Writing in the third instalment of her seasonal quartet, Spring, the inimitable Ali Smith asks, ‘That time again, is it?’ Spring has sprung and we’ve been too preoccupied retreading the commute to notice Smith’s snatches of Springful images, clusters of crocuses thawing through the snow, ‘the unfurl of the petal, the dabber of ends of the branches of trees with the green as if green is alight’ [Ali Smith, Spring, Hamish Hamilton, 2019 p.7] Open the curtains wide and listen up. This week’s cultural picks; reviewed and previewed; adhere to Smith’s seasonal theme, serving fresh lamb-legged cultural happenings as well as those older beasts which have been given a new lease of life. After all, April is the coolest month.
Following the previous column’s methodologically boozy approach, this week’s alcohol intake was limited to a single obligatory glass of wine to compliment Monday night’s ritual half-hour of Fleabag. The combination of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s writing and Vicky Jones’ direction is immaculately fourth wall bashing, masterfully sketching the ugly nuances of contemporary women with a liberal sprinkling of self-deprecation. Alongside Waller-Bridge in the eponymous role, the show’s cast includes superb performances from Olivia Colman, Sian Clifford and Brett Gelman, as well as Andrew Scott as the romantically verboten Catholic priest who has single-handedly turned Twitter’s #fleabag into a minefield of drooling disciples. I recommend watching tonight’s series finale at half-speed, savouring the thigh-slapping brilliance of each demi-second for as long as you can.
Hankering for some fresh-faced culture on a crisp Tuesday night, I paid a visit to a Sofar Sounds basement soiree, somewhere North of the river. To those unfamiliar with the company’s model, Sofar Sounds was founded, (as their wildly gesticulating host in a collarless shirt will authoritatively remind you at the beginning of every event) by two cool bros who’d become jaded by distracted audiences, smartphones, and a lack of accessibility at venues. Instead, their events, which are hosted in 429 cities across the world, are uncompromisingly chilled, unfailingly decked out with fairy-lights and always, smugly, unconventional. The evening was averagely pleasant, sandwiching an acoustic French crooner and an unforgettable Folk outfit with the poetic equivalent of peppered pastrami, Tommy Sissons; punchy word-food for the soul.
Wednesday’s cultural seasoning took the colourful shape of Candice Carty-Williams’ debut book Queenie (Trapeze), publishing in hardback this Thursday. The novel, which has already earned early praise from Kit De Waal and Dolly Alderton, presents the life and times of Queenie Jenkins, an untethered modern woman who describes herself as an expressive, aggressive catastrophist. Queenie blunders her way through the dating scene, supported by her fiercely devoted posse of female friends, ‘The Corgis’. It’s tender and timely, infused with modern technology and instantly recognisable characters. I get the impression that it’ll be a popular holiday read and it definitely merits comparisons to Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’ Diary.
Balancing the scales of literary and commercial reading, Wednesday’s read-a-thon was supplemented with Submarine author Joe Dunthorne’s recently published poetry collection, O, Positive (Faber & Faber) following the publication of his 2018 Rough Trade pamphlet, All The Poems Contained Within Will Mean Everything To Everyone. Dunthorne’s trademark wit is effervescent, with poems such as ‘Owls-in-law’ channelling the author’s unique brand of banal-surrealist imagery alongside an eclectic gaggle of characters including ‘Assistant editors’, ‘an immersive theatre troupe’ and ‘idiot balloonists’. Those familiar with Dunthorne’s prose will recognise those same strands of mild existential distress and self-consciousness running through the collection, with lines such as, ‘‘I feel the same,’ I yell, loud as a drawer/of hotel cutlery, ‘exactly the same,’’ Dunthorne is exceptional.
Next week promises a fresh bounty of cultural cargo as I make a solo trip to the Swedish Pop tornado – Robyn’s tour (I shall, of course, be Dancing On My Own). I’ll be making a belated visit to the Barbican’s adaptation of Max Porter’s Grief Is The Thing With Feathers, as well as attending Ali Smith’s Q&A at Foyles’ Charing Cross Road branch, in between tentative gardening, long park walks and upping my dose of antihistamines. Until next time.