February 2021

As the pandemic shuffles on and people continue to be vaccinated, I've spent the past month sitting around the house, reading and watching movies.

La La Land

Watched La La Land and I wasn't impressed. Maybe I was coming into it with grand expectations. It felt like someone else's love letter to a something I just couldn't get behind. I don't feel a nostalgia for classic Hollywood and jazz musicals--and it didn't feel like the film wanted to spend much time evoking that nostalgia within me.

Don't get me wrong: the film did a lot of things I liked. Gosling and Stone have electric chemistry--maybe that's why they keep getting cast together. The way that colour and light worked was really attractive; I liked that the main relationship was always represented in blue. Linus Sandgren was able to make the camera feel like an actual character in the film, and I loved that.

But the real meatus of the story, the beating heart & soul: did not connect with me. I felt like I just couldn't show up, emotionally. The thick layers of twee, the constant "le wrong generation"-style moaning for a lost past, the uncomfortable position of white Gosling as the saviour of a black art form--none of it resonated.

3.5/5

Child of God

Woof, what a book, like a dream of getting stabbed repeatedly: brief and violent.

Brutal and graphic in that way that Cormac McCarthy is. Everything feels dirty and dusty and degenerate, but it all feels like it's sort of gesturing towards some sort of grand truth.

Lester Ballard is lying in the mud in a cave having sex with corpses, but McCarthy makes it feel like something other than the filthy act it is, like there's something transcendent in dropping out so thoroughly of society.

Ballard does live on the fringe, and I think some people have written that it's society that has pushed him there--but I'm not sure that it's so much that society has pushed him over the edge so much as that there are no railings on society. If you want to drop out, over the edge, no one is going to stop you--especially not in the United States.

I think that makes the ending, where Ballard returns to the hospital and tells the receptionist, "I'm supposed to be here," so poignant: that he's choosing to come back from the edge and try to rejoin.

4/5

Dead Souls

Finally finished Gogol's Dead Souls. I don't know how much there is for me to say about it; I think there's a lot that I missed for a lack of context. Like, I can't understand the Russian stereotypes that Gogol is skewering; I can't understand the jokes he's making with language. Some of the jokes land--the Captain Kopeikin part in particular--but I suspect most of them went over my head.

I also thought there wasn't much more to get out of the second half, after having finished the first half. It felt... embryonic, but more of the same. I think if you're reading it because you've been told it's a monument of Russian literature, but you're not a scholar of Russian literature (like I am), there's not a lot of juice you can squeeze out of part two, that you won't already have gotten out of part one.

Maybe I'm a heathen and I don't know what I'm talking about.

-/5 didn't get it