Summer comes with some inevitabilities. Change, for one. Going home to your parents, in my case. Either embracing the days when the outdoors turns into a pressure cooker or developing a hatred of the sun that may have made me think you were cool in high school. I have come to love this season, but it still brought certain unfortunate situations, and getting through them (and summer generally) with joy and grace depended partly on the media I chose to set my mood and the tone of my summer to. These are four recommendations — vices, if you will — and what they have meant to me in the past few months. Perhaps they can be useful to you too. If not, reading about someone else’s slight misfortune is usually enjoyable.
A show to watch upon moving back to your childhood home with your parents: “Killing Eve”
When I set foot in my childhood room for the first time since winter break, I was struck by the smell, which seemed to carry an oppressive collection of past iterations of myself, held intact by the tangle of Bath & Body Works perfumes that still hung in the air. In the place where I had been so many different people, I felt strangely like I would be unable to hold onto my actual identity and the changes I had undergone in my time since living there, and would slip back into one of those past selves. Besides vigorously cleaning my room and getting rid of my old perfume, I warded off the past by proving to myself that I was different now. This involved watching something new, nothing I had seen while in that room before. For me, that was the show “Killing Eve.” I’m a bit late to this show, I know. The final season came out months ago, but the beginning of summer ended up being the perfect time for me to start watching. I fell in love with the first (and best) season, which introduces bored, British spy Eve (Sandra Oh, “Grey’s Anatomy”) and uniquely loveable assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer, “The Last Duel”), who Eve is tasked to investigate and with whom she becomes fascinated. The acting, the superb theme music and the writing (Phoebe Waller-Bridge has never let me down) made this a show that got me through the initial disorienting weeks of May. It is also one of those shows that makes you feel like a cool person when you watch it. I know you know what I mean. Considering whether we would fall in love with an assassin can make us feel interesting even when we’re lying in bed drinking tea and watching Hulu.
A hype song for being practically naked in public for the first time all year: “Cate’s Brother” by Maisie Peters
This was my first song of the summer. I’ve since gotten sick of it and moved on to a song of the next part of summer. The first summer beach trip can be anxiety-invoking. It feels wrong to suddenly be wearing essentially nothing. You have your pick of either the beaches that become overrun with tourists and young children, or the smaller beaches where you might be alone until one other group of people gets there, which is riskier and potentially far worse. In my case, there was the added difficulty that I’m the only one of my friends in my hometown who enjoys the beach, and therefore I had to overcome the hurdle of going by myself. If you’re going to do that, you need a song to convince you that you will have fun and no, you do not care that people will probably see you. For me, Peters’s new single “Cate’s Brother” was the song for getting ready to leave and driving to the beach. It’s upbeat, it’s exciting, it makes me want to meet the love of my life dancing in the sand at sunset. Peters is emanating main character energy and when you listen to this song, you can absorb it.
A book to help you ignore the men catcalling you on your solo beach trip: “Sea of Tranquility” by Emily St. John Mandel
The beach doesn’t have to mean swimming. This early in the year, the water has been freezing even when the weather is hot, and I don’t particularly like being unable to breathe when the waves touch anywhere above my waist. Regardless of your reason, you might find yourself spending more time listening to the waves while lying on a beach towel than you spend in the water. Maybe you went to the part of the beach away from the swim area to avoid other people, and now boats keep pulling in and anchoring uncomfortably close to you. Maybe you’ve decided to try tanning even though all signs point to your skin being physically incapable of anything besides paleness, burning and the bluish tinge it develops when outside in the depths of winter. Either way, you need a book to read. Personally, I don’t think a “beach read” has to be fluffy or romantic. It should balance between gripping and calm, exciting but, as Mandel’s novel suggests, “tranquil.” I took this book to the beach not knowing what to expect, and I was swept into the story of what at first seems to be a glitch in the world and evolves into a story of centuries past, present and future. There’s a time-traveler, too, and the surprising inevitability of events that this invites. The story is short, Mandel clearly chooses every word carefully and, while thought-provoking, the prose isn’t dense. For anyone equally as disinterested in reading a romance novel as they are lugging a 700-page “pretentious” monstrosity onto your beach towel, this book is something easy to read in one sitting while holding intellectual weight. As an added plus, you won’t have to fake your interest in the book while ignoring the group of men who catcall you as they walk past.
Note: Can be enjoyed off the beach as well, but this is a summer-themed piece.
A movie to watch when you don’t get the internship you wanted: “Faces Places”
Summer came with two highly contradictory pressures: The first, to leave work and stress behind me and live, go on road trips with friends, spend all day reading at the beach. The other was to get an internship, to get experience, to (as I put it to myself after some unnecessary spiraling) “do something useful so I would have any hope of ever making money after college.” After accepting that I was not going to have the most productive summer of my life or the most extravagant, let alone both, I had to accept that advancing my understanding of the work that interests me — writing and film (you see why I worry about post-graduation financial stability) — didn’t have to look like an internship. Applying for internships, especially when you realize you missed the early deadlines for the best ones, almost inevitably comes with rejection. You get an interview and start planning to move to Chicago, and then they choose someone with more experience and all plans are crushed.
After losing a particularly interesting internship opportunity, I felt the rejection creeping into my mind, my self-perception, as it always eventually does. I spent an hour writing (angrily word-vomiting) about how maybe I would just never be good enough for the journalism world. Then I was tired of feeling bad about myself and needed something good to watch. I imagine having a post-self-loathing recommendation could be useful for some, because finding a good movie to watch in this sort of situation can be tricky. It needs to be happy enough, a good film to take you out of the dull or sad or angry part of your brain, but it also has to be as far from “trash TV” as possible to avoid making you feel even more pointless. The film that saved me here was Agnes Varda and JR’s “Faces Places,” a documentary of the two filmmakers’ project taking giant photos of people from disparate parts of France and plastering them on walls or the sides of buildings. The film feels like something a film snob would watch, but not in a difficult way. There are scenes — one in particular, which takes place in a bell tower — that filled me with joy just because of how well they were filmed and put together. There seems to be happiness in the veins of this film, and when your ideas feel impossible because you haven’t been hired by someone, it’s a reminder that you can do things on your own. You could take a van with a built-in photo booth to rural France. No permission from an internship coordinator is required.
Daily Arts Writer Erin Evans can be reached at email@example.com.