some kickass bukes that i have read of late

The Four Immigrants Manga is an amazing thing, a window into the lives of four Japanese men living in San Francisco at the turn of the century. Rediscovered in the nineties and intelligently translated, it’s really unlike anything else, and joins A Streetcar to Subduction and The Golden Gate on my shelf of marvellously eccentric books about my city.

So does Nuclear Rites, which will be remembered as the book that got me interested in anthropology-about-humans (as opposed to A Primate’s Memoir, Gorillas in the Mist, The Third Chimpanzee, Our Inner Ape, Mother Nature, Songs of the Gorilla Nation and Reason for Hope, which got me interested in anthropology-about-other-apes-and-also-baboons.) Hugh Gusterson was an anti-nuke campaigner straight out of the pages of The Golden Gate when he decided to live among the nuclear scientists in Livermore. Set in the early nineties, his book is a nuanced and complex appreciation of how those scientists came to their various ethical accommodations with the weapons work they undertook. The rites of the title are the scientific coming-of-age represented by a weapons test; a genuinely compelling analogy. I picked up Cultures@Silicon Valley hoping for some comparable insights into the tech industry, but so far it hasn’t dug deep enough under the skin.

I’ve been on a bit of a Big House kick this year (when am I not?) I Capture the Castle and We Have Always Lived in the Castle were middlingly-successful attempts to cash in on the breathless, stay-up-till-3am Gothic awfulness/awesomeness of The Little Stranger. I read the Dodie Smith in my Dalmations-completist phase when I was a kid, and oddly, or not, it is an entirely different book this time around, set in an entirely different place with different characters. The influence of Cold Comfort Farm is tangible. (Mashup idea of great brilliance: Cold Comfort Animal Farm. You’re welcome.) More successful at generating that elusive Gothic frisson were Anthony Blunt, Georgiana and Mad World. The British ton is genuinely creepy.

Jaran had my name written on it and should have worked for me – a romance, with kuhaylan Arabians, set in neo-Mongolia? Are you kidding me? WHERE DO I SIGN – but it was spoiled by its universally beloved, effortlessly polyglot Mary Sue. Actually the hero was kind of a douche as well. Whereas The Georges and the Jewels, despite Too Much Natural Horsemanship, had actual living horses and people in it, and I liked it a lot. Meanwhile My Dog Tulip had way, way too much detail on every kind of canine bodily excretion imaginable, and its notions of responsible animal husbandry are COUGH how shall I say VERY WRONG. And it is an awesome, awesome book.

Not surprisingly from the author of Hood, Inseparable is pretty much the hottest book of literary criticism I have ever read. I met Emma Donoghue in Dublin! She was very gracious. I was a babblin’ fule. I met Anne Enright too, and they have both been shortlisted for the Booker (Anne Enright won it, didn’t she?) and I haven’t. Never mind! With Country Driving Peter Hessler cements his position as the latest raven-haired, Oxbridge-educated sensitive world traveller to join Simon Schama and Rory Stewart among the ranks of my future imaginary husbands. Wait, Rory’s a Tory? Dude, what did I tell you? The British ton is genuinely creepy. I guess that makes him my future imaginary ex-husband. A girl’s got to have some standards.

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