In which I wrap up May

(1) Things which I have read and enjoyed.
Most importantly, I picked up the new Nickolas Butler, In the Hearts of Men, while I was in San Francisco as it’s not out till later in the summer here (in related information, I recommend Dog Eared Books in The Mission). It would be hard to overstate how important his first, Shotgun Lovesongs is to me, so I was waiting for this in a state between breathless expectation and fear of disappointment. I spent sometime reminding myself not to expect the same novel or feeling over again, and actually – that worked.

I don’t feel the same about In the Hearts of Men as I do about Shotgun Lovesongs, and that makes my review of it less hyperactively enthusiastic, but I think it’s a really good book that I hugely enjoyed reading. It shows the same ability to evoke place and the same ability to make mixed-up characters empathetic, which is this combine to make a story about the more unpleasant underbelly of mid-western America a read that disturbs without creating distaste. At the same time, I’m unlikely to return to it often, because the feeling it created in me was one of deep sadness about a part of the world.

Other things I read:
* Stay with Me – Ayòbámi Adébáyò. Incredibly easy read that does a great job with a difficult subject – but it hasn’t lingered long.
* The Vorrh – B Catling. Utterly weird and a little bit unpleasant. There were times I was tempted to give up on it, but I think I’m glad I read it. It’s beautifully written and evocative, but what it evokes was probably creepier than I like with less payoff in terms of what it’s trying to say. I don’t know if I’ll read the next in the series.
* Born a Crime – Trevor Noah. Recommended by a couple of friends, so I nabbed it when it was 99p on kindle. Very smart, very funny, very illuminating. Read it.
* My Life with a Star – Jiri Weil. London Book Club’s May book, and a very wonderful one about life in Nazi-occupied Prague. It was very precise about the ins and outs and all the rules, which heightens the reality and makes the stories the narrator weaves for himself real even though you know it’s a lacquer over his life. Well worth picking up.
* Global Poverty: A Theological Guide – Justin Thacker. A work read, but I read it cover to cover. It’s very good and I’ll review it soon.

(2) Things which I have watched and enjoyed
At the cinema:
* Guardians of the Galaxy 2, which was mostly a ball, if a bit lightweight. Basically, Baby Groot brought out my otherwise totally dormant biological clock and I literally cooed in the cinema.
* Their Finest, which was far more enjoyable than I was expecting (I only went because @wittertainment liked it), although I don’t think it earned one of its big moments. Gemma Arterton is fab though.
* King Arthur, which was exactly the bundle of gloriously nonsensical entertainment I wanted it to be. A++ Guy Ritchie fun times.

On TV I joined half the rest of the Western Hemisphere in starting in on American Gods. I’m having the same kind of reaction to it that I did to the book, which is that I really like the idea, but it is just not working for me. I’ve also started Anne with an E on Netflix. I’m mixed on this: I love the old version so so so much, and while I appreciate some of the real pain that this version is bringing to the story of Anne, I don’t need all the added in dramatic angst. And then, finally, The Handmaid’s Tale started in the U.K. Based on the first episodes I’m sold. I think the lighting is particularly stunning, in the way it makes Gilead look like an Old Master inside the Commander’s home so that the realisation that it’s now-ish when Offred goes outside slams into you. The only worry I have is that the intended on-going-ness of the series and some of the flashbacks (which do help you really get how much Offred has lost) risk removing some of the ambiguities of the book.

Can I just say though, the fact that American Gods and The Handmaid’s Tale are coming weekly is SO great. I love it.

(3) Things which I wrote
Still nope, though I’m half-way through writing a review of of Global Poverty… which will go up eventually.

(4) A photo from the month gone by

How I spent a bunch of my time in San Francisco: eating ice cream and watching the baseball. The Giants actually won games when I was there. They should hire me as a professional watcher of them for luck  (I can’t do anything for them against Clayton Kershaw though).

(5) In the pile for June
I’m reading The Handmaid’s Tale again, because it’s been years, and I’m still in Ted Chiang’s short story collection. After that, I don’t know. I picked up Teju Cole and Chuck Klosterman while I was away, and I was just given Colm Toibin’s new novel, House of Names for my birthday (a bit early) because my friends know I’m here for my ancient myths.

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