What We’ve Been Reading: June 0 Comments

What We’ve Been Reading: June



At the Voiceworks 100th issue launch Oliver Mol did a great reading of a story of his from one of our past issues. The next day I bought his book, which I’d been eyeing off in the new release section of the bookshop where I work. Lion Attack! is a melding of fiction and nonfiction, a modern memoir of Oliver’s life as a young person in Melbourne, juxtaposed with memories of his life growing up as an Aussie misfit in pre-9/11 Texas. It’s kind of a stream of consciousness exercise about him navigating daily life a new city but you don’t really know what is real and what is fiction. I think I also just really liked it because, like the Oliver of the story, I too am navigating life as a recent Melbourne transplant. I demolished it in one sitting – go Voiceworks! Louis Theroux is the best and I will read anything he recommends. So when he name-dropped a book in some interview I found online, I went and hunted it down (found a copy that I’m pretty sure must have been a first edition – I ended up toting this musty old cloth-bound book from my uni library for weeks; I had to tape up again before I returned it). The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South by Kenneth Stampp was written in 1956 and is pretty much one of the first major counter-arguments to the previously widely accepted historical viewpoint that slavery was a harmless and paternalistic institution. What. It’s now a fundamental text in the study of North American slavery but not only is the content mind-blowingly fascinating but it was written during the civil rights movement, quoted by Martin Luther King Jr. and, considering its time, used historical evidence to rebut white perceptions of slavery and African American people. Super interesting because of content and context, but also perpetually relevant – thanks for the recommendation, Louis.



Swallow the Air by Tara June Winch has left a lasting impression on me this past month. It’s a coming of age story about May Gibson, a young Aboriginal girl who searches for her father after her mother’s death. The book’s form is interesting as it can be read as a novel or a collection of interwoven short stories. Winch’s writing is vivid and although it leans heavily on metaphors, it will stay with you in a haunting kind of way. I’ve also been on a short story spree lately and recently read and loved Alice Munro’s collection, Runaway. Munro is perfect if you’re looking for longer short stories at around 50 pages each and stories that focus on women and women’s experiences. Sam George-Allen’s essay, ‘On the Hierarchies of an Australian Strip Club’ also blew me away this month. It originally appeared in The Lifted Brow but has been republished by Lit Hub. Her essay is well thought out, will keep you hooked throughout and is just a really well executed piece of writing. I would recommend as a must-read for all budding memoir writers.



My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff feels like a few thousand word description of a generational broken promise. So much of this novel grabs me. The uncertainty about money, career and relationships. The presence of a boyfriend who is more concerned about trying to force emotional intimacy through his poetry than being emotionally honest with his girlfriend, the protagonist. The New York energy. By “broken promise” I mean the sort of narrative promised to us by our parents and mentors that aren’t as sustainable as they say to us. Although I’ve yet to finish and have spent many months re-reading and picking back up, I feel humbled and inspired by the tiny, quiet detailed moments in one of the most happening cities in the world.

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