Friday, 21 October 2016

№ 5 reading list: Booktober 2016

Most delightful conversations between authors took place at a Lannan Literary event in April when Zadie Smith and Karl Ove Knausgård shared the stage. Karl Ove was there to read from his work Some Rain Must Fall, the fifth My Struggle book, and Zadie to introduce and interview him. She started the conversations with a witty story: At the airport, on her way to the event, she heard a woman saying to a friend: 'What kind of a person even says that out loud?' And she thought: 'I'm gonna go meet him now. I know exactly who it is.' Those who have read Karl Ove's revealing-it-all autobiographical novels are probably smiling now or laughing. At least the audience was. Book 1 is on my Booktober reading list and I'm so glad that I finally took the plunge. I wasn't sure the My Struggle books (Min Kamp in Norwegian) were for me, plus I'm always a bit sceptic about works that become immensely popular. But there was something that kept pulling me and when I realised that I had more or less listened to every other conversation with Karl Ove on YouTube I said to myself, This is getting ridiculous, knowing so much about these books and not reading them. I have hardly put the book down but I'm saving Book 2 for my next list and instead reading another work by him. Here is my list, which will stretch well into November:

· A Death in the Family: My Struggle 1  by Karl Ove Knausgård
· A Time for Everything  by Karl Ove Knausgård
· White Teeth  by Zadie Smith
· NW  by Zadie Smith
· Americanah  by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
· Purple Hibiscus  by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
· Avid Reader: A Life  by Robert Gottlieb

I have followed Zadie Smith for a long time - she has such charisma on the literary stage - but never read any of her works until now when I bought her first novel, White Teeth, and borrowed NW at the library (sometimes it's all about the timing). Her new novel, Swing Time, will soon be published and I'm spotting Zadie-features all over the media, e.g. an interview in T Magazine by novelist Jeffrey Eugenides. She graces the cover of the latest The Gentlewoman, issue No. 14, Autumn and Winter 2016. I wanted to buy it but haven't found it in my town. Another author with charisma is the Nigerian Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I loved Half of a Yellow Sun, read it twice and will probably read it again. I have wanted to listen to conversations between Zadie and Chimamanda at the Schomburg Center in Harlem in NY. I started watching and loved them together but before continuing I'm going to read Americanah, which I bought this summer. When I'm done with the novels on my list I'm reading editor Robert Gottlieb's memoir that was just published. As I write this, my copy is on its way in the mail and I'm so looking forward to holding it in my hands.

Georgia O'Keeffe, Black Cross with Stars and Blue, 1929

In August, when we were in London, my older daughter and I went to see the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibition at Tate Modern; one of the reasons for the trip. She had learned about O'Keeffe in art classes and it was my first O'Keeffe exhibition. Seeing many of my favourite paintings close up was a thrilling experience. One of them was Black Cross with Stars and Blue, 1929, which you can spot in my images:
This painting depicts a cross of the Penitente sect of Catholicism, frequently sited within the New Mexico landscape, but viewed here against the outline of Taos Mountain, a sacred site for the local Native American community. The composition thus emphasises O'Keeffe's understanding of the layering of cultural identity on the American landscape. As she described: 'It was in the late light and the cross stood out – dark against the evening sky. If I turned a little to the left, away from the cross, I saw the Taos Mountain – a beautiful shape. I painted the cross against the mountain although I never saw it that way.' (Tate, p. 68)
Another painting was Abstraction White Rose, 1927. I swear I had to stifle a scream when I saw it; my heart was beating faster when I stood in front of it. The exhibition closes at the end of October and I encourage you to see it if you are in London.

Booktober reading list in the making

images by me | Georgia O'Keeffe art via Studio International

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