Witches, Chainmail, and Banned Books
I watched the 2015 horror film The VVitch a few days ago and was floored. It’s a perfect pick if you’re like me and watch horror movies all October long. The VVitch is not campy, corny, or gory. It’s very slow and a bit like an old school Hitchcock movie with violence usually taking place off camera. The film is set in the 1630’s and focuses on a puritan family in New England that is being terrorized by a witch. My favorite aspect of the movie is how it puts you in that time and place. The family lives on the edge of a mysterious wood. Their lives are being turned upside down and they have no idea what is causing their turmoil. There could literally be anything in those woods, and I find that mystery especially frightening. The actors speak in accents authentic to the period, so I’d recommend turning subtitles on. The VVitch was the debut film from director Robert Eggers; his second, The Lighthouse, just hit theaters a few weeks ago, and I can’t wait to see it.
Disenchantment, the most recent offering from The Simpsons creator Matt Groening, is a cartoon that premiered on Netflix in August of 2018. The second season was just released this past September. So, naturally, after being devastated by the drama and delighted by the black humor, I decided to binge watch season two this past weekend. At first, I was caught off guard by the fast-paced storyline; everything just felt random to me. However, I am a big fan of when narratives just kind of click at a certain point after throwing the reader or viewer all over the place. Disenchantment did just that! I’m not usually one that goes for stories set in fairytale lands or the middle ages, but this show has me ready to buy chainmail! If you like Futurama, Bob’s Burgers, or web toons like Bee and Puppycat, this is the show for you! Check it out so we can scream about the ending of season two together!
This week I want to recommend an oldie but a goodie: The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook, by Dinah Bucholz. It made high school me absolutely jump for joy and I still use it to this day. My favorite recipes are the pumpkin pasties (in the section aptly titled “Treats from the Train”) and the dark chocolate truffles (“Treats in the Village”), and I make the cinnamon breakfast rolls every year for Christmas. Bucholz includes everything from intimidatingly European classics like black pudding or steak and kidney pie to more approachable sweets like Harry’s favorite treacle tart or Hagrid’s rock cakes. Every recipe references the lines that inspired it and it’s the perfect way to go down memory lane while making delicious goodies! I highly recommend it to anyone who loves baking and Harry Potter.
Suggested Reading by Dave Connis came out on September 17, just in time for Banned Books Week (September 22-28), and oh boy. I think I’m going to have to make it a tradition to read this every year during Banned Books Week. This was a novel that really reminded you about the power of storytelling. It delves deeply into what books truly mean to us, how they shape us, and what happens when they’re taken away.
The novel follows bookworm Clara as her school bans 50 books—many of which shaped who she is. She starts an Underground Library (UnLib), taking the books that were banned from the school library, wrapping them in white paper, and checking them out to students from her locker. With the expansion of the UnLib, Clara interacts with and befriends people who she never thought would speak to her. It’s a bonding over the changes each character faces from this assault on their freedom.
While there are so many fantastic looks at books and how much they impact and connect readers, Connis also shows Clara facing some tough questions as the UnLib grows and a reader feels overwhelmed by one of the books Clara recommends. It makes her question if perhaps the people who banned these books were right. While she may have felt one way about the book, she’s disheartened that someone else had completely opposite feelings. It’s a great look at how books speak to each person differently.
With a great cast of characters, a plot that constantly has you turning the pages, and messages that make you think long after setting the book down, I highly recommend Suggested Reading to anyone who needs a little reminder about how much books truly mean to us and to society.