February’s Monthly Miscellany – my monthly post where I round up all the non-746 books that I’ve read over the preceding weeks – is going to be a bit sparse I’m afraid as I’ve been gearing up for Reading Ireland Month and all my extraneous reading has been for that!
Still, I’ve managed a couple of books that aren’t in the 746, just not as many as usual.
I’ve still be trying to read a little bit more poetry than usual and this month I was really impressed by the two collections I read.
Flèche by Mary Jane Chan
This is a really impressive collection of poetry. At 29, Mary Jean Chan is the youngest winner of the Costa Poetry Prize and she writes with poise and insight. These poems explore love, both romantic and filial, identity, queerness, race and, as an overarching metaphor, fencing. It sounds like a lot to take in, but Chan writes with a subtle ease that makes these poems feel at times like diary entries, as if the reader is observing a person coming to terms with what they are and how they want to live.
Dear fantasy mother, thank you
for taking my coming out as calmly
as a pond accepts a stone
flung into its depths
You sieved my tears, added
an egg, then baked a beautiful cake.
You said: Let us celebrate, for today
you are reborn as my beloved
Profit and Loss by Leontia Flynn
Leontia Flynn is a Belfast-based poet who teaches at the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s University. Profit and Loss is a very accessible, personal and often funny collection. It is split into three sections. The first set of poems explore certain rooms that Flynn has lived in throughout her personal life. The middle section is a stunning long poem ‘Letter to Friends’ which reflects on social and technological changes over the last decade. The last section focuses on the more personal experience of caring for a parent with Alzheimers. What Flynn does wonderfully in this collection, is marry the personal to the societal and explore the ripples within which we are all caught.
I once lived in a railway carriage flat.
I once lived in a room above the street
where yells and scraps of talk rose up like smoke.
With the first faint hoot and crash as bars let out
I hummed like a fridge, delighted, in the dark.
I also finally finished the hilarious Francis Plug, Writer-in-Residence by Paul Ewan. I loved the first instalment of this bawdy tale of the heavy-drinking, accident-prone, author-stalking writer. In the second book, Francis Plug has managed to bag himself a post as Writer-in-Residence at Greenwich University, which gives him so much needed beer money and an office to sleep in.
Unfortunately, he is not so fond of having to host tutorials, go to staff meetings and write a campus novel. Mayhem, as always, ensues. I have grown very fond of Francis over these two books and I do hope that this isn’t the last we hear from him.
This last month has been all about Dark in our house. We FLEW through both seasons, at times having no clue what was going on but always enjoying it! This drama about the discovery of a portal through time in a small German town is absolutely gripping. It is very intelligent sci-fi that asks a lot from the viewer but also rewards your patience. We were bereft when it finished and are eagerly awaiting Season 3.
To fill the Dark-sized hole, we have been catching up on some episodes of Black Mirror that we had missed first time round. I am a big fan of Black Mirror and while it is always clever, I do find that some episodes can be much better than others. Stand out this month was Black Museum, starring the always amazing Douglas Hodge, which centred on a museum for crime-related memorabilia. Featuring fantastic performances, fun Easter Eggs from other episodes and a truly horrific conclusion, this is one of the standout Black Mirror’s for me, along with White Bear, Shut Up and Dance and San Junipero.
My newly discovered enthusiasm for podcasts continues apace. After West Cork, I devoured S-Town, a fascinating character study of a fascinating man, John B McLemore. What started out as a true crime story soon took a very different turn following the death of one of the participants.
While I enjoyed S-Town, I got the sense that the makers were in some ways grasping for a narrative to justify the time they had already spent on the story. What they came up with was no doubt fascinating, but at times left me feeling a little uncomfortable in terms of the level of detail they were sharing about a man’s life.
I have now started Serial – and yes, I realise that I am very late to the party here! – and after four episodes am completely hooked! I am desperately trying to avoid any online spoilers before I get to the end.
I haven’t been listening to too much new music this month, but have been loving the new album from Tame Impala, The Slow Rush.
So, that’s a snapshot of my cultural life this month. I’ll be back on Monday for the start of Reading Ireland Month, so keep a look out for reviews, interview and giveaways galore!
I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!