A bit of trivia, I am surprised isn't more widely known, is that Leonard Cohen can be found in a previous version of Google Street View. Jean-Luc Godard with Anne-Marie Miéville too! I tucked that reference into this short essay I wrote for The Photographers' Galley.
I loved The Friend by Sigrid Nunez. Seems like a miracle that two deserving novels (this and Milkman) both received major awards last year— well-deserved awards that make one almost believe in meritocracy in the arts. Awards are so rarely well-deserved. ("Never...underestimate the power of mediocrity,” as Paul Schrader put it in his batty Facebook shitpost return to form.) Maybe I’ve been thinking about it because we are creeping toward the nightmare horserace of 2020 or maybe because that big award last Sunday was so wrong. Anyway, it is always so nice when the right person wins the right thing.
Yes, it is a book about a dog and a book about grieving. And it is very smart about it, because the reticent narrator—unwilling to admit to herself the depth of her grief—has an animal companion animating it. It's written carefully without ornamentation so a few occasions I was just blown away by what conveyed. For example this:
It is a book that seems to aspire to the care-without-judgement that comes from a pet. There’s judgement, but it always reads as fairly considered. I felt consoled by the book, which took me by surprise. I didn’t think I was in need of consolation. I expect to return to it in moments that I am.
Yesterday, I started reading Melmoth by Sarah Perry, just on a whim (not the first time a review by Parul Sehgal pushed me outside my comfort zone.) I was glued immediately for the witchy descriptions of Prague in the winter. Everyone knows Prague is beautiful in the spring. But in the winter, the city is gloomy and temperamental and romantic. The novel is absolutely written in an ornamental style that sometimes doesn't work, but it doesn't bother me so much. I had some chocolate-dipped strawberries and where I would normally put the book down to eat them, I just sort of munched along as I finished the first chapter. The character introductions are always memorable:
I finally watched The Rider, which I really loved and admired as I watched it—it's beautifully shot and it is riveting to watch the lead character and how attuned and patient he is with the horses—but I didn't think about it much afterward. Still worth seeing, especially on a big screen if you can.
Thanks for reading.