October is of course the spookiest of months, when you’re supposed to commune with ravens and read naught but Edgar Allan Poe. I didn’t do either of those things but I did decorate some clementines to look like little pumpkins using a sharpie in case guisers came knocking. They didn’t.
I read 8 books in October, although several were comics again. Mind you I would have regarded anything as a win because as mentioned in the last post, this was the month I went back to work. It was extremely discombobulating and took a lot of my brain power so I can’t promise reviews as in-depth as those I wrote last month.
- 7 of these books were by white writers, 1 was a collection of short stories featuring 2 writers of colour and 6 white and 2 were comic books about an American girl of Pakistani descent
- 7 were fiction (including 5 comics) and 1 non-fiction
- 4 were by women – including the short story collection which was written by 8 women, 3 by men and 1 by a non-binary person
- 3 featured LGBTQ folk and themes (including 4 of the stories in the collection)
- Everyone was able-bodied and neurotypical
Books I listened to on Audible
Milkman – Anna Burns
Milkman is told from the perspective of a teenager growing up during the Troubles, so there’s a lot of grim subject matter involved, but I found it a really engaging and often funny listen. None of the characters have names (a conceit I’ve used in a few short stories myself over the years although they’ve all been rejected – fingers crossed for my Man Booker nomination in about 15 years), they’re all referred to as things like ‘Somebody McSomebody’, ‘Middle Sister’ and so on. I quite liked this as an expression of the internal life of the narrator. The story unfolds quite slowly and initially I found myself drifting a little but work through that because it picks up and I suddenly found myself absolutely engrossed in this world of secrets, things unsaid, and off kilter interpretation. Middle Sister is a young woman so intent on being herself it takes her a while to realise that she doesn’t necessarily have to pit herself against the rest of the community to be so, and that resonated with me a lot as a one-time teenager. Also shout out to Little Sisters, who are fabulous. Worth a read.
Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self Love – Jonathan Van Ness
I downloaded this because JVN (the long haired one out of Queer Eye) is such a fun and positive character on telly and I figured this would be pretty fun. It is in parts, but there are actually shades of A Little Life in here too. Van Ness has had a rough ride at times and is very honest about that in this book. Narrated by him too of course so you’ll probably find yourself ‘yass queen’-ing for a day or two after finishing it.
Hag: Forgotten Folklore Retold as Feminist Fables – Liv Little, Natasha Carthew, Emma Glass, Naomi Booth, Mahsuda Snaith, Kirsty Logan, Eimear McBride and Daisy Johnson
Hag is a series of short stories available from Audible – arguably a podcast rather than a book but I listened to it all in one as a collection. Professor Carolyne Larrington (a specialist in Old Norse and British fairy tales at St John’s College, Oxford) picked a load of old stories from around the UK and they were given to the writers named above to re-tell them however they wanted. At the end of each story there’s a wee interview between Prof Larrington and the author to explore the source material and why they made the creative decisions they did, which was really interesting. There are themes of gender, identity, sexuality, faith, religion and sexual trauma throughout the tales. I enjoyed all of them, but stand out ones were Sour Hall by Naomi Booth because it made me physically jump when listening on the bus, Between Sea & Sky by Kirsty Logan because it made me cry (also on the bus) and The Tale of Kathleen by Eimear McBride because it made me laugh out loud… again on the bus. If you’re breaking the regulation public transport poker face, the writer’s doing it right.
Books I read with my eyes
The Mighty Thor Vol 1: Thunder in her Veins, Vol 2: Lords of Midgard, and Vol 3: The Asgard/Shi’ar War by Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman
I read these because they were available in my local library’s app and I expect I will see the next Thor film at some point so maybe I should try and get on board with the character of Jane Foster. I am pro the notion of a female Thor in principle, but was pretty underwhelmed by this if I’m honest. The writer has given her cancer in lieu of any personality traits and when she transforms she’s pretty much just standard Thor with boobs. They are at pains to remind you on a regular basis that she has cancer and that chemo isn’t working because when she transforms from Jane to Thor then back again it effectively reboots her system – but you don’t get much sense of how that impacts her emotionally, and because they give you eff all else to work with it’s not that easy to care about the character. Having said that I also got the distinct sense that this was a continuation of previous Thor stories that I haven’t read, so perhaps it was my bad for not putting the hours in. I thought this series was a lil character reboot so I could just dip in, but feels like she’s just holding mjolnir for a bit til ‘proper’ Thor gets back and… yawn.
Ms Marvel Vol 1: No Normal and Vol 2: Generation Why by G. Willow Wilson
Ms Marvel, by comparison, felt like a breath of fresh air. Kamala Khan is Marvel’s first Muslim lead character, a Pakistani-American teenager from New Jersey who takes on the Ms Marvel monicker after Carol Danvers becomes Captain Marvel. I love her, with all the heart eye emojis implicit in that statement. She is funny (particularly into the slightly fourth-wall breaking fanfic jokes), she is clever, and she doesn’t have yet another dead parent/close relative origin story – her family are very much alive and she has to somehow do the superhero thing whilst living with them. I will be borrowing more of these from the library cause I have catching up to do and so far she feels very worth it. Would recommend.
I wrote half of this blog post in October and I think that’s about it. Poor show I know but the next bit explains why.
I suppose the main thing to happen in October – and the reason you’re seeing this post at the end of November – is that I finally finished maternity leave and took myself back to work. It was extremely discombobulating. I was only in three days to start off with and it did feel like everything had changed but also nothing had. It’s very cool to be having hot cups of tea (on day one I had six or seven just because I could) and also conversations with adults about things other than nappies, where the best soft play is, and the constant feeling of guilt and anxiety that you’re parenting wrong in some way. But it was very weird because to be honest my colleagues seem to have been fine without me, the baby is now quite into nursery so also fine without me, and I did feel somewhat in limbo. Also absolutely scunnered because I can’t have naps during the day anymore after a night of broken sleep due to the evolutionary stupidity that is teething. Thumbs down for that.
I also attended a wedding where the bride came down the aisle to music from Terminator, we dressed the baby in 11th doctor cosplay (although he looked more like a little old man), and he threw a bowl of soup on the floor. Think he might be a bit small to really be a good wedding guest to be honest. But it was a nice time nonetheless!
In October we finally finished watching Crazy Ex Girlfriend on Netflix. I am now and will forever be utterly perplexed as to why people did not embrace this show and shower creator Rachel Bloom with praise in the same way as Phoebe Waller Bridge or Lena Dunham. Apparently it was the least watched show ever to air on its network in the US when it first went out. But it is very good. It deals with a lot of stuff, but the central story is the lead character’s struggles with her mental health which are some of the most nuanced and realistic I’ve ever seen. The supporting cast all get properly developed character arcs, it’s diverse, it’s generally very funny but there are also some very dark and upsetting moments so it’s not just fluff, the music and pop culture jokes are excellent, and the fourth wall stuff in the final season is just *chef’s kiss* Watch it, is what I am saying.
Other things this month included grown up shenanigans like a visit to a garden centre and the removal of the disgusting hall carpet so we could get some people in to laminate it instead. We failed to dress the baby up for Halloween, and attended a family event to make this years Christmas Cake. Also took the baby – should we still be calling him that? He’s 1 now? The small human? – for outings with friends and grandparents to the National Portrait Gallery, National Museum, and Deep Sea World. No wonder I didn’t get any writing done.