Culture Consumption: June 2021

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

Books

Waking the Witch by Pam GrossmanSooooo many good books this month.

Let’s kick things off with Waking the Witch: Reflections on Women, Magic, and Power by Pam Grossman. Part memoir, part historical and cultural analysis, Waking the Witch examines the concept of witches and witchcraft throughout the ages, from inquisitors hunting down supposed witching across Europe to how witches are portrayed in media, to the witchy ways in which some artists engage with their work. It’s a fascinating exploration — one that makes me want to dive deeper into some of the art, history, and cultural subjects that Grossman discusses.

I read two amazing collections of poetry this month — No Matter the Wreckage by Sarah Kay and A Camera Obscura by Carl Marcum. I spoke in detail about how much I loved Kay’s work in a previous post. So, allow me to talk briefly about A Camera Obscura. Marcum’s book is a lyrical exploration of external and internal worlds. The heavens described in these poems could be the stars glittering above our heads, the pathways of faith, or the connection between human beings. Playing with scientific understandings of the world, along with the linguistic conventions of the poetic form, A Camera Obscura is a compelling journey that simultaneously drifts through the cosmos while being rooted to the ground beneath our feet. I was fortunately to have interviewed Marcum for the New Books in Poetry podcast, the episode for which will be coming out soon.

Pet by Akwaeke EmziI first fell in love with Akwaeke Emzi’s writing after reading their debut novel, Freshwater, a lyrically, emotionally, and intellectually complex story. Their young adult novel Pet is no less complex, though appropriately tailored to a YA audience. Jam has grown up in the town of Lucille, where there are no more monsters. At least this is what she has been taught all her life. But when a creature named Pet is accidentally called forth from her mother’s painting through Jam’s blood, the question of monsters is not nearly so clear. This story is beautifully human and powerful, asking who are the angels and who the monsters, and what does justice really look like in the end. Just as emotionally and philosophically challenging as their first book, Pet is a fantastic read.

Nightlights by Lorena Alvarez is a short, delightful graphic story about a young girl who loves to draw whatever her imagination can all forth. When a powerful spirit wants to claim her creative power for her own, Sandy has to use all her wit to fight back. Stunning artwork on every single page makes this charming tale shine.

Nightlights by Lorena Alvarez Gomez
Artwork from Nightlights by Lorena Alvarez Gomez.

Books Finished This Month:
1. No Matter the Wreckage by Sarah Kay
2. Waking the Witch: Reflections on Women, Magic, and Power by Pam Grossman
3. Pet by Akwaeke Emzi
4. Nightlights by Lorena Alvarez
5. A Camera Obscura by Carl Marcum

Total Books for the Year: 23

Still in Progress at the End of the Month: Victories Greater Than Death by Charlie Jane Anders, The 2021 Rhysling Anthology, edited by Alessandro Manzetti, Nox Pareidolia, edited by Robert S. Wilson, and The Mothman Prophecies by John A. Keel

Short Stories & Poetry

Great Gerta and the Mermaid” by Mari Ness (Lightspeed) — “That notorious ship that sailed to the wretched isle known as Neverland under the leadership of one James, self-styled Jas., Cook, called the Jolly Roger, has most naturally been a subject of intense study among historians. Yet even the most meticulous of these scholars have often failed to note that among that dreadful crew sailed at least one woman, Gerta, or, as she named herself, the Great Gerta, or, as she was named by others, Gerta the Girthy.”

Drunken Child” by Roy Guzmán (Drunk Monkeys) —

“If everything I write is in some way an immigrant narrative
why else would we be drinking beer?
The sand in my hair,
the sand in my shoes near the satin-coco lining— a dolphin washed ashore,
your mouth the memory of a rooster on top a hanging silence…”

The Shadow Prison Experiment” by Caroline M. Yoachim (Lightspeed) — “The shopping district was crowded on a Sunday afternoon, and Vivian Watanabe was out running errands with her sixteen-year-old, Cass. Together they wove through throngs of shoppers wearing customized skins or the generic default. Vivian wasn’t fond of Generics—they fell into that uncanny valley between a nondescript human and a silver android. Cold and impersonal, plus it was hard to keep track of who you’ve interacted with. Which was the point, she supposed.”

Radiant” by  Carina Bissett (Zoetic Press) —

Harmless, they said
to the glam girls
persuaded to point
brushes with perfect pouts.
Lip, dip, paint,
they said. Repeat.
The girls complied,
gleeful in the art,
military precision
glittering green,
numbers dialed in,
time illuminated.”

Crybaby” by P.R. Dean (Pseudopod) — “The lights came up abruptly. Audience members shifted in their seats and whispered in shocked voices. No one laughed. After a moment someone stood up, and then one by one people rose to their feet, adopted a neutral expression, and waited patiently for those in front of them to move.”

Conscientious Objector” by Edna St. Vincent Millay —

“I shall die, but
that is all that I shall do for Death.
I hear him leading his horse out of the stall;
I hear the clatter on the barn-floor.
He is in haste; he has business in Cuba,
business in the Balkans, many calls to make this morning.
But I will not hold the bridle
while he clinches the girth.
And he may mount by himself:
I will not give him a leg up.”

Movies

Neither Cruella or the latest edition of the Conjuring are providing me with enough inspiration to write about them in any detail. They’re both movies with solid budgets, providing enough story and spectacle to be entertaining. If you want me to say more about them, let me know in the comments.

New-to-Me Movies Watched Last Month:
1. Cruella (2021)
2. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021)

Podcasts

Imaginary Worlds continues to produce fascinating episodes. The episode on Disco Elysium talks about the development of the game and how it manages to provide such a compelling RPG experience.

And the Living in a Simulation episode looks at how the believe that we might all be living in a simulation came to being, and some of the logic behind the belief.

The hosts of the Book Riot podcast presented their “favorite” books of 2021 thus far, which significantly grew my reading list.

Every episodes of Horror Queers presents a combination of laughs and fascinating insights about the work they’re discussing. However, I was particularly fascinated by their discussion of the well-known and controversal horror classic Silence of the Lambs, in which they look into the transphobic legacy of the film.


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

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