I wish I'd read this book in college. This work of expiremental fiction set in Tapei captures a queer coming-of-age from the perspective of university student with literary aspirations. The narrorator's self-confidence is both in the toilet and soaring to delusional heights. She knows everything and she knows nothing. At turns, she swash-buckels through new romantic expirences and at other times her confidence fails her utterly. It reminded me of so much I'd forgotten ( and maybe supressed). PLUS, there's a crocodile character who loves creampuffs.
No Relation tells the story of the evolution and dissolution of a family in bright precise moments. Carter falls in love with a man who has two children. Initially, the boys are a complication, an obstacle, two tiny rivals competing for her lover's attention. Years later, when she no longer loves the man, Carter leaves him and finds that it's his children that remain, lodged in her heart like precious burs.
Ars Botanica is sadness so concentrated it transforms into light. When I heard the premise, I was sure I wouldn't like it: a man writes about his girlfriend's abortion and the break up that follows. It raised my hackles, but it only took ten pages of reading before I realized Taranto wasn't writing about blame or anger, but the connection between love and helplessness and how loss deepens us as it wounds.
In Taiwan, readers sometimes pick up Last Words from Montmartre and start reading on a random page, finding that the text corresponds to whatever they need in that moment. This book blends fiction, memoir, and epistolary forms into a tornado of philosophy, rage, grief, and tenderness as it chronicles a queer narrator's final months before committing suicide. I was profoundly disturbed by it and I wouldn't pick it up again on a sad day, but I also felt that Last Words fundamentally opened me, as if the book had somehow reached inside and tinkered with my heart's switchboard, leaving me more awake to my own life.
Between Them chronicles the lives of each of Richard Ford's parents in two short companion memoirs. The writer's purpose is to show their lives as truthfully as possible, to examine these lost love ones without ascribing any extra meaning or depth to their days. His mission is to show us a life matters enough because it is final. He accomplishes this task while also giving us two full and compelling portraits and exploring the inherent strangeness of parent-child relationships with astounding coherence.