I hope that by the end of the year, this page is full of titles & my thoughts on them. Anything with a star (★) is something that I'd consider to be extremely good, would recommend, or would consider a new favorite. Anything marked with an ✗ is something that I found egregiously bad, (inspired by my viewing of Call Me by Your Name). Listed in reverse chronological order, (most to least recent).

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Almost everything here contains spoilers!

“I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream,” by Harlan Ellison, read April 2024 ★

So what do I do now that I've experienced this?

Before reading this, I assumed that the phrase “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” was said by the computer, & in a way it was.

To Build a Fire by Jack London, read April 2024

In all of my memory, as far as it serves me, I’ve had a fascination with the prospect of freezing to death, with dying of cold, and the fear of it. There was a time when my favorite topics to read about were not fiction, but were accounts of failed arctic expeditions, deaths on Mount Everest, & the Donner Party. Perhaps I died of hypothermia in a previous life. Regardless, I greatly enjoyed To Build a Fire. It’s a very simple & almost childish story, but for the reasons I’ve spoken about, I very much liked it.

Something that interests me is that when reading about Christopher McCandless, I read that Jack London was a favorite author of his. (This is what actually prompted me to give this story a read.) It’s somewhat ironic considering how he died of hubris in the Alaskan wilderness, caused by his own ignorance and unpreparedness. I feel somewhat dirty writing that, because this is a human life that I am speaking of & not a fictional story, but I can’t help but see the parallels. I suppose it’s because Christopher McCandless has become something of a folk hero to me, & so I feel I can speak of his death as though he were a literary character. I feel cold doing so, but I cannot think of another way to phrase what I am thinking, a way more proper & respectful of the dead. Maybe I can draw a distinction & say that I am talking about “Alexander Supertramp & not Christopher McCandless.” Either way, I still hold a fondness & affinity toward the dead man.

“... for the absence of sensation in his feet left him unrelated to the earth.”

Kodama Maria Bungaku Shuusei (児玉まりあ文学集成), Volumes 1-3, read April 2024

On diary writing: “The bottom line is there's value to be found even in your trash day.”

Mythology by Edith Hamilton, read April 2024

My favorite stories are the ones where people get turned into birds; if I were in a Greco-Roman myth, I would turn into a bird.

Or perhaps I would be punished with a Sisyphean task.

Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger, read April 2024 ★
  • “I keep a good neurotic’s calendar…”
  • “I have almost no time to do any elective thinking.”
  • “[I]t didn’t begin with a quest for knowledge at all but with a quest, as Zen would put it, for no-knowledge.”
  • ”“Enough. Act… when and where you want to, since you feel you must, but do it with all your might.”
  • “Christ lived on cheeseburgers and Cokes.”
  • “I like to ride in trains too much. You never get to sit next to the window any more when you’re married.”
  • “You just call in some analyst who’s experienced in adjusting people to the joys of television, and Life magazine every Wednesday, and European travel…”
  • “For a psychoanalyst to be any good with Franny at all, he’d have to be a pretty peculiar type. I don’t know. He’d have to believe that it was through the grace of God that he’d been inspired to study psychoanalysis in the first place. He’d have to believe that it was through the grace of God that he wasn’t run over by a goddam truck before he ever even got his license to practice. He’d have to believe that it’s through the grace of God that he has the native intelligence to be able to help his goddam patients at all.”
  • “The idea being that if you call out the name long enough and regularly enough and literally from the heart, sooner or later you’ll get an answer. Not exactly an answer. A response.”
  • “He’s so stupid it breaks your heart... He thinks everything sentimental is tender, everything brutal is a slice of realism, and everything that runs into physical violence is a legitimate climax…”
  • “As a matter of simple logic, there’s no difference at all, that I can see, between the man who’s greedy for material treasure—or even intellectual treasure—and the man who’s greedy for spiritual treasure.”
  • “Just because I’m choosy about what I want—in this case, enlightenment, or peace, instead of money or prestige or fame or any of those things—doesn’t mean I’m not as egotistical and self-seeking as everybody else. If anything, I’m more so!”
  • “He had a theory… that the religious life, and all the agony that goes with it, is just something God sicks on people who have the gall to accuse Him of having created an ugly world.”
  • “But what I don’t like—and what I don’t think either Seymour or Buddy would like, either, as a matter of fact—is the way you talk about all these people. I mean you don’t just despise what they represent—you despise them.”
  • “I mean if you’re able to go into a collapse with all your might, why can’t you use the same energy to stay well and busy?”
  • “In just a second, in just a second. You keep talking about ego... This is God’s universe, buddy, not yours, and he has the final say about what’s ego and what isn’t. What about your beloved Epictetus? Or your beloved Emily Dickinson? You want your Emily, every time she has an urge to write a poem, to just sit down and say a prayer till her nasty, egotistical urge goes away? No, of course you don’t! But you’d like your friend Professor Tupper’s ego taken away from him. That’s different. And maybe it is. Maybe it is. But don’t go screaming about egos in general. In my opinion, if you really want to know, half the nastiness in the world is stirred up by people who aren’t using their true egos.”
  • “I’d like to be convinced—I’d love to be convinced—that you’re not using it as a substitute for doing whatever the hell your duty is in life, or just your daily duty. Worse than that, though, I can’t see—I swear to God I can’t—how you can pray to a Jesus you don’t even understand. And what’s really inexcusable, considering that you’ve been funnel-fed on just about the same amount of religious philosophy that I have—what’s really inexcusable is that you don’t try to understand him. There’d be some excuse for it if you were either a very simple person, like the pilgrim, or a very goddam desperate person—but you’re not simple, buddy, and you’re not that damned desperate.”
  • “You don’t face any facts. This same damned attitude of not facing facts is what got you into this messy state of mind in the first place, and it can’t possibly get you out of it.”
  • “[Y]ou’re misusing the prayer, you’re using it to ask for a world full of dolls and saints…”
  • “But if it’s the religious life you want, you ought to know right now that you’re missing out on every single goddam religious action that’s going on around this house. You don’t even have sense enough to drink when somebody brings you a cup of consecrated chicken soup—which is the only kind of chicken soup... So just tell me, just tell me, buddy. Even if you went out and searched the whole world for a master—some guru, some holy man—to tell you how to say your Jesus Prayer properly, what good would it do you? How in hell are you going to recognize a legitimate holy man when you see one if you don’t even know a cup of consecrated chicken soup when it’s right in front of your nose?”
  • “[T]he only thing that counts in the religious life is detachment.. Detachment, buddy, and only detachment.”
  • “You’re lucky if you get time to sneeze in this goddam phenomenal world.”
  • “One other thing. And that’s all. I promise you. But the thing is, you raved and you bitched when you came home about the stupidity of audiences. The goddam ‘unskilled laughter’ coming from the fifth row. And that’s right, that’s right—God knows it’s depressing. I’m not saying it isn’t. But that’s none of your business, really. That’s none of your business, Franny. An artist’s only concern is to shoot for some kind of perfection, and on his own terms, not anyone else’s. You have no right to think about those things, I swear to you.”
The Sopranos S3 E1-E8, watched March & April 2024
  1. E2 was interesting, but it seemed a bit all over the place. Janice reminds me of my mother.
  2. “Why fuck around? Be a better friend to yourself.”
  3. On Episode 05: Tried to get my dad to read The Death of Ivan Ilyich what with all of the stomach cancer talk, but he told me he didn't like “academic writing.” Tried to convince him Tolstoy is easy to read, but it was to no avail.
  4. On Episode 06: So many inarticulable thoughts.
  5. Episode 08: One of the best episodes of the season so far.
Bright Dead Things by Ada Limón, DNF March 2024

The poems were alright, but once I was maybe two thirds of the way through I found myself trying to finish the book for the sake of finishing it, rather than finishing it out of enjoyment. No poem particualrly shines out to me. I would describe them as “passable.” I don't understand what made this author so popular.

Seven Swans by Sufjan Stevens, listened March 2024

Despite loving Sufjan Stevens, I've listened to his discography very slowly. I wait to experience things that I know I'll like till I feel ready to seek them out.

Favorite track(s): He Woke Me Up Again

The Hole (穴) by Hiroko Oyamada, read March 2024

Weird & good; page-turner about womanhood.

Fruits of the Room by Stevia, listened March 2024

One of those instrumental albums I can see myself going back to again & again.

Favorite tracks: Can't decide!

Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke, reread March 2024 ★

Yeah, I reread this already. Getting my friend E to read it too. She asked me how it made me feel & I said "comforted." I described the letters as having "a spiritual quality." I think she will appreciate them.

What stood out to me upon rereading:

“You are so young, all still lies ahead of you, and I should like to ask you, as best I can, dear Sir, to be patient towards all that is unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms, like books written in a foreign tongue. Do not now strive to uncover answers: they cannot be given you because you have not been able to live them. And what matters is to live everything. Live the questions for now. Perhaps then you will gradually, without noticing it, live your way into the answer, one distant day in the future.”

“Why do you want to persecute yourself with the question of where it all comes from and where it is leading? You well know you are in a period of transition and want nothing more than to be transformed. If there is something ailing in the way you go about things, then remember that sickness is the means by which an organism rids itself of something foreign to it. All one has to do is help it to be ill, to have its whole illness and let it break out, for that is how it mends itself... you are also the doctor responsible for looking after himself. But with all illnesses there are many days when the doctor can do nothing but wait. And inasfar as you are your own doctor, this above all is what you must do now.

Do not watch yourself too closely. Do not draw over-rapid conclusions from what is happening to you. Simply let it happen.”

Debut by Björk, listened March 2024

Somehow I don't like how this sounds but still enjoy the music.

Favorite tracks: There's More to Life Than This, One Day, & Violently Happy

Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke, read March 2024 ★

In case you're reading this, I'd like to thank the person who recommended this to me. It's hard not to quote this entire book here. Reading it was a religious comfort for me.

From the introduction:

  • “Rather than continue to suffer under his sense of aloneness, Rilke eventually did what he urges Kappus to do: he turned and embraced it. He took isolation to be a given, then entered and inhabited it.”
  • “Anxiety, fear, sadness, doubt: there is no human emotion that cannot be upended and put into service. Anxiety, he tells Kappus, should be thought of as ‘existential anxiety’, the kind that God requires of us in order to begin.”
  • “As Rilke himself told his patron: ‘Things must first get bad, worse, worst, beyond what any language can hold. I creep about all day in the thickets of my life, screaming like a wild man and clapping my hands. You would not believe what hair-raising creatures this flushes up.”
  • “He asks Kappus to imagine that sadness indicates a moment ‘when something new enters into us’ and that we then have duties towards the unfamiliar thing”

From the letters:

  • “You are looking to the outside, and that above all you should not be doing now. Nobody can advise you and help you, nobody. There is only one way. Go into yourself.”
  • “[F]lee general subjects and take refuge in those offered by your own day-to-day life; depict your sadnesses and desires, passing thoughts and faith in some kind of beauty... If your everyday life seems to lack material, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to summon up its riches, for there is no lack for him who creates and no poor, trivial place.”
  • “Works of art are infinitely solitary and nothing is less likely to reach them than criticism. Only love can grasp them and hold them and do them justice.”
  • “(But then that is one of the severest tests of an artist: he must always remain innocent and unconscious of his greatest virtues if he is to avoid depriving them of their uninhibitedness and purity.)”
  • “And what matters is to live everything. Live the questions for now. Perhaps then you will gradually, without noticing it, live your way into the answer, one distant day in the future.”
  • “And that we receive this pleasure cannot be a bad thing; what is bad is the way almost all of us misuse the experience and waste it and apply it as a stimulus to the tired parts of our lives, as a distraction instead of as a concentration of ourselves into climactic points”
  • “[L]ove your solitude and bear the pain it causes you...”
  • “What is needed is this, and this alone: solitude, great inner loneliness. Going into oneself and not meeting anyone for hours – that is what one must arrive at.”
  • “Whether it is memory of your own childhood or longing for your own future – just be attentive towards what rises up inside you, and place it above everything that you notice round about. What goes on in your innermost being is worth all your love, this is what you must work on however you can and not waste too much time and too much energy on clarifying your attitude to other people.”
  • “It is the same everywhere; but that is no reason for anxiety or sadness; if there is no communal feeling between you and other people, try to be near to things – they will not abandon you. The nights are still there and the winds that go through the trees and over the many lands; among things and among animals all is still full of happenings in which you can take part.”
  • “[B]ecause you can no longer believe in God, who is everywhere present in it, then ask yourself, dear Mr Kappus, whether you have really lost God after all? Is it not rather the case that you have never yet possessed him? For when was it supposed to have been? Do you think a child can hold him, him whom grown men only bear with difficulty and whose weight bows down the old? Do you believe that anyone who really has him could lose him like a little pebble, or don’t you think that whoever had him could only be lost by him alone?”
  • “We know little, but that we must hold fast to what is difficult is a certainty that will never forsake us. It is good to be alone, for solitude is difficult; that something is difficult should be one more reason to do it.”
  • “...love that consists in two solitudes protecting, defining and welcoming one another.”
  • “If it were possible for us to see further than our knowledge reaches, and a little beyond the outworks of our intuitions, perhaps we should then bear our sadnesses with greater assurance than our joys.”
  • “One might easily suppose that nothing had happened, but we have altered the way a house alters when a guest enters it. We cannot say who has come, perhaps we shall never know, but there are many indications that it is the future that enters into us like this, in order to be transformed within us, long before it actually occurs. And that is why it is so important to be solitary and attentive when one is sad: because the apparently uneventful and static moment when our future comes upon us is so much closer to life than that other noisy and accidental point when it happens to us as if from the outside. The quieter, the more patient and open we are in our sadness, the deeper and more unerringly the new will penetrate into us, the better we shall acquire it, the more it will be our fate, and when one day in the future it ‘takes place’ (that is, steps out of us towards others) we shall feel related and close to it in our inmost hearts. And that is necessary.”
  • “For imagining an individual’s existence as a larger or smaller room reveals to us that most people are only acquainted with one corner of their particular room, a place by the window, a little area to pace up and down. That way, they have a certain security. And yet the perilous uncertainty that drives the prisoners in Poe’s tales to grope out the outlines of their terrible dungeons and so to know the unspeakable horrors of their surroundings, is so much more human. But we are not prisoners. There are no traps or snares set up around us, and there is nothing that should frighten or torment us. We are placed into life as into the element with which we have the most affinity, and moreover we have after thousands of years of adaptation come to resemble this life so closely that if we keep still we can, thanks to our facility for mimicry, hardly be distinguished from all that surrounds us. We have no reason to be mistrustful of our world, for it is not against us. If it holds terrors they are our terrors, if it has its abysses these abysses belong to us, if there are dangers then we must try to love them. And if we only organize our life according to the principle which teaches us always to hold to what is difficult, then what now still appears most foreign will become our most intimate and most reliable experience. How can we forget those ancient myths found at the beginnings of all peoples? The myths about the dragons who at the last moment turn into princesses? Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses, only waiting for the day when they will see us handsome and brave? Perhaps everything terrifying is deep down a helpless thing that needs our help.”
  • “Why do you want to persecute yourself with the question of where it all comes from and where it is leading? You well know you are in a period of transition and want nothing more than to be transformed. If there is something ailing in the way you go about things, then remember that sickness is the means by which an organism rids itself of something foreign to it. All one has to do is help it to be ill, to have its whole illness and let it break out, for that is how it mends itself... And more than that: you are also the doctor responsible for looking after himself. But with all illnesses there are many days when the doctor can do nothing but wait. And inasfar as you are your own doctor, this above all is what you must do now.”
  • “you are also the doctor responsible for looking after himself. But with all illnesses there are many days when the doctor can do nothing but wait. And inasfar as you are your own doctor, this above all is what you must do now.
  • “Do not watch yourself too closely. Do not draw over-rapid conclusions from what is happening to you. Simply let it happen.”
  • “And if I have anything else to say to you it is this: do not think that the person who is trying to console you lives effortlessly among the simple, quiet words that sometimes make you feel better. His life is full of troubles and sadness and falls far short of them. But if it were any different he could never have found the words that he did.”
  • “There’s not perhaps much purpose in my dealing with the detail of what you wrote, for what I might be able to say about your tendency towards self-doubt or your inability to reconcile your inner and outer life, or about anything else that assails you – it all comes down to what I have said before: the same desire that you might find enough patience in you to endure, and simplicity enough to have faith; that you might gain more and more trust in what is hard and in your own loneliness among other people. And otherwise let life take its course. Believe me: life is right, whatever happens.”
  • “Live the questions for now. Perhaps then you will gradually, without noticing it, live your way into the answer, one distant day in the future.”
Midsommar (2019), watched March 2024, (Movie #14)

"A couple travels to Northern Europe to visit a rural hometown's fabled Swedish mid-summer festival. What begins as an idyllic retreat quickly devolves into an increasingly violent and bizarre competition at the hands of a pagan cult."

Good, but overhyped in my opinion. I think the pacing was a bit too slow; I already knew how it was going to end, so it felt unnecessary that it took so long to get there. Despite this, my favorite scenes were towards the end of the movie, particularly the scene where Dani wails & the women mimic her cries. A beautiful movie on an aesthetic level. While many emotions were displayed, I didn't feel very affected by what I was watching. I found its explorations of grief to be quite shallow & whatever the antonym of "evocative" is. I think this comes from how one-dimensional the characters were. They were all pretty one note. There was nothing to be discovered about them, only the cult that they were visiting. (& even then, the suicide festival, the crowning of the May Queen, these were all predictable, so how much was there really to discover?)

I enjoyed this movie, but will not watch it again. If you decide to watch this, please note, it is referred to as a horror movie, but it is not scary. I did not feel scared at all while watching this.

I normally avoid numerical ratings, but this movie perfectly encapsulates a 3/5 star movie to me, maybe 3.5 if we appreciate its more artistic aspects & avoid its relative shallowness.

A Beginner's Guide To Mopsy Flopsy by Mospy Flopsy, listened March 2024

Clicked on this album by random & ended up listening to the whole thing.

Favorite track: ゆうのほ

Poetics – Something between Montparnasse and Mongkok by My Little Airport, listened March 2024

Another good album. I liked the male vocals in this one. I wish I spoke the language so that I could understand what's being said. I mean "sung." I liked The OK Thing to Do on Sunday Afternoon Is to Toddle in the Zoo more, but this album was still a pleasure to listen to. It kept me company while I made udon.

Favorite tracks: 瓜分林瑞麟三十萬薪金, 藍白紅風格練習, 失業抗爭歌, & When The Party Is Over, I Miss My Dear Porn Star

Eco Pack - 浮躁 by Faye Wong, listened March 2024

Fell asleep sitting in a lawn chair while listening to this, in a sunny spot. I like this album.

Favorite track: 浮躁

The Sopranos S2, watched March 2024 ★
  1. Getting old is so frightening.
  2. Seeing Tony beat Davey seemed so much more real than most of the show to me; I don't know why. Maybe it was the way he was crying about how it was just some "bad luck." It struck me somewhere & it was sharp.
  3. Last two episodes of this season were the highlight of the show so far.
Drive-Away Dolls (2024), watched March 2024, (Movie #13) ✗

"Jamie regrets her breakup with her girlfriend, while Marian needs to relax. In search of a fresh start, they embark on an unexpected road trip to Tallahassee. Things quickly go awry when they cross paths with a group of inept criminals."

I’ve always been a believer in the idea that all art has value, but this has been overshadowed by another belief of mine: the idea that shame is antithetical to art. With this in mind, I think whoever created this movie should be ashamed of themselves, & that if God is still in the business of directly interfering with our meaningless human affairs, then he should be ashamed of himself for allowing this movie to be created.

I fucking hated this movie.

在動物園散步才是正經事 (The OK Thing to Do on Sunday Afternoon Is to Toddle in the Zoo) by My Little Airport, listened March 2024 ★

One of my new favorite albums: No skips from me. I admire the sincerity of its music, all of it: the lyrics themselves, the vocals, the instruments chosen. This album makes me think of a parade, but without being overwhelming.

Favorite track: Josephine's Shop

The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, read March 2024

A play about the (often deceptive) longing for the past & having the courage it takes to run away. There was a time when I was Laura, but now I'm Tom: "His nature is not remorseless, but to escape from a trap he has to act without pity." Both are unfortunate people to be.

The Sopranos S1, watched February & March 2024 ★
  1. The ducks got to me. I understand it. If they were pigeons, I'd have probably cried.
  2. The scene where AJ & Tony look at each other during Jackie's funeral is such good acting. So much was said with no dialogues.
  3. The way the wooden ducks' wings flap & spin as a murder is about to take place, the slow, laborious pace of the strangulation, the scene of the ducks in flight afterwards- Wow.
    • I also laughed when I told my dad that the almost romance with the priest was a Scarlet Letter situation that hurt to watch & in the next scene, they spoke about Hawthorne.
  4. The pie scene made me feel sick.
  5. Episode 11 is such a cliff-hanger. My heart can't handle it.
Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin, DNF February 2024
Whisper of the Heart (1995), watched February 2024, (Movie #12) ★

I needed to watch this movie & I needed to watch it tonight.

To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar (1995), rewatched February 2024, (Movie #11) ★

"The four steps to becoming a queen:

  1. Let good thoughts be your sword & shield.
  2. Ignore adversity.
  3. Abide by the rules of love.
  4. Larger than life- It's just the right size."

Controversial opinion!: I think this movie is (way) better than The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994).

Paprika (2006), watched February 2024, (Movie #10)

Pretty cool. Made me decide that rather than trying to give my thoughts on movies in numerical terms (i.e. stars) I should just allow myself to experience the movie without limiting my experience through language.

The music in this movie was superb & its handling of sexual assault was repulsive, (as in well depicted), without being gratuitous. Hard to get out of my head, actually.

This movie definitely deserves a rewatch from me, somewhere down the line.

The Wrong Trousers (1993), rewatched February 2024, (Movie #09)

So cute & made me so sad when Gromit left home. Reminds me of how when I watched Spongebob as a kid, I'd cry everytime I saw the episode where Gary ran away. Gary Come Home still makes me cry.

A Grand Day Out (1989), rewatched February 2024, (Movie #08)

So cute & made me smile & made me laugh. I rewatched it because today (02/12) is Gromit’s birthday. Gromit is cute & somehow the faceless robot is just as cute.

Josie & the Pussycats (2001), watched January 2024, (Movie #07)

Cute, but nothing about this movie warrants me writing about it or analyzing it.

Chungking Express (1994), watched January 2024, (Movie #06) ★

Two good movies in a row! I know it's a movie about loneliness, but I wish that I could live in this movie.

Parasite (2019), watched January 2024, (Movie #05) ★

This is one of the best movies that I've ever seen.

Call Me By Your Name (2017), watched January 2024, (Movie #04) ✗

Who cares about any of the characters in this movie? Seriously, who gives a shit? I can normally watch just about any movie or book regardless of how bad I think it is, but I barely made it through this one. So heavy handed & pretentious & yet it says nothing.

I watched it for Sufjan Stevens & I’m now a little annoyed with him. What the hell, Sufjan?

The Secret History by Donna Tartt, read January 2024 ★

I think I’ve read The Secret History twice before, both times in high school, but amazingly, I knew its plot only vaguely & had forgotten its ending completely, which was a pleasant surprise.

I think my urge to reread it came from conversations with my sister. She’s taking an Intro to Myth course, or was last semester, & now has the ever charming tendency to speak to me about anything (even tangentially) related to ancient Greece & its myths as though I am stupid & need to be spoken down to. For reference, so we all know where I’m coming from here, she did not think I knew what the word “hubris" meant, which is incredible considering I read & she does not, compounded by the fact that “hubris” is a very common word. It’s more incredible still coming from someone who did not know that Greece was a country until she took that class. I think it was her pretentious & haughty nature that brought this book to mind & the two are now inexorably linked, overlapping in my head.

Outside of my familial issues & onto the book itself, it is such a well written book. It manages to make even the most mundane happenings sound lyrical with its florid language. & the amount of foreshadowing in this book is so well done, giving me the impression that each & every detail of this book was thought out, purposeful. I’ve heard it referred to as a modern classic, & at the very least I’ll agree that its clear craftsmanship reminded me of how intricately woven Crime & Punishment was, as did its well written characters.

I won’t say anything about the plot, on the off chance someone is reading this, but I will say that despite having read this book before, I stayed up until 3:30 AM last night reading it without meaning to.

Cold Enough for Snow by Jessica Au, Read January 2024

An enjoyable read. Not much happened, but I continued reading & reading & reading, likely because it was short (a novella) & I was at work. It held my interest, but something about it feels lacking… Maybe the exploration between the mother & daughter’s relationship? I understand that the two were not close, but that is all that I understand. I don’t think it was a profound story by any means, but I enjoyed the journey that it took me on. I will say though that I think I’m more inclined to enjoy this than the average person: I like stories where little happens & much of what I found interesting were its descriptions of Japan, which I will be visiting later in the year. All of this being said, I think this story was too vague to have any sort of lasting impact on me. I would descibe it as a gentle story, but gentle is not always a good thing. I think I prefer books that leave a mark.

500 Days of Summer (2009), watched January 2024, (Movie #03)

Summer was more interesting than Tom & the audience knows almost nothing about her. Also, I hate how this movie did the Scott Pilgrim vs. the World thing where the girl recounts her relationship history & off-handedly mentions that she’s been in a lesbian relationship & it’s played for shock value/laughs. So funny. Ha ha ha. So so funny. I think this movie reminded me of Scott Pilgrim, which is perhaps why I didn’t particularly care for it. (Scott Pilgrim is one of my least favorite movies ever.) I don’t know… I just hate movies with a loser male protagonist. They’re almost never compelling & I want to throw tomatoes at them so the women who are infinitely more interesting than them despite having almost no characterization can have more screen time. This is at least better than Scott Pilgrim because they don’t end up together, but unfortunately this movie has a horror ending in which Tom meets another girl to leech the life out of.

Addendum: This movie & Scott Pilgrim were released only a year apart... A dark time for cinema.

Trainspotting (1996), watched January 2024, (Movie #02) ★

I decided to watch this on a whim & it was really, really, really good. I don’t know. I just like these sorts of stories, character driven ones. Beyond that, I can’t really explain why I liked it so much. I wish I had something more insightful to say about such a good movie.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, read January 2024

This book was a reread for me, one of the few books I have read & kept rather than read & donated. It’s a nonfictional account of Christopher McCandless’ journey, his Alaskan odyssey that ended in disaster. You can read about his life elsewhere, as I already know about his travels & feel no need to summarize it for my future self looking back.

As I’ve said elsewhere, he’s both a folk hero & cautionary tale in my mind. Even though he was foolhardy, I cannot help looking up to him in some way. Many don’t feel the same as I do, but I respect him. His travels remind me of this poem:

As for the book itself, a very interesting read! The book also spoke about other ill fated adventurers, something I’ve been interested in for years; It even spoke of mountain climbing. I like to read about mountain climbing, but only its disasters. I have no desire to mountain climb myself. I will say that 1) I was not interested in Krakauer’s interjections as to his own life story & it should’ve been left as a foreword or an afterword, nothing more & 2) I think the book was too speculative, as Chris McCandless left little documentation of his travels. I appreciate the author’s sympathetic tone to McCandless’ life though. This book was not a critique, just an exercise in seeking understanding, though I think I understand him quite a bit already. He reminds of Simone Weil. I don't think I'll ever live like them, but I understand the appeal.

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, reread January 2024 ★
Poor Things (2023), watched January 2024, (Movie #01)

Undecided as to how I feel about this movie. I think any movie described as a “feminist” movie leaves me with at the very least a tinge of disappointment, because I find feminism in movies to be watered down in order to be more palatable. I say that, but I don’t think this was a palatable movie. Two of the movie goers in the same row as me, two old ladies, walked out of the theatre. The premise itself is off-putting too, a woman dead by suicide is essentially desecrated by a mad scientist & her brain replaced with that of her unborn child, but everyone in the theatre seemed more bothered by its many sex scenes than any moral implications of what was being depicted. I really didn’t think they were too bad, nor were they even gratuitous, but maybe I just have a higher tolerance for sex in film. I think sex is a part of life & it has just as much right to be depicted in art as anything else, which includes movies. I also thought that its sex scenes focused on the female protagonist’s (Bella’s) pleasure, her face & her movements, not that of her (mostly male) lovers, which fit the film’s themes.

I liked the movie for its focus on self discovery, but I think self discovery & sexual exploration were conflated. It’s supposed to be a feminist movie, but it seems like its idea of feminism mostly consists of fucking as many men as possible, which is fine, but I don’t really think that in & of itself is what will lead to women’s liberation. This especially came up when the protagonist began working at a brothel & it was presented in a very idealized way… I don’t know. In a way the movie is fantastical & much like a fairy tale, so I didn’t expect it to present what the awful reality of working in a brothel is really like, but I think this is a problem of the movie as a whole: It doesn’t really dwell or even really touch upon the bad things that happen to the protagonist; They’re all sort of quickly brushed away, quickly solved, such as later in the movie when Bella quickly forgives her creator for reanimating her previous body & lying about it. It’s a feminist movie, but a woman can’t even be left alone in death by the men around her.

What I liked about the movie was the way the protagonist didn’t know how to act in the way that was expected of her or didn’t want to. I often find myself relating to characters like this, characters who seem off somehow or not quite human. I also liked its focus on self discovery & its ambition. I really think this movie was trying to say something. Do I agree with everything that was said? No, but I think I can still appreciate certain aspects of the movie.

The Forest Brims Over by Maru Ayase, read January 2024

”A woman turns herself into a forest after long being co-opted to serve as the subject of her husband’s novels—this surrealist fable challenges traditional gender attitudes and exploitation in the literary world”

This book was a Christmas gift from my aunt & it was not that good. It held my attention & I kept flipping & flipping its pages, but it all seemed so… surface level. It was just shallow & I hated the ending. The premise about a woman transforming into a forest sounded so intriguing, but it was hardly even about that. I knew almost nothing about the character of Rui Nowatari, despite the fact that the book originally appeared to be about her. I only got to read about her in its beginning & ending. Most of the book was about her shitty husband. It’s a book about misogyny, so I understand that her husband would naturally be a misogynist, but there was nothing redeeming about his character… He was boring & shitty & that was it. & the book seemed to end in forgiveness for him, which is an insult to the entirety of the book & its themes. It was an (almost) alright book throughout, (I guess), until the ending cemented it as somewhere between mediocre & just plain bad. Heavy handed too. The book literally references & explains the Bechdel Test by name in its concluding pages. It was also just so ironic, almost insulting, that claiming to be about misogyny & womanhood ended up being mostly about a man, Rui’s husband. So stupid. I also disliked that the very end of the book had this really heavy use of magical realism, because it felt incongruent with the rest of the book. Nothing else to say, because nothing in this book was thought provoking, beyond the fact that I began to think that the book & its author thought its readers were stupid. Entertaining enough though. I mean, I finished it.