(1) Things which I have read and enjoyed.
It’s been a good month in the book department. I read William Finnegan’s Barbarian Days (which won the 2016 Pulitzer for Biography or Autobiography, if you are interested in awards) and it was just wonderful and beautiful and mesmerising and other really really good words. Finnegan manages to make it possible for his readers to fall into a culture and a language and understand it without ever going for a lowest common denominator.
Then I read Daniel Mendelsund’s What We See When We Read, which I picked up on a tip from @robotnic. It’s about how we visualise things as we read and really makes you think about whether you see the things you think you saw when you read a book. Because Mendelsund’s an art director and book cover designer you get a really smart, slightly different take on how we read – and it’s amazingly illustrated
Book club book this month was Among the Ten Thousand Things by Julia Pierpont. It came with nice blurbs from Jonathan Safran Foer, which made me suspicious of it because I’m a terrible person like that. It was totally fine, and very easy to read, but so absolutely unremarkable that I had to google the name of the title just now.
Back on track with the latest China Miéville, This Census Taker – another weird, eerie, beautiful thing, and one that I probably need to read about five more times to really begin to understand. And then finally to Colson Whitehead’s The Intuitionist, after which I am truly ready to declare Whitehead my new favourite novelist and head off to stock up on all of his back catalogue. This was his first novel and it’s a little more raw and a little less subtle than Underground Railroad, but it’s still so smart in its premise and engaging in its lead character, Lila Mae that it barrels through its first-time-outness. It reminded me a little bit of The Man in the High Castle in its tone and in its speculation about things that could change the world as we know it.
(2) Things which I have watched and enjoyed
I saw The BFG and while I thought some of it was really good (mostly Mark Rylance), it just made me long for the old, animated version, and a slightly less twee ending. I should know better with Spielberg though.
Better was Anthropoid, about the attempt to assassinate Heydrich in Prague in World War II. It could have been just another war drama, but at its heart it wanted to ask a really important question about actions and consequences and then not answer it for the audience. Gosh, but I’m a sucker for a film that treats its audience like they have brains.
And finally, I saw The Girl with all the Gifts, which is really great. I’d read the book, but I hadn’t realised that the author had written the screenplay at the same time – so it’s not so much an adaptation as a parallel version. I really enjoyed the book, but probably wouldn’t re-read it. The film I will absolutely re-watch, probably in a double bill with 28 Days Later. It’s very tight and very tense, even if you know what is going to happen, and is an incredible piece of work on a very small budget.
(3) Things which I wrote
Just the one post, on the weirdness that is attending The Last Night of the Proms. Spoiler, it’s a really weird experience.
(4) A photo from the month gone by
Queuing for The Last Night of the Proms was a damp affair…
(5) In the pile for October
Well, I’ve just gone and ordered nearly all of Colson Whitehead’s back catalogue, so there’s that pile of books coming… Other than that, I’m reading Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien for book club, and the new Margaret Atwood, Hag Seed, which comes out this week. It’s a retelling of The Tempest so I am super-excited about that. Finally, I have both The Missing of the Somme (Geoff Dyer) and The World of Yesterday (Stefan Zweig) in my non-fiction TBR pile.