Monday, 5 August 2019

The Wes Anderson Collection by Matt Zoller Seitz

"Everyone, sooner or later, gets a thorough schooling in brokenness".

I love a Wes Anderson film. They seem to personify that sense of otherness that was the running narrative of my childhood. In all their pastel magnificence and minute detail they shine a light on rejection and despair in a way that's both palatable and entertaining. That is a rare skill. Visually they are so recognisable and that is another aspect that really impresses me. When you see a Wes Anderson film it is instantly recognisable - no mean feat!

When this beautiful creation of a coffee table book was released a few years ago I put it on my wish list as a much desired indulgence. When my occasionally awesome ( well I can't be too effusive or he'll wonder who wrote this) man bought it for my birthday I felt unrestrained joy. Then I read it and was shocked to find that my enjoyment increased.

Pass me a pink cocktail, let's put on some dark kohl eyes and ponder the universe together  while a snappy soundtrack plays in the distance. Somewhere an omniscient viewer is peering into tiny little rooms and seeing life in gorgeous detail.

 5 out of 5 - art is love.

Killing Eve Vol 2: No Tomorrow by Luke Jennings


"Who is the unnamed woman who has carved such a bloody trail through the shadowlands of the intelligence world?"

It is a truth almost universally acknowledged that a sequel faces an uphill battle. The minute I finished watching the original Killing Eve tv series, I immediately purchased the first book. That only encouraged my desire to experience more of the world so interestingly created by Luke Jennings. 
When a new tv series was released, before the book unfortunately, I again raced to see it and was left a little underwhelmed. Sometimes an engaging tale needs to be left alone. A speedy sequel can have a detrimental effect. Similarly when the next novel was advertised, I hastily put my order in.
I haven't much to say here. I was a little underwhelmed. That might have been due to lack of sleep and work stress, if I'm being generous. I just felt that Villanelle had gone a little soft or something. The magic had dispersed.

2 out of 5 - interesting but not as good as the first time.

The Van Apfel Girls are Gone by Felicity McLean

"We lost all three girls that summer. Let the slip away like the words of some half-remembered song, and when one came back, she wasn't the one we were trying to recall to begin with".

This had a moody and tragic feel that made me christen it the "Australian Virgin Suicides". It transported me back to the innocent days of youth, where our perceptions are somewhat foggy, preoccupied by fitting in and surviving. That's not to say this isn't an enjoyable read. Despite the grim subject, its levity is supremely engaging. In that regard it reminds me of the movie Stand by Me whose source was the prolific Stephen King.

Here is a story that almost reflects therapy. Someone looking back at their life trying to make sense of the traumas that shaped them. I find that fascinating and ate this up with a spoon - well clearly not literally.

The delightfully reliable bookseller that posts straight to my parcel locker ( god I sound so lame),  was the happy bearer of this delivery and, dear reader, it was even signed by the author. That was just the icing on the cake. Did I mention that they give you Qantas points for every purchase... well they do!

Sure this novel isn't going to leave you in fits of giggles- its about the mystery of girls who have disappeared after all - and yet it is so well written I was definitively on board for the ride.I could imagine this as a fantastic tv mini series because the characters are appealing and the mystery is compelling. That format would really work for this story, giving adequate time to all the related stories. There is a visceral sense of place and actions that the author beautifully evokes, and that is a rare and impressive skill. I know I've been rather effusive in my praise, I guess my one qualifier would be to say that there was just something more that I wanted and I really cannot put my finger on it. I'd love to hear your reviews to see if we concur. I'd be just as interested to see where we disagree. Opinions are always interesting.

4 out of 5 trips back in time can be traumatic.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Blue Movie by Terry Southern

"Thus, to Angela Sterling, at this critical point in her life and career, the prospect of working with the King. B. Boris was salvation itself".

Perhaps this would have been more shocking in terms of exposing the seedy side of Hollywood before it became constant media fodder. Sleazy creeps abound as a bored director sets out to make a very particular kind of movie.
A combination of erotic tale tropes combines in an effort to shock, throw in a few choice words and some incest and you'll probably get the gist.

Still there are quite a few laughs in between emissions.

3 out of 5 dirty pictures could use a wipe.

Fragrant Harbour by John Lanchester

"It's a good business rule for Asia. When in doubt, get a bigger gorilla"

I found it particularly annoying that the blurb on the back cover of this novel referred only to the story of a man, and yet the book contains two tales. The first narrator is female, the second male. Admittedly the book is heavily slanted on the male's story, as it takes up most of the book.

I had the bizarre sense that I'd seen the story as a movie before. I'm not sure if it has been adapted before, yet the story of Sister Maria and Tom Steward just seemed so familiar. My reason for initially buying this book last year - and its taken me a year to get to it - was the idea of a pre-read before my 3rd trip to Hong Kong. I'd found this list online  and was determined to source this one. It sat on my to be read pile for a veritable eon and yet, when I finally got to it, I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately I've been so busy that I couldn't post a detailed review sooner.

Just like the city full of history and excitement, and currently the subject of some rather scary times, the book draws you in to its fragrant harbour through the tales of rather disparate people brought together by a thriving harbour town.

5 out of 5 junk rides are fun.

Monday, 22 July 2019

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer

"Greer wanted to ask Ben what he thought this was about, but then her instinct was that she shouldn't".

I am a recent convert to the church of Wolitzer. Her writing just ticks all the boxes for me. I devour it greedily. Her speech at this year's Sydney Writer's festival was so amazing and I she appeared on Younger  the other week to further cement my fandom.

Weirdly, or perhaps not so much upon reflection, I found the beginning of the novel a little triggering. I don't think its any surprise that most women have had a similar (or worse) episode than that which Greer encounters with an over over-entitled college d-bag acts inappropriately. I love how Greer and her friend Zee try to combat this with tee shirts and addressing the feminist icon of the novel, Faith Frank.

What are so well realised here are the fraught relations between women. The way we can be absolutely best friends and yet reticent to work together in order to ensure the competitiveness that we both value doesn't erode our relationships. Even the Germaine Greer-esque Frank (only in terms of fame, they are described as contemporaries) isn't put forward as a perfect bastion of female empowerment; much of the drama extends from the discovery of her back story - oops spoilers.

I get the impression that every reader's take away from this novel draws on the thing that is most present in their thoughts. Is it the growing divide between the girl moving to college and her boyfriend as they grow apart? Is it the realisation that the world isn't one where everything is possible? Is it a little of all those things? We are all imperfect humans and I think that is something that Wolitzer beautifully encapsulates. I could definitely re-read this and get an entirely new take on it - that is the magic of her writing.

5 out of 5 prose before hoes - just kidding.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin

"He was an unearthly creature, a genius —or so those who weren't inclined to read had been told by those who were."

So I ordered this little number after Annabel Crabb mentioned in on the Chat 10 Looks 3  podcast. I know, my recent obsession with podcasts is really adding to my 'to be read pile'. It's just that when I'm busy at work I put the noise cancelling headphones on and pretend my well-read friends are there. In any case there are a few podcasts that act as substitutes for my real life busy friends.

Back to the book and a respite from deadlines and life dramas. Well actually more like a deep dive into some historical life dramas. Here a bevy of amazing looking women faun over Truman Capote in his heyday. Certainly their lives, while appearing optimal, have some massive drawbacks. Apparently you can be too thin and beautiful - things I don't have to worry too much about - I'm going to beat the winter bulge with a big stick at any moment.

While this was an interesting look back into history, there was just something missing that I couldn't quite put my finger on. Perhaps it had something to do with Truman as a character that betrayed his would be best friends. Perhaps it was the writing. The jury is out.

 4 out of 5 swans end up in the lake.