7. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (film, dir. Martin McDonagh, 2017)
8. Mary Beard, Women & Power: A Manifesto (novel, 2017)
9. *The Levellers, Levelling the Land (album, 1991)
Every time I find myself adjacent to anything by Martin McDonagh, I think it must not really be for me, that his humour is too dark and uncomfortable. And it is both of those things, but ultimately I think I was more satisfied by Three Billboards than a lot of people I know who've also seen it. Still thinking about why that is, and what I liked about it. On the other hand, the other film I started to watch this week was Hostiles, which was very uncomfortable watching. Partly that's because the atmosphere of modern westerns doesn't sit well with me; I find it stark, pessimistic, and difficult to tune in to. Partly, though, I just don't like violence; I don't like watching it. So why was I okay with someone in Three Billboards got pistol-whipped and thrown out of a first-floor window?
One day I'd like to write half as well - as elegantly, as engagingly or thoughtfully - as Mary Beard. Women and Power is inspirational to me in the sense that sure, it says fits in with 2017/18 feminism pretty well, and it draws some lovely connections (I'll get around to reading some Ovid, eventually), but mostly it's just a beautiful example of how to write a speech or essay. That's why I'll be coming back to it.
It makes me think of something I've noticed while researching for Past Tense: I gravitate towards the work of female historians. I have yet to find one who doesn't write superbly. Men can write superbly too (right now I'm up to my ears in the work of John Morrill, Mark Stoyle, David Cressy), but to be a leading female academic you simply can't get away without your prose being as stylish as it is rigorous. In, I should add, my experience. Mary Beard is no exception.
The unofficial theme of this week is "women talking despite being told not to". Mary Beard has a lot to say about women being silenced, both these days and in the classical world. I suspect one of the reasons I gave Three Billboards a pass is that I love seeing women over forty doing interesting things on screen, not being some combination of perfect, vilified, or ignorable. The third woman failing to shut up, then, is me: I always feel so self-conscious talking about my music taste. Some people wear "I like bad music" on their sleeve, but I have had enough people actually sneer at my music taste over the years that I always get a little bit jumpy whenever I want to say I like something. Like I'm expecting to be contradicted.
Every review of Levelling the Land I have found this week has said it's not as good as [someone else], and that "One Way" is overrated - which, fine, but come on, this is pretty much the epitome of my music:
(Also, can you hear the undertones of Frank Turner in there? That's a thing, isn't it?)
I like this whole album, a lot. I have liked it for years. It is the antidote to January; I feel like 2018 is going to have more than a whiff of late-Thatcher lefty culture to it by the time it's through; and in the meantime I thumb my nose at that stab of anxiety that someone is going to make fun of my music.