Posts Tagged ‘Kiley Reid’

The Top 12 List of the Favorite Fiction I Have Read in 2020

 

This being the year of the lockdown, I had time to read a couple of lengthy doorstop novels (‘The Maias’ and ‘Life A User’s Manual’) just like I used to do before I began writing regular blog posts. Also this year I discovered that there was some amazing fiction from the past which I had missed previously.

Click on either the bold-faced title or the cover image to see my original review for each work.

 

The Maias’ By Eça de Queirós (1888) – ‘The Maias’ is a jaunty vastly pleasurable trip in mid-to-late 19th-century Lisbon, Portugal society with some lively quick-witted companions. Readers new to Eça de Queirós can start with the short novella ‘The Yellow Sofa’ to determine if you like his style of writing or not.

 

‘A Burning’ by Megha Majumdar (2020) – ‘A Burning’ is a vivid powerful novel which focuses on one of the major crises in our world today, racial hatred. ‘A Burning’ is a world-changer if enough people read it and take it to their minds and souls.

 

 

 

‘Hamnet’ by Maggie O’Farrell (2020) – A most intense depiction of family life and death in the late 16th century. Imagine an entire novel about William Shakespeare that contains not one line from his plays or his sonnets.

 

 

 

‘Tyll’ by Daniel Kehlmann (2017) – ‘Tyll’ is a sometimes light, sometimes black comedy which entirely suits the Thirty Years War. This novel is fascinating at the sentence level, a real accomplishment for both the author and the translator. Daniel Kehlmann brings a smart playful quality to his fiction that makes his writing well nigh irresistible.

 

Missionaries’ by Phil Klay (2020) – ‘Missionaries’ is a novel about the United States’ never-ending, misbegotten wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Colombia, and now Yemen. It is most focused on the drug wars in Colombia. ‘Missionaries’ opened my eyes to what is really happening in this world. It is a novel that will change your entire worldview.

 

‘Woe From Wit’ by Alexander Griboedov (1823) – From the very first words in the prologue of this verse play in four acts you can tell that it is going to be sharp and special:

Fate’s a mischief making tease,

That’s her character in brief,

a fool is blissfully at his ease,

a man of spirit comes to grief.

 

‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ by Gail Honeyman (2017) – Someone could argue that the story in ‘Eleanor Oliphant’ is not very sophisticated. I do not see sophistication as a necessary or even desirable attribute of literature. Rather I see stating situations as simply and clearly as possible as one of the hallmarks of good literature, and that ‘Eleanor Oliphant’ does. Eleanor Oliphant’ is a poignant and affecting story.

 

‘Hurricane Season’ by Fernanda Melchor (2016) – ‘Hurricane Season’ is not for the squeamish or easily offended. The characters in this novel tell the truth about some very rough things. They are angry and the words they use are coarse and direct. Read ‘Hurricane Season’ if you are brave and honest enough to take it.

 

 

Other People’s Love Affairs’ by D. Wystan Owen (2018) – These eloquent stories go deeper into the circumstances and the psyches of their main characters than most stories do. People in them almost connect but not quite. This is a collection of short stories which will move you if you are willing to be moved.

 

‘Such a Fun Age’ by Kiley Reid (2020) – ‘Such a Fun Age’ is a novel with a light touch that captures the dialogue of people socializing, whether it be a group at a party or dinner or just two people alone. Rather than an individual character contemplating a problem or situation, we get the interplay of many voices. What this novel really excels in are exchanges between groups of young women, whether young mothers or young single women. Kiley Reid’s enthusiasm for her story rubs off on the reader.

 

Indelicacy’ by Amina Cain (2020) – ‘Indelicacy’ is a powerful novella about creativity. Can a woman who cleans toilets and mops floors for a living have strong ambitions to be a writer? ‘Indelicacy’ answers that question with a resounding “Yes”. ‘Indelicacy’ is a novel about the struggle to create. One gets the impression that Amina Cain carefully chose each precise word in this unusual novella ‘Indelicacy’. It is a work that captures you on a visceral level rather than an intellectual level, which is always a good thing.

 

‘Life A User’s Manual’ by Georges Perec (1978) – I just cannot leave this novel off my year’s best list even though at times I loathed, loathed it and at other times I loved, loved it.

 

 

 

 

 

Also this year I read two excellent works of non-fiction – ‘The Splendid and the Vile’ by Erik Larson and ‘Chronicles: Volume One’ by Bob Dylan.

 

 

 

 

My favorite collection of poems in 2020 is ‘Failing Heaven’ by Charles Behlen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Such a Fun Age’ by Kiley Reid – Emira and Her Friends and Little Blair

 

Such a Fun Age’ by Kiley Reid (2020) – 320 pages

‘Such a Fun Age’ has a light touch. During the onrush of situations, there is no time for preaching or pontificating. The story just moves on to the next predicament. This gives the novel a speedy feel.

Plus this author’s enthusiasm for her own story rubs off on the reader.

Going along with the lightness is a delight with dialogue. One of the main strengths of ‘Such a Fun Age’ is capturing the talk of people socializing, whether it be a group at a party or dinner or just two people alone. Rather than an individual character contemplating a problem or situation, we get the interplay of many voices. When an attitude or a view is expressed in a conversation, it is just one of several attitudes.

What this novel really excels in are exchanges between groups of young women, whether young mothers or young single women.

This novel tackles persistent racial issues which are not normally confronted in novels. Our views about white people and non-white people go much deeper than we think. Even when we try to treat everyone the same, there is so much hidden subconscious stuff that keeps us from doing so. Our attitudes are so deeply embedded in us that we might believe we are doing good when it is obvious to others we are not. Each of us, including myself, has to carefully examine his or her own attitudes and behavior.

I don’t need you to be mad that it happened. I need you to be mad that it just like… happens.”

Another outstanding feature of ‘Such a Fun Age’ is its original unique plot. It all starts with our young woman Emira leaving her friends’ party to take the three-year-old girl Blair whom she is babysitting to the corner Market Depot store at the request of the girl’s well-to-do parents. At the store they are stopped by a security guard who confronts Emira and accuses her of kidnapping the little girl. A white man films the whole incident, and Blair’s mother thinks Emira should publicize the video. Emira doesn’t want that at all.

But more than the racial bias, the night at Market Depot came back to her with a nauseating surge and a resounding declaration that hissed, You don’t have a real job. This wouldn’t have happened if you had a real fucking job, Emira told herself on the train ride home, her legs and arms crossed on top of each other. You wouldn’t leave a party to babysit. You’d have your own health insurance. You wouldn’t be paid in cash. You’d be a real fucking person.”

Babysitting is not a real job for Emira because she doesn’t get health insurance, a major issue for many people. She has a special relationship with the little girl Blair, but Emira sees her friends progressing in their careers, and she knows she can no longer stay on her parents’ health insurance when she turns 26 which will be soon.

But as I said before ‘Such A Fun Age’ has a light touch. The interplay between Emira and Blair is one of this novel’s many pleasures, and Emira and her friends are a fun group to hang around with.

 

Grade:    A

 

 

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