What We're Reading / August 2018

The Writing NSW staff share what we’ve been reading this August.

Each month, the Writing NSW staff share what we’ve been reading. On our list this month are Hannah Gadsby’s recorded monologue NanetteClaiming Noah by Amanda Ortlepp, Poemland by Chelsey Minnis, Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss and William Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Jane McCredie, CEO

The piece of writing that most moved me this month was Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette, the recording of her Sydney Opera House performance that is now on Netflix. The one-hour monologue starts as fairly conventional stand-up comedy but then morphs in a completely unexpected way. Gadsby stops telling jokes to turn her sharp eye on the dark roots of comedy itself. Her 10-year career, she tells the audience, has been based on self-deprecation. “Do you understand what self-deprecation means when it comes from someone who already exists in the margins?” she asks, announcing her intention to walk away from comedy. “It’s not humility. It’s humiliation. I put myself down in order to speak, in order to seek permission to speak, and I simply will not do that any more.” You probably won’t laugh much watching the second half of Gadsby’s performance, but I’m pretty sure you’ll be moved by her raw honesty and her courage. “There is nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself,” Gadsby says and, watching her, you believe it.

Ashley Kalagian Blunt, Program Officer

I just finished Writing NSW member Amanda Ortlepp’s Claiming Noah. Under the umbrella of contemporary women’s fiction, the novel is part of the emotional thriller genre. Set in Sydney, it centres around two mothers and the realities of IVF and postpartum psychosis. With a quickly paced plot and blurred lines between protagonists and antagonists, it’s an engaging read. I’m now eager to start Ortlepp’s second book, Running Against the Tide.

Dan Hogan, Program Officer

I’ve been reading Poemland by Chelsey Minnis this month. Minnis’ seminal poetry collection is a multifarious barrage of absurdist images and metaphors. Poemland tumbles through visions at a delightfully ravenous pace, delivering poem after untitled poem. The accumulative effect of which incites the book’s themes as the reader is rowed through deadpan humour and incongruous literary entanglements. The combined hyper-rapid delivery and compressed imagery takes the reader on an excursion of cut-down chandeliers, glitter drums, and how you can be someone’s goat. And what does it all mean? Hardly one to paint-by-numbers, Minnis’ work projects commentary on gender, relationships, the personal as a place/places. It is easy to see how Minnis’ hilarious and uproarious style has influenced a generation of poets, such as Hera Lindsay Bird and Crispin Best. Think that boat ride scene portrayed by Gene Wilder in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory meets Walt Whitman in a ‘gravy boat full of painkillers’.

Lucia Moon, Program Intern 

I’ve returned to the classics this month and re-read William Shakespeare’s fantastical play, The Tempest. This is one of my favourite Shakespearean plays for its wild setting and explorations of illusion and magic. The Tempest is set on an uninhabited island and recounts the story of the banished Duke Prospero’s quest to regain power in the Kingdom of Milan. But is the island really uninhabited? The Duke’s quest for revenge has brought about his colonisation of the island, and the consequent enslavement of its elements, spirits and the witch-child Caliban. The play inspires questions on the essential nature of man, their yearning for power and their capacity for forgiveness.

Sherry Landow, Membership & Development Officer 

This month I’ve been (re)reading Patrick Rothfuss’ Name of the Wind. One of my favourite fantasy novels, Name of the Wind follows the story of Kvothe, the once legendary King-Killer and Dragon-Slayer, who has since changed his identity and gone into hiding. Years after his disappearance, a scribe sets out to find Kvothe and write his story.


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