Don’t Look Up: a herculean satire that mirrors humanity’s ignorance toward climate change.
Meryl Streep, Jennifer Laurence, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Jonah Hill star in the star-studded satire, Don't Look Up. Image Source: IMDb
A few didn't make the cut, including Ottessa Moshfegh's Eileen and Joan Didion's A Year of Magical Thinking, but I'm positive I've put together a list of the best novels which either entertained or inspired me during yet another year of Covid. As usual, the list predominantly features books that were not published in 2021, some are a few years old, others are more recent. But one thing they all have in common is that they centre on female protagonists, are written by women, and have been anointed a five-star rating by me.
Enjoy the list and let me know if you have read any of these titles too. If so, what did you think?
Ryan O’Neill’s The Weight of a Human Heart (2012) explores the themes of life, genocide, relationships, and the human condition over twenty-one short stories that take place in Rwanda, Australia, and China. Whilst storytelling in mainstream literature has a strong focus on language, poetic prose, and a consistent narrative structure, experimental fiction today continues to question such definitions of what a short story can entail and become. O’Neill’s short stories, for example, challenge traditional literary conventions through visual experimentation whilst also exploring how multimodal storytelling can encourage further interaction with its readers within a postmodern society.
Image: Bradley Cooper and Rooney Mara star in Nightmare Alley (2021)
I thought I’d write up a VERY brief review of Guillermo del Toro’s (The Shape of Water, Pans Labyrinth) recent psychological thriller, Nightmare Alley, considering I saw it about an hour ago.
Here we go. . .
I have finally found a movie that I believe contradicts the great reviews I’ve seen thus far on the internet. You know the movies, the ones that have you asking, "Umm did we see the same film?" Before walking into the cinema, I had not read the plot to Nightmare Alley on IMDb and refused to watch the trailer whilst going down on a delicious choc top during the previews of House of Gucci last week. Safe to say, I was genuinely excited to see Nightmare Alley since it starred a stellar, A-list cast, headlined by heartthrob Bradley Cooper. Cooper stars as Stanton Carlisle, a mysterious drifter who ends up working at a carnival run by Clem Hoately, played by the incredible Willem Dafoe. Throughout the film, we follow Carlisle as he swindles his way to the top as a mentalist in New York. However, sixty minutes in and I began to feel like a carnival attendee strapped to the seat of a Ferris wheel and unable to get off – to be honest, I contemplated jumping.
Inspired by pop-culture and its influence on contemporary identity, Tom Cho’s Look Who’s Morphing is a short story collection that explores the absurd and fantastical transformations of its central character, an alter-ego of Cho himself. Published in 2009 by Giramondo Publishing, the novel blends elements of postmodernism and parody to unveil the reality of the minority and queer experience in western culture.
Cho’s narrator morphs into various protagonists over eighteen enchanting stories. From adopting the Chinese Australian personae of Maria von Trapp from The Sound of Music to starring on a Dr Phil episode with his Auntie Lien, or engaging in conversation with family around the dinner table, Cho questions the nature of human identity in a world obsessed with consumerism, celebrity status, pop music, Hollywood heteronormativity, and where exactly he fits in.
The transgressive novel, American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis received conflicting views from audiences and critics when first released in 1991 and continues to spark debate amongst academics as to whether it should be considered an artistic postmodern text or misogynist novel that celebrates violence against women. The narrative features a first-person perspective and focuses on the double life of Wall Street yuppie, Patrick Bateman, an investment banker by day and gruesome serial killer by night.
Author, Bret Easton Ellis came to prominence in the 1980s for his transgressive and post-punk style of writing, known today as ‘blank generation fiction’. The blank fiction genre focused on subversive youth who indulged or participated in crime, alcohol, sex, violence, and drugs, often struggling to come to terms with their own identities amidst a burgeoning consumerist America (Annesley 1998). The genre utilised satirical elements, black humour, dull and minimalistic prose, to best represent the raw and gritty nature of current life.
Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman in the 2000 film adaptation of ‘American Psycho’ © Alamy
So you’ve finally made it. You’re awkwardly standing amongst a room full of bubbly, loud individuals. Beside a trestle table makeshift-bar are a group of women guzzling wine. Underneath the disco ball centre-stage are a few fellas cackling with laughter after hearing another one of Barry's sexist jokes. And on a spare chair in the corner of the room sits that distant family friend of yours, Denise, chowing down on a tray of entrees which happen to be microwaved party pies (because in this bizarre party scenario the budget was very low. Furniture from Bunnings, catering by Coles).
First of all, congrats on stepping out from the comforts of your home to attend this event – whomever it may be celebrating (God forbid it be sexist Barry).
Second of all, how are you coping right now? I can only imagine how uncomfortable you must be feeling, with all these people, all this terrible food, and all those hard-hitting questions coming from family members asking ‘where have you been all these years?’
The first few months living in a Los Angeles share house with twenty-four house mates was a blessing and a curse. The plus side? There was always someone around to vent my frustrations to, ask for support, or even collaborate with on projects (shout out to Upstart Creative Living). I was quickly taken out of my comfort zone and thrown into a pool of extroverts with big egos who had even bigger hearts.
However, as time went on I needed my own space, and that seemed to be the hardest thing to find since I was sharing a room with six other girls. At first, it was all fun and games, kind of like those first few days of school camp where you bond over meaningless similarities such as owning the same duvet or pillow slip. But having deep conversations, with what felt like a hundred people walking in and out of the front door each day, was difficult to maintain for this introvert.
Moving away from home or out of home can be daunting so I’ve decided to write about my own experiences moving across the Pacific to Los Angeles, hoping to spread ways in which us introverts or anxious-prone peoples can safely navigate the land of extroverts.
Nothing appealed to me more than moving to Los Angeles. As a young girl I remember wanting to work on big film sets within even bigger studios, all with the intent that I’d be pointing out directions to the cast and crew whilst scoffing my face with free donuts from the on-set catering. What can I say, I was young and clueless. As I grew up it was clear that time, effort, and determination would be required if I did ever hope to work on one of those Hollywood sets, even if it meant being the one behind the catering stand feeding donuts to whimsical actresses and eccentric directors.
Many years later, with a degree in film and television and a repertoire of production experience and unproduced screenplays, I finally decided to follow the pipe dream and move to that eclectic city full of artists, a-listers, and abs.