Hi. It’s been way too long.
I wrote a few words about what the hell I’ve been doing for the past six (and a bit) months, but deleted it all, because it sounded an awful lot like waaa waaaaa waaaa, and that’s not what I want to say at all.
Here’s the really short version, sans waaa: I have a great new copywriting job where I get to pat a lot of dogs. We had to move because our house was sold, but I’ve just got all my books back on the shelves in the new place, and I really like it here. And in the few weeks where I was flat broke while looking for work and moving, my local library saved my sanity. I visit pretty much every weekend now.
Also, in the middle of all that, I turned forty. I don’t know how this happened either.
My All Good Things posts are an opportunity for me to look back on all the good stuff that’s kept me going over the past month (or so). Because it’s been a while between posts, I’ve got quite a lot to ramble about, so I’d better get started…
How to Solve Our Human Problems
Belle and Sebastian
I haven’t been particularly adventurous with my music choices this year. I’m a little ashamed to say I’ve spent most of my time listening to podcasts or Spotify playlists. But there is one new album I’ve had on repeat lately…
Belle and Sebastian is one of my favourite bands, but for some reason, I put off listening to their latest release. When I did finally give How to Solve Our Human Problems a listen, I wondered what had taken me so long.
I managed to get my hands on some last-minute tickets to see B&S perform at the Palais Theatre back in May and had the most amazing night.
Our Tiny, Useless Hearts
Janice still loves her ex-husband, Alec. Her sister, Caroline is married to Henry, who’s just revealed that he’s having an affair with Martha, their children’s teacher. Janice is disgusted on her sister’s behalf – until she discovers that Caroline is herself having an affair with her neighbour, Craig. Alec catches Janice in bed with Craig – and Craig’s wife, Lesley wants everyone to know that she’s been having an affair with Alec.
Got all that? Good. Now – take all these characters, confine them to a suburban McMansion, add a generous helping of awkwardness, then stand back and watch the mayhem unfold. Our Tiny, Useless Hearts is a rare thing: the kind of book that will make you laugh and cry, then laugh all over again. It’s chaotic, touching and very, very clever.
I’m really looking forward to reading more Toni Jordan. Her next novel, The Fragments, is a “literary mystery” that’s due out later this year. Yes please!
The Hot Guy
Mel Campbell and Anthony Morris
Adam is hot. Like really, really hot. He doesn’t even know he’s hot. He has no idea, for instance, that there’s an entire Facebook group dedicated to sleeping with him.
When recently dumped Cate is set up with Adam by her boss, Cate isn’t aware that a night with the Hot Guy has a set of rules. The morning after, rather than making a hasty retreat, she decides to stick around.
The Hot Guy is oodles of fun. Not to mention screamingly funny. I particularly enjoyed the authors’ comments on online movie reviewing culture. And there’s a scene in Adam’s hometown, which has a statue that looks a lot like him….anyway, I don’t want to spoil all the jokes (and there are quite a lot of them) so you’ll just have to trust me on this one – if you’re feeling a little drab, read The Hot Guy.
S A Jones
After he’s implicated in a violent incident at his workplace, executive Jonathon Bridge voluntarily enters the Fortress. It’s an extreme step. His confinement will last a year, and his wife, Adalia, is due to give birth to their first child in a few months. If Jonathon’s to save what’s left of his marriage, The Fortress is his only option.
When I added The Fortress to Goodreads, I noticed how many people tagged it as “dystopian”. Jones’ world in The Fortress is only slightly removed from our own – it has PlayStations and football and the internet. But there’s also the Fortress, a mysterious compound ruled by a matriarchal society; a place where men go to seek redemption.
I read The Fortress a few weeks ago and it seems to have set up camp in my head. There’s something about this novel that doesn’t sit quite right with me, and I’m still turning it over and over in my thoughts. Still, I think it’s better to read a novel that makes you think – even if you disagree with it – than something you forget instantly.
While on the subject of things I can’t get out of my head: Nanette. It’s on Netflix. You’ve probably already seen it – I feel like I’m definitely the last person in the world to do so.
There are so many smart articles floating around Twitter that perfectly express what’s so special about Nanette (like this one in the New Yorker, for instance). All I can say is that you really need to watch it. Then tell someone else.
Michael Ian Black
The very first episode of Obscure opens with the words “I’m telling you right now at the outset: this is probably not a good idea”.
Obscure is a pretty simple concept. It’s a comedy podcast in which Michael Ian Black reads Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure out loud, commenting as he goes. Yeah – that’s Jude the Obscure – without a doubt the most hilarious of Thomas Hardy’s novels.
It’s a bonkers idea for a podcast. But a bad idea? I’m not so sure. The second I heard the premise, I subscribed and I’ve been listening from the first episode.
At its best, Obscure is funny and fascinating. It’s more than just a reading of Jude the Obscure – it’s also a meditation on dreams and fame and what it means to be obscure. Black (who claims to have not read the book, though he clearly has) peppers each episode with interviews and observations taken from his own comedy career.
At its worst, Obscure is uneven and awkward. Some of the earlier episodes in particular have extended rants that stray a little too far away from the book, or interviews with people who have nothing to add. There are also moments when Black’s interruptions simply restate what’s already been said, like the Lyrics Genius version of Jude.
A few of the early episodes are rough, but I think Obscure is just starting to find its groove. I’m really interested to see how this podcast evolves and I look forward to every new episode.
Mi Goals Planner
I have one more recommendation this month, and it’s for the Mi Goals Planner that’s pictured in the header image for this post. Just say you’re someone who is really, notoriously bad at planning things (like relaunching their blog, for instance). This journal encourages you to get your plans written down on paper and work through each step, one by one.
It seems stupid and basic, but it’s working for me, because apparently I really need stupid and basic to get me back on track. And it’s not too full of the kind of idiotic inspirational quotes (You are enough! Live, laugh, love!) that fill me with rage.
I got mine from Milligram and I’m finding it really useful so far (and no, this isn’t sponsored. I’m just really disorganised and love this journal).
Coming up next…
As I mentioned at the start of this post, I’ve kind of become a library addict. Where else can I experiment so wildly with what I read?
I’ve got a pile of books on my bedside table waiting to be read and I’m sure some of them will make appearances in next month’s All Good Things post. But before that, there’s a review I need to write. I’m also trying out a few bookish podcasts and working on a post about what I’m planning to do with this blog. More on that soon…