A place where we’re all terrible...

Very Special Newsletter by Iain Ryan | Ep 13

Karyn Kusama’s DESTROYER (2018) doesn’t quite work but it’s a concept I’ve experimented with:

hardboiled noir doesn’t have to be about toxic masculinity. It can be a place where we’re all terrible.

When spurned by society — or dislocated by the traumas of war, family, church or the police service - the hardboiled loner always finds the violent loose ends of a story. It’s a dangerous place, but a free one.

At one point in Destroyer, Nicole Kidman’s Detective Erin Bell sits in a sunny park and tells her daughter’s deadbeat boyfriend that he should be afraid of her. Why? ‘Because I don’t care what happens to me.’ Which is it, in a nutshell. A frustrating movie — Kidman didn’t need the terrible make-up — but also an acknowledgment of something, I think.

Similar vibes can be found in Season 3 of TRUE DETECTIVE (2019). A return to form, it’s concluding episode was much stronger than the finales of either season 1 or 2.

(I feel like Nic Pizzolatto is much better at starting than stopping.)

But in one five second scene, the whole story of season three collapses into a stark reminder that Detective Hays never really came home from the war. Every season has felt like a downward spiral leading to sharp centre but it hasn’t alway been there.

This time it was.


Destroyer has a scene soundtracked by Gardenia so I’ve been revisiting Kyuss and loving every sweaty dumbassed moment of it. If you’ve never heard them, they sound like something Bevis and Butthead dreamed up on a long bong-toke, except — by some miracle — actually good.

(Also: the band’s singer sounds like Danzig. No one ever mentions that.)

I’ve watched this Portishead live track on YouTube about 30 times in the last fortnight:

I’ve also been circling back to Tim Hecker’s 2018 record Konoyo. Dreamy.


THE PLOTTERS by Un Su Kim. Excellent. I didn’t think I needed a literary novel about assassins, but I did. There are discrete chapters of this book that are so tightly assembled that this thing could be a short story collection. And, of course with that title, there’s a meta element to this. This is a book about writing crime novels as much as an admirable execution of one.

THE LAST POLICEMAN by Ben H Winters. The premise is an A+ (a detective works a case while comet is coming to destroy the planet) and the first two acts of the novel itself are super strong, but by the end I wanted to be out in the streets with the looters and the chaos rather than cooped up with the protagonist. That said, great sentences and completely recommended.

Cal Newport’s book on DIGITAL MINIMALISM is a good primer on why I’ve been withdrawing from social media lately. Jaron Lanier’s TEN ARGUMENTS FOR DELETING YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS RIGHT NOW may be an easier, more entertaining read but Newport’s book is a bit more actionable. It’s less argument, more deleting.

It’s true though, delete everything.


PS: You can buy my books here.

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