All Booked: Sally Rooney, Italian Lit, and Smutty Fairies
The Great Millennial on Love and Sex in Late-Stage Capitalism
After I finished reading Beautiful World, Where Are You by The Great Millennial, Sally Rooney, I was lying on my side in bed with my phone on and the lights off. My thumb was hovering between four and five stars on my Goodreads account. In a few words, the book is an examination of the meaning of love and sex in the age of late-stage capitalism or, as one of the protagonists Eileen puts it, General Systems Collapse.
Published in early September, BWWAY has, to put it lightly, experienced a lot of hype. I’m a fan of Rooney — a big fan, really. Her writing lands for me. I know it doesn’t land for everyone and some people find the lack of quotation marks distracting. I find, however, that I can easily follow when and who is talking without them, which is especially notable because her books are so dialogue-heavy. Beautiful World, Where Are You feels prescient, real, honest, and weirdly sexy. But, of course, it was damningly pretentious and highly detailed in that way Rooney pulls off with such grace.
Anyway, back to my bed and my rating conundrum. I realized at some point that giving stars to books is ridiculous. It really doesn’t matter, and that is essentially what this book is about: In the end, all that matters is the people you love, no matter how trivial or trite that may sound. And, seriously, who cares what I thought about an outrageously popular book when it just rained at the summit of Greenland for the first time ever?!
If you’re curious, I gave it five stars, but in the morning, I changed it to four.
I binge-read it in two days.
Honestly, I loved it.
Maybe I’ll change that rating back to five stars.
More Reading Ruminations
Onward with my International Reading Project! I finished four books about Iraq in two months (which I previously discussed here). I had known very little about the history of the area we now call Iraq, and I found that the different perspectives shed light on how Western occupation of the country has impacted the destabilization of the region as a whole. I was particularly moved by The Watermelon Boys by Ruqaya Izzidien, which, although not a perfect novel, I’ll write more about in a future newsletter.
I had originally aimed to read a new country each month, but that was pure hubris. Now that I am officially reading at a more reasonable pace, it’s time to get to reading about the scrumptious country of Italy! Because, as that one guy on Stanley Tucci’s travel series Searching for Italy says: “If you don’t believe in God, you believe in tortellini.” Amen.
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Here’s my reading road map of The Boot:
Whereabouts and In Other Words, written and translated by Jhumpa Lahiri: In 2015, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Jhumpa Lahiri published In Other Words, a memoir about her love affair with the Italian language, which she had been attempting to master for decades. In 2012, she moved to Rome with her family and put her soul into mastering the language. The result is a reflection on translation and the beauty of language. We watch a worldwide-renowned author struggle and stress and learn in her own words, but also because of words. Whereabouts is Lahiri’s 2021 book written in Italian and translated back into English by the author. It is a thin novel about “everything and nothing” as a woman questions her place in the world. Seriously, is there anything Lahiri can’t do?
The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante, translated by Ann Goldstein: I’ve read Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels, but a literary trip to Italy wouldn’t be complete without her, so I opted for her 2002 novel about a woman falling into despair after being left by her husband to care for their two children and dog alone. A gripping and intense story that swims inside the soul of a woman who is trapped and abandoned and empty.
Timeskipper by Stefano Benni, translated by Antony Shugaar: A magical coming-of-age story about a kid growing up in a rural Italian village. On his way to school one day, Luperto encounters a strange being who gives him the ability to see into the future, and thus Luperto is renamed Timeskipper. We follow Timeskipper as he watches his village become taken over by factories and industry through the 1960s and ’70s. Benni’s language is playful, and the translation must have been a true challenge! I’m about a quarter of the way through this one; some of the verbiage is outdated, but overall, it’s entertaining.
Bonus recommendation for the non-squeamish: The Piranhas: The Boy Bosses of Naples by Roberto Saviano, translated by Antony Shugaar. Roberto Saviano is well-known in Italy for his nonfiction work Gomorrah. It is a heavily researched book that uncovers the international organized crime ring in Naples. Allegedly, some believe Saviano to be a national hero; others, obviously, want him dead. The Piranhas is a novel based on his knowledge of organized crime. I picked this one up because I love a good mob movie. I tried to read it but did not get past a very graphic scene in the first chapter. A dear friend of mine liked it a lot, though. You might enjoy it; who knows!
The next country I plan to read about is Chile. Send your recommendations for Chilean authors my way, please.
Circling back to that whole General Systems Collapse thing, is it getting you down too?
Boy, have I got an escape for you! The A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas. (Or, as my housemate and I call it: A Court of Delights.) This smutty fairy romance series is ridiculous and flawed and binge-worthy. The first three and a half books in the series are available for free on audio from Hoopla and the Santa Barbara Public Library. The first isn’t the best, but you need it to get to all the joy of the second and third books. Installment 3.5? Skip it. And the fourth, A Court of Silver Flames? I haven’t read it yet, but I heard that it’s a very spicy book following Nesta and Cassian, so it’s on the top of my list.
(Although, to be honest, I’m more of a Shadowsinger gal myself.)
If you are a local author, host book events in the Santa Barbara area, or have any other fun bookish tips for us, please send your recommendations for consideration to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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