In the vein of my favourite podcast, The High Low, I thought I’d do a little post about some of the culture I’ve been consuming recently. Read on for some mini reviews and random thoughts.
I’ve been reading…
After You and Still Me – Jojo Moyes
When the first book in the series, Me Before You, came out, I was obsessed. But when the second one was released into the world in 2015, I was just embarking upon an English Literature degree, so reading for fun went out of the window for several years. Thankfully, in my recent bookish freedom I have rediscovered Jojo Moyes just in time for the third book to come out. The only thing to do was binge-read both books in quick succession, which I actually think this is the best way to do it, because the two books carry on from one another almost to the sentence. Starting Still Me was like snuggling down into a freshly made bed. I immediately fell back in love with Lou, sympathising with her endearing awkwardness and occasional embarrassing drunk texting. Moyes writes so engagingly and the lives weaved on the pages are utterly believable. I could go on reading about her characters forever.
Instagram definitely has its downfalls, but something it is really good for is discovering new things. I came across this magazine on someone’s story and immediately knew it was my kind of thing. Far from an unrealistic portrayal of privileged living (which any discussion of veganism or environmentally friendly living sometimes gets labelled), it is full of practical and insightful articles about things that really matter. Namely, living more sustainably and saving the planet. Okay, the odd £250 eco-friendly dress does make an appearance, but the same price tags can be found on the pages of most mainstream magazines. If everyone who read it just picked up one tip for how to reduce their food waste/ single-use plastic/ carbon footprint, then I think it’s probably worth the ads for expensive environmentally friendly make-up.
She Must Be Mad – Charly Cox
At uni I studied a lot of poetry. But I actually only wrote a handful of essays on it, because writing about poetry is flipping hard. Especially if you’re not 100% sure what’s going on. I would often turn up to a seminar with only a very vague understanding of what a poem was ‘about.’ But as we discussed them and other people gave their interpretations, I would start to get into it and things would fall into place. Yet there were some poems that just seemed to click with me straight away, like T.S. Eliot and his cats and coffee spoons. I like poems about real life, about feelings and about the day to day. Charly Cox’s poems about social media, bodies, mental health and what it feels like to be a young woman are just perfect. Reading them feels like someone has jumped into my messed up brain, rummaged around and pulled something eloquent together. I read a couple before bed each night and they make me feel calm.
The Authentic Lie – Pandora Sykes
The whole concept of this essay appealed to me. Again on Instagram, I came across The Pound Project, which is a crowdfunding publisher based in Birmingham. The idea is that anyone who thinks they’re going to want to read the upcoming title has to pledge X amount of money in order to fund the production of the book. When I saw that Pandora Sykes was writing an essay on authenticity, I couldn’t resist. I haven’t actually finished it yet (as you can see, I’m juggling all of the above), but so far it’s interesting, smart, thought-provoking and relevant. She discusses social media and sense of self, two topics which can become strangely intertwined. Reading it, it’s been good to step back and think about what it means when I post something online. Just by writing this blog post, what am I trying to say about myself? Am I being truly ‘me’? Is there even such a thing as an authentic self, or are we all just an amalgamation of different versions of our identity?
I’ve been watching…
I absolutely loved this film and am completely unsurprised by its winning of so many awards. It’s funny, poignant, informative, shocking and perfectly cast. Although it was quite long, I was utterly engrossed and was fully invested in the plot, based on a true story, revolving around a well educated, black pianist and a working class Italian-American former-bouncer who gets the job as the musician’s driver. Watching it reminded me of one of my all time favourite French films, Intouchable. This is a film that will make you laugh as well as educate you about the horrendous racism that went on not even that long ago. Cannot recommend it enough.
Since her Peep Show days, I have loved Olivia Colman and everything she’s done. This film was no exception, as it was hilarious, heart-wrenching and simultaneously bizarre. Whether she is racing ducks, playing with her seventeen rabbits, or threatening to throw herself out of the window, Colman’s Queen Anne is erratic, childlike and strangely endearing. Emma Stone’s character desperately tries to pacify her as she wails loudly and messily in the depths of a depression or painful illness. She is refreshingly unattractive and vulgar, far from the conventional female protagonist. She’s real, vulnerable and perfectly imperfect. You can’t get much better than that.
Mary Queen of Scots
I saw this film the day after The Favourite and despite the similar historical subject matters, the two couldn’t be more different. Beautifully shot and brilliantly cast (not that The Favourite isn’t), Mary Queen of Scots is much more of your standard period drama – and that is meant as a compliment. Saioirse Ronan and Margot Robbie are perfect in their respective roles of Mary and Queen Elizabeth I and their conflict plays out convincingly on the screen. Think wide, expansive shots of the Scottish countryside and horses carrying their royally-clad riders from one huge castle to another. Far from stuffy and stiff, this film is engrossing and relevant. The issues around feuding religions, countries and families will never seem outdated.
I think I binge-watched The Missing at some point last year and just couldn’t get enough of Julien Baptiste and his calm and collected approach to disaster. So I couldn’t believe my luck when I saw an advert on BBC One for a spin-off series, centring around the eponymous ex-detective. Like any good TV detective, he lives and breathes his job, even after having a brain tumour, so is quickly persuaded to help the Dutch police look for a missing sex worker in Amsterdam. He soon becomes embroiled in a dangerous and messy criminal underworld, putting both his own and his family’s lives at risk. Would definitely recommend if you liked The Missing or are in love with Tchéky Karyo’s French accent as much as I am.
I’ve been listening to…
One word: obsessed. This podcast is a book-worm’s absolute dream. Calling herself the ‘book inspector’, journalist and author Daisy Buchanan visits bookish people’s houses and delves into their bookshelves. Listening to someone talk about the books that shaped them, the books they read over and over again and the books on their ‘to read’ pile for 45 minutes is my idea of heaven. It’s made me think about the books I read as a teenager (mostly Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging) and has made me wish I’d kept some of these, let’s face it, utterly brilliant books. I don’t think I’d be able to answer half of Daisy’s questions (I can barely remember what I read last week, let alone ten years ago), but thankfully I can listen to highly eloquent people answer them instead.
The High Low
I know I keep on going on about this podcast, but I just love it. I love finding out what Dolly Alderton and Pandora Sykes have been watching, reading and listening to over the last week. I love hearing their take on current news stories, topical issues or the latest M&S sandwich. Although sometimes I start feeling slightly like a failure and as though I should be discussing an essay in The Paris Review with my friends at the pub, I quickly remember that my random conversation over a G&T is not being recorded for a podcast. Plus, I’m not a journalist or an author, as much as that is The Dream. Anyway, I’m sure Pandora has much to say about my growing sense of inadequacy, so I should probably stop writing this blog post and get back to The Authentic Lie.
(I’ve also written about my other favourite podcasts here.)