What to Make of the Colour Purple

Purple Prose
Liz Byrski and Rachel Robertson (with others)
Fremantle Press
2015
$27.99

purple_proseIf the idea of reading about what one colour means to fifteen writers sounds, well—how shall I put this delicately—rather monochromatic, think again. The result is technicoloured, multifaceted, shimmering.

Writers Liz Byrski and Rachel Robertson cooked up the scheme in Liz’s herb scented courtyard when Rachel mused that she would like to write about purple but didn’t want to write a whole book. Liz suggested an anthology of women writing about purple, and so Purple Prose was born.

The colour purple has of course, they point out, many different associations already across cultures, including feminism and the suffragette movement, lesbian, gay and transgender rights, royalty, wealth, healing and spirituality. There are purple occurrences in nature: purple flowers, vegetables, animals, insects and minerals.

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Everything Can Be Changed

Eat, Pray, Love Made Me Do It
Multiple Contributors
Bloomsbury
Jun 2016
AU$18.99

eat_pray_love_made_me_do_itTen years ago, Elizabeth Gilbert published her little memoir about the year she spent picking her life together after divorce and depression by travelling to Italy, India and then Indonesia to find what she’d been missing.

Not without its detractors, Eat, Pray, Love became a worldwide smash hit phenomenon, spawning an industry of yoga vacations, the film starring Julia Roberts as Gilbert, and inspiring readers to take on their own ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ adventures.

In the intervening years, Gilbert has published another memoir, Committed, novel The Signature Of All Things, and Big Magic, about creativity (‘Creative living beyond fear’). She has become something of an evangelist for the messages of accepting vulnerability and embracing fear that are currently prominent on the be-your-best-self circuit. I know, for I am her friend on Facebook, and have often been prompted to reflect on maxims such as ‘Bad things happen to women who wait for good things to happen’ and ‘Not this’ (gloomy sea, gloomy sky).

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What Does the Bereft Hand Offer?

The Hollow of the Hand
P.J. Harvey & Seamus Murphy
Bloomsbury
Oct 2015
$35.00

the_hollow_of_the_handBetween 2011 and 2014, critically acclaimed musician PJ Harvey and her friend, photographer and film-maker Seamus Murphy, set out on a series of journeys together to Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Washington DC.

Harvey describes the modus operandi of her collaboration with Murphy: ‘I would collect words, he would collect pictures, following our instincts on where we should go’. The place names alone intimate the subject matter of the book to a global citizen familiar with a news cycle: wars, wars, wars. But it is the ordinary person that the pair is interested in, the landscape and the streets, human faces, as well as distant horizons: ‘I wanted to smell the air, feel the soil and meet the people of the countries I was fascinated with’.

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Exultation and Poetry in the Mundane

The Landing
Susan Johnson
Allen & Unwin
Sep 2015 RRP $29.99

the_landingThe tanned, bare legs at the lip of a body of water, skirt hiked up, on the cover of Susan Johnson’s The Landing say one thing, and that is SUMMER FICTION. Get ready, summer is nigh and with it summer reading, i.e., that special genre of book best enjoyed beachside with a floppy hat whilst the kids are busy but well cared for elsewhere.

The Landing commences with a Jane Austen-esque question: if Jonathan—recently single due to his wife leaving him for her, shock, female colleague*—is in possession of a good fortune, must he also be in want of a new wife? Jonathan intends out to find out, knowing full well that life alone is not for him. But he was also blindsided and left utterly confused by his wife Sarah’s departure. The rug has been pulled, and the minutia of Jonathan’s life is now suffused with this question.

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Tess is Leaving

Stay With Me
Maureen McCarthy
Allen & Unwin
May 2015, RRP $19.95

 

Tess is leaving. ‘It’s around three a.m. I can’t be sure exactly, because I’m hiding under a house, ten minutes’ drive out of Byron Bay, off the old Bangalow Road… I’m not cold. It’s still summer – just.’

stay_with_meTess was seventeen when she travelled to Byron Bay for schoolies with a couple of friends. It was a break from the troubled years following the death of her father and desertion by her mother, events that had left her older sister, Beth, to lead a household of siblings. When Tess is offered a job in a Byron cafe and encounters the handsome, older Jay, she decides to stay. Four years on, Tess is trapped on a farm with Jay and their daughter, Nellie, with no job, money or friends.

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Whorls of Plot and Character: Wall Street, Silicon Valley, Collision…

The Underwriting
Michelle Miller
Text Publishing
May 2015, RRP $29.99

the_underwrtingThe Underwriting tells the story of the countdown to a public offering of ‘Hook’, a Tinder-esque dating application. Throughout the story we get to watch as Wall Street and Silicon Valley collide.

Flashing from one character point-of-view to another, investment banker Todd is hand-picked to underwrite the IPO (Initial Public Offering for those not in the know) of the app, which has incidentally become the great organiser of his sex life; in the team is Tara, who sees this as her chance to break the glass ceiling and validate seven years of sacrifice for her career; Neha, an unkempt but adept analyst; and Beau, a party boy with a dark side. And in Silicon Valley we meet Josh, founder of Hook; Nick, the socially incompetent, nakedly ambitious CFO; and Juan, a community-minded coder who worked on the start-up from its inception. These and other characters appear in the whorls of plot and subplot as the story careens towards the launch date. That author, Michelle Miller, worked at JP Morgan’s Private Bank adds a flavour of real or perceived authenticity to the narrative.

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Always Accessible

the_taste_of_river_waterTHE TASTE OF RIVER WATER

Cate Kennedy

ISBN: 9781921844003

I must confess that the description ‘always accessible’ on the front inside jacket of Cate Kennedy’s new and selected poems The Taste of River Water got my hackles up.

It made me think of compromise, of poetic vision marked with footnotes, and mystery sacrificed through dogged meaning. It’s not that I thought poetry should be hard to understand, it’s just that it should be wild and free and grown from a fickle chip of the heart, and not inviting any old somebody in for a cup of tea and a bickie. Continue reading

Amongst Ordinary Things

stravinsks_lunchSTRAVINSKY’S LUNCH

Drusilla Modjeska ISBN 0 330 36186 4

Amongst ordinary things, among cups and saucers, couples chatting in a courtyard, trees, the expression on a face, there may also be questions about what one sees, and what it means. For the artist, these questions might be about Life, they might be about Love, they might be about Art, and the way in which a person may—but here is the tension—live and love and create.  Continue reading

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