One of the things I was most excited about when I finished my thesis last year was being able to read absolutely anything I wanted to, guilt free – my reading list no longer dictated by my studies. I forgot about the pleasure of reading fiction! I’m on my third book for 2017 already, which is Elfriede Jelinek’s The Piano Teacher (I’m a few chapters in so it’s too soon to say much, though I’m well acquainted with Haneke’s take for screen). I recently finished The Notebook Trilogy by Ágota Kristóf, which is a cold knife of a novel – Kristóf’s language is stripped back but the sentiments weigh a tonne. It’s hard to recommend it to people because it’s such a cruel book, but I will anyway (even if only for the cover art!)
Life Without Buildings – Any Other City
A really good friend of mine pointed in me in the direction of this album about 11 years ago when I first moved to Melbourne, and every few years I go through a phase where it’s all I want to listen to. This is one of those phases.
It’s sad to say, but I haven’t watched a film in its entirety for months. I think I’m still recovering from the last few months of last year when I’d watch whatever was available to me in a quest to take procrastination to a terrifying new level. That said, my partner has been on a mission to find things that might interest me on Netflix (the Australian offering is seriously lacking) and came up with the documentary mini-series Shadow of Truth, knowing full well that a good true crime doco will always scratch a satisfying itch in me (and everyone, and their mothers). The documentary deals with the 2006 murder of a 13yo girl in a quiet town in Israel. The production qualities are a little shoddy but it doesn’t matter in the slightest when the story is as bizarre as this one.
Already I feel as though I haven’t been reading as much as I’d like this year, but Maddy lent me two Leonora Carrington books, Down Below and The Hearing Trumpet, which I love. Carrington’s physicality and transference of the intellectual or emotional into the body is moving and relatable, and the calmness of her tone, despite describing surrealistically traumatic events, is so soothing and beautiful.
I watch an unhealthy amount of films right now, like at least three a day. I will watch anything, since it’s more like gluttony than anything else. But what I’m really into right now is 1940’s-1950’s technicolor Hollywood films, and anything with Gene Kelly involved. One of the best films I watched recently was Invitation to the Dance (1956) directed by and starring Kelly, which is a perfect use of colour, dance, and spectacle. Also Goodbye, Again (Anatole Litvak, 1961), which has immediately become one of my favourite sad melodramas.
I’ve been in a book-accumulating fervor in the past month, buying somewhere in the realm of 30ish new volumes which I just had to possess (and hopefully will read this year.) My instagram account documents all these book hauls of late. Recently finished Barbara Comyns’s The Vet’s Daughter for book club, which was haunting and eerily familiar, like a half-remembered fever dream. After reading it, I added the remainder of her work to my collection, having only read Our Spoons Came from Woolworth’s previously; most excited about The Skin Chairs! Currently I’m just dipping into Han Kang’s The Vegetarian, for which I have high hopes.
I joined an as-yet-unnamed musical project/band this past fall, and we’re currently recording our first album. I’m singing & shakily learning the bass, and it’s kind of overwhelming but fun. Any band name suggestions are generously welcome, since we can’t come to a consensus yet. I think we sound kind of like NZ’s The 3Ds, but not really? Otherwise, I’ve weirdly been listening to very little music as of late. At work, I tend to listen to hours of podcasts all day; lately bingeing You Must Remember This, as I’m super excited to catch up to the newest series, “Dead Blondes.”
I’ve been a pretty terrible film-watcher lately. The Wailing (Na Hong-Jin, 2016) was the latest new film seen, and its intensity and heartfelt horror hit me rather hard. I have a giant watchlist gathering dust, but find time to watch the Charles Bronson vehicle Kinjite (1989) with my s.o. on VHS. Actually, I recommend watching it as a true oddity, and it’s available on youtube! I rewatched all of Hannibal around the new year, and it’s still the loveliest. & I’m excited that my local film society is hosting a free half-day screening of Evolution (Lucile Hadzihalilovic, 2015), The Love Witch (Anna Biller, 2016), and XX (2017) next Saturday.
Despite trying very hard to maintain good sleep hygiene, lately I’ve been looking at my phone for an hour before bed reading reddit relationships. Though I’d say overall I’m satisfied with my personal life, I still love drama, and this sub thread gives me everything I want with the added guise of offering advice and council. People’s lives are crazy and they make terrible, selfish decisions! At it’s best it feels like communal therapy, at it’s worst I get to look at a bunch of people tear someone terrible apart.
I am not, by any means, a TV person. The idea of watching 6 seasons of 20 episodes of 40 minute show just seems like an unbearable amount of time to commit to anything. I’m also impatient, so I’ll inevitably google what happens and with my curiosity satisfied, give up. I was two episodes in to Twin Peaks when I looked up who killed Laura Palmer. However, maybe because things have been hard and frightening lately, I have gone through three seasons of Pretty Little Liars, averaging about one a week. And despite constantly looking up spoilers, and already knowing who A is (well, one of them) before starting the show, I’m still watching. Maybe it’s the melodrama, or the absurd stakes, or a scene where a Lana Del Rey song plays when two lovers are united, I just really like it. It also knows when to up the ante, ie someone falls down an elevator shaft and survives, every few episodes so I don’t lose interest. There’s also a ton of film references, which satiates any desire I have to feel smart.
My favourite thing about my maternity leave (other than, you know, getting to know this amazing human I made) has been reading. I’ve been exploring all the incredible librairies in my city, and reading all kinds of books, fiction and non-fiction, unrelated to my work. Less newspapers, more fiction. What a joy. I just finished Zadie Smith’s Swing Time, which I enjoyed. I feel even luckier to have also gotten my hands on new books that feel as though they were written for me, as a new mother. I find myself slowing down, stopping myself from finishing them because I never want them to end. Erin Wunker’s brilliant Notes From a Feminist Killjoy punched me in the gut, pushing me to devour the first hundred or so pages in one fevered go. I have stopped and re-read those passages, but I can’t bring myself to go further, knowing that it will end.
Also, my long-time Internet Friend Anaïs has started a tinyletter, which I have been devouring and recommending.
This winter has gotten me down, mainly because of violence and white supremacy in my own city and in the world at large. Sometimes I find the best comfort for me is listening to music that will make me cry, so I can get out some of that sadness. And damn, Phil Elverum’s new record is the definition of heartbreaking. I pre-ordered the record, but the first two songs he has released – Ravens and Real Death – brought me to tears instantly.
Since having a baby, I’ve been very particular about what kind of films I watch – mainly due to the running times and depending on baby’s mood. I hate being interrupted, or having the tension of a scene fall flat because I’m distracted by my baby, but not watching anything isn’t an option. This past month I’ve settled on old movies! I recently signed up for MUBI in an attempt to add more variety to what films I watch and it has been pretty successful. I loved watching a young Bette Davis in Of Human Bondage (1935) and an older, even more brilliant Bette Davis in Another Man’s Poison (1951). I also just finished reading Swing Time by Zadie Smith and a friend lent me her box set of Fred & Ginger movies which has been just lovely.