In which I wrap up January
(1) Things which I have read.
January has yielded some really good reading (also, I had the first week off, which was beautiful.
- Pachinko - Min Jin Lee. A Korean story that completely gets under the skin, as it follows Sunja and her family from pre-Manchurian War to contemporary Japan. It's rich and wonderful and a little bit heartbreaking.
- The Silence of the Girls - Pat Barker. The Illiad and the Odyssey are up there among my all time favourite stories, and I enjoyed this retelling from Briseis' perspective a lot. It hasn't really stayed with me (though neither has Madeline Miller's Song of Achilles). I'm still waiting for someone to write the story from the perspective of a Helen who is unwillingly kidnapped by Paris and thinks he's a little bit of a moron.
- In Our Mad and Furious City - Guy Gunaratne. A side of London that is largely unknown to me: I didn't feel that I necessarily needed the historical elements, though I get why they were there, but aside from that it was a great story, and Gunaratne's use of language and dialect is fabulous.
- Birthday Girl - Haruki Murakami. A slip of a short story, published to celebrate Murakami's 70th birthday, a nice strange little urban fairy tale.
- The Face: Strangers on a Pier - Tash Aw. Another slip of a book, this time Tash Aw's meditations on being part of the Chinese diaspora in Asian. I love his writing and really enjoyed his insights - and I'm delighted that he's got a new novel coming out this year (Five Star Billionaire was wonderful
- East of Eden - John Steinbeck. My friend Jamie and I realised that we'd both never read this, so we made a deal to do so, and I am so so glad. I know this is a classic, but somehow I'd put Steinbeck in the box marked "over-rated asshole" with Hemmingway. I completely loved it: story, characters (oh, Caleb, my heart), the whole experience of reading the book. It was rich and satisfying, and I'm sad I can never read it for the first time again.
- Landmarks - Robert Macfarlane. A little bit of British non-fiction nature writing; a genre I've got into over the past year or so. This is about different kinds of landmarks that humans notice and give names to, and some of the truly wonderful names they give them. More Macfarlane is already in the pile.
- The Last Children of Tokyo - Yoko Tawada. Another slim book, this time of novella length: I found the writing of future Tokyo really evocative, but the story was a little too allusivre for me.
- Salt Fat Acid Heat - Samin Nosrat. I've had this since last summer, but just really cracked into it (and into the Netflix show), and my cooking life has been revolutionised. It's essentially science, but you get to EAT THINGS when you do experiments. I've always been pretty confident in the kitchen, but this helps me understand what I'm doing even more.
(2) Things which I have watched
I spent most of the first couple of weeks of January watching Parks and Recreation on Prime, and I loved it. I'm so glad that I finally got around to watching it, for it is a bringer of much joy.
At the cinema I've been seeing things that are awards bait and things that are getting overlooked for awards, in the usually winter season.
- Colette - fairly slight, but enjoyable. Kiera Knightley is really good in it, but Dominic West leans into the stereotypes of domineering husband too much to ever understand his appeal.
- Stan and Ollie - totally lovely and charming and sweet and funny, and Steve Coogan should be more present in the awards chat.
- Mary Queen of Scots - melodramatic glossy nonsense about Queens who deserve better than films that want to limit them to the choices of sexually liberation and political failure or sexual repression and political success, even if the actresses are very good.
- Schindler’s List - this had a re-release for its 25th anniversary on Holocaust Memorial Day, and so I got to see it in the cinema. I still think it's a remarkable achievement (even if the final scene of Schindler's story falls prey to over-emotion) and also a very good entry point into this period of history.
- Destroyer - phenomenal and powerful, and should completely be getting more recognition. It's an intense and yet believable story, that is wonderfully shot - and that's before you get to Nicole Kidman's performance (and also, yay, her face moves again!)
(3) Things which I wrote
Nothing I've written in the last month has made it out yet, but HEY, a book I co-edited has made it out into the world. It's a collection of papers called Poverty in the Early Church and Today (and yes, I'm aware prices in academic publishing are a little bit wipes forehead
(4) A recommendation of some kind
If you can get to London in the next month, you have until 24 Feburary to visit the British Musuem's exhibition, I am Ashurbanipal, which is fascinating and wonderful, and you can see fragments of Gilgamesh, which is hella cool.
(5) In the pile for Feburary
I have Yiyun Li's The Vagrants and Dreyer's English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style on the pile, and I was just given a copy of Washington Black, which was the one of the Booker pile that I really really wanted to read. I'm looking forward to seeing If Beale Street Could Talk , I almost certainly will see The Lego Movie 2, and I am also excited to see Umbrella Academy on Netflix.
(6) A Photo from the last month
someone left their boots in a tree…