No Complaints #81: Gerald, Growth and Green Day

Hello! Thank you so much for all the responses to last week's newsletter - I really enjoyed hearing what you enjoyed. Do keep sending me your replies if you can, it's nice to be reminded that there are real people reading this.

Things to read

“By late September, Alexa and I were getting along. I’d learned that she wasn’t funny, so I didn’t ask for jokes; I learned that I could say ‘Alexa, good morning’ and ‘Alexa, good afternoon’ and have a pleasant interaction; she was telling me cool stuff about jellyfish and whether it would rain; we both liked the White Album. Then, on Friday, something crazy happened. ‘Alexa, good morning!’ I said. ‘Good morning,’ Alexa said. ‘It’s the last day of September. Guess it’s time to wake Green Day up.’ I did a double take: reader, Alexa made me laugh. ”

I enjoyed this little tale of a technophobe’s efforts to live with an Amazon Echo. Email to Pocket.


“I’m trying to carve out the man from the internet joke he’s embedded in, but he doesn’t know it surrounds him, and he doesn’t really care. He’s a photograph on a dartboard hung on a wall in bar: To him, the darts don’t even exist, let alone hurt. He shrugs: None of this matters. What matters stays with you. Everything else just falls away.”

This is such a delicately-written piece, and the headline says it all: Jonathan Safran Foer Doesn’t Know Or Care About Your Memes. Email to Pocket.


“I can see why Rupert’s kids were wary of her (a shy and retiring stepmother she was never going to be), but I always thought she looked a lot more entertaining than any of them. She would be a lot of fun to have a two-martini lunch with at some fancy place on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. And she’d be petrifying to antagonise.”

I am, as previously discussed in this newsletter, totally fascinated by Wendi Deng. A new fact I acquired from this excellent interview by Hadley Freeman: she still prefers to be known by her married name, aka Murdoch. Email to Pocket.


“Susan and Peter are on an ice flow in a frozen river that’s breaking up. Chunks of ice are going downstream and going over the edge of a waterfall, and on both banks of the river they’re surrounded by wolves – enormous, CGI, double-sized wolves – snarling at them, going to tear them to pieces. And Peter’s got a sword that he was given by Santa Claus, I guess, Father Christmas. It really looks like it’s curtains. He’s standing there and Susan says to him, ‘just because someone gives you a sword doesn’t make you a hero, Peter’. And I thought, ‘you can’t be serious? This is not the time for that kind of discussion’. In fact, it never is.”

An important critique of the Narnia films' obsession with personal growth. Email to Pocket.


“Gerald left school at 14 to work at his uncle’s clothing factory and train as a fitter. When war intervened, he joined the RAF, serving with a Halifax bomber squadron in North Africa. Meanwhile Olwyn and Ted won scholarships to the local grammar school. Returning home at the end of the war, Gerald recalled the door being opened by a 15-year-old Ted who “just stared, with tears streaming down his face, and in a strong voice said, 'Mam, it’s him, it’s him!’”.”

As a Janet Malcolm devotee, I am fascinated by all new nuggets of information about Ted Hughes/Sylvia Plath. This obituary for Ted's brother Gerald provides some excellent childhood detail for several of the protagonists in The Silent Woman (which we talked about on the podcast here). Email to Pocket.


Things to listen to

The Heart has just finished a ravishing series about diaries that I highly recommend you dive into. The BFF episode was really fun, and I very much enjoyed the crossover episode with the Mortified podcast, but the episode that absolutely floored me was the last one. Told in The Heart's characteristically ethereal style, it's a devastating story of a love lost.

Things to watch


Compulsory medieval thingamabob

When Borrowers go bad.

The guest gif

Don't be this guy.

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THE END. See you next time!