Culture Consumption: April 2020

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

Books

The Route of Ice & Salt by José Luis ZárateThe Route of Ice & Salt by José Luis Zárate presents a loose retelling of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, told from the point of view of the ship captain, who carries the crates of soil from Transylvania to England. Along the way, some deadly misfortune begins to befall the crew.

Told through the captain’s journals, the novella is beautiful written, vibrantly erotic, and deeply unsettling. The captain is gay, harboring secret desires for the men of his crew. But he keeps these desires locked down inside himself in order to maintain his position and safety in the world. He’s a fascinating character, with many layers of depths and his own secret courage. It’s a powerful story.
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New Books in Poetry: Hotel Almighty by Sarah J. Sloat

Sarah J Sloat-Hotel Almighty

A new episode of the New Books in Poetry podcast is up. I had a riveting conversation with Sarah J. Sloat about her new book Hotel Almighty (Sarabande Books).

Visually arresting and utterly one-of-a-kind, Sarah J. Sloat’s Hotel Almighty (Sarabande Books) is a book-length erasure of Misery by Stephen King, a reimagining of the novel’s themes of constraint and possibility in elliptical, enigmatic poems. Here, “joy would crawl over broken glass, if that was the way.” Here, sleep is “a circle whose diameter might be small,” a circle “pitifully small,” a “wrecked and empty hypothetical circle.” Paired with Sloat’s stunning mixed-media collage, each poem is a miniature canvas, a brief associative profile of the psyche―its foibles, obsessions, and delights. (Description by the publisher.)

“When I was doing [Hotel Almighty] and even now when I work on projects, a lot of what I find I’m doing is just expressing a love of reading and of books themselves,” says Sloat in discussing her new book. “I mean, I just love paper. To take a book and be able to make it into something — that was really fun and exciting for me.”

Here’s a sample of Sloat’s writing and art from the book:

[Darkness prologued darkness...] by Sarah J. Sloat
[Darkness prologued darkness…] by Sarah J. Sloat
You can listen to the interview here or on the podcast app of your choice.

Culture Consumption: March 2021

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

Books

The Octopus Museum by Brenda Shaughnessy

In The Octopus Museum, Brenda Shaughnessy envisions a future in which cephalopods have taken over the world. The museum of note is not a museum of cephalopod history, but of human history, a record of our present moment interpreted by strange new rulers. Each poem in this collection if beautifully, richly contextualized, presenting a vibrant capsule of the human experience, like a carefully curated museum exhibit. This is a powerful and stunning collection, one I highly recommend reading.

“And there will be no other way to be, once this way’s gone. The last song on earth, the last jellybean. Last because nobody wanted it, or everybody sang it, till the end.

Once this day in November’s over never another. Each day nothing like the last except that it’s the last and that’s new too.

Each moment broken glasses, a covered mirror, foxed. The waste stays in place. The rest disappears. The unrest, too.”

— From “No Traveler Returns,” The Octopus Museum

The also read Red Velvet, the sixth issue of The Hellbore, which provides a beautiful collection of poetry, art, and a personal essay. A few of my favorite pieces from the issue are highlighted below.

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Culture Consumption: February 2021

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

Books

Network Effect-Murderbot diaries by Martha Wells

I bought Network Effect, the latest book in Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries, a while back and I’ve been meaning to read it ever since. When I picked it up this month, however, I realized that I really wanted to reconnect with the original novellas that made me fall in love with the character. So, one by one I ordered and reread each book in the series (in ebook format, because I wasn’t willing to wait) — discovering nuances to the characters I hadn’t noticed the first time around and falling in love all over again.

Network Effect is a beautiful, action packed addition, bringing back beloved characters and introducing new ones. Murderbot (aka Sec Unit) is hired on to protect the crew of a research mission. As the group is heading home after a dangerous encounter on another planet, they are suddenly attacked by a strange ship and dragged through a wormhole. Murderbot is once again faced with trying to keep it’s humans safe against insurmountable odds.

One of the things that strikes me about each of these books is the level of humanity that they bring. Though the story features threats from evil corporations and the danger of death, the focus is on a a variety of characters (both human and otherwise) who are flawed and imperfect, but nevertheless care and love each other, offering compassion and understanding for each other’s differences. They’re smart and work together to work through the dangers they all face. It’s the kind of story that gives me hope for humanity and for what we can achieve if we try to really see and understand each other.

Honestly, these books have been providing the same level of comfort as rewatching some of my favorite TV shows. Even after finishing each of the books, I’ve returned multiple times to my favorite scenes.

As I was finishing the book, I was delighted to discover that the sixth book in the series, Fugitive Telemetry, will be out in April. I immediately preordered the book and I can’t wait to read it. (I may or may not do a second reread of each of these books before reading the sixth.)

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Culture Consumption: December 2020

Hi, lovelies. Here’s my last culture consumption of 2020, with all the books, movies, television, games, and podcasts that I consumed in December.

I’ve shared my favorite books and media from the year in separate posts.

Books

The Hollow Places by T. KingfisherT. Kingfisher is a fantastic writer, taking fantasy tropes and turning them into pure horror. Portal fantasies tend to lead to wondrous worlds filled with fantastical creatures and adventures. However, in The Hollow Places, when Kara and her friend Simon (both of whom I love) discover a hole in the wall that leads to an abandoned bunker in another world, their curiosity quickly leads them into terrifying danger.

Kingfisher’s characters always seem so well wrought, with the way they dress, talk, and react to situations feeling so real. I believe that these two would make the choices and mistakes they make. In fact, I could almost see myself making the exact same mistakes, which only adds to the horror.

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