Hysteria by Katerina Bryant

‘…the oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.’ (H.P. Lovecraft)

Katerina Bryant’s memoir, Hysteria, recounts her search for a diagnosis for chronic illness. Bryant was experiencing seizures, episodes that struck without warning and where she felt disconnected from her body.The seizures left her feeling anxious, exhausted and increasingly fearful of participating in ordinary activities. Continue reading

Memorial Drive by Natasha Trethewey

Memorial Drive by Natasha Trethewey made lots of ‘best of 2020′ lists, and I find it hard to pass by a memoir that garners so much praise.

Natasha describes the events leading to her mother’s violent death, and how her experience of grief and trauma has shaped her work (Trethewey is a Pulitzer Prize–winning poet).

Three decades is a long time to get to know the contours of loss, to become intimate with one’s own bereavement. You get used to it. Most days it is a distant thing, always on the horizon, sailing toward me with it’s difficult cargo. Continue reading

Make it Scream, Make it Burn by Leslie Jamison

There were stories in Leslie Jamison’s first essay collection, The Empathy Exams, that I still think about more than five years after reading them. And it’s remarkable how regularly I refer others to particular essays written by Jamison. I suspect it will be the same with her latest collection, Make it Scream, Make it Burn.

So which particular essays will I be pressing on people, and why? Continue reading

Can You Ever Forgive Me? by Lee Israel

Who isn’t intrigued by a literary scandal? As I type, a few pop to mind – Helen Demidenko, James Frey, and whether Harper Lee ever wanted Go Set a Watchman to be published. But I’d never heard of Lee Israel – best-selling author and ‘literary forger’. She fesses up to her criminal activity in her memoir, Can You Ever Forgive Me? (and yes, let’s park the fact that she profited from writing a memoir about her crime).

I had never known anything but ‘up’ in my career, had never received even one of those formatted no-thank-you slips that successful writers look back upon with triumphant jocularity. Continue reading

The Top 50 from the Best Books of 2020 List of Lists

Presenting the 2020 Commonly-Agreed-by-the-People-Who-Publish-Best-of-2020-Book-Lists-Before-December-31 top 50 books. Continue reading

Some more quick reviews

I’ve struggled to write reviews for much of this year. I blame working from home. After a day of work, I have no desire to stay sitting at my desk. And so, I’ll continue to keep a record of what I’ve read with short reviews (these are very, very short). Continue reading