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Endless Reads Review at PANK: Maidenhead by Tamara Faith Berger

My review is up – and it’s not safe for work. Nor for any of my relatives! But I’d love input on this one from others who have read this book –  the whole review is basically a cry for aid:

 

I struggled for a long time with this review. Maidenhead has been well-received in reviews across the internet, but my personal response was murky, confused. My copy is dog-eared and when I touch it seems to trigger flashbacks of puzzlement and revulsion and interest and anger. It’s that sort of book, not one that will sit calmly on the shelf, glowing with read-ness.

 

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Thresholds – The Morning After The Night Before, by Bethany Anderson

 

Sound filtered beneath the bedroom door; a teaspoon rattling inside a ceramic mug, the fridge door sticking shut, naked feet padding across laminate flooring. Stretching beneath the duvet she couldn’t delay morning any longer. Grudgingly the covers were pushed away and somehow she got out of bed. A voice from Homes Under the Hammer bewailed non standard construction as she collapsed again at the end of the sofa. Nervous about confronting her friend she busied herself with tying up her tousled hair, ‘Busy night last night…?’

 

Her flatmate sipped tentatively at her tea while pulling that oh-ha-ha-you’re-a-funny-one-Amy look.

 

Tugging at split-ends Amy threw back a sleepy incredulous look, ‘What? You think I didn’t hear you all night?’

 

‘Hold the bus,’ the accused placed the cup on the coffee table, mopping up the spillage with her fingers, ‘don’t go blaming me – I couldn’t sleep for your antics.’

 

Amy glanced through the open living room door and lowered her voice, ‘You mean, you didn’t bring someone back last night?’

 

‘Eh, no. Did you see the state of the guys at that place? And anyway, I won’t be bringing anyone back for at least another week.’ Her eyes rolled and she placed a hand over where she guessed her womb was hiding.

 

‘Oh…true.’ Amy couldn’t help but look down at her own stomach, knowing fine well what Jen was going through. She’d always laugh at the questions of curious male friends: did they have naked pillow fights? Were their periods in sync? As for the former, it was a definite no, though sometimes she’d answer otherwise for a laugh; guys were too ridiculous sometimes. The latter she thought was just some kind of strange myth but after a year living with Jen it was turning out to be too true.

 

‘So what the fuck was that noise then? Cause it was really weird. Honestly, I had no idea what you were supposed to be getting up to.’ In recalling her bizarre hypothesises  Jen laughed into her tea, clutching tightly round the sides to avoid losing any more.

 

‘God knows, but I was trying really hard not to think about it. Oh my God that carpet is hideous.’

 

‘I know. It so looked better before they changed it. I really like those retro tile things.’

 

‘Think it was next door’s cat?’ Amy reached for the purple bottle on the table, stretching further to grab the cotton wool pads.

 

‘Doing what, exactly? It’s only wee.’ Jen shifted in her seat, wrinkling her nose and creasing her brow as she watched Amy wipe blue from her nails; she just didn’t get that shade anyway.

 

But she only shrugged, scrubbing away at some stubborn sparkles on her thumb.

 

‘Seriously, that stuff is rancid.’ Despite her protestations, Amy only looked half as apologetic as Jen would have liked her to be. ‘It’s like pure ethanol or something.’

 

‘Alright, alright.’ Six out of ten fingers done, the cap was screwed on with impatience and dumped with the cotton wool where she was sitting. ‘I’ll open the windows but I’m not opening the curtains, okay?’ Peeking tentatively between the heavy curtains, Amy couldn’t help but roll her eyes at the looming clouds, ‘Ugh, it’s so minging out.’ But then, she couldn’t expect anything other from a Scottish September. Still, she was impressed with her nails as she examined them against the handles of the windows. Stepping out onto the tiny balcony space she shuddered. Eyeing round the quiet car park she wanted to be sure that no one had caught a glimpse of her pig pyjamas. ‘It. Is. Baltic out-’ Heart, throat, stuck. Stomach, twist, sweat. Throwing herself back through the curtains, she turned to Jen with wild panic.

 

‘Amy…? What’s wrong? What happened?’ Tea was abandoned as she crossed to her friend, frightened by those manic eyes. Following the point of a shaky finger Jen copied Amy’s motions and found what she had found. She vaguely recognised the shape. As a complete, living organism Jen would still only have recognised, rather than known. But as it lay now, broken, disfigured and bloodied, she could only vaguely recognise the woman that lived next door. Her own cracked lips parted and a dry voice spoke, ‘Call an ambulance.’

 

Grabbing her mobile, Amy slid up the screen to reveal the keys. An ambulance? But she was already dead. Definitely dead. Didn’t know the number for the actual police station. 999. ‘Hello? Uhm…I’m not sure if it’s an emergency. Well, I think I need the police and an ambulance but I don’t really know. Em…she’s already dead so you don’t need to hurry so if someone’s really injured or whatever then it can wait. Oh, okay. Yes, Blackburn Terrace. 60. Thanks. Bye.’ Gasping for air she watched Jen reappear from behind the curtain. ‘They’re sending an ambulance. Said it was an emergency.’

 

Jen forgot to wince as blue nails clasped into her bare forearm. Amy forgot to cry when the paramedics scraped the body off the second floor balcony. They watched the tenants two floors down scrubbing at the dark spots left on the tiles. Neither was hysterical when they were questioned at the station. In hindsight they tried to make light of the situation and claimed they were just like bad River City actors. But neither could find any part of the story funny.
In morbid fascination their friends would smile when they dared to recount the tale. ‘Oh my God, Amy. I can’t believe you were giggling away in bed thinking Jen was having the time of her life when some crazy lady was wandering about on the roof thinking about ending hers. Isn’t that so funny?’

 

Bethany Anderson is a writer from Scotland, and can be found blogging about books at Subtlemelodrama.

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Endless Reads Review The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark, over at Subtle Melodrama

I have written a review of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark, as part of the Scottish Writers on Scottish Writers series running on Subtle Melodrama – a lovely blog of book reviews, mostly focusing on the generally underrepresented (in the online world at any rate) contemporary Scottish Fiction.

Here’s a snippet:

I wanted to write about The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, by Muriel Spark, for the Scottish Fiction Challenge because it’s a totty wee thin book that slips quietly into your pocket (if your pockets are big enough) but also because I read it recently with a student I’m teaching English as a Second Language, and so had to spend a good long time with the book despite how quick a read it could have been. When you spend a long time with something so good, going line by line, it grants a special sort of love, flavoured by the voice of the uncertain reader for whom the story is gradually unfolding, by the rain pattering on the flat roof next to the school room.

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Friends, Heroes, Countryfolk

Tulips, Amsterdam flower market

In recent days, two readers have offered me blogger awards for schietree. However, in lieu of acceptance, I’d prefer to forego formalities and just share a few blogs.

First off Seekraz and Melfrommass, who both were kind enough to mention me on their blogs. Seekraz (Scott) posts beautiful pictures micro and macro of the Utah area where he lives, along with thoughtful, humane commentary. Mel is on a mission to see all 351 municipalities of Massachusetts, and finding all sorts of quixotic and beautiful sights – she also talks to any friendly looking animal she comes across too see if they have the inside scoop.

On to writers. Life, family, toughness, and writing: Lyrical Meanderings. Averil Dean, outspoken in the classiest way possible, also engages with her readerships with windows into her life. I hope many of you will go and read Chris J Rice, and try to tear yourself away – a challenge. I never can, even in the age of many distractions. Her memoir-narratives are affecting and powerful, and not nearly enough – I hope to read her book one day soon. Another compelling voice is a short story writer, Casey Hannan, who I’ve just recently discovered. He has links to many of his clear-eyed, brazen, heart-exploding stories on the side bar of his blog. On process, feminism, and literature of the girl there is Kate Zambreno, whose novel Green Girl I hope to review shortly as part of Endless Reads. Handily, she has a post listing some entries from the past year, just scroll down to find them. For a comic, self-deprecating insight into writing and the nightmares of childhood (and writing retreats) – Molly Laich.

 

There are many more blogs I read – perhaps in a little while I’ll highlight another group of them? But for now, not so many adjectives as to flood you.

 

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Filed under consolations of reading, experimental fiction, reading, Theory