book adjacent, Recommendsday

#Recommendsday: Book-adjacent stuff to watch

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been having some problems concentrating on books at various points during the Current Situation, so I’ve been watching a lot of TV in those concentration lapses. As I watch news all day every day at work, I don’t watch news on my off days, and tend to favour non-news TV. I thought today I’d mention some of the bookish things that I have watched, along with all the Drag Race, Tiger King, My Lottery Dream Home and Great British Menu.

Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict

A couple of years back I read Judith Mackerell’s The Unfinished Palazzo, about a house in Venice that was owned by Luisa Casati, Doris Castelrosse and Peggy Guggenheim. When I wrote about the book in my Rich People Problems nonfiction post last year, I said I would happily read more about any of them, which is true, but Peggy is the one I ws really curious about. So imagine my delight when I found a feature length documentary about her on BBC Four the other week.  And it turns out, she’s just as interesting as I thought she would be – and possibly as much of a nightmare to be around as I suspected too.  I am still definitely in the market for a good book about her – but this was a very good watch.  Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict is available to watch for people in the UK (with a TV licence) on the BBC iPlayer for another nine days.

Becoming Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama’s memoir was huuuuuge when it came out – huge to the point were a year on it’s still not out in paperback and there’s still a hold queue for it at my library. Now Netflix has a new documentary that follows her on the tour she did to promote the book, which saw her talking to huge arenas and small groups. If you haven’t read the book (and I haven’t yet) it is a really good insight into her life and her story. I assume if you have read the book, it does the same but even more so! It’s got bonus appearances from Barack Obama, and for the news junkies like me you get to see behind the scenes of some of the TV interviews you may have seen her (and her mum) do at the time of the booklaunch. This one’s on Netflix now.

Wise Children

There’s a lot of theatre that has been on YouTube or TV during the lockdown, but this has been one of the most interesting to me. This is an adaptation of Angela Carters book about two ageing music hall stars, the unacknowledged daughters of the most famous Shakespearian actor of the day. I read the book two years ago, and while it is very good it didn’t really strike me as a show that would be easily adapted for the stage – despite the fact that it is about the theatre. But Emma Rice has done it and now we can all watch. I haven’t got to the end of this yet, but I’m really enjoying as much of it as I have watched. Wise Children is available to watch for people in the UK (with a TV licence) on BBC iPlayer until at least the start of June.

Howl’s Moving Castle

I read the book the other year, but I saw the film first and it has a special place in my heart because of that. All of the Studio Ghibli stuff is available on Netflix now, so if you haven’t seen them already, now is your chance. I’m planning on watching it again – but this time with subtitles instead of the English language dub.

Voila – a few ideas from me. Please put any suggestions you have for me in the comments – I will run out of Drag race soon…

Happy Watching!

 

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VE Day 75

So today marks 75 years since VE Day and the end of the Second World War in Europe. The world is upside down at the moment, and although we have a bank holiday here in the UK today plans for big events to celebrate this have been shelved, for obvious reasons. This morning I was hanging out of the attic window trying to spot the Red Arrows flying over on their way home after their central London flyover and then I watched (and observed) the two minute silence at 11 am.

I was going to write a post full of World War Two reading recommendations for today, but it didn’t really feel right. Instead, I want to ask you to be kind to yourself, to your family and to your friends; and to take a bit of time if you can to remember all the people who served or contributed to the war effort. I have been thinking mostly about my grandfathers today, and I wanted to share a bit about them with you.

Black and white photo of Douglas Ward in army uniformThis first photo is my Grandpa on my mum’s side, Douglas Ward. He was in the Royal Engineers, worked on the railways (including on the Hush Hush train and on the Mallard) and helped build components for the Mullberry harbour that towed across the Channel to Arromanches, then he landed on the beaches on D Day and went on across Europe to Hamburg where he worked on boats at the docks. Mum still has his army book because he was never properly demobbed. It shows if he hadn’t been released for essential work – to go back and take over as chief engineer at the factory he worked in pre-war – he would have been posted to the Far East. He went on to be the chief engineer at a number of shoe factories in Northampton. We lived next door to him and my grandma for most of my childhood (my parents live in my grandparents house now) and he hardly ever talked about the war. But he was very proud of being a Royal Engineer and the skills that he learned.

Photo of RAF service ment

Crouching down in the middle of this photo is my other grandad, Ivor Wilde. I know even less about what he was up to during the war because he died when I was a baby. But I do know that he was in the RAF and served in India. The photo below is of him and my granny. They got married during the war, and my dad’s older sister was born in 1946. My grandad went on to be a farmer, stand as a candidate to be an Member of Parliament and eventually set up a fencing company which is still in the family today. I wish he’d been around a bit longer for me to get to know him the way that I knew my other grandpa.

Photo of my grandad with my granny during the war

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope everyone is enjoying the bank holiday. Stay safe and happy reading.

 

 

The pile

Moving House

So what I haven’t been talking about on the blog is that alongside all the work and the reading, we’ve also been in the process of buying a new house and selling our current one. It’s all been a bit stressful and not just because I’ve been trying to rationalise the books that are going with me. I can see the most stressful weeks in my reading – lots of romances and mysteries where a resolution is guaranteed and I don’t have to concentrate too hard.

By the time this publishes, we will have the keys to the new place and will be in the midst of trying to unpack the multitude of boxes and reassemble everything.  In the run up to the move I’ve done another rationalisation of the to-read bookshelf – that’s what the 50 pages and out rounds were about – and so my local charity shops have been the beneficiaries of a good stack of books.

And what have I learned through this?  Well firstly I need to think hard about saving books by my favourite authors.  Because my tastes change – and saving books doesn’t always work out for me.  A few of the books that got the boot were books by authors who I have previously loved and that now just didn’t grab me.  Some of them had been sitting on the shelves for a while, waiting for me to decide that I needed to treat myself to a good book.  If I’d read them at the time, I might have enjoyed them and now… not so much.

And I need to be better at knowing what I’m going to read.  There was a lot of literary fiction on that shelf that I’d picked up from the magic shelf at work because it sounded appealing – but that I’d never read because there was always something more amusing – or at the least lighter – to read. and so they just sit their on the shelves waiting for me to get around to it.  And it seems that that day probably isn’t going to happen – I’m going to continue to acquire more books – and books that I’d rather read ahead of the worthy literary fiction.  Why kid myself.

The good thing is that the new house has more space for bookshelves – but it’s also a chance for new resolutions – to be realistic about what I’m going to read and try not to hoard accordingly.  Wish me luck!

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Not a Book: Doris Day

You may not know this about me, but my all time favourite five films are probably Pillow Talk, Some Like It Hot, The Philadelphia Story, Mary Poppins and The Parent Trap (the Haley Mills one).  And once you get over the fact that all my favourite films are more than 50 years old, you’ve probably figured out that the death of Doris Day left me feeling quite sad this week.  Actually, my favourite films also shadow my reading tastes in many ways, so maybe you’re not so surprised after all.

In case you’ve never seen it, Pillow Talk is the story of an interior decorator who’s feuding with the playboy she shares a party line with.  He finds out what she looks like, decides he likes the look of her and adopts a fake persona to try and get in her pants.  Of course he falls in love but she’s less pleased when she finds out who he really is.  Yes, by modern standards, there are a few issues – how well does she actually know him when they get their happily ever after considering he’s been playing her – but if we were to turn it into romance tropes, it’s an enemies to lovers, reformed rake, love triangle, sassy confident heroine thing.  And whoo boy is that a whole lot of some of my favourite tropes.  Here’s the trailer – which is very, very retro…

Pillow Talk got Doris her only Oscar nomination, but she was the top female box office start of the late fifties and early sixties and she deserved more.   I’ve seen pretty much the whole of the Doris Day film canon – I had a Lovefilm rental subscription in my final year of uni and used it wisely – and as the best of the obituaries have been trying to point out, she was more than “just” Hollywood’s favourite girl next door.  Everyone has heard of Calamity Jane – and she is brilliant in it – but she’s also fabulous in Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much.

 

Yes she got stuck in a type – the second Rock Hudson sex comedy, Lover Come Back, isn’t as good as Pillow Talk – and is even more dubious by modern standards as he gets her knocked up while in a false persona – but it’s still got a few laughs and hey, it was daring for the time and got an Oscar Best Screenplay nod (Pillow Talk won that Oscar).  And it’s the law of diminishing returns because Send Me No Flowers – the third and final Rock n Doris – isn’t as good as Lover Come Back, although are some nice farcical moments there.

Move Over Darling has it’s moments – with Doris playing a wife back from the dead after a plane crash and trying to win her husband James Garner back from his new fiancee.  I prefer it to her first film with Garner, The Thrill of It All, but that has its moments too, as well as highlighting the repetitive formula of Hollywood at the time – got a success?  Repeat it with the same actors and a slightly different premise.  On the musicals from, as well as Calamity Jane, Doris gets to be fabulous in the Pajama Game, but all the prints I’ve seen of it have been terrible, so I’m giving you the Calamity Jane trailer instead.

 

 

Calamity Jane was my first introduction to Doris back when I was really young, but as a teen in the late 1990s, early 2000s, I loved romantic comedies.  And when I first saw Pillow Talk, back in those teenage years, it was my introduction to the films of the past that had got us to the modern films that I loved.  It started me down the rabbit hole that lead me to Katherine Hepburn’s screwball comedies and all the rest.  There’s been a bit of a dearth of romantic comedies of that type in the last few years, so imagine how much I was cheered up at the end of the week when this trailer for Netflix’s Always Be My Maybe dropped.  And I’ll leave you on that optimistic note.