5 minute read

For the first couple of weeks in March I was recovering from gallbladder surgery, so had a lot of time to read and reflect and watch things as I let my body knit itself together. (I’m back to full health now.) As a result, it’s been quite a rich month, with lots to recommend. Here’s what I read and consumed in March:


  • If All the World and Love Were Young by Stephen Sexton-A series of poems that merge Super Mario World with the story of the author’s mother being treated for, and ultimately passing from, cancer. It’s a beautiful collection where each poem takes the title from a Mario level, creating an odd juxtaposition. Contrasting the virtual world with the physical one is powerful throughout, and Sexton’s control and play with language is beautiful. It’s interesting to see a collection of poems take inspiration from a video game and is something I hope we see more of.

  • Illuminations by Alan Moore-A collection of short stories by the former comic book master. I loved Jerusalem, but wasn’t as enamoured with this collection. There are some stand out stories- the eponymous story is creepy and lingers for a while, where others are weaker. In the middle of this collection is a novella, which sums up Moore’s feelings about the comic book industry. It will surprise no one who has followed him that he is not a fan. It’s infuriating as he using characters for his mouth-piece but then also wildly entertaining as it veers into surreal situations. A mixed bag.

  • The Obelix Gate by N. K. Jemisen - This is the second book in The Broken Earth trilogy and continues the high quality. Jemisen picks up the story immediately after the first and complicates the world she has created, while deepening the characters and the situation. Tense and propulsive, this is brilliant writing that manages to be extremely strange and deeply relatable. I’m reading the third book at the moment and love this series.

  • Your Emergency Contact Has Experienced An Emergency by Chen Chen - A collection of poetry that is wry and sad, often at the same time. Chen Chen feels like the successor to Frank O’Hara to me, which is no bad thing. He writes from a queer Chinese perspective, with humour and joy that is refreshing and unique.

  • I Who Have Never Known Men by Jacqueline Harpman - I knew nothing about this novella going in and was blown away by it. It’s a very strange book. Forty women live in a bunker and do not why they have been captured. The whole story is told from a detached, almost nihilistic perspective, and unfolds with the vividness and intensity of a waking dream. Recommended, but not an easy read.

  • Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head by Warsan Shire - This debut poetry collection from Warsan Shire is brilliant, confident and controlled, with poems that ring in your head for days after. It also hangs together incredibly well as a collection, with poems linked by different blessings and familial history. It’s a powerful exploration of refugees, immigration and also Islam from a female perspective. I read it twice in row and want to go back again.

  • Anxious People by Fredrik Backman (translated by Neil Smith) - A rare book, full of laugh out loud moments but also humour and empathy. A bank robber takes people hostage (accidentally) and the police are trying to piece together what happens. Each character has issues which are never diminished by the plot, but explored and expanded on. It’s a great exploration of anxiety, fears and what makes people tick as well as a plea for understanding.

  • This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone - Epistolary science fiction novel dealing with two rivals involved in a time war. This is richly poetic, with most of the details of the world never explicitly stated, but available in close readings. It’s unique in it’s writing style, rich and lush and different to anything I have read before. I loved it.

  • Deep Wheel Orcadia by Harry Josephine Giles- Another poetic science fiction novel (must be something in the air.) This is poetry written in an Orkney dialect, set on a distant space station far from the centre of the galaxy. Giles touches on issues of gender and national identity, while creating a rich world. The science fiction elements enhance the poetry, and the poetry enhances the strangeness of the situation. Giles also provides translations, sometimes merging three words together which creates a whole language of its own. This won the Hugo award and I can see why, it is completely unique.


  • Akira- It’s odd to watch this film now, because I’ve seen so many other films and tv series that take direct inspiration from it. This film remains a mesmerising combination of detailed, beautiful animation and strange ideas, interspersed with overblown action scenes. There was a lot more body horror than I was expecting. I enjoyed it but found it hard to fully engage with.

TV series

  • Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared- Originally a YouTube series, this is presented as a kids tv show with puppets where horror creeps in. It’s weird, existential and powerful. I wondered how the short form would translate to longer episodes, but actually it gives them more chance to explore the strange world and experiment with different animation styles. Great, but maybe not one to watch when you are recovering from surgery.

  • Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 7- Our great Buffy rewatch, which has taken three years, has finally come to an end. The series finished really well, with the last few episodes being excellent. But the season is uneven, with too much time spent going over the same ground. The main villain is also pretty boring. A shame, but I have generally enjoyed rewatching Buffy. It’s a show that generally seems ahead of it’s time, even if some parts didn’t work out.

  • Daisy Jones and The Six- A band that was popular in the seventies and is definitely not based on Fleetwood Mac looks back on their heyday and why they broke up. Although this series hits a few of the rock documentary tropes, it’s elevated by strong performances across the board, with each member of the band being complex and rich. The songs are also super catchy, and the musical performances are great. The series focuses on the songwriting process which feels refreshing. I really enjoyed it.

That’s it for this month. I’m looking forward to getting out into the world more.



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