A Haunting Short Read

And not haunting in the way I usually mean it, with the ghost stories I love and post on here so much.  A different kind of haunting. The haunting of madness.

But before I get to that, I am stretching and getting limber for the next lap of noveling.  Getting all loosed up at the start line.  Shaking off the nerves and making my best effort not to overthink everything.

This post is an excellent excuse for procrastination.  And the fact that I can confidently say we have reached Spring where I live and I have been working on the spring chores, like changing out clothes and bagging up what won’t fit my son next winter, which is, like, everything.  My husband is putting out the warm weather furniture and entertainments.

I am having trouble with reading, though because the book for today is one of the last quick books I have on BookRiot that I haven’t done.  My posthumous book, my book of true crime, my post colonial literature, my protagonist over the age of 60, my sci fi book written by a female with a female protagonist…all need more attention than I might be able to give when I am in the bowels of noveling.  I am halfway through another book to post on, my social science book, so maybe I can get through that one in time to keep the posts flowing…

I am only on 19 books this year.  For someone who can get to 100 that’s very slow, but I can read every year.  It’s not every year I have a writing teacher helping me getting my novel to its full potential.  And when I read a lot I have this nagging feeling I am not writing enough.

A one sitting book:


the vegetarian.jpg

The Vegetarian, Han Kang

This one has been hanging out on the TBR for a year, since it became highly lauded and in my face.  There are a ton of eligible books for this category, both books I already have and books that I could get at the library.  But this one, in all its haunting beauty, was what it had to be.

This is about madness, but, as madness doesn’t happen in a vacuum, it is about family too.  It is about a woman who stops eating meat in response to delusions about what is inside her body.  She is unrecognizable from the beginning to the end in this book. She is unremarkable and obedient in the beginning and breaks all those things with her symptoms, spiraling downward, shattering her family and leaving only her sister to hang on to her through the madness and trying to save her.  She starts out accepting the norms of her world and ends up being unable to live within them.

I am perusing the reviews on Goodreads and I have decided that I liked this because I understand and have met people suffering intensely from schizophrenia.  People thought it was intense and absorbing and others really felt that they didn’t ‘get’ it.  Psychotic symptoms are psychotic symptoms because they defy typical experience.  A person experiencing a world that most people don’t experience. They also can change with the cultural context.

Many reviewers wanted the book from the protagonist’s viewpoint, but I don’t know if the madness could be better explained if it was her viewpoint.  I liked the snippets that we got, the moments when she was able to describe to a character what was happening for her, the faces inside her body, the symptoms being a reaction to her intense traumatic nightmares.  She had her own logic.  She was psychotic.  And that was enough.

I oddly listened to this on a day trip for my friend’s baby’s christening.  Driving to a ceremony that is about belonging and listening to a story about a woman who is breaking away from all the belonging she has as her sister tries to anchor her to the world that she has long ago left behind.  Ironic.

I liked that this could be put down in a few hours.  It might have been too intense if it was longer, or had to get deeper into some other characters, for people to be able to hang in there to finish it.  But I enjoyed it.

Round 2 of noveling shall begin and I will wrestle down more books.  But I will stop complaining about spring leaving me hanging, as it has finally decided to show up.



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