We’re All Mad Here

Lewis Carroll

tove janssonThere is something that happens to one’s very soul somewhere between childhood and adulthood and it is this: in some people it dies and in some people it lives. I don’t mean soul in any religious sense but that thing inside you that makes you human. Your mind, consciousness, heart, whatever you want to call it. And it doesn’t really die, it just withers into a small black stone that either sits quiet-like with the potential for reawakening or just slowly rots spreading the chancre throughout your entire body. The longer you let it sit there marinating in fixed ideas and cold resentments and failed FTTN policies, the harder it is to recover any joy in the simplest of things, like rain on a roof after a long drought or kitten batting about a bottle top. And yes, this sounds like a very middle-class view of things but do try your best not to create well-intentioned but patronising two dimensional caricatures of human beings. Instead, go out and look at some sky-kittens* or if you can’t find any recite a poem whilst balancing a shoe on your nose.

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They Smoke Cigarettes and Play with Bombs

João Cerqueira, trans. Karen Bennett and Chris Mingay
River Grove Books

the-tragedy-of-fidel-castro_joc3a3o-cerqueira1The Tragedy of Fidel Castro is an entertaining jaunt into political and religious irreverence.  Communism, capitalism and Catholicism all get a heart lashing as God intervenes, at the beck of Fàtima, in a war between Fidel Castro and JFK.  In the meanwhile, the nature of politics, humanity and religion are also given for the reader to consider.

I’m sad to confess that I did not really get a lot of the humour in the book.  I’m not sure if this is because the nature of humour I enjoy is just different to that present in this book; whether it’s a difference in Portuguese and Spanish humour as compared to humour in the Anglosphere.  Or perhaps it’s just a few of the references I miss, with my relative ignorance of matters concerning post-Bay of Bigs relations between Cuba and the United States.

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Grendel’s Mum


J. R. R. and Christopher Tolkien

Mariner Books, August 2015


A thousand years on, the sharpness of Beowulf‘s images still strikes us. Longships cruise amid icy spray. A king stares with fear amid the riches of his hall. Then comes the fiend Grendel stalking across the moors. Tolkien’s translation weds to these visions the rhythm and grandeur of language that rumbles even as it exults, which rolls like the swells of the sea. Continue reading

The Shadows of Suburbia are Long

Christine Dwyer Hickey
Allen and Unwin/Atlantic Books, RRP $27.99
May 2015

the lives of womenSome books have language that submerges the reader into their world from the first sentence. The Lives of Women by Christine Dwyer Hickey was one such book for me. One moment I was cracking open the cover for the first time wondering what was to come, the next I was ensnared in the world of our narrator Elaine.

As an adult Elaine has returned to care for her invalid father in her childhood home, a place where her teenage life remains a ghostly overlay. The landscape of family and the family home are clearly spaces which Elaine has been detached from—both emotionally and physically—for many years and it is time to unravel the cause of this detachment. The adult Elaine’s narrative is interspersed with snippets of her younger life as a teenager coming of age in a suburban estate during the 1970s and her life as an adult in New York and Paris. The different threads of Elaine’s life slowly reveal the tragedy which occurred during her last summer living with her parents. Continue reading

Today Will Always Be Tomorrow

Natasha Pulley
Bloomsbury Circus, RRP$29.99
July 2015

For those of you who were hurtling toward adulthood in the mid-90s listening to Blur’s The Great Escape over and over again, you may recall the quiet melancholy tune sandwiched between the poppier sounds of ‘It Could Be You’ and ‘Globe Alone’. It went a little something like this:

“Ernold Same awoke from the same dream in the same bed at the same time
Looked in the same mirror made the same frown
And felt the same way as he did every day
Then Ernold Same caught the same train at the same station
Sat in the same seat with the same nasty stain next to same old what’s his name
On his way to the same place to do the same thing again and again and again
Poor old Ernold Same”

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You Won’t Have to Follow Me

The Origins of Political Order
Francis Fukuyama
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

the_origins_of_political_orderWhen contemplating books on politics to read which I knew I would disagree with, international studies heavyweight Francis Fukuyama was someone I considered but briefly.  Somewhere along the way I’d received the impression that Fukuyama had softened in his views and become somewhat more leftist later in life.  Having read the first of this recently completed mammoth duology, I’m left wondering if perhaps the centre has just gravitated right and left him behind.

The Origins of Political Order is an ambitious attempt at understanding how and why human societies have developed such diverse political structures.  The question Fukuyama seeks to answer over all is, why do some societies form state-bound structures, particularly democratic ones, and why do others remain tribal?  It’s a question that many historians, philosophers and various other theorists have attempted to tackle in the past and there is a proliferation of theory on the matter; Fukuyama’s take combines a number of those approaches with his own views.

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Don’t Feed the Trolls

Stefan Spjut, translated by Susan Beard
Faber/Allen & Unwin, RRP $29.99
July 2015

Imagine, if you will, a scene: a crowd of sports fans shocked into silence. A bobsled overturned oh-so-close to the end of the track. Four plucky Jamaicans crawl unharmed out of their upended bobsled, their hopes and dreams for Olympic glory shattered. But what’s this? They’re picking up the bobsled. I don’t believe it! They’re picking it up and now they are carrying it. These crazy guys are going to get to that damn finish line by hook or by crook. It’s time people. Can you feel it? The air is buzzing with it. It’s perfect. Someone in the crowd feels it and they’ve started it—the slow clap. It builds, slowly of course, as more and more people join in. It soon becomes a joyous crescendo and the crowd goes wild, spurring on our heroes to reach their poignant but ultimately pointless goal.

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