Georges Perec, Life: A User’s Manual (1978)
If you’re wondering what your neighbors are up to, this French classic takes a single moment in time and space – a Paris apartment block at 8:00pm on June 23, 1975 – and unfolds it, room by corridor by stairwell, into a constellation of lives. Family squabbles, romance, murder, and competitive cycling all coincide in a dizzying literary dissection.
Orian Barki and Meriem Bennani’s 2 Lizards
It’s early days for New York’s lockdown (as of this writing), and yet artists Orian Barki and Meriem Bennani have already co-produced three episodes of this animated web series, released via Instagram TV. A pair of cute reptilian roommates watch the sunset from their roof, go on a grocery run, and camchat with a sexy tiger. Their sweet, wistful dialogue is the most honest thing I’ve heard over the past few weeks, and proof of the amazing work artists are creating under quarantine.
Ottessa Moshfegh, Death in Her Hands (2020)
A tale of paranoid isolation if there ever was one, Ottessa Moshfegh’s latest novel follows an older woman, Vesta Gul (the author’s most likable protagonist yet), after she discovers a note alleging a murder in the woods beside her small cabin. With no corpse as evidence, Gul sets out to crack the case, and her logic grows denser than the forest slowly closing in on her.
Double feature: Dogtooth (2009) and Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975)
I finally have time to work through my Criterion Channel watch list, and so this one is a thematic double-feature: two films about isolation under very different circumstances, but with similarly bloody outcomes. Dogtooth, the sophomore feature by Yorgos Lanthimos (of The Favourite fame), is a brilliantly weird portrait of a family whose children are trapped in a lush compound by their parents’ elaborate web of lies. Chantal Akerman’s masterpiece, meanwhile, follows a single mother in Brussels as she does household chores and has sex with male clients to support herself and her son. At over three hours long, it’s one of the most brutal portraits of bourgeois domesticity ever made.
Trisha Low, Socialist Realism (2019)
Home is a utopia in Trisha Low’s slim, book-length essay – a ‘no place’, that is, located more in shifting emotional terrain than a single house or even country. Memories of Low’s childhood in Singapore, her life in New York and her experiences of love in Oakland, California, where she is currently based, are interwoven with reflections on art – by Akerman, Sophie Calle, Paul McCarthy and others – and calls for social and political revolution.