I started writing a short story yesterday. I took my laptop to a different building at lunchtime and wrote for 30 minutes surrounded by studying students. It felt good.
Now I woke up at 6am on a Saturday to continue working on it, but instead I'm doing this consumption diary.
A Short History of the World According to Sheep by Sally Coulthard (non-fiction, audiobook)
I view these topic-specific history books are as a kind of palatte cleanser between books. A way to reset and may learn a thing or two in the process, or see things in a different way. This was okay in that respect. The second half is very Anglocentric. Oh well.
How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt (non-fiction, audiobook)
Written during the first half of Trump's first term, when the spectre of a second was very real (as was impeachment or implosion before the election). Pretty spot on in it's diagnosis of the authoritarian traits of Trump and a reminder, as Biden pushes through some pretty good policies on things like climate change, that we are no longer on the darkest timeline.
Two Stories by Sally Rooney (short stories, audiobook)
Should I count this as a while book? Probably not. But I have a 20+ hour Kim Stanley Robinson novel queued up for next month so I will, so there.
The first story was so good. The second less arresting. Hard to judge without another six or so stories to bounce off.
A Children's Bible by Lydia Millet (novel, audiobook)
I will always love Millet for the jolt her novel Oh! Pure and Radiant Heart gave me when I was letting my dream of writing seriously slip away as a twenty-something living in soulless Brisbane.
A Children's Bible takes just as bold risks, but is completely different. It'd be interesting to read this after Parable of the Sower, rather than before. I think I would have enjoyed this take on climate-induced partial apocalypse even more.
Let Me Tell You What I Mean by Joan Didion (essays, audiobook)
A collection of previously uncollected essays, reviews and columns from across 5 decades of Didion's writing. Didn't feel bitsy. I enjoyed it.
Islands of Decolonial Love by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson (short stories, audiobook)
Wow. This book is exciting. It starts out with short stories in a recognisable, North American mold. It felt a little like a first nation's Jesus' Son - and then the stories lean more into Nishnaabeg modes and language. Another bad comparison: it felt like the bait and switch in David Vann's Legend of a Suicide where the death (the dyer?) in the second half is unexpected and makes you re-evaluate everything. This time, it's like: where those first stories good on their own terms or were they bait to lure me in.
Lots to mull over. Lots to learn from.
A Complicated Love Story Set in Space by Shaun David Hutchinson (novel, audiobook)
YA romance notable for two things:
1. How absolutely unremarkable it is within the world of the novel that the romance is between two male sixteen year olds. Literally unremarkable: no one bats an eyelid that person A is gay, or person B is gay, or that A and B would be a couple. It's cheering that there's these representations out there and that LGBT youths might experience total acceptance from the get go - in some spheres / at some point in the future.
2. How badly this thing falls apart in the second half. It felt a bit like taking the set up from an early season of the Simpsons and resolving it with in the many of recent seasons (or Rick and Morty).
Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler (novel, audiobook)
If this is Science Fiction or Fantasy, then they need to build a bigger church, because a bunch of stuff written by dudes that manages to avoid the SFF label definitely deserves it. From the The Road to anything by Michael Crichton, and even Lawrence Wright's The End of October.
But who cares for labels, anyway?
I really enjoyed Parable of the Sower and am looking forward to reading the follow-up, Parable of the Talents. I did feel frequently wrong-footed by where I thought the novel would go and where it went. Again, approaching this from an SFF perspective is partly to blame.
And it's hella prophetic. See: How Democracies Die, et al.
FILM & TV
The Gulf - Season 1
Cremerie - Season 1
Last Chance U: Basketball - Season 1
Defending the Guilty - Season 1
Shtisel - Season 1
Bad Neighbours (yes, that's 3 Rose Byrne movies in a month)
Love and Monsters
The Blue Max
Bill & Ted Face the Music