Laura Waddell [LW]: The level of control Britney Spears has been subject to is incredibly disturbing. This is a detailed long read by Ronan Farrow and Jia Tolentino on how the conservatorship she’s under has isolated and disenfranchised her, wrestling control of all aspects of her life away from her – financial, artistic, and personal.
I read this I-d interview with Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen which explores their fashion line The Row. It gets a little wacky at times, getting into a level of high-end perfectionism only extreme wealth and time can afford, but what I find intriguing about it is where they talk about creating clothes that feel protective to wear and which evoke a sense of privacy. They had an intense child star upbringing, but as someone often conflicted about how much of myself I want to put out there in my writing or on social media, I found their desire to shelter themselves interesting. As adults they’re clearly creative women setting limits on their public exposure.
And for something more fun, I stumbled upon r/tipofmyfork, a subreddit for people with questions about their food that’s fun to browse. I found it while looking for a particular ramen topping I thought was a seaweed but turned out to be black fungus (also known as kukurage or wood ear mushroom.) The best ramen place in Glasgow took my favourite off their menu and don’t have plans to bring it back (I’ve asked twice just to be sure/hint), so I’m researching my own homemade version.
Sarah Davis-Goff [SDG]: I loved the NY Times piece on wtf is in Subway’s tuna sandwiches. I hope it isn’t tuna, I hope it’s the run-off of various fish from processing plants, because that’d be much more sustainable than dragging the poor fucking tuna out of the oceans. Either way I should probably just stop eating them.
I really liked this New Yorker piece about getting dressed too.
Film & TV
SDG: I started watching Working Moms on Netflix, on your recommendation Laura! It’s got that lady from Always Sunny in Philadelphia I like (her character’s name is Maureen Poderosa) [ed’s note – Catherine Reitman] which was a cool surprise, although I am disappointed she’s not running around in fluffy cat jumpers.
And Love Island – it’s basically real life Fortnite for hot people: a little bit of strategy and absolutely ruthless which I like. I experience myself categorising all the very attractive participants into the cool to the less-cool, which is weird though involuntary, and then enjoy having these rankings thrown up when the most interesting people pick the least interesting. I’d love It if they were allowed to talk about anything other than their feelings towards each other. What if someone just started talking about books or sports or business? Clearly some of them have these interests. Anyway it’s my second year watching it and I sort of suspect I’m going to have to account for having enjoyed it so much at some final cosmic judgement.
LW: I’ve got the new season of Working Moms queued up for this weekend! We’re in sync. I’m also glad Love Island is back to give me something to do at 9pm each night, along with the accompanying WhatsApp chat to dissect the drama. Justice for Shannon!
LC: I’m enjoying Marvel’s Loki. I love it even more after seeing this Reddit post about Sophia Di Martino’s costume.
I also watched the Netflix documentary series Sophie: A Murder in West Cork, about the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier, and the infuriating failed investigation. This has been well written about already, so I have nothing new to add except that I was so sad for her and her family, and I was fucking raging at the roll misogyny had to play in it. I mentioned a book a while back, Home Grown by Joan Smith which has some very interesting things to say regarding domestic violence and its relationship to other violent crimes. I think the documentary shows us at least three women who were badly let down by a system that shrugs its shoulders when misogyny leads to violence.
No one needs to hear more about Bo Burnham‘s Inside from me at this stage, but I think one of the things I love about the lockdown-themed comedy special is how people are reacting to it. My not-very-scientific analysis thinks that TikTok loves it and thinks all the tunes are bangers, while a certain type of Twitter personality is absolutely furious with it. Like calm down, the fucking sock isn’t going to take away your hashtags.
LC: US poet John Ashbery‘s posthumous Parallel Movement of the Hands: Five Unfinished Longer Works is out now from Carcanet over here. The editor, Emily Skillings, and poet/critic John Yau spoke to Bookworm‘s Michael Silverblatt about bringing the book to publication, about being intimidated by Ashbery’s incomprehensibility (their word), and how funny and charming Ashbery was.
Whether you’re into American poetry or not, it brought up an interesting conversation about learning how to understand Ashbery’s work and the confidence we have as teenage readers that we’ll eventually get our heads around more challenging works. I find it incredibly comforting to hear smart, well read people admit they’re struggling to get to grips with an author.
I got a hold of a galley for the new Claire Keegan novella, Small Things Like These, and I loved it. It made me feel like first encountering Kavanagh. She has an incredible gift for subtly building pressure and momentum in her storytelling, and the story is beautifully told. I will buy it for everyone this Christmas, along with Rosaleen McDonagh‘s Unsettled, forthcoming from Skein Press. Let me tell you, I opened a page at random and read a hair-raising scene put forth with such incredible precision. More as I actually read it!
SDG: I signed up to Karl Whitney‘s newsletter – he’s a really interesting writer with this kind of wry energy I love and I’m keen to see more!
Faber EXTREMELY SOUNDLY sent me a copy of the new Sally Rooney so I won’t be doing any work this week, sorry pals. Thanks to Lisa’s generosity I also have the new Claire Keegan AND the latest proof from our friends at the wonderful Skein Press, Unsettled by Rosaleen McDonagh, which I can’t wait to read.
I just finished reading Detransition, Baby (Serpent’s Tail) which I absolutely loved, there are such fresh smart insight into gender and sex, holy crap. Bit obsessed with the author Torrey Peters, she runs around on a pink motorbike and she’s a genius.
Not that we need reminding exactly but inclusive, diverse publishing is so important if we want new viewpoints and fresh ideas and insights – the stories we’ve never heard before are always the most exciting.
LW: I’ve just finished Other People’s Clothes by Calla Henkel (Sceptre), which was such a fun read. Two art students come to believe their eccentric author landlady is spying on them – and to spite her, as well as the Berlin nightlife scene that rejected them, turn their apartment into a club, at which point the book turns into a thriller with overtones of the Amanda Knox saga. As I wrote in my column this week, it’s like listening to gossip from a friend au fait with both high and low culture – it just rattles along deliciously.
And before that, I really admired Seed (No Alibis Press), the latest novel from Vertigo author Joanna Walsh, a brilliant encapsulation of being a teenage girl, hyperaware to the environment around and her own changing self. It’s one of her best yet.
SDG: There’s been a lot of data loss going on with me. I’ve never had a great memory and having a baby has made it worse. We also just moved house (what we like to do is, see, we take all the most stressful experiences of life and we really just ball them up into a very short time frame and we swallow it down. Then we lie almost immobile for some years).
With a pandemic on we recognised an opportunity to really out-do ourselves, particularly as the house needed a little work. It’s been great! We’re never moving again! Moving house always involves losing something a little weird: there’s just one jacket that gets lost in the mix, or a lamp. Meanwhile my laptop crapped out on me, so much so that getting files from my old computer to this one wasn’t entirely successful. I keep going back to look for a file, for an old press release or something, say, and it’s just not there. Which is exactly what memory loss I like. Luckily, when compounded with post-partum experiences, by the time you’ve gone to retrieve the file you’ve forgotten what you were looking for anyway. How does this relate to shopping? I genuinely cannot remember.
I also bought camping equipment!
LW: Pistachio butter: who knew? A revelation.
Also in food, I had a gorgeous dinner with my foodie friend Amanda last week at Sylvan in Glasgow. It’s new, the food is all vegetarian, the wine is all organic (if that means something to you), and while small plates places can be hit or miss, I’d order every single thing I had during that meal again. Everything was delicious and filling and on the early evening I visited, sun was streaming in through the front windows. The best of all was the hen of the woods with tarragon and miso, aka big crispy battered mushrooms with creamy ones on the side. Definitely a new favourite and I hope they do well. Amanda, knowing the chef (she fancy), got us hooked up with complimentary grapefruit mimosas and seasoned cashews. Just such a treat all round.
I bought a little inexpensive radio, so I don’t have to rely on my laptop or phone while cooking, bathing, or pottering around. These are times I want to chill out and not be online; and besides, I’m more likely to leave the radio alone to do its own ambient thing rather than fussing with playlists or skipping forward. Such a good purchase – I’ve been using it constantly, carting it back and forward between my desk and the bathroom windowsill.
I haven’t bought anything from here, because shipping fees, but I stumbled upon a really cute t-shirt collection from the Parks Project, which partners with national parks across the US. I particularly like the ‘Leave it Better Than You Found It’ t-shirt, the Prospect Park hoodie with its illustration of people enjoying city green space, and the bear on the National Parks of California shirt. Retro, hippy vibes.
LC: Do you need some stylish décor that incorporates your love of the Irish language? I got you pal, check this out. I got a poster from this gang a few years ago and it never fails to give me a little boost when I see it.
One of the greatest birthday presents of all time came this year from my husband, who knows I love Stephen Colbert as much as I love having a mug and a half’s worth of tea in the morning. It’s huge, the handle accommodates my meaty paws, and it only ships in the US so this is less a recommendation and more of a big brag.
I am partial to a dance-based cardio workout, and this one is great.
My current knitting project is a very gentle wrap/scarf, but there’s a part of me that wants to make one of these terrifying vintage balaclavas.
I’m going to see my parents this weekend. There’s a fishmonger who drives down from Donegal to Ballinrobe on Saturday mornings and sets up a stall. I think he used to stock restaurants when they were still open. For now, mere mortals can get the freshest turbot, thick slabs of salmon, nets of mussels and more for a bargain. Last time I was there, my sister and I made a monkfish and chorizo stew for lunch. He usually has these big fat prawns, so this time I think I want to give this NYT recipe a go.
I really missed big messy family dinners. Both my parents are fully vaccinated now, and most of us have at least our first shot. I hope the fishmonger is vaccinated because I will be all up in his face tomorrow at the crack of dawn.
LC: I’ve just started The Witness: In His Own Words by Yellow Path Productions. Sarah recommended this last time! I’m slowly catching up. It’s about Joseph Callaghan, the youngest person ever to enter the Witness Protection Programme in Ireland. He helped to bring two murderers to justice, and the podcast is his story in his words. The story is riveting and again it’s hard not to be struck by the role corrupt systems and legacy cultural practices have to play in the success of bad people.
There is a meme on TikTok about the classic 1994 CD Pure Moods and so I’ve gone back to listen to it unironically and I suggest everyone of my vintage do the same. It’s on Spotify as a playlist. Wear your velvet choker and dark eyeliner.
SDG: A new podcast alert! My maths is about as good as my memory YET I love messing around with budgets. And then never looking at them again and spending exactly what I please, but the messing is fun! I’ve also started playing around on the stock market a little bit with a reliable, good value app called Degiro. It’s the fanciest betting outside of Man Booker nominations, ok? Anyway all this playing around led me to a Financial Times podcast called Money Clinic with Claer Barrett – extremely accessible, oddly comforting, I’d really recommend it.
LW: A little while back I recommended this Vice article about Pure Moods! It’s a trip. “An investigation into whether the memorably vibes 90s New Age compilation can offer any solace in this time of chaos.”
On my new radio, I’ve been letting the station Smooth Chill play as background noise during the day, but have to turn it off around 6PM because it gets weirdly melancholy at that point and so do I.
One Last Thing!
Tramp Press Audio has landed!
Get Corpsing read by author Sophie White here.