Fresh Reading (1 of 3 posts)

Santa Barbara public library

“I keep thinking I can see the virus blooming on the horizon like a sunrise. I realize the world will continue to turn, even with no people on it. Maybe it will go a little faster.” 

That was written many years pre-Covid 19. But kind of current, right? Scary, too. It’s from Carmen Maria Machado’s short story “Inventory” in her collection Her Body and Other Parties.

I’ve paid insufficient attention to contemporary fiction as I’ve aged out of the demographic. Carmen Maria Machado is one of eight writers whose work I recently chose to read because of recommendations and references; in many cases these were eye-opening lollapaloozas, elegant debuts, starred reviews, short list that, finalist this and winner of the prestigious other, often hilariously funny, flawlessly composed, and at times astonishing in artistic experiment and daring.  

At the time of publication, the eight authors each identified as women, and they were all new to me. By the luck of the draw, they are mostly young writers who don’t look like me, but I enjoy learning about their world, I’ve written about others in this cohort in previous posts; in this post and the two subsequent, there are more comments about additional recent reading.

Some generalizations:

The main characters are women, ages ranging from late adolescence to late twenties. Set in times, periods and eras ranging from 1980’s punk rock in California to just after the millennium, the protagonists spout all the lingo of their milieu, the Western European culture, relative financial privilege, private schools in many cases, schools for girls. They are all coming to terms with their identities and their bodies. A lot of intense bonding, drugs and pharmaceuticals, a lot of hanging out, type thing, self-absorption and moisturizing, a hyper self-awareness, like there’s at least two of every character of significance, one analyzing the actions of the other. It’s all bold and straightforward and seems pretty autobiographical, if you ask me.

Look for my comments on seven additional writers in subsequent posts. And, by all means, read the books. You’ll enjoy them. Outstanding.

© 2020 Randy Stark

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