Letters to the Zoo

Adventures in Blurry Culture

Currently Pop Culture

Currently Pop Culture 5-6-17

Dear Zoo,

So apparently it’s June? If there is one clear indicator of a bad blogger – someone who should probably just throw in the towel – its a blogger who misses whole months of the year. Sorry about that. But I’m not going to throw in the towel because I have more to write – it’s just buried deep, deep beneath assignments and letters to IRD (nothing sinister, apparently I’m changing my name) and work and wintry blankets. I thought I’d just share what I have been reading, watching and listening to lately.

Currently reading – Everyone Brave is Forgiven, the first Chris Cleave novel I’ve delved into. Set in WII, mostly in London during the Blitz, Cleave tells the tale of two women and two men and how the war impacts on their lives. Goodness Cleave, can write, right? If the story is a little slow, he makes up for it with immaculate prose. And I kind of just love Mary, a socialite who is stubborn and clever, if a little naive.

Currently reading The Summer Book by Tove Jansson, Finnish writer and artist. Oh Tove. Tove makes things (well, made  them) and I fall in love, be it a Moomin comic strip or a short novel set on one of Finland’s magical islands. If you want to read something quite strange and a bit great read one of her novels.

Currently watching – Broooooadchurch! Okay, so I’m late to the party of blockbuster Nordic/ British crime shows (I spent last winter watching Shortland Street in a cottage on the West Coast). This show is just massively brilliant. I take all of the hats I’ve ever owned off  to Olivia Coleman (and yes, David Tennant). I don’t think I’ve ever been so glued to a screen or so invested in a character. And yes, I cried. Quite a lot.

Currently listening – to Hidden Brain, an NPR podcast. I’m going to say something a bit horrible. If I had my way, I would probably live in a nice cottage in the middle of nowhere and just read fiction and books about natural history because to be frank, reading or learning about the world as it currently stands is just a bit shit. It’s broken. But I can’t bury my head in the sand and so Hidden Brain is one way that I engage with and try to understand our world as it is now. It’s a good, balanced, thought-provoking look at some big and some unusual topics like crime, immigration, big data…

What are you watching, listening to or reading?

Yours all eyes and ears,


Does a Book Have to Live Up to Expectations to be Good?

Dear Zoo,

So this question occurred to me over the weekend. What do you think? If a book is really different to what you were expecting, though not necessarily bad, does that mean it’s not a good book?

I’m not talking about hype. Sometimes books are hyped up SO MUCH that when you finally get your hands on it, it falls kind of flat. This is life – movies, events, books and many more things can fall flat if we get our hopes up to much.

I’m talking about what a book purports to be. I read a science fiction/ thriller book over the weekend that distinctly lacked much of either of those things. While there was some suspense, I was mostly reading it to find out what happened at the end (basically nothing), there was not much of the thrill – it was nothing like the feeling of reading Room or Gone Girl or another thriller that has you on the edge of your seat. It also lacked what I love about sci-fi. For me, a good sci-fi has to be plausible – it can be the zaniest, most ridiculous concept a la Joe Hill’s spontaneous combustion but the author has to sell it to you, provide the ‘logic’ that could make anything believable. If you don’t provide this framework, it’s just feels like the author had a cool idea they couldn’t flesh out, so they decided to be ‘mysterious’ or ‘literary’ and not give any detail. But for me that basically has one result: snore-fest.

There’s more. The book I read could have been praised for being a really good romance or character-centric novel where not much happens but the characters are good and there is even a heart-strings-tugging love story. But that’s not what I signed up for. Not even close (and I do like those sorts of books!) – remember, I wanted to be on the edge of my seat, up till midnight (that’s late for me), thrilled to pieces.

So, if a book is well written, is that enough? Or does the writer need to consider the whole package – a title that correctly eludes to the kind of story they’ve written, a blurb that hints at what you might be in store for and a beginning and ending that are equally satisfying and part of the same whole.

I’ve decided not to tell you what this book is, because – hey – you might love it and I don’t want to get in the way of that. What are your thoughts? Any books that totally caught you off guard?

Yours with high expectations,


Big Stuff and Things I Watched/ Read

Dearest Zoo,

I’m back baby! Does that make you think of Joey Tribbiani? I hope so.

Image result for joey im back baby

Okay, now you’re informed. Excellent.

I have decided, tentatively, to have a hack at this blogging business again. Now that I have NO IDEA WHAT I DO WITH MY LIFE. I’ll explain soon.

Some big stuff has happened in the last month. I had very good friends visit from Germany, Japan and all around the country. I had a month of leave! I planned a wedding. I went tramping. I holidayed at my favourite place in the world. And oh yeah, I got married. Which is pretty ace (I recommend!). Now I’m trying to remember what I normally do with my life. It’s a struggle. Apart from trudging my way through an Advertising and Capitalism assignment, I’m drawing a blank. So I thought I’d whip up a blog post.

Aside from all the wedding-ness, here are some media things that went down.

I watched the amazing French film Fanny’s Journey which I highly recommend seeing if you get a chance. I watched it as part of the annual French Film Festival. It’s a beautiful film set during the second world war about a group of Jewish children trying to get out of France, to safety. It was so well told – completely tasteful, sad, funny, sweet. The acting was excellent. The best part for me were when the magical moments of childhood burst through all the hate and sadness and really challenged the notion of war. Also France in the 30s and early 40s, so beautiful.

I also watched a few Disney movies (it’s kind of a tradition I have with a friend). A Disney film is usually in one of two camps – hopelessly unwatchable (we’ll park the latest rendition of Cinderella here) or actually quite good (this is where we’ll put Tangled, which is actually 7 years old now.) I would recommend Tangled to young and old alike. Yes, it’s very Disney and rife with cliches and well-worn storylines and, yes, a man saving the day yet again BUT if we just carefully move that to the side for an hour and a half it is also laugh out loud funny – I laughed a lot – and kind of unique in its storytelling and humour, at least, some of the writing is pretty off the wall.

What else? I read a book! I took out about 30 books when I went on leave and read exactly one. But it was a good one. I read Filmish by Edward Ross, which is a graphic novel that explores the history and politics of film. I recommend it if you’re a film buff, student or feel like reading something interesting and a bit different.

Image result for edward ross filmish

Okay, I’m all out.


Laura FINDLAY (!)