Monday, February 27, 2017

Consumption diary – January/February 2017 (part 2)

For music, see my Burns Fortnight #2 post.


The Bone Clocks - David Mitchell (novel, audiobook)

Hard to mention this without it sounding like a massive humblebrag, but I remember talking to David Mitchell about this book (he was nearly finished with it) when we were both at the Sydney Writers Festival in 2011. Reading it now, there's a lot in the Crispin Hershey section that borrows strongly from Mitchell's experience at Australian writers festivals (mostly those that pre-date 2011). And there's a New Zealander in the novel BUT he's a dude from the Chatham Islands who is granted the secret to immortality in the 1st half of the twentieth century, so safe to say NOT modelled on me!!

Mitchell is a go-to writer for readers who want chunkiness and can live with the unevenness that is part of the bargain. I enjoyed it, but all the references back to other Mitchell novels felt too much like a self-congratulatory version of the Shanghai Knights effect (oh, so they're in Victorian England, so they have to meet Arthur Conan Doyle etc). It's worse in that the big conceit of The Bone Clocks (there are these two warring factions of immortals and lots of other people have psychic abilities) has now retrospectively infiltrated Mitchell's back catalogue. Most significantly affected/diminished are Black Swan Green and The 1000 Autumns of Jacob de Zoet.

Yes, so a book about which it is easy to feel conflicted.

The Ask and the Answer - Patrick Ness (novel, audiobook) - Book 2 in the Chaos Walking trilogy, read a couple of years after I really enjoyed Book 1. This one felt more static, and as a result, longer, than the first. But still a pretty great exercise in -building (world-, character-, patois-).

Ready Player One - Ernest Cline (novel, audiobook)

The first two hours (audiobook, remember) felt like 90% exposition, but I enjoyed it anyway for its unabashed geekiness. Take a step back and it's a bit uncomfortable to think about how Halliday, the deceased game designer who kicks off the hunt for the key to his fortune, is essentially vehicle for Cline's wish fulfilment. Gee, if only everyone in the world loved the same stuff I love? What if there were hordes of Gen Y, Z, AA and BB kids who devoted 12 hours a day, as Wade Watts does in Ready Player One, to absorbing 80's sitcoms and mastering arcade games? What if everything I know and all my useless skills actually became valuable?

Some problems with pacing, characterisation, and the ending, but I enjoyed this book more than anything I've read in the past year, so there.

10th of December - George Saunders (short stories)

Re-read this to help me think about short stories and oblique angles. Also, gearing up for reading Lincoln in the Bardo next month.

Hicksville - Dylan Horrocks (graphic novel)

Another re-read, another effort to re-centre myself as I geared up for a new/renewed writing endeavour.

The Man Who Could Fly - Rudolpho Anaya (short stories)

Short stories from 'the godfather and guru of Chicano Literature', chosen because of the title story. Interesting without being uplifting or massively transportative.

More Than This - Patrick Ness (novel, audiobook)

Chose this instead of finishing the Chaos Walking trilogy because a) I didn't feel like more sci-fi just yet (though it's not that sci-fi) and b) I was curious what Ness's other YA stuff is like. I'd describe More Than This as emo.

Visual media

This will be an incomplete list as I haven't been keeping record of what I watch, but I think it's a worthwhile exercise this year.

* Films

The Last Valley, Platoon, Sneakerheadz, A Few Good Men, Goodfellas, Trouble with the Curve, Silence.

Silence was the only one I saw in a theatre. I went to a 2pm session on a Friday - one of the affordances of fellowship life - but it was research for my novel. No, honestly. Maybe I'll explain one day.

But Silence. Um. Cinematically, it's essentially a series of torture scenes connected together by shots of greyscale people huddling in one place or another and the crickets and air conditioner hum soundtrack. It's been described as a Scorsese passion project because it was in the works for 28 years (and because it was never going to be The Wolf of Wall Street), but maybe it took so long to come to fruition because of a lack of sustained passion?

It's a one-note film that goes for more than two and a half hours. If I had a passion project, it would be some massive overreach - a symphonic shambles of ideas. But that's just me, I guess.

(And isn't any novel written by 99.9% of writers a passion project, in that it's something the establishment doesn't really want from you. That's how I see my work, anyway.)

* TV (a misnomer - I wonder if we'll ever get around to calling it something different?)

The OA, Fargo (Season 1), Abstract, Luther, selected episodes of The West Wing, and so much Paw Patrol (I wish there were more girl dogs but when I asked my daughter, whose favourite is Sky, she wasn't fazed).

  • Roughly ranked in order of appreciation.
  • Entire series run to present day, unless otherwise noted.

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