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

two men in the countryside

A rundown of the 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.

‘In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains…’ The legendary opening lines of A Farewell To Arms (1929), in the author’s own hand, with amendments and words crossed out, float on to the screen. We are deep in the land, and in the mind, of Ernest Hemingway.

Thus opens the latest offering from the world’s greatest documentary maker, Ken Burns, in collaboration with Lynn Novick: Hemingway, the three-part, six-hour documentary series on the author, beginning on BBC Four at 9pm on Tuesday. 

Since the 1970s, the 67-year-old film-maker has built up an astonishing one-man archive of American history and culture, with a style of narrative that’s instantly recognisable and always compelling. Hemingway is no exception. 

The hard-drinking itinerant author is a natural subject for the director. For all the performative virility that he later cultivated, the young Ernest was brought up androgynously, frequently dressed in girls’ clothes by his eccentric mother, Grace. And from his father, Clarence, he learned to love the great outdoors, establishing a tension within Hemingway’s soul between free-range machismo and a personal identity that was more complex and vulnerable than his swashbuckling public image allowed him to disclose.

What Burns captures from the start is the agonising duality of his subject. This is riveting documentary television, a rare example of factual film-making in which greatness lies on both sides of the camera. 

Our next Creative Sensemaker Live is on Friday 25 June, at 1pm BST, and will ask: Is classical music boring and elitist? You can book your place here.

Here are this week’s recommendations.

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Book cover showing close up of eye


Supernova (selected cinemas, 25 June)
Real-life best friends Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth star in this superb movie about a couple coping with dementia. Tusker (Tucci) is aware that his decline is accelerating and frets, to heartbreaking effect, about the price that Sam (Firth) will pay for his gradual detachment from reality. In showing us what the illness can do to even the strongest of relationships, both actors deliver magnificent performances.

Bosch Season 7 (Prime Video, 25 June)
Inspired by Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch novels, Amazon’s adaptation – now reaching its final season – is police procedural television at its very best. The formula has never strayed far from the tropes of the genre – the only oddity being Bosch’s ridiculously grand home – but the series has never relaxed its pace or taken its audience for granted. We’ll miss you, Harry.


Why We Kneel, How We Rise by Michael Holding 
A remarkable exploration of the struggle for racial justice, by one of the greatest test cricketers of all time. Holding enlists such icons as Usain Bolt, Michael Johnson, Naomi Osaka and Thierry Henry to trace the intimate connections between the sporting world and the Black Lives Matter campaign – connections that are bound to be a matter of debate at the Tokyo Olympics where taking the knee is to be forbidden. A book full of insight and wisdom that everyone should read.

Animal by Lisa Taddeo 
After the runaway success of Three Women last year, widely characterised as a 21st-century successor to Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, Lisa Taddeo returns with her first novel. Harrowing and often elusive, the story traces the experience of Joan, a woman in her late thirties moving from Manhattan to Los Angeles after the suicide of a former lover. The memory of sexual trauma and the prospect of death stalk the novel’s pages. Trust and love are constantly under threat. Not an easy read, but an essential one, Animal is audacious and proud in its furious candour. A book one simply cannot afford not to read.

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Angel illustration in pink


Call Me If You Get Lost by Tyler, the Creator (25 June)
I struggle to think of a live act whose performances I have enjoyed more than Tyler’s, not least because his regular references to Theresa May, who banned him from entering the UK in 2015, are so entertaining. So a new record from the artist is always to be eagerly anticipated. The pre-released track ‘Lumberjack’ augurs well for the Grammy-winning rapper’s sixth album, and his return to these shores to tour can’t come soon enough.

No Gods No Masters by Garbage
More than a quarter century has passed since Garbage burst onto the scene and it is much to the credit of the four piece from Madison, Wisconsin, that their seventh studio album is still so full of angry energy and mosh pit brio. Though Version 2.0 (1998) remains their masterpiece, No Gods No Masters gives it a run for its money. ‘I give myself the creeps,’ sings Shirley Manson, with the unapologetic ferocity of a goth girl determined not to grow middle-aged. All power to her elbow.

That’s all for now. Have a great week.

Best wishes,

Matt d’Ancona
Editor and Partner
Tortoise Media

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