Rememberings – Sinéad O’Connor
After O’Connor’s death, there were many references to her autobiography, most of which came with the comment that it was a fantastic read.
Those recommendations were right on.
This is one of the best musician autobiographies I’ve ever read. It’s frank, funny, and frightening although also incomplete. O’Connor admits that a long stretch of her life after that tumultuous period in 1990–91 is lost to her. Which is a shame, because she is often shockingly honest about other parts of her life, and it would have been fascinating to read how she dealt with the years when much of the western world thought she was the embodiment of evil. Alas, I can understand why she was either unable or unwilling to dive deeply into those years.
Much of the book is laugh-out-loud funny, though. Especially when she writes as she talks. For example, she made no secret that she enjoyed having sex with a variety of men over the years. She wrote that people thought she was a “hooer” because of her number of relationships. Every time she used that word, she spelled it that way. It made me laugh every time.
She also mentioned that there was a man she was in love with because he was so beautiful and kind, but that he was “…as gay as Christmas” and nothing ever happened. I laughed for awhile after that line.
That humor balances out the truly terrible moments in her life, which she writes about just as openly as the funny moments. It is truly a shame the world turned its back on Sinéad, and not just because we lost having her voice be part of popular music.
Crook Manifesto – Colson Whitehead
The follow-up to Whitehead’s excellent Harlem Shuffle, it again follows Harlem furniture salesman Ray Carney. He has gone legit, turning his back on the fencing career that supplemented his regular income as he climbed into the middle class of Black New York. When his daughter begs him for tickets to see the Jackson 5 at Madison Square Garden in 1971, he calls up his old police contact, knowing he’ll have a line on admission to the sold-out show. That call soon has Carney chin-deep in the crooked world again.
The book follows a similar path to Harlem Shuffle, just updated for era and with a few more twists. What makes it great is Whitehead’s writing. There aren’t many better crafters of fiction around these days. His words constantly delight. There are so many sly little turns of phrase that I missed at first glance, then had to back up and re-read when they struck me moments later. A fine story written with amazing skill.
The Guest – Emma Cline
From my casual scanning of the web, people either love or hate this book. And I totally get why it pushes people either way.
Alex is an escort who has turned a New York City client into a summer-long relationship. Through a series of dumb choices on her part, he kicks her out of his beach home the week before Labor Day. All she has is a bag of clothes he bought her – even the bag was a gift – a few hundred dollars in her account, a glitchy phone, and a train ticket back to the city. A place she does not want to return to lest the guy she stole drugs and money from earlier in the year find her and exact his revenge.
She believes if she can just survive the week, she can show up at her former lover’s Labor Day party, all will be forgiven, and she can get settle back into the comfortable existence she had been enjoying.
Naturally that week goes off the rails quickly and often.
The split regarding this book is all about how people feel about Alex. Some view her as a survivor, a woman who ended up on a difficult path and is forced to reckon with a world that is hostile to her. Others view her as a grifter who uses people in endless ways to get what she wants no matter how much wreckage she leaves in her wake.
I did not like Alex at all. I think she is selfish and cruel. But I was also all-in on her journey. Not that I wanted her to find happiness or tranquility necessarily. I wanted to see how bad her predicament got along the way and how the story would eventually resolve. While I viewed Alex as an awful person, I did admire her instinct for self preservation, even if her choices led to even bigger problems down the road. In a better person that could be an amazing gift. In Alex it just made for an engaging novel that I couldn’t put down.