Monday, 21 March 2016

Five reads for Easter (plus something to watch and something to listen to)

Kim Gordon photo: J. Dennis Thomas/Corbis

Girl in a Band

A belated birthday present, I was given Kim Gordon's Girl in a Band early this year while visiting a friend in Liverpool. By the time I arrived home on Sunday night after a 3-hour train journey, I'd nearly finished the book. Kim Gordon is perhaps the single coolest woman in rock. Now in her sixties, she spent decades writing, singing and performing in the band Sonic Youth who have always been one of the most respected indie bands on the scene.

Since reading the book I have even more respect and admiration for her as I learned of her early family life, her experiences in New York pre-Sonic Youth, and her work as a visual artist. Her voice is strong and eloquent, the book well-written and measured. And a proper page-turner, obviously.


Back in December, we had the joy of seeing the work of one of my favourite photographers up close and personal in the retrospective of Philippe Halsman (here's that post). Back in 1959, Halsman developed his theory of Jumpology - the images of celebrities he snapped mid-leap were later analysed for what this might reveal about their true selves.

The Jump book is a pictorial representation of these snaps and within its pages are beautiful, surprising portraits that offer a delightful glimpse into Hollywood, politics and art in the sixties and beyond.

What a Way to Go

A confession: What a Way to Go is written by my friend Julia Forster, who I've known for eight years. The first time I laid eyes on her was at a pregnancy yoga class and I marvelled at her poise while my own pregnant self felt lumpen and awkward. She is one of the most elegant people I know and it turns out that she writes with elegance and poise, too.

This is her first novel, the germ of which she talked about when our babies were wee. I remember her saying how desperately she wanted to get the novel out of her before the kids could properly talk as she was worried that seeing their experiences of childhood would cloud her own memories. Don't think there's any danger of that - this novel is beautiful written and insightful enough to make me also bypass my experiences as a mother and transport me back to the pop-loving eighties.

The Joy Of Eating: The Virago Book of Food

On New Year's Eve, we stayed at a friend's parents' house out in the countryside. Next to the bed in the spare room, I found this glorious anthology. Food is a constant in our lives, and it has always been a basic ingredient of women's writing - in household books, cookbooks, diaries, letters and fiction.

In this, the first anthology to concentrate on international food writing by women, you can go on a picnic with Monica Ali, learn about Frida Kahlo's wedding feast and indulge your appetites with Edwidge Danticat and Barbara Pym. Try making Elisabeth Luard's Afghan Betrothal Custard, Martha Washington's marzipan birds or Nigella Lawson's favourite comfort food. And why not sneak into the literary kitchens of Banana Yoshimoto, Emily Brontë and Angela Carter?

Invisible Cities

After a few months in the wilderness, I'm properly made up to have been asked to join not one but two new book groups. The first - an art book book group - will see its inaugural meeting next month, beginning with Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino.

I have read the first chapter only, but it made me nearly weep with the beauty of these words. I almost feel as though it's one to savour so much that I think I may need to eke it out and ration myself. Very, very excited about both the book and this new chapter (ha ha) in my book group career.

And - in a break with the convention of these posts - here is one to watch and one to listen to.

Broad City

We signed up to Now TV on a cheapo deal and yesterday discovered Broad City - an absolute gem of a comedy series. Two twenty-something women bodge about in New York in one of the most real and well-observed series I've seen in a while. Think Flight of the Conchords minus the songs. Or Master of None with more X chromosomes. Or Parks and Recreation with more sass.

And Hillary Clinton makes a cameo in the new series!

Laura J Martin

Working from home mostly means I listen to the radio a lot. Last week, one track stood out from the usual BBC 6 Music playlist - My Landing Place by Laura J Martin. She's from Liverpool but sounds as though she's Scandinavian or possibly from outer space. It's beautiful. Have a listen over on Spotify.

What are you reading/watching/listening to at the moment?

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