Alice Cottrell, Publication Manager
I just finished reading Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala, which I can’t recommend highly enough. Natives is everything a British education won’t teach you about Empire. It’s a combination of personal and political history that covers everything from colonialism, police, and education to hip-hop and Fidel Castro. It’s serious and substantial but incredibly readable and accessible at the same time. Akala is one of Britain’s most important public figures – definitely catch him at Sydney Writers Festival or Mayhem if you can.
The best film I’ve seen recently is Capharnaüm, which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film last year. It’s about a child born into poverty in Beirut who, after being jailed for committing a violent crime, sues his parents for giving birth to him. It’s a beautiful and brutal film about desperation and indignity, with an amazing lead performance from Zain Al Rafeea.
Alan Vaarwerk, Editor
I’ve been reading a lot of short books lately, as part of an ongoing battle to reclaim my ever-dwindling attention span. Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation has been sitting on my bookshelf for years, but I only just got around to picking it up. A number of my friends still rave about it, and now I can see why. The story is sparse but not a word is wasted; it’s a cliche to say it’s about what she doesn’t say, but it’s true – Offill’s depiction of the joy and grief of a relationship is defined as much by its silences as its descriptive passages. Every sentence is a gem, and this feels like a book I’ll be revisiting many times in the future.
I’ve also just finished Max Porter’s Grief Is The Thing With Feathers, a deceptively simple story of a man and his sons who are visited by a large crow in the wake of his wife’s death, which I’ve been reading in advance of picking up his latest book Lanny (read our review). Where Offill’s brevity feels strangely expansive, Porter’s is more inward-looking; here the silence is deafening and claustrophobic. This isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy the book – though there are elements of Crow’s nursery-rhyme delivery and Porter’s more poetic passages that I suspect went over my head, it feels like the sort of book where I’ll discover something new on each subsequent reading.
Finally this essay by the ever brilliant Patricia Lockwood has given me a new achievable goal in the war for my attention: if nothing else, I can at least actively try and not look at my phone first thing in the morning.
The first necessity is to claim the morning, which is mine. If I look at a phone first thing the phone becomes my brain for the day. If I don’t look out a window right away the day will be windowless, it will be like one of those dreams where you crawl into a series of smaller and smaller boxes, or like an escape room that contains everyone and that you’ll pay twelve hours of your life for. If I open up Twitter and the first thing I see is the president’s weird bunched ass above a sand dune as he swings a golf club I am doomed. The ass will take up residence in my mind. It will install a gold toilet there. It will turn on shark week as foreplay and then cheat on its wife.
Georgia Fitzgerald, Editorial Intern
The fourth season of ABC’s You Can’t Ask That returned this month, which I completely devoured in one evening. Each episode focusses on a particular marginalised Australian community and aims to break down stereotypes by asking questions people are too afraid to ask. This season’s interviewees range from travelling show people to disaster victims. The episode focussed on domestic and family violence, however, would have to be the stand-out of the season. It is both harrowing and powerful, asking such horrendous questions as ‘why didn’t you just leave?’. If you’re looking for a program that is both fascinating and confronting, give this a go, because if there’s anything this series has taught me, it’s that you’re never as educated as you think you are.
Lauren Carroll Harris, Contributing Editor
I’ve been thinking constantly of Claire Denis’ Let the Sunshine In, which is currently streaming on SBS OnDemand. Romcoms are a most wonderful, complex genre – capable of both upholding and destroying mythical lies of everlasting, instantaneous romance and the (heterosexual) meat market. Here, French filmmaker Claire Denis and actress Juliette Binoche create a woman, Isabelle, who is both independent and open to a relationship. The film’s plot, sparse, is framed through a series of encounters between the searching Isabelle and her stream of lovers, in moments of the relationships’ disputes or dissolution.
In romcoms, we watch people’s faces – beautiful faces – talking, reacting, watching one another. Through these conversations, Denis offers a vision of male entitlement, and of a passionate, reactive woman who is more engaged with life and the world than her exes. That openness floods the film’s final scenario. After such a loose structure, everything falls into place in one, long-unravelling scene, between Isabelle and Gerard Depardieu’s frank, affirming psychic; it is exquisite, and I think of it often. Stay open to life, never close down. To me, Let The Sunshine In seems a great film.
Meaghan Dew, Podcast Co-ordinator
Alice Robinson’s The Glad Shout (read our review) probably has a ton of comparisons with Steven Amsterdam’s Things We Didn’t See Coming, but it deserves these and more. I’ve been reading a couple of cli-fi books simultaneously, and while they’re both good books, Robinson’s is the one that will stay with me. I’ve tried to break down what makes it feel so real the water might as well be lapping at the walls while I read, and I think it’s more than the familiar setting. It’s how grounded the story is in Isobel’s experience – she and her daughter are such completely believable individuals that I couldn’t put the book down for wanting to know whether they made it through. The Glad Shout makes climate change – something so huge it’s sometimes hard to wrap your head around – feel so awfully immediate and terrifying. It does the same thing (but with perhaps a little less of the terrifying) with motherhood.