in which I wrap up... July
(1) Things which I have read and enjoyed.
This month I read Jessie Burton’s new novel The Muse (in a weekend) which I enjoyed very much indeed. I think it is probably a better book than The Minaturist (for a start, I don’t think it ducks the ending, which that did): it’s a little steadier, a little richer, it’s still emotionally quite acute. But a bit of me prefers the atmosphere and location of The Minaturist because, I guess, I just found C17th Amsterdam a little more evocative to me than 1930s Spain. But also I do actually know what Amsterdam looks like, so that helps the imagination fly. But anyway, The Muse - I do really recommend it. If the future of the bestseller list is Jessie Burton writing bright and highly readable novels then it’s gonna be fine.
I also read Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies and was mostly underwhelmed. I found it compelling reading - which was good, because I needed and wanted to read, but ultimately unsatisfactory. Everyone in it was mostly horrible, but that’s not necessarily a problem, it just didn’t balance out with the emotional and psychologial explanations depicted in the novel. Also, I feel like a book called Fates and Furies should really be doing something interesting with the concepts of both Fates and Furies and this - did not. I mean maybe it tried and I missed it, but I’m fairly attuned to looking for Greek Mythy references in my literature and therefore I am going to call any attempt it made a failure.
Finally, I’m half-way through Shadi Hamid’s book Islamic Exceptionalism. It’s currently a bit bashed from being my Prom-queue book and very very scribbled on as I try and develop thoughts in response to it. It’s very good and very interesting, even if I am not yet wholly convinved of his account of Christianity (I don’t think that undermines anything else in the book - yet - but I don’t know where he’s going to take the comparisons).
Oh, and I’m reading the script of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
(2) Things which I have watched and enjoyed
Well, I am currently spending most of my free and culture-focused time at the Proms. I have still achieved three cinema outings and a threatre trip though, so go me.
I saw the new Ghostbusters, having never seen the old. I can’t say I’m fussed about seeing the old one now as I enjoyed this one huge bunches, and Kate McKinnon is my favourite thing on screen this year. I aspire to her hair, and her waistcoat, and her comic timing. Her everything basically. No it wasn’t perfect in terms of plot tightness and you know what I SO DON’T CARE. I just care that it was a film with four female leads who had lives and jobs and friendships and yes ok oggled Chris Hemsworth but who doesn’t and it was not a big deal yo. Except that it was a really big deal. Did I mention Kate McKinnon?
I also saw Star Trek Beyond. If you’re of the group that thinks that Into Darkness was (a) good and (b) better than this, go over there and stand against the wall, you’ll be dealt with later. I really enjoyed Beyond - it was smart, it was funny, there was great Bones and Spock banter. Jaylah was a great addition as a character, I lolled hard at the Beastie Boys references, and had several sads about Anton Yelchin.
And finally at the cinema I saw Jason Bourne, which I was quite sceptical about when it was announced because, really, why did we need it? The original trilogy was so great and ended so well - and The Bourne Legacy was a bit of a squib of a film. Note to self, trust Paul Greengrass. I am of the opinion that Bourne films are at their best when Jason Bourne has to run towards the people he needs to run away from in order to discover something, because that is instant dramatic tension, and this one brought it back. It had its unfortunate moments (coughfridgingcough) but in general the topics and tensions driving the plot felt astute and timely, it got both the brain and the adrenaline flowing.
And then, at the theatre, I saw Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. OMG WOW ETC. Firstly let me say, the script of the play is nice and all, but it does not cover what the Cursed Child is like to watch - and unfortunately that makes it much much easier to pick up on the negative things (apart from if you read the book you don’t have to watch Delphi and that actress was not so great, so…). But yes, X character is wasted and Y character would definitely NOT have reacted like that in that situation, and YET there is something about the experience of new Harry Potter in its full surroundings and staging that is still wonderful - and Harry Potter has never been perfect. The way magic is done on stage is just properly magickal. And Scorpius Malfoy is the bestest.
(3) Things which I wrote
Two short bits. I wrote about my Promming experiences to date, and recommended some of the Proms you really need to catch on iPlayer. And then m’dear friend @Rubbishgroupie and I recorded a couple of bits of Shakespeare.
(4) A photo from the month gone by
I’m taking an instagram a Prom. These are the stairs I climb at each concert to get to the gallery.
(5) In the pile for August
Well, I’ve started re-reading Michael Chabon’s Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, and I still have Jeff Vandermeer’s Authority (the second Southern Reach book out of the library. I’m also going to be re-reading Swallows and Amazons with that film coming out. Other than that, I’m just going to try and get into all the non-fiction lying around my house.