what we watch
Joshua Lee, Writer (@theleejoshua)
In my persistent summer malaise as a novelist, ruminating and Letter box cataloging, I found myself at the mercy of director Gillian Armstrong’s 1994 adaptation of “Little Women,” starring Winona Ryder as Jo March. “Little Women” is a story that almost needs no introduction – it’s a timeless piece of American literature about family, love and brotherhood, warts and all.
I’m sure most people our age are more familiar with the much more recent 2019 adaptation, directed by Greta Gerwig. I thought it might be fun to compare these two editions to see which is the definitive version.
When it comes to insert-writer and protagonist Josephine “Jo” March, 2019’s Ryder and Saoirse Ronan give different but equally electric performances, and frankly, you can almost say the same when comparing the interpretations of Christian Bale and Timothée Chalamet by Théodore “Laurie” Laurence, as well as performances by the rest of the cast.
Perhaps the biggest differences between the adaptations are in the portrayals of characters and themes. “Little Women” is a feminist story, but the time it was published prevented what I believe to be a good update to Jo’s arc.
In an emotional twist to the story, Laurie proposes to her longtime friend Jo, whom she turns down, citing her independence and their constant bickering to back up her decision. Jo declares that she does not believe that she will marry, which Laurie refutes (in the 1994 edition): “One day you will meet a man, a good man, and you will love him very much. And you will live and die for him.
At the end of both the original novel and the 1994 adaptation, Laurie is right – Jo meets an old German named Friedrich Bhaer and marries him. In the 2019 version, Jo’s perspective and loneliness are central to the film’s final act, stunningly portrayed in a scene that likely earned Ronan his Oscar nomination.
By the end of Gerwig’s adaptation, Jo and Bhaer’s marriage is nothing more than an appeasement for Jo’s book, with her and Bhaer ending as friends, teaching together at an all-boys school. It’s a much more sensible ending for Jo, one that fits with her journey of self-realization.
For that notion alone, I would recommend giving the “Little Women” of 2019 another watch.
What we listen to
Natalie Roy, General Features Editor (@nataliedroy)
Nearly two years ago, in the trenches of pandemic lockdown, sitting in my childhood bedroom in a semi-fugue TikTok frenzy, I came across a song that immediately caught my attention. It was unlike any song you might consider a “TikTok song” – it was a slow, melodic ballad, with carefully crafted lyrics that built an intricate and detailed story.
The TikTok, I quickly learned, was a cover of Joanna Newsom“Sawdust & Diamonds” from his 2006 album “Ys”. Curious how the original sounded, I opened a live concert recording of the original, and soon after, my music rotation became exclusively his discography. While my playlists have now regained their variety, I still find myself listening to Newsom whenever I can.
The lyricism of the indie folk singer is full of metaphors and images. Newsom takes his time creating his ballads; many of his songs are well over five minutes long, with the longest reaching almost 17 minutes. The intricate lyrics and length, along with Newsom’s classically trained harp instrumentation, make each song a hugely impressive feat.
I could talk about each of his songs for hours, but to cut my thoughts short, here are a few of my favorites.
“Monkey & Bear” is a cautionary tale of an abusive relationship told between a circus bear and his monkey guardian, while “Baby Birch” is a slow but simmering piece about the grief associated with the loss of a child. Despite their thematic differences, the final minutes of both are a raw, explosive recitation of emotion.
One of Newsom’s favorite niches details obscure stories and folklore – ‘Sapokanikan’ is a whirlwind of references from Ozymandias to former New York mayors, ‘Have One On Me’ is a heartbreaking song told from the perspective by dancer Lola Montez, and “Go Long” is a retelling of the French folk tale “Bluebeard,” about the painful realization of a toxic relationship.
Newsom has a knack for collecting tales and elevating them through music. She’s an artist I never tire of listening to, and I can’t recommend her highly enough if you enjoy folk music and writing unique songs.
What we read
Megan Matti, Writer (@megan_matti)
This week, I ventured onto the University District branch of the Seattle Public Library for one of my favorite days of the week: the day my reservations arrive. Scanning the shelves and finding my last name and barcode is like a personalized treasure hunt that occupies my mind until I find the book I’m looking for. This week, the book that was finally put on hold was “Detransition, Baby” by Torrey Peters.
This book was an impeccable reflection on femininity, personality and motherhood. I found myself on the edge of my seat, in tears and smiling as the story progressed.
In “Detransition, Baby”, Peters takes the reader into the life of Reese, a single transgender woman in New York who desperately wants to be a mother, Ames, Reese’s ex-girlfriend who has since detransitioned, and Katrina, the Reese’s current boss and pregnant girlfriend. Trying to fulfill his father role, make the women in his life happy, and “fart” the notion of parenthood, Ames proposes that the trio become a new type of family and join in the effort to raise the baby. In between, the reader uncovers bits and pieces of the past when Amy and Reese were together, Reese’s life before meeting Amy, and Reese and Katrina’s budding friendship.
The story takes a remarkably intimate angle, making the reader really feel like a fly on the wall in the lives of Reese, Katrina, and Ames.
In addition to subject matter, Peters’ writing style is jaw-dropping. With lines such as “those breeders who live in minor wounds with no particular difficulties” and “maybe instead of saying what the inevitable outcome is, just take a leap forward”, I felt like to be able to really connect with Peters’ and be able to situate myself in this narrative so far from my own reality. These brief sections, although fragments of the larger piece, reflect the rawness of the whole novel and the powerful personal nature of Peters’ novel.
Peters’ beautiful writing style and unique subject matter make it easy to see why the novel won the PEN/Hemingway Prize for First Novel and why it was shortlisted for many other awards, including the 2021 Women in Fiction Award. .
Four of Peters’ novels will be published in 2023 by Penguin Random House in a collection called “Infect Your Friends and Loved Ones”. I’m thrilled to see how this collection reflects and grows from its explosive debut of “Detransition, Baby”.
I would highly recommend putting the book on hold – although it may take a while for the University District branch to pick up my copy.
What we do
Luke Amrine, Editor (@amrine_luke)
One of the things I really appreciate is a good meal. I’ve come a long way from exclusively ordering chicken strips when I’m in town – although I consider myself a chicken strips foodie.
What I enjoyed most about spending time out of Seattle this summer is that it forced me out of my dietary comfort zone. As one of the most diverse cities in the world, London boasts a selection of cuisines that borders on overwhelming for someone trying to decide on where to dine.
One of the last meals I had before returning home, the Iranian-Indian mix of Dishoom: from Bombay with love, was by far one of the highlights of the whole trip. Eating chicken in some of the most sumptuous sauces I’ve ever tasted, while watching some of the authentic anti-imperial graffiti brought over from Bombay wasn’t something I had on my 2022 bingo card, but it was. is an experience I will never forget.
Located in the trendy Coal Drops Yard area of King’s Cross, Dishoom was built in a very impressive Victorian era warehouse in 1850. While it originally housed coal to be shipped close to King’s Cross, the building now houses restaurants, shops, and a particularly tasty cocktail bar.
Viktor, the Polish bartender, is perhaps the factor that made this meal particularly noteworthy. Not one to leave his customers thirsty, the old one he made was one of the best I’ve come across. One of the benefits of eating at the bar was that Viktor could point us in the right direction, with the garlic naan being a particular standout of the night.
The only downside to the evening was the fact that it came at the end of an incredible journey. I guess that means it’s another reason to come back to London soon.
Contact Writer Joshua Lee, General Sections Editor Natalie Roy, Writer Megan Matti and Editor Luke Amrine at [email protected]
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