Deep Vellum is a non-profit publisher that primarily publishes works of translation. I purchased a ten-book subscription, e-book and paperback bundle. My total was $103, so they come out to about $10 for each book and I get both the e-book and paperback. They mail two books every two months. You can read my previous Deep Vellum book subscription reviews.
This month I received two books and, as seems to be the pattern with this subscription, I really liked one and was confused and befuddled by the other.
Let’s start off with the good stuff, The Outlaw by Jon Gnarr and translated from the Icelandic by Lytton Smith. According to the back blurb, this is the third and final in a series by Gnarr, who apparently grew up to be a comedian who accidentally became mayor. I can only assume the trilogy went in reverse order because this covers his teen years.
He was a pretty isolated teen, who had dyslexia but was never diagnosed with at (at least in this book, though based on this thoughts about it he clearly was later diagnosed) and so just thought he was dumb. He did all sorts of things to try and compensate for what he saw as his non-intelligence, like goof off in class, experiment with self-harm, drugs, booze, women, etc. All the basics.
In the beginning he was living the life a punk, fascinated with anarchy and the band Crass. By the end he’d turned into a new-waver because he realized that girls liked that better.
This is a book that pulls no punches and deals with some extremely difficult, raw, painful experiences head on. The author is a brave man to write this plainly about what it feels like to be alone and lonely, to be alienated, to be different when you just want to fit in.
Rating: 9/10. A very unique voice sharing a story that is unfortunately too prevalent.
Recommended for: People who like memoirs; people who like coming of age stories; fans of the history of punk; fans of raw, emotional, no-holds-barred memoirs
Does it pass the Bechdel–Wallace test? No but it’s a memoir so I’m not sure how it could?
Author of color / main character of color / female author / female main character: no / no / no / no
The second book was Not One Day by Anne Garreta and translated by Emma Ramadan. “For life is too short to submit to reading poorly written books and sleeping with women one does not love,” is about the only line in this book that made sense to me or was interesting to me or, I don’t know, didn’t make me roll my eyes.
This is the result of Garreta taking a month to write every night about a different lover / almost lover / woman she was infatuated with. It’s sold as a feminist book, as “intimate and erotic” and the author won several awards for it, so there’s clearly something here – but I was blind to it.
There’s no question to me that this woman has been in A LOT of writers workshops. This is a book written by someone who is just fascinated by their own writing and finds their life experience to be wholly unique. This reads just like what it is – a diary in which a person I don’t know talks about people I don’t know with very few details except for her own inner dialogue about what each woman meant to her. It was not for me.
Rating: 2/10. In case you’re wondering, I only give one star to books that actively make me angry.
Recommended for: I don’t know any of those people.
Does it pass the Bechdel–Wallace test? N/A
Author of color / main character of color / female author / female main character: no / no / yes / yes