Month: December 2020

Just Write…

Posted December 10, 2020 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in My Essays / 4 Comments

Why is it that my brain is most active when I’m trying to sleep? This is frustrating, currently at 1am my brain is contemplating my writing style. Granted, a few essays by Alejandro Zambra before bed have not helped. There is something mesmerising about the way Zambra writes. I do not speak Spanish, so I rely on Megan McDowell to provide the English translation. The book is called Not To Read and it is a collection of essays on literature. The book reminds me that I want to be better at writing essays, and this is what is keeping me awake.

I have contemplated this thought many times throughout my history of blogging and I have a sense of what my writing goals are, I just never feel like I will ever achieve them. Are there people out there that are happy with their writing abilities? And how do I achieve that level of narcissism? I adore the way Alejandro Zambra writes, there is this level of familiarity in his words that makes me feel like he is just having a conversation with me about a book. This skill is something I have strived for in my own writing, and he makes it look so easy. I may have said something similar when reading Ex-Libris by Anne Fadiman, which makes me aware that literary essays is the type of writing I want to work towards.

I tend to write reviews on this blog, and I am aware that I need to continue this practice. Not for anyone, I just find that they are useful for me when reminiscing on a particular book. I briefly mentioned on my review of Crime and Punishment the value of a written review. This was a reread for me and I was able to look at my old review and see just how different my thoughts really were on the book. It was insightful to see just how much my thoughts on the book, and my writing style have changed over the past seven years. Then there are those times I want to talk about a book I have read in the past but have no review, and I struggle to recall my thoughts. So here I am with a desire to write more essays but also fully aware that I need to continue writing reviews.

Is there an easy solution? Obviously, I have to push myself to write more. Continue the reviews but also make time to write essays and develop that skill. When thinking about this blog, I tend to be of the mind that this is just a location to store all my writing. It is a way to reflect and physically view my journey as both a writer and as a reader. Having a public facing site motivates me to continue and while I tend not to write for other people, feedback does seem to be a powerful motivator. I guess I am a narcissist, but also, I know my writing journey is far from complete. I will probably continue to struggle with my writing skills and complain about this very topic in the future, it is all part of the journey. I do believe I am a non-fiction writer and I want to work on improving those skills. I have been flipping through The Complete Review Guide of Contemporary World Literature by M.A. Orthofer and wondering what my version of this book would look like. Then I pick up Not To Read for another essay or two and wish I was writing more essays. My mind wants to take on too many projects.

Generation Loss by Elizabeth Hand

Posted December 7, 2020 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime / 0 Comments

Generation Loss by Elizabeth HandTitle: Generation Loss (Goodreads)
Author: Elizabeth Hand
Published: Small Beer Press, 2007
Pages: 265
Genres: Crime
My Copy: Audiobook

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindleWordery (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Most people know that I am very particular when it comes to crime novels. I tend to be drawn to the gritty, pulp novels of the 1930s. I honestly could not tell you what works for me and what would not. Taste is a weird measuring tool; it is constantly changing and there are aspects that even the reader is unaware of, for example, I recently read Generation Loss by Elizabeth Hand and there is so much I liked about this novel, yet there is something that did not work for me. I am reviewing the book in the hopes to fully understand my feelings here.

Cass Neary is the protagonist of what appears to be a series of currently five books. She had moderate success as a photographer in the 1970s, in which she was involved in the burgeoning punk movement and has a weird fascination with death photography. Thirty years, later she is a struggling freelance photographer that is running out of luck and work. An acquaintance of hers gives her a job to interview a famously reclusive photographer who lives on an island in Maine. Cass Neary has the style and attitude I tend to like in a protagonist of a crime novel but still there is a part of me that wants more. It could be the fact that we rarely get a female protagonist in literature and I really want to see the struggles that she faces along the way.

This is not to say that Cass Neary has an easy journey, she faces many obstacles with Generation Loss, but I feel I wanted more. The whole struggling artist and living in the world as a woman, there is so much angst and anger that could really come alive in this novel. I do not think Elizabeth Hand did a bad job, I think she delivered a great book, I am just thirsty for more. I will read the second book Available Dark, and I am curious to see where Cass Neary’s journey will take her. I am just realising that I want very different things from a female protagonist to a male. I know this is wrong, but I want a bitter cynical male, but I want female detectives to struggle with the everyday sexism as well. The world is unjust, and I think there is a lot of interesting layers that can be added.

I have really enjoyed the Michael Connelly books that feature Renee Ballard because there is an exploration into the sexism of the police force. It is not that I want sexism to exist, I just feel like this is an aspect that should not be ignored in these books. I think these female investigators have a legitimate reason to be bitter and cynical with the world, and it want to explore that journey. I want to read more crime novels that feature an angry, feisty woman, and let us be honest, I would rather it be written by a woman, men do not have to ability to really understand just how sexist the world really is.

I really wanted to talk about Generation Loss, but I did not know how to write a review for a crime novel without going into the plot. This turned into an exercise to unpack my own feelings towards the genre and my own reading tastes. I am very aware of my own biases here, I just think in an unjust world, it is important to explore those injustices. Also, I just like a bitter and cynical character, and I do not want them always to be men, because women have more to be angry about. If you have any recommendations, please let me know.