Sunday, December 31, 2023

Consumption Diary - September-December 2023

Four months. 

Dog dramas, kid conundrums, my own health hobblements (lingering costochondritis). 

A depressing election result and ever-more-depressing as the coalition of cut-backs moves into delivery (or de-delivery... livery?). 

But I am looking forward to making my best of 2023 lists, which means revisiting good stuff and wielding (imaginary) power. My sense is that it was a very good year for albums and post-prestige TV, but it will be slimmer pickin's on the reading front. 

Check back in early Jan (promises, promises) for the actual, official, lofty-but-also-wholesome-and-grounded, This Fluid Thrill 2023 awards.


Speaking of awards: best gig of the year was Black Belt Eagle Scout w/ Mount Eerie at the end of September. The official billing was BBES was supporting Mount Eerie, but BBES was who I was excited about and they didn't disappoint (despite being limited to a two piece due to the cost of gigging crisis). And then said two-piece formed the backing band for Mount Eerie (normally just Phil Elverum) and they rocked out way more than I expected.

Also, pour one out for Dive, just one more Dunedin venue to fall by the wayside.


Exit Stage Left: The Curious Afterlife of Pop Stars by Nick Duerden (non-fiction, audiobook)

Bodies: Life and Death in Music by Ian Winwood (non-fiction, audiobook)

This Is Memorial Device by David Keenan (novel, audiobook) - been on a bit of a music book kick lately.

The Fifth Season: The Broken Earth, Book 1 by N. K. Jemisin (novel, audiobook)

Stolen Focus: Why You Can't Pay Attention by Johann Hari (non-fiction, audiobook)

I put off reading Hari's previous book, Lost Connections, which was about depression, for almost two years, but when I did it caused a minor breakthrough in my own personal life. I noted the changes I made when I put Lost Connections in my top ten reads of 2020.

(Interestingly, I had forgotten Hari's book had any role in the decisions I made in 2020/21 until I went back and re-read the two posts linked to above.)

I did a similar thing with Hari's next book, Stolen Focus. It took be about a year to start listening to it, and then I had to stop after two chapters because it felt too close to the bone listening to this as an audiobook while doing dishes, cycling or some other activity that probably should be an opportunity for meditative reflection. About ten months later I returned to it, mainly because I plan on cancelling my Audible subscription (dirty ol' Amazon) and felt obliged.

Am I going to quit social media now? It's not like I'm massively online. But I do think I'll download Freedom app to cut off the internet for designated periods. 

So Late in the Day by Claire Keegan
(standalone short story, audiobook) - I loved Foster. I liked Small Things Like These. But So Late in the Day wasn't for me. It's a short story. Why is it a standalone book? It's not enough. It's too on the nose. It needs to be surrounded by sibling stories that complement and contrast and round off some of the nosey edges.

The Bell by Iris Murdock (novel, audiobook) - Loved it.

Jewish Space Lasers by Mike Rothschild (non-fiction, audiobook)

The Rachel Incident by Caroline O'Donoghue (novel, audiobook)

  • The Hard Way (10th Reacher novel) by Lee Child (novel, audiobook)

  • High Heat by Lee Child (standalone short story, audiobook) - After reading another Reacher novel, and falling out with Claire Keegan, I checked out a standalone Reacher short for comparison. Funnily enough, I have more vivid recollection of this story than The Hard Way.

  • Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman (umm, audiobook) - sorry, I just can't get into the work of someone who signs off as Neil Gaiman, visionary.

  • Āria by Jessica Hinerangi (poetry, e-book)

  • Classic American Poetry by various authors (poetry, audiobook)

  • Dear Girls by Ali Wong (non-fiction, audiobook)

  • The Dawnhounds by Sascha Stronach (novel, audiobook)

  • Fungi of Aotearoa: A Curious Forager's Field Guide by Liv Sisson (non-fiction, physical book) 

  • My Christmas present to myself. The first few chapters felt repetitive, perhaps worsened by the fact I'd previously read many of the books Sisson uses for reference (Robin Wall Kimmerer, Melvyn Sheldrake, Michael Pollen, plus work on Hua Parakore). 

  • And when I got home after my trip to Queenstown, it had clearly been a wet week in Dunedin and my lawn was sprouting 'shrooms... though I couldn't find them using this field guide :( 

  • Might have to go back to those early chapters!!

  • Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut (novel, physical book)

  • My final read of the year was my first re-read (and one of only a couple of physical books). It was on the shelf at the house we rented in Queenstown between Xmas and New Years. I'd recently rediscovered the mini-essay I wrote for the Iowa City Writers Festival in 2013: The Vonnegut Effect: Entering the Potato Barn, when wanted to add it to my profile (LOL). So of course I dived back into the world of Rabo Karabekian.

  • The thing that stood out to me this time around was the pacing, specifically the way new characters are introduced throughout the novel. It's so measured. And there's no wasted characters (Sam Wu, Celeste, Fred Jones). It'd be cool to graph all of the character mentions, like Ngrams, and visualise way the supporting cast are rolled out...

  • FILM & TV

  • A Murder at the End of the World - I loved the OA, for all it's rough edges and over-reaches. A Murder at the End of the World was not it. Bad dialogue. Obvious big bad. 

  • Squid Game: The Challenge - Season 1

  • Bodies - Limited Series

  • Last Stop Larrimah

  • Taskmaster UK Season 16

  • Taskmaster Australia Season 1

  • Welcome to Wrexham Season 2

  • Alone Seasons 7-9

  • Stavros Halkias: Fat Rascal

  • T2 Trainspotting

  • Rudy

  • Music and Lyrics

  • The Lost City

  • Sport (basketball, rugby and cricket world cups, start of another NBA season: GO KINGS, and some NFL)


  • I'll be taking up a 3-week mini-residency at the Michael King Writers Centre in Auckland at the start of winter next year.

  • My review of Pip Adam's Audition was published in November. (Minor disappointment: they didn't use my suggested title: "Grow, Don't Tell").

  • In December, I took part in a Creative Impact Lab on Climate Change, hosted by the Otago Museum and funded by the Leonardo Institute/US Embassy. It runs through to February, so we'll see where it goes...

  • Oh, and the story the opens my debut (and thus far only) short story collection, 'Seeds', was included in the Penguin New Zealand Anthology: 50 stories for 50 years in Aotearoa. Must be time to corral a second story collection and give the anthologists some new options!