Crudo – Olivia Laing

As a reader, I find myself almost gleeful when I find a book that is not a one-time read. Crudo, is definitely not a single read book. It took me over a month to even read it the first time around. Crudo can come off as difficult and pretentious if you don’t exercise patience, which I truly have little of, but when you do, it is worth every second you spend reading instead of DNF-ing the book.  

Crudo is the story of Kathy, who is a writer, getting married while the world seems to be ripping apart at the seams. It brings about the question of what is commitment in the face of the end of the world? especially to the commitment phobic. Kathy speaks about all the grey areas we thrive in, and what creating art and consuming art means in times of dystopia.  

“Ten years ago, maybe even five, it was possible to ignore atrocities, to believe that these things happened somewhere else, in a different order of reality from your own. Now, perhaps because of the internet, it was like the blind spot had got very small, and motional like a marble. You couldn’t rely on it. You could go on holiday but you knew corpses washed up there, if not now then then, or later.” 

She relentlessly questions today’s world, until she is filled with varied, complicated answers that aren’t answers after all. It is a piece of work that brings us to confront the idea that life and questions don’t always have answers, much less a “right” one.  

I find comfort in the chaos of her mind, since it reflects mine. I particularly picked up this book because I feel that I live in dystopian times myself. It was comforting, not because I found answers, but because there was someone else who had articulated my every day. Stories bring great comfort when they are able to tell you that there are more of your kind, that you share thoughts, you are less alone than you perceive to be.  

“Numbness mattered, it was what the Nazis did, made people feel like things were moving too fast to stop and though unpleasant and eventually terrifying and appalling, were probably impossible to do anything about”. 

This book is challenging because it asks more of you as a reader, it needs you to introspect and find context to in depth references, observation and commentary that are written as everyday conversation. It is a book that will reveal something new each time you pick it up, adding more to the narrative, much like an Aaron Sorkin visual treat. 

“Stories like that displaced her, they displaced everything, how could you be happy when you knew the tendencies humans had, their aptitude for cruelty.” 

It’s okay if it makes you feel less than, we need more of that, we need more spaces to come to terms with how little we know and then proceed to learn.