Apparently I got a bit too comfortable in the seeming endlessness of January. My goal had been to finish reading two books in that month (and the 11 subsequent ones), which, like many new years resolutions, fell a bit by the wayside only weeks into 2020. But also like many resolutions, I set the bar kiiinda too high for myself by making one of those books for January be The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante.
The Story of the Lost Child is the fourth and final book of the Neapolitan novels series by Ferrante. I got into the series fairly recently, although I had been intrigued about them since HBO started the series based on the books. I tried watching the series and was very confused, but I really liked the spooky vibe and the bits of story I was able to grasp. So a few months ago, I started reading My Brilliant Friend. It made more sense to me than the show, but it was still slow going at first. However, by the time I finished the book (mostly while getting a surreal October tan in Vegas, ayyyy) I was intensely caught up in it. I couldn’t shut up about it, recounting parts of it to Patrick while he nodded patiently. (To be fair, I’ve heard him retell the plot of season 1 of Westworld at least four times.) I read the last chapter at 2 a.m. and then just lay splayed and supine on the couch, like a stabbing victim bleeding out. The subsequent books offer similar emotional gut punches. I kept telling Patrick, “This shit is insane”– and this brings us to my only complaint about the series, which is: WTF are the covers. As Patrick said, “I kinda thought it was weird you were getting so emotionally wrenched by some beach reads.”
Though there were slower parts, I mostly chugged through them. I figured I’d finish this fourth one swiftly as well… But I’m still mired somewhere in the middle. Maybe I’m avoiding reaching the end of the series just because I’ not ready to see how it all ends, and to let it go. Should I bribe myself by saying I’ll re-read the first book right after? Ugh. OK, OK, I’m ready. Fuck me up, Ferrante.
The second book this month was one I actually did finish. Yay! It’s a collection of short stories, Orange World by Karen Russell.
Honestly, I picked this one up at the library because I recognized the author’s name (though knew nothing about her???) and because I’m going through a heavy orange obsession (the color, the fruit, everything, help meeee). Happily, turns out that this short story collection is my favorite kind, which is to say, every story had some kind of weird magical/supernatural element. It starts off with a Depression-era ghost story and ends with the story involving a devil that looks like a capybara and lives in a storm drain. Yes please to all of that.
I think my favorite stories from this book (though it’s honestly hard to choose, I’d read pretty much all of them again) are “The Gondoliers” and “The Bad Graft”, both of which are kind of… ecologically flavored, if that makes sense. I also really liked the aforementioned ghost story, called “The Prospectors”, got really sucked into “Black Corfu” and forgot it wasn’t a whole novel, remembered my childhood terror of the Ice Man thanks to “Bog Girl: A Romance”, and…
OK, yes, this is already like half the stories in the book! Shit, I told you it was hard to choose! They’re all really absorbing, I love the prose, and wow do I also love how imaginative these were. I’m definitely going to look for more of Karen Russell’s stuff.
Bonus footage for my fellow orange enthusiasts:
(I know dried orange slices are “supposed” to be for Christmas decorations, but I didn’t find out about them until after Christmas and I wasn’t waiting a whole year to have oranges hanging EVERYWHERE.)