hello & welcome back to ✨WHAT I SAW LAST WEEK!✨ – my culture diary and actual diary in public and online but it’s fine bc i pretend no one’s actually reading this (no one is actually reading this hehehehehe good)

last week was bonkers and stressful! i moved out of my lovely little tottenham townhouse, with its bargain rent (relative, the bargain is relative) bc my bastard landlord wanted to sell so she could upgrade her house. bitch! i have been gentrified right out of tottenham too, and the process of realising that was really quite very sad. i’m still sad about it because i love tottenham, and would take any chance to move back if and when i could. but, i’m lucky – i have a back up plan, safety net, wriggle room, the whole shebang. i’m not even going to bother you with my complaints about London’s housing crisis because i am so insanely fortunate that there’s no point. it would only be whingeing if i complained about the effect on me when the sharp end of it is so far away. but regardless, at the moment i am quite preoccupied with thinking about things like precarity, austerity, the millennial perpetual renter class, gentrification as an urban inevitable. like, what does it mean to live in a city? why am i still in london, and is it out of sheer spite and stubbornness? what the fuck is happening to london and is anyone else genuinely worried about it? obviously they are – i’m preoccupied with finding other people’s accounts of their concerns about it all.

three rooms // by jo hamya

ok, not quite specifically about london, but ! starting hot with a book recc!!! three rooms is half set in london half set in oxford and is therefore able to take a more zoomed out look at it all. the way stability and comfort is a kind of class privilege (i’m very much middle class, and i can’t tell where the narrator sits, but as i read i’ve felt these moments of recognition and identification so i’m assuming middle too). but it follows the narrator as she navigates these white upper echelon spaces and tries to figure out what her precarity means generally and specifically against a wider rolling backdrop.

i think when i read real estate // by deborah levy, i was quite taken by the idea of an imaginary house in deborah levy’s mind that she thinks about as a kind of totem. like, aspirational yeah, but also idealised through the imaginative fiction of a daydream. that felt like a powerful kind of societal and economic analysis in and of itself. the idea of property, private property, real estate, ownership, a house, a home, a room of one’s own – that was reiterated through the book as a kind of totem, thematic, schema, refrain. it was a structure through which deborah levy pushed all the other bits she was trying to talk about. amazing criticism, amazing analysis, amazing writing.

i thought three rooms would be the same kinda thing or vibe – but jo hamya actually circles around it as a subject for fiction in a straight line. that’s not to say that this book is straightforward or conventional, but the idea of housing is handled in a very straight up direct way. i was initally disappointed by that immediate-direct to point ness, just bc i’d come off the back of deborah levy’s funky magic and because i enjoy things that are slippery, in between, not quite one thing or the other. the other day my bf used the word androgynous to describe that in between-ness that makes up my taste and – i was rly just taken aback by how much i enjoyed his use of that term to describe things that actually don’t relate to genders or even actually people but instead to talk about – things that can definitely be described as fluid, ambiguous or indeterminate and maybe actually both or all in quality.

i should say – i haven’t finished it, i j wana mention it this week bc i am hoping my thinking about houses and housing will be exercised/exorcised right out of me by next week sharpish bc it’s exhausting to think about living spaces. anwyay – even though i was initially disappointed, three rooms is actually totally not straight up at all. it is weird and crumbling and i don’t quite know what it’s doing yet. the prose itself is really gorgeous and at times it feels like it is disintegrating. it’s experimental in a way that feels,, like it feel slike it’s still in control of what’s going on. none of the experimenting is new or unknown to itself which can be a good or a bad thing i guess – it’s just interesting. i have been enjoying this book as a writer, with the frame of mind to read it in a way that like… mentally takes notes about what jo hamya’s doing there. i recommend it!

*the favourite

ok yes i still haven’t watched poor things – and WORST OF ALL i haven’t read gab’s review of it bc i’m saving it!!! i’ve had a lot on!!! but i did watch another yorgos lanthimos film starring emma stone. the favourite!! yes, i still hadn’t watched the favourite, can u believe

i didn’t hate this film but i can’t say that i liked it because it was so tense and fast and – i did like it but i didn’t enjoy it? or i enjoyed it but i didn’t like it? like it was so much about three deeply horrible and also vulnerable terrible tenderly wounded people. i can’t say my watching experience was ever enthusiastic or uncomplicated because actually this was the cinematic equivalent of like… screeching nails on blackboard. yorgos lanthimos baby!!! this was also my experience of watching the lobster. i look forward to enjoying-and-not-enjoying poor things.

bad taste // nathalie olah

not even messin i spent valentines day PACKING in a MAD RUSH bc i only had ONE DAY TO PACK UP MY BEDROOM BATHROOM AND KITCHEN UP INTO BOXES. i did it tho! v good, well done me. but packing is kinda mostly a physical hand based task, isn’t it? i used this as a chance to take gdlp’s 2024 ins advice and listen to an audiobook – and i kinda loved this!

i haven’t ever got on the audiobook bandwagon bc i like to literally see with my own eyes the shape of the words the writer has chosen, i like to see the punctuation too. i also think i read in a funny way, where i skip around on the page at times, and i have to go back to get it all properly. audiobooks move too fast and linear for me, bc if i find a sentence i like, i go back for it to read it in a different way, to see if the like holds up in court. so, i am slower than an audiobook, never got on with them as a format. but! i have also never really got on with non-fiction! esp the striaght up traditional stuff. don’t see much of the point in it bc – it’s all j a bit straight edge. i like the creative stuff like the second body (my FAVOURITE!!!!), the orchid thief, i like the argonauts – if not for the sole fact that my bf demands to read it aloud to me in short bursts like a live audiobook, but he just skips to random pages and starts reading from no point in particular? so my experience of the argonauts is completely non-linear and fragmented, tbh maybe that’s why i like it? but i have no idea what it’s actually about. but i’ve never felt a pull or a draw to like STRAIGHT UP non fiction, here’s a writer telling you something. bc i don’t like being told things. i want to read things not have myself be told them by some actual person, i want nuance, androgyny etc.

not to be all hustle and grind culture, or the bulletpointisation of books, but. i actually felt like this was a good way to experince non-fiction and get the actual information without thinking too much about how i was being told things. bc i was being told things!!! literally through the medium of audio. it was a podcast.

i keep seeing people reading the cheetah prin hardback version of this book - bad taste by nathalie olah n thinkin ooOOOO ok. and i thought it was so interesting!!!! it was like being in the company of a clever friend, i really enjoyed being told this book because i actually wanted to listen. i think i’m biased because i’m interested in taste already, the good and bad as qualifiers, what those things say about aesthetic and actual culture at large. the book itself doesn’t ever come to any grand revelation i didn’t know before, no jumpscares or grand reveals. but what it did do was actually plot out the way all these different aspects of taste (good, bad, ambivalent) relate to each other and it was like the map of the connections was the actual revealed entity. it was worth a read on my end! i learned things, i gained new good language to use for things, i was also entertained and pleased over the course of the one single entire day i had to pack my life up – so i listened to this book in one big go. speed run.

nathalie olah also! wrote a book called Steal as much as you can: how to win the culture wars in an age of austerity – which i feel like i must read, sounds good n right up my street. someone remind me the next time i enter a bookshop !

the road to wigan pier // george orwell

on my non-fiction hype, this was in the more like this section under bad taste – i don’t see the connection too clearly bc they were v different vibes. but george orwell doing non-fictional social journalism! writing about the living conditions for the working classes in the industrial north, lancashire and yorkshire mostly i think, in the 1930s. then the second half of the book is mostly about him and his middle classness and the way he negotiated that alongside a political awakening that was like, he was a full on socialist – went to fight in the spanish civil war and the international brigades i think.

i can’t lie, i was more interested in the first half of the book. the second was boring. sorry to george orwell but it was too concerned with his own personal opinion (ha! the irony of me saying that!) and i didn’t actually ask for it! but this was interesting because i love history! i also think the history of slum clearances in this country is soooo interesting – the way urban regeneration happens n all that. i know basically nothing about it, but i think that lack of knowledge is what i find interesting? if u have any reccos for me, i’d be keen to hear them!

anyway – listened to this while i finished my packing and then also started down and out in paris and london, but i feel like my non-fictin wave was very limited to doing physical hand-based labour. might be over. let’s see.

the kiss // anton chekhov

this is a delightful lil short story about a shy soldier who wanders into the wrong room at a party and gets a secret, mistaken kiss from a woman in the dark!!! it’s delightful because the soldier is so shy and sad about his shyness, his unremarkable-ness, his vague appearance and blend into the background-ness. then the secret mistaken kiss is like a mechanism, a cheeky and small little literary device that acts as the inciting incident and opens his world up to excitement! potential! possibility! all of a sudden he isn’t shy, he is a man who is insistent on LIVING! it changes his perception of the world and he starts to look at everything in a way that makes it all feel shiny and new.

the kiss is so short, so tight, it contains all my favourite things (kisses! shyness/embarassment! yearning and the psychic realm of romance!) it’s great. thoroughly enjoyed this !!!!!! bc it kinda clocks onto the quality of shyness and ebarassment, in the first through their presence and then through their absence, when the kiss has been kissed and the shy soldier is overcome with his new outlook on life. it’s just very sweet!

(๑ˊ͈ ॢꇴ ˋ͈)〜♡॰ॱ(๑ˊ͈ ॢꇴ ˋ͈)〜♡॰ॱ(๑ˊ͈ ॢꇴ ˋ͈)〜♡॰ॱ(๑ˊ͈ ॢꇴ ˋ͈)〜♡॰ॱ(๑ˊ͈ ॢꇴ ˋ͈)〜♡॰ॱ(๑ˊ͈ ॢꇴ ˋ͈)〜♡॰ॱ(๑ˊ͈ ॢꇴ ˋ͈)〜♡॰ॱ(๑ˊ͈ ॢꇴ ˋ͈)〜♡॰ॱ(๑ˊ͈ ॢꇴ ˋ͈)〜♡॰ॱ(๑ˊ͈ ॢꇴ ˋ͈)〜♡॰ॱ(๑ˊ͈ ॢꇴ ˋ͈)〜♡॰ॱ(๑ˊ͈ ॢꇴ ˋ͈)〜♡॰ॱ(๑ˊ͈ ॢꇴ ˋ͈)〜♡॰ॱ(๑ˊ͈ ॢꇴ ˋ͈)〜♡॰ॱ(๑ˊ͈ ॢꇴ ˋ͈)〜♡॰ॱ

ok that’s all! thank u for tuning in – lots of books this week? which i’ve literally only j clocked like, ~retrospectively. but bits n bobs! see u next week!