Culture Consumption: May 2017

May was an interesting month, in that it was full of fabulous travels. Still managed to read and watch quite a few great stories.

Books

I adored Bone Gap by Laura Ruby a subtly speculative novel about Finn and Sean O’Sullivan, two brothers surviving in small town full of gaps that people slip through all the time. First, their mother abandons them for a new life, then Roza — the young woman who shows up in their barn and brings light into their lives and the lives of the whole town — vanishes. The story and characters and magical realism and the setting of a small town (where everybody knows everything about everyone, even if they always get the story wrong) is gorgeous. Also, the audiobook narrator Dan Bittner does a fantastic job of bringing each of the characters to life, making them feel distinct when the POV shifts.


Chrétien de Troyes wrote the first true Arthurian romances, presenting the concepts of chivalry and bravery and honor that we expect from stories about King Arthur and the knights of the round table to this day. Reading these tales in college, I learned that Troyes’ stories provided more of a cultural critique than one would expect from the text. Yvain: The Knight of the Lion, a new graphic novel written by M.T. Anderson and illustrated by Andrea Offermann, provides a beautiful retelling of Troyes’ classic story of Yvain, a brave knight who is victorious in winning the heart of a beautiful, strong willed lady only to betray her trust and fall from her favor. The story includes magical storms, nights in disguise, madness, and giants. Offerman’s artwork brilliantly illuminates the tale, with detailed line work and muted tones with punches of bright colors when the story calls for it. As in Troyes’ original work, the story offers several strong women and offers critique of Arthur and his knights.

Yvain: The Knight of the Lion], written by M.T. Anderson, illustrated by Andrea Offermann

Yvain: The Knight of the Lion, written by M.T. Anderson, illustrated by Andrea Offermann

A classic of Haitian literature, Hadriana In All My Dreams by Rene Depestre is a vibrant and sensual tale about Carnival in Jacmel, the magic of Voodoo, the mystery of zombification, a lascivious butterfly, lots of sex (with a multitude of creative words and phrases for describing genitalia), and a young woman’s death on her wedding night which sends an entire town into mourning. The story is written with lush, beautiful sexy language that brings Haitian culture to life in a way that’s haunting and powerful.

I absolutely adored The Fifth Season, the first book in N.K. Jemisin’s trilogy about a world constantly facing destructive (apocalyptic) seasons. The sequel, The Obelisk Gate, not only reveals what happens to the characters in the first book, but also expands the universe in brilliant and startling ways. It’s powerfully written and thrilling — compelling in all the best ways. I can’t wait for the third and final book to be available.

Both The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde and The 2017 Rhysling Anthology, edited by David C. Kopaska-Merkel were great reads, as well.

Books Finished This Month:
1. The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
2. Yvain: The Knight of the Lion by M.T. Anderson
3. Bone Gap (audio book) by Laura Ruby
4. The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde
5. Hadriana In All My Dreams by Rene Depestre
6. The 2017 Rhysling Anthology, edited by David C. Kopaska-Merkel

Total Books for the Year: 16

Still in Progress: Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, a novel of vampires in Mexico City and it’s awesome.

Movies

I wish I had seen Kubo and the Two Strings in theaters, because it’s a gorgeous movie with stunning animation and a great adventure storyline that explores family and memory and the honoring of those we’ve lost. This definitely deserved its Best Animated Film nomination at the Oscars and (arguably) deserved the win as well.

Kubo and the Two Strings

Kubo and the Two Strings

Switching gears completely into cosmic body horror, I feel like The Void (written and directed by Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski) deserves a mention. I enjoyed this twisty and bleak Lovecraftian storyline with its ’80s-style practical effects reminiscent of The Thing. Although I didn’t care one ounce whether any of the characters lived or died, but the movie jumps right into the action and the makeup effects delighted me. If you’re into that sort of thing, it’s worth a watch.

The Void

The Void

Other good watches from this month: Swallows and Amazons was a charming story of kids having adventures on an island in the middle of a lake (all by themselves, since it’s the ’40s). Now You See Me 2 was surprisingly fun, especially with the addition of Lizzy Caplan who balanced out the personalities of the other characters well. And, although Morgan didn’t provide many surprises for me, it was an enjoyable scoff thriller.

New-to-me Movies:
1. The Void (2016)
2. Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)
3. Swallows and Amazons (2016)
4. Morgan (2016)
5. Assassin’s Creed (2016)
6. Now You See Me 2 (2016)

Television

I worked my way through the entire first season of Jessica Jones, which was phenomenal. Although characters have superpowers in this, the focus is less on spandex and more on the characters themselves, particularly Jessica who works as a PI. Her days are marked by PTSD caused by the past trauma of being held captive by Killjoy, a man capable of controlling the minds of the people around him. When he returns after being thought dead, she must find a way to fight back against him.

The show has a dark noir feel to it, with a fantastic score that fits with the shadowy mood of ugly secrets hidden under the layers of the dirty city streets. Krysten Ritter does a great job playing the smartass PI with layers of emotion beneath the hard surface, and David Tennant is brilliantly terrifying as Killgrave. All of the side characters, from friends to quirky neighbors are great, too, and it’s interesting to see how they are given room to develop as the show progresses. It’s an excellent show. Not only can’t I wait for season two, but it also has me interested in checking out The Defenders just so I can see more of Jessica Jones.

Jessica Jones.

Jessica Jones.

Comfort watching this month took the form of binge watching Leverage, because sometimes the bad guys make the best good guys. Hardison, Parker, and Elliot are three of my favorite characters, right up there with some of my favorite characters of all time. They make me happy everytime they’re on screen.

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That’s it for me! What are you reading? Watching? Loving right now?

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