Catherine Lacey is the author of Nobody Is Ever Missing, winner of a 2016 Whiting Award and a finalist for the NYPL Young Lions Fiction Award. Her second novel, The Answers, was published this year by Granta Books. She shares five things she’s reading, watching and thinking about right now.
1. Europeana by Patrik Ouředník, tr. Gerald Turner
This marvelous book is classified both as a history of the twentieth century and a novel, and though I’m dissatisfied, in retrospect, with both of those classifications, the only one I can come up with on my own is that Europeana is a novel based on the history of histories of the twentieth century and even that description seems inadequate and, quite frankly, stuck up its own ass. I can’t think of a better book to read now, given (as they say) ‘all that’s going on’, but Europeana would have also been welcome twenty or thirty years ago, and will likely be useful fifty to a hundred years from now. It’s hilarious and torturing and perfect. I was utterly glued to it.
Both these documentaries are elegant and patient and haunting. Neither are like anything I’ve ever seen before.
Furusato, which was released earlier this year, is a ‘human-scale portrait of a small town’ dealing with the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Six years after the event, a person need only reach for their pocket to find out whatever horrific fact they’d like to learn, but Trimpop reaches into the lonely space between the facts: a boy playing guitar in a home he is no longer allowed to live in, a herd of school children running a relay race down a radioactive street, a woman singing a song about ghosts to her ailing foal.
The Irrational Remains, an earlier work by Trimpop, recounts the story of two people’s failed attempt to escape East Germany, the torture they endured in a Stasi detention center, and the mess they left behind in East Berlin. There’s also a subtle love triangle, betrayal, espionage, some bureaucratic hilarity about a sock and some tissues, and three incredibly moving testimonies that demonstrate Trimpop’s deep skill in listening and earning the trust of his subjects.
4. The Beguiled by Sophia Coppola
My companion and I saw The Beguiled at an 11 p.m. showing with nothing but ghosts and chocolate to keep us company, and to all my fellow film-going citizens of America I would like to offer a thanks for allowing us a private screening and an apology for not inviting more of you with us . . . I don’t go to ‘the movies’ very frequently these days because so often what we see at ‘the movies’ is exactly what you’d expect, a fucking ‘movie’, when all along you know that it’s possible – yes, it is still possible – for a group of people to get together and create an actual film. Jesus Christ, Hollywood – is it so impossible these days to make something great? Something not just good, not just entertaining, but actually great? Something that will make you feel about fifteen conflicting ways in the course of an exhale?
5. ‘Prisencolinensinainciusol’ by Adriano Celentano
This 1972 song, written by the Italian pop star Adriano Celentano and performed by Celentano and Claudia Mori, was written to sound like English spoken with an American accent, though it is actually all gibberish with the exception of the occasional ‘All right!’ and if that isn’t the best metaphor for all the cultural garbage America has been heaving around the world for decades, what is?
Photo © Chris Isherwood