Although the gloomy northern weather with its ominous grey skies is telling me otherwise, we’re at the height of summer. Who knew I’d be spending my first-month post-graduation simply dawdling around the house amidst copious – and growing – piles of books? But alas, that’s just how things are now.
I shared my summer reading list last month and I’m steadily making my way through my ambitious list of 22 titles. But reading aside, may my summer include seasonal fruits and vibrant greens, Marie-Kondo’ing my wardrobe, smoothie bowls, reuniting with charity shops and secondhand book buying, therapeutic long walks, appreciating nature in all its green glory, and of course, wearing a mask!! This pandemic is never going to end if we don’t play our part and wear our masks when out in the company of others. What feels like a small inconvenience now will only get worse if people keep ignoring measures. However, it can also be the road to survival if we treat it as the basic consideration it is.
While we can’t control the crazy world, we can control what we consume and how it impacts us. So, with that in mind here are the little things I’ve found comfort in lately.
W A T C H I N G
Last week I watched Michaela Coel’s brilliant, bittersweet dark comedy, I May Destroy You. Through her exploration of sexual consent and how we make the distinction between liberation and exploitation, Coel pushes the boundaries for women on screen. From start to finish, she graces us with an unfiltered, unfabricated, and unapologetic portrayal of womanhood.
E. Alex Jung perfectly summed up the experience of watching I May Destroy you in his Vulture article, ‘Michaela the Destroyer’:
Watching it is like entering a pool of Coel’s consciousness. Her performance as Arabella, a Twitter-famous writer who is on deadline to finish a draft, feels like truth-telling, though the truth of the thing is not in “what happened” but in how it feels. There’s an expansive, long-limbed, genre-casual energy held together by Coel’s performance. The way her face flickers from placidity to horror and levity to devastation reflects the mercurial nature of trauma itself. Even though the show has been marketed as a “consent drama,” the label feels insufficient, maybe a touch misleading, because she is less concerned with political correctness or the failures of the criminal justice system than with the psychology of the self: How do you become whole again after trauma breaks you open?
The finale is a masterpiece in every sense. It left me in awe, in shock, in tears. I May Destroy You is by no means an ‘easy’ watch, but it is raw and much-needed.
The Great is another dark comedy I flew through this past week. This is a genre-bending, anti-historical ride through 18th-century Russia following the wildly comedic rise of Catherine the Nothing to Catherine the Great. It’s charming, foul-mouthed, hilarious, and not a minute goes by in which you won’t hear “huzzah” or “indeed” uttered in received pronunciation. Elle Fanning is excellent, the cinematography is stunning, and Nicolas Hault’s portrayal of the manic and tyrannical Emperor Peter III is at once infuriating yet hilarious.
R E A D I N G
July has warped into the month I tackle chunky books: I finished Maria Dueñas’ 683-paged sweeping historical fiction novel, ‘El Tiempo Entre Costuras’ (The Time in Between); I’m edging towards the end of 683-paged ‘The Iliad’; and last week I finished all 448 pages of John Boyne’s newest masterpiece, ‘A Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom’. With this book, John Boyne has reaffirmed his place among my all-time favourite authors. Each book I have read by him has been original, heart-breaking, and impressive to the extent that always leaves me stunned. Read my full review for A Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom that I shared earlier this week.
Another lengthy novel I’m tackling this month is John Steinbeck’s East of Eden at 601 pages. The meandering, philosophical paragraphs, smart dialogue, and the juxtaposition between good and evil are intertwining to form a novel that I know I will think about for years to come.
Finally, I’m listening to the second audiobook of The Mortal Instruments, the first and most famous series of The Shadowhunter Chronicles. Can you believe it has taken me this long to read Cassandra Clare? The first book received mixed reviews, but, to my surprise, I didn’t hate it. It was cringeworthy at times, yes, but considering many readers have said the first few books are the worst in the franchise, I’m excited to see what’s next.
L I S T E N I N G
I urge everyone to listen to an incredibly insightful episode of Food for Thought from Rhiannon Lambert and Venetia La Manna on why fast fashion needs a makeover. It’s a perfect starting point for anyone, like me, who is in the dark about the overwhelming impact the fashion industry has on the environment. They discuss why we should think twice before buying cheap items that will, more often than not, only be left hanging in our wardrobe. Moreover, they highlight the unfortunate conditions in which those who make these clothes must work. They also share plenty of useful resources for us to continue enlightening ourselves on the issue.
Finally, I’ve had Haim’s new album, Women in Music Pt. III, on repeat this week. It’s wide-ranging with classic rock, harmonious vocals, and Haim’s signature breezy tune, but throws in some twists too. Love it.
What little things have you been loving lately?