New from Sarah Welch-Larson on Substack: 8: Midyear

I’m taking quick stock of a few favorites now that the heat of summer is here and we’ve hit the middle of the calendar year. I won’t rank anything. I’ve refused to do so in my year-end roundup posts for the past few years, and frankly it’s freeing to not have to contort myself into knots to try to force wildly different pieces of art into a tidy scale. These are the things I read and watched and listened to in the last six months that I keep thinking about. It’s not exhaustive or definitive, just a few things that have helped define my year so far.

I made a goal to read a book a week this year…and to borrow more books from the library than I buy. I got around the second goal by asking for people to preorder books for me for Christmas and my birthday, which might be one of the better ideas I’ve ever had. I couldn’t resist buying myself a copy of John Darnielle’s latest novel Devil House, though. There’s a description of an act of violence involving an oyster knife that has haunted me for months. A friend of mine gifted me a copy of The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, and the portrait of self-delusion at its heart very nearly tore mine apart. Emily St. John Mandel’s Sea of Tranquility soothed some of the ache of entering year three of a pandemic.

As for movies, my favorites have been mostly on the quiet, contemplative side. Crimes of the Future is far more tactile and gentle and funny than I expected it to be; Petite Maman and After Yang both happen to be sensitive and sweet stories about children processing the loss of a loved one. Grief makes me feel small, too, and I’m glad that both movies invited me to sit in that smallness and simply feel it. I also caught up with Never Let Me Go (devastatingly sad) and the Cronenberg remake of The Fly (perhaps even sadder?). Two comedies leavened out the melancholy: Buster Keaton’s The Cameraman (especially the lovely baseball scene) and my introduction to Barbara Stanwyck, The Lady Eve.

I’m well behind on new music; the best songs I heard this year so far were mostly live (and at least a few years old). The entire audience screamed their lungs out to “I Know the End” at a Phoebe Bridgers show; I wasn’t expecting the howling scream, but it felt good to get swept up in the catharsis. I already wrote about swaying along to mewithoutYou in concert, and to being swept up in the audience’s enthusiasm beyond the handful of songs I already knew. And I learned a new favorite at a Mountain Goats show; I’ve listened to “Heel Turn 2” so much now that whenever it comes on in the car I can harmonize with it.

What I wrote:

I wrote about Phil Tippet’s Mad God for this very newsletter. (If you’re a paying subscriber, I send out one in-depth essay a month about a movie I can’t stop thinking about.) Mad God isn’t for everyone, but if you’re on board with haunting imagery and an hour and a half’s worth of discomfort, I think you’ll find it as rewarding as I did.

I wrote about Marcel the Shell with Shoes On for Think Christian…

What I talked about:

…and I talked about it on this week’s episode of Seeing & Believing as well! Kevin and I also discussed the 2010 French animated film The Illusionist (not to be confused with the Edward Norton joint from a few years earlier). It’s been a good week for animation at House Welch-Larson.

What I’m listening to:

The new MUNA record is a bop. I’ve been streaming the lead single “Silk Chiffon” ever since it came out last year, but I think “Solid” gives it a run for its money.

from The Dodgy Boffin

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