Sunday, December 1, 2019

November consumption diary

My only public outing in November was for LitCrawl's "Lie Down and Listen" session at the Design Library. It was cool to take part in LitCrawl for the first time, after attending many events over the last six years.

I read the pornography section from near the start of Nailing Down the Saint and only found out there was a kid (maybe 11) in the audience afterwards.

Parents these days! :)

Lawrence Patchett reading from The Burning River
 to a very comfortable and relaxed audience at the Design Library


I saw Gang of Four live at San Fran. It took me a long time to decide if I was watching a good cover band that just happened to have the original guitarist or if this incarnation of Gang of Four was simply good. 

Like, the smashing up a microwave bit was something I'd read about the original lineup doing. And to see the new frontman doing that bit, when he wasn't born first time around... it was weird.

All the fifty-something white dudes in the crowd seemed to be into it. Songs like 'Damaged Goods' were stadium-level singalongs. Maybe it was the older crowd's energy that finally won me over.

One thing's for sure: forty years on, Entertainment is a great album.


November was a weird month. I felt like I didn't get much reading time, what with all the reading I had to do (like judging the Sunday Star Times Short Story Competition and being the external assessor for a creative writing student's manuscript).

But then I started listing books and it wasn't as meagre as I'd supposed. (Some I'm only partway through and will include in December's tally.)

Image result for how to be both cover"How to be Both by Ali Smith (novel, audiobook)

Loved it. I'm slowly working my way through Smith's books in a random way, and each one makes me think: why am I being so haphazard? Why don't I just devote myself to reading Ali Smith and only Ali Smith until there's nothing left?

The Coddling of the American Mind cover artHow to be both - I liked it even more than I liked Autumn, which was in my top ten a couple of years back. It pushed a lot of buttons for me: it's about (partly) art and artists; narrative invention; a sense of whimsy without being flippant... Stuff it in my veins!

The Coddling of the American Mind by Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff (non-fiction, audiobook)

I had to hit pause on this book about halfway through in May. I finally returned in late October and made it to the end in November.

It was interesting to recognise its language (like "anti-fragile") being used in tweets by Jordan Petersen wannabes on Twitter. One of the overarching points of the book is that an "us versus them" mentality is a cognitive distortion... but it seems so far past its tipping point, can we ever "undistort" this way of thinking?

Image result for sisters mctiernan"The Sisters by Dervla McTiernan (novel, audiobook)

A crime novel in four hours? How might this work? 

Well, turns out you do everything you'd do in a book two or three times the length, but when you get to the first suspect who looks dead-to-rights like they're guilty you don't provide a twist, you just make them... guilty. 

Case closed. 

Book done. 

Image result for mary macpherson social media"

Social Media by Mary MacPherson (poetry, NZ)

Arch Kiwi poet of modern minutae.

No Friend But the Mountains by Behrouz Boochani (non-fiction, audiobook)

I finished this book just before it was announced Boochani had been allowed to travel to NZ thanks to the mahi of folks like Amnesty International and Word Christchurch. Then it was announced Boochani would also do an event in Wellington -- and I was like, "I gotta be there," only I had parenting commitments that night.

NFBtM is the kinda book that enrages and frustrates by virtue of its written intent and lived experience (though I did find the translator's long sections before and after the main text tiresome) and makes you wanna write fifth form essays about Man's Inhumanity to Man.

It demonstrates the power of literature to pierce through the veneer of "I know about that from the news" to actually confronting what has happened, and is happening, in Australia's offshore detention centres (and other Western border enforcement industrial complexes) and inside the rotten heart of "The Lucky Country" itself.


The Irishman
I am not an Easy Man
Living with Yourself - Season 1

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