Just checking in…

Books
Only one of these is featured below. Rest assured, they are all excellent.

I haven’t blogged (eurgh, it’s still a terrible verb) for ages, mainly because Quite A Few Things Happened at the end of 2015. Work stuff, a minor car accident*, a poorly-timed flat move, and then Christmas, and a countryside break that had been planned long before any of the above.

Returning to work today, and dealing with simple things, like phone calls and memos and endless email threads about tiny details, was oddly reassuring after all that.

*In case you’ve ever wondered, the sound of fear is two things: it’s the slam of metal on metal, and it’s an involuntary scream at a dog-bothering pitch. The car was a write-off, but no-one was hurt which, in car accident terms, is the best case scenario. You can replace cars, but the people you share a ludicrous number of in-jokes with, the people you spend your Sunday mornings with, the people who know without being told that you need at least half an hour’s browsing time in Waterstones – they are only flesh, blood and feelings, so they are breakable, and irreplaceable.

I meant to do a round-up of the year, as I did last year, but each time I tried, I struggled to come up with enough positive things to justify writing the post. I didn’t want to do it if it wasn’t going to be largely positive, and frankly, 2015 was a bit of a slog. And while I’m not a natural optimist, I do subscribe to the Caitlin Moran theory that writing is a transactional thing – if you’re going to take the time to read my words, there needs to be something in it for you. And if it can’t be achingly wise, or heartbreakingly poignant, or  cackle-out-loud funny, it should at least be a little bit joyful. In other words, emulating Katie Hopkins or Liz Jones does not interest me in the slightest.

And so to the point of this post… January’s not the most cheery of months, what with the post-Christmas comedown (jeans too tight), the weather (relentlessly shite), and the resolutions (broken by midday on the 3rd, surely), so here’s a small handful of things I’m into at the moment.

1. Jessica Jones

Yes, I know, I know, I’m late to this. But given my track record for resisting things that have been seriously hyped, coming to this just over a month after its release is pretty good going for me, actually, so cut me some slack.

I love it. It’s dark and violent, and brilliantly self-aware, as all superhero dramas should be. Krysten Ritter is excellent as the troubled, whisky-swigging, furniture-throwing Jones, and happily, there are no shots of her working at a MacBook Air while wearing a vest top with no bra, which is the usual signifier of a badass female lead (see Carrie Matthison in the first season of Homeland for more details). David Tennant, as Jones’ nemesis, is also thrilling to watch, almost unbearably so. But you can tell he’s enjoying every second of playing such a bastard, which is great fun to see. If you haven’t seen Miss Jones, get on that right away.

2. A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara

“Enjoyable” is not really the word I’d use to describe this Man Booker-shortlisted breeze block of a novel. It’s certainly an experience; main character Jude is put through every kind of abuse imaginable, and is – understandably – utterly unable to free himself of his past. I’m almost 600 pages in, and given the events of the previous 580-odd pages, my hopes of a happy ending for poor old Jude are not high. Not one to read if you’re feeling emotionally fragile, as there’s a lot of harrowing detail, and brevity is not one of the features the book has going for it.

3. Terry Pratchett, A Slip of the Keyboard

I’m in the rather lovely position of never having read any Terry Pratchett before – lovely, because I have all that pleasure yet to come.  I picked up A Slip of the Keyboard yesterday, as I needed an antidote to A Lot of Misery (the more accurate but considerably less pithy title of Yanagihara’s work) and had a generous Waterstones gift card begging to be spent. A Slip of the Keyboard is a collection of Pratchett’s non-fiction, and proved a beautiful distraction from the back-to-work butterflies on the train this morning. I’m sure my fellow commuters were slightly baffled by my dissolving into helpless laughter at regular intervals while reading this book, but I don’t mind. I found out yesterday that writer Neil Gaiman, who was friends with Terry and wrote a fitting introduction to this book, is due to release a collection of his own non-fiction next year – which, if this is anything to go by, will be nothing short of perfect.

4. Common Tongues

I should have mentioned these guys months ago, as they supported Flight Brigade at their Brighton gig back in October.

I don’t know much about Common Tongues (except I keep thinking they’re called Coloured Tongues, but no, that’s a Brontide track), but they’re a bit folky, a bit rocky, and a lot talented. Best tracks are New Moon and Solitary Thinker.

That’s all from me. I’ve been failing a little on the ideas front recently, so if you’ve got any prompts (it can be a word, a phrase, anything – I’m not picky!), let me know.

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