Despite having recently said that I don’t participate in a lot of memes, I’m making (another) exception. Last week there was a slight mishap involving my laptop and my cat, and the cat definitely emerged victorious from the encounter. The upshot of this was that my computer had to be checked over and cleaned at the shop, and since I am horribly negligent when it comes to backing up my files, I temporarily lost access to several posts I had begun drafting and got a little behind. Fortunately, Bookshelf Fantasies has a really handy meme directory that is particularly useful when it comes to finding last-minute inspiration.
In all seriousness, though, this was actually a good week for me to participate in Should Be Reading’s Friday Finds. My mom recently asked me for a Christmas list, so I spent a lot of my free time this week scouring Amazon and Goodreads for ideas, with some promising results.
1. Fools of Fortune (William Trevor): I’d never heard of either the novel or the author before stumbling across them this week, but the blurb on Goodreads definitely piqued my interest. I’ve had a passing interest in Irish history since seeing The Wind That Shakes the Barley during my senior year of high school, and Fools of Fortune covers approximately the same time frame. And with bystanders to the conflict getting caught up in a “cycle of revenge,” it also promises to be about as plausibly bleak as Wind, so there’s that to look forward to.
2. The Purple Cloud (M. P. Shiel): Wikipedia characterizes The Purple Cloud as a “last man” novel (in the tradition, presumably, of Mary Shelley’s The Last Man). But while I’ve read and enjoyed Shelley’s novel, the thing that truly sold me on this book was learning that H. G. Wells called it “brilliant.” After much dragging of feet, I read The Time Machine early this year and was absolutely blown away; it was stunning, overwhelming, and probably my favorite apocalyptic novel to date. So, naturally, the chance to read another turn-of-the-century, end-of-the-world saga is one I can’t pass up, and Wells’ endorsement just makes me that much more excited.
3. Waiting for the Barbarians (J. M. Coetzee): Will I sound shamefully uncultured if I admit I’ve never read anything by Coetzee? Probably not as uncultured as I’ll sound when I admit that I hadn’t actually heard of this particular novel until seeing it mentioned in Rabih Alameddine’s An Unnecessary Woman (review coming soon, I hope). In an effort to expand my literary horizons, I decided to look up some of the recommendations made by Alameddine’s extremely well-read protagonist, and this was the one that interested me the most. I have a special fondness for novels that read like fables or parables, so the universalized (but still distinctly colonial) setting of Waiting for the Barbarians appeals to me.
4. The Republic of Trees (Sam Taylor): I read, loved, and was enjoyably confused by The Amnesiac back when it was published in 2008, but despite my aforementioned interest in post-apocalyptic fiction, I somehow never managed to work up a lot of enthusiasm about Taylor’s next novel, The Island at the End of the World. I may still decide to give Island a try at some point, but I’m considerably more excited about Taylor’s first novel, which I hadn’t actually heard of until this week. Judging by its description, The Republic of Trees promises to hit so many of my interests (philosophy, rebellion, erotic obsession, utopian and dystopian societies) that it’s actually a little unnerving; it’s like Taylor wrote this with my then-future twentysomething self in mind.