Sunday, December 31, 2017

December Consumption Diary


Albums from 2017 to add into consideration for my top ten, if I hadn't already posted it:

  • Jane Weaver - Modern Kosmology
  • The Surfing Magazines - The Surfing Magazines
  • Jay Som - Everybody Works

And I might've bumped Protomartyr up further after getting excited about seeing them in Wellington in February and listening to them a lot in recent weeks.

(The list of good things about moving back to Wellington is growing, but the ledger is by no means level.)


Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse (novel)

I picked this up from the bookshelf of my Island Bay holiday home at the end of November. It transported me back to my undergraduate days of reading “classics” (though not this particular book): the love of multiple frame narrators, the unabashed passages of philosophy, the unapologetic return to fiction.

This was the kind of book I might have loved at 19, though I responded to differently at 34. Even though I didn’t read it at 19, it felt a little like time travel, or a time travel experiment gone wrong where I was both 19 and 34 at once, both falling for the façade and seeing the sadder side to the tale of the wolf of the steppes.

Maybe I should re-read it in another 15 years?

Alright, pencil it in!

Other minds: The octopus and the evolution of intelligent life by Peter Godfrey Smith (non-fiction, audiobook)

I enjoyed this. Since finishing it, I've been tempted to refer to something covered in the book (most often how far back you have to go to find the common ancestor of humans and the octopus, and how incredible it is that intelligent life could evolve in parallel...) about a dozen times, though I've held my tongue.

Better to be THAT GUY on here, than I.R.L.

Clash of Kings (parts 1 and 2) by George RR Martin (novel, audiobook)

Like the first novel in GRRM’s Song of Fire and Ice saga, this book is split into two audiobooks (each over 16 hours long).

I didn’t get as hooked into the listening experience as I did with A Game of Thrones, partly because of the way the second novel – necessarily – spreads out its focus, introducing new perspective characters and expands the map.

After two books in the series, I have a greater appreciation for the challenges, successes and (rare) missteps of the TV show.

Will I listen to the next book in the series? Should I? Those are questions for 2018.

Waking up by Sam Harris (non-fiction, audiobook)
There’s something about vehement, aggressive atheists that brings out the contrarian in me and makes me want to believe (I don’t, but).

There’s some good stuff in here, but the book is poorly structured. At various points I wasn’t sure what it was trying to be. Having finished it, I'm still not.

I listened to one of Sam Harris’ podcasts (one about the Heaven’s Gate cult, which quoted from a short section of Waking Up) and found it more rewarding that this whole mishmash of a book. So go there, if you must.

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett (play, audiobook)

An experiment to see what listening to a play would be like after so long consuming audiobooks.

Way back when I started listening to audiobooks, when I was living in Brisbane (so 2004-2007), I went through recordings of all of Shakespeare’s plays I hadn’t read/studied or seen performed. And I found it rewarding – and not that challenging - though my retention of most of those plays is pretty poor a decade or more later.

(The same can be said for many books I read or listened to in that era, so...)

Listening to Beckett, however, was more of a struggle. I thought a play so interested in language would suit being denied all the other senses but hearing, but I grew frustrated. This wasn’t someone reading a book into my ear, it was a reduction of something quite different.

So yeah, plays, like kids (?), should be seen and not (only) heard.


Three physical books (NZ novels) I read for review (The Necessary Angel, Our Future is in the Air, Salt Picnic) so I won’t discuss them here.


And that's it. My top ten books from 2017's reading will be found among my monthly consumption diaries. I have Elif Batuman's The Idiot and Colson Whitehead's Underground Railroad queued up as the next audiobooks I listen to, and had been hoping to squeeze them in before 1 Jan to give 2017 as rich a crop as possible, but it's considered rude to walk around with your earbuds in during the holidays. Go figure!


Easy - Season 2 - a kind of anti-TV, thrilling in it's ability to be contemporary without using it (eg being an Uber and stand-up comedian) for a joke, but never quite getting to the dramatic bits either. 

Dead Man Down – this is the kind of movie I watch with my in-laws, and as far as those sorts of flicks go, I really enjoyed it. I’d never heard of it, and was surprised to learn it wasn’t liked by critics when it came out in 2013. I didn’t find the twists all that implausible, and I liked that they were laced throughout all of the acts, not withheld until the final one.

Suicide Squad – another one with the in-laws. God almighty. I’d heard it was bad, and was in the mood for a trainwreck, but it was worse than that. Somehow Margot Robbie managed to be compelling among the other wreckage. But sheesh.

The Great Wall – yep, in-laws again. Matt Damon isn’t in yellow-face (instead he put on his best Liam Neeson voice – go figure) but it is sad that a huge number of people can only watch a movie if the protagonist is a white dude.

A Night in Casablanca – Classic Marx Bros flick. Full of dad jokes and creepy uncle jokes.

The Lobster – Dead Man Down reminded me that I watched Colin Farrell in the Lobster earlier in the year and never put it on one of these diary lists…

Gary of the Pacific – abandoned before the end. It wasn’t funny. It wasn’t smart. I just wanted the islanders, especially Gary’s sister, to tell him to stop being a dick but I couldn’t give them any more rope.

The Meyerowitz Stories – Someone decribed it as a more mature Squid and Whale – I didn’t like that movie and I disliked the first half of this one even more. Somehow, the inevitable dad-in-hospital, siblings-unite plot kept us watching and we made it to the end, but I’m so over Noah Baumbach.

And a lot of Disney’s Moana (the kids’ current fave and probably better than everything listed above).

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