Culture Consumption: August 2017

Coming in a little late, here is my August in books, movies, and television.

Books

The Girl in the RoadWhen I picked up The Girl in the Road, I thought it was going to be an entirely different book than what it was.* Nevertheless, I really enjoyed the story about two very different women making long journeys, both escaping from danger (perceived or real), both looking for hope at the end of the road. One makes her journey as a young girl by sneaking aboard a truck crossing Africa, the other walks along the snakelike spine of the Trail, an energy generation system spanning from India to Ethiopia. This novel is richly textured, with complex characters and explorations of sex, self, and sanity. A great read (although I really didn’t understand the epilogue and if someone wants to explain it to me that would be awesome).

*For some reason, I thought it was going to be about zombies. Not entirely sure why, except that maybe I confused it with The Girl with All the Gifts or some other book that I had heard about recently.

I enjoyed both of my rereads this month. Stephen King’s The Gunsliner begins Roland Deschain’s epic journey to reach the Dark Tower (which I wrote about in great length in another post). And Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time tells the story of kids traveling across the stars to save their father (which is being adapted for the big screen by Ava DuVernay, much to my great excitement).

In graphic novels, I returned to the Bitch Planet series, which continues the story of a prison world that houses women who fail to conform to society standards. Volume Two kicks off with a flashback that provides insight into the life of Meiko Maki, a character I had wanted to know more about when reading Volume One. The story then proceeds along the main storyline, with the prisoners meeting daily met with brutality and continuing to find their own forms of resistance, as well as introducing other who are participating in the resisting against the men in charge. I was definitely more invested in the story as I got to know the characters better and have more layers of the world unveiled.

Bitch Planet

From Bitch Planet, Volume 2

I read two nonfiction books, including Scratch, a collection of essays on making a living as a writer (discussed here), and Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, which tells the story of the black women who played an integral part in the U.S. space race.

And last but not least, I was delighted with Kolleen Carney’s poetry collection Your Hand Has Fixed the Firmament (Grey Book Press). This collection of poetry explores love, sex, and intimacy as the expansive and terrifying thing it is. There are pleasures of two people sharing time and space (“when I’d wake in the morning I would pour tea / and you would add two teaspoons of honey / and in the slant of the morning light we would hear / a very distant rooster”) that carry a sweetness, but mixed in is a periphery of destruction (“Once you tucked a blanket under my body / and I thought, drunk and almost asleep / break my body, hold my bones“) that highlights the vulnerability of love, the risk of opening up one’s emotional space to the possibility of heartbreak and loss. This collection illustrates that continuously shifting balance of wonder and fear beautifully. An interview Kolleen Carney can be read here.

Books/Scripts Finished Last Two Months:
1. Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living, edited by Manjula Martin
2. A Wrinkle in Time (audio book) by Madeline L’Engle
3. The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne
4. The Gunslinger (Part I in The Dark Tower series) by Stephen King
5. Bitch Planet: Volume 2: President Bitch, written by Kelly Sue Deconnick, illustrated by Valentine De Landro
6. Hidden Figures: The Untold Story of the African American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly
7. Your Hand Has Fixed the Firmament by Kolleen Carney

Total Books for the Year: 33

Still in Progress at the End of the Month: The Drawing of the Three (The Dark Tower #2) by Stephen King

Movies

In Get Out, Chris, a young black man, travels to meet with his white girlfriend’s parents for a weekend in their secluded estate in the woods. The weekend starts off friendly and polite (albeit in awkward and unsettling ways) but quickly turns into a nightmare. This movie is brilliantly written and directed by Jordan Peele, who shapes social satire into a tense thriller. The microaggressions that Chris has to face — as a black man surrounded by upper class, supposedly progressive white people — during seemingly civil interactions is brilliantly illustrated and builds the discomfort. These moments would be unsettling even if the movie didn’t reveal the underlying horror hidden by the shiny, clean surface of things. Get Out was just as phenomenal of a thriller as I hoped it would be — and I wish I had seen it in the theaters like I wanted.

Get Out

The most uncomfortable of family gatherings — Get Out (2017)

Get Out

Get Out (2017)

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 is a family drama disguised as an action comedy space movie. There’s lots of action and flashy special effects and space battles and brightly colored lasers — but at its heart, almost every scene focuses on family: a son reunites with his long-lost father, two sisters fight and come together, feelings of isolation despite having family, and so on. I love movies about the family you choose and this one was good fun.

Also, I love baby Groot. I can always have more baby Groot.

Baby Groot

New-to-me Movies watched over the last two months:
1. Get Out (2017)
2. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Television

The Defenders hit the small screen bringing together characters from four separate superhero series, including Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and the Iron Fist. There are some great things about this series and some not-so-great things.

But the things I love, I really loved. My favorite had to be Jessica and Daredevil together — they both have a mix of compassion and inner demons that allow them to understand each other, and Jessica’s sass is always fantastic, which Daredevil takes in stride. They are a delight to watch on screen.

The fight sequences are also wonderfully choreographed, with camera movements that show the swarming of enemies with our four heroes working together to fight them off. It’s impressive to see.

the-defenders

At the top of my list of not-so-great things was the Iron First (aka, Danny Rand) character. Every scene with him talking is slightly painful to watch, because he seems like such an unbalanced, privileged rich kid in comparison to the other heroes. Also, the plot was rather thin and they spend a long time on the getting-to-know-yous and talking things out before getting into actually figuring out how to fight their enemies.

I enjoyed it though, and I’ll tune in the next time the group comes together, even if Iron Fist is still in the picture.

In preparation for The Defenders, I decided to be completionist and so watched both Luke Cage and Iron Fist.

It took me about six episodes to really get invested in Luke Cage, partly because that’s about how long it took Luke to commit to being a hero, to using his abilities to help the people of Harlem. Once he made that decision, things got interesting and I started to really enjoy the show. Plus, the music (which I would call ’70s funk harkening back to blaxpoloitation movies) was fantastic, so even when things were moving slow it helped hold my attention. I will probably check out the second season, because I’m stoked on most of the characters, especially Mariah.

Iron Fist on the other hand, I only bothered with because I knew Claire Temple would be making an appearance. There’s some cool martian arts and the character Colleen Wing is awesome, but otherwise, there wasn’t much to attract me to either the character Danny Rand or the general storyline. I swear, I wish I counted the times, the kid says the phrase “I’m the Iron Fist” over the course of the show, as though to highlight how special and important he is. In fact, so much of the show is focused on that specialness (the bad guys want him alive because he’s special, etc.) that it starts to grate, especially since he’s a rich kid who expects everyone to welcome him back with wide arms. I’m not particularly interested in seeing any more of this character, even if Claire is in the second season.

Across all five of the Defenders series, from individual characters to when the non-team team finally assembles, Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) remains one of my favorite characters. She is human, has no super powers of her own, and as such is vulnerable in a way the leads are not — and yet, she steps up to actively help when she can. She has her own value system for heroism (no killing), presents a sense of practicality amid all the other nonsense of superheroes, and offers compassionate clarity. Whether it’s applying her nursing skills (often using whatever tools are around her to keep someone alive) or its wading directly into conflict, Clair is a hero and deserves to be called such. She’s amazing and I hope to see more of her in every season of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, or whatever. More Claire, please. Always more Claire.

claire-temple-superhero-without-superpowers

Claire Temple2-Defenders

Claire Temple-Defenders


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

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