Friday 31 December 2021

Top 10 books read in 2021

My favourite 10 books (in no particular order) of the 82 books I've read in 2021. 
  1. Elena Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend
  2. Naoise Dolan, Exciting Times
  3. Deborah Levy, Real Estate
  4. Avni Doshi, Burnt Sugar
  5. Banana Yoshimoto, Kitchen
  6. Vivian Gornick, Approaching Eye Level
  7. Caleb Azumah Nelson, Open Water
  8. Ali Smith, Summer
  9. Meiko Kawakami, Heaven
  10. Akwaeke Emezi, The Death of Vivek Oji
*Plus Keliler Roberts, Sunburning as my favourite graphic novel. 

Other memorable books include:
  1. Joshua Cohen, The Netanyahus
  2. Lynne Tillman, Weird Fucks
  3. Aoko Matsuda, Where the Wild Ladies Are
  4. Virginie Despantes, King Kong Theory 
  5. Olivia Laing, Everybody 
  6. Christopher DiRaddo, The Family Way
  7. Rachel Cusk, Second Place
  8. Mizuki Tsujimura, Lonely Castle in the Mirror
  9. Carmen Maria Machado, Her Body and other Parties
  10. Mariana Enriquez, The Dangers of Smoking in Bed 
  11. Douglas Stuart, Shuggie Bain
  12. Elena Savage, Blueberries: Essays Concerning Understanding 

Friday 17 December 2021

Olivia Laing, Everybody

This passage in Olivia Laing's book, Everybody, that describes how Montreal-born, Jewish artist Philip Guston felt about his abstract expressionist painting during the summer of riots following the murder of Martin Luther King Jr struck me as so familiar and so very similar to how I felt when I became disenchanted with academia midway through my PhD. In autumn 2017, during a 6 week research trip in Rochester, New York, I felt extremely conflicted about continuing to write my ongoing thesis on abstract photography questioning the good it would have on the world and what its impact would be beyond close knit and privileged academic circles. 

Since then, and having finished my PhD, I don't feel the same antagonisms towards academia, art history and abstraction (or at least not with the same zeal)—and as it happens, both Guston and Agnes Martin have been favourite artists of mine for some time—but reading this section reminded me of how at odds I felt my political drive and anger to be with my doctoral work. Having some space, and pursuing a career first in the charity sector and later at the Department for Education, I no longer feel this antipathy (which was always complex and multifold, paired with a deep love and admiration) of abstract art and do honestly feel that art remains a powerful political tool.

Monday 29 November 2021

Aoko Matsuda, Where the Wild Ladies Are

Favourites from the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow

Rachel Ruysch, Flowers and Butterflies by a Tree Trunk (1683)

George Henry and EA Hornel, The Druids - Bringing in the Mistletoe (1890)

Edward Baird, Unidentified Aircraft (over Montrose) (1943)

Tuesday 9 November 2021

Virginie Despentes, King Kong Theory

The opening of King Kong Theory really spoke to me, specifically around rejections of femininity (even if subconsciously or incidentally). Incredible book that tackles issues pertaining to (punk) feminism in unconventional, challenging, unapologetic and thought-provoking ways. 

Lots to consider, reconsider and unpack. 

Thursday 28 October 2021

Jane Austen, Persuasion (1817)

Some parts of this novel are so well observed and really capture the experience of being overwhelmed by conflicting and intense emotions and the tensions and energy that builds up between people when they are not forthcoming with how they feel. 

This passage on Captain Benwick 'who had an affectionate heart' and 'must love somebody' is so simple but beautiful captures those warm people who feel compelled to love. 

I loved the below (feminist) discussion on how the lack of a history of women documenting or representing their own realities results in a distorted public option and perception on differences between men and women. The references to education and 'proof' are particularly interesting. 

It is always nice to read a book that takes place where you are reading it. A photo from this past weekend in Lyme Regis: