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It’s been a very interesting week for media consumption.

First, the most recent Family Book Club book, chosen by my brother. When I got to the office on Monday, there was a shoebox on my desk. Inside was a letter that started:

“Hello
It’s very simple - there are only two rules:
Listen to the recordings
Pass them on to the next person on the list.”

There was also a set of CDs - the audio version of Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. In the book, the narrator, a high school student named Clay, comes home from school one day to find a shoebox on his front step. The shoebox contains a letter that starts in exactly the same way as the one above, and a set of cassette tapes, recorded by Hannah Baker, a girl at Clay’s school who committed suicide two weeks before. The book follows Clay as he listens and reacts to the tapes, which explain the series of events that led Hannah to take her own life.

The audio version of the book has a male narrator for Clay’s description of his experience of listening to the tapes, and a female narrator for the tapes themselves, so listening to it is already quite an immersive experience, even without the added delivery method of the shoebox to my office.

The book itself is very well constructed and not as distressing as I had feared, though it does get more emotive towards the end. The narration is very good, and it made for an interesting listen.

I have to give my brother credit for creating a unique and very effective book club experience. But the thirteen reasons of the title are actually people Hannah blames for contributing to her suicide, and they are the people the tapes are sent to. So, essentially, my brother cast me and the other members of our book club in the role of ‘reasons’, thus almost making us complicit in the events of the book, which was a bit uncomfortable. Still, it was a very clever idea and I’m looking forward to what I’m sure will be a very interesting book club meeting at Christmas.


One of the books I got out of the library last months was Two Years, Eight Months, and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie. I was looking for Midnight’s Children but it wasn’t there so I picked this one instead. It tells the story a war between different factions of jinns, whose conflict spills over into the mortal realm and causes chaos throughout the world. The events are set a little way into our future, but the narrative is written as if it’s a thousand years in the past, which adds a mythic aspect to the story. I’m not normally a fan of magic realism, and in some ways it felt quite remote and as if there was a lot of ‘telling’ and not much opportunity to really connect to the characters. It was also quite episodic, jumping from one set of characters to another, and the various plot strands didn’t really connect up until right near the end, which also made it harder to appreciate as cohesive whole. Still, the events were weird and wonderful enough to be intriguing and engaging, and a few of the characters stood out as appealing, and I had no trouble making it through the book to the end. So, I will definitely try and pick up a copy of Midnight’s Children sometime soon.


Today, I took advantage of my Picturehouse Central membership to go to a free viewing of Blindspotting, which turned out to be excellent. It’s about a young black man, Collin, who is just about to complete his probation after a short prison sentence, and witnesses a police shooting of another young black man on the streets of Oakland. He then struggles with the precarious nature of his situation and the issues surrounding his ethnicity in relation to interaction with the police. Adding extra nuance to the story is his friend, Miles, who is white but who struggles with his identity as a native of a predominantly black area and as the father of a biracial child. The film had several very funny moments, but was also very tense at times, and raised a lot of complex questions about modern society. I felt one aspect of the climax didn’t really work all that well and detracted from the reality of the story. But overall, it was excellent, and I’m very glad I was prompted to go and see it when I otherwise might not have done.


This weekend also included two very different live entertainments. First was the Burlesque Idol Finals on Friday night. I think I only went to one of the heats this year, so most of the competitors were unknown to me. There were also only six, which made it a much shorter show than in previous years. There were not one, but two Teresa May acts (!), one of which worked much better for me than the other one. There was also one about Dobby the house elf finding freedom as a dominatrix, two energetic dance routines, and one ‘sing and fling’. I was torn between three of the acts when it came time for voting, but I went for the very confident and skilled disco number, and she was crowned the winner. We also got two excellent judges’ performances. A very good night all round.


Then, yesterday, I did something that was very unusual for me. Some years ago, Dave told me he would really like to see a concert of Gershwin music, but we never came across one. Yesterday morning, I discovered a choir concert at St Katherine’s Cree church near Liverpool Street, which was taking place that very evening. I briefly considered just forgetting I ever saw the information, but then thought that would be pretty mean, so I bought tickets and off we went a few hours later. We actually had a really lovely time, with a good meal in a nice pub and then a highly enjoyable concert, which included all the songs from Porgy & Bess, along with some solo piano pieces and some southern spirituals. The second half was tremendously better than the first, the soloists were very impressive, the choir was excellent, and the pianist was very talented. So spontaneity rules!

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