What I’m reading: Toronto, Iceland, Africa

I wonder if publishers realize just how much influence a good literary blog wields on reader choice? All my reads this week were prompted by mentions on other blogs.

1. Outrage by Arnaldur Indridason: I heard about this superb Icelandic crime writer on Flippism is the Key, and immediately read all of his work; I requested this one from the library after a recent FitK review. The publisher blurb doesn’t quite do justice to the depth of the writing, but here it is anyway:

“In a flat near Reykjavik city centre, a young man lies dead in a pool of blood although there are no signs of a break-in or any struggle. A woman’s purple shawl, found under the bed, gives off a strong and unusual aroma. A vial of narcotics found in the victim’s pocket among other clues soon lead Erlendur’s colleagues down a trail of hidden violence and psychological brutality, and of wrongs that will never be fully righted.”

If you haven’t read Indridason’s work, pick it up now, especially if you like Ruth Rendell or P.D.James.

2.  The Big Dream by Rebecca Rosenblum:  I asked the publisher to send me this collection of interlinked stories about the absurdity (and, okay, the essential horror) of cubicle life after reading about it on Pickle Me This.  Here’s an excerpt from one of the pieces “How to Keep Your Day Job”, which I found unbearably awesome.

“Smile as you turn off the alarm. Smile on the bus. Smile in the lobby. Smile at your desk.

Put your full name on all paperwork, even though your boyfriend makes fun of your middle name. Accept whatever desk you are given, even if it is in a hallway. Laugh at whatever jokes you are told, even if they seem sort of mean to gay people.

Work hard.

Don’t work so hard that you don’t take a lunch. The first day, bring something interesting to eat, although nothing that smells weird. Then wait and see if people invite you to eat with them. Interesting food will give people something to talk to you about if they invite you to eat with them. If they don’t, eat your complicated odourless sandwich alone at your desk at 2:30.”

I received my copy of The Big Dream today (thanks, Biblioasis!) and am all shivery with anticipation.

3. Opening Spaces edited by Yvonne Vera: This wonderful collection of contemporary African women’s writing came to my notice on ImageNations, where I left a comment lamenting that I couldn’t find it in my library. Shazaam! A local blogger (Amy) lent me her copy.  The stories in this book highlight a  diversity of experiences and voices, and they are packed with irony, with anger and with humor. I cannot recommend it strongly enough.

“African women are seldom given the space to express their concerns, their ideas and their reflections about the societies in which they live. In situations where a good woman is expected to remain silent, literature can provide an important medium for the expression of deeply-felt and sometimes shocking views. In this anthology the award-winning author Yvonne Vera brings together the stories of many talented writers from different parts of Africa. The act as witnesses to the dramas of private and public life. Their stories challenge contemporary attitudes and behaviour, leaving no room for complacency.”

12 thoughts on “What I’m reading: Toronto, Iceland, Africa

  1. The real reward in reading book reviews in blogs is discovering the person behind the review. Over time, as one absorbs the interests of the reviewer and their personal reactions to the books they review, it gives an added dimension that is seldom achieved in “regular” reviews. I love my weekly NYT Review of Books, but seldom feel any connection with the reviewer, even if they are a literary celebrity. I’ve got several good book-blog sources now (present company included, of course) and enjoy them, albeit in a different way, as much or more than the NYT. It is the one area of my internet use which has actually increased dramatically over the last two or three years.

    • Absolutely. I think the issue with blogs is that you have to wade through so much rubbish to find ones that appeal, but once you strike gold, they are deeply satisfying. The Guardian has a couple of reviewers with a fairly unique, personalized style, and I read it regularly (over the net, of course).

  2. I love getting recs from other bloggers! If I stopped reading blogs, my TBR list would cease to grow, which would be terribly sad.

    Indridason was a big hit at the bookstore where I used to work, for some reason. I’m not much of a crime fan, so I’ve never had the urge to pick up his books. Opening Spaces sounds fantastic, and now I’m hoping my library has a copy, since I’m pretty sure there’s no local blogger to lend me theirs, sadly.

    • His books are less about crime than the characters populating the novel; not a whodunit, but whydunit, rich in historical detail. I do recommend him if you ever turn to crime. Reading, that is 😉
      I hope you can find Opening Spaces!

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