Your Fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever?

It’s been a while since a book has left me with that feeling (you know when it gives you butterflies in your tummy and makes you think about changing the world etc), and I have no one to talk to about books so thought I’d try and commit to actually writing a blog instead. I’m not very good at reviews apart from ”I can’t really explain it, but it was really good”, so we’ll just try it and see what happens.

”Your Fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever?” is by the literary genius that is Dave Eggers (apart from when he did The Circle, which had a really good concept, but ultimately was 300 pages too long and died a slow and painful death towards the end).  Really he should have put those 300 words into this book instead, but never mind.

Anyway so it’s basically a critical analysis of contemporary American society (pre-Trump tbf) and mostly explores political/moral/religious decline and power structures etc, but also I think maybe says a lot about conceptions of (alienated) masculinity in the post-feminist world. Raised lots of questions about state accountability and responsibility – especially when thinking about how, I guess because of the way the news and stuff is reported maybe, bad things that happen all the time (police brutality, child sexual abuse etc) become almost mundane? Or normal? Read the book, I dunno. The narrative is made up entirely of dialogue, which I wasn’t sure about at first, but I was trapped on a thirteen hour flight and the headphones were too big for my head so I couldn’t watch any films properly and I didn’t really have a choice. I’m glad I did read it though, because it was really good and I actually lolled a lot at all the nihilism and it just kind of felt really real and authentic. A really simple and effective little book (like me) with like six characters in one building, but it worked really really well and just go and read it, it’s like 200 pages long.

The structure of the writing actually made me think it would make a really, really good film (and because it’s only dialogue there’s no chance of missing any of the good bits), so I produced and directed the entire film in my head while I read it. In an ideal world, Jason Reitman would probably produce it, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Thomas, Alison Janney as his mum, J.K. Simmons as the congressman and Matt Damon as the astronaut (because Matt Damon). I guess it would be like a dark comedy, but in a sort of American Beauty or American Psycho cynical sort of way. Maybe a Netflix original job though.

I think my jet lag is kicking in because it’s getting really hard to keep my eyes open and I keep forgetting how to spell everything, but if you want an easy but interesting little read that you can do in one sitting then I think this is my new go-to recommendation. Challenged my little perspective on stuff like gender and mental health and politics and life etc (be super interesting to get a male perspective on it), dunno just go and read it so we can talk about it afterwards ok.

 

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Books with good plot twists

Books that I like that have plot twists that will leave you sitting there like ”wow what just happened”, to prepare you for the inevitable surprises that life will throw at you (we miss you, Alice).

Kept it fairly brief to avoid spoilers (don’t say I don’t spoil you lololol sorry).

 

The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks

Wowww, I did not see that one coming. 10/10.

 

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler

Jesus.

 

The Shock of the Fall – Nathan Filer

Much shock, many falls. (but overall a very honest account of living with mental health, destigmatisation etc)

 

Beautiful You – Chuck Palahniuk 

Definitely not his best work, but what I took to be a fairly disturbing parody/satire version of Fifty Shades. Gets pretty weird by the end, but an interesting take on sexuality/femininity/commercialisation of sex and liberation and power blah blah.

 

The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins – Irvine Welsh

Unfortunately not actually about the sex lives of Siamese twins. A good read nonetheless. Also, probably add Ecstasy: Three Tales of Chemical Romance to the list, it was equally as disturbing.

 

The Lie – Chad Kultgen

Very stereotypical gender/high school tropes, which kind of adds to the story I guess and is typical of his writing, but JESUS this was a rollercoaster from start to finish.

 

Strange Animals – Chad Kultgen (basically anything written by him, he’s awesome and disgusting, especially if you are a Chuck Palahniuk fan. Really honest, complex blah blah)

Lol that ending. Makes for a great debate around religion and radicalisation/abortion/gender, and Kultgen does not hold back, so be prepared for a very graphic and pretty vulgar read.

 

Kill Your Friends – John Niven

A decent read, especially if you like Irvine Welsh’s style. Can’t remember what happens in this, other than that it’s about the 90’s music industry and I couldn’t put it down.

 

The First Bad Man – Miranda July

I have no idea how I found this book, and I almost wish I hadn’t because it was SO WEIRD. I don’t even know if I could genuinely recommend this to anyone based on merit, but if you want something unexpected then go ahead.

 

And, obviously –

Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

I actually read most of this while I was really high in Amsterdam, and (LOL) found myself really relating to Amy in the first part of the book (I told my ex boyfriend this and we lolled happily for a while). Haaaa hahahahaha. An awesome twist though.

 

The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins

If you haven’t seen the film yet, then please read the book first, it was so much better. Not the most groundbreaking piece of literature, but I finished it in one sitting and I’m kind of ashamed that I couldn’t work out what was going.

Books that can help keep you grounded in the midst of an existential life crisis

Not the most articulate of book reviews, more just my inner ramblings about books that instilled or maintained some sort of ”meaning” in my life. Will quite happily accept recommendations, unless they’re terrible.

Naive. Super – Erlend Loe.

This is a simple, poignant little novel about a 25yr old guy who comes to the realisation that he has no idea what he wants to get from his short time on Earth. A sort of quarter-life crisis. I read it on Monday and think it definitely contributed to easing the weight of the world that I definitely carry on my shoulders most of the time. He thinks about big stuff in a really casual, almost childlike way, like what’s the meaning of life, why are we here, is time even real, I’m so small and the world is just SO BIG etc (just your normal shower thoughts). He finds meaning (happiness is probably too strong a word) in the little things..like making lists, playing with kids, bouncing a ball, people watching. Kind of just enjoying or appreciating or maybe even accepting the beauty in the mundanity of life. Anyway, I stumbled upon this book accidentally, but I’m glad I did because it helped me feel a lot less isolated and slightly more ”normal”, 9/10 would read again.

The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

A classic ”children’s book for adults”. I’ve read this every year or two since I was about six, and every time I read it I get some different sort of meaning from it. It’s kind of about, like, holding on to your romanticised childhood innocence or naivety/imagination, before you realise how mean people can be and how difficult life is. It’s really philosophical and thought provoking, but also really simple and written through the lens of the child at the same time (my fave!), challenging a lot of narrow-minded ”adult” norms. Just a really cute little book with underlying themes of love, loneliness, friendship etc. And the Netflix film remake is really, really, really good and completely does justice to the original story (always a plus), even with the modern twist it puts on it (thank you Mark Osborne for not ruining my favourite book, f**k you Tim Burton).

Reasons to Stay Alive – Matt Haig

It’s in the name really. A really moving memoir about living (surviving?) with depression, that will make you laugh and then cry and then probably do both at the same time, probably on public transport.  The humour helps to normalise mental illness, AND it promotes depression in men, which are both realllyyy positive things for society etc. Go Matt. Not so much a ”self-help” book in the typical sense, but he does give some great advice; ”read a book without thinking about finishing it”, ”if the sun is shining and you can be outside, be outside”, ”shower before noon” are some of my favourites. I’ve adopted all these seemingly little things since reading the book, and they’ve really helped me feel a bit better about everything.

 

The Humans – Matt Haig

Back at it again with the Matt Haig. This book was brilliant. The protagonist is basically an alien who’s taken hostage of a human guy and loads of stuff happens. It challenges Western culture and our everyday habits from an outsider’s perspective (love a good social construction), but in a hilariously satirical way that kind of sums up the whole ”well, you’re only human” thing. It confirms that life and love and emotions are weird and terrifying to most of us, but that’s ok blah blah blah. Matt Haig is a fantastic author and you should go and read his books now.