In which I wrap up November
(1) Things which I have read and enjoyed.
I read The Door, by Magda Szabo, for November book club and I can’t work out if I really liked it or not. It don’t regret reading it or finishing it, but if it had been longer than in its 300 pages I would have given up. It was unlike anything I’ve read, and that’s quite nice, but it didn’t really work for me.
December book club’s choice is Le Testament Français by Andrei Makine, giving me an excuse to re-read it. It’s been at least a decade, so I thought it would be a treat. This was the third Makine I read, back when I was grabbing hold of everything he had written and had translated, and was the confirmation of him as a strong favourite of mine - probably a decade ago now at least. And it was a treat - if not necessarily how I expected. All I could really remember of the book was the atmosphere it weaves - but I’d forgotten that that’s because it really is all mood and atmosphere. You could sum up the ‘story’ on the back of a playing card. It took me longer than I expected to get going this time around - but then about 80 pages in I tipped over and was sold once again. I love what he does with memory and identity in this - and discovered that I had completely forgotten the ending.
(2) Things which I have watched and enjoyed
Much cinema this month… you can tell things are ramping up towards awards and holiday seasons. I saw Nocturnal Animals, Arrival, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, A United Kingdom, and Allied. You should not bother with Allied, and unless you are a srs-biscuits Harry Potter fan, don’t bother with FBAWTFT, which was fairly shallow, with only Colin Farrell’s Percival Graves adding multi-layered interest to proceedings. Howevever, Arrival and A United Kingdom should both be on your must see list, and Nocturnal Animals just below them.
Arrival is simply one of the best films I’ve seen this year, and I’m hung up on what it has to say about lanugage, thought, and humanity.
Noctural Animals is simply beautiful - but also more than just beautiful (despite the fact that I want this grey jumper that Amy Adams wears, OMG). I really like the way it explores the way someone (Jake Gyllenhaal’s character) processes something painful that happens to him, using fiction, and asks what it says about people that we do that.
A United Kingdom is simply, delightfully, a strong, enjoyable film. I knew very very little about Seretse Khama and the process of Botswanan independence, and this gives a really nice account of it. It’s a proper old fashioned drama, in which the characters are interesting, the story is interesting, and it’s all beautifully put together. It’s a feel good film, in terms of its ending, but it manages that without letting Britain off the hook for it’s terrible colonial history.
(3) Things which I wrote
Just the one short piece on Arrival, which I still can’t get out of my head.
(4) A photo from the month gone by
Kathmandu. I wish I could have seen more of Nepal.
(5) In the pile for December
I’m going away with only my kindle for company (I really don’t enjoy reading on my kindle, but it is lighter when travelling). At the moment I’m reading bits and pieces of my large pile of non-fiction, including Slow Kingdom Coming (Kent Annan), Silence and Beauty (Makoto Fujimura), and Homo Deus (Yuval Noah Harari), rather than getting into a novel. I’m contemplating reading Brothers Karamazov and Wolf Hall, finally, over Christmas - but I might just read all the Murakami on my kindle. If I take a book-book away with me, I’m taking Tristram Shandy - as another FINALLY. And at the movies I will be seeing Rogue One and realising that everyone on the planet is about to become as big a Felicity Jones fan as I am.