Books: January – June 2012

Although of Course You End Up becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace – David Lipsky

An piece funded by, but never published in Rolling Stone. An incredibly interesting, if slightly repetitive five-day long interview with Foster Wallace on his Infinite Jest book tour. 4/5

The Best American Essays 2007 – David Foster Wallace (ed)

Foster Wallace selected a really varied set of essays from religion (Christianity and evangelicalism) to states (California and Iraq). 4/5

The Marriage Plot – Jeffrey Eugenides

Eugenides’s first novel since the behemoth that was Middlesex, which is one of the best works of fiction I’ve ever read. The Marriage Plot follows three college friends as the try negotiate the turbulent personal period which follows their university graduations. 3/5

A Book of Common Prayer – Joan Didion

An American ex-patriot narrates this tale set in a fictional Central American country, in the middle of political turmoil, reflected in the tragic and often bloody personal lives of its protagonists. 3/5

BITCHfest: Ten Years of Cultural Criticism from the Pages of Bitch Magazine – Lisa Jervis (ed)

Is exactly what the title suggests. Topics covered include: fat suits, Martha Stewart, virginity and race. America-centric. 3/5

The Best American Essays 2010 – Christopher Hitchens (ed)

Hitchens chose a set of essays that includes discussion of American Zionism, speculation about how Tolstoy died and Zadie Smith on Barack Obama. 3/5

Girl With Curious Hair – David Foster Wallace

Collection of absurd short fictional stories. Dark and unnerving. 4/5

In Full View – Lily Brett

Bitingly honest memoir from one of Australia’s most neurotic writers. Discusses being a music writer, body image issues and her parents experiences as immigrants after the death camps of World War II. 5/5

New York – Lily Brett

Short set of personal pieces about Brett’s adopted home. 3/5

Between Mexico and Poland – Lily Brett

Begins where In Full View left off. Brilliant portrait of Mexico and New York post-September 11. 5/5

Experience – Martin Amis

Personal memoir of one of Britain’s most notorious living fiction writes. A sensitive and incredibly intimate and honest account of Amis’s life. 5/5

New Selected Stories – Alice Munro

Collection of short fiction pieces, focusing on personal relationships. Melancholy and quiet. 3/5

Oblivion – David Foster Wallace

Collection of absurd short fictional stories. Dark and unnerving. 4/5

Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel

Historical novel about the court of Henry VIII, and the split in the English church’s links to Rome. 4/5

Giving Up the Ghost: A Memoir – Hilary Mantel

Short, but complex personal memoir of the trials and strange incidents which moulded Mantel’s adult life. 5/5

The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch – Michael Wolff

A look at the inner workings of the Murdoch family and New Corp monolith. 3/5

It Can’t HAppen Here – Sinclair Lewis

1935 satirical novel about the rise of a Nazi-like fascist government in the USA. 2/5

Lucky – Alice Sebold

Personal memoir which discusses Sebold’s rape while at university and the attack’s after effects on her, her friends and her family 5/5 

 Swastika Night – Katherine Burdekin

1937 novel which re-imagines a future where the Nazi Party has ruled for centuries. 3/5

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – Muriel Spark

Fictional novel about the influence of a blindly idealistic primary school teacher on her pet students. 4/5

Darkness at Noon – Arthur Koestler

1940 novel set in a prison, based on the infamous Moscow Show Trials. 4/5 

The Eclipse: A Memoir of Suicide – Antonella Gambotto

Part memoir, part study into the causes and effects of suicide, Gambotto discusses the deaths of deeply important men in her life. 5/5 

Lunch of Blood – Antonella Gambotto

First collection of the Australian journalist’s feature articles. Includes a particularly infamous Nick Cave interview. 4/5 

An Instinct For The Kill – Antonella Gambotto

Second collection of Gambotto’s pieces. Contains infamous, yet touching piece on Warwick and Joanne Capper. 4/5

Pants As Tights: A Modern Day Fairytale.

The other day I was discussing Catherine “I dared invoke the name of Our Holy George Carlin*” Deveny and of course there was very little I could do but mention the word “arse” many, many times, which of course led to a lot of conversations with people about their opinions on arse.

One point I was trying to make is that on Twitter, you need to take care what you talk about, because you can never be sure who happens to be reading it and I used the “tights as pants” argument to illustrate my point.

Many people choose to wear tights as pants. A similar number of people seem to loathe this particular fashion choice and it’s not uncommon to hear on Twitter, “Tights aren’t pants! Burn that witch! Tights aren’t pants! etc”.

I don’t really have an opinion on tights as pants. They definitely direct my attention to the posterior of the wearer, but I am the last person who should offer opinion on fashion. I am a mess. It’s all I can do to wrangle myself into a bra most days.

So while ranting about disliking tights as pants is not even in the same county as the ballpark in which Deveny wished “arse cancer” on someone, for every tweet about tights and pants, there’s some poor boy or girl reading your tweet, sadly tugging at their t-shirt, hoping they can stretch it long enough to make it look like they’re really wearing tights under a dress.

But have faith tights-wearers of the world! It turns out you have your supporters, from unlikely quarters:

* There are, like, three living comedians who are allowed to invoke The Blessed George Carlin, you are not one of them.

10 Things Before 2013: Part 1

I epically failed at my task of doing 30 things before I turn 30 in October. I realise it’s only June, but I feel like there’s a snowball’s chance in hell of me getting there when not only am I not on track, I have lost the track and can’t even remember what it looked like and even with GPS, I’m walking in the wrong direction.

I have decided not to dwell on it and to instead make a new goal of doing 10 Things Before 2013!

So how am I tracking so far?

  1. I have purchased two copies of the first run of Chunklet’s Indie Cred Test, which is being republished by Penguin next month. I have one that I’m keeping as mint condition for my kids to get rid of one day as they sift through the vast collection of oddities that I have collected and they’ll never understand, and I have a second copy that I can scribble all over as I try and rate my credibility as a human.
  2. I have a uke and a uke teacher who lives in the bedroom next to mine! Now I just need to learn notes and chords and pick a song to learn.
  3. I have two pitches I’m pretty happy with and that I think will be interesting to write.
  4. I am sending out save the date cards this week.
  5. I’ve already hit my first goal, and am writing this while wearing a jumper I wore at my 21st birthday, so I’m pretty sure I can keep on track with this one if I actually pay attention to the alarm set on my phone for 5:45am and is labelled ‘Go to the fucking gym’.
  6. I have absolutely nothing planned except that I want to see the South and New York City.
  7. I have my thesis sitting next to my bed to be re-read and a couple of ideas kicking around about what parts I’d like to develop.
  8. I know who is owed one.
  9. I am making black bean wraps tonight!
  10. I have read 24 books already. That’s two less that I need to have read at this point, but that’s only 11 less than I read in all of last year, so I think I’ll be fine.

Arse Cancer

Next month I have been invited to speak at the Cancer Institute of NSW’s Town Hall meeting about my experiences of living with someone who survived cancer as an infant [Hint: it wasn’t fun, it fractured our family for a long time].

I’m also currently undergoing a battery of tests to find a suspected benign tumour/s in my throat that is causing my body to sap the calcium from my bones, which makes me tired all the time and my joints ache. I’ve also lived through the walk in the park that is passing kidney stones and have enjoyed a whole litany of other symptoms including depression and back pain, although not decreased height or the curious ‘stupor and possible coma’.

I’m not going to inflate my experience – the mornings are the hardest, no matter how much I sleep I usually wake up feeling like I’ve barely slept – everything I am experiencing is pretty much tolerable. The worst case scenario for me is the possibility of being diagnosed with something called multiple endocrine  neoplasia, which in short, means my endocrine system likes to make tumors for some reason and I will spend the rest of my life being checked for new growths and will have an increased chance of some cancers. Until I’m told this is the case, I’m just thanking my lucky stars that simple surgery will fix the tumour in my neck.

All this is background to why I did a double-take when I saw this exchange on Twitter yesterday:

In 2010 Catherine Deveny was fired by The Age, of which Paul Ramadge was the editor after controversy surrounding some of her tweets [one of which was alluded to the death of Belinda Emmett, who had breast cancer that spread to her bones].

I don’t consider myself particularly uptight and I fully admit that I am probably prone to be sensitive about discussion about cancer because of my personal experiences, but this tweet made my jaw drop for several reasons:

1 – Let’s assume “arse cancer” is prostate cancer. According to the Cancer Council of Australia, prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men in Australia. It’s also one of the driving forces behind the behemoth charity event, Movember. I’d be surprised if Deveny didn’t know a few of these basic facts.

2 – According to the Cancer Council of Australia 19,400 cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed each year. Deveny has, at the time of writing, around 17,000 followers on Twitter. There are edge cases for everything, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that of those 17,000 at least one person probably has “arse cancer”. The figure would be much higher for those who know someone with “arse cancer”. Both my grandfathers were afflicted with “arse cancer” the experience of which is extremely unpleasant and at times, incredibly humiliating. Neither of them were struck down by the disease because they fired someone, in fact, I don’t think Twitter had even really taken off when they were diagnosed, so who knows which comedian they pissed off.

3 – I don’t claim to have any inside knowledge of Catherine Deveny’s financial or personal situation. I have no idea what impact getting fired had on either aspect of her life; however, “arse cancer” kills thousands of Australian men each year. It doesn’t really seem like fair punishment, if she believes punishment is owed. She lost her job, it kinda sounds like he was forced out of his. I think maybe we can call it even?

4 – On no level, and I’ve tried, I really have, I am furrowing my brow with effort, can I understand why you’d tweet that in the first place. It’s bad enough when someone drags out the old ‘People! Tights are not pants!’ tweet and then discovers one of their followers has actually chosen to define the outline of their booty with tights that day, but why the fuck would you want to be That Person Who Publicly Wishes Cancer on People? I just … I don’t know. Twitter does funny things to people. I’ve informed the world that I’m in my bathroom with my head stuck to the toilet roll holder, but at least the shitty [cough] information I was choosing to share was about me. Catherine Deveny’s tweet was the Twitter version of going on Big Brother and boffing someone in the spa, forgetting that the house is crawling with cameras and your parents and grandparents just saw you boffing someone in a spa. Your loved ones don’t want to see you mounting someone and struggling to find a thrusting rhythm while your privates burn with chlorine.

5 – Paul’s family are on Twitter and someone’s family are not defined by the professional choices of their father/husband/uncle/etc. Why should they have to waste time pondering points 1-4? If I found out someone had wished my dad “arse cancer” on Twitter, it’d hurt. And then I’d have to explain to him what Twitter is.

6 – This is the unfunny one: you wished “arse cancer” on someone in the risk category for “arse cancer”. How do you think you feel to wake up to the news that someone you’d publicly wished a particularly dangerous illness upon had been diagnosed with that, or even something else? Remember mere weeks ago when Wendy Harmer apologised to the Chamberlain family because once the heat of the moment passed, she realised her public commentary of the disappearance of Azaria had been driven by “blind ignorance and cruelty”? Yeah.

A List of Little Things #1

I think it’s healthy to take stock of the little things every now and then, because the little things are often the good things.

Ukuleles

I’ve never learnt an instrument other than the Catholic school torture device more commonly known as the recorder which we used to practice while our hairshirts were being washed; however, a few weeks ago a lovely sound was coming from my flatmate’s [see entry 2] bedroom and it turned out she was relaxing with some ukulele. I decided then and there that I must have one, so on the weekend I went to my local music store and bought my first instrument. It’s gorgeous and I am in love with its feminine curves and my housemate is going to teach me to play it.

I realise the kind of connotations that come from owning a uke, having purple hair and living in Newtown. I promise you I am not a manic pixie dream girl of any kind. I could possible now star in live-action manga porn, yes. Hipster? No.

My housemate

When I found myself needing a housemate suddenly earlier this year my friend Michelle [see entry 3] suggested an ex-housemate of hers, Katie. It could not have worked out better, we got along like a house on fire [not our house] from the word go. Want a BMX built? Ask Katie. Want a shed built? Ask Katie. Want to make moustache-shaped biscuits? Ask Katie. Want to come home one day and find your porch AstroTurfed with added flamingo? Live with Katie. When you’re down in the dumps and feel like nothing will cheer you up like watching a Ryan Gosling romcom with a room full of gay women to see if Ryan Gosling is universal? She’s there to organise that for you.

She’s laid back, funny and adventurous. May there be many months of Mario Kart ahead of us.

Michelle and Fi

These two little ladies have done much to keep me sane in the last few months and for that I am eternally grateful. From photos of Fi’s cat on days when I didn’t think I could get out of bed, to sharing exciting text messages with each other after Girls episodes; to Michelle’s drunken American road trip messages to me that seem to transcend all timezones and her advice which has been considered, blunt and extremely kind. I am incredibly lucky to have these two women in my life, let alone all the other fantastic friends I have made in Sydney.

Nighttime adventures

Last week I went to Mad Mex’s Newtown branch with Ms Lilla for a much needed mid-week beer. You can see her lurking in the shot above. I’ve known Lilla for almost the whole time I’ve lived in Sydney, it is she who excitedly encouraged me to embrace crazy cat ladydom and more recently, turning my thesis into something publishable. She is a fantastic brunch buddy, someone to spend an afternoon in a cinema with or talk books. She also took a giant leap in life this year which is my inspiration to do something similar next year. I look forward to turning into an old crazy cat lady with L.

On Saturday night I went to the Courty with flame-haired vixen, Nomes. I prepared by downing some bourbon at home. I’m so classy it hurts.

I don’t think I realised how much I drank until I re-read my tweets on Sunday morning. It was a fun night, hopefully the first of many.

Music

I have bought a total of four albums released this year. I used to buy about that amount per week, but I think my taste may be getting narrower as I get older, or as I get older, I get lazier about seeking things out. Last week was a good week, with new Fiona Apple and Melvins albums, which is proving a much needed respite from excessive amounts of late night Ryan Adams.

Loved ones

On Saturday I spent a few hours in the back yard, finishing up a collection of Antonella Gambotto’s writing and starting Catch-22 which I am reading for a new [and very strict!] book club I have joined. The weather was phenomenal in Sydney this weekend and Wuz kept me company on a supervised venture into the outside world. She’s very much an indoors cat, mostly because she’s not that intelligent and I don’t trust her around cars, but also because who wouldn’t want to kidnap this fur-ball of joy?

On Sunday I got in some nephew time. He’s started calling me ‘Dools’ and it was this enormously cute name that he insistently called when we went to a playground with lots of ropes to climb and he needed to be hoisted onto various things or protected from pigeons.

Empty supermarkets

I don’t know why I find them so calming. Maybe because they feel safe, or because shopping late at night is like eating breakfast for dinner, tweaking something slightly makes it infinitely more interesting or maybe it’s that shopping still seems very grown-up to me and that’s the last thing I feel like so it’s still a total novelty? Whatever the reason, I like it.

Novelty props

I’ve been looking for a pair of these glasses for ages. I love how expressionless the eyes are. I have a few plans for them that probably involve dragging my DSLR out.

And so these thing are what have been giving me a much needed and appreciated dose of cheerfulness lately.

More looking at the bits inside me.

A few weeks ago I had an ultrasound on my neck. There are no babies in there, that’s the good news.

The bad news was that it was like a degrading robot sex act. First you get led into a darkened room and told to leave your handbag in a basket, then you climb onto a bed covered with a large piece of paper and rest your head on a very flat pillow.

Once you’re prone and defenseless, a man (or maybe a lady, but in my tale, it was a man) loudly squirts a cold, sticky liquid all over your neck (you see where I’m going here) and starts rubbing it with a phallic object while murmuring things like, ‘Mmmm,’ ‘Okaaaay…’ and ‘Tell me about the history of Graves’ disease in your family’.

Hands up who else is getting strong flashbacks to losing their virginity?

Much like when I get pierced, tattooed, have blood tests or wake up most mornings, I was sure the news was going to be bad, but apparently my Casanova could see nothing in my throat except for throat.

Unfortunately, there most probably is something in my throat besides throat (a tumor, but the non-cancerous kind, so don’t panic!) and so the next step is probably another CAT scan which I don’t even need iodine for to make me feel like I’m peeing my pants.

Basically I’m coping fine and I spend a lot of time in waiting rooms with older men I’m pretty sure are having prostate checks and we nod politely to each other and go back to reading about Wills and Kate and try not to think about what lubricated hell awaits us.

Eurydice Colette Clytemnestra Dido Bathsheba Rabelais Patricia Cocteau Stone

When I was living in my first sharehouse in Bathurst, I had a fairly standard Friday/Saturday night routine. My housemates would leave for the pub early, I would drag a CD player into the bathroom and drink Black Russians in the shower, while listening to Gargbage’s first album. I would spend ages getting ready and dancing around my bedroom, have a cigarette to steady myself and then head to the pub.

Besides the cigarettes, this little routine made getting ready almost as fun as going out and when I was getting ready for work this morning, not only did I realise that I wore this top to my 21st, which means I fit into clothes I wore when I was 21, but also that it’s been ages since I’ve had a good, proper messy night out. Like years. Having dinner at the pub and then staying there to drink doesn’t count. I haven’t spent hours getting ready for the sole purpose of going out and running amok in a long time.

I feel like I need one of those nights out where you wake up the next morning in terror because your legs feel paralysed because you slept in your boots and somehow your eyeshadow and lipstick have swapped places and someone else’s lipstick is in smeared kiss marks all the way up your arm and you vaguely remember being on the run from a group of Russians who wanted to take you to a discotheque and keep your passport*.

I think it is high time I organised a ladies night out worthy of Patsy Stone.

* Actually happened.

#photoadayJune: Batch 3

Day 16: #inyourbag

Clockwise from top: Fossil wallet purchased in Seattle last year, week to an opening 2012 – 2013 diary, Paul Frank cotton candy Lip Smacker, matte Sportsgirl lipstick in Bombshell, Lunch of Blood by Antonella Gambotto, May issue of Vanity Fair, The Taste of Rain …Why Kneel by Deep Puddle Dynamics, G is for Deep by Doseone, keys.

Day 17: #somethingwedontknowaboutyou

This is my teddy bear. His name is Joshua. He was born on the 5th of October, 1982 … just like me.

Day 18: #outandabout

This is me, in my backyard, where I spent a lot of Saturday morning because I was so excited that it wasn’t raining and I could do some washing. I find the process of washing very soothing. Maybe one day I’ll become a renowned shrink who uses laundromats as a therapy technique.

Day 19: #favephotoyouveevertaken

I took this photo a few days after my nephew was born. It was, and he was, perfect so I’ve never cropped it or done anything with the colour. He is such a beautiful little boy and I love him times one million.

Day 20: #imperfect

I’ve tried explaining this to people a few times lately: I have no idea what I look like to other people. My own face surprises me a lot of the time. Photos are the only way I can see what other people might.

♫ All I want to be/ To dare myself to be/ Is this dance ♫

I am vaguely in love with my outfit today. What you can’t see is that the grey top has silver glittery threads in it.

I feel like I should be flash dancing (flash, not flesh).

It’s funny, I didn’t mean to end up with purple hair, I went through a really bright hair colour phase in my early 20s and figured it was best left there, I don’t want to be muttony, but I’m kinda glad I was bullied into it, because it’s caused a funny change in my mood.

If you’re going to have a lavender head, you have to own it, so I’m throwing a lot of cautions to the wind and saying yes to a lot of things I would normally pass up in order to crawl into bed with a book. Part of it might be that I can’t crawl into bed at the moment without dying everything purple. Part of it might just be that having a purple head is really, really cheerful.

Whatever gets you out of bed in the morning, I guess.

#photoadayJune: Batch 3

Day 11: #door

The bathroom in our house is strange. Apparently it used to be a horse stable? Now it looks like a ’70’s porn sauna. To add to the “open to the public” feel, the lock is a ‘vacant’/’engaged’ lock and I love it.

Day 12: #fromalowangle

This is The Wuz from below. She looks like a hammerhead shark burger.

Day 13: #art

This is metal voodoo art from Haiti. It’s all about how Satan has a fish head tail. Obviously.

Day 14: #time
I love a good watch. I have far too many. These are my favourite. on the left is the Kisai Denshoku from TokyoFlash and on the right is the Swatch Touch. The Kisai is a little impractical in the day, the LEDs aren’t quite bright enough, but I like that it looks awesome regardless.

Day 15: #yellow

I bought a stack of these stickers from Powell’s Books in Portland, because they are awesome and true.