Something Good #80: Barely a Book Club
A quick announcement: I’m starting a Something Good book club. This is a spinoff of the main newsletter, and everybody is invited, whether you are a current subscriber to SG or not. It’s opt-in; you can subscribe here or at the link below.
It will be extremely low-demand, low-maintenance, low-commitment, chill as hell, zero-homework, fun, and full of surprises.
The idea is this: I will post twice a month, roughly speaking. The first post will introduce the month’s book, providing some background on it and its author, as well as why I think you should be pumped up to read it. Then we’ll all have some time to locate a copy and read it. As you are read, you will be welcome to post thoughts, questions, etc. in the comments of the first post or in the chat (we’ll see which works best). About a month later, I’ll do a new post with finishing thoughts and you’ll all be encouraged—gently, non-bindingly—to contribute in the comments below. Then we’ll all have a little time to cool down and get ready for the next one. I expect in total, we’ll be talking like six books a year. As I said: chill!
That’s it. When I described the idea to Karen, she said, “That’s barely a book club!” So that’s what it’s going to be called: Barely a Book Club.
I will not be charging for Barely a Book Club. I will not be making affiliate bucks off book sales. All these things seem like too much work for a negligible return, and would get in the way of the enjoyable part1. If I ask anything, it’s that you source your books from a local independent bookstore and not Amazon.
This first season will be organized roughly around the theme of travel writing, about places real and imaginary. I love travel writing, but I don’t actually read that much of it, and this is a way to gently encourage myself to do something I love.
I like to be taken places, and to live inside people’s heads as they experience those places. I especially love obsolete travel writing, descriptions of places or moments that are forbidden to us by time or change; it is like telepathy meets time travel meets teleportation.
The first book will be one of my all-time favourites, and a particular inspiration for this newsletter, the masterful, singular and beguiling Hav by Jan Morris, which sits firmly on the intersection of real and imaginary. More on this wonderful book later.
I am still deciding on the rest of the list but it certainly could include Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Gray Falcon, Patrick Leigh Fermor’s A Time of Gifts, Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia, Pico Iyer’s Video Night in Kathmandu, Tété-Michel Kpomassie’s An African in Greenland, The Travels of Ibn Battutah… I have a lot of ideas, and I would also like to hear yours. (I am particularly interested in finding more works by writers whose homes can be more often found written about, if that makes any sense.)
I’m also planning on some tasty surprises—interviews, excerpts, etc. Some of this stuff will probably end up back here on main, but for the most part I’m going to keep the two feeds separate.
To subscribe, just sign up at the link below! I will wait a week or so before really kicking things off, but for now, you could set yourself to finding a copy of Hav.
I hope you’ll join me. I won’t take it personally if you don’t.
Here’s a cool fact: You Can Live Forever’s Canadian theatrical run kicks off this week! If you’re in Toronto, you’ll be able to actually buy a ticket and possibly even come see us in person.
Our movie has had a very unusual journey. I’ve mentioned it in passing here but we’ve decided to share the whole story in public now. In June of 2022 we had our world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival to lovely reviews.
Normal enough. But then, shortly after our first few festival engagements—some of which featured COVID-era online screenings—the movie was pirated and circulated among a very enthusiastic community of young, extremely online queer fans around the world.
This is where it gets weird. Within days, our little indie movie was fan-translated and subtitled in Portuguese and Chinese; fan edits began to appear on TikTok with view counts in the millions; extremely charming fan fiction and fan art started popping up, our leads began to receive marriage proposals in their DMs from smitten fans, etc, etc. We have seen screenshots of pixelated versions of the film overlaid with multiple subtitles in Hungarian, Korean, Spanish at the same time; we get people in our mentions asking for a sequel more or less daily. We truly never could have predicted YCLF's crazy journey and we are, to be clear, extremely grateful that we have connected, and continue to connect, with people around the world who see their lives and feelings reflected in our work.
Despite all that, we still haven’t even had an honest-to-goodness, old-fashioned theatrical engagement! That changes on Friday, March 24, in Toronto, my hometown. Sarah and Anwen and I will be there to kick it off at the Varsity, a particularly important cinema in my own personal history. It was there, in that brutalist temple to moviegoing, that I awkwardly approached my then-idol Hal Hartley at a festival screening in the ‘90s… where I accidentally wandered into a life-changing screening of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Syndromes and a Century at 10 in the morning… where I more or less had a panic attack watching Dunkirk on a hot summer day.
All to say: it means a lot to be screening there. And it would mean a lot to see you there, if you are a Toronto Something Good subscriber, of which I know there are not a few. It is hard to overstate the importance of opening weekend box office when it comes to a little indie film like ours, so if you’ve ever wondered how you could support this newsletter of mine—well, show up on Friday or Saturday and we’ll call it even. We’ll be there at the 7:30pm shows, with our good friend Chandler Levack, director of the indie smash I Like Movies, hosting the Friday screening. You can get tickets at this link, sorta (you might have to do some navigating through the Cineplex website to find the theater and date). Come!
(Montrealers: we’ll be opening at the Cinéma du Parc—also an important movie theater for me, not to mention where we shot a climactic scene —one week later, on March 31.)
(Vancouverites: probably March 31 too. It’s a bit unclear at the moment. But should be announced soon.)
Barely a Book Club art by the wonderful, talented, and generous James Braithwaite. Am I crazy to be starting a whole new thing while maintaining a full-time job, releasing a motion picture, and generally trying to keep it together in this messed-up modern world? Maybe I am, but as an ex liked to say: “You only get one ticket to the fair.” And this particular midway attraction has brought me a lot of joy.
Every few weeks I’ll send you Something Good. I will also send you book club stuff if you sign up. If you like what you read here, tell a friend or subscribe below (and don’t forget to subscribe to the book club above!)
Not judging anybody who does any of these things to support themselves. I highly encourage you to support the writers who charge for their newsletters, etc. There is so little money going towards writers these days that I think it’s a bit of an imperative to direct some of your own in that direction, if you can afford it. (No judgment if you can not.)