Last month I got a bee in my bonnet about clearing out some space in my TBR shelves. So I ended up picking the slimmest looking books and reading them, not because I really wanted to but because I need some space, damnit. A terrible way to pick the next book, but it worked. It had the added bonus of clearing some of shelves of books that had been there up to a year AND it gave me that wonderful sense of accomplishment when I finished a book. Luckily, I mostly enjoyed the books I read as well. Here are five of the books I read at the same sort of time. I only realised afterwards that three of the books had 'Girl' in the title. I love weird coincidences like that.
Girl Meets Boy by Ali Smith - I picked up Girl Meets Boy awhile back, after reading The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood. I loved the idea of Canongate's Myth series, this retelling of old myths by popular authors. It's an interesting way to engage readers with myths of the past. And I'd wanted to read Ali Smith for awhile and I thought a slim little book like this might make a good place to start. And oh, it was so good.
I can't say that I'd heard of Iphis and I know almost nothing about Ovid's Metamorphosis, but it really didn't matter once I picked up the book. It is absolutely lovely and romantic and just plain sweet. I really wanted to read passages out to anyone who would listen because the writing is just so beautiful. In Ovid's myth, Iphis is a girl who is transformed into a boy in order to marry Ianthe who she passionately loves. In Smith's novel, the myth is brought to life again as the story of two sisters in Scotland, Midge and Anthea, and they come to terms with Anthea's relationship with another woman, the meaning of love and where their place in the world is. And while the side story of a woman's place in a corporate world is also fascinating, it's the love story that blew me away.
Shopgirl by Steve Martin - I picked up Shopgirl by Steve Martin from a library sale. That happened more than a year ago, possibly. I'd seen the film with Claire Danes and Steve Martin previously, but I kind of wanted to check out Steve Martin's writing style. I was a bit curious about it (but not enough to put it at the top of my TBR pile, obviously). I'm really not sure what I was expecting.
This novella is really similar to the movie in terms of style and pacing. It's a very gentle story about this lonely girl, Mirabelle and the ways in which she changes her own life after meeting two very different men. Her life really isn't going anywhere, she's almost content to let things happen to her, until she meets Ray Porter. I don't know. At some points, it felt like there was something more to Shopgirl, I found some of the observations to be really spot-on, and I felt a little protective of Mirabelle throughout the story but when I finished, I wasn't left with any big emotional impact.
The Graduate by Charles Webb - Yeah, I didn't really connect with The Graduate very well. I have to admit, I've never seen the film. In fact, the only thing I really know about The Graduate, is what I saw in the film Starter For Ten with James McAvoy? Remember, when he walks in on his crush's mother in her underwear? And made a stupid comment about Mrs Robinson? That's a terrible reason for me to have picked up The Graduate, isn't it? At least it was short.
I could see the whole disillusionment of Benjamin's character coming back from university thing. The pressures and expectations of his family and bizarrely what the neighbours think. And the train-wreck romantic relationships at the end. But it all just didn't work me for me.
Girl With Glasses: My Optic History by Marissa Walsh - Here's another one I've had on my stack for awhile. After I commented on Keris' review of it over on Five Minutes Peace, she kindly sent me her copy. It was really quick to read, light and fun. There was a lot I could relate to.
I started wearing glasses from before my third birthday. I went through the trauma of horrible plastic lenses and the 'four-eyes' teasing. I went through the different phases of despising my glasses, hiding behind my glasses and finally embracing my inner-Girl With Glasses. I'd have liked to hear more about some of Marissa Walsh's experiences, it kind of felt like she was glossing over some of the more interesting stories and sticking with the glasses thing a little too much. But that's OK. It was an interesting diversion on a lazy afternoon.
The Unfinished Novel and other Stories by Valerie Martin - Ahhhh, I'm absolutely terrible at reviewing short stories. I picked up The Unfinished Novel in a library sale just after I read Property a few months back. I didn't like the characters in Property, but I enjoyed Martin's style of writing, so I really wanted to give another try. Short stories though, I kind of love them and I kind of don't. The thing with The Unfinished Novel is that I read it just after reading some of Ernest Hemingway's short stories, and I was kind of burnt out on them already.
Valerie Martin's short stories in this book are all about artists. Writers, painters, actors, anything really creative and the relationships that they are involved in. And they don't really go well. All the relationships are either doomed or failed and I'm sure she was trying to say something about the passion of artists. Some of the stories really gripped me and others I found myself losing interest a little bit. A different time, different circumstances I'm sure I'd have felt differently. I still want to read more Valerie Martin someday, but maybe I'll stay away from the short stories for a little while...
And there we have it. A little round-up of the shorter books I've been reading lately. Have you read any of these books?