the portable veblen review

Okay, so maybe I won’t be trying to read more award-winners.

I’m going to be blunt. I thought this was horrendous.

The characters were privileged and hateful and ridiculous. I was going to try to summarise the interestingly awful relationship that Veblen has with every single character in the novel, but…no. I enjoyed the fact that there were lots of squirrels. That is all I have to say.

I’m really amazed what a difference the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign has made to my reading. The Portable Veblen (written by Elizabeth McKenzie) is the sort of thing that I would have really enjoyed about six months ago. But now? The relationships seem, in comparison to the books I’ve been reading recently, so dull and facile and petty. Interesting questions are raised, but in a way that is so profoundly disinteresting because that is all there is, if that makes sense.

I’m not complaining – not at all – but I am surprised about how quickly my reading of literary fiction has changed. That’s a really privileged statement, I know – to have the luxury of having my general situation portrayed in fiction. But I think that’s one of the many positives of this campaign – people are forced to check their privilege, whether it be due to their race, sexual orientation, mental/physical health, etc. (Oh, on that subject, there’s a bit of a strange representation of autism in The Portable Veblen that I’d love to hear people’s thoughts about. It is kind of implied that autism leads to a type of animalism/sexual perversity that really didn’t sit right with me.)

I would love to help create or publicise a weekly or monthly tag (Diverse December, anyone? Own Voices October? Tolerance Tuesday? I could go on) that helped book bloggers who do not specifically read diverse fiction to take a look at representations in their recently-reads. Like a supplementary to Naz’s Diverse Book Tag. To get a big part of the book blogger community regularly taking a hard look at themselves and what they’re reading might help, just a little bit, with the continuing push towards the inclusion of marginalised voices. (After all, publishing houses are focusing on other things, like…this). The more people who are focusing on diversity, the better, right?

Sorry this post is a bit of a mess – I’ve been thinking about this a lot but I really don’t know if I have the words to talk about it properly.

(If there are any terms in this that I’m mis-using or you have any comments about how I’ve broached this topic, please tell me. I am always, always grateful and ready to learn.)


5 thoughts on “the portable veblen review

  1. ladydisdainnotes says:

    I haven’t read this one, either, but I think it’s great that you feel so strongly about promoting more diverse reads. Especially when the majority of publishers are focusing on … unnecessary stuff – I’m quite flummoxed by that Emoji series. Reading and reviewing diverse books is a great place to start, and I think the WNDB movement is making some publishers sit up and listen.


  2. whatthelog says:

    I was pretty livid when I saw the Emoji series, not going to lie! And yeah, I totally agree – I’m actually hoping to get into publishing once I’ve finished my degree. I really want to help bring WNDB to the absolute forefront of any publishing house that I work for 🙂


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