It is the month of lists. Christmas lists. Best of the year run downs. And this year, seeing as it’s a ’19 and all, we’ll be seeing a lot of best of the DECADE lists. This, I think, is impossible. There is no way that we’re about to exist in a different decade to 2010, a year which has permanently felt to be roughly 2 years ago.
Yet Spotify is here, wrapping up our lives with glee, reminding me that in 2016 I must have really been Going Through Something.
Once again I find myself seeking solace from existential horror.
Join me in my own list, of stuff that I have been using to distract myself, on this gusty Sunday Morning.
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers is the latest novel to grace my Kindle’s digital pages. It follows a clerk named Rosemary as she takes a job with a crew who punch holes in space to allow for convenient interstellar travel, and features a cast of rowdy, varied characters which reminds me, quite joyfully, of the beloved Mass Effect series. It reads with absolute ease. Chambers isn’t trying to change the rule book here, and instead relies on her obvious love for her fictional crew, each with an intriguing history to be explored, and, quite simply, it works.
I am also listening to The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Attwood on Audible, narrated by Elisabeth Moss (star of the TV adaptation). I’m a little late to the rodeo on this one, the bronco has well and truly bucked, but so far it’s living up to it’s lofty reputation as a slow burn sci-fi which has managed to have me, quite literally, say out loud to myself as I listened in the car: ‘oh no, oh no.’
I am also nearing the end of The Labyrinth of Spirits, and I think my thoughts on it are (for once) summed up by one the (back) cover quotes:
‘…it promotes the sort of reading experience we remember from childhood – of complete absorption into a fantasy world.’ – Irish Times
I’ve read this book just as I read The Shadow of the Wind as a boy, hungrily. It is a book which, despite its twisting political plot, is at its core about books. About stories. About the magic of these things in times which are dark and light. Carlos Ruiz Zafòn also writes a little like a horny teenager, and this is both a good and bad thing. I don’t think I would change any of his writing for the world, but have I been rolling my eyes at some of the descriptions? Yes, absolutely, but he has also reminded me of why I love reading so much and why I hardly ever stopped once I’d started as a kid. Reading it has been a tremendous experience.
We’ve been here before.
As we approach the end of the year I’ve been revisiting some albums from earlier months to try and decide what my favourite record of the year has been. It’s been tough, which is a good sign I think. First on my list to re-listen to was Tyler, the Creators IGOR which has stayed with me and is a fantastic record all around. Yes, there are some wonderful stand out tracks (Earfquake, New Magic Wand) which live well on their own but most crucially it is at it’s best an album, listened to all at once, it’s whole greater than its already great parts.
Jenny Lewis’ On the Line was a record I didn’t really give the time it deserved considering my love for some of the teaser tracks (expect to hear from Red Bull & Hennessy in a top songs list for sure). I think because the album never really goes reaching for the anthemic heights of Red Bull I initially felt slightly disappointed. On a revisit however I can appreciate the moments of subtler, but still on-brand chaotic, messy, beauty (see Dogwood, Hollywood Lawn). Her song writing reflects a humorous, but ultimately broken, atmosphere which reminds me of what I love in the music of Father John Misty and Alex Cameron.
Rian Johnson’s Knives Out is the kind of movie which doesn’t seem to get made anymore. By that I don’t necessarily mean a whodunnit, but a movie with an ensemble cast which isn’t trying to break the bank. Seems to me that most films aspire towards being a Disney-esque (or usually just actual Disney) blockbuster, or an A24 styled indie darling. Knives Out knows what lane it’s in and gives it all to absolutely dominate it. The script is watertight, its revelations are eked out with perfect pacing, and the performances suggest that cast and crew must have all been on the same page, as the tone is just right.
Daniel Craig’s commits his fabulously named detective, Benoit Blanc, with a ludicrously exaggerated southern drawl, whilst Ana de Armas adds a degree of much needed earnestness to the screen, although her character is thankfully not completely detached from the twinge of free form lunacy (her character has a reflex which causes her to vomit when forced to do something, something integral to the plot of any intriguing murder-mystery) adding to frantic energy of the picture, which has me craving to return.