August Reading

Here is the complete list of (two) books I read in August:

Jack Thorne, J.K. Rowling and John Tiffany, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: I don’t like sweeping statements, but broadly, might one say that the reactions to this script are divided along the lines of those who read fanfiction and those who do not? I’ve been somewhat bewildered by some of the glowing reviews talking about the authors’ excitement at being in this world again, because to me it seemed like clunky fanfic written by someone who, had they read any fanfic, would have learnt to avoid several of the pitfalls into which this text falls. Some of the jokes are good though.

Roshni Chokshi, The Star-Touched Queen: YA fantasy/fairytale based on various scraps of Hindu myth, and featuring Yama quite prominently. I’m ambivalent on this one for various reasons–I think as a work of mythic fiction it manages to tap into a lot of things and be sweeping and interesting, and I’ve been mildly annoyed at reviews that I’ve read failing to engage with its intertexts–not just the Hindu ones (surely to be expected, with mainstream SFF fandom). But I’d like to see more thinking around how this works as a Hindu fantasy, how its fantasy world works as a Hindu country, what one is to do with any of that. Much about this setting makes me suspicious–a conveniently Hindu-myth-ised world which has none of India’s messy pluralism or caste or race politics is uncomfortably close to the history our current political rulers keep trying to sell us. And Chokshi’s writing and I do not get along–this is the sort of book where things are never red or black, but are vermilion or obsidian, and I’m far too prosaic to tolerate that sort of thing patiently. Having said which, the second part of the book, which has Maya bereft, wandering, and trying to remember who she is feels to me to draw on both sets of traditions brilliantly–the iconography of the ascetic, but we’re also in the middle of a version of the black bull of norroway.

I’ve also been rereading Simon Gikandi’s Maps of Englishness (the section on Enoch Powell feels even more current than I’d remembered it being) and Jacquetta Hawkes’s A Land, and spent a couple of days this week in Trinity College Dublin in the manuscripts and archives section, where I read as much of the Michael de Larrabeiti archive as a person can in that short a time, and am therefore rereading the Borrible trilogy (also more current than I’d remembered). I had to re-skim various bits of The Explorers Guild to write this review, and I may have spent some evenings rereading Nicholas Blake.

Meanwhile, N.K. Jemisin’s The Obelisk Gate, Carmen Boullosa’s Before and Alex Wheatle’s two Crongton books have arrived on my Device, and I’m looking forward to all of them.

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