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Recent Reading Roundup 55

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As I promised in my last roundup , this bunch of books contains reviews of several that I read while on vacation with a large bunch of fellow voracious readers. Having access to other people's TBR stacks exposed me to a few titles that I would probably have never picked up myself, which just happen to have become some of my favorite books of the year. (Over at LGM, I wrote up another of my vacation reads, Tower by Bae Myung-hoon, a fascinating exploration of extreme urbanism that joins recent Korean blockbusters, like Parasite and Squid Game , in discussing inequality and the disordered relationship between capital and citizens.) Cwen by Alice Albinia - On a stormy night on a little-known archipelago off the coast of England, local landowner and philanthropist Eva Harcourt-Vane sets off in her boat towards the uninhabited island of Cwen, and is never seen again. The reading of Eva's will causes an uproar that cascades into a national scandal, bringing scrutiny onto Eva'

Elsewhere

Apologies for the recent radio silence. I have a few things in the work that will hopefully go up later this month, but in the meantime, here are a few shorter pieces that went up at Lawyers, Guns & Money , after a week that, rather incongruously, suddenly delivered a deluge of interesting (or at least interesting to talk about) film and TV. First up, Mike Flanagan takes a break from the Haunting series for Midnight Mass , his first Netflix miniseries not based on an existing properties (though the influence of Stephen King can, as ever, be strongly felt, and I found myself thinking, in particular, of books like Needful Things and Under the Dome ). That shift is all to the good, as Midnight Mass , despite some typical Flanagan-ish flaws, is his most complete work yet, one that actually seems to have something to say. I was particularly struck by the show's nuanced, thoughtful handling of religion . Almost from the start, Midnight Mass goes very deep into the specifics of Cath

The Green Knight

A few weeks ago, film critics on my twitter feed were united with derision at an article on ScreenRant . Or really, at the article's headline and subhed— "The Green Knight Used The Same Smart Tactic As Marvel's Disney+ Shows: The Green Knight follows in the footsteps of Marvel's Disney+ shows, which all centered characters that didn't get their due in the MCU films." The clickbaity angle garnered a lot of predictable responses—"I'm begging you people to watch another movie ", "not everything has to be a franchise!", "dude, do you even know Arthuriana?"—but even before watching The Green Knight , it seemed to me that most of these were missing the point. Yes, the comparison between indie filmmaker David Lowery's low budget, art-house adaptation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to something like WandaVision or Loki is ridiculous. But mainly because those shows had a foundation of thirteen years, twenty-some movies, and

Recent Reading Roundup 54

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I've been on holiday this last week (after getting on a plane! and traveling to a foreign country!) which has involved a lot of reading. I'll have more to say about the books I've read during this vacation in the coming weeks, but before I get to them, I wanted to clear the decks of reviews that have been sitting in my edit tab for quite some time, covering most the current year. Several of these books will be on my year's best list, and I'm glad I don't have to wait any longer to tell you about them. Famous Men Who Never Lived by K Chess - If you wanted to craft an elevator pitch for this novel, it might run something like " Exit West meets Station Eleven ". In Chess's debut novel, parallel universes exist, and three years ago, one of them suffered a catastrophic nuclear attack that left much of the US uninhabitable. Scientists at a New York research center were able to open a portal to our world, through which a hundred and fifty thousand refug

It's Not TV, It's MCU: Thoughts on Loki

When the newly-formed behemoth that was Marvel-Disney announced a full slate of MCU-based TV shows to be streamed exclusively on Disney+, the declaration carried the implicit promise that these new shows would be more closely in line with the MCU movies. The Marvel TV arm had existed for nearly a decade, but its products ran the gamut from forays whose initial promise faded into limp, underperforming slogs (the Defenders shows) to hidden gems with no support from the head office ( Cloak & Dagger ) to utterly misjudged turkeys ( Inhumans ). Now, Kevin Feige and his team of wizards seemed to be promising, the same alchemy that had turned the MCU into the most influential pop culture phenomenon on the planet would be brought to bear on the television medium, with appropriately lavish budgets, movie stars on call, and perhaps most importantly, the same willingness to play with genre and formula that is one of the key components of the MCU's success. We're now six months into t