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Fiction

Reflection: The Invasion (The Grey Land Book 2) by Peadar O’Guilin

Irish mythology has fascinated me since I was a little girl. The stories of sliding between parallel worlds, of the human and the Sidhe, of Tir Na n’Og, seemed both familiar and strange. I felt like I missed something by not being able to speak Gaeilge (or Cymric for that matter). My family name is Irish, but my family moved to Australia five or six generations ago, I think we traced it to about the time of the famine. I am one of the invaders.

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Fiction

Reflection: Great Expectations by Kathy Acker

I feel like I come across authors at just the right time in my life. In my early 20s, as a young and terrified queer woman, it was Jeanette Winterson. She was gifted to me on my twenty first birthday by a schoolfriend. Ten years later (and late to the party), it was Angela Carter. She was a writer whose urgency leaked through the page and into me. Most recently, it has been Kathy Acker. Her rage, her despair, her passion, resonates with me right now. I don’t know if it’s because she seems a long past oracle of the current zeitgeist; her depictions of toxic masculinity, written during the early 80s could have been written last week. She is a Casssandra. Her Great Expectations, made me work as much as Dickens’ rambling tome did. But where Dickens’ skill is in setting scene, hers in in unpacking a character.

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Fiction, Uncategorized

Reflection: Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

I admit straight up that I have an obsession with water. My mother always called me her waterbaby, and I am never happier than when I am immersed in cool clear waves. There is a caveat: the water must be clear, I like to see exactly what I’m swimming with. It was in just such circumstances that I started reading Invisible Cities.  I had water up to my chest, and it was crystal clear. I stood in the bay, my legs dancing with the pull of the current while I read this book in the pink evening sun. It was the most perfect way to begin this book about journeys.

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Fiction

Reflection: Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

I’m going to come right out and say it. Liane Moriarty does what Cormac McCarthy does, what Bukowski did, what so many authors who idealise American Realism want to do. And she does it in Sydney, in heels and backwards. Her characters draw the reader in, they are not always sympathetic, they are not always likeable, but they are always complex, even when it seems like they should be. She has an eye for the minutiae of the human psyche, and particularly of the ways in which women negotiate what it is to learn, perform and be a woman. In Nine Perfect Strangers Moriarty puts that mundanity of the human experience on display.

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Fiction

Reflection: Crudo –A Novel by Olivia Laing

Some books come into your life at the right time. Like a new friend they hold your hand, pull you away to a quiet corner, snaffle a bottle and two glasses on the way across, and then pull you into a couch, proclaiming: Let’s talk. Laing’s book does just this. It offers the reader a startling “What if”: What if Kathy Acker were here, now? What if she was on Twitter? Or Instagram? What if she was still writing, confronting readers with their darkest selves? What if Kathy Acker ended up in some middle aged respectability? We’ve seen how that worked out for Trent Reznor, no?

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Life Writing

Reflection: Call Them By Their True Names: American Crises (and Essays) by Rebecca Solnit

Rebecca Solnit is, for me, an essayist who I can read with ease. I agree with most of her takes, I find her turn of phrase clear, but not patronising, and I enjoy the way she weaves her knowledge and experience as an historian into her observations about life in what has been fairly complex, turbulent, and angry times. I enjoy the essay as a genre of writing, but I can no longer drag together the energy to be righteously indignant every time I read something. I think this is why I love Solnit. She offers relief. She offers hope. I know she can be pop-feministy, but there are also times when I want to listen to pop music, or watch reality TV and I think these things can teach readers, in their own small, quiet, softly, softly ways.

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Fiction

Reflection: Netsuke by Rikki Ducornet

I spent a Sunday afternoon lying on the beach enjoying sun, a cool breeze coming off the water, and a book. I read the whole of Netsuke in one sitting. It has been a long time since I have given myself the time to dedicate to a book like that. Normally I read in snatches, before bed, or on public transport, or as a reward after finishing marking essays or transcribing interviews. None of this is my own research of course. I’m terrified of starting my own writing. It feels very far away, and I’m convinced of my own inadequacy as a writer (both scholarly and creative). I discussed this with my analyst this week. We’re unpacking my focus on productive and unproductive writing. I’m fond of binaries. It’s very Euro-centric of me.

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