Even though it was expected, it’s hard to believe another month has gone by in lockdown. Here are a few of my cultural highlights from the last month.
My concentration seems to have improved a little since last month and I’ve actually read quite a lot in April, while still managing to get a few of the old 746 read too.
The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa
Yoko Ogawa does it again with another book that intrigues and defies categorisation. The story of a remote island where items are disappeared and the inhabitants must learn to live without them is a thoughtful and meditative tale that is part sci-fi and part romance. Beautifully written and expertly translated by Stephen Snyder, it is another masterpiece from a writer who never fails to impress.
Tyll by Daniel Kehlmann
I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by Kehlmann and like Yoko Ogawa, no two books are ever the same. I really loved this tale of Tyll Ulenspiegel, the prankster of German folklore, whose escapades are played out against the backdrop of the Thirty Years War. As much a series of interconnected stories as a novel, Kehlmann features real life historical figures in this bawdy tale which plays with the tropes of historical fiction to great effect.
Weather by Jenny Offil
I thought Dept of Speculation was a really smart book and loved the episodic nature of the narrative. Weather didn’t charm me quite as much. Once again I enjoyed the structure of the narrative and it does include some clever insights but it didn’t come together for me as a coherent whole, enjoyable as it might have been.
The Heavens by Sandra Newman
The Heavens was the tird book in as many weeks to reference William Shakespeare and the Plague, which is beginning to get a little disconcerting! This is a real hybrid of a book, a time-travelling, historical epic of a romance. I wasn’t sure it was going to work – it is a bit tricksy – but I ended up falling for it. Highly recommended.
Well, when I did my March Miscellany we had just started Narcos, and now, a month later and we’ve watched the first two series. It’s highly enjoyable but I think I need a wee break from drug-trafficking gangsters for a while.
We have started watching Killing Eve again, despite the fact that I had serious issues with Season 2 and had actually said that I wouldn’t be watching it again. Still, Season 3 has started strong and has a nice anarchic feel again, like it did at the beginning, but I’m still reserving judgement and at the moment am really just watching it for Villanelle’s wardrobe and Fiona Shaw.
We’ve had another good run of movies this month.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? was a gorgoeus surprise, a lovely depiction of the life of author and forger Lee Israel which featured fantastic performances from Melissa McCarthy and Richard E Grant and was beautiifully shot.
I Am Mother on Netflix was a sci-fi movie with some interesting ideas but slow pacing and derivative imagery disappointed.
I loved Us, Jordan Peele’s follow-up to the brilliant Get Out. It was much more of a horror movie that I anticipated, but it was truely unsettling with some great dark humour, a fantastic lead performance from Lupita Nyong’o and a brilliant soundtrack.
Knives Out was perfect distracting lockdown viewing. A modern-day Agatha Christie locked room mystery, it features a host of amazing actors clearly having the best fun ever.
Finally, to The Hunt, which attracted a lot of press on it’s release due to it’s depiction of liberal white elites hunting and killing working class ‘deplorables’. It’s not subtle by any means and it is very violent, but I really enjoyed this fun satire, which takes a side-swipe at everyone. Betty Gilpin, of Glow fame, is a fantastic gun-totting lead and you might never look at a grilled cheese sandwich in the same way again.
I’ve been missing my work a lot, the buzz of organising, planning and hosting events is hard to beat, but this week at HomePlace, we began our new online performance series ‘Keeping Going’.
Each Wednesday we will present a reading or performance by a writer or musician from Northern Ireland. We kicked off with a reading by the fantastic Glenn Patterson. If you have a spare 20 minutes, do subscribe and watch!
This month has been ALL about Fiona Apple’s stonking new album Fetch the Boltcutters, her first album in eight years. It’s well worth the wait.
In other news…
It’s nearly that time again…yes, you guessed it, 20 Books of Summer is back! I’ve been plotting and planning and my pile of reading for the three months of summer is almost finalised.
This year, we’ll start on 1 June and end on 1 September, so keep and eye out for the sign-up post this month to take part in the most laid back reading challenge of the year 🙂
So, what have you been reading, watching or listening to to get you through lockdown? Do let me know in the comments.
I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!