Tuesday, February 22, 2011

what I'm reading

I've thought up the perfect description for how my eyes feel after staring at the computer screen for too long. They begin to feel like teeth feel when you wake up in the morning and (for whatever reason) you never brushed them the night before. There is that thin, unpleasant furry yet slimy sensation when your tongue runs along them. That is how my eyes feel now because I have speant the past few hours looking for intriguing blogs written by complete strangers to follow. I found surprisingly few. Maybe I am not looking well enough, but I found so many blogs that were little more than "watch this video of ...[include link to YouTube] hahaha. Or pseudo-poetry accompanied by stylistic/artistic photos of really thin models looking "pensive" (to quote the fabulously facile joke at Joey's expense in 10 Things I Hate About You. Dont you dare judge me for referring to this movie. It's wickedly cool: partly because the geek gets the girl without undergoing a geek-to-cool transformation. I mean geeks are cool already). Even the many SA politics blogs begin to annoy me. They all sound like Mail and Guardian articles. I love the Mail and Guardian articles...in the Mail and Guardian. Surely blogs should experiment with different styles?

Anyway, enough whining. The point is that I eventually did find a cool blog by Mridu Khullar Relph: an independent journalist from India. As I am a technological retard, I can't actually figure out how to follow her page, but I'm going to add it to my favourites and see how that works. I digress, the point is that she has a regular blog called "What I'm reading" that lists a whole host of things she is reading without the pressure of having to produce a formal book review on the particular book.

So, in the spirit of Mridu Khullar Relph,
What I'm Reading (or rather, what I've read this month so far):

The Devil's Chimney - Anne Landsman

I wanted to like this book. It is written by a South African woman, set in South Africa and is about South African women. It is a "magic-realist" text and is set in the Karroo, one of the most mysterious and eerie South African landscapes.

But I didn't like it. Anne Landsman lives in New York (since 1981). I only read this after I had put down the novel and had felt profoundly dissatisfied. Some of my dissatisfaction suddenly made sense because I felt like it was written like a white trauma-experienced-by-women-by-numbers text, not an intricate engagement with the subtlties of South African interactions, something which has to be experienced on the ground.

There were great moments and the effort to focus the text through a poor white, alcoholic woman with a rich imagination unschooled by academies was startlingly orginal. I started losing faith when it became more and more depressing (I don't mind difficult and depressing: I love J.M. Coetzee and Sello K. Duiker) but then ended with a unconvincingly happily: alcoholic woman embraces alcoholic abusive husband after forty (?) years of non-conversation after the (deeply movingly rendered) loss of their child. Because all the years of masculinity-issues abuse and dangerous drug abuse will suddenly cease because of a hug. Then there are some mystical black folk thrown in who have (equally mystical) relations to the San. Fail.

Thirteen Cents - K. Sello Duiker

This book - by contrast - was unremittingly disturbingly brilliant. It is the tale of a street kid in Cape Town who discovers just how soulless the city can be. The so-called liberal "gay capital" of South Africa is shown to be a misnomer: how gay-friendly is it when this kid makes a lot of his money having sex with in-the-closet, married businessmen who have no problem having sex with a thirteen-year-old? All his efforts at improving himself are betrayed by adults he should be able to trust and friends who constantly betray themselves because of crippling addictions.

One of the gang bosses enforced on him tells him his mother never loved him and that he (the gang leader) is the only one who ever did. Azure - the name of the protagonist - loves Cape Town: the "mother city" of South Africa. The novel shows that Mother Cape Town sure doesn't love Azure and other black people like him.

The Power Book - Jeanette Winterson

I love love this author. Really, words escape me and I am reduced to the gibbering idotish "I love love". I will just quote her and you can see for yourself how revolutionary (I mean that word in its best possible sense) she is. Hopefully, reading these quotes will direct you to her website full of insightful articles and prose.

"The heart. Carbon based primitive in a silicone world" (40).
"That's the size of [love], the immensity of it. It's not proper, it's not clean, it's not containable" (51).
"Did I write this story, or was it you, writing through me the way the sun sparks the fire through a piece of glass?" (209).

And finally, the favourite that I have placed at the top of this blog:
"The world is a mirror of the mind's abundance" (223).

Reading is a large part of what makes my mind abundant enough to see riches in the world. I can only hope that with time and reflection, it will only increase.


  1. I wish I could be reading anywhere near as much as you, I just am not making enough time for it these days. Maybe you should give me a list and a deadline :)
    Love you xxx

  2. I'm adding these to my reading list. After all, it was you who got me to read Anna Karenina!