- Xiao Xiao and the Dragon's Pearl by Joyce Ch'ng
- The History of England Volume 1: Foundation by Peter Ackroyd
- Rules of Desire by Dipika Mukherjee
- A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
- This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz
- Spring Snow by Yukio Mishima
- Praise of Folly by Erasmus Desidirius
- Tunas Cipta and Dewan Sastera -- January editions
This is How You Lose Her and A Brief History of Seven Killings were both very engaging -- though a bit bloke-ish, and by that I mean very casual references to sex and sexual violence. Both the writers are cisgendered men of colour, and Marlon James in particular has spoken up about the pressure to pander to a reading audience of white middle-class women. The statement is an interesting perspective on intersectionality and questions on privilege (and where they may lie) in publishing.
On the subject of men and privilege, The History of England Vol. 1: Foundations by Peter Ackroyd has been (and is, I'm still reading it) a really good read. (Well, it is a national history of a people generally white, and the author is a man). I've read Ackroyd's biography of Thomas More and it was very good, largely because it actually avoided talking about the man himself (Ackroyd wrote about the world around him: childhood, education, religious practice, the courts). When Ackroyd writes he appeals to my visual sense. His people and places unfold like scenes in a film.
Reading Ackroyd and his Wikipedia page makes me feel like an under-achiever.
Closer to home -- at least geographically -- I spent my Chinese New Year Eve reading Xiao Xiao and the Dragon's Pearl. It's accurate enough a depiction of Chinese culture (at least that which I can derive from my banana-ish Chinese maternal heritage), without the painfully dramatic depictions of Chinese traditions I have associated with English-language writing of Chinese culture and customs, which may be a form of expression against oppression but which I have also suspected to be pandering to a readership who enjoyed a little barbarism in their exotic literature. Anyway, Xiao Xiao and the Dragon's Pearl is fun and is accurate. Yes, there are jealous first and second wives, and abandoned baby girls. But it doesn't get too heavy. Ancient China was harsh, and harsher still to women, but there must have been some joy somewhere.
I haven't finished reading Rules of Desire. I have read two of Dipika Mukherjee's other works, The Palimpest of Exile (which I really liked) and Thunder Demons (which I did not). Rules of Desire is thankfully not Thunder Demons, though it's not winning me as quickly as The Palimpest of Exile. I'm not sure why though, because all the stories are solid. Maybe I'm just not the right demographic.
I also read Tunas Cipta and Dewan Sastera while commuting, which gives me another idea: maybe, instead of just writing about books, I could write about the literary journals and magazines I have read over a month or two weeks. It would kind of be weird and outdated I guess; but stories never really grow old.
I loved Praise of Folly. I love it so much, I'm considering writing a full essay on it to be posted on Medium.