Finished up rereading Wittgenstein's Mistress last night. I came around a little more to the "the narrator is mad" point of view by the end. That's the view the back of the book takes, that she's mad and that everyone in the world didn't really just disappear suddenly. But I like the idea of her not being mad, or of her being mad but that everyone really did just disappear. That requires a science fictional reading, but one that doesn't provide any of the normal elements you expect from science fiction, like some kind of explanation for the event, or at least a protagonist who seems interesting in the explanation for the event. The narrator of the novel doesn't really address the "everyone disappeared" problem at all. In one of his essays about science fiction and language Samuel Delany writes about the phrase "his world exploded" (I may not have that exactly right) and how in a conventional novel that is a metaphorical statement, but in a science fiction novel that can be a literal statement. Wittgenstein's Mistress straddles that divide, offering both the metaphorical and the literal reading.
I also gave up on Angola Janga: Kingdom of Runaway Slaves by Marcelo D'Salete. I got about 150 pages into its 420 pages (it's a big comic) before deciding it just wasn't working for me. I was having a lot of trouble following the narrative itself and keeping the characters straight. The proliferation of unfamiliar names mixed with a lot of terminology from both sides of the conflict (the African slaves and the colonizing slavers) made a lot of the dialogue confusing. Time seemed to jump around a lot too in ways that wasn't always clear. I also feel like a lot of the scenes were really generic, people wandering through the jungle hunting each other or trying to escape. Only a few of them really gelled as engaging.
So of the four books I got as part of my payment for the essay I wrote: I gave up on one as not interesting enough, I hated one (Zanardi), I am pretty ambivalent about one (Alienation), and I don't think I've mentioned the fourth because I plan to reread it (Bezimena by Nina Bunjevac).
I think I'm also giving up A Brief History of Seven Killings. It's been sitting on my bedside table unfinished for over a week now and I haven't had a strong desire to pick it up and read more. The stream of consciousness narration in thick dialect was really dragging me down, and I'm not just getting engaged enough by the political plot. Better to just move onto something else.