What Melissa Chadburn is reading this summer:
THEM by Joyce Carol Oates
Because it’s sprawling and epic and takes it’s time and the tone of it all feels like the hottest day I ever had in Shreveport Louisiana, where the bugs gave me blisters and time passed like molasses and sometimes you want books in summer to never end like that –it’s an infinity book
A HUNDRED DEMONS by Lynda Barry (Sasquatch Books, 2005)
Because I can’t believe I haven’t done it yet and because Lynda Barry makes me feel safe to be me and reminds me the why of it all—that it’s fun and life affirming and an act of love.
THE BEAUTIFUL RUINS by Jess Walter (Harper Perennial, 2013)
Because half the time you’ll marvel at the thing, how the hell is he doing this you’ll say with it’s mind bending structure with it’s POV twists and turns, it’s trans genreness. Then other times an honest passage like,
“This is a love story, Michael Deane says. But, really, what isn’t? Doesn’t the detective love the mystery, or the chase, or the nosy female reporter, who is even now being held against her wishes at an empty warehouse on the waterfront? Surely the serial murderer loves his victims, and the spy loves his gadgets or his country or the exotic counterspy. The ice trucker is torn between his love for ice and truck, and the competing chefs go crazy for scallops, and the pawnshop guys adore their junk, just as the Housewives live for catching glimpses of their own Botoxed brows in gilded hall mirrors, and the rocked-out dude on ‘roids totally wants to shred the ass of the tramp-tatted girl on Hookbook, and because this is reality, they are all in love—madly, truly—with the body mic clipped to their back buckle, and the producer casually suggesting just one more angle, one more Jell-O shot. And the robot loves his master, alien loves his saucer, Superman loves Lois, Lex, and Lana, Luke loves Leia (till he finds out she’s his sister), and the exorcist loves the demon even as he leaps out the window with it, in full sorrowful embrace, as Leo loves Kate and they both love the sinking ship, and the shark—God, the shark loves to eat, which is what the mafioso loves, too—eating and money and Paulie and omertia—the way the cowboy loves his horse, loves the corseted girl behind the piano bar, and sometimes loves the other cowboy, as the vampire loves night and neck, and the zombie—don’t even start with the zombie, sentimental fool; has anyone ever been more lovesick than a zombie, that pale, dull metaphor for love, all animal craving and lurching, outstretched arms, his very existence a sonnet about how much he wants those brains? This too is a love story. “
— these passages get you to throw down the microscope and pick up the mirror. Oh it’s me he’s talking to. Me. Me. Me.
AMERICAN DREAM MACHINE by Matthew Specktor (The House Books, 2013)
Yes I am jumping on that band wagon— but it is there for a reason. What a novel. When you think you’re plummeted into the life of a douchey talent agent, when you think I live in L.A. why do I need to read about a douche talent agent? You read on anyways because there’s that place you went to when you were six, there’s that magic that happened when you were twelve. The one character attribute that triggers me most is entitlement. The guy—like Beau Rosenwald that double parks or doesn’t wait his turn or cuts in line. I realize the reason it bums me out is because it breaks my heart a little. It breaks my heart because what that double parker and line cutter is saying is that they are the only one that exists in their world. That they are not a part of humanity. And what American Dream Machine does is dispel that myth. Puts us all on the same team. There are two fictive dreams happening here. The narrative of almost every Angelino and the book— and you’re rooting for them both.
AMERICANAH by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Knopf, 2013)
Because of this and this. There have been a couple of readings that I’ve been lucky enough to attend this year that have buoyed me, left me filled with a giddy acceptance of myself as a woman, a social commentator a writer, a reader. Seeing Chimamanda Adichie in conversation with Faith Adiele was one of them. People might think it absurd that I would feel that discussing hair, the benefits of adding a touch of Shea butter while it was still wet, in the Mark Taper Auditorium is a revolutionary thing, but yes it is—indeed it is. Sometimes these events leave me feeling otherworldly, out of touch, and uneducated. Whereas this event made me feel embraced, self-accepting, and was affirming. Chimamanda sat upright, smiled, and tore the blinders off of taboo subjects whose mere power lay in the fact that they are taboo (race, color, hair, love). She would smile, say something fierce (i.e. I’m much more interested in talking about the history behind the noose the reason for the noose-then just a expressing a blind anger toward the noose), then looked down naughty into her shirt. She used the word dear a lot. Not in a patronizing way. In a way that made me think yes yes call me dear I want to be dear. I like dear. Oh dearie dear dear. Finally this has been referred to as quit possibly the best novel you’ll read all year and I don’t doubt it. Plus it’s a love story. What’s more fun than falling in love in the summer?
Melissa Chadburn’s is a lover and a fighter, a union rep, a social arsonist, a writer, smart, edgy and fun. Her essays and short stories have appeared in Guernica, SLAKE, Salon, The Rumpus and a dozen other places. She’s currently writing, A Tiny Upward Shove, her teenage foster care narrative. Reach her at fictiongrrrl(at) gmail.com or follow her on twitter http://twitter.com/#!/