What I’m Reading : Episode 49, October 2022
What I just finished reading
Last night I read the final story in Maybe This Time, a collection by the Austrian author Alois Hotschnig. I read these with a sense of unease. They’re all unsettling tales that involve loss of identity and characters who are in a form of suspended life. All but one has an unresolved ending.
This morning I finished the 2021 Booker prize winner, The Promise by Dalmut Galgut which is on my Autumn Reading List. I’d started it last year but laid it aside (can’t remember why) so I had to start all over again because I’d forgotten most of what I’d read.
It’s a multi-faceted novel that gives you a lot to think about. On one level it’s about the decline and near annihilation of a white South African family who fail to honour a promise. But I’m also pondering whether it’s a commentary on how a South Africa free from apartheid also failed to live up to its promise.
What I’m reading now
If you’ve been following this blog for a while you’ll probably have noticed that I don’t tend to read science fiction. Yet that’s exactly what I’m reading right now in the form of Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir. It’s an attempt to complete the “space” square on my Reading Bingo card.
The science is way over my head (I tend to skim some of the more complex passages) and the premise (a race to save Earth) is a well-worn one. But if I approach it as just a mad adventure story I find it surprisingly enjoyable.
What I’ll read next
Now this might change in the few hours between the time when this post goes live, and the time when I go to bed.
I really, really need to read some of those books I requested from Net Galley. So I’m thinking to begin with Shrines of Gaiety, the new novel by Kate Atkinson. Vying for attention however, is Lessons, the new book from Ian McEwan — I used to love his fiction but haven’t been as enamoured in recent years so it will be interesting to see if this marks a return to the standard of Atonement.
Or I could go very low tech and open up The Magician by Colm Toibin which is the book club read next month. A newspaper article I read today could see me turn instead, to a nineteenth century classic in the shape of Ruth by Elizabeth Gaskell.
The article was about yet another university giving its literature students trigger warnings about books on the syllabus. Gaskell’s North and South was highlighted for its misogyny, prostitution and “examples of extreme classism” content. Yes it does deal with the rich/poor divide and the struggles of working class families to make ends meet but are students now not supposed to know about that??? So I might read Ruth which deals with the same issues, as a form of protest.
I shall now step down off my soap box.
I’m curious though whether you think “warnings” like these are necessary or do you find the preposterous?
What I’m Reading is in support of WWW Wednesday hosted by Sam at Taking On a World of Words. WWW Wednesday is actually a weekly meme but I choose to do it just once a month.
27 thoughts on “What I’m Reading : Episode 49, October 2022”
Project Hail Mary surprisingly became one of my favorite reads of the year. I hope you stick with it and reap the reward of doing so! 🙂
I’m coming towards the final chapters and just can’t predict how it will all end. I do hope it isn’t one of those cop outs beloved of TV series writers where the main character wakes up and realises it has all been a dream …
I’ll get on that soap box with you – what is the matter with people??? Shouldn’t they be dealing with this kind of issue??? Why are they so precious?
I can understand warnings about content like sexual abuse, extreme violence but warning people they may see mention of a prostitute seems to be taking it to extremes. Are we not supposed to even mention such things now? Apparently it’s becoming the practice now to warn theatre goers about some content they might find disturbing. Shock horror – this play has people smoking!!!
I loved Project Hail Mary–it has surprises!
As a retired professor, I think those “trigger warnings” are mostly an issue because of profs who push their students to confront the kinds problematic content that they themselves are interested in. It’s a problem related to the breakdown of the canon and also the college/university version of what high school teachers do when they insist that there’s a “right” way to read a novel.
I do understand academics wanting to challenge the accepted beliefs but in the case I mentioned, I can’t see what is so problematic at about being asked to read a book which references a character who is a prostitute. Theres no detail about her work that might be upsetting – just the fact this is what she had to do in order to survive.
I must admit, I was surprised to see SF on your reading pile! I haven’t bothered with this one, but did enjoy Weir’s first two, particularly The Martian.
I don’t think I’ll make a habit of it Annabel but sometimes its good to get out of my comfort zone
Trigger warnings: hmm, I can see the reasoning, especially where those who’ve suffered trauma are concerned, but it’s a bit like the old “stranger danger” advice that used to be doled out – is it possible that the anxiety generated by such warnings could overwhelm the advantages of being made aware of such things that afflict certain groups of people?
Maybe with causes of trauma, even the mention of a particular situation might be a trigger. But it’s stretching the point to view social class divisions as “traumatic”. They’re a fact of life now, just as much as they were in 19th century
I loved The Promise, one of my reading highlights of last year. I also very much enjoyed Lessons (didn’t think I would) – it’s a bit too long, but it is highly enjoyable.
Relieved to hear that about Lessons. I loathed Saturday and didn’t much care for The Children Act so I had a feeling my days with McEwan might be numbered
Nope, I’ll join you on your soap box. Surely students need to be exposed to a whole range of views and experiences before they can form their own? I’ll put Ruth on my own TBR! I enjoyed the Galgut by the way so I’ll be interested in how you get on with it. As far as your list goes, it’ only the Project Hail Mary I’m not tempted to put on my ridiculously long list.
Exactly Margaret. If young minds are constantly protected they are going to struggle in the future. It’s a bit like the need to be exposed to a disease (like chicken pox) in order to build an immunity.
I absolutely loved Shrines of Gaiety! As for those trigger warnings, students will have to deal with all sorts of distressing things outside of the courses they pursue and shouldn’t they be looking at texts in the context in which they were written. My reading of Gaskell was that she was addressing those very issues as problems in nineteenth-century society.
Sadly we seem to be heading into a society where organisations/companies are so afraid of being criticised or receiving legal threats, that they build layer upon layer of defence in anticipation. How these youngsters will function in the real world after college, I can’t imagine – will they be constantly saying they can’t do a piece of work because it might upset them?? Last year I heard some law students have been told they don’t need to attend lectures on rape/sexual abuse because it might be too distressing -so when they become solicitors or barristers will they refuse to represent a victim??
What if medical students took the same attitude and decided it was too upsetting to learn about child illnesses. I can imagine many branches of learning involve something uncomfortable.
Warnings in University? Crazy. Just read it and get on with it. I hate the Molly coddling that goes on in the world says a cranky old woman. I enjoyed the Promise. It was such an unusual story and one I won’t forget .
I thought a university education was supposed to broaden the mind, not encourage you to shut down discussion
So glad you are reading Project Hail Mary. And I think it gets and better.
It’s going to be a hard one to review without revealing a key part of the plot..
Andy Weir is really good for writing accessible science fiction for non-sci-fi readers. I’ve not read Project Hail Mary yet, but I loved The Martian – I remember it more as a comedy than a sci-fi novel, because I laughed out loud so often. I’ve heard that Project Hail Mary is in much the same vein, so I hope it’s good for you!
There are some parts indeed which are so preposterous that I can’t help laughing.
I obviously don’t really understand the point of these trigger warnings for literature at university, aren’t these exactly the type of issues that should be raised when the work is discussed in class?
You would think so Jule – how can students grow and mature if they are not able to discuss issues rationally.
Love PHM especially the themes at the end (and it’s not my usual genre either). It’s fun to read something very different!