This week, Kate Kiernan tells us of a book of short stories examining transness and human nature in general:
In many ways [redacted]’s short stories succeed in establishing a trans subject whose transness is meaningfully enmeshed within a broader human (and, indeed, non-human) community; the revolt of her characters is not a queer one per se (a constructive expression aimed at a status quo) but a natural one (a destructive expression of who they are).
Read the full piece here.
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This week’s Unsung Letter comes with a delay due to technical troubles with my laptop in Brazil, but here it is at last, from Emilie Kirstensen-McLachlan:
The novel is a striking example of how literature can open your eyes to other people’s lives, surroundings, and understandings of the world. Janie Ryan grows up in an environment full of people often demonized by large parts of the population as being lazy and worthless. This stereotype of the “lazy poor” is as common in Denmark as it is in the UK. Kerry Hudson’s on-point, heart-breaking writing reveals the inner-lives of characters about whom the close-knit circles of power and the media so often speculate.
Read the full thing here, and as ever, sign up for The Unsung Letter here to receive a weekly missive on an underhyped book by a living author.
Is here – apologies for the delay in posting. I’m still in Sao Paulo, bouncing from one place to another, head spinning.
Here is Harry Harris on a book of essays on famous women in popular culture:
Massey approaches her subjects as a fan, first and foremost. Not a fan in the sense of being uncritical or idolatry, but more with that obsessive, analytical desire to dissect and examine what sets these women apart.
Read the whole thing here. As ever, you can sign up for The Unsung Letter to come straight to your inbox with all its goodness – the personally adored secret or semi-secret books of its authors – here.
This week, a lesser-known book by an author well-known author, one that charts the way a closeted character can try to grieve the loss of her partner:
Just as secret as her relationship with Cara had been, Pen is then forced into a hidden widowhood, unable and reluctant to grieve in public. ‘Funny word, that,’ she asks, ‘why did “hood” added to nouns make them into states of being?’
Read the full letter here. And as ever, sign up to receive The Unsung Letter weekly in your inbox – an essay by a different writer or book lover singing the praises of an undersung work by a living author.
PS – no Brazilian residency updates today, other than to say here that it rained all day, and all day it rained, and at night the frogs sang, and I rested, read, worked, and spoke late into the night with other artists on the nature of criticism and the art and wider culture(s) of Brazil.
Emma Flint brings us this week’s Unsung Letter:
I can’t remember how I came across [redacted], but I know I was in my mid-twenties, trying to write, and trying to work out what I was going to do with my life. [redacted]’s writing offered an escape from all of this angst, and a kind of validation of my own scribblings about my childhood: it was okay to write about scabbed knees, about naked Barbie dolls, about the horrors of having your hair washed in the bath by your mother.
Read more here
As ever, you can subscribe to The Unsung Letter to get a weekly missive from a different writer/book lover on a book (by a living author) that’s missed the hype train and is worthy of your consideration. Unsure whether you’re ready to commit or not? Read the archive here.
This week’s Unsung Letter marks a year of the existence of The Unsung Letter, and just to be contrary goes against something of what The Unsung Letter is to do – champion living writers. This week’s writer is no longer living, but Lesley McDowell makes a case for keeping hold of her writing, saving it from oblivion – a worthy mission for a neglected, recently deceased woman writer:
I got to know [redacted] herself over the years. She told me that [redacted] despite rave reviews in all the broadsheets, had failed to sell, and major book chains were reluctant to stock her further work. She turned to tiny publishers who could support titles like [redacted] and [redacted] but they didn’t have the resources to publicise them as much as they needed, and when she died in January of last year, there were only a handful of obituaries. A handful of obituaries – for a writer whose first work was published in the 1960s, and who produced work every decade up to the Noughties, more than thirty books in total.
I know you are intrigued – the full piece is over here. As ever, sign up to receive The Unsung Letter straight to your inbox, and each week you’ll get an essay by a book lover on a neglected but brilliant book by a living writer. Except this week, this week is special.
The second catch-up post of the week brings Natalie Fergie, with a novel with its eye on another novel:
I first read Letters to Alice by Fay Weldon just after it was published. At the time I was wading my way through Mansfield Park, and looking for a side-read that would give it some context. It’s very much a Marmite book. You either love it or you hate it. Alice is 18, is studying English Literature in London, and aspires to be a novelist. She thinks Jane Austen is an irrelevance. Her Aunt Fay (yes), lives in Cairns, Australia and writes to her niece about Austen, arguing that she and her work should not be dismissed so easily…
Read the full thing here, and as ever, you can sign up for The Unsung Letter here, for a weekly missive on a book by a living author that may have missed the hype train.