MUSIC - JAN
14 books in 9 weeks. Not on pace for 100. Cae Sera.
The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz (novel, US, audiobook, 2021)
Absolutely hooked by the first half (struggling mid-list author and creative writing teacher takes plot from deceased student, becomes best-seller, receives anonymous messages threatening to out him). Let down by the second (obvious twist thanks to there being no other candidates).
The Proof is in the Plants by Simon Hill (non-fiction, Australia, audiobook, 2021)
This was the book that helped rationalise what I wanted to do with my diet anyway. We've been getting Green Diner Table (vegan food boxes) for the last month, and at least one of the kids is up for it. Still very much in the flexitarian category: if it has been cooked and would go to waste, the sins of refusal outweigh the sins of moderate consumption... for now.
A Little Devil in America by Hanif Abdurraqib (non-fiction, US, audiobook, 2021)
Good, if uneven, essay collection on black creativity which is perhaps better remembered as a topic-driven memoir.
When I was a Child I Read Books (non-fiction, US, audiobook, 2012)
A topic-driven memoir that just never grabbed me. Perhaps its the Christian underpinning? I kinda let it gloss over me, TBH.
The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green (non-fiction, US, audiobook, 2021)
I didn't have high hopes from this survey of recent human endeavour from the author of popular YA novels that spawn somewhat popular movies... But I really enjoyed it. There's something stupidly delicious about giving things like plagues (book was written amidst the first wave of COVID) and the QWERTY keyboard a score out of five like a YELP review. Despite the title, it doesn't set out to do more than it actually achieve. Two ticks.
Lifespan: The Revolutionary Science of Why We Age - and Why We Don't Have To by David A. Sinclair (non-fiction, Australia, audiobook, 2019)
I'm still not sure I will, or want to, live to 120, but I'm a little more optimistic for my kids. Published before COVID swept the globe, it's got some portentious comments on the risk of viruses undoing much of the gains in human lifespan discussed in the book.
The Nineties by Chuck Klosterman (non-fiction, US, audiobook, 2022)
Unlike Green's book, Klosterman's is supposed to be more timebound, but it feels rougher and more superficial. The bad kind of book-written-in-lockdown. Lots on presidential elections. Very little personality, which is weird for Klosterman. Disappointing.
The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood (novel, Australia, audiobook, 2015)
It was odd reading this after Wood's book on craft (The Luminous Solution). It destablised my foundations. But will I think much about this book (plot or craft) much in 12 months?
The Gift: How the Creative Spirit Transforms the World by Lewis Hyde (non-fiction, US, audiobook, 1983)
A long, fulsome examination of gift economies and how this might apply to the act of writing (particularly poetry), with two extensive case studies/counter examples of Walt Whitman and Ezra Pound.
The last chapter left me dumbfounded. The way it summarised my nascent feelings about writing, particuarly the question "Why write (with no guarantee of readership or financial reward)?" I suspect I will return to that chapter multiple times over the coming years.
Binge by Douglas Coupland (short stories, Canada, audiobook, 2021)
60 very short stories, read by a range of narrators in the audiobook version, from the aging don of finger-on-the-pulse-itude. Coupland still has no qualms about hopping into different identities (though he is perhaps more constrained when it comes to race), and a less generous reader could probably find fault in most of these tableau, but it's Coupland. There's enough connection between the stories that it could have been sold as a novel-in-stories (heaven forbid), but it's just a rollicking good time amid the opioid crisis, a global pandemic and the kind of information overload he's been preaching since I was in primary school but finally WE ALL GET IT.
True Crime Story by Joseph Knox (novel, UK, audiobook, 2021)
Risked being too fancy by half. But succeeded with this reader. Looking at some of the reviews and engagement with Knox on social media, not everyone got it (it's a novel presented as non-fiction, based mostly on the work of Knox's female writer friend with some of his own additions after her death).
The Writer's Crusade: Kurt Vonnegut and the Many Lives of Slaughterhouse Five by Tom Roston (non-fiction, US, audiobook, 2021)
Opens with the claim that Vonnegut and a fellow POW may have hunted down and killed one of their guards from the camp in Dresden. Even as Roston relays this theory, he distances himself from it, saying ultimately he doesn't believe it happened. But without it, the book is a little flat. And with it, the book is lacking integrity.
Treacle Walker by Alan Garner (novella, UK, audiobook, 2021)
So this is who Max Porter's ripping off :)
The Regional Office is Under Attack! by Manuel Gonzales (novel, US, audiobook, 2021)
Loved the first few chapters. It felt like the very close third person of a George Saunders short story. But that self-correcting, multi-clausal, sweary mode can really start to drag after a while. And the back and forth structure (and yes, the more fantastical elements, which are never really my bag) didn't help keep me hooked.
FILM & TV
Station Eleven: Season 1 - Makes me wanna re-watch The Leftovers.
Yellowjackets: Season 1 - yessir, we 90's kids are officially the target market for nostalgia
Starstruck: Season 2
After Life: Season 3
The French Dispatch
The Masked Singer (US): Season 5 + I Can See Your Voice: Season 1 - the kids enjoy these...
MUSIC - FEB