At this time of year, Reads of the Year lists are popping up in media outlets all over the place, filled with authors, journalists and broadcasters on what they’ve enjoyed most in 2016. Unfortunately, these lists all too often reflect subconscious bias, with some of them seeing male contributors recommend other men in 75% of their picks. I’m tired of Reads of the Year lists filled with men recommending men. To redress the balance and shake things up a bit, I’ve curated my own light hearted Reads of the Year list for TYCI, inviting friends likely to have fun and interesting suggestions to share their tips on their favourite writing by women in 2016.
For me, a few books stood out above the rest, and I’ve written about most of them in this column. From the cocktail-stick-sharp short stories by debut writer Lara Williams in the zeitgeist capturing collection Treats, to non-fiction Olivia Laing’s The Lonely City looking at artists inspired by alienation in the big city. Some of my favourite novels of the year were set in recent history, such as Bella Mia by Donatella di Pietrantonio (translated by Franca Scurti Simpson), following the emotional aftermath of families displaced by the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake in Italy with tender and well paced prose, The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride steeped in 90s London, theatre, and love, probably my most eagerly anticipated publication of the year (my tear-stained copy didn’t disappoint); and in Han Kang’s follow-up to the success of The Vegetarian with Human Acts (translated by Deborah Smith), on the 1980 Gwangju uprising of South Korea. It may have been a challenging year for many but, perhaps unsurprisingly, it has also been a year that has brought us bold and original writing.
Regular readers of my SPINE column know that I’m just as likely to be reading something brand new as a book from a few years ago: reading habits don’t always follow the publishing calendar, and the same is true of my contributors. I asked for what they’ve most enjoyed and there are some brilliant sounding suggestions in here.
Kathleen Coyle interviews Liela Moss about the band’s latest EP, ‘Serenade’.
‘Serenade’ feels like the natural successor to ‘Follow’, which was more upbeat than previous tracks on ‘KIN’. Heartbreak reverberated throughout the album, but a serenade suggests a celebration of love. Will the next album be more sanguine in tone?
I think most of the lyrics that tumble out of my head, oscillate between an optimistic vision of the triumph of humanity over fear, or the pessimism of losing love and being separate from the whole. So regarding the next record as it emerges, well it will doubtless peer into both of those realms, and come out blinking!
Rosie Davies talks to Scottish Album Of The Year winner Anna Meredith about her latest project.
People are, apparently, surprised to find out that Anna Meredith’s music has been written by a woman. If her music was, God forbid, marketed by Nestlé she’d be a grab bag of Mexican Chilli McCoys or a Yorkie. NOT FOR GIRLS!!!! Lol.
It feels like a betrayal to something or someone to whisper, “Yeah, I can kind of see what they mean.”
Samantha Spaccasi continues to explore artists who shape and push the boundaries of a genre.
The DIY scene holds a special place in my heart. For me, the thriving underground indie scene is a reminder that the legacy of punk’s democratic, egalitarian principles is still alive and can function in a neoliberal, capitalistic society. Even though I’m not in a band, the ethos of DIY encouraged me to start my own blog and be a music critic. While some would argue that the scene is becoming largely homogenous and stylistically rigid, and it’s true that some bands and artists are lured into the trap of making music that sounds exactly like the work of Mac Demarco and other lo-fi artists, there are some who are doing pioneering sound work in the DIY community while also working to radically reshape it. For many people, the DIY community can be a difficult space to navigate. I’ve read many books on the American indie underground, and I believe this phenomenon can be pinpointed to the fact that DIY shows became spaces where toxic masculinity ran unchecked. As Sharon Cheslow brilliantly stated, “Although many of the females have just as much anger, it [isn’t] socially acceptable for us to release. The angry young boy thing [is] very romanticised. Angry young girls [are] a threat.” Historically, DIY spaces haven’t been very welcoming to women, femmes, trans people, or people of colour. And while strides have been made in making the scene more inclusive, as a community, we still have a long way to go towards dismantling oppressive power structures that do exist and are present in our shows, stores, and publications.