October seems to have flown by (a bit like this year) and a lot of my good reading intentions have fallen by the wayside.
I’ve been prepping for Novellas in November so I didn’t do a lot of extra reading this month, but here are some of my cultural highlights from October.
My RIP Challenge reading is coming to an end and out of my initial pile of 10, I managed to read 8, which is good going! These two weren’t on my original list, but both fit the spooky themes of RIP!
The Aosawa Murders by Riku Onda, translated by Alison Watts
The Aosawa Murders explores the aftermath of a devastating and dramatic crime – the poisoning of 17 people, including children, during a wealthy family party in 70s Japan. The case seems clear-cut when the man who delivered the poison-laced drinks kills himself and leaves a note, but an Inspector and a young girl from the neighbourhood think differently. The girl grows up and writes a best-selling book about the case which questions the motives of the the blind daughter who survived the massacre of her family.
The Aosawa Murders is expertly told through different narrative voices and subverts the usual crime tropes by dangling the possibility of closure, only to whip it away. It is a tantalising and immersive novel which id a little too oblique to be fully satisfying, but is a reminder that we can never know the full truth of any situation.
Red X by David Demchuk
Red X is an interesting hybrid of novel, memoir and horror. It is set in Toronto across several decades and follows the stories of various gay men who go missing while their friends and family desperately search for answers. These are fictional accounts and Demchuk invents a supernatural cause for their disappearances, but the novel is rooted in truth.
In 2018, a man named Bruce McArthur was arrested and charged with the murder of eight people, specifically gay men. At the time of the murders, the police were heavily criticized for both victim blaming and not taking missing-person cases seriously enough, due to the sexuality of the victims. Into this, Demchuk weaves his own story of growing up as a gay man, and explores his own experiences throughout the book. It sounds jarring, but actually works and he successfully blends the idea of an invisible killer with the real-life experiences of a community dealing with AIDS, family expulsion and a constant threat of violence.
Succession: Season 3
Ooh I’ve been looking forward to the return of the Roys – the family that we all love to hate and hate to love – in season 3 of Succession. Only two episodes in to the new season and I keep thinking I might like some of them, only to remember what heinous, self-centred megalomaniacs they all are. It’s a wonder that a show can so grip the imagination when all the characters are effectively horrible people, but that’s what Succession manages to do. It’s Shakespearean in scope but performances can turn on a raised eyebrow. I still think that Matthew MacFadyen steals the show, but Kieran Culkin is giving him a run for his money. Long may the Roys reign!
I’ll admit that I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Pig which I’d seen mentioned as a John Wick-style revenge movie featuring a truffle pig. That description does it a disservice as this is a really thoughtful drama about nostalgia, loss and authenticity.
Nicolas Cage, reminding us again that he can be really, really good, plays a truffle hunter who lives off-grid in the woods. When his beloved pig is stolen, he sets off into the rarefied world of Portland’s culinary establishments in an attempt to get his animal back.
The film is quieter than you might expect and shot beautifully and Cage’s reputation as an over-the-top performer is cleverly subverted as he gives a restrained and moving performance. Highly recommended.
The Velvet Underground: A Todd Haynes Documentary
As a massive fan of The Velvet Underground and an admirer of the films of Todd Haynes, I was very much looking forward to this documentary which charts the brief and wondrous career of The Velvet Underground, and in particular, their time working with Andy Warhol at The Factory. Haynes presents his movie in a more or less continuous split screen, using a collage-style of thematically relevant archival material about the band, and talking-head interviews with surviving band members and admirers. He also incorporates Warhol’s static portrait-movie images of people like Lou Reed and John Cale who simply stare down the camera lens. The split-screen takes a while to get used to, but fits perfectly with the overall vibe of the band. John Cale speaks with sanguine affection about his time in the band (including his unceremonious sacking by Reed) and the whole thing is a fantastic document of a band who were, and remain, entirely unique.
For the first time in a long time I haven’t reviewed any new music for No More Workhorse. I have, however, been listening to The Velvet Underground on repeat since watching the documentary and am a big fan of this one in particular!
I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!