This novel was such a fun quick read that I’m so glad I took a chance and said yes to the publisher when they reached out to me with a copy.* It didn’t hurt that they suggested I read this piece in the New York Times first and I laughed out loud multiple times (the animation is an added bonus!).
I had very little knowledge or expectations going into Ally Hughes Has Sex Sometimes other than thinking it was a quirky title and it was a debut novel. I didn’t even know it was set in Providence, Rhode Island until I started reading and did a double-take when they started naming locations around Brown University that I’ve been to. So obviously it got bonus points for that too! We all know I’m a sucker for books set in locations I have fond memories of.
I didn’t think it was possible, but I liked this one even less than Tropic of Cancer. Seriously, I was in no way a fan of this book. The amount of raunchy sleazy descriptions in Tropic of Capricorn, if possible out weight those in the first novel.
The only thing I can truly say I’m grateful for is that I got it off my shelf where it’s languished since the 2010 Boston Book Festival (it was the last one!). It also counts toward my Classics Club list so yay for that too!
I can’t even pretend it’s hard to say why I didn’t like this book, it really was just too much sex, misogyny, sexual assault and crass language. When you add in the stream-of-consciousness I’m surprised I even got through the book. It’s no wonder the book was banned in America (Wikipedia link) for 30 years. I don’t believe in book banning or censorship, but this really tested my limits.
I’m a little torn on this book. At the same time that it reminded me of some fascinating books I’ve read over the past few years (Geraldine Brook’s March and William MacAskill’s Doing Good Better) I couldn’t help but compare it to Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. And unfortunately for Aptowicz, it wasn’t that great of a comparison. Don’t get me wrong, this was a very interesting read and I enjoyed the book. I’m sure this book had its own set of challenges in the research done, but I still can’t quite put my finger on why I wasn’t as much a fan of this.
At first I thought it was because Aptowicz was super young and this was her first book. Her writing style felt a bit like student-work, which she admits is when she got the idea and started writing originally, but I found out pretty quick I was wrong on this one. And it’s not her first book, but it is her first work of nonfiction. (Thanks Wikipedia.) Either way, I’m grateful to Avery, a Penguin Books imprint, for providing a copy.* And the best part is, if you’re interested in the book it’s just been released in paperback at the beginning of September! (AKA Yay for more affordability!; Publisher’s website.)
This is one of those books that has so much umph in the cultural milieu that it’s a wonder I’ve never read it before. I squeezed it in just in time this month to get a podcast recorded to be released at the end of the month. If you’re in the Boston area and you want to record one let me know! :-D But, more importantly than podcasting, this book counts as the 43 book of my Classics Club journey. (See, I told you I was still chipping away). I’m so far off target it’s not even funny, but I’m glad that I’m still occasionally reading from my list.
Let’s start with the big to-do about this novel. Maybe it’s not that much of a to-do, but it felt like one. I still don’t know how much of this novel to believe is fiction. It’s very clearly labeled as fiction and yet it is very clearly Plath’s own personal story. I mean her mom wrote a letter to the American publishers saying these are real people and real stories thinly veiled as characters! There is one point where I couldn’t help but laugh because Plath writes Esther, the main character, writing a novel about a character doing the same thing. HOW META CAN YOU GET?! This is the same story being told by three different people all of whom are telling/experiencing the same story.
My final foray, at least for the time being, into professional development was Badowski’s Managing Up: How to Forge an Effective Relationship with Those Above You, and if I’m completely honest it’s the only one I should have read.
I enjoyed the “theory” and the “professional opinions” in the Harvard Business Review compilations I read, Managing Up (The 20-Minute Manager Series) and HBR Guide to Managing Up and Across, but neither of them had the wit, the humor or the charm of this book. Seriously, there is something to be said about reading a book that could be an incredibly boring (or pedantic) subject that makes you laugh out loud or giggle to yourself on public transportation. They all provide great advice, but this book offered the advice through the art of storytelling and not the other way around.
As a part of every episode of Come Read with Me, I ask my friends to recommend a book. I do this because I know it will take me out of my comfort zone, but I also do it because it helps me get to know them better. Mike from Episode 5 where we discussed the first half of the Hyperion Cantos recommended this and WOW.
I have a feeling this is going to be one of those books that continues to grow on me the further I get away from it. I only rated it “4 out of 5” on Goodreads, but I’m already wondering if as the ideas presented in the book sink in if I will adjust that even higher. I looked into the Turner Tomorrow Fellowship Award (aka read the Wikipedia link) and found it interesting, but I’m not sure if it does what the award wanted. Ishmael is incredibly creative and I think does most of what the award wanted, but I guess it’s a good thing I wasn’t on the committee.
My friend Emily joined me to talk about Maya Angelou’s most famous work I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. And I’m not sure how I did it, but even with my two weeks in Spain and being part of a wedding this past weekend, I managed to get this edited and online for June! I’m mostly glad that I was able to incorporate my “real” transitions and sound effects this time!
This was a very interesting book to talk about, especially with the current climate surrounding race relations, police brutality and institutionalized racism. We were very upfront about the fact that we were two white kids hanging out in a nicer “suburb” of Boston and that we’d each grown up in specific neighborhoods.