Creative Sensemaker: What to read, watch and listen to this weekend

A woman looking shocked with wet pink hair against a pink sky

A rundown of new books, films, music and more by Tortoise Media, the slow news agency

By Matt d’Ancona

Welcome to the latest Creative Sensemaker from Tortoise Media.

The nominations for the 78th Golden Globes have been announced, and many are well-deserved: three cheers for Emerald Fennell, the multi-talented British actress and screenplay writer who has been nominated for a Golden Globe in the Best Director category for her feature film debut, Promising Young Woman. She’s in terrific company. Three of the five nominees for Best Director this year are women – the other two being Regina King for One Night In Miami and Chloé Zhao for Nomadland.

Special mention also goes to Emma Corrin, nominated for Best Actress in a Television Drama for her uncanny performance as the young Princess Diana in season four of The Crown.

However, the exclusion of Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You from the list is a disgrace. In her performance as Arabella Essiedu, and the screenplay she crafted for her fellow actors, Coel captured lightning in a bottle – the trauma suffered by a rape survivor, the daily challenges faced by a woman of colour, the strange relationship between social media stardom and literary accomplishment. For my money, it was the best television series of 2020.

The absence of I May Destroy You is compounded by the fact that the most significant films of the year with Black ensemble casts (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Da 5 Bloods, Judas And The Black Messiah, and One Night In Miami) accrued only seven nominations in total, not one of them in the best drama picture category. For all its protestations of support for diversity and the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, Hollywood still has a very long way to go.

Here are this week’s recommendations:

Two books against a light blue background
Two books against a light blue background


(To buy any of these books, and browse further, click on the title to go to the Tortoise Book Store.)

Out Of The Ordinary: How Everyday Life Inspired A Nation And How It Can Again by Marc Stears  
This excellent book addresses the challenge of ‘how tradition can be combined with progress, patriotism with diversity, individual rights with social duties, nationalism with internationalism, conservatism with radicalism.’ Stears draws heavily upon the progressivism of the 1940s and 1950s, and the legacy of Orwell, in search of answers.

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters   
This joyous, humane and witty book tells the tale of Reese, a trans woman who wants a baby, Ames (formerly Amy) who has detransitioned, and Ames’s pregnant partner, Katrina. Peters presents her characters as ordinary, flawed people facing knotty, authentically modern predicaments; the result is a book that is both hugely enjoyable and enlightening.

Jews Don’t Count by David Baddiel 
Published yesterday, this is a fascinating exploration of the way in which anti-semitism is regarded by many as a lesser form of bigotry than others. Book now to hear Baddiel in conversation with Tortoise cofounder and editor, James Harding, on Wednesday 17 February at 6.30pm (GMT).

Fall: The Mystery Of Robert Maxwell by John Preston  
Best-known for his novels A Very English Scandal and The Dig, John Preston has the writing talent, investigative guile and power of empathy to take on this extraordinary story. Book now to hear him in conversation with James Harding on Wednesday 10 February at 6.30pm (GMT).
A couple sitting on a porch


Malcolm & Marie (Netflix, 5 February) 
In this black and white chamber piece, a couple returns from a movie premiere, bicker, joke, and assess the state of their relationship. If that sounds claustrophobic, it is – by design. The actors Zendaya and John David Washington pull this off superbly; a tribute to their respective talents, and to Levinson’s sure hand as an emerging A-list director.

ZeroZeroZero (Sky Atlantic/ NOW TV)
Based on a book by Robert Saviano, this series traces the international traffic in cocaine from Calabria to Mexico to the US, where Edward Leyman (Gabriel Byrne) and his daughter, Emma (Andrea Riseborough) act as brokers. This may well be the most gripping series of the month.
A woman sat with her feet up on a suitcase
A graphic of a snake around a speaker


Collapsed In Sunbeams by Arlo Parks
The 20-year-old London poet and singer delivers a debut album of astonishing confidence and sophistication. The artistry of the music lies in its apparently effortless combination of a pop sensibility – the songs are seriously catchy – with a lyrical profundity that will make you listen again and again.

Franz Schubert Piano Trios by Trio Talweg
The trio has cultivated a distinctively eclectic sound, with roots in folk music and contemporary composition as much as the classical canon. You don’t have to be a Schubert obsessive to appreciate the lightness of touch and imagination with which this collection is infused.

Snakes And Ladders by Chip
Chip assembles a line-up of collaborators including Tiwa Savage, Stylo G and Haile in this 21-track melange of rap, dancehall, and grime. An ideal jump-start for those afflicted by lockdown blues.

That’s all for now.

Take care of yourselves – and each other.

Matt d’Ancona

Editor and Partner
Tortoise Media
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