TV Shows & Starters
Happy Valley (Season 1 & 2)
In this so-called Golden Age of television, crime dramas are aplenty; switch the channel and there’s a good chance that you will find yourself in the midst of guns, gore & blood. Happy Valley is no different – but it is so much more than just the superficial.
The reasons for suggesting this particular series are mainly because the show is more psychological than any other crime drama I have seen. The protagonist, Sergeant Catherine Cawood (played ridiculously adroitly by Sarah Lancashire – one of the best acting performances I have ever seen), is a maelstrom of human emotion. The premise for the series thus far has been the psychological damage left on the family after her daughter’s suicide, after sexual assault & a paltry punishment for her offender. Happy Valley feels so realistic because this is sadly such a common occurrence. It is the story of one woman, providing for her family and dealing with so much crime, hate & sinister dealings in her professional life in her town in Yorkshire, whilst at the same time battling her own internal demons regarding the death of her daughter.
Podcasts & Main Courses
On Being with Krista Tippett (Episode: Choosing Curiosity Over Fear [Elizabeth Gilbert])
It was purely by chance that I stumbled on Krista Tippett’s podcast On Being. Whenever I am in need for some food for the soul, On Being has not failed to delight with Krista Tippett’s thoughtful probing of guests on their thoughts and ideas (though perhaps meditation would be a better term) on the state of being through their work. A recent favourite is Elizabeth Gilbert’s meditation on the creative life and the role of curiosity. The interview really equips the listener with a new framework to understand creativity and the creative life. Gilbert attempts to de-mystify the creative life and shift the paradigm and discourse in which we have over the years have come to understand creativity, as fiery passion. Rather, Gilbert advocates for curiosity:
I think curiosity is our friend that teaches us how to become ourselves. And it’s a very gentle friend, and a very forgiving friend, and a very constant one. Passion is not so constant, not so gentle, not so forgiving, and sometimes not so available. And so when we live in a world that has come to fetishize passion above all, there’s a great deal of pressure around that.
And this is an almost revolutionary shift in that it democratises creativity, as not something that belongs to an elite class of people but something that is more inclusive. The interview is interspersed with Gilbert’s own foray into the creative world of writing and the process of writing and is a highly recommended listen.
Books & Desserts
The Black Dahlia (James Ellroy)
Ellroy is one of those authors who you’ve either heard of and credit with revolutionishing procedural thrillers or someone you have completely shunned (which, admittedly, is more to do with his genre than his writing). For those unaware with Ellroy’s work, it can be summarised aptly through one phrases: utter nihilism. I have mentioned only The Black Dahlia here, but in truth, I am recommending the entire ‘LA Quartet’ series which is considered to be his magnus opus.
The outline of his books follow pretty much the same pattern: it takes place in the mid-20th century, there is a gruesome murder/crime, the investigation is a bureaucratic slugfest, there are personal agendas & corruption taking place. And the ending will leave you horrified. These are guarantees in an Ellroy novel. The majority of Ellroy’s skill lies in the dichotomous treatment of Los Angeles, the city where he grew up. This is not a place of sun, carefree lifestyle & hipster behaviour; it is a seedy, dirty & a downright depressing place to live and/or ply your trade. Yet, there is an allure to this debauchery & bacchanalian portrayal of the city. No matter how hard the characters (and you as the reader) try to get away, something pulls you back in. And that is the true skill that Ellroy has which makes this book so, so good.