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the island of conclusions

What I'm Reading Wednesday

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What I'm Reading Wednesday

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That time again, folks—chime in here or at your own journal. I have no fun pictures or links—but there is TV for once.

What I’m Reading

The Far Side of the World, Patrick O’Brian (Aubrey #10) (audiobook). Almost finished with it, too. Some truly crazy shit happens in this one, almost none of which made it into the movie (for obvious reasons, mostly). There are a surprising number of comic episodes (surprising--see what I did there, in a Jack-like way ;)), which appear to be just POB flexing his writing chops, which are considerable. I’m not complaining; the whole thing is a delight. This is the one where, like Keats, they all declaim upon the delights of first reading Chapman's Homer. There is also a sailor named Macbeth.

When I started listening to these things, I couldn’t believe there were 21. Now, I can’t believe there are only 21. They seem to be dominating my year.

I haven’t cracked the spine of a print book since I finished the Kate Atkinson below. Busy and unpleasant week so far, sadly.

What I Just Finished

Treason’s Harbour, Patrick O’Brian (Aubreyad #9) (audiobook). Nothing to say about that I didn’t say last week. I liked this one, and was sorry to see Jack and Stephen leave the Mediterranean, even if they weren’t.

Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson. I liked this (witness the fact that I made it through all 500+ pages, unlike 80% of the books I start)—and I absolutely recommend it, especially as a beach or plane novel, or for a book club.

It is deftly written, but still moves along quickly, and there are plenty of interesting things to ponder along the way. It’s clever, but it doesn’t get bogged down in its own cleverness. It wasn’t apparent to me from the blurbs and reviews I read how heavily (primarily) the novel is about the Second World War—particularly the Blitz—and those sections are excellent.

If that sounds like I’m damning with faint praise, I am, a little. The book is fantastic on quotidian details—it is worth reading for the proper names and menus alone—but it fumbles a bit (a lot, maybe), when it reaches for world historical relevance. The characterization is somewhat flat—people show up in the narrative as “good” or “bad” and rarely get more complex than that. Atkinson says, in the “Author’s Note” you don’t read til afterwards, that the theme of the novel is “Englishness,” but it’s quite a cozy and cliched idea of Englishness—bluebell woods, and semi-rural middleclass bliss, and all that. I raced along finishing, but I kept wanting to find it more moving than I did.

What I’m Reading Next

Dunno. Life After Life made me want to read more about the Blitz, so I have Sarah Waters’s Night Watch on hold at the library—but I’ve tried to read it before and found it hard going. I’ve read good reviews of The Woman Upstairs, so want to give that a try, too.


Now that you can stream Top of the Lake on Netflix, I feel I should make a proper rec for it. Watch it, if you can face the sexual violence—it’s very, very good. In the end, it’s harsh, but not dark, if that makes sense, with much more faith in human resilience and agency than lots of things I’ve watched lately. The acting is superb, and it’s an interesting meditation on the problem of justice outside the law. And, like I said a few weeks ago, for a show that is so centrally about rape, it’s very sex positive, with a broader representation of the shapes and practices of desire than, again, you’re likely to see elsewhere.

I also saw all of Broadchurch, which I also recommend, if you have a chance. The plot was so similar to Top of the Lake it was almost confusing. Of the two, however, Broadchurch was by far the more conservative and the more depressing. I’ve already ranted to [personal profile] thirdbird about the finale, so I’ll spare you, but up until the penultimate episode, it was damn fine TV.

I’m not sure I’m even going to say anything about the season/series finale of Southland (tragic? Inevitable?), but I’d love to hear what you thought of it, if you watched it.

What should I watch now? I seem to be out of miniseries.
  • It's not Wednesday, any more, but I'm still reading the same things: Les Mis at around the 37% mark (the presumed-dead Valjean and Cosette have ducked into the grounds of a convent to evade a hot-on-their-heel Javert, which has naturally sent Hugo onto a discursive meditation on the day-to-day of the nuns' lives) and around half-through Chuck Hogan's The Killing Moon, which I'll probably polish off with some wine tonight. It's one of those stories where the setting - a crumbling, depressed mill-town in rural MA - is a character in its own right.

    Both of those miniseries sound like my kind of thing, but I just finished The Killing last night, with ALL the ugly crying, so I'm not sure I'm up for either at the moment.

    Netflix insists that I'll like Luther - 10 episodes of Idris Elba as a troubled cop - , and I suspect it's right; maybe that would work for you too? Of course, Netflix is also sure that I should really want to see Hetalia, so salt that idea to taste.
    • I loved The Killing, even all the ups ad downs of the second season! I'm glad they're making a third season that's going to be more episodic.

      Yeah--urged on by a DW friend who's going to try it, too, I'm finally going to give Luther a try--Netflix tells me the same thing. Want to play along? We're going to try and start watching it this week--no set schedule or anything.
      • I'd heard there would be a 3rd season, but not anything else about it, since I was still dodging spoilers at that point. I hope we still spend a fair amount of time with the victim(s)'s survivors.

        Sounds like fun; I'll try to pick it up soon & we can talk it over in some future Wednesday-ish posts!
        • That's all I know about the third season myself--I have no idea when it's supposed to air. Looking forward, though!

          Okay, I watched a couple of episodes of Luther over the weekend, and...well, I remember why I haven't watched it before--the same reason I have no interest in The Following or Hannibal or Criminal Minds--the romance of the hyper-intelligent serial killer. Not my thing. But Idris Elba is insanely charismatic, so there's that.
          • I will definitely have to check Luther out, as that can be my kind of thing in small doses. I'm told there are some interesting female characters, too; does that seem to be the case?

            I really tried to love The Following, but it's just so dumb, and not in the charming, big-hearted, inclines-me-toward-handwaving way that Prison Break was dumb, but in the frustrating way a mediocre slasher movie is dumb. The only positive things I hear about Hannibal are from people who are excited about mining such a rich vein for fic that kinks on all kinds of stuff that makes me backbutton hard; it's definitely someone's show, but that someone is not me.
            • Give Luther a try! It does have interesting female characters, and the cast as a whole is great--I may end up watching the whole first season, even though it is not my thing.
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