Film review What I read

Monthly Review: February 2023

A slowish month. Problems to fix. But got a couple of new experiences.

What I Read:

Under the 82nd Airborne. Deborah Eisenberg

Cambridge Elements: The Sublime. Melissa M. Merritt

What’s So Controversial about GM Foods?. John T. Lang

Three Men in a Boat. Jerome K. Jerome

Short individual reviews of these books forthcoming. The Sublime already reviewed, or rather summarised.

What I Wrote:

When trying to write a synopsis, realised “The Toy Soldier” had problems of structure & integrity. Wrote a coherent synopsis. I always write from a detailed outline, but this experience reminded me that each draft still needs to be checked against an updated outline to see if it’s still unified, sensible, & compelling. Revised the outline & made the changes.

Drafted Shoes (12k); sent out for critiques.

Revised The Problem (now a 2k).

What I Published:

My microstory “Walking” (300 words) was accepted for publication in the Open Journal of Arts and Letters (OJAL).

My microstory “Afterwards” is out in Fairfield Scribes Issue #26:

How I Fared:

A shoddy, lazy, sickly month. Allowed the cold I caught at Jan-end to throw me off the wagon. Slipped back into my old binge-watching tendencies and wasted many more hours of my life. I feel adrift. Have not decided whether to apply for an MFA this winter, or at all. Caught another cold in the last week of February. Resisted falling off the wagon (which I’d not really finished climbing back onto) a little better this time. But it is exhausting being sick and tired. I’m directionless again. Am working on stories for my collection, but not consistently.

Finished watching Rescue Dawn (2006). Glad I stuck with it. I enjoyed it. The protagonist’s quote at the end seems to come out of nowhere, but is nonetheless memorable: “Empty what is full. Fill what is empty.” Why hasn’t Christian Bale won an Oscar for best actor yet? This question calls for a crowdfunded investigative journalism operation.

Since air pollution has terminated my outdoor runs once again (I stopped running in Allahabad in September 2019), I began watching David Attenborough nature documentaries while exercising indoors. Thank God there are still beautiful places left on earth, and beautiful people who observe and film them with care and understanding. I plan to travel this summer, but meanwhile I shall content myself with these beautifully filmed documentaries.

Went to a very shitty concert this month – electronic dance “music.” I’d never been to a contemporary music concert, so I thought I should get that experience. Most of the attendees were very young, and were ‘dancing’ along (letting their knees and shoulders go weak, like ragdolls). I couldn’t get the “music” so I stared at them instead. Sometimes I really think I am an alien. (Just to be clear, there are many modern and contemporary bands I do enjoy, but they’re people like SOAD, RHCP, Goldspot, Disturbed, Rolling Stones, Green Day, and Metallica.) At and around the concert, I got to know two recent acquaintances a little better. That was enjoyable.

Also went to an escape room with another set of acquaintances. Another first time, and this one I enjoyed. Got to know this set of acquaintances a little better, too. All fun, but draining. After two outings in one week, and lots of time spent with people – albeit extremely nice people – I was so exhausted that I slept for most of a Saturday… and gave myself a rollicking headache.

Rewatched Black Swan. Years on, I fast-forwarded through many segments, and still found parts of it a little lame and unintentionally funny. Also it stretches belief. Just one example: if the protagonist has stabbed herself fatally, how is it only at the very last moment that people notice the red blood pooling from her white dress? They crowd around her to congratulate her but don’t notice the blood until the previous ‘beat’ has been played out. Narratively convenient, but incredible. Nevertheless, powerful depiction of a descent into madness, and a captivating lead performance.

I had subconsciously hoped that a film about throwing yourself into art at all costs would inspire me. But I was left flat. I often have flattened affective responses (except, aptly enough, to nature) when physically unwell: I watched Requiem for a Dream while ill many years ago, and Graveyard of Fireflies while ill some years after that, and felt nothing both times, though I’ve been told both are very moving films. Nevertheless, I need to do something to pull myself out of this drifting directionless funk. I’m tired of squandering what remains of my life this way. First order of business: stop getting colds so often. I’ve tackled this problem before and feel confident I can again.

How was your February? How’s your 2023 going? Have you noticed any odd mind-body or sickness-cognition links in your own life? I’d love to hear from you in the comments or via the Contact Form.

Portfolio of my published writing (mostly fiction)

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By Amita Basu

I'm a writer based in Bangalore, India.

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