Monday, September 25, 2017


What I’ve Been Reading
East West by Mohsin Hamid - this is one of the best books I have recently read. A young man and woman meet and try to strike up a relationship in an unnamed city overrun by war. Hamid paints a vivid picture of an ever changing world where things are not always as they seem. When the couple are given a chance to escape we are taken on a extraordinary journey that makes you stop and think. Nominted for the Booker this year, Hamid's refugee story is more than we could ever imagine. 

Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami is the latest from the Japanese master. It is short stories with similar themes of men and how they cope without women in their lives. At first i wasn't so sure as they felt a little misogynistic which is unlike Murakami. Possibly it was the translation.  But once i warmed to the premise I really warmed to it. 

Frank/Them/Out of the Ordinary/What I Do – Jon Ronson  I am a huge fan of Ronson and our bookclub is featuring him next month so I have been reading the titles I have yet to read. Frank is a short essay about his time in a avant garde band with a lead singer who wore a large plastic animated head over his own head. The story was turned into a great indie film with Michael Fassbender. Them is a collection of his encounters with extremists. The other two are collections from his various columns and other articles. Most are earlier work and I found him a little grating at times.  You can see his evolution over time in his work. 

Ghost Empire by Richard Fidler – I listened to Richard read his magnificent book on talking book in the car over a few weeks and what a delight it was. It is the history of the Byzantium Empire, a period in history he is fascinated in and one I knew pretty much nothing about. What a story it was!!! But it was more than that as Fidler interweaves a father/son discovery throughout the book. As he tells the history of this amazing period he is sharing the stories with his son and then takes him on a holiday to discover the places they were reading and learning about. So whilst he has showcased this history in the most easiest ways to learn about and understand, there is his underlying plot of his relationship with his then 14 year old son. It is truly a thing of beauty. I loved this book and never wanted it to end.
The Dry by Jane Harper – this is Australian Author, Harper’s debut novel and is a crime novel. Crime is a genre I rarely read, I find them too formulaic. But this has been winning awards everywhere and the talking book came through at work so i gave it a go. A small town is broken apart when a farmer kills his young son and wife and then commits suicide. But did he, because some things just don’t add up. An old friend returns home for the funeral and gets caught up in the investigation, that not only looks at this tragedy but at the death of a childhood friend from their teen years. The story moves in time and is beautifully constructed. Great characterisation and a believable story that has you guessing until the very end.

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent - I really struggled with this one. I found it slow and boring and i just didn't care about the characters. It's won loads of awards so I guess it just wasn't for me.

After by Nikki Gemmell - I love Gemmell's first book,  Shiver, but have found her subsequent titles narcissistic and vacuous. This non-fiction title about the death of her mother exposed a lot of herself and quite possibly why her works came across as they did.  After tells of a strained mother/daughter relationship with a particularly narcissistic mother. It's a very open book and I found it a fascinating read.

NIght Circus by Erin Morgenstern was a work bookclub title and was an utter delight. The story commences in the late 1890s with a magical travelling circus. Initially we meet key players in and behind the circus and the story moves back and forth through the decades. As we get to know the characters we realise there is more then meets the eye with the circus and it is part of an elaborate and dangerous game. 

Are you Anybody by Jeffrey Tambor - Jeffrey Tambor has been in two of my all time favourite shows, The Larry Sanders Show and Arrested Development. I also love him in the beautifully melancholy, Transparent. This is a well written memoir about his late start as an actor and all he has learnt. I particularly loved the parts where he describes his lovely relationship with Garry Shandling. It made me smile. 

Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham - Graham is not a great writer, she's a great talker but that doesn't quite translate to the page. She was at her best describing her Gilmore Girls time but even then I wanted more. 

The Secrets of My Life by Caitlin Jenner – Bruce Jenner was always my favourite character when I chanced upon The Kardashians, so this book intrigued me. What she had done is rather impressive and it is interesting to see her own take on her life and it’s impact on those around her. This isn’t the best written book around and at times a little trashy, but it was interesting.

What I’ve Been Watching
Embrace the Serpent is a magnificent black and white film, shot in the Amazon about the last Amazonian Shaman and two scientists over a period of time who have his help to find a special healing plant within the Amazon. Show in two timelines it feels like a documentary but these are indeed actors playing out a real life story based on the diaries of the scientists involved. It was a zen-like film where things loved slowly with some action here and there. It was sad to see how the Shaman’s tribe met their end, but there still felt like hope within the movie. I guess this is not for everyone, but I really loved this.

Truman is a Spanish film about a dying man who is unsure what to do with his beloved dog. An unexpected visit from an old friend, helps him start to put his life in order. Now this sounds rather dreary but in fact it was not, it was quite funny in parts, the actors are superb and the dog gorgeous.A few unexpected plot twists and a movie I thoroughly enjoyed.

Les Biches - is a new wave 60s film by Claude Chabrol. Not much of a story, about a younger and older woman and a man and their affairs. More sensuous than sexy, stylised than substance. It was a bit light.

La Belle Saison - is a French film set in the 1970s. Delphine is a farmers daughter who ends up in Paris studying and falls in love with abeautiful feminist.  When her father has a stroke she returns to look after the farm and her lover follows her.  But this is rural France in the 70s, will their love survive. This was a beautiful film. 

Pawno is a low budget but quite good Australian film, set around a Pawn shop in the suburbs of Melbourne. An ensemble cast including Kerry Armstrong, Maeve Dermody, Malcolm Kennard and many more, all the characters intertwine around the Pawn Shop. It is funny, dark, sad, and romantic. An underdog film that is worth seeking out.

The Family Fang is an odd film about a very eccentric family. Camille and Caleb Fang (played deliciously by Maryann Plunkett and Christopher Walken) are performance artists and at young ages include their very young and very precocious children, Annie and Baxter in the contrived performances. The Family fang become quite infamous, for their performances of course and the fact the children participate. The children, now adults, (played with conviction by Nicole Kidman and Jason Bateman) are estranged from their parents. Both are obviously still affected by their crazy upbringing, Annie is an actress with a bad reputation and Baxter wrote a best selling book but is struggling to follow it up. After a bizarre accident, Baxter winds up in hospital and the family is reunited against the children’s better wishes. From here pathos and black comedy ensues, with weird twists and turns. I really enjoyed this very different film.

Edge of Seventeen - was a fun but really good coming of age film. Highly recommend.

Crazy About Tiffanys - wonderful documentary about the legendary New York flagship. It's history, the designers, the jewels, Tiffany blue, and the celebrities.

Joan Baez Concert - was simply wonderful. Celebrating her 75th birthday with fellow musicians like Paul Simon, David Crosby, Emmylou Harris, and Judy Collins. But the highlight for me was the flawless cover of Dylan's Don't Think Twice with The Indigo Girls. If folk or quality music is your thing, this is a must.

Game of Thrones - what can I say without too many spoilers. Best season ever and easily one of the best episodes within it. Everything is coming together, much quicker than I anticipated. Let's just say it's all about the dragons.

Peaky Blinders - got  off to a blinding start with Tommy marrying Grace in a very posh society wedding. And you know things aren't going to remain so posh and perfect, especially with The Russians involved. What happens next turns Tommy more feral than he's ever been.  This was a great series.

Orphan Black - the final season was a bit boring. It seemed to lose it's edge as things unravel for our clones.  I will miss it's kick arse feminism but was disappointed with this season.

Twin Peaks - this has been without precedence THE BEST television I have ever seen.  Did I understand it all? No. Was everything resolved? No. But that didn't matter. The journey was a Lynchian mix of mind-fuck and sheer joy. And Kyle McLachlan was a revelation. Playing multiple versions of Cooper, he was having the time of his life, playing the role/s of his life.  I'm going to blog more about this in time. 

OJ Made in America - this is the Oscar winning 8 hour documentary about OJ Simpson and it's an outstanding masterpiece. It traces his history before and after tree infamous trial. With unprecedented access to people and footage this had me completely and utterly entranced. Horrifying in parts too. This is a must see.

What I've Been Listening To
Cannot recall.