I was on honeymoon in Croatia for the start of October, so I relaxed on a beach and read loads of books. It was great. It got me back into reading a lot more. Now as it gets colder all I want to do is to hunker down with good books.
Here’s what went into my head this month:
Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman - This is an antidote to productivity books that promise ways to do more with less time. There are no life hacks in this book. Instead, Burkeman writes a philosophical treatise on what it means to live. Our lives are brief and limited and at some point we will die. The antidote to this is to slow down, practice doing nothing and embrace the wonder of being alive. It’s a beautiful, funny but also wise book that made me reassess my relationship to productivity and stop trying to do everything. Reading it on a beach in Croatia helped of course.
The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman - I’ll admit, the start of this novel put me off, with it’s unlikeable characters and jokes that didnt quite work. But Im glad I persevered, because this is a clever inversion of the historical novel. Instead of being caught up in significant events, the characters are always on the outside. It also takes several stylistic left turns I wasnt expecting and links together in unusual ways. Quite fun in the end.
Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees - Strange Edwardian novel about a kingdom threatened by Faerie, the country nearest them that goes unmentioned. People in the town start eating Faerie fruit and the ruling class refuses to acknowledge the strange consequences. The metaphorical nature of this tale is not lost, as the fruit could be a stand in for sex or death. It’s a strange, beguiling tale that has the pattern and language of an old folk tale, yet feels weirder and darker than any of those. I picked it up after reading a recommendation from Neil Gaiman a while ago, and it’s clear it influenced a lot of modern fantasy.
The Waves by Virginia Woolf - Such a beautiful, powerful book. I hesitate to call it a novel because theres almost no plot. Instead, there are six monologues that weave in and out of each other. The writing is incredible, so detail rich and hypnotic in it’s delivery. Towards the end it becomes deeply melancholic and overwhelming. This utterly blew me away.
Good Listeners by Pascal Vine - This pamphlet is full of vivid, intense poems that feel deeply personal to Pascal while dealing with universal themes like compassion and spirituality. Theres a unique perspective throughout these poems which combine paganism, christianity and disability. Pascal is an excellent poet, conjuring vivid, unusual images. This is his debut publication and is well worth seeking out.
Uncreative Writing by Kenneth Goldsmith - Interesting, if fairly academic read, about reacting to the excess of text that surrounds us. Instead of creating new works, the writer’s job is to shape and select this text into new forms. Through unoriginal work the artist reveals itself. It was thought-provoking, but like a lot of conceptual art, the ideas seem better than the execution. I probably wont use any of these techniques but Im glad I read it.
Keep Going! by Austin Kleon - A short book full of wise, useful advice about how to keep a creative practise going. It pairs well with Four Thousand Weeks, being concerned with mortaliry and the choices we make. It also makes the case that the main purpose of art lies in the creation, not in external judgement, that you should make things to improve yourself, not to be judged. Nothing in here is revolutionary, but like Kleon’s previous book Show Your Work, I have a feeling I will return to this again and again to remind myself of the lessons within.
Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power - I thought this was really good. Making a prequel to the Lord of the Rings without having access to most of Tolkiens deep lore is a challenge, but I thought this was compelling and exciting all the way through, with excellent charactisation, world building and acting. It felt like Middle Earth again, with beautiful filming and attention to detail. I know people had issues with the lore 1 but I thought it was a good adaptation of scant information. Adaptations always change things. Unlike my wife, I am not super invested in the history of the second age, so maybe I didn’t mind the changes as much. I just wish they had given a small sliver of their massive budget to Paper Girls.
Cobra Kai Season 5 - Everyone’s favourite karate fighting high school drama carries on for another season. This time, the ridiculousness tipped over from entertaining to overly silly. Everyone being obsessed with karate for some reason is fun; attempted murder and adults beating up children feels like its gone too far. I still enjoyed bits of it but overall I think the series has gone on a bit too long.
Liquorice Pizza - I actually watched this back in August and had forgotten all about it when I did my last roundup. This film follows a fifteen year old entrepreneur and a twenty give year old woman stuck in a rut as their lives interweave. I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of it. There are some perfect scenes but also a lot of padding. The ending also really feels incongruous to the rest of the film and marrs what came before.
Suspiria (1977) - I watched this on Halloween, which feels appropriate. More than a standard horror film, this is a lurid nightmare scape, full of hyper-saturated lighting and intense, otherworldly music. Its all the better for being strange, striking its own style that is unlike anything else. I loved it.
The Magnus Archives - I finally got through all 200 episodes of this horror podcast. It starts as an episodic anthology but quickly evolves into something more. The last season is powerful and intense, with an ending that works really well. Its exceptionally well done, with excellent voice acting, creepy soundscapes and tight writing that makes the most of the audio format. Plus, there’s another three seasons on the way!
That’s it for October. As the seasons slow down, I’m going to try and do the same.
Plus other racist bullshit we arent going into here. ↩