(1) Things which I have read and had thoughts about
June was mostly the month in which I fought my way through Siri Hustvedt’s The Blazing World and mostly won. In that I finished, and I get to tell you that I am very disappointed in it. I was really excited to read it because it sounded so intriguing, but it didn’t deliver - and my tolerance for both feminism and postmodern literature are high.
However, I also read the following, all of which I really enjoyed:
Reality, Grief, Hope - Walter Brueggemann. Some challenging stuff on prophecy and the role of the church in revealing our cultures’ dominant (oppressive) narratives.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - JK Rowling. Because it was Harry Potter’s 35th birthday on 31 July, and he is a year older than me!. It’s still great, I would still run away with Sirius Black (there’s probably a blog post about fictional men I would marry or run away with in my future…).
Searching for Sunday - Rachel Held Evans. A very nicely written and generous-hearted account of life spent doing churches in churches where you don’t quite fit.
Beneath the Bonfire - Nickolas Butler. Short stories from the guy who wrote my favourite novel of last year, Shotgun Lovesongs. What can I tell you? These stories are lovely stories about a similar part of the world. They don’t faff around with literary pretentions or anything like that. A little shot of beauty right before bedtime.
Between the World and Me - Ta-Nehisi Coates. Just as powerful and well worth your time as everyone’s been telling you. My Pocket app is now full of articles responding to the book. Yes, it doesn’t include much about the experience of women, but it is a book by a man to his son. The better answer is to publish and read more stuff by women about their experience, rather than to complain that a book written about a personal experience isn’t about everyone’s experiences - and the best responses in this vein have pointed out other stuff to read. Men we Reaped by Jesmyn Ward is now in my too-buy list.
(2) Things which I have watched and had opinions on
At the cinema:
Jurassic World, pfffffffft (apart from the theme music).
Fantastic Four, pffffffffft, with extra pfffffffft on top, all swamped in sawdust.
Ant Man, more fun than I expected, less fun than it would have been if I’d never known Edgar Wright was involved, and probably less fun than if Edgar Wright had directed it. Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man will be my generation's Great Lost Film.
Inside Out, thoroughly delightful and a really imaginative, lucidly told way of getting kids to think about emotions. Bloody love Sadness as a character.
Love and Mercy, as a huge Brian Wilson fan, I was expecting bad things of this, and I got wonderful things instead, which was super-nice. I liked how it showed the beauty of the music and the pain of the man, without saying either ‘one couldn’t exist without the other’ or ‘we shouldn’t have had the music because of the pain.’ Also, God Only Knows is still the greatest pop song in the history of ever.
The Beaux Strategem (freaking delightful) and Everyman (disappointing) at the National Theatre.
Chris Wheeldon’s Cinderella by the Dutch National Ballet at the ENO was glorious and I’m so glad I saw it. Other Stories, Wendy Whelan’s collaboration with Edward Watson at the Royal Ballet was fascinating - not all of it worked, but it was nice to see something a little different.
Fiddler on the Roof staring Bryn Terfel at the Proms. Indestructible material, with a great Teyve. It’s just a shame that they mic’d the performers, as the sound coming through the speakers was not as good as if they’d just let the voices fill the Royal Albert Hall (makes seeing it live less effective).
(3) Things which I wrote…
Some reflections on what it feels like being the only woman in a room full of men for a three-day conference, and suggestions for how conference organisers can do better.
Some thoughts on Everyman, which I found disappointing.
(4) It’s the Summer, so you’re getting BBC Proms Recommendations instead of photos…
You should listen to these Proms:
Alina Ibragimova plays Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas
Bruckner’s Mass No. 3 in F Minor, which I had never heard before and which is jaw-on-the-floor-ing.
(5) In the pile for August
I am half way through Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves, which I’m really enjoying, though I could do with less detail in all the Space Science (just show me what’s happening Neal, I can’t follow all the directions around the space station anyway), and I’m also reading Simon Armitage’s Walking Away as my commute book.
Book club is reading Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island and talking about England. I’m also going to read The Martian before the film comes out, and maybe China Mieville’s Railsea, but if you don’t know by now that I never pick up ‘what’s next’ next, you’ll never learn.
I’m seeing the Bakkhai (well, I saw it, on the first…) and Three Days in the Country at the theatre, Guy Barker doing swing and Jamie Parker doing Sondheim at the Proms.