Art Kavanagh

Criticism, fiction and other writing

A year of “Talk about books” (already)

The first issue of “Talk about books” went out on 22 November 2020. Since then, there have been another 25 issues at 2-week intervals. The next one, due on 24 November, will be the first issue of year two. I’m having trouble believing that a year has already gone by. I’ve greatly enjoyed the experience, though I find it exhausting.

I’ve been thinking about ways I could improve the experience for the reader. I’d like to give myself more time to edit each issue and condense it a bit: they’ve been running at over 2,000 words per issue, which strikes me as just a little too long. I’ve also mentioned a few times that I’m considering doing a PDF version. Recent changes by Substack have raised the possibility of including the PDF as a paid option, while the email newsletter and web archive remain free. I’ll have more to say about that soon after the next issue.

I’ve posted summaries and updates on my blog every 6 or 7 issues. Here are my summaries of the latest 6:

“A wormhole to another place”: Lucy Caldwell’s Multitudes
A collection of 11 short stories, all but the last of them set in Belfast, and presenting that city as somewhere to escape from.

Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
A long-delayed reread. I was unfair to this feminist, speculative, dystopian novel when I first read it, around 1989, so I’ve reconsidered.

Kazuo Ishiguro’s short stories: Nocturnes
“The wrong kind of ugly” — The pitiless scrutiny to which Ishiguro subjects his characters is (a bit) easier to take in small doses.

Fugitive women: Lisa Lutz, The Passenger; and Laura Lippman, Sunburn
“You can never see anything clearly when you’re running”. Two books about women on the run from pasts and actions which (eventually) turn out to be less blameworthy than everybody is inclined to assume.

Creature and creator in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
“Did I solicit thee | From darkness to promote me?” Victor Frankenstein accepts in theory that he owes a duty to the being he created. But his revulsion, and his exaggerated view of the threat to his own species, blind him to his responsibilities.

Kate Atkinson, the Jackson Brodie series
Some readers have seen these novels as “cozy” mysteries. But the threats to vulnerable women and girls, of which Brodie is repeatedly reminded, make them anything but comfortable reads.

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Posted by Art on 13-Nov-2021.