What We’ve been Reading: August 0 Comments

What We’ve been Reading: August

 

Lily:

I’ve been reading lots of contemporary Australian crime this month. As a result, the nightmares haven’t stopped. I recently finished John Dale’s Huckstepp. It’s an investigation into the 1986 murder of Sallie-Anne Huckstepp. Sallie was a sex worker and heroin addict who lived in Sydney, and she was very charismatic. She was also a whistleblower who gained a lot of attention when she accused the notorious Roger Rogerson of murdering her boyfriend, Warren Lanfranchi in 1981. No one has been convicted for her murder. This book is really gripping, partially because it’s such a recent local history but also because Dale is obsessed with the case.

Every chapter examines Sallie’s murder from a different angle. By the end of the book I felt like I’d gained a thorough understanding of who Sallie was, how she interacted with people, how she died – it was brutal – and who wanted her dead – there are so many suspects. The amount of research that has gone into this book is incredible, and Dale pursues so many leads. He wastes no time with background information though, assuming his readers are aware of Sallie’s reputation. It might be a slow start for some – the writing is technical and detailed – but if you’re fascinated by crime and corruption, this is a real story about dangerous and powerful people that’s worth the read.

 

Kat:

Over the past few days I’ve been working my way through the latest issue of Poetry. It feels special to hold this magazine. I spend a lot of time on the Poetry Foundation’s website, but it is a different kind of joy to read their monthly print publication. The July/August edition features, for a start, very cool cover art by Julie Murphy. In fact, all of the illustrations throughout are gorgeous, and complement a diverse selection of writing.

The middle section of the magazine, titled ‘Pethetic Little Thing’ after a Tracey Emin artwork, is curated by Tavi Gevinson. I had doubts about this at first, especially as Gevinson includes an essay that she wrote age 14, but it won me over pretty quickly. All of the writers and artists are in their teens or twenties, and their poetry and essays are emotional, cohesive and powerful. The angst-ridden rawness of Emily Carney’s poem ‘The Feeding’ and Jenny Zhang’s essay ‘How It Feels’ read like they form part of a wider movement.

Another Poetry highlight was an essay about limericks, by Anthony Madrid. Let’s all write more limericks.

Other things that I’ve read piecemeal this month: Jessica Hopper’s The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic (great!), some old back issues of Frankie I got at a garage sale (less great!), way too many Gawker posts (self explanatory).

 

Vince:

Feminism and the body. Being frank about wanking. Building a sense of self from subcultures and punk music. Forcing yourself to like cigarettes and booze so you look like you don’t give a fuck even though you’re barely fourteen and you actually give a lot of fucks. Choosing your own name: a rebirth of the self, from the self. Autonomy.

How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran is so full of fantastically crude lines; I can’t pick one to quote to you. Perhaps “I get paid by the word, and it’s a thrill when that word is cunt.” Or “In a way that’s so post-post-post ironic it actually stops being communication, and simply becomes confusing and unhelpful.” There are music and lit references that I get, but usually write off as wanky. But no, these references are so tongue-in-cheek and self-aware of the wankyness I couldn’t help but smile and nod (and get a bit excited when Sylvia Plath was mentioned). There was constant cringing with secondhand embarrassment, and then secondhand pain when Dolly/Joanna bangs a guy with a dick so big she gets a UTI and spends the next twenty-four hours soothing it in his bathtub. He brings her cranberry juice and she entertains his drunken guests like a chain-smoking mermaid. Joanna sums the book up best herself though:

“I’ve eaten drugs off a hanky, has sex with a medically inadvisable penis, confused The Smashing Pumpkins, binned off a threesome with a quote from Bade Runner, and tried to kiss my hero while being serenaded by singing gibbons.”

From the opening page where Joanna narrates her nightly wank in the room she shares with her six year old brother, the book is a steady stream of laughter you’re not sure you should be emitting, and wanting to blast Bikini Kill or Hole and tell someone to fuck off.

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