Wednesday, July 31, 2019

July Consumption Diary



Image result for basketball and other thingsBasketball & Other Things by Shea Serrano (non-fiction)

This felt like reading something online (unsurprising, as Serrano writes for the Ringer and many chapters started as bits there or on its precursor, Grantland), without all the bells and whistles you might get online, like the ability to see the particular play being described instantly.

Which became the strength of the book.

Like the slow food revolution for NBA-heads. A wormhole back to the not-too-distant-past when you had to take some of these feats on faith, until the VHS arrived with the proof.

It helped reduce my screen time and open windows into a more creative application of my own NBA addiction.

The "(and other things)" is important, too. The book becomes a collection of personal essays, leaping off from barroom questions like "Which version of Michael Jordan was the best?" to discuss the difference between how white Americans and Mexican Americans care for their elderly.

Looking forward to Movies (and other things) in October!!

Superior by Angela Saini (non-fiction, audiobook)
Image result for superior angela saini

This pairs pretty well with The Coddling of the American Mind (which I still haven't finished, but). Answers the question: how did we get here? through the lens of race and race-based debate and politics.

In a macro-sense: it's so fucking demoralising (see also the ending of BlacKkKlansman). The scientific basis for racial difference has long been dismissed. But money and bad faith have been allowed to spur on bad science, which mixes with wilful ignorance...

That's the kicker. Without a latent mass of people waiting for these dog-whistles, it's over.

But there's enough in this book, if you pick through the individual parts, to suggest how we might go about (re?)building a better level of public discourse.

But some days it's just easier to go full-bore misanthropist, isn't it?

Image result for against interpretation susan sontagAgainst Interpretation and Other Essay by Susan Sontag (non-fiction, audiobook)

After reading these essays I happened to watch Darren Aronofsky's Mother! and it helped me understand why I hated it. There was no surface truth: it was all meant to be interpreted. No vehicle, just tenor. The urge to interpret turned into the creative act, leaving an empty vessel.

So, yeah, good book, bad movie.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh (novel, audiobook)
Image result for my year of rest and relaxation by ottessa moshfegh

The only fiction I read this month.

I really wanted to like it, but it had a steep hill to climb as it based its narrative of some of my pet peeves: excessive drug use, extended therapy scenes, privileged, passive protagonist... While I hadn't quite read this exact story before (ie from the perspective of a mid-twenties female in New York around the turn of the Millennium) I have to say, it was a slog.


The OA - Season 2 - I can see how some might see this show as a hot mess. It throws so many things against the wall. But to me, most of it coheres. And the stuff they're throwing? It's like they've been stealing my dream journal. Alternate realities. Angels. Cosmic Connections. And reading the same books: The Secret Life of Trees. Mind Games. Three-Body Problem...

The only thing that didn't sit right for me was the final twists, which was altogether too meta for me. If there's a reason Netflix hasn't renewed the show yet, it might be how the season ended. More likely it's that not enough people have watched it yet... I'm guilty for letting this sit on my watchlist for too long.

Or maybe the showrunners caught wind of the likelihood The OA would not be renewed and tried to crowbar some kind of closure (or deadening of expectations) so they could walk away from it? I think that's unlikely. But it's a show that invites theorising, even about it's production.


Crazy Rich Asians
Catch 22 (TV show)
Aziz Ansari: Right Now (curiosity killed the cat)
The Inbetweeners 2 - ugh

Monday, July 1, 2019

June Consumption Diary



The Angel's Cut by Elizabeth Knox (novel, audiobook, NZ)
Image result for the angel's cut elizabeth knox
It only took me ten years to get around to reading the sequel to The Vintner's Luck but boy howdee this was good.

It sent me scrambling for reasons for how a sequel could be this good. Like, it helps when the main character doesn't age, so the sequel can take place at any time or place that takes your fancy up until the present day... but it still takes a massive amount of  skill to pull off!

There's a lot in this book that echoes what I was interested in when writing Nailing Down the Saint. It goes a lot further in pushing forward a counter-story to the rational materialist world view (the main character is an ANGEL! Lucifer makes regular guest appearances), without ever seeming like fantasy for the sake of fantasy.

Hark by Sam Lipsyte (novel)

HarkI'd been hanging out for Hark to appear on Audible (or one of the borrowing services I can access through my library) but I got tired of waiting and read the physical book instead.

And at first it was like a drug. I was taking photos of individual pages so I'd have record of an amazing sentence, or a hilarious joke (often both at the same time).

An example from page 78, where two characters are at an art gallery:
"It says here that we should enjoy Volk's work but not forget that we was distant with his family in later years and once considered having an affair with a neighbor."
So much to unpack!

I did struggle slightly to separate the first perspective character (the novel has a handful of them), Fraz Penzig, from Milo Burke, the protagonist of Lipsyte's previous novel, The Ask (2010) - and Steve and Lewis from the two novels that preceded that one.

The middle section of Hark suffers a similar, you're-not-really-reading-for-plot-are-you?, doldrums. The kind I'd normally be able to power through in an audiobook, but is more pronounced when you can't multi-task. And the ending... well, it sucked.

Zooming out, I think we've all been conditioned to be a little tougher on satire in the last few years, which makes it hard for Hark to hit all of its targets. Like that joke above could be seen as minimising the shittiness of the Woody Allens and Louis C.K.'s of the world... You really need to go with the fact none of the characters - but the white males especially - are vessels for hyperbole. Heroic they are not. And when a joke makes you squirm, there's power in holding that space and interrogating why, even if you come out the other end thinking: you really shouldn't have, Sam.

Still, like The Ask (which was my favourite read of 2017), I've got a lot of love for Hark - it's verve and eye-descaling moments - but it won't compete for a spot in my top ten reads this year.

Aside: Any author concerned about your average star-ratings on Goodreads should scan Sam Lipstye's for a reminder that average + Amazon = piffle.

Image result for the dry jane harper
The Dry by Jane Harper (novel, audiobook)

Pretty standard crime thriller.

Revealed the killer a little early (and the twist wasn't in a very satisfying direction), puncturing the tension.

But then: could I write anything near as thrilling? Nope.

Image result for fight club 2Fight Club 2 by Chuck Palahniuk and Cameron Stewart (graphic novel)


God awful.

Mercifully short.


Game of Thrones - Season 7* and 8
Succession - Season 1
Black Mirror - Season 5
Always Be My Maybe
Behind the Curve
About Time