November rattled by. I thought I was going to read more due to the dark days and frost but actually I went to a lot of gigs and generally enjoyed myself. And here in Bristol, the frost only started in December. Here’s what I did read and consume.
The Brain-Dead Megaphone by George Saunders- A collection of non fiction essays from Amercia’s best short story writer, dealing with the banality of the media, how they appeal to the lowest common denominator as well as travel missives. What shines throughout all of the pieces is Saunder’s humour and overwhelming empathy for fellow humans. There’s an introduction to Slaughterhouse 5 in here and the comparison is apt, because Saunders is close to Vonnegut in style. Worth a read, but maybe not essential.
Mister Wonderful by Daniel Clowes- Short comic that plays off the format and style of Sunday morning comics. Instead of the cheap punchlines, we get a dense anxiety monologue from a reasonably unlikeable character who doesn’t seem to engage with the world around him. Clowes delights in playing with the language of comic books, often placing thought boxes over dialogue boxes and inserting panels in different styles. There’s a weird attitude to some of the wider social issues running throughout it, but mostly this is an entertaining read.
Ness by Robert Macfarlane and Stanley Donwood- Strange prose poem and illustrations dealing with Orford Ness, the abandoned nuclear testing site. It shows the natural world getting revenge on those whole caused destruction, in an unnerving way. I loved the playful use of language, the overwhelming weirdness and the sense of place throughout this book. It feels like a condensed version of Annihilation in the best way.
The Roles we Play by Sabba Khan- Really interesting graphic novel about identify and religion as a muslim woman and a second generation immigrant to the UK from Pakistan. I got this out of the library and wasn’t sure what to expect. The style is fairly unique, more of an illustrated essay than a story. The exploration of different identities depending on the situation as well as intergenerational trauma are nuanced and thought provoking. A unique read, but really recommended.
- The Witchfinder- This is a dark comedy set during the puritan rule in England, a time the country would rather forget. Following a witchfinder taking a suspected witch to trial, it exposes the hypocrisy and self righteousness of middle England. It manages to be hilarious, with Daisy May Cooper and Tim Key stealing the show, whilst never losing sight of the misogyny and violence of the witch hunts. There’s only six episodes, but it’s one of the best comedies I’ve seen recently.
Saw three gigs last month and all of them were great in different ways. There’s something brilliant about being in a dark room singing along with strangers. Anais Mitchell was quiet, powerful and folky, in a small ish venue and a full band setup. Her voice is unique, plus she played songs from Hades Town (one of my favourite albums.)
Next up was The Mountain Goats, which were in the beautiful Albert Hall in Manchester. Their set was polished and slick, with some deep dives into their 20 year catalogue. I got into them around about hte time they toured last, so it was really good to finally see them live. They didn’t disappoint.
Up last was Martha, a loud indie punk group with excellent sing along choruses. We saw them at The Excange, a brilliant community ran venue in Bristol. Each song was only a couple of minutes so they rattled through them, but their set was tight and brilliant. Well worth seeking out.
That’s it for now. I’m going to do less as the year winds up, slow down and chill more. I might carry this on in the new year, we will see. I’ll likely do a separate post with my favourite media of the year as well.