Although this is my first post of 2019, the title still has the number 2018 in it, so let’s do a very quick retrospective.
I read 52 books last year. Here they all are. I admit that I got to 51 in the few days running up to the end of the year and so packed in The Drunken Sailor by Nick Hayes (a biograpy of Rimbaud in graphic novel form) in under two hours just so I could say I’d read an average of a book a week. Quite pathetic really.
And I watched 37 films last year (here’s that list if you’re interested). That’s quite a lot less than 2017, I think that’s mainly because I read so much more. I think the Dance to the Music of Time project (a book a month for all 12 months) really helped keep up my reading habit.
To finish off the Anthony Powell mentions for the time being here’s a link to the episode of Backlisted about the 8th volume of The Dance, Books Do Furnish a Room. Myself and a couple of friends were at the recording at the LRB Bookshop in London and we get a little mention a few minutes in.
And (this is absolutely the last Powell thing, I promise), here’s Christopher Hitchins writing about Powell and The Dance in the New York Review of Books back in 1998, which I was able to read after finishing the 12th volume in December.
Ok, on to some new stuff. I got round to reading some of the articles that appeared on Longreads’ ‘best of 2018’ lists, and a couple of my favourites were That had to hurt.’ Lessons learned on the diving board in summer’s final days from the Washington Post, and (trust me on this) Do Men Enter Bathtubs on Hands and Knees So Their Balls Hit the Water Last? from The Cut.
While we’re on the topic of ‘weird’, I Was A Cable Guy. I Saw The Worst Of America, by Lauren Hough (“a 6-foot lesbian” in her own words) from The Huffington Post is fascinating if a bit depressing.
Of the few tech/internet related things I’ve read so far in 2019: The Cost of Living in Mark Zuckerberg’s Internet Empire is both the most saddening and the most accurate. This bit really hit home for me:
“The internet of 1995 and 1999 and 2001 and even 2007 was a backwater by today’s standards, but to me, it was the most wonderful thing. It was strange and silly and experimental and constantly surprising, and it made you feel good about other people, because online, away from corporate media and every channel of established culture, other people turned out to be constantly surprising too. They translated Anglo-Saxon poetry and posted photographs of Victorian ghosts and told you, to your eternal benefit, about what it was like to be someone other than yourself (in my case, to be a woman, to be a person of color). They wrote fascinating, charismatic diaries. And all of this, this faster, weirder, more forgiving universe, was right there, at your fingertips, for free. This sounds like nostalgia, but it was how I really felt at the time. We were making this thing together.”
Something else great from late last year is Crag Mod’s essay in Wired about what happened to ‘The Future Book’ we were all promised.
And, finally for tech stuff, Benedict Evans has some interesting stuff to say about why content isn’t king anymore.
Away from the internet and just thinking about ‘stories’ in a wider sense, this article from Latif Nassar, Director of Research for WNYC’s Radiolab, about how he finds new stories is great (ok, so most of them he finds via the internet, but what do you want me to do?). Absolutely internet-free is this essay from The London Review of Books on the work of Agatha Christie (yes, I watched Malkovich as Poirot over Christmas and enjoyed it, I also discovered that there’s a character in a Christie novel called Miss Hinchcliffe!)
I haven’t finished reading any new books myself this year, mainly because I embarked on Charles Palliser’s 1200-page epic The Quincunx after reading this post about it on the Unbound blog. I have watched a few new films though. Eighth Grade was very good and so was The Favourite (God bless Olivia Colman), and Bad Times at the El Royale was a pretty fun, pulpy romp. But seeing Japanese zombie comedy, One Cut of the Dead at the Prince Charles Cinema was an absolute treat. Definitely making it on to my ‘best films of 2019’ list I think.
Finally this week, a couple of short videos. This TED Salon talk about puzzle hunts is pretty fun and interesting:
And this short video essay about the last chess shop in New York is just beautiful.
Happy new year!