In which I wrap up July
(1) Things which I have read and enjoyed.
The season of Novels Inspired by Greek Myths continued. First up was Colm Tóibín’s House of Names, based on the stories of the Oresteia. I liked the middle section (primarily the story of Orestes) best, because it was the bit that Tóibín seemed to be trying to invest least with hefty poetic meaning. Then I (finally) got around to Madeline Miller’s Song of Achilles, which I enjoyed much more than I was expecting - but is definitely still a light holiday read. Next was Alice Oswald’s poem Memorial, a variation on the Illiad, which bears reading out loud to oneself. Finally, I read Bright Air Black by David Vann, a telling of the Medea story. This was gloriously bonkers, and definitely my favourite of the Greek Myth Novels so far. All the others try and bring the world of the Greek myths closer by drawing out human similarities, but Vann embraces the difference and the weird, and so the novel works better than the others - even though it is harder work.
I also read End of Days for Jenny Erpenbeck, for book club, which I really enjoyed. I like the way the story slips from variation to variation, and the tone and atmosphere have stayed with me. I do like reading books that focus on the ideas and the feel they evoke as much or more than the story - as long as they are not monumentlaly pretentious, and this wasn’t.
(2) Things which I have watched and enjoyed
Baby Driver - I really liked Edgar Wright’s latest. I think you really have to go with the idea Ansel Elgort has charisma, and I’m almost mad at myself for how much I buy into it. At times I thought Kevin Spacey was playing it too close to parody while everyone else was playing it straight, and it broke the fourth wall a bit for me. But apart from that, I totally rolled with the car chases and the soundtrack.
Song to Song - In complete contrast, Terence Malick’s latest, which I also really liked. I think I liked it more than Knight of Cups, and given that about five people liked that, I’m definitely in a minority here. But while I couldn’t really emotionally engage with Knight of Cups’ male mid-life crisis, I could with Song to Song’s questions about what it is to really experience life.
Dunkirk - Sweet baby zeus, theis film is great. I really was not expecting it to be so great, and it’s not a perfect account of Dunkirk, but I really really love the way it trusts you to identify with people because they’re people. Everyone’s talking about how Tom Hardy can act with about a third of his face, but more people should be talking about how Kenneth Branagh can convey hope and make you cry with a twitch of his lips (and mayyyyybe a little help from Nimrod)
The Big Sick - This was totally charming. I was charmed. It was quirky without being sickening, and hello, Holly Hunter is a great Rom-Com-Mom.
I saw Angels in America at the National Theatre, which was really enjoyable, though I’m not convinced it actually needs angels. I could see what Kushner was getting at - but for me it didn’t fly, and I don’t think it needed it to get where it was going - at least, it doesn’t now. Maybe that is a sign of how things have changed.
(3) Things which I wrote
Hahaha, nope. I have a couple of pieces lurking in the back of my brain.
(4) A photo from the month gone by
A very nice gin and tonic from a pub in Putney that does 2-for–1 G&Ts on Thursdays. Would recommend.
(5) In the pile for July
I’m currently reading The Clocks in this House All Tell Different Times by Xan Brooks and In the Shelter: Finding a Home in the World by Pádraig Ó’Tuama, both of which I am very much enjoying in very different ways. The TBR pile includes Neal Stephenson and Nicola Galland’s The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O, Jhumper Lahiri’s In Other Words and Dan Drezner’s The Ideas Industries.