Format: Audiobook

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

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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.


Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica

Posted October 13, 2020 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Dystopia / 2 Comments

Tender is the Flesh by Agustina BazterricaTitle: Tender is the Flesh (Goodreads)
Author: Agustina Bazterrica
Translator: Sarah Moses
Published: Pushkin Press, 2017
Pages: 224
Genres: Dystopia
My Copy: Audiobook

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Tender is the Flesh was released at the perfect time, with the current global pandemic, a novel about a virus that changes the way we look at the world. Agustina Bazterrica’s novel primarily follows Marcos, who works in a slaughterhouse producing ‘special meat’. When the virus hit, all animals were infected andtheir meat became poisonous. The government had to make some changes to the law, now it was legal to buy ‘special meat’ – human meat.

This is a weird dystopian novel that has one very basic message that really sticks in your brain. The concept of giving up meat is so ridiculous that the country starts producing humans that will be used as meat. These are not people; they are cattle and are treated in that way. The concept of giving up meat and turning vegan is too preposterous for the country. Cannibalism becomes the norm.

The idea behind the novel seems to be focusing on just how cruel humans are, going to great detail to explain the process used to prepare meat at a slaughterhouse and the treatment of animals (in this case humans). Tender is the Flesh takes it a step further, with the retirement homes advertising the security they offer for your elderly relatives to protect them from being slaughtered and eaten. The world population drastically declines, and people have lost the ability to be caring or loving to others around them.

That is the entire premise, Tender is the Flesh takes a simple idea and plays out the situation. The way people turn on each other, the way people change their views on society and the ridiculous notion of becoming vegan. This is a dark comedy set in a dystopian world and executed with perfection. I cannot say that this converted me to becoming a vegan, but I think I honestly need to make more of an effort. An ugly look at our consumeristic culture and here I am, still wrestling with the idea of protecting the animals…I hate myself, but I think this novel achieved its goals.


The Yield by Tara June Winch

Posted October 9, 2020 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction / 6 Comments

The Yield by Tara June WinchTitle: The Yield (Goodreads)
Author: Tara June Winch
Published: Penguin Random House, 2019
Pages: 343
Genres: Historical Fiction
My Copy: Audiobook

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While my interest in reading sides more with translated literature, I still read books from local authors. This is mainly as a result of my in-real-life book club that I attend, although I this year has seen more American crime novels sneak into my reading life than the norm. This is the reason I recently read Tara June Winch’s latest novel The Yield. The novel tells a story from three different perspectives and  how choices made multiple generations ago still effect people now.

I am unsure if I am out of practice, or just not sure what to say, but I having a hard time trying to put all my thoughts on this book down on paper. Basically, The Yield tells the story of August Gondiwindi who has returned home for her grandfather’s funeral. Knowing he was about to die, he had written down the experiences he had living near the Murrumby River at Prosperous House, on Massacre Plains and a dictionary he was constructing of Wiradjuri words. The third narrative is letters from a German Lutheran missionary, Reverend Greenleaf talking about the early years of the settlers.

These three narratives tell the story of the lasting effects of colonialism, the intergenerational trauma and how it effects the people and the land. I find it had to talk about this novel, but I think this is an important novel to read, especially for white Australia. The narrative from Reverend Greenleaf stood out, due to the way he tried to help the true owners of the land and protect them from greedy white settlers but not every choice he made felt right. He came across as a white saviour, because he was imposing his own values on these people. When World War I hit, he was met with his own hostility from white settlers as a German.

August’s story is the primary plot, and it is interesting that she plays the role of an outsider, someone that has moved away. Tara June Winch is based in France, so the narrative of August feels like it might be autobiographical in the way she might feel, I do not know her story, but I get the sense based on this novel, she might be treated as an outsider for being an Aboriginal to the white people, but treated as an outsider to her country for leaving. This is how I feel August’s narrative works, she still sees herself as part of her community and tries to help but there are people that do not trust her and treat her like an outsider.

Within the August narrative, the area of Massacre Plains is under threat from a mining company that wants to dig up their land for tin. A very relevant topic for Australia, since Rio Tinto has recently demolished a 46,000-year-old Aboriginal site, and they are not the sole culprits. It is said mining giants BHP Billiton have destroyed at least 40 significant Aboriginal sites in the past year. The mining industry in Australia is big business but the cultural damage they are doing to the different Aboriginal lands is beyond reproach.

Essentially The Yield is a novel about the psychological and cultural damage facing the different Aboriginal communities around Australia. You get to see the effects of colonialism, and the damage that is done to these people, plus the current degradation being done by the Australian government and the mining companies that pay those politicians. However, in the midst of all that, Tara June Winch has crafted a stunning novel that is funnier than I expected based on the subject matter. The Yield has been a big success in the Australian literary scene, it even won the 2020 Miles Franklin Literary Award, which is Australia’s highest literary award. The novel is showing up around the world and I hope it has just as much a success there; this really is a great book.


Love by Hanne Ørstavik

Posted October 11, 2018 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction / 0 Comments

Love by Hanne ØrstavikTitle: Love (Goodreads)
Author: Hanne Ørstavik
Translator: Martin Aitken
Published: Archipelago Books, 2018
Pages: 180
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Audiobook

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Shortlisted for the National Book Award for Translated Literature 2018

There is something hypnotic about Love by Hanne Ørstavik that has really stayed with me. Set over a cold night in Norway the novel follows Vibeke and Jon, a mother and son living in a small town. It is the night before Jon’s birthday and we follow them throughout the night. They may be a family but they are on separate journeys.

What really drew me to this book is the uneasy feeling I constantly had around these two different characters. They lived together but they felt separated. There was a tension in the air the entire time and I was never sure if I should trust any characters in the novel. This tension is what made Hanne Ørstavik’s Love a compelling read. The mother/son relationship is not what you expect and feels odd but that is what is driving the novel.

“The sound of the car. When he’s waiting he can never quite recall it. I’ve forgotten, he tells himself. But then it comes back to him, often in pauses between the waiting, after he’s stopped thinking about it. And then she comes, and he recognizes the sound in an instant; he hears it with his tummy, it’s my tummy that remembers the sound, not me, he thinks to himself. And no sooner has he heard the car than he sees it too, from the corner of the window, her blue car coming round the bend behind the banks of snow, and she turns in at the house and drives up the little slope to the front door.”

It is rare to read a novel where the mundane feels so thrilling. Love is a novel of the everyday life but written almost in a way a thriller would be written. The shifting narrative helps keep the two connected while the plot is showing the disconnection between the two. It really was a brilliant way to have two characters remain connected and disconnected at the same time.

The emotional tension Hanne Ørstavik created in Love is what makes this a standout read. Martin Aitken was able to provide a brilliant translation from the Norwegian and I can see myself dipping into this one again and again. I have not been able to stop thinking about this one and I feel like the way Ørstavik was able to manipulate the reader, but in a good way. It her ability to make the everyday feel eerie, mixed with her masterful storytelling. It is hard to keep that tension at the best of times but Love makes it look easy.


Purge by Sofi Oksanen

Posted September 26, 2018 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction, Thriller / 2 Comments

Purge by Sofi OksanenTitle: Purge (Goodreads)
Author: Sofi Oksanen
Translator: Lola Rogers
Published: Grove Press, 2008
Pages: 390
Genres: Literary Fiction, Thriller
My Copy: Audiobook

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I love a good literary thriller but I rarely find one that really impresses me. There is something about taking genre fiction and using it to explore social issues. If done right it provides us with a fast paced narrative full of thrills but will also leave the reader with plenty to think about. A recent example that comes to my mind is The 7th Function of Language by Laurent Binet. Then there is Purge. The 7th Function of Language was able to blend literary theory in a fast paced plot, while Purge takes more an approach to explore the complex social and political issues facing Estonia after the Soviet collapse.

Aliide Truu is an elderly woman living in the Estonian countryside which keeps her isolated from the outside world and all the tragic events happening around her. One day she discovers another woman looking into her kitchen window, who turns out to be Zara, the granddaughter of her sister Ingel. Zara is on the run from the Russian mafia, after they forced her into the sex trade. Purge is an unflinching novel that explores the obstacles women face in this rapidly changing society.

“Those who poke around in the past will get a stick in the eye.”

Both women have their past and secrets which they rather not discuss. For Aliide, an escape from the current political issues felt like only answer. A feeling that feels all too familiar with the current state of the world. However what we truly know about Aliide is still surrounded in mystery. It is rather Zara’s life that is the major focus, exploring the corruption and the sickening world of human trafficking. All of which feels like a direct result of that power vacuum in the country.

“She found it hard to believe that there would be any bold moves, because too many people had dirty flour in their bags, and people with filthy fingers are hardly enthusiastic about digging up the past.”

Setting the novel in 1992 allows the reader to explore an Estonia that was going through many recent political changes. In the late 1980s Estonia saw many political arrests for crimes against humanity. This brought great resistance against the Russification of Estonia, especially with the collapsing Soviet Union, which lead to their eventual independence in 1991. The country’s social and political values were changing, for better or for worse, this lead to the emerging Russian mafia.

The bleak exploration into Estonian life from the perspective of two women with different pasts tends to remind me of the Soviet novels I have read in the past. Novels that look at both political and social issues that a country faces. For Sofi Oksanen, it allowed her to focus on the hardships facing women of the country as well.  The style and fast paced narrative of Purge reminds me specifically of the ‎Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn novel In the First Circle. Both exploring the effects of the Soviet era on the people within the narratives. In the First Circle focuses on life during the Soviet era while Purge is looking more at the after effects.

I have read Sofi Oksanen before and found her to be very bleak. The novel When the Doves Disappeared just felt dense and I found myself struggling to get through it. It is a novel I would love to dip into again at some point, but I think Purge offered me much more. With Purge, I have a new found appreciation for Sofi Oksanen and the novel motivates me to read more from her. Purge is a novel I highly recommend, but be warned, Baltic literature tends to be very bleak.


The Door by Magda Szabó

Posted August 28, 2018 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Classic / 2 Comments

The Door by Magda SzabóTitle: The Door (Goodreads)
Author: Magda Szabó
Translator: Len Rix
Published: NYRB Classics, 1987
Pages: 262
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Audiobook

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Magda Szabó is one of those authors I have wanted to read for a very long time; her novel The Door seemed like the perfect place to start. This Hungarian modern classic explores the relationship between two very different women. Our narrator Magda is a writer and intellectual who is constantly in and out of favour with the government, while Emerence is her strong and opinionated house keeper. The novel starts with Magda waking up from a dream to face a haunting fact, that she killed Emerence.

The first thing that sticks out to me in this novel is the relationship between Magda and Emerence. I am drawn to the raw approach Magda Szabó took to explore this relationship. There are times where there was heat and toxicity between the two but then there were other times of affection and love. It is rare to read a relationship written so well. I often feel like the nuances of a relationship are never explored to any satisfactory level. In The Door we get to experience the ups and downs of this relationship. There are many times I felt frustrated by their actions but that ends up just being their different personalities butting heads.

Throughout the novel, a door is used as a metaphor to give the reader a more in depth look at these two characters. At times the door is a symbol of secretiveness, especially when it comes to Emerence. However there are times that it is used to symbolise the current state of their friendship. Whether they were actively distancing themselves from each other or they were close enough to share in a secret. The effect of the door becomes an important symbol of understanding Emerence. The fact that she would greet her guests outside and never let them inside shows just how close the two have become when she lets Magda inside.

Set between 1960 and 1980 in Hungary, it is important to know that this was when the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party was in control. If you explore this relationship of Magda and Emerence under a Marxist lens you will see where I am going here. We have Magda representing the intelligentsia and Emerence is a symbol of the working class. The idea behind the Bolshevik Revolution was to make sure people were treated the same. Without the working class, the October Revolution would have never happened. However it was the intelligentsia that took leadership, essentially creating a new social class system, thus negating their whole revolution.

In the end of The Door we are left we are left with the emptiness of losing Emerence. This woman seemed to possess inhuman strength and drive and her death left such a big hole not only Magda’s life but the whole community. If I was to compare Emerence death with the state of Hungary at the time of writing this novel. I would say that this is a reflection of the Hungarian economic and political reforms which let the country into mounting foreign debts. The cause of this points to Hungary’s outdated manufacturing facilities the inability to produce goods that were saleable on world markets.

It might be my love for Soviet literature, but my approach to this was very much a Marxist approach. Like many books in the Soviet era, I think The Door explored so many interesting elements of the country’s political and social issues. From religion to the class struggle and then the death of the working class. Analysing a novel and looking at the historical context really opens up the book for me. I know some people do not appreciate literary theories but for me it is a way to bring the text to life. Marxism and psychoanalysis are the two methods I seem to use the most, but I do not think I am equipped to fulling analyse Emerence. Although Magda might be easier, same name as the author, a writer, an enemy to the Communist Party, sounds autobiographical to me. Which makes me wonder, what was she trying to say with the death of Emerence?


Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Posted February 12, 2018 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 0 Comments

Lincoln in the Bardo by George SaundersTitle: Lincoln in the Bardo (Goodreads)
Author: George Saunders
Published: Bloomsbury, 2017
Pages: 343
Genres: Historical Fiction
My Copy: Audiobook

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George Saunders’ long awaited debut novel has been surrounded by hype, and winning the Man Booker prize only helped to launch this book. Saunders is probably best known for his short stories that often share a vibe similar to the television show Black Mirror. I even called his last collection Tenth of December “contemporary witty, with an element of darkness”. Even comparing it to two other great collections that were released about the same time, Black Vodka by Deborah Levy and Revenge by Yōko Ogawa. Lincoln in the Bardo tells the story of Abraham Lincoln in 1862. The Civil War has been raging for almost a year while the President’s eleven year old son lies in bed gravely ill. Despite the predictions of a full recovery, Willie dies and his body is laid to read in a Georgetown cemetery.

Blending historical data collected while researching this novel, George Saunders blends in a narrative of the afterlife and grief. While the title suggest that Willie Lincoln is in the bardo, the narrative seems to fit more with purgatory. In some schools of Buddhism, bardo is known as the state of existence between death and rebirth, while purgatory is a state of purification before heading to heaven. This distinction is interesting as the characters in this limbo often are unwilling to let go of their physical remains and complete their journey into the afterlife. These characters are often faced with deformities representative of their mortal failures. Saunders does consider himself a student of Nyingma Buddhism but my understanding of theology is primarily Christian, so I tend to interpret the writing with that thought in mind.

The other part of this novel is set around the President and his family as they grieve the loss of Willie. It is here we see a lot of the historical documentation come into play. This includes excerpts from newspapers and biographies. This serves to drive the narrative of grief but also highlights the inconsistencies found in history. What made this book so appealing was the confliction in Abraham Lincoln. While grieving the loss of his own son, he was still responsible for the loss of so many others because of the Civil War. While the American Civil war may have led to many good things, the effects of war were truly felt throughout Lincoln in the Bardo.

The novel is told through different speeches; a narrative that closely resembles a play. This is what makes the audiobook such an alluring option. The publisher put a lot of effort in producing, with a cast of 166 voice actors, including Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Julianne Moore, Don Cheadle, Rainn Wilson, Susan Sarandon and George Saunders. I was worried that between the narrative style and the large cast, this would be too much of a gimmick but I think Saunders and the audiobook production managed to never go overboard. However I can understand why this would not work for some readers.

The end result of Lincoln in the Bardo was a dark comedy, ghost story and while I was a little worried (because of all the hype) I am glad my book club made me read this novel. At the moment I prefer George Saunders’ short stories but I can only compare Lincoln in the Bardo with Tenth of December. It does make me curious to try CivilWarLand in Bad Decline or Pastoralia. I know in the future Saunders will continue to be surrounded by hype but I am still interested to see what is next for this author.


Mini Reviews; Crime Edition

Posted January 13, 2016 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime, Thriller / 14 Comments

I do not know if it is the fact that I have had some big months recently or that I associate violence with the holiday period but I have felt the need to read crime fiction lately. I think after a recent review of Dexter is Dead, I have been searching from a new crime series, and hopefully I will find one soon. As crime novels are hard to review without spoilers I thought I will combine them into a mini-review.

Mini Reviews; Crime EditionTitle: Vanishing Games (Goodreads)
Author: Roger Hobbs
Series: Ghostman #2
Published: Knopf Doubleday, 2015
Pages: 304
Genres: Thriller
My Copy: Library Book

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Jack the Ghostman is backed, this time his mentor, Angela needs his help. After a heist to steal some uncut sapphires worth millions of dollars goes wrong, Angela finds herself in trouble. An unknown crime organisation seems to be after her and she is stuck in Macau without any help. She turned to her protégé in the hope to get back the sapphires and get out alive.

I remember Ghostman to be a fun, fast paced heist novel so when book two, Vanishing Games was released, I knew I would eventually read it. What worked really well in the book was the setting; Macau becomes this mysterious city full of uncertainty. A sovereign state of China, Macau is one of the richest countries in the world, thanks to housing the largest gambling district. A tourist attraction for high rollers, but still housing a seedy underbelly. I had a lot of fun with this book, it was fun and action packed, but still a typical heist novel which is not a bad thing


Mini Reviews; Crime EditionTitle: In the Woods (Goodreads)
Author: Tana French
Series: Dublin Murder Squad #1
Narrator: John McCormack
Published: Viking, 2007
Pages: 429
Genres: Crime
My Copy: Audiobook

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I have been recommended the Dublin Murder Squad by Tana French multiple times, not sure why. So I finally decided to pick up the first book In the Woods, which tells the story of Detective Rob Ryan and Detective Cassie Maddox assigned to the murder of a twelve year old girl. More than twenty years ago Ryan and two friends got lost in the same woods. He returned, but what happened to his friends remains a mystery.

This was a fresh and dark psychological suspense, which I enjoyed far more than I expected. My problem with best-seller crime novels is they tend to be very formulaic and unoriginal. Tana French managed to keep the same format but still made the book stand out. I think the chemistry between Ryan and Maddox played a big part of this. I was shipping the two and hoping they will end up together. I hear this series follows different characters in the Dublin murder squad which I am worried about, I want more from these two characters.


Mini Reviews; Crime EditionTitle: Villain (Goodreads)
Author: Shūichi Yoshida
Translator: Philip Gabriel
Published: Vintage, 2011
Pages: 295
Genres: Crime
My Copy: Library Book

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One morning in January 2006, the body of a female insurance saleswoman, Yoshino was found dead on Mitsue Pass. A young construction worker, Yuichi is arrested for her murder. Shifting perspectives, Villain tells the story of the events leading up to Yoshino’s murder and the aftermaths.

Kosaku Yoshida is often considered as one of Japan’s best crime writers and as a fan of Japanese Lit, I knew I had to check one of his books out. However I was a little disappointed; the story was interesting but I was not a fan of the execution. I thought it builds up the suspense, then shifts perspective; which felt like it kept stopping and starting and that just felt too clunky. Yoshida explores the idea of alienation, which seems to be a common theme in Japanese fiction. This worked well, however this was not enough to redeem the novel for me.


Mini Reviews; Crime EditionTitle: Hit Man (Goodreads)
Author: Lawrence Block
Series: Keller #1
Published: Harper Collins, 2002
Pages: 342
Genres: Thriller
My Copy: eBook

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Lawrence Block is a hard working pulp crime novelist, best known for his hard-boiled detective Matthew Scudder, gentleman thief Bernie Rhodenbarr and hit man John Keller. Hit Man is the first book in the Keller series, combining a collection of short stories to develop this character. This is an interesting technique and Block’s short story book One Night Stands and Lost Weekends remains one of my favourite crime collections. He manages to pack the same punch of a normal pulp novel into a stripped down story.

I enjoy Lawrence Block’s style; it is nice to know someone is trying to keep the pulp crime genre alive. However Hit Man is more of a thriller series, which develops the complexities of this character with short intervals for an assassination. I like the way the stories interlock as a way to introduce John Keller, I have never seen this technique and think it worked well. Having said that, I think this is a fun book but I am not sure if I will continue the series. I am looking for something darker and do not think the Keller series will give me what I desire.


Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty

Posted December 19, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction / 2 Comments

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin DoughtyTitle: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory (Goodreads)
Author: Caitlin Doughty
Narrator: Caitlin Doughty
Published: W. W. Norton & Company, 2014
Pages: 272
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: Audiobook

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Caitlin Doughty started her career working in a crematory. She quickly discovered a common issue that seems to be a major issue in Western society. People are generally unprepared for death, not knowing loved ones wishes and not willing to have conversations regarding the topic. Doughty often refers to this as an anxiety towards death or even a death phobia. In an effort to educate people in death, she started a web series called “Ask a Mortician” allowing people to ask her anything regarding about death and the death industry.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory is an extension of Caitlin Doughty mission. Written as part memoir, part micro-history, this book explores the history and current state of the funeral industry. From the age of eight, Doughty had been exposed to death after witnessing a horrible accident that ended in the death of a small child. From that point she realised people were not willing to talk about death, as if they were scared of this inevitability.

Working at the crematory, she also discovered the lack of ritual towards death in Western society. To her she felt like people would rather criticise the funeral industry for their prices. Like paying to view the body of the recently deceased, a process that involves many processes to make the person look like they are resting peacefully. Price has been a big issue with people; it even is at the point where you can order a cremation over the internet and have the body picked up from the morgue and the ashes delivered without even having to deal with anyone.

The idea of the book is to educate people around the death industry, covering topics like the cremation process, the history of embalming, and even going as far as criticising some of the actions that are being used. Caitlin Doughty believes people should have an understanding of what is going on and have a conversation with their loved ones on the topic. With understanding and acceptance of death, we will be better prepared and should promote a healthier grieving or mourning process.

I had planned to read this book for non-fiction November, but then my mother-in-law died. I was not sure if I would be able to handle reading this but had committed to a buddy read of this book with Steph from Time to read! I was surprised how much comfort this book brought me, I felt better knowing about the processes and what happens in a funeral home. I think Smoke Gets in Your Eyes came at the perfect time for me and I was fascinated by the history and everything else within the book.

It is important to have a better understanding about what happens after death, and I am not just talking about the concept of an afterlife. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes is the type of book that I think everyone needs to read and then tell your loved ones what you want when you die. I am curious to know more on the topic, I might pick up Stiff by Mary Roach or even Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner by Judy Melinek to learn more. One of the things I love about non-fiction is the chance to learn so much about a wide variety of topics.


The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr

Posted December 17, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction / 2 Comments

The Art of Memoir by Mary KarrTitle: The Art of Memoir (Goodreads)
Author: Mary Karr
Narrator: Mary Karr
Published: Harper Collins, 2015
Pages: 256
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: Audiobook

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I have been getting into non-fiction lately and especially memoirs. I love reading bookish memoirs, exploring someone’s reading journey or a challenge they completed. I think I have an interesting reading journey and I would love to write it down on paper. I picked up The Art of Memoir to get some ideas and motivate me into writing it down, even if it may never become a memoir. I like the idea of experimenting with the memoir form, developing my writing skills; who knows I might put my reading journey up on my blog as a series.

Mary Karr is a memoirist that has three memoirs in print, The Liars’ Club, Lit and Cherry. All three have been meet with huge acclaim, though I have not read them yet. Karr is an English literature professor Syracuse University often teaching a subject on memoirs. The Art of Memoir draws from her own experience as well as some of her favourite memoirs, including Wild by Cheryl Strayed, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, The Possessed by Elif Batuman and Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov.

I found that this book had plenty of interesting things to think about when writing a memoir and it really got me excited on the whole endeavour. I really want to check out Mary Karr’s own memoirs and I am thankful that she put this book together. It does not offer a step by step guide but instead offers different examples on how to approach writing. I like how she kept enforcing the idea of sticking to your strengths and building from there. What works for Vladimir Nabokov will probably not work for me, even if I adore and want to emulate his writing style.

I do not know what will become of my writing, I now think of myself as a non-fiction writer (blogging). Since embracing this writing path, I have felt more inspired. I just need to experiment with different styles and see what works for me. Obviously blogging and reviewing is great but I want to see where I can go with my writing if I push myself more.