This is slightly late as I’ve thrown myself back into the world after a halting start to the year. I joined a gym, started going to more things and exploring the new area we live in. I also went to Birmingham and other places around the country a bit more.
This is the media I’ve consumed in the past couple of months.
The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisen - I’ve gushed in previous editions of this blog about the first two books. This is no exception. I think it might be my favourite series of books I’ve read this year. Jemisen expands the world once again, while deepening the flawed characters and the choices they make. It’s a macro and micro approach that is unlike anything else I’ve ever read. There are answers to questions but they are not what you would expect, and it all finishes with a climax that genuinely could go either way. I was completely and utterly bowled over by these books. Seek them out.
Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon- I was completing the trilogy after years. It was odd coming to this book after the other two, as I feel like I’ve incorporated a lot of this advice already into my creative practice. Still, it was good to be reminded about some of the concepts, especially in a year when I’m digging into my practice more. I feel like I’m going to keep coming back to this one.
M Train by Patti Smith- In the first chapter, Smith is challenged by a dream to write a book about nothing. So this is a chronicle of her writing in cafes, but infinitely more interesting than that sounds. It expands to cover memory and life and everything inbetween. Smith is such an inspirational artist, full of passion and reverence for the creative act. I liked it all, even the diversions into tv mysteries I haven’t seen.
Faulty Manufacturing by Josie Alford- A poetic exploration of grief that is at times funny, moving and painful. I know Josie a little through the Bristol poetry scene and this book is a fantastic evolution of their style. Each poem is pared by to just the essentials, with not an unnecessary word in them. Each final line is razor sharp and their is humour, sadness and anger mixed together. Recommended.
Walking Towards the Noise by John Bowie- Poetry written during the pandemic, with sections called mask on, mask off, mask on again. I enjoyed a lot of the descriptions and individual lines, but overall this collection didn’t quite click with me.
Our Share of Night by Mariana Enriquez, translated by Megan McDowell- Sprawling horror novel across different times that parallels the military junta in Argentina. I liked a lot of this novel- the initial growing tension, the horror that unfolds from different perspectives and the complex, deeply flawed characters. However, I found that some parts dragged once the occult madness reveals itself, then it races too fast to the end.
Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield- A woman returns from a submarine trip which went on too long, and her wife is trying to communicate with her. I spent the first half of this book waiting for the weirdness to kick in and missing most of the subtext of grief and illness that runs throughout it. Partly there’s some inertia in the story telling, but it kicks in around the second half of the book. The ending is deeply moving, in a dreamlike way and it is beautifully written through.
Blades of Glory - A deeply silly film. Already now it seems quite dated, joining the ranks of other films in the mid 2000s that are based around a specific sport. But Will Ferrell and Jon Heder have enough comedic chops and charm to elevate it and make the most throwaway lines funny.
Asteroid City - Wes Anderson has leant more into his style as his films go on. This is charming and of course, absolutely beautiful. For me, it felt like a collection of scenes rather than a coherent statement, especially with the framing device parts which don’t add much to the film. But it’s funny and unique throughout.
- I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson- We binged all three seasons of this sketch show. None of the sketches goes in the direction you expect and it’s endlessly inventive and quotable. Tim picks up on small societal irks and expands them to surreal proportions. It’s brevity helps as well as each episode is only 15 minutes long, so it avoids the hit and miss aspect of a lot of sketch shows. I really enjoyed it.
- The Ocean at the End of the Lane- Before this, I hadn’t been to the theatre in a few years. This was a brilliant introduction back, which showcased what makes theatre special- the collective imagination. This production is stunning, using puppets and set changes to fullest effect. It’s utterly magical at times, terrifying at others and works to bring the fantastical story to life. The acting across the board was superb- the lead actors especially acting young was impressive. What an incredible production.
That’s it for now, come back next time to see what I’ve been enjoying.