an accident, was widowed five years ago. For five years, she did not get romantically involved until a chance encounter with Milan during a New York rooftop party. Milan, however, was not the type to get emotionally attached but their friendship would open up new doors for Feyi. Through Milan, Feyi met Nasir. He was, well, the perfect guy. There were sparks between the two. But this is fiction and nothing is ever straightforward. So yes, several complications appeared later. Several subjects were introduced such as trauma, healing, sexuality, and queerness. It did make a lot of sense actually and the book showed Emezi’s willingness to push the boundaries of their storytelling. However, I was underwhelmed. The writing was unremarkable. Trauma was romanticized. The romance was lukewarm.
What will you read next?
After A Suitable Boy, anything goes I guess. Just kidding. I guess I will be resuming one of my goals this year which is to read more new books. Two of the three books I have aligned are new books. The first one is Douglas Stuart’s Young Mungo. The winner of the 2020 Booker Prize with his debut (semi-autobiographical) novel Shuggie Bain, Stuart is certainly on the rise. Despite its repetitive images, Shuggie Bain was an insightful novel that contributed, in part, to my decision to read Stuart’s second novel, and, from the snippets I get from the Internet, it is a book that deals with subjects nearly similar to his debut novel, at least where coming-of-age and sexuality are concerned
The second new novel I have lined up is Barbara Kingsolver’s Demon Copperhead, a book I was really not intent on reading. My mind changed after the book was listed in several Best Books of 2022 lists. The tip of the iceberg, I guess, was the book’s inclusion in the New York Times Notable Books of the Year. And man did I lose it when I realized what I missed at the onset: the homage, or at least the reference to one of the most beloved works of literature, Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield! I was beside myself when I was reading the synopsis. You see, David Copperfield was my first Dickens novel – which I read way back in the late 2000s – and the first one that made me fall in love with his prose. Now I can’t wait to dip my toes into Kingsolver’s latest novel, my third by her if ever.
Lastly, I have a book I have been meaning to read for the longest time. David Diop’s At Night All Blood is Black first caught my attention when the book was announced as the winner of the 2021 International Booker Prize. I have never heard of him before. This presents a good opportunity to explore a new literary territory, something that I am always up for. That’s it for this week’s (late) WWW Wednesday. I hope you are all doing great. Happy reading and always stay safe! Happy Wednesday again!