book review: “her body and other parties” by carmen maria machado, “the memory police” by yoko ogawa, and “the white book” by han kang

things are really hard right now. more details when i feel up to it, but in the mean time: here are three excellent books i read.

“her body and other parties” is a series of short stories. many of them are horror, and also many of them made me laugh. the weakest i think was the one about law and order (the tv show), mostly because i know very little about law and order and have never been particularly moved to see it. otherwise, a lot of genuinely creepy and fucked up shit, with — i guess it makes sense, considering machado has a wife, queer* characters as ordinary and unremarkable.

i tore through “the memory police” in like two sittings. the plot is about an island where things are disappearing; most of the citizens forget the objects that have disappeared, but some people don’t. the main character forgets, and she and an old man collude to hide someone who remembers. this may not sound like a compliment but is: the book felt like it was feeling out the edges of something very large and difficult while being really satisfying in and of itself. i enjoyed this immensely.

“the white book” is by han kang. i — don’t think i disliked “the vegetarian” for entirely fair reasons; i’d been pitched a very, very different book than i got. this one i went into with way fewer expectations and — again, this isn’t going to sound like a compliment but totally is; i felt physically cold during this book. it’s about the narrator’s older sister, who was born prematurely and died soon after birth; the whole thing is the imagined perspective of the older sister, set during winter.

* re queer: i am still working on my feelings on this tbh. this was a go-to slur for close family members; honestly that fucked me up less than the endless #discourse about — yes, it is fucked up to tell someone else they can’t identify as queer, but also the amount of “how dare you imply calling people ‘queer’ as an umbrella term is not always great, only terfs have a problem with queer, it’s not a slur and also simultaneously it’s Powerful” (i am 0% exaggerating; i have had people imply heavily i must be misremembering or bad at reading or something. i am not.) is honestly the thing that made me really reluctant to use it for a long, LONG time — nothing like being told explicitly my life experiences are wrong to make me thoroughly uncomfortable, you know? ambiguity is one thing; the absolutely ott insane lashing out towards those of us who have absolutely experienced it as a slur fucking sucked. i don’t really know how i feel about it still, but actively avoiding (i.e., blocking lol) the Extremely Online who refuse to believe anybody would ever call someone “a fucking queer” has made me a lot more receptive to it.

i’m also coming up recently against certain limits of language and getting frustrated with it; i could really use some ambiguous or hidden or obscured language right now. “queer” seems to be the — i guess least not what i don’t want? i don’t know.

…anyway that’s sort of a whole weird backdoor into some of the Unfun Shit that’s been going on, so, you know.

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