Alice Cottrell, Publisher
Last week I found myself nodding along in agreement with opinion piece ‘Smash the Wellness Industry’ by Jessica Knoll. It’s about the rebranding of diet culture as ‘wellness’ and the poisonous idea that calorie-rich food is ‘sinful’.
Listening to too many podcasts about politics, current affairs or true crime can be emotionally exhausting, and the New Yorker Fiction podcast is a perfect salve when I need something more relaxing. In each episode a writer reads a short story from the magazine’s archives then discusses it with fiction editor Deborah Triesman. A couple of recent favourite episodes are Andrew Sean Greer reading ‘I Live on Your Visits’ by Dorothy Parker and Emma Cline reading ‘The Metal Bowl’ by Miranda July. They’re both sharp and funny stories brilliantly narrated.
Alan Vaarwerk, Editor
I’m really enjoying the new Vox Media podcast Nice Try!, which explores the different kinds of utopias people have tried and failed to create throughout history, from Jamestown in the colonial US to Chandigarh in India and beyond. I loved host Avery Trufelman’s 99% Invisible miniseries ‘Articles of Interest’, which looked at the history and ethics of the clothes we wear, and Nice Try! has a similar feel – not simply telling the interesting stories of honourable failures, but facing head-on the more complex issues of colonialism and systemic inequality that often lurk below the surface.
I’m also reading Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s Friday Black (Hachette Australia), a collection of short fiction dealing with themes of racism, consumerism, masculinity and the Black experience in America. I saw Adjei-Brenyah speak when he was in the country back in May, and bought the book on the spot. The tightly-written stories sit in the Venn diagram of realism, satire and speculative fiction – equal parts tenderness and anger, shot through with a streak of absurdist gallows humour. The book’s opening story, ‘The Finkelstein 5’, is a devastating masterpiece of contemporary satire.
By far the wildest thing by far I’ve read this month is Allison P. Davis’ article at The Cut exploring the rise and fall of Babe.Net, the deliberately brash women’s website that broke the Aziz Ansari story – Davis’ article begins as a kind of cringey insider look at a new media upstart, but devolves into a nightmare of lax HR policies and work-life boundary crossing.
Finally, my current music obsession is The National’s new album I Am Easy To Find – Matt Berninger’s baritone combined with an assortment of female vocalists and the band’s signature driving percussion ticks all my boxes. The songs themselves are more delicate and experimental than some of the band’s previous work so I took a little while to warm up to it, but now it’s lodged firmly in my brain.
Jane Howard, Contributing Editor
It is so easy to make fun of goop, Gwyneth Paltrow’s wellness company. At best it has been something I have rolled my eyes at, at worst I have reveled in the schadenfreude of its bad reviews. And so I was shocked when I found myself listening to The goop Podcast and actually…liking it? They certainly fit into the whole goop/holistic/self-healing vibes, but there is something about engaging with these thoughts in podcast form I find quite soothing. Gwyneth Paltrow and Elise Loehnen swap off on hosting this podcast filled with positive vibes, women power and stories of how we just need to manifest happiness. Sometimes things do get a bit silly, but I’m heartened by Paltrow and Loehnen’s lighthearted treatment (‘Oh, that is so goop!’ they will say, laughing), and their belief in the need for medicine, therapy and support systems as much as their belief in light getting stuck in our pelvis. Is the goop podcast groundbreaking in any way? No. Does it need a plug from me? Certainly not. But is it making me happy this month? Absolutely yes. And sometimes that’s all we’re looking for.