Alice Cottrell, Publication Manager
I’ve been loving The Dropout, a six-part investigative podcast by ABC News (US). The series is about the disgraced blood-testing startup company Theranos and its founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes, who was once lauded as the next Steve Jobs. Theranos was dramatically shut down in 2018, with both the company and Holmes indicted on fraud charges. The podcast features interviews with former Theranos staff and their family members, deposition tapes and audio from many interviews given by Holmes herself. It’s a fascinating story about spin, Silicon Valley and the hubris of start-up culture.
Alan Vaarwerk, Editor
I’m currently enjoying New Zealand author Annaleese Jochems’ debut novel Baby (Scribe, available 5 March). I came into the book expecting a kind of millennial lit-fic novel, but the book is a thriller in disguise. Bored and likely sociopathic 21-year-old Cynthia and her beautiful, enigmatic fitness instructor Anahera abandon their lives to live together on a tiny boat in the Bay of Islands, their sense of naive freedom devolving to jealousy and obsession. Cynthia’s detached, easily distracted narration is equal parts amusing and unsettling, and while I’ve not finished the book yet, it’s one I’m constantly returning to.
I’ve also been on a bit of a documentary kick recently, most likely set off by the competing Fyre Festival films – by far the most deeply affecting one I’ve watched recently is Casting JonBenet, from Australian filmmaker Kitty Green (read Lauren Carroll Harris’ review). Built around the framework of Colorado locals auditioning for roles as Ramsey family members in a re-enactment of the crime and its aftermath, the film is a powerful exploration of the sordid and deeply personal ways we mythologise and rationalise high-profile crimes.
Cher Tan, KYD New Critic Award winner
The year has barely been a quarter of the way through and so many of last year’s themes are already collapsing onto one another. There’s this concurrent sense of heightened panic and incredible apathy as people attempt to make sense of a ‘future’, especially as we hurtle towards the (gasp!) 20s.
Like many millennials (or ‘xennials’, whatever), I can’t see a future for myself that feels concretised, and while I don’t have the time for it to weigh on me 24/7, films like Lords of Chaos and The Favourite cheer me up. This dry-as-toast yet searing cultural critique by Patricia Lockwood in the London Review of Books has also been extremely gratifying, in a throw-up-for-fun kind of way. And recently, some writers from the MIFF Film Critics Campus have started a new film criticism publication called Rough Cut, which I’m rather excited about – already the content looks very promising.
I’ve also read some truly exceptional books, such as Alison Whittaker’s Blakwork (Magabala Books) and Heike Geissler’s Seasonal Associate (Semiotext[e]), which help me get over my dead-eyed pessimism with regards to destroying stuffy notions around form, and in turn, the needless dictums surrounding ‘good’ literature. In the same spirit, there’s this meme, which makes me howl like a maniac. Finally, newly-discovered zines like the Comic Sans series give me great hope towards the making of new possibilities.
Rebecca Starford, Publishing Director
Everyone is raving about Normal People (read our review), and with good reason: it’s a breathless portrait of a complex modern relationship. It was recommended, however, that I start with Sally Rooney’s debut – and in many ways I think it outshines Normal People. Conversations with Friends (Faber & Faber) takes us inside the mind of 21-year-old Frances as she navigates an affair with the older, married Nick, while at the same time reckoning with what it means to love her best friend, Bobbi. I devoured it in two sittings – it’s extraordinary.