Stoic Beauty's Reading, Watching, and Listening List
To get you through to Spring
Well, February sure can be a slog - wouldn’t you agree? Here in Toronto, the snow has been coming down and the big inside of this pandemic winter feels more real than ever. Maybe we’ll miss it when it’s gone? Or maybe we’re almost there – and should just keep our heads down till spring? I’m doing my best, taking my vitamin D and trying to keep my plants alive – but the homestretch is always the hardest.
I know we’re all talking about what we’re watching (or doing otherwise to distract ourselves) – because it’s either that or the news, right? So, in the spirit of Hygge, sanity, and nice things why not put aside a little extra time to get cozy and think about something else for a while.
My Stoic Distractions
How to Pronounce Knife is a book of short stories by Souvankham Thammavongsa and winner of the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize. This collection of short stories explores a range of Laotian immigrant experiences at every age. Many of the characters remain nameless yet their inner thoughts and realizations are painfully precise. These are ferocious, poetic stories you will feel in your gut. Keep this book by your favourite reading spot and spend 10 minutes with one of these succinct, transportive short stories.
In Praise of Shadows by the popular Japanese novelist Jun’ichiro Tanizaki is an essay on the aesthetics of Japanese life. It won’t ask you to plumb the depths of your soul – but it may draw your attention to how nicely light reflects off of lacquerware. While you contemplate the allure of a thoughtfully planned space you may begin questioning your own daily conceptions of beauty. How you might live beautifully and better enjoy shadows?
I’ve just started watching the Danish HBO series The Investigation and I am obsessed. You could call it true crime, but it’s more artful than that. The story itself is based on the true circumstances of journalist Kim Wall’s disappearance. It’s not uplifting – but it’s not gruesome either. It is slow, grey, and distant. It is masterfully understated. It finds beauty in simplicity and stillness. I just want everyone to watch it and think about how little is happening at any given moment – and how beautiful the stillness is. How innovative it feels to watch someone turn away from the camera and have a private call. It should be boring – yet I am desperate for each new episode every week. It’s got me thinking about how little I watch that feels real and honest.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco, have you seen it yet? It’s so special. It won Best Director and the Special Jury Prize for a Creative Collaboration at Sundance in 2019. When I first saw it, I couldn’t stop talking about it. I felt like I was watching something new for the first time in I don’t know how long. It’s bold, it’s sentimental, it’s shot soooo beautifully and it will have you reflecting on friendship, family, memory and so much more.
Coffee With My Ma is a podcast hosted by Kaniehtiio Horn with her mother Kahn-Tinet Horn, having coffee at the kitchen table. This is an awesome podcast about telling stories, sharing knowledge, Indigeneity, infusing difficulty with humour, and mothers and daughters. It’s raw and familiar – everything I love about storytelling.
The Sunday Read is a newer addition to the New York Time’s Podcast The Daily and it is something special. Started in the early days of the pandemic and offered as a weekend respite from breaking news The New York Times releases a previously published piece of long form journalism. The article itself is introduced by the author and read aloud. Some are topical, and others are timeless pieces pulled from the past. Some of my favourite ‘timeless’ pieces include : ‘The Amateur Cloud Society That (sort of) Rattled the Scientific Community’, ‘A Mother and Daughter at the End’, and ‘On Female Rage’.
I wanted to include a soup recipe as another way to get cozy and pass the time indoors. We’re all cooking these days, and February has got me experimenting with all things soup. This Kimchi Soup with Shiitakes was easy and delicious (and makes excellent leftovers). Next time I would use dried shiitakes and incorporate the soaking liquid as broth to add more depth of flavour. I am already dreaming of the dinner party where I can serve this as a starter with a side of green onion pancakes.