THE BOOKS OF JULY 2019

MARIE NGIAYE《MY HEART HEMMED IN》

from the first lines an unravelling occurs. marie ngiaye’s novel is about alienation, ostracization, and the inexplicable, but encompassing all that, it is about hatred. hatred of the self. hatred of the other. as the narrative—exquisitely woven—proceeds, the eventual cognizance; this is a work of race, its tensions, its hierarchies, and its purposefully constructed reverberations throughout the physical body and its environments. though a determined estrangement, no hints are given of nadia’s (the main character) race, but as the pages progress, it becomes quite obvious that she is, on some level, a victim of the imposed isolation and criticism that comes with a society reinforced by purposefully unjust concepts of race. to clarify, however, the true culprit is an innate complex of superiority (to all those who have not risen “above” the ugly stereotypes of low intelligence, bad taste, or cultural impropriety that are often assigned to immigrants) and simultaneous inferiority (to those presupposed judges of character, those comfortable with the indiscreet reward of their birth), festering within nadia herself and therefore in everything she interacts with. this work is labyrinthine in its contemplation of what it means to expect, to judge, and to sentence. daring in both form and content, ngiaye has brought a painstakingly visceral and dizzingly surreal portrait to the table of the consequences of systematic racism, and its distortions resounding chaotic in the expanse of the body.

ROBERT LOWELL《LIFE STUDIES》

what is there to say about robert lowell and his “autobiographical” writings, that he hasn’t said for himself? my attraction to his poetry was always this delight with language, the attraction to that which lies dormant but may be brought to life with a little word. from stoic heirlooms of fantastic origin and people who are unduly surprising, to a somewhat loving and somewhat dismissive depiction of his family’s elitism, the language of lowell is that of his generation: slightly formal yet exuberant, interested and portent with attention, and playful upon the tongue. life studies is a gained product of a poet looking back on his own immensity—without ego, without even an admittance of glory, but simply with the intent of conversing with what lives on in the past.

余秀华《月亮落在左手上》

the poetry of yu xiuhua is absolutely alluring in its perfect application of chinese-language peculiarities. from her resolute use of double adjectives (the precious 小小, or little little), the preoccupation with onomatopoeia, and her insistence on the colloquial. as one of the foremost poets of the “rural” school of writing in china, her work is infused with the more secretive, unadorned aspects of the nation. infatuated with late light of autumn and the shadow of the woman walking in its refrain, the name of this collection speaks well to represent—translated directly, it is “moonlight lands upon the left hand”.

MARY BEARD《WOMEN & POWER》

mary beard, incredibly erudite, forcefully insistent, and possessive of a seemingly endless archive of classic literature within her mind—this brief volume detailing the invention of "woman” to be fundamentally antithetical to the notion of “power” is a must-read for all who are confused with this supposedly simple notion of equality, which is, of course, not by any means simple at all.

ÉDOUARD LOUIS《WHO KILLED MY FATHER》

it is perhaps impossible to not be moved by who killed my father, which is a class polemic interwoven with the admissions of a difficult love. writing acutely and with great composure about violence, the welfare system, and the absolutely destructive qualities of class inequality, louis uses no uncertain terms to bring the perpetrators of his father’s murder (his father is alive in this book, but louis makes it clear that what has happened to his father’s health, his mentality, and his existence is by definition a murder) accountable.

KWAME ANTHONY APPIAH 《AS IF》

this small, densely packed text applies its strategies wisely; moving from our daily rituals of decisiveness and pursuit, to the broader scopes of political theory as it applies to migration. appiah argues that idealization—even done with full acknowledgment of its unlikeliness or falsehood—can still have utilitarian purpose as an instrument by which to navigate the infinite complexities of the world. we all carry inconsistencies and “simplifying assumptions” in order to interact with various phenomena, and to do so while seeking empirical knowledge of our own misrepresentations is an application of these “useful untruths”. as philosophy, this work opposes its genre’s more solipsistic tendencies and resolves on its theories being applied in the active spheres and major industries of the world, as well as everyday life. unfortunately, it adopts the same, slightly professorial and occasionally self-instructive voice that divides thinkers from writers.

shelly shan

hi, my name is shelly. I do a thing where I make words into unnecessarily emotional composites. I don't know why I'm allowed on the internet, but I like it here.