• Francine Cunningham

What I read in May 2015

This month I had a bit more time to read. I was also trying to catch up on work, funny how that can pile up when you you've been travelling a lot.


Twenty, Wicked by Gregory Maguire.

I am not familiar with the play. I, of course, am familiar with the Dorothy ruby red slipper version of the tale, oh and the Once Upon a Time TV version of the back story but other than that didn't really know what I was getting into. I really enjoyed this book. And it was dark. Way darker than I imagined it would be. And I felt very frustrated with Elphaba most of the time.

What I really enjoyed was how I could hear her voice change as she grew older. Sometimes when I read a book with character I follow through the entirety of their lives the voice can stay the same but of course that isn't real. How we speak, what we think that all changes as we age and become slightly different versions of our earlier self.


Also, the ending. I love that it's open because it's true,"Not yet."


Twenty One, Haunted by Chuck Palahnuik. 

When I read the back cover of this book I was intrigued. Writers in a survivor like desperate situation. Cool. Oh and there were a few blurbs. Horrifying. Wicked. Stomach churning. Ok, I can get behind that. I've read Palahnuik before. I'll be ok.


Twenty pages in and I've yelled, gagged and threw the book across the room.

But I kept reading. Why? I guess I just wanted to see how "haunted" this book could get. I also was really enjoying the structural elements of the book. If you don't know me, I love interesting structure in my writing. The base for a lot of my own short fiction is how can I use new structure. I've only ever written one short story that goes from point A-point B in a normal "this is how you write a story" structure. For me, when the structure of the piece subtly influences the overall theme of the story it gets me excited. I like the deeper meaning to stories, the stories within stories within stories that you have to read many times to figure out. The structure of having a large story and then a bunch of short stories and poems inside of it was pretty neato. I also liked the counter on the side of the pages.

This book was good and true to it's name, haunting. Will I ever read it again. I don't know.


Twenty Two, The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje.

"What is interesting and important happens mostly in secret, in places where there is no power. Nothing much of lasting value ever happens at the head table, held together by familiar rhetoric. Those who already have power continue to glide along the familiar rut they have made for themselves."

This book was the book that I kept on my kitchen table this month and read while I ate. I always keep different books in different places around my house and one in my purse. The memories that I have of these books always get tied to the places and activities I do while reading them. So this book for me was the kitchen table in the morning at eight o clock with strawberries, eggs and a pancake. The door open beside me letting in the morning air. The bright window in front of me, the ledge of which is lined with fresh herbs. I also for the first time listened to sections of this book through an audio book download from my library. Sitting outside at my backyard desk, painting and listen to this story was wondrous. More audio books shall be in my future I think.

What shall my next Ondaatje be?


Twenty Three, The Toughest Indian in the World by Sherman Alexie.

My thesis adviser lent me this book after she heard me talking about my next novel. "There's a story in here you have to read, it's called Sin Eaters." In my mind I had already read this story. But I had not. Holy shit had I not. That story shook me to the core. I mean, it was enthralling and terrifying. Raw. It let me know that I can push my project way further than I thought I could.

"The boy with old eyes stared at me and I stared back. His eyes were two abandoned houses standing together on a grassy plain burned brown by the sun. Wooden flesh fell away from those houses and left only skeletal frames. Crows and owls perched on rotting timbers. Wild grass and prodigal weeds burst through the foundation. Everything is reclaimed. Everything is reclaimed."

It turns out the Sin Eaters I was thinking of was the thriller staring a young Heath Ledger. Which it turns out I own for some reason.


Twenty Four, Rabbit Ears by Maggie DeVries.

Man, that opening scene on the beach. It was fraught with so much tension. I could feel it in my body as the character was describing it. Perhaps it was the use the second person voice for Kaya. Which I loved. I didn't actually notice it until we got into Beth's first person voice. I did wonder throughout why the author made this choice. and not until the end did I get my answer. I did enjoy it but I did wonder how it would have been if Kaya's voice had been first person. I want to read Missing Sarah now.


Twenty Five, Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky.

The voice! Oh man that voice. Brilliant. Scary. In your face. Mean. Rotten.

I find that I write in first person a lot, so for me, this book was interesting as a study on writing from that perspective. I enjoyed it but I could only read it in small chunks, the voice was too overpowering at times. Will I read it again? Probably not. I think once for me is good. I do have another Dostoevsky on my shelf though, that will probably be something I read in the fall.


Twenty Six, On Writing by Stephen King

This book. I've read it a few times and every time I learn something new. I picked up a new copy as mine was lent out and never returned. (That land of unreturned books must be huge.) So all my old underlines and margin markings were gone. Which was ok. I got to make new ones. I like that the reading list is updated in the back of the book.


I hope that in heaven there is a library, like in that scene from What Dreams May Come, then I'll actually be able to read all the wonderful books in the world.


Twenty Seven, Honoring the Medicine by Kenneth Cohen

This was a non-fiction book on First Nation's medicine and ceremony. I enjoyed it and I learned a greater appreciation for the natural cycles and rhythms of my own body.

FC

ILLUSTRATIONS AND WRITING BY

FRANCINE CUNNINGHAM

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