April Miscellany

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.

Reading

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.

Watching

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!

Listening

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 🙂

My Post

So, what have you been reading, watching or listening to to get you through lockdown? Do let me know in the comments.

x

Monthly Miscellany

Cathy746books View All →

I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!

56 Comments Leave a comment

  1. My concentration is slowly improving too, I hope it continues! It’s great that HomePlace is doing online readings. My work has also switched a lot of content online, and though it was stressful at first I can see it continuing long term.

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  2. I think this is my first time commenting here, hello!
    Added Tyll to my list, the reviews on Goodreads are also super positive.
    Knives Out is such a jolly, smart film. I might watch it again now 🙂
    And your writer’s reading series is a great initiative! I will be tuning in.

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  3. How time does pass, even if you’re not e-x-a-c-t-l-y having fun, eh? I’m intrigued by your comments about Killing Eve as we’ve recently finished rewatching the first season with an eye to watching the second. I’m not relying on finding ANY of the characters likeable, so maybe I won’t share your disappointment, but could be there’s more to your comment that you’ve kept quiet on to avoid spoilers, so maybe I’ll be eager to jump to the third like you. I’m watching the newest season of “Ozark” (also character-driven but also drug-soaked) and the third season of “Borgen” (which I understand will be getting a reboot soon, which should be interesting). And my reading habits haven’t changed all that much, so a little bit of some things (kidlit, classics, SFF) and a lot of others (memoirs, series and fiction). Last night I finished the first in Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s Scots Quair trilogy: so interesting!

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  4. Some great viewing there – Knives Out, Can You Ever Forgive Me? and Us – three very different films, all excellent. I’m glad you enjoyed them.

    The Memory Police caught my attention too – as you say, a quietly compelling book, very meditative.

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  5. We watched Can You Ever Forgive Me? in April too and very much enjoyed it. I’m glad your concentration is coming back and you’ve been reading again. Mine is slowly on its way back too and it’s such a relief to be finding joy in books again.

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  6. LOL Here in Australia, we’re only just getting series 2 of Killing Eve now. I watched series 1, but that was enough for me!
    The whole lockdown thing has coincided with eye surgery for me, just scraped in to having it in late February before all elective surgery was cancelled. So my reading has been compromised by that, not by the lockdown, and is still not back to normal. However I had my last appointment with the surgeon on Thursday, and I immediately made an appointment with my regular optometrist afterwards and he will be writing a new prescription for me on Monday, and then I can get some new glasses, and then… oh joy! I will be able to read without getting a headache!

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  7. Can You Ever Forgive Me? is so good we’ve watched it twice… I know I’m a lone voice but I strongly disliked Killing Eve , saw season 1 and they was more than enough. We have been watching a Scandinavian series called Twin which I think is set in a remote part of Norway. Beautifully filmed and acted and quite intriguing story.

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    • Killing Eve can be very hit or miss for me, but it does have some great, great performances which just manage to keep my interest. Twin sounds right up my street – I’ll check it out for sure!

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  8. I feel like the plague keeps turning up in my reading, too, whether I know to expect it or not! The Heavens was a surprise hit for me last year. I think it’s a very underrated/undiscovered book. Looking forward to 20 Books of Summer already — I’m planning a foodie theme 🙂

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    • Oh I love it when you theme your 20 books – brilliant! Yes, The Heavens was one of those books that I had no expectations for, good or bad, and I was really pleasantly surprised by it!

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  9. I’m so glad you enjoyed Weather and Tyll – two of this year’s favourites for me – and you’ve made me want to watch Can You Ever Forgive Her and Knives Out again. Pleased to hear your reading mojo’s back. Take care x

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  10. Yay 20 Books of Summer! Hooray! I might just do all my reading outside my milieu project in one go and read 20 books by people who are not straight white, female, cis-gendered, middle-aged, middle-class English people! Who knows!

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  11. Good grief, is it nearly summer again already?? I’ll have to give it some thought this year if my reading speed doesn’t pick up soon – may have to go for the 10 option…

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  12. Cathy, I am pleased to hear your concentration has been better and in turn you have been able to read more in April. I really like the sound of The Heavens by Sandra Newman. Like you, I am also watching season three of Killing Eve and can’t make up my mind yet what I think – I am loving Villanelle’s wardrobe too, but was very upset one of my fave characters is already dead! Also feels a little contrived to substitute in another female character. Oh well, I am also watching season four of True Blood, a bit of fun with sexy-ass vampires, is win, win for me! And woohoo, I have been waiting for the 20 Books of Summer announcement… is going off to work on one’s list of possibilities now! 😅

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  13. I want to read all of those books! This is the first I’ve heard of The Heavens, but you’ve convinced me on that one, too. But especially The Memory Police.
    My TV watching is almost always limited to what the kids are watching, but I do love watching The Baking Show with my daughter. And I love that she wants to then go to the kitchen and try new things. 🙂

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  14. I feel like hundreds(!) of people have recommended Memory Police to me, I really must track it down and get on it! 😅 And I can’t believe 20 summer reads is coming around again, I feel like the last one was just yesterday! Time is so weird right now 😬

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