What We’re Reading: Meyer, Gaitskill and Vuong
Each week we bring you a sample of the books we’re reading, the films and TV shows we’re watching, and the music we’re listening to.
Georgia Brough is reading A Superior Spectre by Angela Meyer
Jeff is dying; slowly, painfully. He escapes from overcrowded, overheated Melbourne to the wilds of the Scottish highlands. In his possession is a tab – a device that allows him to jump back in time and live life through the eyes of a real person. He welcomes the brief respite from his agonising existence, and begins to ignore the strict restrictions on the tab’s use. Meanwhile, Leonora is a young girl growing up in 19th-century Scotland. She’s experiencing life – desire, passion, doubt, ambition – for the first time. If it weren’t for the shadowy presence at the back of her mind, that is…Shortlisted for the 2019 Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction, A Superior Spectre is an intoxicating, encompassing read, and such a strong debut, my goodness. This book is dark and gothic, and very, very good.
Gerard is reading Bad Behaviour by Mary Gaitskill
Transgressive, traigcomic stories of urban alienation (and its attendant cruelties and missed intimacies) made irresistible by Gaitskill’s dark wit, psychological acuity and trenchant eye for detail. I love this collection!
Jackie Tang is reading On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
Readers will have already heard a lot about this book, I wager, and despite rave reviews that have heralded it as the new Great American Novel, I still didn’t really know what to expect going in. It’s structured as a letter written by a young, gay Vietnamese-American man to his mother, who fled to the US during the Vietnam War. The narrator is aware of the irony of his situation: writing a letter in English to his mother who struggles with it conversationally and can’t read it from the page. As his letter winds its way throughout moments in their lives – the big bangs and the quiet whispers – the form of this family comes into view: their sacrifices and struggles, all the pains and efforts that comes with grappling with your own subjectivity in a hard but still at times beautiful world.
This is a heady literary novel, full of stunning language you can immerse yourself in. Vuong is a poet and his words have action: they hit you in the gut on one page, and on another they settle like a dense quiet fog around you. At times I struggled with the thread of the story, resisting the weight of Vuong’s insistent poetic imagery. Other times, I felt like Vuong was Apollo, each sentence an arrow shot from his bow, glittering across the sky as they arch their way along a graceful parabolic curve, before disappearing across the horizon – each one taking my breath away. If you love language and you want to read something that feels new and fresh, pick this one up.