Murder! Heists! Creativity! Secrets!
- Black Maria – Diana Wynne Jones: A reread, and a lovely meld of Gothic and mythic fantasies. I’m realising again lately how often DWJ literalises literary theory and inspiration and turns it directly into narrative.
- The Hot Rock – Donald Westlake: Read on Guan Un’s suggestion. A lovely example of how to play talking-at-cross-purposes for humour while keeping it low-key. And also of the repeated-heist/incremental disaster plot without obvious incompetence.
- Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear – Elizabeth Gilbert: The most surprisingly pragmatic magical thinking book on creativity. I fought against it, but it was stronger, and in the end it was delightful. One of those books which is criticised for obvious reasons, but in fact subverts or addresses those criticisms in-text.
- Making Your Own Days: The Pleasures of Reading and Writing Poetry – Kenneth Koch: Borrowed from Peter Ball. A plainer, crisper exposition of the creative process I have not read. But beyond that, he so lovingly unfurls individual poems.
- The Human Flies – Hans Olav Lahlum. My first Norwegian noir. A very conscious Christie homage, but I did not quite manage to like the main characters for themselves, although I was willing to. They lacked the competence + misfortune of Westlake’s characters, or the success + humour of Stout or the incompetence + luck + oblivion of Caudwell. Great Saul-Bass-inspired cover, though – I think the designer is James Annal?
- Turbocharge Your Writing: How to become a prolific academic writer – Hugh Kearns and Maria Gardner: Barely more than a pamphlet, blindingly obvious common sense, and honestly, with the next book, the most practical guide for working writers I have seen. This and the Gilbert have seen a big change in my work style and productivity.
- Seven Secrets of Highly Successful Research Students – Hugh Kearns and Maria Gardner: See above.
- Spotlight (movie): So understated, and almost all of its tension derived from knowing what would be about to happen if this were a Grisham movie. Fascinating to contrast to the stylistic choices of The Big Short, too. I really liked it.
- Deadpool (movie): Read this review taking into account the rating (i.e. Mother, don’t watch this one). Great opening credits. An interesting addition to the category of “could a director have coaxed this performance from an actor who hadn’t jumped into it feet-first?”. It is not, however, a movie which held up on repeated thought. The plot let the concept down (interestingly a problem which the book of P&P&Z shared but the movie rectified).
- The Secret River (play – Queensland Theatre Company): Wrenching, beautiful, tragic. There’s a dissatisfaction remaining which I’m still thinking about, which is not a criticism of the play but of this category of stories.