In which I wrap up November
(1) Things which I have read.
I finally finished Iain M Banks’ Surface Detail, which I ended up enjoying, but it took too long to really get going for me, and I think the stuff on the hells was a little underbaked.
The story of Tuor is my favourite in The Silmarillion, so I snapped up the new Tolkien, The Fall of Gondolin, and fully embraced being a geek about the evolution of a fictional myth.
The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh had an intriguing premise, but didn’t quite fly for me. One of the highlights for me though, was the way she draws out the importance of touch to one of the sisters: tactility is under appreciated.
I pretty much demolished George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo on my weekend away. My gosh I loved it: the mood, the style, the willingness to think about what is beautiful and terrifying about death… The climatic scenes, in particular, are something quite profound.
“We must see God not as a Him (some linear rewarding fellow) but an IT, a great beast beyond our understanding, who wants something from us, and we must give it, and all we may control is the spirit in which we give it and the ultimate end which the giving serves.”
Finally, two books I read partly for work, but mostly for personal interest: Adrian Pei’s The Minority Experience: Navigating Emotional and Organisational Realities, and Kris Rocke and Joel van Dyke’s Geography of Grace: Doing Theology from Below. The first is just really helpful and lucid, in particular with its focus on pain, power, and the past, and I’ll be recommending it a lot, The latter, in particular, just brought me great joy, because of the way it is articulates and explains ideas and approaches in theology that I’ve been steadily growing towards and into. I’ll be going back to it a lot.
(2) Things which I have watched
A study in (extreme) contrasts at the cinema. Steve McQueen’s Widows was stylish, intelligent, tense and rich. And the new Robin Hood movie is absolutely none of those things: in fact it is maybe the dumbest Robin Hood film I’ve seen yet, but since I was expecting it to be truly daft I was able to just giggle at the way Ben Mendolsohn ate up the scenery as the Sheriff and Jamie Foxx got to play Morgan Freeman.
At the ballet, I saw La Bayadere and the Unknown Soldier/ Infra / Symphony in C triple bill at the Royal Ballet, which was a mixed bag. Bayadere is worth seeing just for Act II’s Shades, even though a lot of the rest of it is very silly and not a little problematic. I found The Unknown Soldier underwhelming - or perhaps the dance was overwhelmed by the power of historical footage that was a part of it. I hugely enjoy Infra, but on this occasion I found the visuals distracting - I just wanted Max Richter’s music and Wayne MacGregor’s dance. But Symphony in C was just an utterly delightful closer.
(3) Things which I wrote Nope, but HEY, I read things!
(4) Two pieces from a Year of Wonder
am unashamedly pro-European and trying not to despair of the epic cluster of garbage that is Brexit, and so this month, you’re getting two I WANNA BE IN EUROPE pieces:
* The Sarabande from Bach’s Cello Suite no.2 in D Minor - as performed by Mstislav Rostropovich in Berlin when the wall came down.
If those don’t work for you, have Steve Reich’s Music for Pieces of Wood
(5) A photo from the month gone by
I do love The Decemberists, and they put on an extremely good gig
(6) In the pile for December
Oh, so many things, because Christmas break, hurrah. The Last Samurai, by Helen De Witt is in the pile, as is some NK Jemison, and East of Eden. I'm looking forwards to taking my parents to see the new Mary Poppins film and The Nutcracker.