Saturday, May 4, 2024

Consumption Diary March & April 2024


My kids are 11 and freshly 9. They listen to the Edge radio station while they are ferried to futsal, football, volleyball, jazz dance, contortion and basketball. The radio bestows the quality of "goodness" on anything it plays. In contrast, anything I play for them is met with suspicion and impatience.

Rather than me wearing them down, their affection for pop and affiliate genres has not only lessened my musical snobbishness but exposed the dreariness, the boringness, the insularity of much of "my music". This is especially true for those genres, those eras, which I beloved in my youth. Grunge, stoner rock, indie rock, brit pop. The gems remain gems, but the surrounding geology has been eroded into further relief by the second coming of a pre-teen sensibility.


The Heat Will Kill You First: Life and Death on a Scorched Planet by Jeff Goodell (non-fiction, audiobook, US, 2023)

The Great Displacement: Climate Change and the Next American Migration by Jake Bittle (non-fiction, audiobook, US, 2023)

Because I'm a climate sicko.

Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld (novel, audiobook, US, 2023)

I'm a sucker for stories that immerse me in a world I was sort of interested in already but not obsessively so, like Saturday Night Live (which Sittenfeld repatches as The Night Owls in her novel). Pair this with a not-too-typical, not-too-out-there love story and you've got a winner.

The Call by Gavin Strawhan (novel, audiobook, NZ, 2023)

Hmm. I think this novel was able to inhabit too many perspectives to create enough tension/mystery. And the tituar call is actually a series of calls, none of which quite live up to the billing. There's a lot of great precipitating phone calls in books and movies (think: Scream, think: City of Glass), and this ain't it, folks.

Another Beautiful Day Indoors by Erik Kennedy (poetry, ebook, NZ, 2023)

The Stupefying by Nick Ascroft (poetry, ebook, NZ, 2023)

People Person by Joanna Cho (poetry, ebook, NZ, 2022)

Poetry. On my phone. From Aotearoa. Noice.

Biography of X by Catherine Lacey (novel, audiobook, US, 2023)

I didn't like this to begin with, though I can't recall exactly why. Felt a bit like Elena Ferrante, with the rage tamped further down. 

The alternate history elements were interesting in isolation: that the US split post WWII, that female artists became more renowed than male artists -- but each new skewing felt increasingly tacked on. How can we have X engaging with Berlin-era Bowie when geopolitics, gender and the art world are operating from different foundations from this timeline I call reality? 

But these quibbles aside, this will probably be in the top ten books I remember most vividly this year.

What you are looking for is in the Library by Michiko Aoyama (connected short stories, audiobook, Japan, 2020)

Years ago I read a "novel" that was thinly veiled Buddhist propaganda. Aoyama's book operates in a similar way, but it's not underpinned by spirituality but kitchen psychology. No wonder people ate, and continue to eat, it up.

Poor Things by Alasdair Gray (novel, audiobook, Scotland, 1992)

I liked the film, and read this novel second. The book is better.

The List by Yomi Adeogoke (novel, audiobook, UK, 2023)

Reads like a long-form non-fiction piece that a journalist tried to turn into a novel... Oh wait.

Weirdo by Sara Pascoe (novel, audiobook, UK, 2023)

Soon only famous people will be able to publish fiction in the UK. Which, you'd think might mean,  editors will be of supreme importance. Sadly, I think this won't be the case.

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman (novel, audiobook, UK, 2000)

Okay, so I tried another UK celeb-turned-novelist to test my assumptions. 

The first in Osman's wildly popular series has its moments. (It's probably 1/4 too long in my view.) I liked Ibrahim and, to a lesser degree, Bogdan, but at the same time was troubled that these more minor characters' position in the narrative said something about the ethnic/racial politics of the author and his fans (and me, of course, for enjoying these ethnic cyphers). Cosy for whom, eh?

Outline by Rachel Cusk (novel, physical book, UK, 2014)

An English writer famous for writing, but really only after writing this book (and even then, not as famous as someone who appears on comedy panel shows). 

If Barry butchers the crime novel (I mean this nicely), Cusk is more like a chemist who pours a solution over her story that all but dissolves the narrator's actions, but the narrator as stage manager remains, selecting which lopsided conversations to relate and, infrequently, puncturing her interlocutor's own constructions. (I have more Cusk to catch up on, including 'Parade' which comes out in June, so expect more thoughts in the coming months).

Tom Lake by Ann Patchett (novel, audiobook, US, 2023)

Gentle mastery. Though maybe knowing more about Our Town by Thornton Wilder would have helped me connect more.

The Vaster Wilds by Lauren Groff (novel, audiobook, US, 2023)

Gender-swapped Bear Grylls in early settlement America, narrated by the shade of Cormac McCarthy. But I needed a little more meat on the bone in terms of narrative.

Old God's Time by Sebastian Barry (novel, audiobook, Ireland, 2023)

In 2022 I tried to write a 'butterflied' crime story which moved the insides of a standard tale to the edges (and I might return to one day). It was nothing like Barry's novel, which takes poetic license from the aging, disorientated former copper P.O.V character, but it attempts something similar. There are all the narrative elements of a standard crime novel -- the crime, the evidence gathering, interrogations, the telling connections, the satisfying denoument -- but they are meted out through, and jumbled by, the old copper's experience. Which was tiresome at points, and thrilling at others.



Poor Things

No Hard Feelings


Asteroid City

Last Holiday

Roadhouse* (1989)

The Natural - almost worth it to see 40-something RObert Redford try to play a 19-year-old. Otherwise, flawed on every count.

Anatomy of a Fall

Duets - never watched this before, possibly the worst movie ever made. So weird (in an ick way) that Gwyneth's dad directed it. 

The Greatest Hits

Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part I


3 Body Problem - Season 1 - I really liked it. Agree with those who say the second half goes full-tilt into Armaggedon-land. But better than the novel

New Zealand Today Season 4

Mr Bates vs the Post Office