Book Hangovers and What I've Read this Month
I am experiencing a book hangover right now. Not the kind of hangover that comes from staying up all and boozing it up with friends. It’s just a feeling of apathy for books that I get once I finish reading one. Just like how the morning after a party you couldn’t stand a drink. I think I need some time to recover and relax.
Does anyone else get a book hangover? Did you discover a cure? For me, I find that what really gets me over my book hangover is to switch lanes entirely. I just picked up an old copy of Monocle magazine and I feel quite refreshed! Now I just have to wait until my next read captures my attention and ensnares me.
As far as my TBR (to be read) list goes, I have my eye on the novelizations of Welcome to Nightvale podcasts that came out recently. Nothing else has really gotten my attention yet as I’m currently book hungover. Here are two brief reviews of some of my favourite books I’ve read this month.
Gold Fame Citrus
first published on amreading
This is an incredible first novel written by the young and talented Claire Vaye Watkins. It’s a love story and end of the world story. A drought has gripped California and only a few holdouts remain, living on rations and scavenging the rest. A young couple, Luz and Ray, find their love blossoming in this god-forsaken place. Suddenly they encounter a reason to leave and their journey begins.
The book was gripping and a real pleasure to read start to finish. I was reminded of John Steinbeck and Joan Didion in the sense of how they portray and embody the spirit and nature of California. It’s basically a near-future post-apocalyptic Grapes of Wrath. If you remember correctly, Steinbeck’s novel follows a family forced to leave their farm and go west for work in California. The heartbreaking portrait of an American tragedy amidst the Dust Bowl migration.
Gold Fame Citrus takes this dust bowl to an extreme. Most of the Western United States is a dessert and the once verdant California is now dying. Californians, now pejoratively called Mojavs, are environmental refugees in their own country.
Their dilapidated house is just one amidst a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles. Dry, hot, filthy, and dangerous. They are horribly unhealthy, barely have any access to water, and dig out their own toilets. Los Angeles is at the edge of a boundless desert separating them from the east coast. Once they journey out of L.A., the story shifts like sand to a new plot that's hauntingly familiar.
I love this book because it is unflinching in its look at the United States. It's a veiled commentary on its cultural ethos and mythology. The author is critical of the treatment of veterans and prisoners in the United States. As the story progresses, the style of the book changes. It's a fun and experimental read.
This book attracted my attention because it won this years’ international man booker prize. Translated from its original Korean, the prose is simple and poetic. In three acts, the slim novel portrays one woman’s breakdown from the perspective of three of her family members.
In the first act, Young-hye’s husband tells of his wife’s strange behavior after her sudden decision to stop eating meat after a dream she had. Her behavior infuriates her husband as she slacks in her role as housekeeper and wife. This part of the book is interspersed with poetic sections of her terrifying dreams about blood, meat, and killing. She starts to withdraw. Confronted by her family by means of a violent and violating act, Young-hye, like a trapped animal, lashes out.
The second act is told from the perspective of her brother in law. An artist who has long struggled for his next subject, he becomes obsessed with Young-hye, having graphic and disturbing sexual fantasies about her. Showing another side of her descent away from humanity, this section gives us clues as to what she is reaching for through her rebellion and refusal to accept her traditional and acceptable roles.
The third act is told by her sister who is herself holding on by a thread while her sister’s decisions have reached dangerous consequences. Abstaining from every worldly and human comfort and desire, Young-hye is in trouble.
This book was disturbing in every sense of the word. The pacing of the novel is incredible with each act dully opening and unfolding and deteriorating towards a manic ending. For me, the novel is a reminder of the fragility of social and societal norms and a commentary on how we cling meaninglessly to them.