April Miscellany!

Welcome to my monthly round-up of non-746 reads, movies and music that have caught my attention in April.

True Story is a really unique and interesting book that  it is probably best to know little about before starting to read it. The fact that it was issued with four very different covers should alert you to the fact that it straddles timelines and genres to explore the nature of story telling and the stories we tell ourselves.

The reader needs to work to piece it all together, but that’s to its benefit.

In 1999, a couple of teen boys drive a passed-out drunk girl, Alice, home from a party. Afterwards, they brag to friends about assaulting her; later, they’ll claim that story was made up. Alice herself can’t remember that night, so she can never be sure which version of the story is true and consequently, neither can the reader.

Perry is an exciting new literary voice who isn’t afraid to make her reader work and she throws in a bravura and unforgettable ending.

I bought In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado way back in early lockdown last year and have no idea why I haven’t read it sooner. Carmen Maria Machado’s account of the abuse she suffered at the hands of her ‘petite, blond, Harvard graduate’ lover is a horrifying but enthralling exploration of domestic abuse within a lesbian relationship.

This is a memoir about two young, ambitious writers whose passionate relationship sours when one begins to subject the other to emotional and, at times, physical cruelty. However it plays structurally with the idea of what a memoir is, telling the story through short chapters all titled ‘Dream House as…’ and uses wit, inventiveness and a series of narrative tropes — including classic horror themes — to create an entirely unique piece of work. The judges of the Rathbones Folio Prize, which it has just won, called it “a compelling memoir, a striking piece of storytelling, and a work of art” and I couldn’t agree more.

White City is the second novel from Dublin writer Kevin Power and it is an absolute blast of a book. Set in the upper echelons of Dublin society, it follows Ben – whose banker father is about to stand trial for fraud – as he tries to find a place for himself in the shadow of his infamous father.

With no money worries and a general lack of ambition, Ben is studying for a PHD which is going nowhere. When his father is arrested and his financial support system is turned off, he has to find a way of making money. As he falls deeper into a spiral of drug use, he gets involved in a dodgy property deal in Serbia, which seems to good to be true.

White City is a real page-turner, reminiscent of early Amis, very sharp and funny, but with heart. Power is an astute writer of character and the book is also a sly look at the bust and boom of capitalism, not just in Dublin but across the Western world. Highly recommended.

We’ve been watching a LOT of movies this month, so I’ll keep my reactions brief!

Minari

This is a very sweet film with gorgeous cinematography, a stunning soundtrack and one very cute kid in cowboy boots. I’m wondering though if it was overly hyped as I expected more. Still, it is nice to see this story told on the big screen and the film is full of quiet delights.

Mank

I consider myself a relatively smart person with more than a passing knowledge of the background to the making of Citizen Kane and yet I was totally lost in this lush, beautiful looking but entirely confusing tale of Herman J. Mankiewicz, as he races to finish writing the Welles’ classic. 1930s Hollywood is beautifully recreated but I spent so much time looking stuff up on the internet in order to follow the plot that eventually we gave up. Oldman is great, but Amanda Seyfried is better.

Promising Young Woman

I don’t hold the popular opinion on Promising Young Woman which I really enjoyed up until the end, which I really hated. Carey Mulligan deserves that Oscar nom and the film looks and sounds great but that ending killed me. I can’t mention anything because of spoilers, but asking your protagonist to trust everyone who has ever let her down in the film to date in order to pull off your ending felt like a cop out to me. It’s interesting that I also didn’t like Emerald Fennell’s showrunner season of Killing Eve but she has definitely got an eye for visual style.

Sound of Metal

Again, I go against the consensus here. Riz Ahmed is fantastic in this, and in another year, might have won that Oscar, but I found this fine, if a little dull. The sound editing is pretty stunning though.

Motherless Brooklyn

We watched this after I finished reading the book and it was interesting to see Norton’s treatment of the tale of Lionel Essrog, detective with Tourette’s. The film is set in the 1950s instead of the 1990s and that works, but you can tell that this was a twenty-year labour of love for Norton who slightly spoils the story with slow pacing and an unnecessary running time of over two and a half hours.

Molly’s Game

Also proving the adage that less is more, Aaron Sorkin’s biopic of Molly Bloom who ran celebrity filled poker games in the 90s, is another two and a half hour slog that could have been improved by lopping off at least 40 minutes of running time. Jessica Chastain does the heavy lifting here, but Kevin Costner is also great as her pushy father, however it is just too long and Sorkin’s fabled snappy dialogue comes off as a bit laboured.

John Wick

I really did not expect to like this as much as I did. It is a ridiculous, brain in the back pocket revenge shoot-em-up but it is a taut, action packed yarn featuring great performances from Willem Defoe and the late Michael Nyqvist. Even Keanu is OK, but that could be because he doesn’t have a lot of lines…

This month I have been revisiting Tom Waits a lot. He’s one of my favourite artists and it was lovely to dive into his back catalogue again.

I was delighted though to hear the first release in a long time from the very wonderful José González. Treat yourself, it’s a wee beauty.

The 746

Cathy746books View All →

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

24 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I’m so glad you enjoyed True Story. I read it last year when proofs were sent out, each bearing one of the four jackets. I wondered if readers differed in their reactions accordingly – mine was that dark, horror story style.

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  2. I’m glad you’ve got a lot of films here, it’s been a film-y month for me. I try not to objectify people too much, but yes Minari was very cute. Memorable in a quiet way, it’s surprisingly stayed with me.
    I read a review of PYW which gave me the whole plot! So yes I can understand your disappointment, even though I haven’t seen it.
    I thought Mank was the sort of film that the men in our film club would really like :-/ It was curiosity provoking, but It didn’t make me care about anything about it.

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    • That’s a shame that you found out the plot of PYW. It has a lot to recommend it but in the end I just couldn’t reconcile the choices. Going to watch Nomadland tonight I think so I’m looking forward to that.

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  3. Huge Tom Waits fan here too! I must check out John Wick – it’s usually the sort of film I put on to keep himself happy, and for me these can be hits or misses…! I rather enjoyed Molly’s Game tbh…I’d read a Vanity Fair article (I think it was VF!) on Molly and rather admired her spunk for setting up her game and setting the rules for movie stars. I hope selling her story got her some income afterwards – she’s a smart tenacious girl.

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  4. For some reason PYW didn’t appeal to me and I don’t know why. I’ll watch it sometime but bear in mind what you say about the ending. The José González is lovely – thanks for sharing!

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  5. I thought Mank such a disappointment, I was really looking forward to it and as you say it looks fabulous and captures the era beautifully but I just got bored. John Wick however!

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  6. I thought Minari was a beautifully made and incredibly underwhelming film. I don’t know if it was a case of too much hype for me as well but I thought it was very unremarkable in a way that I wasn’t expecting it to be. Happy it exists but I admittedly would have been let down if it had won the Oscar. (Though I hated Nomadland so I was let down anyway.) The ending of Promising Young Woman was abhorrent and makes it SO difficult to discuss that film especially as there was a lot I loved!

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  7. Oh, I’m so glad you loved In The Dream House! Such an incredible book that totally expanded my view of what a “memoir” could be. And I’m taking you up on your recommendation of True Story – it sounds fantastic! I wonder which cover I’ll find first…

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