(1) Things which I have read and enjoyed.
I had great plans to read a lot more this month, but then one book completely shellacked me and it took me a week to get into anything again. Also, you know, there’s been some political stuff going on, and weirdly I’ve not been escaping into fiction that (admittedly mostly due to time constraints). Anyway, I read Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind, which I hugely enjoyed and ripped through on the plane. It’s big and sprawly and fantastical, with just the right amount of brains and a lot of heart.
Then I read The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen, which apparently won the Pulitzer last year, and which I really enjoyed. It was very acute on the which-way-is-up world of spying, the complexities of identity, and the utter misery that comes on both the winning and losing sides of a war. And I will never see another Vietnam war movie in the same way again – and that is good.
Finally, I read The Power by Naomi Alderman, which kick-started a fire in my brain that won’t go away. I read it in three days straight (which included two days at work) and then spent a week recovering from it by not really reading anything else – at least, not fictional. It’s a simple, brilliant premise, and very very on the nose. It felt like a book that was written for me.
(2) Things which I have watched and enjoyed
Well, I saw La La Land, which I loathed for being a shallow as a very shallow puddle and implying that we should like and root for a guy who wants to save jazz from evolving and from John Legend. I loathed it more because I am the kind of person who likes musicals and tap dancing and jazz and Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. It puts me in a very small minority, but I feel like time will be on my side.
I also saw three most excellent films, though. Firstly, A Monster Calls, the film of the Patrick Ness book about stories and surviving pain and life. It’s beautifully, magickally, done, and I utterly howled at the end. More beautifully, so did the teenage girls sitting across from me in the cinema, who were given tissues by a young man on his way out of the cinema. Then I saw Scorses’s Silence, which worked on me in I don’t really know how to write about. The book’s been living with me for a while now, but the film made me notice and think about different things, mostly about incarnation and what it means to sacrifice yourself – and I really really really love that it doesn’t try and have an answer. And finally I saw T2: Trainspotting which, guys, was just a ball. I was sceptical of it when it was announced, somewhere between panicking and over-excited when I saw the trailers, and then finally, happily reassured. I don’t know what I expected it to be about or like and it was simultaneously what I probably should have expected from Danny Boyle and nothing I ever would have from a sequel to Trainspotting. It was funny, melancholy, hyperactive, relaxed about itself – and a very warm return to some very mixed up (and therefore human) people.
At the theatre I saw Art at the Old Vic, which was huge fun – short, sharp, and thought provoking (and not about art).
(4) A photo from the month gone by
I went to Paris for a quick weekend. Here’s a place I hadn’t been before: The Pont de Bir-Hakeim (aka, that bridge from Inception)
(5) In the pile for February
Post-Power– stymie, I’ve got myself halfway into Moonglow, Michael Chabon’s latest, and Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth, which is our next bookclub book. I’m also working through Tish Harrison Warren’s Liturgy of the Ordinary. Homegoing is next up, after I leaped over it for The Power, and I’ve got the sequel to The Name of the Wind still, obviously, which I may take on an upcoming trip as a chunky fun read. I was sent Mihail Sebastian’s For Two Thousand Years and Julian Barnes’ The Noise of Time as Christmas gifts, I picked up The Vorrh in Foyles, and Our Soul’s at Night and Flaneuse at Shakespeare & Co.