January 2017 Update

Books, Movies, Reading

For the past few years, I have posted monthly updates, in separate posts, about books I read and things I’ve published. For 2017, I have decided to just have one update post with a wider variety of topics, more like what Holly does with her monthly updates.

Books Read

I set the same reading goal for 2017 as I had for the past two years: 36 books. January got off to a good start as I finished three books: Jonathan Lethem’s A Gambler’s Anatomy, Carrie Fisher’s The Princess Diarist, and the Best American Essays 2016.

I had read and enjoyed two of Lethem’s novels before: Chronic City and Dissident Gardens. A Gambler’s Anatomy is an odd and entertaining book. Although it feels a little slight compared to the previous books I read, it still has plenty going for it: high stakes backgammon, face surgery, anarchist plots, and suspected psychic abilities. Normal stuff like that. After reading and enjoying three Lethem novels, it’s safe to say he is now among my favorite authors. I really need to read some of his earlier works.

The Princess Diarist had been on my to-read list but was a low priority. The combination of Fisher’s recent death and the appearance of the book at the library where I work compelled me to check it out. At the risk of speaking ill of the dead, I have to say I was rather disappointed. As a long time Star Wars fan, I was curious because I knew The Princess Diarist covered Fisher’s life during the making of the film, and she does include some interesting tidbits. The bulk of her story, however, revolved around her relationship with Harrison Ford. Her retrospective telling of that affair proved interesting, but the book is padded with entries from her diary as a nineteen-year-old. In fact, nearly half the book is comprised of bad poetry and the understandably immature insights of a nineteen-year-old. Not only was this time of her life more interesting told through the filter of her adult self, but also much of what was included from the diary repeated parts of the story she had already written about.

I ended the month on a high note with the consistently fascinating The Best American Essays 2016, edited by Jonathan Franzen. Most compilations are a bit hit and miss, but this collection was a majority of hits. Highlights for me were Irina Dumitrescu’s “My Father and the Wine,” Ela Harrison’s “My Heart Lies Between ‘The Fleet’ and ‘All the Ships’,” Sebastian Junger’s “The Bonds of Battle,” Jordan Kisner’s “Thin Places,” Richard M. Lange’s “Of Human Carnage,” Lisa Nikolidakis’s “Family Tradition,” and Katherine E. Standefer’s “In Praise of Contempt.”

Books Read in January

  • A Gambler’s Anatomy (library book)
  • The Princess Diarist (library book)
  • The Best American Essays 2016

Movies Watched

I’m a little surprised that I have never included lists of movies I’ve watched in any of my updates considering how much I love movies and how many movies I watch. Maybe I’ve been a little intimidated by the number.

My movie watching tends to not be arbitrary. I usually get hooked into a theme, time period, or director. I started out the year by trying to catch up on 2016 releases. Of the 2016 movies I watched in January, I recommend Hell or High Water, 13th, The Witch, and Paterson. Of those, I saw Paterson in the theater. Everything else, I saw at home. I would like to get out to the movies more often this year. Last year, the bulk of the movies I saw in the theater was during the Philadelphia Film Festival.

Speaking of the film festival, I had seen Mountains May Depart there in 2015 and loved it. It only received wider release in 2016, so I think I can also safely name it as one of my favorite 2016 films.

I was really looking forward to Hitchcock/Truffaut. I certainly enjoyed it but was hoping it was going to go a little more in-depth. Perhaps I already knew too much about both directors, so there wasn’t much new to me.

I subscribed to Film Struck, the new streaming service from Turner Classic Movies and the Criterion Collection and saw a few thing available there.

I had seen The Long Good Friday in the theaters way back when and once again when it was first available on DVD. It had since been a little hard to come by, so I was thrilled to see it available through Film Struck. And I am happy to report that it lived up to my memories.

I also watched The Decline of Western Civilization which had long been on my list to see but had also been hard to find a version of. It was a fascinating insight into the punk rock scene in Los Angeles in the early 1980’s. However, it was a rather unpleasant scene full of drugs and violence, so it was a bit of a rough watch.

Given the depressing state of the world in January, I needed something to cheer me up, and The World of Jacques Demy did the trick. Agnes Varda’s documentary about her husband was insightful and charming. Thanks to my effort to get through the BFI’s 50 Greatest Films of All Time, I discovered I love French films from the 1950’s and 1960’s and have recently seen a few of Demy’s films including Lola, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, The Young Girls of Rochefort, and A Slightly Pregnant Man.

After a month of Film Struck, I am quite satisfied with the selection and the quality of the streaming service.

Movies Watched in January

  • Hell or High Water
  • 13th
  • Mountains May Depart
  • Hitchcock/Truffaut
  • The Long Good Friday
  • The Witch
  • Patterson (in theater)
  • Swiss Army Man
  • The World of Jacques Demy
  • A Bigger Splash
  • Decline of Western Civilization

My goal to blog more often went off the tracks early, and I didn’t post much other than my usual updates and a post on SuperPlus Eats about our winter break.

On Being and Formulating:

On SuperPlus Eats:

Ever since moving from a Creative Commons license for my photos, the number of photos I find being used elsewhere has, not surprisingly, declined. I did not retroactively go back and change the existing photos that had CC licenses, so a few older pictures still get used.

Photos in the Wild: