WWW Wednesday #1 | January 15, 2020

I’ve been seeing this meme going around and it looked fun, so I decided to write up a post for it. 🙂

www wednesdays

WWW Wednesday is a book meme originally hosted by A Daily Rhythm and revived by Taking on a World of Words. It asks the following questions:

  1. What are you currently reading?
  2. What did you finish recently reading?
  3. What do you think you’ll read next?

I’ll get right to it.


What are you currently reading?

Gigi and the Cat

Gigi and The Cat by Colette (Published by Vintage in 2001; first published 1944)

Blurb from Goodreads: Gigi is being educated in the skills of the Courtesan: to choose cigars, to eat lobster, to enter a world where a woman’s chief weapon is her body. However, when it comes to the question of Gaston Lachaille, very rich, and very bored, Gigi does not want to obey the rules.

In ‘The Cat’, a story of burgeoning sexuality and blossoming love, an exquisite strong-minded Russian Blue is struggling for mastery of Alain with his seductive fiancĂ©e, Camille.

Colette’s books have been on my TBR for ages. My interest in her books stemmed primarily from my interest in the kind of life she lived – she was an author, actress, openly bisexual, and unabashed in her writing about women and sex – but, also, I am just utterly enamoured by her name. I mean, if I had the name Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, I’d probably want to publish left and right just for the sheer pleasure of seeing it. Anyway, Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, or just Colette, was a French author and actress who was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948. Her contemporaries were the likes of Andre Gide and Marcel Proust, and her fiction is similar to theirs in that she draws from her own life to write her fiction.

Gigi is one of the two novellas in this edition of the book. I chose Gigi because it’s her shortest and most famous work, so I figured it might be a good introduction to her oeuvre. Good thing, because I thoroughly enjoyed this novella – it was fast-paced, funny, and written almost entirely in dialogue. One thing I liked about it was that it’s similar to Jane Austen’s works about the importance of rules of conduct, but the rules that Gigi’s aunts strictly insist on her following those for becoming a courtesan. The way it was written, there seemed to be little difference in Gigi’s upbringing as a “proper lady” and as a courtesan, with the way her aunts are so stiff-necked about the rules – how she sits, walks, eats, and so on. I liked that Colette wrote about it so naturally, too – as if being a courtesan were an acceptable profession for a young woman. Despite its levity, there’s a lot to unpack about Gigi – its views on women, marriage, and their ownership of their bodies – and I might need some time to think on it before writing a full review.

The Cat is the second novella in this edition, about the love triangle between a man, his fiancĂ©e, and his cat. If that’s not a recipe for comedy, I don’t know what is. Also, as a cat person, I love reading books that have cats in it – The Guest Cat, The Travelling Cat Chronicles, most of Murakami’s works – so I was delighted to pick this up just because word “cat” is in the title. I’ve just begun it, but so far, Saha (the titular cat) is already my favorite character. Also, compared to Gigi, Colette’s skill with language is on full display in The Cat. Her prose flows so well and is such a pleasure to read (even translated). This looks like it’s shaping up to be a great read so far.


What did you finish reading recently?

Appetites

Appetites: Why Women Want by Caroline Knapp (Published by Counterpoint LLC in 2004; first published 2003)

This was a very emotional read for me. This book is the author’s way of grappling with the question of how women’s bodies, desires, and selves are shaped by the demands of culture, power, and patriarchy. Using her own history with anorexia, woven together with other women’s stories of struggling with similar compulsions of eating, shopping, and cutting, Knapp illuminates the complicated relationship between the freedom women were promised by feminism and the ways that we are still imprisoned by society and by our own bodies.

This gave me a lot to think about, both in my personal life and about what’s still happening in our world today, so I might reread sections of it for my review. I had to step away from the book for awhile after reading it just to quietly absorb everything and to settle my emotions, since I felt very angry at the fact that women continue to feel small and worthless and undeserving, and I felt angry at myself, in extension, for my constant self-doubt and for confining my own ambitions because of my fear. At the same time, the book ended on a hopeful note, with sketches of how women can eventually come to embrace all their appetites. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone.


What do you think you’ll read next?

Disappearing Earth

Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips (Published by Knopf in 2019)

Blurb from Goodreads: One August afternoon, on the shoreline of the north-eastern edge of Russia, two sisters are abducted. In the ensuing weeks, then months, the police investigation turns up nothing. Echoes of the disappearance reverberate across a tightly woven community, with the fear and loss felt most deeply among its women.

Set on the remote Siberian peninsula of Kamchatka, Disappearing Earth draws us into the world of an astonishing cast of characters, all connected by an unfathomable crime. We are transported to vistas of rugged beauty – densely wooded forests, open expanses of tundra, soaring volcanoes and the glassy seas that border Japan and Alaska – and into a region as complex as it is alluring, where social and ethnic tensions have long simmered, and where outsiders are often the first to be accused.

In a story as propulsive as it is emotionally engaging, and through a young writer’s virtuosic feat of empathy and imagination, this powerful novel provides a new understanding of the intricate bonds of family and community, in a Russia unlike any we have seen before.

I’ve been listening to the NYT Books Podcast during my runs lately and this was on their 10 Best Books of 2019 list. Disappearing Earth is the most interesting one to me on that list, though, because – well, there’s crime and mystery and a tight-knit community and women telling stories – what’s not to love? I’m really excited about starting this one.


What about you? Have you read any of the books or are they on your TBR? Tell me what you think!

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