We’ve been a diverse bunch of readaholics this past month, devouring everything from lit journals to audiobooks to poetry and short story collections. Here’s what’s been on the NSWWC reading radar throughout April.
Bridget Lutherborrow, Projects & Communications Officer
I took some time to get stuck into Issue 29 of The Lifted Brow recently. What stuck me most about this issue was how each piece was placed. One of my favourites was ‘The Critic in the Episode “Rebounds”‘ by Jana Perkovic, a piece about – among other things – the way each of our relationships is an attempt to make up for previous ones, how sometimes you don’t know you’re on the rebound. This was the first piece in this issue, the next being Briohny Doyle‘s ‘Teen Evangelism’, which deals with teen groupies of the 70s and 80s, their contribution to music, and how teen girls are sexualised without being allowed sexual autonomy themselves. Next up was ‘Visual and Other Pleasures’ by Dion Kagan, which unpacks the significance of costume (and particular narrative elements) to femme representation in the movie Carol. The ordering and proximity of these three pieces only added to the experience of reading them (and they were all great on their own), so kudos to the the editorial team for putting them that way. (I swear I read past this point – these were just my faves!)
Jane McCredie, Executive Director
I’m really enjoying Joanne Burns’ poetry collection, Brush. The global financial crisis made me much more aware of the faith-based nature of financial systems (if we stop believing in them, they collapse) and of how poorly most of us understand them. It’s exciting and surprising to find a poet exploring some of these issues.
I love the images of share portfolios biding their time like projected family weddings, bankers dancing the zumba junta in the constitutional ballroom, aching share portfolios unlocking your teeth in the adrenal winds, and deflatulenced forecasts shocking profits as they taxi into austerity drive.
Ashley Kalagian Blunt, Program Officer
Lately I’ve been wandering around the city with Maxine Beneba Clarke whispering in my ear. She can be a little distracting, frankly, when I’m trying to catch a bus or remembering to stop by the post office, but I forgive her because her author-narrated audio version of Foreign Soil makes such compelling listening.
The stories are engaging, distinct yet folded into each other, like intricate origami. Her characters leave stronger impressions than many people I’ve met; in fact, when I pull out my earbuds as I walk in the door, I feel like I have met them, out on the streets.
Beneba Clarke reads not like she’s reading, but like she’s telling you a story, giving her characters further depth. I have wanted to read Foreign Soil since it was released, but I’m glad I waited for Beneba Clarke to read it to me.
Sherry Landow, Membership & Administration Officer
This month I also read Maxine Beneba Clarke’s short story collection Foreign Soil. The standout stories for me were ‘Hope’, ‘Foreign Soil’, ‘Shu Yi’ and ‘Gaps in the Hickory’. The stories are both heart-breaking (‘Shu Yi’) and warming (‘David’), with characters that are fierce, vulnerable and nuanced.
The phonetic use of language means that much of the speech in these stories needs to be read slowly and patiently, rolling the sounds out in your head as you go. This pulls the reader right into the text and adds to the cinematic feel of the scenes.
The stories in this collection will stay with you long after closing the cover.
Julia Tsalis, Program Manager
After resisting it for a long time I finally got around to reading H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald. Despite many people I respect saying that this was an extraordinary book, I just couldn’t see how I would enjoy a memoir about training a hawk.
Well, they were right. This is an exceptional piece of work – beautifully written and deeply engaging. Macdonald wrote the book in the wake of her father’s unexpected death. She had been fascinated by wild birds since childhood and retreating into this intense process was a way of dealing with her grief.
Into this she weaves the life and writing of T. H. White, the author of The Sword in the Stone and The Once and Future King. These were two of my favourite books growing up and I still have very strong memories of them. It is a deeply intelligent, moving piece of work that encompasses the fascinating details of taming a wild hawk with the grand emotions of grief, loss, and love.
This was a slow reading month for me, in part due to the massive number of hours I devoted to marathoning Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But one of the books I did get around to was Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, a novel I first read a couple of years back and had a hankering to revisit. It’s a young adult romance that somehow feels relatable, despite the complete lack of romances in my own teen years.
One thing that I love about this book is that the characters are allowed to actually be teenagers – they mess up, hurt other people, and don’t have everything figured out. The writing is intoxicating. I distinctly remember getting goosebumps the first time I read it! I love going back to books a second (or third or fourth) time and finding them just as wonderful as I remembered. My advice: read this book in one sitting with a hefty box of tissues nearby.
Claire Bradshaw, Intern
Last month I read a book that’s particularly close to my heart: the 2016 Newcastle Short Story Award Anthology, which I’m actually lucky enough to appear in! The talent in this little book absolutely floored me, and I feel honoured to be featured amidst such wonderful writing.
After that, I moved onto Helen Garner’s This House of Grief. I’ve been meaning to read more non-fiction, so chose this book on a whim after hearing amazing things about Helen Garner. It’s one of the most harrowing books I’ve ever read, but it’s well-handled and extremely beautifully written.
From there it was onto The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt: in my opinion, an overly long yet strangely compelling book. And at the moment I’m halfway through The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski – just couldn’t resist the temptation of a new YA fantasy series.