Our May reads include The World Was Whole by Fiona Wright, The Rosie Result by Graeme Simsion, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, and 10:04 by Ben Lerner.
Ashley Kalagian Blunt, Online Program Officer
The World Was Whole is Fiona Wright’s follow-up to her award-winning essay collection, Small Acts of Disappearance. Long-listed for the Stella Prize, her new collection begins with an exploration of our bodies and our homes – both the buildings and the neighbourhoods – as shelters. But for many of us, our bodies and homes can each be sources of discomfort, even extreme difficulty. The essays range from Sydney’s western suburbs to the Inner West, to Victoria and Iceland and Shanghai, with each place and its emotional landscape captured through Wright’s eye for vivid detail. She closes the collection optimistically, reflecting on the joy and comfort brought by her new dog, Virginia Woof.
Grace Joseph, Program Intern
I’ve just finished reading Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Result, which is the last book of his bestselling Rosie Project trilogy. It’s a heartwarming, easy read that follows Don Tillman and Rosie Jarman’s journey as first-time parents, helping their son with the same issues that Don himself experienced as a child. Although readers have generally recognised that Don, who narrates the story, displays behaviours typical of people with autism, Simsion had not explicitly labelled him as such before this book. In The Rosie Result, however, autism is explored in a meaningful and interesting manner through both Don and his son, debunking stereotypes and educating readers on the diversity of the community. Simsion spoke at the Sydney Writers’ Festival this May.
Geordie Timmins, Membership Intern
Recently I finished reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Never have I read such a gripping, harrowing, and enlighteningly human, tale of survival. Following a Father and Son as they cross a scorched and withered, post-apocalyptic America, where food is scarce and the nights are cold, the reader is drawn into a bleak world of sadness, hunger, and the human will to survive. Strangely poetic, we see a saddening account of what a father will do for his son, the paradoxical flourishing and failing of humanity at the end of all days. The writing takes a bit of getting used to – it is so scarce and absent of a more traditional style of prose – but once your eyes adjust to the weak and dwindling sun(excuse the metaphor), you see the light of an all too human bond shining through the rough.
McCarthy stands as one of the figureheads of contemporary American literature and The Road is a prime example of why this is the case. This is literary brilliance, a book everybody should read; but I warn, as Dylan Thomas wrote, ‘do not go gentle into that good night’ – prepare yourself; for you will cry, and you will smile, but perhaps most of all, you will come away from this book in awe, shaken to the very core.
Kate Prendergast, Program Officer
For the past six months or so, the full stoush of my reading material has come from the Balmain ferry stop, about 15 minutes walk from where I live. This is because six months ago, in a little cubby-like walkthrough that spans half the jetty, a book exchange has miraculously mushroomed. While many of the titles there promise ‘a new, slimmer you!’ and today I saw a woman, frenzied, unload two boxes filled with Twilight and Fifty Shades, if you look long and often enough, there are absolute gems. I found Lolita there, and The Philosophy of Andy Warhol. I found two El Doctorow books and (a day after I’d bought the book myself, my luck) David Sedaris’ Calypso. I also found 10:04 by Ben Lerner – which is what I’m reading now.
Wholly contemporary, spun with meta involutions, shorelining between reality and fiction, thrumming with echoes, its genius is that manages to (almost) not be pretentious. It is a little pretentious. The protagonist is an author who is somewhat like Lerner (a poet and novelist writing his second fiction after a bestselling first), who acknowledges this, and also writes for us a book within a book while struggling with rising seawaters, the idea of paternity, relationships and art. I am fascinated by Lerner’s style, and his humour. And I dig his audacity to break the rules. Like most postmodern novels, to read 10:04 once will feel like I haven’t understood it at all.