December: What to watch, read and listen to

I don’t know about you, but the Broad finds that, come December, the crazy season is in full swing. Almost everyone you’ve had any contact with during the year seems to decide it’s imperative to have an and-of-year get together, work Christmas events abound and end-of-year deadlines speed up, while at home there’s present buying, family events and Christmas prep to ensure there’s not much let up. If your end of year doesn’t feel like, please tell me how yours is different?

This is the usual monthly wrap-up of suggestions on what to read, watch and listen to, but if you’re too busy to delve into it all, why not hold it over for January when you should hopefully have a little more summer downtime if you’re in Australia or winter bunkering downtime if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere.

A couple of notes from the week. The Nightingale won a bunch of AACTA awards this week, including Best Film and Best Direction. Here’s the Broad post on the film from earlier in the year. And the Broad came across this excellent website, Women and Hollywood, that, you guessed it, focuses on women’s participation in the film industry. I hope to include some snips of news and info in upcoming posts on films made by, for and featuring women.

What to read

The Shelf Life of Zora Cross by Cathy Perkins

Zora Cross was an Australian novelist, poet and journalist, but what’s remarkable about her writing, in the early years of the twentieth century, is that her sonnets were one of the first erotic expressions from a female point of view in Australian poetry, according to the Australian Dictionary of Biography. Celebrated for her stylistic prowess, Cross was acclaimed at the time and even considered likely to endure as a household name with the likes of Shakespeare. Sadly, as has been the case with many achievements and breakthroughs by women, she was largely forgotten – until now.  

The Shelf Life of Zora Cross by editor and writer Cathy Perkins, who came across her poetry collection, Songs of Love and Life, published in 1917, while working as an editor at the NSW State Library, resurrects her from historical obscurity. Cross is also considered an important Australian poet of the first world war and a novelist of colonial Queensland, and this biography retraces her life, with its hardships and joys, through her impressive body of work and her correspondence with nine separate people, significant relationships that each reveal a different side of Cross’ personality.

From Songs of Love and Life

0 love! 0 life ! I lie upon your breast,

I swoon with longing on your smiling mouth;’

0 poet-prince, my senses ache and pine.

Come, drink me as the living wine and best;

And, when your lips have languished to a drouth,

I’ll wet them, tingling, till they melt in mine

Mudlarking: Lost and Found on the River Thames by Lara Maiklem

Living near London in 2018, the Broad spent many days exploring the city with Mr Broad and the Broad Juniors, and this involved many walks along the Thames. Intrigued by the fossickers along the riverfront, the Broad discovered they were mudlarkers, people who devote their time to finding objects washed up on the riverbed and discovering their historical origins. And London being a city with such a long and complex history, their finds are almost always fascinating, occasionally macabre and often quite significant. Such was the Broad’s fascination with mudlarking she pitched and her published a small story in The Australian’s travel section on mudlarking tours for visitors to London.

Mudlarking: Lost and Found on the River Thames is Lara Maiklem’s account, part memoir, part history of her finds from scouring the banks of the Thames for over fifteen years. This devoted mudlark has unearthed everything from Neolithic flints, Roman hair pins and medieval buckles to Tudor buttons, Georgian clay pipes and Victorian toys. It’s the objects, sometimes small and seemingly insignificant, which reveal valuable historical insights into the city and its ancient ways of life. You can also follow several wonderful Instagram accounts of London mudlarks who share photos and historical details on their Thames mudlarks finds. If you’re interested, check out @laramaiklem_mudlarking and @London.mudlark.

Minor Characters: A Beat Memoir by Joyce Johnson

Jack Kerouc’s On The Road made him famous overnight, helping to define what would be known as the Beat Generation, and going on to become a cult novel for its expression of freewheeling trips across the US in the post-war era. In search of a kind of transcendence, it was a swinging trip through alcohol and drug-fueled parties, sex, jazz, beauty and mysticism. And so to Minor Characters: A Beat Memoir, which is writer Joyce Johnson’s first-hand account of Kerouc’s overnight success as his partner and the following years through the heady times of trying to live and love freely in the Beat Generation.

Yellow Notebook: Diaries volume one 1978-1986 by Helen Garner

Yellow Notebook is the first volume of diaries from renowned author and essayist Helen Garner, and covers the year from 1978 to 1987. Given it’s marked as volume 1, it’s safe to say there will be further editions covering more of the writer’s thoughts, observations, critiques and musings on her life and the world she observes with a keen eye and a sharp mind.

What to watch

Now in its fifth series, Peaky Blinders, about a criminal gang led by Tommy Shelby (the delicious Cillan Murphy) is set in Birmingham after the First World War, and is inspired by the real-life gang of the same name. It’s dark and violent, and follows the ambitions of the criminal gang as they take on their enemies and rivals. 

Peaky Blinders, Netflix, BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Google Play

There are several important settings for therapy – there’s the conventional setting in a therapist’s office and then there’s also the pub. Think about the many times have you might have had a useful therapy session over a drink with a friend in the pub. Comedy series State Of The Union stars Rosamund Pike and Chris O’Dowd as a newly separated couple who together have their own therapy session in the pub before their weekly formal session with a therapist in a bid to unravel how it all went wrong.

In these short 10-minute episodes, the pair try to work their way through some of the common relationship issues – communication, intimacy, annoying habits and so on – to see if they can get back on track. All 10 episodes are available on ABC iView, which is now available to viewers outside of Australia.

State of the Union, ABC iView

The popular New York Times column, Modern Love, has been adapted for the small screen in a co-production with Amazon Studios and the Times. The eight-episode series has an all-star cast including Tina Fey, Anne Hathaway, Dev Patel and Catherine Keener who feature in the stories of everyday people navigating the relationships, feelings, betrayals and revelations of modern love in New York City. There’s the story of an unlikely friendship, another of a lost love resurfaced, while another examines a marriage at its turning point. 

Modern Love, Prime Video

True crime podcasts like The Teacher’s Pet, S-Town and Bowraville have been a hit in recent years, bringing cold cases back to light and examining stories of murder and crime in detail, sometimes unearthing new material and even leading to cases being re-opened. Based on Kathleen Barber’s book Are You Sleeping, Truth Be Told is a fictional TV series about a journalist played by Octavia Spencer who launches a true crime podcast after coming across new material that may show the convicted man, played by Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul, who she helped to put away, is actually innocent. There are a lot of plot twists and back stories that complicate the story, but it’s certainly an interesting and timely series.

Truth Be Told, AppleTV+

What to Listen To

A couple of new podcasts to mention and some music.

Just The Right Book podcast

Just the Right Book is a podcast hosted by Roxanne Coady, owner of the famous independent bookstore R.J. Julia Booksellers in the US that prides itself on helping readers find new and note-worthy books in all genres. And thanks to the genius of technology, Coady has created a podcast which brings this wonderfully inspiring mission to a global audience with insights into authors, news and what’s happening in the literary world.

Dear Joan and Jericha podcast

Joan Damry and Jericha Domain is a satirical podcast featuring Julia Davis and Vicki Pepperdine as the fictitious local radio agony aunts who dish out their horrid advice with a good dose of frankness, mixed with a dash of rudeness and sexual frankness. It’s back for a second series after being a surprise hit with listeners who took to its darkly off-colour humour.

Exile in Guyville, Liz Phair

Liz Phair’s 1993 debut album Exile in Guyville was a track-for-track response to the Rolling Stones’ album Exile on Main St, puncturing its male-centric view of things. “Touching the untouchable” Phair said of her album, in which she riffed on the indie music scene and the male-dominated world of music. The album made Phair an instant success and unsurprisingly attracted its own critics. But it’s a damn fine album that holds up today and the Broad commends it to you.

Phair released her memoir Horror Stories this year and the Broad is planning to include it in a round-up of memoirs of female musicians in an upcoming post.

On the interwebs

In her article, It’s Time to Throw Off Our Digital Chains, lawyer, broadcaster and author of Future Histories, Lizzie O’Shea says data collection and mining isn’t just a matter of surveillance, it’s threatening our ability to organise collectively, and privately, and potentially creating a kind of digital oppression. If you’re interested in digital dystopias, the Broad suggests having a look at this post The Web is Watching You.

The Women Who Helped Build Hollywood

Another entry in the ‘women that history forgot’ series is this article, The Women Who Helped Build Hollywood, from The New Yorker. It fills in the women – animators, makeup and special effects artists, writers, producers and other female filmmakers – working behind the scenes in the American movie industry.

McSweeney’s Internet Tendency

You can tell a lot about an airplane passenger by their pants. 

Someone wearing pink sweatpants? Will laugh her ass off at the Adam Sandler in-flight movie. Red Capris: European on holiday. 
Airplane Passengers as Explained by Their Pants is an amusing piece by Wendi Aarons and, while it’s written for an American audience, anyone who’s been on a plane will recognise these types.

You’ll find it on McSweeney’s, a site devoted to humour, and well worth checking out if you’re in need of something lighthearted. And for anyone who’s ever woken at 2am with every worry, fear or thought running through your head, this piece is for you.

Some more suggestions for finding inspiration for books, TV and movies.

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Rosalyn Page
Journalist, blogger and writer covering arts, culture, travel and digital lifestyle at www.rosalynpage.com and www.somenotesfromabroad.com.

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