Whatcha Reading, Alix Christie?

Every week we ask an interesting figure what they're digging into. Have ideas who we should reach out to? Let it fly: info@seattlereviewofbooks.com. Want to read more? Check out the archives.

Alix Christie is a writer and journalist based in London. Her novel Gutenberg's Apprentice (which I absolutely adored) came out in 2014. She's at work on a new novel about her Scots ancestors in the Pacific Northwest.

What are you reading now?

Almost finished Her Body & Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado. These stories are blowing my mind. On the one hand they're visceral, sexy, physical, and on the other fantasmagorically surreal — yet also terrifyingly plausible. Each one is a take on the obliteration of the female body, the violence to which it is constantly prey in this society. Yet they're dreamlike, logical, beguiling—brilliantly devised. I am in awe of her imaginative power and look forward to reading much more.

What did you read last?

A remarkable travelogue, Notes from the Century Before: a Journal from British Columbia by Edward Hoagland, in the Modern Library Exploration Series. It describes a 1966 journey through the roadless B.C. interior east of the Alaska panhandle. I can't remember ever reading such astonishing descriptions of landscape and people. Hoagland has a razor eye and manages to marry physical traits with moral or metaphysical ones: one fellow "has a rather strange biblical face, rather like Lincoln's"; he looks "as though his face were younger underneath the skin than outside." Nor could I have imagined so many different and precise ways to depict rough and turbulent landscape: "The mountains around were like modern war. … Chains of them extended on in laughing, awesome serration to the four skylines, not a hero among them, just a fierce mass of tire irons and short knives." Some of his attitudes are dated, but the man wields absolutely extraordinary prose.

What are you reading next?

It's a toss-up between the first translation by a woman of Homer's The Odyssey and an enjoyable historical novel, in this case A Gentleman in Moscow which a sophisticated reader friend enthusiastically recommends. I admit to not ever having read the Odyssey, but reports of the brilliance and clarity of Emily Wilson's translation convinced me to buy the book. She apparently conveys Homer's women with more insight, and the opening line is a stunner: "Tell me about a complicated man." We're talking 500+ pages though, and my hibernating winter self is sorely tempted by what I am told is Amor Towles' uplifting story of a man with integrity and heart. I'll keep you posted.