Sunday, September 26

On My Radar: Nick Laird’s Culture Highlights | Poetry

BBorn in 1975 in Cookstown, Northern Ireland, the poet and novelist Nick Laird attended Cambridge University before working as a lawyer for six years. In 2005, he published his first collection of poems, To a failure, and his first novel, Totally cute. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his writing, including the Somerset Maugham Prize, the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, and the Eric Gregory Prize. He lives in London with his wife, Zadie Smith, and their two children. The debut of Laird and Smith’s children’s book, Weirdo (Puffin, £ 12.99), illustrated by Magenta Fox, is published on April 15.

1. Music

Arlo Parks, collapsed in sunbeams

Arlo Parks:
Arlo Parks: “I love the whole summer atmosphere.” Photograph: Thomas Jackson / Alamy

The title is taken from a line in one of my wife’s novels, although I don’t hear it for that. I love all the summery atmosphere and Parks’s almost boring voice. Plus, it has a compelling form with conversational lyrics. And that reminds me: French musician Mickaël Mottet recently sent me his new album, Glover’s mistake, which borrows a title of its own [novel from 2009]. It was full of humor and memorable hooks.

2. Podcast

Talk about politics

David Runciman, co-host of Talking Politics.
David Runciman, co-host of Talking Politics. Photography: Antonio Olmos / The Observer

I love David Runciman’s podcast, which tends to offer a global and historically informed view of local events. A Cambridge academic, he has great knowledge and a charming, fluent mind. Her frequent co-host Helen Thompson is also a professor of politics and it’s a relief to find people talking reasonably and rationally about complex and nuanced events. Runciman has now released a spin-off podcast, History of Ideas, in which he talks about thinkers from Hobbes to Frederick Douglass, and he’s also wonderful. It’s like going back to college but you can also be in the bathroom.

3. Television

The Dog House, Channel 4

“Dogs are one of the few simple products in the world.” Photography: Alamy

I have a 15-year-old pug that I push Brent in a stroller in a minute since he can’t walk anymore. Dogs are one of the few simple products in the world. Dog house it’s a perfect visualization for me and my kids, with abandoned dogs being rehoused with humans who often have complicated stories. We are moving into season two and hope that Rocco the jack russell and Trinity the lurcher find a home soon.

4. Movie

Capernaum (dir Nadine labaki)

Capernaum: 'Amazingly powerful'.
Capernaum: ‘Amazingly powerful’. Photography: Alamy

The war in Syria entered its 10th year in March. More than half a million people have died or are missing, more than 2 million have been injured and at least 12 million, half of Syria’s population before the war, have fled their homes and become refugees. Capernaum It is not directly about the war: it is about a Syrian refugee boy who lives in Beirut in Lebanon, but shows a hint of the chaos and pain it causes. It’s directed and co-written by Nadine Labaki and it’s astonishingly powerful. It came out in 2018, but I saw it for the first time about a month ago and I’m still thinking about it.

5. Activity

Zoom plays

At the beginning of the lockdown, some friends and I started a Zoom reading and game group on Sunday nights. Somehow, we’ve been at it for a year. Each week, a different participant is the director and chooses the play, assigns parts, and reads the instructions for the stage. We’ve done everything from Beckett to Caryl Churchill, but a recent highlight was Will Arbery’s damning examination of the ideology of the religious right in America. Heroes of the fourth turn, which I had seen in production last year. We are currently halfway through the scathing and hilarious Will Eno. The Realistic Joneses.

6. Poetry

The murmurs of thunder (ed. Alice Oswald)

British poet Alice Oswald, editor of the anthology The Thunder Mutters.
British poet Alice Oswald, editor of the anthology The Thunder Mutters. Photograph: Jeff Morgan 13 / Alamy

My father died last week of Covid in the Antrim area hospital. Due to restrictions, I had to say goodbye over the phone. Even the crematorium chapel was closed. We were unable to have a wake or take the body home. The only book I had ever brought in my bag to Ireland was this wonderful anthology and it consoled me, or at least made me a little distracted, to read poets as diverse as Francis Ponge, Marianne Moore and Michael Drayton, although I was very happy to read it. have Rilke’s The eighth elegy In my pocket (in the brilliant translation of Stephen Mitchell): “Yet in the alert and warm animal lies / pain and the burden of enormous sadness.”

7. Non-fiction

Josh Cohen, How to Live. To do

Psychoanalyst Josh Cohen: 'Take your pains and it seems to split them in half.'
Psychoanalyst Josh Cohen: ‘Take your pains and it seems to split them in half.’ Photograph: Murdo MacLeod / The Guardian

Is it is a really beautiful book. He is a psychoanalyst and professor of literature and here he imagines characters from great novels as psychoanalytic subjects, entering his office. Each character represents a different age or stage of life: Jane Eyre for childhood, Marianne and Connell. [from Normal People] for first love, Gatsby for ambition, Rabbit Angstrom for old age, etc. As you read their lives, you read yours. It’s genuinely therapeutic reading: take your particular pains and, by sharing them, it seems to cut them in half. You feel better afterwards.

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