Hi, lovelies. Here’s my month in books, movies, games, and podcasts.
I can’t believe I only got through two books this month (I started several that I haven’t finished). Anyway, here we go.
In Couch by Benjamin Parzybok, three roommates and slackers — Thom, Erik, and Tree — find themselves out of a place to live, when the couple in the apartment above manages to break their waterbed, flooding their apartment. When their landlord asks them to carry the old couch in their apartment to the thrift store. Unbeknownst to them, this simple act triggers an epic journey. The premise for this book was so quirky and strange that I didn’t quite know what to expect from Couch. This book is so beautifully grounded and is abundant with heart. These guys get put through the ringer and they grow and learn and become better humans. I was honestly moved and awed by this book. Wish I had read it sooner.
My second finished book of the month was Mary Shelley Makes a Monster by Octavia Cade (Aqueduct Press). This collection of poetry is brilliant from beginning to the end. The collection begins with Mary Shelley crafting a monster out of the remnants of her own heartbreak and sorrow. Left alone after her death, the monster goes looking for someone to fill her place, visiting other female authors through the decades — Katherine Mansfield, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Octavia Butler, and others. It’s a beautifully moving examination of the eccentricities of authors and how monsters reflect us in the world. I got to have a fantastic conversation with Cade (barring some technical difficulties) about her work for the New Books in Poetry podcast, and hopefully I’ll be able to share it with you soon.
Books Read Last Month:
1. Couch by Benjamin Parzybok
2. Mary Shelley Makes a Monster by Octavia Cade
Total Books for the Year: 53
Still in Progress at the End of the Month: Half-Resurrection Blues by Daniel Jose Older, Children of Lovecraft edited by Ellen Datlow and Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estés
Short Stories & Poetry
Three Poems by Sarah Nichols (Isacoustic)
“I take a seat in the back. The
lunch time crowd is thinning, and I
wonder if I can eat
“Nutrition Facts” by D.A. Xiaolin Spires (Uncanny Magazine) – “I’m told that the recipe never changes. It’s the same taro congee day after day, no added powders or ingredients. The taste is supposed to be consistent with only a few shifts in nutrients. I palm the sensoring pad and the vending machine squeezes it out from the robot with the mixing bowl behind glass.”
“I Call You Uterus” by Heidi Seaborn (SWWIM)
“The poet calls you estrogen kitchen.
But I call you galley.”
“The Rock Eaters” by Brenda Peynado (Lightspeed Magazine) – “We were the first generation to leave that island country. We were the ones who on the day we came of age developed a distinct float to our walk, soon enough hovering inches above the ground, afterwards somersaulting with the clouds, finally discovering we could fly as far as we’d ever wanted, and so we left.”
“Take a piece of earth” by Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach (SWWIM)
“see all two-hundred
& seventy bones found at birth
in a single body.”
“This Sugar” by Aimee Nezhukumatathil (Poets.org)
“When you ask me to split a desert with you, I wince
because I don’t like to share my restaurant food”
My expectations were ridiculously high for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Every person I know raved about this movie — and honestly, it met every expectation. Miles Morales is an average teenager, who gets bitten by a radioactive spider. The movie is essentially about him gaining the confidence to become Spider-Man, but it’s wrapped around a story involving multiple universes colliding — bringing other Spider-Men, Women, and Pigs into contact with each other within his own universe. From top to bottom, this is a fantastic film — from the great characters (even Kingpin has an emotionally charged motivation) to the gorgeously vibrant animation (that I wish I had seen on the big screen) and the phenomenal hip hop soundtrack (which I need to acquire).
Doctor Sleep is a sequel that follows decades after the events of The Shining. A now-grown Dan Torrance struggles to deal with the traumas he endured as a child by suppressing his powers through alcohol. At the same time that he starts to face and deal with his alcoholism, Abra Stone (a young girl becoming aware of her own powers) initiates a long distance friendship with Dan through the shining. When a cult of immortals who prey on children with powers becomes aware of Abra’s existence, Dan has to find a way to protect her. In comparison with the Kubrick original, Doctor Sleep is not a scary movie. However, that didn’t stop me from enjoying this as an ethereal dark fantasy. My full review is here.
New-to-Me Movies Watched Last Month:
1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
2. Spider-Man: Far from Home (2019)
3. Doctor Sleep (2019)
I’m continuing my watch of the fourth and final season of The Good Place. The show just keeps getting better moment by moment, as the relationships and challenges evolve. My only disappointment so far is that they’ve taken for the break for the holidays and I won’t be able to see the final episodes until January.
I’m a huge fan of BuzzFeed Unsolved: Supernatural, so I was delighted to discover that season six had been released. Much of the charm of the show has been the interactions between Ryan Bergara (a true believer) and Shane Madej (a complete skeptic) as they discuss and explore the existence and possibility of ghosts, aliens, and other supernatural possibilities. In previous seasons they have at least pretended to be serious ghost hunters (well, mostly Ryan), but in season six all of that goes completely out the window. As such, it didn’t quite delight me as much as previous seasons — but I was still thoroughly entertained and will continue watching if they put out more episodes.
I finished three fantastic games this month.
Little Nightmares is a puzzle side scroller in which you play a little girl in a yellow raincoat. You wake in a steamtrunk on a giant ship, which is outfitted for both human-sized beings and little gnome-like beings to traverse. As a diminutive creature, you weave through pipes and climb over furniture in rooms designed for larger beings. Strangely distorted human-like creatures, working as cooks and servants wander these halls and you have hide and run from them in order to survive. The art is gorgeous, the music is haunting, the story is strange and unsettling, and the gameplay is simple and fun. This is a fantastic game.
While on a plane ride to Chicago earlier this month, I finished playing The Wolf Among Us. As I mentioned previously, the game is based on the graphic novel series Fables by Bill Willingham. In this point and click adventure, you play as Bigby Wold (aka, the Big Bad Wolf) and are trying to solve the murder of some working girls. What I love about the way this story wraps up is that there are no easy moral answers, no clear right and wrong here. Bigby has to simultaneously face the moral ambiguity of his own past, while working to bring justice to people in his community. It makes for some interesting replay-ability, since I’m curious what would happen if I had Bigby make different choices. I enjoyed the experience of the game enough that I just might do that.
The second game I played on the plane was Florence (developed by Mountains, the indie game studio that also created Monument Valley) — a charming story about a woman who stumbles upon love. To be fair, I’m not entirely sure I would call this one a true game, since the puzzles are too straightforward and there are no choices you make that impact the outcome. Rather, I think of it as an interactive story, since what happens to the characters is predetermined. However, the interactivity is inherent to the effectiveness of the storytelling, in which the simple act of brushing a character’s teeth or eating a meal can have an emotional weight. There were moments when the simple act of clicking a button broke my heart. How ever you classify Florence, it is at the very least a beautiful and moving piece of art.
Book Riot hosts Jeff and Rebecca have adelightful time discussing Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. They explore all the wonderful revery of the movie and how it still hols up today.
My favorite Writing Excuses episode of the month was Writing Characters with Physical Disabilities, which thoughtfully and wisely discusses how to do as the title notes. Another great episode was Unusual Resources, which looks at how a culture might change if their access to resources are vastly different (for example, living on a planet without salt, which is vital to survival).
Scriptnotes is tackling an important issue in Hollywood through its episode Assitants Town Hall — which look at how assistants in the industry are severely underpaid and often mistreated. If you want to focus on craft, check out Chance Favors the Prepared with Lulu Wang, in which she discusses how she wrote and directed The Farewell.
That’s it for me! What are you reading? Watching? Loving right now?