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Monday, April 26, 2021

Reader's Diary #2187 - Alex Reece Abbott: Silver Linings

Every so often I'll come across a blurb on some serious, mostly melancholy book of "serious" literature where someone refers to it as "subversively funny" or something along those lines. At the end, despite having enjoyed some of these novels, I'm still left wondering what the hell the blurb writer (blurbist?) possibly found funny. 

I suspect I'd be one of the weird ones laughing at Alex Reece Abbott's short story "Silver Linings." Okay, maybe not laughing, but smiling inside at the very least. 

It tells of a man who's lost his long term job and while looking for new work has decided to make himself a better man, a better husband. But there's a wicked sense of futility lurking underneath the surface that someone with my pessimistic can't help but relate to and so, the story to me was like observational comedy from a depressed Seinfeld. 

Monday, April 19, 2021

Reader's Diary #2186 - Julio Cortázar: Headache

Julio Cortázar's "Headache" is like a fever dream. There's a farmer, or a couple of farmers (more on this confusion later), raising some sort of fantastical creatures that have also give the farmer(s?) an array of mental and physical ailments.

This renders the narrator(s?) to be unreliable which adds to the confusion. But perhaps the hardest to interpret is the use of first person plural. Are there 2 people or is the narrator insane? 

It's so bizarre that it's hard to look away but also so frustrating. 

Monday, April 12, 2021

Reader's Diary #2185 - Willa Cather: Her Boss

 Willa Cather's short story "Her Boss" is a pretty interesting look at platonic friendships between men and women in the early 20th century. 

The titular boss, Paul Wanning, is the central character in the story and he is dying of a terminal illness. He tells his family and his co-workers and everyone brushes it aside. As a reader, their motives were a bit of a mystery at first. Were they in denial or just callous? As the story progresses though it starts to appear more and more that Paul has built up a rather shallow existence and it is only with death staring him in the face does he seem to grasp that. 

But when his secretary becomes emotional, the first person to do so, as he began to recite his memoirs, they strike up a friendship. 

Unfortunately, rumours start to spread. I'll admit, even I started to suspect the story would turn into a romance. 

Anyway, it's a slow but thoughtful piece of writing. 

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Reader's Diary #2184 - Kim Hyun Sook and Ryan Estrada (writers), Ko Hyung-Ju (artist): Banned Book Club

As with Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran, I believed Kim Hyun Sook's Banned Book Club would take censored books as a backdrop to discuss the political upheaval in her county during a pivotal time in her life. Basically I foresaw Iran being swapped out for South Korea (early 1980s). I would quickly discover though that the name of the book is somewhat misleading and banned books really weren't much of a focal point. 

Hyun Sook has started university and vows to stay out of trouble (i.e., to stay out the many student protests at the time against the corrupt government). She does however wish to join some extra-curricular activities. But before long she discovers that most, including the Banned Book Club, are mostly just fronts to organize more protests. Seeming to get dragged along at first, eventually she makes friends and begins to believe in their cause. 

Not having much knowledge of upheavals in South Korea, I found this fascinating (especially to my own non-protesting student days). 

The artwork by Ryan Estrada is wonderful, especially in capturing Hyun Sook's initial naivete and the sinister nature of the police who were helping protect the regime. 

Monday, April 05, 2021

Reader's Diary #2183 - Elizabeth Bear: Dolly

 "Dolly" is a sex-maid-robot. She/it may have murdered her/its owner. There's a mystery here as it looks at first as if the robot has been programmed to murder, and therefore a programmer would be to blame. However, then it starts to appear that she may have actually been program to become sentient and decided to commit murder on her own. 

Interestingly, the story then turns to a question of whether or not she can prove self-defense but drops the responsibility of the programmer altogether, even though she wouldn't have gained such a thought process in the first place unless a programmer allowed her to do so.

Obviously a very provocative story!