From Roxane Gay to Arundhati Roy: literary highlights for Australia in June – The Guardian

Gravity Well


Gravity Well by Melanie Joosten (Scribe)

Melanie Joosten’s literary output is as assured as it is eclectic. Her first novel was the literary thriller Berlin Syndrome (2011), which was made into a film by Cate Shortland and premiered this year at the Sundance film festival. Her second book, A Long Time Coming, was a collection of essays on ageing and the elderly, which argued, among other things, that aged care should be a feminist issue.

Gravity Well is another shift in gear, delivered with the same empathetic, observant, confident prose. Astronomer Lotte has been living at an observatory in South America for years, but now she’s home again surrounded by friends and family that no longer feel like the people she once knew. Old relationships are complicated by the new, and then there is her own diagnosis to contend with.

An intimate and moving examination of love, family, friendship and betrayal.

Available now.

Woman of Substances


Woman of Substances: A Journey into Addiction and Treatment by Jenny Valentish (Black Inc.)

“My story is fairly representative of women who have severe [addiction] problems,” Valentish told Guardian Australia when we sat down with her in May. “It ticks boxes actually: sexual abuse, sexual assault, promiscuity, self-medication. It’s got everything, really.”

In her book, Woman of Substances, the English-born, Australia-based writer offers herself up as the key case study in an investigation into the psychology, physiology and early childhood trauma that can feed addiction and substance abuse among women.

But while her decades-long freefall through drug and alcohol abuse is raw, startling and wonderfully told, the book becomes most urgent for the broader story woven through it: a call to arms for the research and treatment industries which have prioritised men, and failed women.

Available now.

Miller and Max


Miller and Max: George Miller and the making of a Film Legend by Luke Buckmaster (Hardie Grant)

In 1997, Australian director George Miller privately raised $350,000 and asked a no-name actor, Mel Gibson, to be part of his first film. Mad Max would go onto make more than $100 million, and launch an Oscar-winning franchise and more than a few careers.

Few people would know more about Miller and Mad Max than Guardian Australia’s film critic Luke Buckmaster – and for this unauthorised biography-of-sorts, he’s gathered a swathe of cast, crew and family together to tell the always enthralling, often chaotic and occasionally explosive story behind the film-maker and his universe.

Available now.

Some Tests


Some Tests by Wayne Macauley (Text)

Wayne Macauley has a knack for injecting an intangible sense of foreboding into everyday experiences. Where The Cook (2011) turned MasterChef into reform school, and Demons (2014) dealt in the kind of secrets that can only be excavated through intimacy and isolation, Some Tests takes on the the maze of the medical industry.

Beth, feeling not so great, but not so horrendously ill either, goes home early from work one day. Later, a locum assesses her as if in a dream, referring her for a test, and then another test, and then another, with no apparent end in sight. As Beth is buffeted from specialist to specialist, things become increasingly strange, and Beth begins to wonder – is she really sick at all?

Available now.

The Lost Pages


The Lost Pages by Marija Peričić (Allen & Unwin)

The Australian/Vogel award for writers under the age of 35 is one of Australia’s most well-known and long-standing literary prizes, with past winners including writers of the calibre of Kate Grenville and Gillian Mears.

This year’s winner, Marija Peričic, takes as her subject the Czech writer and friend of Franz Kafka, Max Brod. When Brod first meets Kafka, the relationship is immediately hostile: Kafka is heckling him during a lecture. “He stood up and I saw him for the first time. He was of a slight build, dark and handsome in a somewhat delicate way. His handsomeness surprised and angered me.” What unfolds in this mock memoir is a tempestuous relationship fuelled by literary envy and devastating secrets.

Available now.

Hunger


Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay (Hachette)

Roxane Gay’s 2014 collection of essays, Bad Feminist, catapulted the already accomplished writer into the literary spotlight for her frankness about her own political beliefs and behaviour. She stood firm by these earlier this year when her publisher, Simon and Schuster, announced in January that one of their imprints had acquired the rights to a book by “alt-right” personality Milo Yanniopolous. Gay responded by pulling her own book, How to Be Heard, from the publisher’s list of forthcoming titles.

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body sees Gay channelling the kind of honesty and confessional impulse that characterises her Tumblr and Twitter feeds, and the sensitivity and compassion that has brought her legions of fans around the world.

Available 13 June.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness


The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy (Penguin)

20 years is a long time between novels, and winning the Booker prize for your debut effort only raises the level of expectation. For her much-anticipated second novel, Arundhati Roy weaves together a multi-strand narrative that at times feels more like a disparate collection of fragments than a cohesive whole.

As Guardian reviewer Natasha Walter writes: “Here is a trans woman from Delhi, here is a man from an untouchable background passing himself off as a Muslim, here is a government official retired from a post in Kabul, here is a resistance fighter in Kashmir, here is a woman in the Maoist rebellion in Bastar, here is a rebellious woman who kidnaps an abandoned baby, and more. Indeed, from time to time the birds and the beetles become as important as the people in this narrative.”

Still, there is a lot to be gained from Roy’s second effort: “Stick with this novel,” says Walter. “Give it time to grow, and there are lasting rewards in Roy’s ability to create a bright mosaic out of these fragmented stories.”

You can read an exclusive extract of The Ministry of Utmost Happiness here.

Available now.

A Talent for Murder


A Talent for Murder by Andrew Wilson (Simon & Schuster)

It takes a special kind of literary daring for a writer to put Agatha Christie, the queen of crime fiction, into a crime novel herself. But Andrew Wilson has risen to the challenge and, according to Guardian reviewer Ian Sansom, has actually managed to pull it off.

Sansom writes: “Wilson’s book begins in 1926, with Christie’s realisation that her husband, Archie, is having an affair with a younger woman, which fans will already know is what prompted her notorious flight to Harrogate, where she holed up in a hotel under an assumed name. Even now her disappearance remains shrouded in mystery – no one knows quite what happened or why. And this is all Wilson needs for his own act of invention. …

“What Wilson gets exactly right is that very peculiar shade of darkness in Christie, which is neither pitch-black nor eerie, but rather hard and shiny. Her father died when she was just 11, she was a volunteer nurse during the first world war, and it wasn’t long after her mother’s death that Archie announced he was having his affair. Wilson captures the way in which a fundamental aspect of her novels derives from this unique set of experiences: the knowledge that people are never quite what they seem; that they are unreliable, and subject to disappear and to disappoint. He makes Christie alive to her own horrible imaginings.”

Available now.

My Life With Bob


My Life with Bob by Pamela Paul (Henry Holt)

For 28 years, Pamela Paul, editor of the New York Times Book Review, has kept a book with her at all times: a notebook, named Bob, in which she records every book she has ever read.

It might not be a traditional kind of diary, but Bob has lasted by Paul’s side for much longer than traditional diaries ever have. “Diaries contained all kinds of things I wanted to forget – unrequited crushes and falling-outs with friends and angsting over college admissions. Bob contains things I wanted to remember: what I was reading when all that happened.”

A memoir of books from a woman who has made books her life.

Available now.

The French Art of War


The French Art of War by Alexis Jenni (Atlantic)

“Desert Storm got me fired,” says the young narrator of this doorstopper of a novel – Jenni’s debut work of fiction, which won the Prix Goncourt prize in 2011. “I was collateral damage from an explosion that no one ever saw, but which could be felt in the empty images on television.”

Cut loose from his job, the young man moves back to Lyon, his home town, “to put an end to things” when he meets the elderly painter Victorien Salagnon. In exchange for Salagnon teaching him how to paint, he will write Salagnon’s life story: a story of living under the Nazis, of murder and torture in Indochina and Algeria, of massacres and of making art amidst the bloodshed.

Translated from the French by Frank Wynne.

Available now.

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge (Bloomsbury)

“Eddo-Lodge’s weary title is a provocation, born of years of frustration with a deep and general lack of understanding on the part of white people,” writes Guardian reviewer Colin Grant.

“Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race follows in the tradition (stronger among African American than black British writers) of angry warnings to an ignorant white readership. … But Eddo-Lodge accurately takes the temperature of racial discussions in the UK. In seven crisp essays, she takes white British people to task for failing to accept that ‘racism is a white problem’. ‘White privilege,’ she writes, ‘is a manipulative, suffocating blanket of power that envelops everything we know, like a snowy day’.”

Available now.

Comments

Write a Reply or Comment:

You must be logged in to post a comment.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.