So yeah this is obviously a day late, due to the cold weather. How does the cold weather affect something done entirely inside in the warmth, you ask? And to that I say…let’s talk about my screentime recommendations!
- I finally saw If Beale Street Could Talk (adapted from the James Baldwin novel) in the theater this weekend and it was gorgeous and moving and thought-provoking and did I already mention gorgeous? I’m just very mad right now that the director, Barry Jenkins, (go watch Moonlight on Amazon Prime!!) wasn’t nominated for a Best Director Oscar for this movie because THE LIGHTING! THE COLORS! THE STORYTELLING! GIVE HIM EVERY OSCAR! Anyway. Clearly I feel very fine and normal about this.
- The Netflix show Grace and Frankie is back for their 5th season, and my LORD I had forgotten how much I loved this show. I remember not being super into the 4th season–in my opinion it was kind of a bummer, and the humor took a backseat to the season narrative about things falling apart and the main characters facing down the some potentially inevitable age-related difficulties. I felt some trepidation going into the 5th season, but my fears were seriously allayed by halfway through the first episode and I’m now halfway through the season and loving every minute. If the bummerness of the 4th season was necessary to get these characters to this place of kicking ass and saying “fuck it” I’m for it completely.
- This is, so far, less of a screentime recommendation and more of how you can get AHEAD with a book recommendation. If you like twisty female stories and haven’t read any Megan Abbott, you are in for a TREAT. Specifically, her book Dare Me is becoming a TV show sooooon and you should read the book and be ahead. (I’ve also read her books The Fever, You Will Know Me (I think this one is somewhere in the “optioned for film” mix too), and The End of Everything, and her most recent, Give Me Your Hand, is getting close to the top of my library holds list.)
The Bees – Laline Paull
This book was a WILD RIDE, Y’ALL. Bees!! They’re fucking weird and I don’t understand them!! I *kind of* understand them a little more after this book, but like…not really!
Let me explain. Have you ever thought to yourself, “wow this book where a special individual challenges a corrupt system and leads a revolution sure would be cooler if all of the characters were BEES??” If not, the time is NOW. Flora 717 is born into the lowest caste in her hive–she’s a sanitation worker, but her unique abilities catch the attention of the priestess caste very quickly (like, within minutes of her birth) and thus she’s given opportunities most sanitation bees don’t even DREAM of, and through those opportunities discovers that the Hive is not as idyllic as the priestesses are claiming. There are definitely areas in the book where it seems like her uniqueness is a convenient way to show us around a beehive, which I was fine with because HOW DO BEES WORK. IT MAKES EVEN LESS SENSE TO ME NOW. A couple of times it also seemed like the narrative was trying to draw some parallels about race, class, and gender that were kind of a stretch or were difficult to parse because…bees. Ultimately though, I really enjoyed this book, in particular its “kill all men” vibe that became more than subtext about halfway through.
Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
Welcome back to the 19th century! It’s been awhile, and this particular foray back was at least partially due to my Very Foolish Choice to take on the feminist literary criticism tome The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Imagination by Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar. And like, when I say ‘tome,’ I mean “I could probably kill someone with this book, either by dropping it on their head or just reading it at them until their ears bled.” I’ll say more on this book when I finally finish it (sometime before my 90th birthday, I assume), but after struggling through a chapter pulling together Frankenstein and Paradise Lost and having only read one of those texts and therefore having barely any idea what they were talking about, I decided it was finally time for me to just dig in.
Which is not to say that reading it didn’t appeal to me on its own! A monster story written by a 19th century badass who came up with the idea after her husband and dude friends tried to exclude her from a contest amongst themselves during a cabin weekend is *extremely* my jam, and I was not mistaken! Plus, it’s not very long, especially by 19th century standards! Don’t get me wrong, it’s still verrrry “19th century” in the writing, and there are a lot of spots that do go on a bit long, but for the most part I was very into it. At this point the premise has so saturated ~culture~ that it seems silly to lay it out, but I will say that there’s a particular sort of timeliness to reading about a dude who causes a whole bunch of harm through his reckless attempts to control nature by creating life and then mostly feels like HE’S the greatest victim because of how bad he feels.
PEOPLE DIED, VICTOR.
Anyway, Shelley is an incredibly astute writer, who slides a whole bunch of introspection about fear, loneliness, and relationship between creator and creature into a spooky story.
The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss
Hooooo buddy. Let me just take a few breaths so I don’t overwhelm you with my feelings.
Let’s start with some backstory. Many months ago, some friends and I decided to read this book together, because we’d been hearing some great things about it from great people (Lin-Manuel Miranda is adapting it for TV!!) and we generally like fantasy, so it seemed like a good idea! The first installment we read was interesting and funny, and though a couple of us had some trepidation about the protagonist/narrator (it’s a frame narrative [oh dang, second one in this post]), specifically how ~special and talented~ he was, we were excited to keep going. By the next installment…our moods had soured a bit, and by the third we’d lost at least half of our group to the insufferability of GODDAMN KVOTHE, as he’s frequently referred to in our groupchat. By the end, there were only three of us going, and we were powered by pure rage and frustration, and a weird feeling that despite that rage and frustration…we were probably going to read the second book.
This is the first in a trilogy (the third has yet to be released), and chronicles Kvothe, our Very Special Protagonist, through his Very Tragic Childhood into his time studying magic at the University (FOR MOTIVES THAT MAKE NO SENSE), all contextualized by his less-than-spectacular existence in the “present tense” of the frame. Honestly, Kvothe could probably tell you best himself, so let me just share this tidbit of his self-description:
MY NAME IS KVOTHE
I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.
You may have heard of me.
So…yeah. The frustrating part is that the writing style itself is fun, the high fantasy world is interesting, and ALL OF THE OTHER CHARACTERS are much more interesting and grounded than the main character. We’ve heard from some others that have read the second that this becomes an actual Thing in the second book, so…fingers crossed.
Okay now that I’ve ranted silly and overlong at you, see you next week!