One of the things I like the most about my job is that, for various reasons, I get to see and hear and read stuff before everyone else. Why this should be quite so pleasurable I don’t know: it’s hard to brag, when the person you’re bragging to has invariably never heard of the book or movie or album in question, what with it not having come out yet. I suspect that it’s because I’m both weak-minded and pig-headed, and thus will always react in some way to any chatter surrounding the arts. I like being able to decide for myself, in relative silence.
Anyway. Four things I’ve enjoyed recently that will be coming your way soon:
1) 500 Days Of Summer
I saw this at Sundance, and I would happily watch it again. It’s a romantic comedy for younger people, and yet it completely failed to exclude me: it had great jokes, a good soundtrack, terrific performances, a fresh and imaginative sense of visual style, and, unlike just about every romantic comedy I’ve seen in the last twenty years, it’s true.
2) Ben Folds Presents: University A Capella
I’d be surprised and delighted if I heard a better album than this in 2009. Ben Folds has recorded a whole bunch of top-notch university choirs who’ve been singing his songs a capella as part of their repertoire, and the results are just fantastic. Some of your favourite Folds songs – ‘Jesusland’, ‘Brick’, ‘You Don’t Know Me’, ‘Landed’ – have been re-arranged so that instruments and percussion are replaced by the human voice, and I’m completely addicted. And the lead vocalists put every single Pop Idol entrant ever to shame.
3) One Day – David Nicholls
A big, absorbing, smart, fantastically readable on-off love story that sprawls over a couple of decades. Nicholls is brilliant on the details of the last couple of decades of British cultural and political life, as lived by people who danced at the Hacienda or the Wag Club and who couldn’t decide whether they wanted to be anti-Tory stand-up comedians, or coke-addled Soho movers and shakers. ‘One Day’ is coming out in June, and is therefore the perfect beach read for people who are normally repelled by the very idea of beach reads.
4) Butterfly – Sonia Hartnett
I read Butterfly a while back, but I now see that it was published on April 2nd, so you could actually go to a bookshop and buy this book. That kind of defeats the point of me including it in this list: you could make your own mind up, and we don’t want that. Anyway, you should buy it, because it’s beautiful. ‘Butterfly’ is a dreamy, lyrical, sad novel about the relationship between a lonely girl and her equally lonely next-door neighbour in the Australian suburbs. It’s exquisitely written – you end up re-reading sentence after sentence – and unforgettable.