Culture Consumption: January 2020

Hi, lovelies. Here’s my month in books, movies, games, and podcasts.

Books

My Sister The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite was my favorite read of the month. Set in Nigeria, the story focuses on two sisters — one is who alluringly beautiful and has a tendency to kill her boyfriends, and the other who is a nurse and is often left with cleaning up the mess. At the heart of this novel  and what makes it so compelling — is how it addresses the complexities of sisterhood, with its blend of frustration, jealousy, anger, compassion, and love. Sisters, I just want you to know, I’d help you clean up your messes, too.

Another great read this month was Rivers Solomon’s The Deep, which has a fascinating genesis, as it is based on a song called “The Deep” from experimental hip-hop group Clipping. The story is about a community of mermaids living at the bottom of the ocean. A young mermaid, Yetu, carries all of the memories of her people so that they don’t have to be burdened by their weight. Among these memories is the knowledge that their people are the children of African slaves thrown overboard from the ships that were transporting them to America. The horrors of these memories are tearing Yetu apart, driving her to try to find a way to escape them. It’s a powerful novella, which looks into how our history defines us and considers its value if it’s so heavy.

I also read two stunning poetry collections last month. Soft Science by Franny Choi is a gorgeous book-length collection, which explores queer, Asian American femininity through the lens of robots, cyborgs, and artificial intelligence. Kerrin McCadden’s chapbook, Keep This to Yourself, is a stunning examination of addiction, reflecting the mix of emotions — compassion, frustration, anger, and sorrow — of watching someone go through it.


Books Read Last Month:
1. My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
2. The Deep by Rivers Solomon
3. Soft Science by Franny Choi
4. Keep This to Yourself (chapbook) by Kerrin McCadden

Total Books for the Year: 4

Still in Progress at the End of the Month: To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers, Children of Lovecraft edited by Ellen Datlow and Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Short Stories & Poetry

Ghost Story by Maggie Smith (Brevity) — “One fall I was a ghost in my own house. That time, when divorce was imminent but my husband and I were still living together, only the children could see or hear me. The laundry floated downstairs to the basement, then floated back up to the second floor, washed and folded.”

Badass Moms in the Zombie Apocalypse by Rae Carson (Uncanny Magazine) — “My labor pangs are mild at first. They’re intense, sure, but it’s mostly warmth and pressure like my abdomen is hugging itself. I’ve got time. Hours maybe, before I have to flee the enclave and get myself to the birthing hideout.”

Is It True, What I’ve Heard About Your Mouth? by Fox Henry Frazier (Yes, Poetry) —

“I’ve never wanted to kiss a man like you, not even
when we were twenty years old and everyone

we knew wanted to kiss you,”

The Valley of Wounded Deer by E. Lily Yu (Lightspeed) — “Once there was a prince of Ruyastan who was born in secret and hidden behind a false wall with a nurse to hush her and soothe and give suck. The prince and her nurse lived in narrowness for ten years, reading and watching the world through a crack no bigger than a needle.”

Thunderstorm in Glasgow, July 25, 2013 by Amal El-Mohtar, illustrated by Molly Crabapple (Fireside Fiction)

“Rattle my heart, four-chambered sound
loosen my language from my teeth
tumble raaed out from a fallow throat
and a forgotten year”

Pomegranate Pomegranate by Jack Weslake (PseudoPod) — “Words cannot be trusted. Give them a chance and they will kill you.”

Pomegranate Means Grenade by Jamaal May (The Slowdown) —

“Hold a pomegranate in your palm,
imagine ways to split it, think of the breaking
skin as shrapnel.”

The New Mother by Lucy Clifford (PseudoPod) — “The children were always called Blue-Eyes and the Turkey. The elder one was like her dear father who was far away at sea; for the father had the bluest of blue eyes, and so gradually his little girl came to be called after them. The younger one had once, while she was still almost a baby, cried bitterly because a turkey that lived near the cottage suddenly vanished in the middle of the winter; and to console her she had been called by its name.”

You Can Take Off Your Sweater, I’ve Made Today Warm by Paige Lewis (POETRY) —

“Sit on the park bench and chew this mint leaf.
Right now, way above your head, two men

floating in a rocket ship are ignoring their
delicate experiments”

Movies

Midsommar is a captivating film, hinging on the weight of a loss and grief so intense it can crush you under its weight. After experiencing the terrible loss of her family, Dani (played by Florence Pugh) joins her boyfriend and his friends on a summer trip to Sweden to participate in mid-summer celebrations at a commune. Things are unsettling and odd from the moment they arrive and grow increasingly terrifying.

Midsommar directed by Ari Aster
Midsommar directed by Ari Aster

Midsommar directed by Ari Aster

Much of horror relies on the darkness and shadows, the unseen representing terrors just outside our realm of vision. But Midsommar is vibrant, brightly lit and washed in pale green, pink, and cream pastels, allowing for gorgeous, artistic cinematography. I’ve never seen a movie create such a great sense dread with such bright colors, and I love it.

Midsommar directed by Ari Aster

Pugh’s performance is the centerpiece of this movie, in every scene she expresses layers of emotions — sometimes without even saying a word. The grief lays just underneath her skin, aching to explode at any given moment.

Although a bit on the long side, Midsommar was never boring. My family and I were captivated every moment, with no idea what was might happen next. It’s also a movie that lingered for me, giving me anxiety dreams well into the night. So it did its job well.

New-to-Me Movies Watched Last Month:
1. Underwater (2020)
2. Midsommar (2019)

Television

I finished the final episodes of the final season of The Good Place. No conclusion to a TV show has felt so satisfying, so perfectly complete as this show. With the premise being centered on the afterlife and the meaning of life and all the big question kind of stuff, you wouldn’t think such a thing would be possible — and yet, creator Michael Schur has pulled it off, somehow providing the answers needed to make the series feel complete, while leaving enough life mystery to be satisfying.  The characters of this series — Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, Jason, Michael, and Janet — have all had incredibly journeys, growing and changing and becoming better people. The final episode had me weeping big, ugly, sloppy tears for the best of reasons. It’s no wonder that I’ve been recommending this show to every human being I meet.

The Good Place
The Good Place
The Good Place
The Good Place – Kristen Bell as Eleanor and William Jackson Harper as Chidi

I’ve started watching Avatar: The Last Airbender. I made it through most of season one (or is it Book One) by the end of the month. I honestly can’t believe it took me so long to watch this. It’s epic and heatfelt and funny and charming with fantastic action sequences and a great storyline. I’m looking forward to seeing more.

I also finished the first season of The Witcher, which provided some gritty fantasy fun. I liked it enough to check out the second season when it arrives.

Games

I completed the main storyline in Horizon: Zero Dawn, which I won’t spoil, but was heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time. The credits have rolled — but I’m not done playing the game. There are plenty of quests, explorations, and corrupted zones to clear and I’m planning to work through them all.

As much as I love the game, this was my one annoyance. Since the main storyline is considered the true conclusion, in order to continue playing, the game sets you back to before the final battle. Essentially, you time warp in order to give you the option to finish the other quests. It’s a strange storyline-wise, since you’re running around doing all these other things when you know there is an eminent, world shattering battle on the horizon. Anyway, it’s a small quibble, since it hasn’t kept me from still playing.

Horizon Zero Dawn

Podcasts

Scriptnotes offers a fantastic discussion with Greta Gerwig about her unique adaptation of Little Women. In particular, they look at the screenplay and how it presents a non-linear timeline to powerful effect.

Horror Queers made me want to rewatch Scream 2, which they consider to be the best in the series (contrary to the opinions of many critics).

On the Book Riot podcast,  Rebecca Schinsky, Vanessa Diaz, and Jeff O’Neal talk through the publication of American Dirt, diving into the controversies surrounding the novel.

Switchblade Sisters continues to be righteously awesome. I particularly loved their recent episode, in which Katie Walsh talks with Janet Varney (actress, Drillbit Tailor, Legends of Kora) about Ladyhawke, a fantastic fantasy movie that I love but not that many people know about. Another great one is the discussion about Scream with Clarke Wolfe (actres, Satanic Panic, Deathcember).

The Borg from Star Trek are genuinely terrifying. Imaginary Worlds looks into what makes the Borg so frightening and how they make for powerful storytelling.

My favorite Writing Excuses episodes of the month were Evolution of a Career and Setting Goals for Your Career, which both present an interesting look at how to shape the career you want as a writer.


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


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