Brighteners for ‘Blue Monday’: a dozen sources of pleasure

Last week a friend alerted me to the imminence of ‘Blue Monday’ – the third Monday of January, believed by some to be the most depressing day of the year. With the current state of uncertainty, that’s an even more dubious superstition than it has been in the past, but since I fully accept that we all need reasons to laugh and smile, to feel excitement or inspiration, or simply to find a little peace of mind for a few hours, especially in dark and troubled times like these, I thought I’d take another look at some of the things that brought me pleasure, consolation and temporary relief during 2020 with a view to offering a few recommendations for release and escape. While some of the films, TV, music and books listed below did appear on my end-of-the-year best-of list, others did not; this time, even though the standard of performances and writing remains very high, I have focused primarily on what is likely to brighten your Monday, week, month or year. So you’ll find no Shostakovich violin concertos or Peter Grimes here, no Elizabeth Strout, and no Roy Andersson or Steve McQueen. The gems that follow – most of which, I hope, are easily accessible one way or another – may just help you to feel a little lighter and more positive about our current situation. When will the blues leave? Who knows, but I hope there’s something here that will drive them away at least for a while.

Four to see:

Buster Keaton – Three Films: Our Hospitality/ College/ Go West (Eureka BluRay)

Stella Street, series 1 (YouTube)

Dolemite Is My Name (Netflix, starring Eddie Murphy, pictured above)

Martha Argerich & Renaud Capuçon: César Franck – Sonata for violin and piano in A major, live in Hamburg 25/6/20 (YouTube

Four to hear:

Nash Ensemble: Clara Schumann & Fanny Mendelssohn – Trios and Quartet (Hyperion)

Gringolts Quartet & Meta4: Felix Mendelssohn & George Enescu – Octets (Bis)

Maxim Rysanov, Sinfonietta Riga: Peteris Vasks  – Viola Concerto & String Symphony ‘Voices’ (Bis)

Mike Westbrook: Love and Understanding & Citadel/Room 315 – Sweden ’74 (My Only Desire)

Four to read

PG Wodehouse: Thank You, Jeeves

Charles Portis: The Dog of the South

Jonathan Coe: Mr Wilder and Me

Sam Wasson: The Big Goodbye – Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood

Is this what it feels like on ‘Blue Monday’? Buster Keaton’s College

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