Recent reads

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

I haven’t seen Blade Runner and I had no idea it was based on this book. But the book is fantastic, so I may watch the movie too. What I like most is that we are gradually fed more information about the nature of the world that Rick inhabits, and this is done cleverly by using two different narratives (of two characters that occupy very different positions in the society) which in a way, come together at the end. Mercerism, I still don’t entirely understand, but this is the kind of book where your understanding (and appreciation) is a work-in-progress. My favourite scene was the Police Station scene.

An Abundance of Katherines

I also finally read a John Green novel, An Abundance of Katherines, which I did not like (unfortunately). Perhaps I should have started with Green’s best work – The Fault in Our Stars, but what if it was really good and left me with the disappointing realisation that no other Green book will be as good? Such are the dilemmas that I face. What I didn’t like most was the character of Hassan, which I thought lacked depth and was only used to provide a contrast point to Colin, the protagonist. I also didn’t like the pace of the story – there was no real plot, which is usually fine in books like these because they tend to focus more on character development. However, I felt like there was not enough genuine character development, a series of incidents occur and Colin makes changes to his relationship equation and we are lead to believe that Colin has grown up a bit. But I didn’t feel any organic change, I felt like I was being told that Colin had come of age, but I didn’t see it.


The Dream Boat

Recently I’ve been reading more and more of the New York Times Magazine. It’s a quality of journalism that I like to see, and since unsubscribing from the weekend Age, I miss my feature articles and undercover journalism.

Today I was linked to an article about a journalist and his photographer who had spent a lot of time (locked up in a dilapidated apartment near a slum area of Indonesia) and money (paid to smugglers) passing themselves off as political dissidents from Georgia in order to board a plane from Afghanistan to Indonesia and then a boat to Australia. This was just before Tony Abbott was elected. I link it because I think it’s a great piece of journalism and because Australia is shamefully lacking in compassion when it comes to how we treat asylum seekers.

The Latest from my Reading List

I’ve recently finished reading 3 books (I have a voracious appetite for fiction after reading so many case judgments), and I recommend all of them. Here are my thoughts (spoiler alert!) –

Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro

Ishiguro said that he had the theme for the book (making young people understand old people) before he had a vehicle to express it through. His chosen vehicle is human clones. Clones are produced in this alternate universe in order for their organs to be harvested; these clones typically have a life span of 20-30 years. Because of this, Never Let Me Go has often been categorised as a sci-fi book, but the emphasis of the book is on its thematic issues rather than its setting. These young people are passively resigned to their fate and it’s very depressing. Dreams and loves aren’t pursued, but they still salvage ways of adding meaning to their life. Ishiguro writes in a plain way but the story creeps up on you; just like the characters in the book I was ‘told and not told’ that something very wrong was going on.

Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell

I have been looking forward to reading this one! I first encountered Rainbow Rowell when I read Fangirl (more lighthearted than Eleanor & Park but very entertaining and satisfying for those looking for a coming-of-age-type story) which I enjoyed immensely, and not just because I used to write a bit of fanfiction. Eleanor & Park is darker and more tragic and reminds me of a John Green paperback (even though I haven’t read a John Green paperback – although according to the cover of my copy John Green does say that Eleanor & Park reminded him of what it was like to be young and in love with a girl, as well as a book). I like that it talks about domestic abuse, it makes you question, ‘why doesn’t Eleanor just run away?’ but then you realise, where would she go and how will she get there? Domestic abuse isn’t something you can just walk out of and I think novels like Eleanor & Park can start to dispel that myth.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler

This book was somewhat harrowing, and because I read it very soon after Never Let Me Go I began thinking of this book in terms of its similarities with Ishiguro’s book. Ishiguro writes about clones, Fowler writes about animals. Both make me question how we (humans) treat other species. Do animals and clones have less claim to humanity then we do? What makes us more deserving of love and humane treatment? The book is narrated from Rosie’s point of view and expertly weaves the past and present together with a bit of textbook psychology. Rosie’s perspective is unique because she doesn’t see herself superior to Fern, the cross-fostered chimpanzee she was brought up with – whether this is because of guilt, because Rosie is an animal rights activist (which seems unlikely when juxtaposed with her brother, Lowell) or whether she really has internalised Fern as a sister.