Friday, 7 April 2017

Book Reviews feat. Olivia Laing & TBR

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March was looking like such a good reading month for me and then I became the mother of a teeny tiny black labrador puppy, named Poppy, and all of my attention turned to her! I'm not complaining because that's a delicious reason to not read but I'm hoping that I can get her a little more settled over the next month in order to have more time to myself. Despite not having an overly busy reading month, I did manage to read a bit of non-fiction and a short story collection, both of which were on last month's TBR, before the month was up! So, all in all, it could've been a lot worse!

READ. 

the lonely city olivia laing book review blog vivatramp
FINISHED: 30/03/17 | PAGES: 315  | ISBN: 1782111239 
What does it mean to be lonely? How do we live, if we're not intimately engaged with another human being? How do we connect with other people? When Olivia Laing moved to New York City in her mid-thirties, she found herself inhabiting loneliness on a daily basis. Fascinated by the experience, she began to explore the lonely city by way of art. Moving fluidly between works and lives - from Edward Hopper's Nighthawks to Andy Warhol's Time Capsules, from Henry Darger's hoarding to David Wojnarowicz's AIDS activism - Laing conducts an electric, dazzling investigation into what it means to be alone, illuminating not only the causes of loneliness but also how it might be resisted and redeemed. Humane, provocative and deeply moving, The Lonely City is about the spaces between people and the things that draw them together, about sexuality, mortality and the magical possibilities of art. It's a celebration of a strange and lovely state, adrift from the larger continent of human experience, but intrinsic to the very act of being alive.

The Lonely City is an eclectic beast - it's part memoir, part sociopolitical commentary, part art criticism, part art history, part historical look at NYC and the creative minds it has spawned, and it's all really bloody good.

For something so sprawling in its scope, Laing manages to move seamlessly between each subject making each chapter feel both intimate and well-observed. She moves from her own personal experience of loneliness in NYC, following a relationship breakdown, to the experiences and motivations of urban-dwelling artists that either experienced or channeled loneliness or otherness in their life and work. Laing offers studies on various artists here, from Warhol to Wojnarowicz, and touches on a multitude of issues from sexuality to mental illness, from the impact of otherness on isolation, to the AIDS epidemic. It's clearly well-researched and wonderfully structured, despite being a hybrid of many different styles and subjects, and it was entirely fascinating. 

Laing isn't aiming to unpick loneliness to find some sort of panacea for herself and her readers. The Lonely City, therefore, isn't a self-help book. It's more of a meditation on loneliness and an acceptance that, sometimes, it just is what it is but, sometimes, it can inspire entire groups of people...even entire movements. I left this book with a head full of creative insight and an urge to go back to page one and start again. 

It is definitely worth your time, even if you're sat there thinking 'but I don't really read non-fiction...'. Go out and buy it and be prepared to annotate every single page. I loved it. 


RATING: 

FINISHED: 31/03/17 | PAGES: 273  | ISBN: 9781844080717
Set mostly in lush, heady colombia but even in a jungle-like new york city, they yoke together the fates of guerrilla soldiers, rich kids, rabbits, hostages, bourgeois expats, and drug dealers. interconnected yet fractured in places, the result is a narrative jigsaw puzzle with some of the pieces missing, or a kaleidoscope where different characters spin into focus as they take turns to come into focus. her characters' voices are completely haunting - and pachico's playfulness with language and mastery of consciousness create a mesmerising collective atmosphere. 

From a stoner re-imagining of Watership Down to an imprisoned teacher that now teaches Hamlet to the jungle's sticks and leaves, The Lucky Ones is a collection of tentatively linked stories that has a lot going on. 

These stories are atmospheric, a bleak intensity suffocating the pages, and each tale embodies the sights, smells and sounds that it takes such careful time to imagine for you. Think woody undergrowth, think drugs, think the heady chorus of parties. The stories bounce around chronologically and the narrator doesn't really reveal themselves right away and so it takes you a fair few pages to find your footing, if at all. It's probably no surprise, reflecting back, that there were times where I felt really puzzled as to what was going on. I think I may have come to this collection with somewhat of a disadvantage, too, knowing next to nothing about Colombian history or politics. I felt like a bit of an outsider, as such, throughout. 

I wasn't wild about this collection but, for the most part, I think that's down to my personal tastes when it comes to short stories. Pachico's writing is absorbing and evocative and, as such, I would be interested in reading anything she has published in the future. Who knows, I may give this a re-read and find that my head is more in it. 


RATING: 


TO BE READ. 
I really want to get back into the swing of things reading-wise this month so I'm going to put four things on my TBR pile: three novels and one trade paperback.

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I'm after a little adventure in my reading this month and this tale of an unlikely group coming together in the face of danger and a desire for freedom sounds like the tonic! I hauled it just last month but there's no time like the present, right?! 
A sneaky new purchase that arrived just this morning, Black Wave has been at the top of my to buy list ever since I saw it on the publisher's Twitter page. Look out for it in next month's book haul and book reviews!  

the girls emma cline blog saga review book bloggers in the uk vivatramp

the girls by emma cline  
The Girls has been sat on my shelf for a year and I love coming-of-age cult stuff so I really need to pick it up. I read the first couple of chapters for a Try A Chapter tag post and enjoyed it so it seemed silly to keep putting it off with no good reason. I'm about half way through and I'm all for the poetic writing style. I'll keep you posted! This novel is also sat on my Books To Read in 2017 list so it'll be extra satisfying to finish it!

saga vol. 7 by brian k. vaughan and fiona staples 
I couldn't exactly leave the new volume of my favourite series sat there, could I?! I read these volumes as soon as they're placed in my paws so, again, expect to see this in next month's book haul and book review posts. 

A kind of quiet reading month but a good one towards the end! What did you read last month? Did you enjoy it? Leave your TBR's in the comments below too!  If you aren't quite done here, you can scroll through all of my book blog posts. Or, alternatively, you could just flick through my book reviews instead. 

Links to books are affiliate links. If you don't fancy any of these books but would still like to use my link to purchase some books with, please use my general Book Depository link. Thanks, pals! Books marked with an asterisk were sent to me by the publisher for an honest review. 


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2 comments

  1. I'm coming to the end of The Lucky Things myself, and I agree with you... I'm so puzzled and even though the writing style is interesting, I don't find myself loving it as I much as I wish I did. :(

    franalibi.blogspot.co.uk

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  2. The Lonely City has been on my pile of books I've yet to pick up, but maybe I should reach for this guy sooner. Thanks for the recommendation, peach : )

    Gemma
    Faded Windmills

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