IV, Chuck Klosterman: Chuck Klosterman does the kind of journalism I would love to do. Funny, sarcastic pop culture essays with smart commentary on the impact of entertainment on society. I’ll always point to his essay on The Real World as one of the best I’ve read. This collection was decent; the non-fiction was great, the semi-fiction was okay, and the fiction was barely worth reading. I particularly enjoyed the profile of Morrissey’s hispanic fans and the one about tribute bands.
The World’s Wife, Carol Ann Duffy: I love Carol Ann Duffy’s poems and their clever, feminist slant. The World’s Wife is a perfect example. Duffy writes from the perspective of the wives and lovers of famous historical and literary figures: how does King Midas’ touch affect his marriage? or alters the stories to give women more agency than in their original tellings.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman: I read this book over the course of two days; whenever I needed a break from wandering around London I would take advantage of the comfortable sofas in the Piccadilly Circus Waterstones and curl up for a few minutes with this book. It’s a beautiful little fairy tale about monsters and magic and growing up.
Salt: A World History, Mark Kurlansky: I may be sick of Mark Kurlansky by the time I finish writing my thesis as one of his books is a major source I’m using, but in the meantime I loved reading this. He looks at a common material—salt—and through evidence and anecdote, explores its impact on history and contemporary life and food in an interesting and entertaining way.
The Little Friend, Donna Tartt: Not as good as The Secret History and certainly not as good as The Goldfinch, but a book can still be pretty excellent with both of those things being true. I didn’t find myself caring much for the central mystery, which is good because I also didn’t find much resolution, but it was all the little pieces of southern gothic description and all the side stories about minor figures and all the miscellaneous everything else that I really enjoyed.
Paper Towns, John Green: Paper Towns is known for being a story that points out the ridiculousness of the idea of the so-called “Manic Pixie Dream Girl.” I found it to be mostly successful in this regard, but it would’ve been more effective if it had been from the perspective of the girl, rather than about her. Still, a quick and fun read.
Let the Great World Spin, Colum McCann: I absolutely loved this. Set in 1974, while Philippe Petit crossed the World Trade Center towers on a tightrope, the novel features characters from all walks of live, and the city of New York itself is as strong a character as any of them. It’s a beautiful book, and one I look forward to reading again in the future.
Live by Night, Dennis Lehane: I didn’t realise that this was a sequel of sorts to The Given Day until I started reading it, but instead of the sprawling historical novel and social commentary of its predecessor, Live by Night is a fast-paced crime story more in line with Lehane’s other detective works.
Bark: Stories, Lorrie Moore: Whenever you can finish a book in one sitting you have to assume that a) it’s not very long but b) it is very good. The first two stories didn’t entirely hook me, but by the time I got to ‘Paper Losses’ I knew I wasn’t moving until I had gotten to the end. Luckily it was a beautiful day outside. The descriptions were visceral and the relationships devastating.
Werewolves in their Youth, Michael Chabon: I shouldn’t have read this immediately after Bark, I don’t think. Too many stories about relationships facing harsh realities. Michael Chabon is one of my favourite authors, and this isn’t his best work. There were still moments and sentences that really resonated, but overall I didn’t find the stories or characters as memorable as in most of his books.
The Grand Budapest Hotel: I’ve seen every Wes Anderson film up through The Life Aquatic, one of my favourite movies, and none after it, so I was looking forward to finally seeing another. This lived up to my expectations with brilliant acting, all the cameos you’d assume would appear in a Wes Anderson film, and the usual fantastic aesthetic.
Noah: Somewhere between a serious commentary on environmentalism and an action film on par with the Transformers franchise for ridiculous machinery. And who knew that Noah was such a dick?
Calvary: This Irish film, starring Brendan Gleeson in as good a role as I’ve ever seen him, is one of the most intense films I’ve seen in a long time, maybe ever. The trailer for the movie gave the impression that it was a black commentary, but it’s so much darker than that, and the best movie I’ve seen so far this year.
X-Men: Days of Future Past: I was a big fan of the original X-men trilogy (well, the first two films anyway), but I haven’t kept up with any of the later films beyond seeing X-Men: First Class once in the cinema and not being too impressed. However, this one was good fun, with exciting action scenes, great visual effects, and some appearances by old favourites.
Game of Thrones, series 4: Like everyone else, I remain as hooked as ever on Game of Thrones. This season has featured some pivotal scenes like the rebellion in Meereen, the “purple wedding,” and Tyrion’s trial. The last three episodes of the season are sure to be just as enthralling.
The War on Drugs: I can’t believe I haven’t listened to this band before recently. They’re from Philadelphia so I’ve been hearing about them for years, but I finally took the time to put on one of their albums, and since then I’ve been recommending them to everyone I know. They are, ask I keep describing them, like “really cool dad rock,” a mix of Springsteen and synthesizers, with a deep, mysterious tone.
Lykke Li, I Never Learn: Lykke Li is one of those artists whose voice can be described as “hauntingly beautiful.” Unfortunately, the production gets in the way a lot of the time on this album. The best songs are the ones without too much in the background, like “Love Me Like I’m Not Made of Stone,” but on other tracks it’s all just too much.
Mø, No Mythologies to Follow: I don’t know what made me listen to this one, but I like it. Although electropop isn’t my preferred genre at all so I don’t have much to say about the album, but it’s a lot of fun.
Mick Flannery at the Roisín Dubh, 25 May: I had never heard of Mick Flannery until two days before this gig but now I’m absolutely in love. The raspy quality of his voice reminds me of Ray Lamontagne, and his music of Tom Waits. The support act, Casey Black, was excellent too. And the venue was great, of course.