This month, we did a lot of thinking about death, the fate of the earth, and garbage, all while listening to a lot of Carly Rae Jepsen.
What We Read
I’ve been savoring Alexander Chee’s most recent book, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel. This collection of essays is gorgeous—and at times heartbreaking—as it ranges from the author’s development as a writer under the tutelage of Annie Dillard, to his youthful experiences in San Francisco during the height of the AIDS epidemic, to the simple pleasures of tending a rose garden. I’m reading it as slowly as possible because I don’t want it to end.
—Alison Van Houten, editorial fellow
I was in a book rut earlier this year, but I’ve shaken it off and stayed on a speed-reading tear after devouring Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being. The narrator, also a writer named Ruth, finds a Hello Kitty lunch box filled with letters, a journal, and an old watch, washed ashore on her tiny British Columbia island—then tries to unravel what happened to the journal’s author, a teenage girl living in Tokyo. The novel mixes an often dark plotline with tongue-in-cheek humor, magical realism, Japanese history, quantum physics, and principles of Zen Buddhism, and I blew right through it.
—Erin Berger, senior editor
I was shocked to read that Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke had not one but two brain aneurysms while she was filming the early seasons of the series, an experience she wrote about for The New Yorker. Her descriptions of the pain were what stood out to me most, but she also provided an interesting backstory about how she got into acting and that specific role (at the end of her L.A. audition, she danced the funky chicken). I can’t imagine having a brush with death twice in three years, sipping on morphine during interviews, and fearing that every headache might be something ominous. She was very lucky in many ways.
—Tasha Zemke, copy editor
I read Jurassic Park, the novel, for the first time and really enjoyed it. It was like watching the movie all over again but with extra insight about all the characters—their fears, motivations, and decisions—in the bizarre survival scenario.
—Svati Narula, associate social media editor
In April, I tore through both of Sally Rooney’s books, Normal People and Conversations with Friends. Normal People just came out in the U.S., and the buzz around it has been so widespread (on my Twitter feed, on the podcasts I listen to, and all around my corners of the Internet) that reading it almost felt obligatory. But after finishing the book in one day, I fully embraced the hype and bought Conversations with Friends, Rooney’s debut novel from 2017. Both books are centered on the inner lives of their main characters and their tumultuous relationships more than any real external plot. But Rooney has an uncanny ability to write about friendships, anxieties, and intimacy in a way that’s both funny and painfully smart. And whenever you think the narrative is getting predictable, her characters overcomplicate things and misunderstand each other in ways you couldn’t have seen coming. I can’t wait to see what else she writes.
—Molly Mirhashem, senior editor
What We Listened To
I’ve been playing catch-up with one of my favorite podcasts, 99% Invisible. A recent episode was about the effects of Operation National Sword, China’s initiative to essentially stop being the world’s trash dump, which has left nations scratching their heads while clutching their single-use plastic water bottles. What I loved most was listening to a replay of an older episode in the second half that touched on the strides of Taipei, Taiwan, which is literally cleaning up the city with musical refuse and recycling/compost trucks, binless systems, and the ownership citizens feel over their trash—almost no public garbage cans, people! They pocket that candy wrapper and take it home with them! The episode presents some great lessons we Americans can learn about our own attitude toward consumption.
—Julia Walley, marketing art director
This month I’ve been listening to Carly Rae Jepsen’s new single “Julien” on repeat. It’s pristine, blissful pop, and I can’t listen without dancing just a little. I stan Carly Rae hard (I genuinely believe she’s a musical genius) and can’t wait for her new album, out in May. Especially if it’s gonna sound anything like this single.
—Abbie Barronian, assistant editor
I’ve been listening to Anderson .Paak’s album Ventura. I can’t get enough of his genre-bending soul-funk-hip-hop amalgamation that somehow always remains eminently listenable.
—Will Taylor, gear director
Cage the Elephant’s new album Social Cues is the Matt Shultz show, focusing on the singer’s deteriorated marriage. It reveals a more mature side of the rowdy Kentucky band: it’s more restrained and more serious than its catalog to date. And while much of it sounds radio ready, certain songs (like “Ready to Let Go” and “Broken Boy”) demonstrate that the band still has a knack for catchy tunes.
What We Watched and Otherwise Experienced
I binged the Netflix series Russian Doll in one night. Renaissance woman Natasha Lyonne wrote and directed the show (cocreated with Amy Poehler) and also stars as a fabulously brusque New Yorker trapped in a Groundhog Day–esque scenario from which she can’t escape. A great soundtrack, plenty of Easter eggs, and a poignant plot resolution—what more could you ask for?
I loved Netflix’s new nature series Our Planet, which had the unbelievable aerial shots and predator-prey sequences to rival Planet Earth. But it went a step beyond that franchise’s pure entertainment and awe. Each installment, organized by ecosystem, explored the effects of climate change and human activity on the flora and fauna found there. Dramatic shots of coastal thunderclouds show how weather patterns can affect life in distant deserts, and a sequence showing majestic lions in Namibia comes with a warning that their population has declined because of poaching. Prestige nature documentaries have historically tiptoed around climate change, not wanting to put a damper on the stunning landscapes and incredible critters they go to such great lengths to film. Our Planet’s decision to explicitly talk about warming seas, shrinking glaciers, pollution, and deforestation was refreshing, and all narrated by David Attenborough’s inimitable voice, no less.
—Luke Whelan, research editor
While many went wild for the first episodes of Game of Thrones’s final season, my April premiere spotlight was the second season of Killing Eve. Only three episodes in, there’s been a lot of table setting, but what a pretty table it is. Sandra Oh still shines as Eve, an obsessive detective tracking down assassin Villanelle, played by Jodie Comer and her many amazing accents. But I’m glad Fiona Shaw is also getting some more screen time as Eve’s quirky boss Carolyn, who delivers some of the most comedic (and oh-so-British) lines of the show.
—Kelsey Lindsey, assistant editor
Last month my boyfriend and I found a TV on the side of the road, and then our next-door neighbor conveniently had a yard sale filled with $3 DVDs. Since then we have been biking to the public library and blindly picking movies. We have no idea what we’ve chosen until we get to the opening credits. So far we’ve watched I Sell the Dead, I Do...Until I Don’t, Joshy, and GoldenEye, to name a few. The pro of the system is that you don’t fall into the endless scroll of Netflix, and the only con is trying to get your DVDs into the player without looking.
—Kyra Kennedy, photo editor