Here at NSW Writers’ Centre we’re not just all about writing – we’re also about reading! Reading is how writers are born, it’s how they hone their craft, it’s what happens when the writing’s done. You can’t have one without the other. Here’s our latest instalment in this ongoing series of posts, this month we are enjoying literary journals, thrillers, magazines and podcasts!
I was lucky enough to see Charlotte Wood speak about her latest novel, The Natural Way of Things. Set in the slightly dystopian present, the narrative traces two young women who find themselves locked away in mysterious circumstances. While stark and startling, the narrative manages to explore contemporary issues around violence against women in subtle ways and from new perspectives. Aside from being beautifully written, the book is beautifully made, with a striking cover art and perfectly portioned designed. I also recently finished Bruce McCabe’s SkinJob. As a thriller fan, I enjoyed its fast-paced plot. McCabe’s inside knowledge of looming technology trends and their disruptive potential made this an especially memorable read.
The last thing I read and liked was actually Frankie Magazine’s 67th issue. It was the fiction issue, so had stories from Abigail Ulman, Favel Parrett, Nic Low, Ellen van Neerven and Alice Pung, all inspired by these old items found in ops shops and antique stores. I especially enjoyed Ellen van Neerven’s piece, which is probably the only short story I’ve even read about a trans teenager. It’s told from the perspective of their mother and the different perspectives are handled so lightly and lovingly. I’m keen to check out more of her work.
I have just devoured two books by Donna Tartt (unfortunate name for an excellent writer!); The Secret History and The Gold Finch. These novels are Salinger meets Bret Easton-Ellis gritty American coming-of-age novels and are highly readable. Tartt’s books are gothic thrillers about youth and promise gone awry with deftly formed characters that become like old friends!
Also I have just cottoned on to a great podcast Chat 10 Looks 3 in which Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales talk about books, television, radio, movies, food, politics and whatever else they feel like. Even show tunes. Hilarious listening that makes filing at my office job a lot more interesting.
This month, I can not but sing the praises of Overland. This literary journal is impressive in the breadth and quality of work it publishes. The Spring 2015 issue features a great essay about the decaying city of Detroit by Jennifer Mills, poetry by John Tranter, Ellen van Neervan and Fiona Wright, fiction from Omar Musa, and a very funny piece by Alison Croggan likening reading to a gateway drug that leads to the addiction of writing as just a few examples of the impressive scope of this journal.
After hearing recommendations from many friends and colleagues about the amazing Elena Ferrante I finally read her first book in the quartet, My Brilliant Friend, and it is as wonderful as I was lead to believe. Set in Naples in the 50s, it tells of the intense friendship between two young girls and in doing so captures the social and political milieu of the time. It is an extraordinary book.
Ever since Katherine Mansfield, F Scott Fitzgerald, Roald Dahl, and Chekov I have always loved short stories. I had the pleasure of reading a collection of Jane Gardam’s short stories, The Stories. Its a lovely big hard cover collection of stories that she has put together from a lifetime of writing and they are sublime. Something to make you want to go to bed at night and good enough to keep you from going to sleep.