Lost the Plot – Episode 25 – Short Stories

Support Lost the Plot
Become a Lost the Plot Patron
Subscribe, like and comment on SoundCloud
Subscribe and leave a review on iTunes
Follow Tinted Edges on Facebook

Show Notes

My Birthday Presents

20180505_172635-171261564.jpg

My book skirt!

20180620_2336432010339616.jpg

Enter a caption

img_20180406_003426_936205155988.jpg

My most beautiful book 😦

Murder in the Mail and Magic in the Mail
Felicity Banks’ Facebook page
Murder in the Mail Kickstarter Campaign
Magic in the Mail
Lost the Plot Episode 22 – Interactive Fiction

Street Library Interviews
ABC News Story – Curious Canberra
Lil Street Libraries
Lost the Plot Episode 9 – Street Libraries

Sekolah Gunung Merapi campaign
SGM’s facebook post
SGM’s website post
Lost the Plot Episode 13 – Books for the World
Books for the World website

Hugo Awards and
2018 Hugo Awards Finalists
1943 Retro-Hugo Awards Finalists

2018 Nebula Awards
Winners Announced
My Review of “The Stone Sky”
Peter S. Beagle newest Grand Master

2018 Stella Prize
Winner
My review of “The Fish Girl”
My review of “Terra Nullius”

2018 Australian Book Industry Awards
Winners
My reivew of “Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow”

20 Books by Women that Changed the World
Full List

2018 Vogel’s Award
Winner

Nobel Prize for Literature
Canberra Times article

Diary of Anne Frank – hidden pages
CNN article

Upcoming Releases
“Any Ordinary Day” by Leigh Sales
“The Fall of Gondolin” by J R R Tolkein
NOT the Winds of Winter, by George R R Martin
“Nine Perfect Strangers” by Liane Moriarty

TV and Film Adaptations
ABC’s Shakespeare Retelling project
Choose Your Own Adventure
The Bookshop
The Secret Garden

Describe Yourself the Way a Male Author Would
Electric Literature article
Bored Panda article
Electric Literature Male Author Description Chart

Children’s Book Author takes on Fashion Giant Zara
9 News article

Fake News: Children’s Books NOT Banned by Victorian Councils
The Guardian article
Victorian Liberals Statement
SBS article
University of Melbourne page on ANU study

Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2017
Full List

 

 

 

UTAS Law Library Book Disaster
The Mercury article
ABC article

Canberra Streets named after Librarians
Ten Daily article

Story Time From Space
Facebook page
Website

Things that Sean and I talked about:

capital-yarns
Edgar Allen Poe’s short stories
Stephen King’s short stories
“On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” by Stephen King
“The Tommyknockers” by Stephen King (don’t read this, I implore you)
Road Dahl’s short stories
The darker side of Roald Dahl BBC article
“Go the F*** to Sleep”

“I’m a failed poet. Maybe every novelist wants to write poetry first, finds he can’t and then tries the short story which is the most demanding form after poetry. And failing that, only then does he take up novel writing.” – William Faulkner

The quote I referred to is often attributed to Mark Twain, but has apparently been used by many people. Mark Twain himself said “You’ll have to excuse my lengthiness—the reason I dread writing letters is because I am so apt to get to slinging wisdom & forget to let up. Thus much precious time is lost.”

“The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood
“13 Reasons Why” by Jay Asher
“Decoding the Opposite Sex” by Sean Costello
Send in your requests to: http://www.capitalyarns.com.au/who/
“Capital Yarns” by Sean Costello
Definition of ‘yarn
I have also partaken in yarnbombing
“Hey Sister” by Sean Costello
Human Brochure Campaign
Mocan and Green Grout
Capital Yarns Podcast
Arranged Marriage for the Modern Indian Man Podcast
Audiocraft Podcast Festival
“Anzac Day” by Sean Costello
Trace Podcast
Serial Podcast
Evil Genius TV Series
Welcome to Nightvale Podcast
Hello from the Magic Tavern
This American Life
Birdman
“Dreamsnake” by Vonda N. McIntyre
Biopunk
“Birdman” by Sean Costello

“The Anchoress” by Robyn Cadwallader

Leave a comment

Filed under Lost the Plot

The Anchoress

Content warning: mental health, self-harm. 

This book had received quite a lot of attention when it first came out, and I was intrigued to read a book that not only has such a striking pearlescent cover, but is by a Canberra author as well. I picked up a copy and it sat patiently on my shelf for ages, but when I got my copy signed at the author’s event launching her newest book, I knew it was time to give this one a go.

20180616_171528234916534.jpg

“The Anchoress” by Robyn Cadwallader is a historical fiction novel about a teenage girl called Sarah in medieval England. Sarah decides to become an anchoress, secluding herself in a cell attached to a church to live the rest of her life in solitude and prayer. As the story progresses, the reader comes to learn why Sarah has chosen this hard, lonely life while Sarah learns that even as an anchoress, she cannot escape the outside world.

This is an ambitious book that is excellently crafted. It’s difficult to tell an engaging story completely set within a tiny cell, but Cadwallader brings to life a rich story full of engaging characters and moral dilemmas. You can tell the research that went into this book. Cadwallader conjures a world where the opportunities for a woman to make her own life are greatly limited, especially by the risks of childbirth. The day to day detail of this story brings medieval culture to life. In such simple times, even the smallest objects have so much meaning and utility. I think that my favourite parts of this book are the characters that Sarah interacts with, and the snippets of the outside world that she ultimately can’t escape. I also really loved how the discussion of writing a prayer onto an apple played out, and Sarah’s difficulty in interpreting her faith by balancing the wishes of the villagers and the decisions of the priests.

I think the only part of the book I struggled with was the ambiguity of Sarah either being haunted by the spirit of the previous anchoress Agnes, or suffering from some serious mental health issues. I appreciate that during medieval times, the line between mental illness and mysticism was much, much more blurry than it is today. However, I think that I would have liked maybe a little more focus on the mental health part and looking a bit more sharply at the damage Sarah was doing to herself rather than leaving it ambiguous.

This is a fascinating book that really immerses the reader into a medieval phenomenon that so little is known about. Cadwallader’s passion for her subject matter radiates off the page and I can’t wait to read more of her work.

image of AWW badge for 2018

3 Comments

Filed under Australian Books, Book Reviews, Historical Fiction

The Trauma Cleaner

Content warning: gender identity, trauma, suicide, neglect, abuse, mental illness

The author of this book came to speak at an event in Canberra earlier this year, and although I unfortunately couldn’t make it – I did manage to meet the author later on in the evening. Having heard the premise of this book, I knew it was one I was going to have to read. Then I had the absolute pleasure of seeing her speak at the Sydney Writers’ Festival.

20180611_1252171769584725.jpg

“The Trauma Cleaner” by Sarah Krasnostein is a biography of transgender Melbourne woman Sandra Pankhurst. A trauma cleaner whose business is in cleaning up humanity’s worst messes from suicides to hoarding situations, Krasnostein’s book explores how Sandra went from a neglected little boy to a successful and resilient woman. Interspersed throughout Sandra’s story are the stories of her clients: sad and lonely people who are being suffocated by their traumas.

Krasnostein writes with a piercing depth that is difficult to encapsulate. She applies an academic rigour to the story, but also manages to reach multiple layers of humanity both in sharing Sandra’s story as well as the story of her clients.  This story is so thoroughly researched yet so honest about where the limits of verifiable fact lie. Sandra is a fascinating person and Krasnostein explores each of her many lives with an exacting sensitivity that demands empathy from the reader. Krasnostein maintains her sense of candour when describing Sandra’s sad upbringing, exiled to the shed by her neglectful and occasionally violent family; her brief stint as a father and husband; the shocking grief of losing her girlfriend; her years working as a sex worker; her years as the wife of a businessman; and, finally, her life as a successful businesswoman.

Having worked in the mental health sector, I thought that Krasnostein did an excellent job navigating the stories of Sandra’s clients. Hoarding is a particularly insidious mental health issue and although it is actually relatively common, it can be difficult for others to relate to. I think one of my favourite parts of the book was when Krasnostein captured Sandra’s finesse and compassion in speaking to these people and asking them to help her help them.

I think the only thing that felt a little jarring was that on a few occasions, Krasnostein goes to some lengths defend Sandra and her choices. However, I think that Sandra’s story really speaks for itself. Sandra’s kindness radiates off the page and the occasions where she made mistakes just make her feel even more relatable.

Anyway, there is absolutely no question why this book won two prizes at the Victorian Premier’s literary awards. It is excellently written and excellently researched, and it tells the story of someone whose story would otherwise never have been told.

image of AWW badge for 2018

6 Comments

Filed under Australian Books, Book Reviews, Non Fiction

A Perfect Square

I received a copy of this book courtesy of the author.

A Perfect Square - a dark mystery, literary fiction style. Where art and creativity meets the occult and conspiracy theories. When synaesthesia becomes clairvoyant. A must read for all lovers of rich and complex fiction

“A Perfect Square” by Isobel Blackthorn is an Australian novel about two mothers and two daughters. Eccentric artist Harriet has her carefully controlled bohemian-bourgeois lifestyle in the Dandenong Ranges in Victoria upturned when her pianist daughter Ginny moves back home after a breakup. Tension crackles between them as Ginny tries to pry the truth about her father from her mother and they collaborate on a joint exhibition. In the UK, another artist called Judith struggles with her own daughter Madeline, and as the novel progresses the connections between the two families become more and more clear.

This is a dark and fraught story about the complexity of female relationships, and particularly mother-daughter relationships. I found Harriet a particularly fascinating character who straddles privilege and a more modest artistic lifestyle, who balances innate talent against anxiety about originality, and who wants to see her daughter flourish yet feels envy about her daughter’s success. I felt like there was some real honesty in the way that Blackthorn described an artist’s life. Harriet’s self-doubt and reliance on selling her artworks rather than just painting whatever felt very real to me. Blackthorn also explored some interesting ideas about fatherhood, being a single parent, and how much love and affection is the right amount to give to children.

The focus of the novel was definitely on Harriet and Ginny’s relationship, but the second half of the book had much more of a thriller theme. There were two families, but the majority of the story was so much about Harriet and Ginny that Judith and Madeline were effectively only support characters. I think that I would have liked to have seen either equal airtime for Judith and Madeline to better strengthen the overall sense of suspense, or to have removed them altogether and let Harriet and Ginny carry the story by themselves. I also felt a little like Ginny’s two best friends were support characters as well. It seemed like they had no lives of their own outside Ginny’s sphere of perception and I didn’t feel like Ginny had individual relationships with either of them.

A tense story with some difficult yet universal themes, this book gives an interesting perspective into the lifestyle of artists and expectations around motherhood.

image of AWW badge for 2018

1 Comment

Filed under Australian Books, Book Reviews, eBooks, General Fiction

Sydney Writers’ Festival – Recognise

This was my fourth event for the Sydney Writers’ Festival. I knew that this event would be really interesting because of the incredibly diverse experience of the panelists – all three of whom are Aboriginal. Unfortunately, I was so absorbed in the event I forgot to take any photographs, so instead here is a photo of the Sydney Writers’ Festival comma.

20180506_100929-1-1434587035.jpg

Academic Marcia Langton convened the panel which also featured journalist Stan Grant and playwright Nakkiah Lui. Before the panel even started, all three panelists were talking animatedly and it was pretty clear that this was going to be a very interesting mix of perspectives. Langton began by asking Lui about winning the Ethel Turner Prize for Young People’s Literature for her play “Black is the New White”. Lui said that she was ordering a baguette in France when she got the message that she had won. Langton asked whether she had pitched it like “Romeo and Juliet” and Lui said no, it was more like “Meet the Fockers”. She wanted to talk about race, class and love and make it funny.

Langton then asked Grant about his piece about his grandfather and equality in the latest edition of “Griffith Review”. The issue features predominantly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers which Grant said “punctures the lazy idea of homogeneity”. Grant launched straight into unpacking racism and said that at the heart of all conflict is a solitarist identity, and a history of grievances. He cautioned against the narrative of the “other”, because when identity is constructed that way, it ceases to be healthy.

The panelists discussed some examples of the way identity has been handled in Australia, including the Australia Day debate and, even though acknowledging that Sydney is NFL country, Adam Goodes. Grant said that Goodes was battling with ghosts, and said that he recognised that howl of humiliation – he’d seen it in his dad who was locked up and beaten, and his grandfather who was tied like a dog to a tree. He said that he remembered a time when he felt like “there was no other place for us except for the outskirts of town”. Even though Adam Goodes is considered an assimilated man, Grant said that he was still torn between not belonging and paying a price.

Lui asked whether racism is a choice, and if it is, how do you dismantle that? Grant said that everyone is damned by the discourse of race. He referred to a concept called racecraft, the idea that race and racism are fictional constructs which people imbue with meaning. He said that people are discriminated against not because of colour, but because of the meaning that people have decided to attribute to that colour. However, Grant said that Australia has thus far been lazy about deconstructing racism.

Lui said that she had never thought of herself as Aboriginal until someone called her Aboriginal. She quipped that she writes black characters because she wants to give them jobs. Lui noted that nobody ever asks how white a person is or discusses a white playwright and how they handled whiteness. She stressed that various identities don’t have to be in conflict.

Grant said that when he lived overseas, it was the first time he was considered Australian unencumbered. He said that the race war in Australia has a different shape to other countries, and asked the question about how Aboriginal people can reach their full humanity. He said that agency is not administered. The panelists discussed the Census, and that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander box doesn’t capture the nuance of identity.

Grant said that you can’t put identity into a box when you opt out of administration and noted that people often can’t handle when Aboriginal people don’t fit in the boxes they have been assigned. People would think, “you can’t really be Aboriginal if you were a journalist in Beijing”. He said that his kids are experiencing the same thing now. They are in a private school that gives scholarships to Aboriginal children, but the school doesn’t know how to handle them because they are also Aboriginal but are not in need of scholarships. The panelists agreed that there is a perception that if you are too successful, you can’t be Aboriginal.

Langton talked briefly about tension between the recent protests about the “Stolenwealth Games” and the traditional owners who poured their heart and soul into the Welcome to Country. Lui said that we don’t talk about the diversity of blackness. She said that it’s her prerogative as a writer to have people see the humanity in Aboriginal people and she said that she wants people to care about Aboriginal people. They all noted that history is the struggle for recognition.

Grant said that Western civilisation is the jailer who slips you the key. He noted that Thomas Jefferson signed the document, but was a holder of slaves. Jefferson held society to a standard that he couldn’t meet himself. Grant cautioned that democracy is in retreat, and is society is turning away from academia and expertise. He said that we must jealously guard the principles of democracy.

The panel talked about how Malcolm Turnbull rejected the Uluru Statement from the Heart, a true expression of democracy. They also discussed the section 44 citizenship crisis in Parliament, and agreed that section 44 of the Constitution would likely be amended before recognition. The panel noted that there is a play in section 44, but Lui said she didn’t think any play could possibly beat the drama of real life when it comes to the citizenship crisis.

The panelists noted that democracy is a game of numbers, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people don’t have the numbers because of genocide. Grant said that we must be more sophisticated in how we apply democracies, and that despite what Turnbull may say, group rights actually strengthen democracy. He listed unions, political parties, electorates and even States as examples of group rights.

Lui again said that she just wants people to see the humanity of Aboriginal people. She told a heartbreaking story about her grandmother whose house had termites. The house wasn’t fixed by the housing commission, and her grandmother fell through the floor one day and died. Lui wrote this story into her play “Kill the Messenger” and said that you can frame experience around loss. However she worries that history becomes culture, and she really wants to see Aboriginal people stepping out of that narrative and instead on bikes eating baguettes.

The panel reflected on the idea that a nation is founded on what we forget as well as what we remember. They prompted us to consider not just what is a nation, but why a nation. Grant referred to Michal Bilewicz’s concept of politics, dividing participants into two groups with the following characteristics:

ALTRUISTS                         NARCISSISTS
Look to the future            Rake over the past
Positive-sum                      Zero-sum
Share                                   Exclude
Work together                   Gang up
United by values               United by race and culture
Opponents complement  Opponents are traitors

The panel noted that Aboriginal people have not used violence to gain rights but have used legality and generosity. This was a brilliant panel with three very different but complementary points of view. Although I didn’t quote much of what she said, Langton was an excellent facilitator who drew two very different voices together. This was a highly intellectual and nuanced discussion, and as soon as Sydney Writers’ Festival releases the recording, you should definitely have a listen.

1 Comment

Filed under Literary Events

The Fish Girl

This book was shortlisted for the 2018 Stella Prize and when I got a couple of book vouchers for my birthday last month, I knew that I wanted to spend one on this. I spent some years growing up in Indonesia, and studied the region for years at university, and I was so excited to read this story.

20180526_204158-1101406175.jpg

“The Fish Girl” by Mirandi Riwoe is a historical fiction novella based on a short story called “The Four Dutchmen” by W. Somerset Maugham. Riwoe’s story conjures a backstory for the character who is never named, but referred to as ‘the Malay trollope’. Riwoe imagines a young Indonesian girl who is hired by an Indo man to work in the kitchen of a Dutch merchant’s house. Mina is from a tiny fishing village and is very young and very naive. However, she soon settles into the routine of preparing and serving food for the master and begins to grow more confident. As time goes on, Mina is noticed by one of the master’s Dutch sailor friends as well as Ajat, a young man from her village. Despite her newfound confidence, Mina’s inexperience is taken advantage of and these men are ultimately her undoing.

This was an excellent novella. Riwoe drew on her own family knowledge as well as thorough knowledge to bring this story to life. Considering how undercooked a character she is in Maugham’s short story, this novella gives Mina a name and demands empathy from the reader when there was none originally. This book feels like a snapshot into both Indonesian culture and Dutch colonisation and it conveys so much in so little. I also loved Riwoe’s writing. I loved how she used spice and smell to bring an extra dimension to her story, and I adored her use of imagery. The similes she used were just exceptional, and completely believable as comparisons that Mina herself would use to make sense of her new life and new experiences.

I only have one criticism for this book, and it’s going to sound like a strange one, but I felt like the novella was too short. The pacing throughout the majority of the book was so perfect, but once Mina steps on the ship everything felt like it was at warp-speed. Riwoe covers all the events of “The Four Dutchmen” in only 14 pages. With all the care and detail and exactness that had been taken with the majority of the book, this part felt rushed and the situation deteriorated so quickly it was hard as a reader to keep up.

This is an excellent book and a stand-out example of the power of historical fiction to tell stories that were ignored or minimised at the time. I’m really looking forward to see more of Riwoe’s work and I am so glad that I picked this as one of my birthday books.

image of AWW badge for 2018

3 Comments

Filed under Australian Books, Book Reviews, Historical Fiction, Novella

Lost the Plot – Episode 24 – Sydney Writers’ Festival Special

Support Lost the Plot
Become a Lost the Plot Patron
Subscribe, like and comment on SoundCloud
Subscribe and leave a review on iTunes
Follow Tinted Edges on Facebook

Show Notes

Part 1 – Friday Afternoon

Sydney Writers’ Festival
Kendall Kirkwood
The Rest of Us Just Live Here” by Patrick Ness
“Release” by Patrick Ness
Terra Nullius” by Claire G. Coleman
Canberra
“The Trauma Cleaner” by Sarah Krasnostein, narrated by Rachael Tidd
21st Biennale of Sydney

Events:
Eileen Myles: To Dig a Hole in Eternity
SWF Gala: Power
Sarah Krasnostein: The Trauma Cleaner
Writing for YA Books and Film
Leigh Sales: On Doubt
Annabel Crabb’s BooKwiz
Recognise
Gay for Page
Power Play: Toxic Masculinity in Storytelling
Eileen Myles: Straight Expectations
Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia

Part 2 – Friday Night

Eileen Myles

Image may contain: 2 people, including Kendall Kirkwood, people smiling, close-up and indoor

Eileen and Kendall, Photo by Kendall Kirkwood

SWF Gala: Power

20180504_202454-748837671.jpg

Tayari Jones
BookScan
Judy Blume

Part 3 – Saturday Morning

20180505_172635-171261564.jpg

My skirt!

Sarah Krasnostein: The Trauma Cleaner

20180505_101138-735425424.jpg

On Doubt” by Leigh Sales
Biography of Stella Miles Franklin
Brokeback Mountain

Part 4 – Saturday Middle of the Day

Writing for YA Books and Film

20180505_115245-2117658087.jpg

Me, Earl and the Dying Girl” by Jesse Andrews
Chaos Walking” by Patrick Ness

Part 5 – Saturday Afternoon

BookWiz with Annabel Crabb
Tim Minchin
RocKwiz
Richard Fidler
Julia Zemiro

No automatic alt text available.

Photo by Kendall Kirkwood, who took very good care of my book

Ghost Empire” by Richard Fidler
Saga Land” by Richard Fidler and Kari Gislason

Part 6 – Saturday Night

Recognise

Stan Grant
Nakkiah Lui
Marcia Langton
What I meant to say was Racecraft, not Racehunt!
Orlando” by Virginia Woolf
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” by J K Rowling
The Velveteen Rabbit” by Margery Williams
The Night Bookmobile” by Audrey Niffenegger

Gay for Page

Image may contain: 4 people

Photo by Kendall Kirkwood

Masha Gessen
Christos Tsiolkas (sorry for mispronouncing his name)
Eileen Myles (preferred pronouns are they, them)
Sally Rugg
Carmen Maria Machado
Yrsa Daley-Ward

Book recommendations
The Sailor Dog” by Margaret Wise Brown
Mister Dog: the dog who belonged to himself” by Margaret Wise Brown
Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott
Jennie” by Paul Galico
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” by Edward Albee
Kama Sutra” by  Vātsyāyana
Enid Blyton
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” by C. S. Lewis
Madeline” by Ludwig Bemelmans
Sarah Waters
Jeanette Winterson
A Restricted Country” by Joan Nestle
The Motion of Light and Water” by Samuel R. Delaney
The Color Purple” by Alice Walker
Shirley Jackson

Junot Diaz Controversy

Part 7 – Sunday Afternoon

Eileen Myles

Power Play: Toxic Masculinity in Storytelling

20180506_100918-11566786275.jpg

Gabriel Tallent
Ceridwen Dovey

Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia

20180506_150741-1-355797368.jpg

Sorry for the terrible photo – I was listening so intently, I didn’t bother checking it.

Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms” by Anita Heiss

Part 8 – Sunday Night

Books we bought:

An American Marriage” by Tayari Jones
Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia” Edited by Anita Heiss
Eileen Myles

Authors I saw:

Kate Forsyth
Tom Keneally

#MeToo event with Tracey Spicer and Eva Cox

Virginia Woolf’s actual quote:

Think of a book as a very dangerous and exciting game, which it takes two to play at.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Literary Events, Lost the Plot