Alan Vaarwerk, Editor
Something I’ve recently learned about myself is that I love awards shows, in all their pompous, anachronistic glory (not you, Logies)—and this year’s Emmy Awards were a delight. Maybe it’s the sense of communal “event watching” that I’d missed amid the pandemic, the quality of this year’s crop of nominees, or pleasant surprise at the show’s ability to exceed the low expectations of a mostly remote-filmed event and make light of awards hand-delivered in HAZMAT suits, but I found myself touched by the acceptance speeches and reaction shots, and felt a genuine thrill at Schitt’s Creek’s clean sweep of the comedy categories.
In an effort to recapture some of Schitt’s Creek’s wholesome, warm-hearted Canadianness, I’ve been enjoying Kim’s Convenience, a CBC/Netflix sitcom following a Korean-Canadian family running a small Toronto corner store. The characters (both the main Kim family and a very enjoyable revolving-door cast of store regulars) are simultaneously exaggerated and complex multi-layered portrayals, and the sitcom staples of culture clash and intergenerational misunderstandings are presented in a fresh and funny way that doesn’t rely on stereotypes or degrade its characters. Highly recommended for a feel-good hit.
Alice Cottrell, Publisher
I’ve been listening to lots of episodes of the Longform Podcast, which each week features a wide-ranging conversation with a non-fiction writer. There are some amazing thinkers and writers in the archives—Claudia Rankine’s recent episode is a particular highlight.
I’m currently reading Stone Sky Gold Mountain by Mirandi Riwoe and loving it. Set during the gold-rush era in far north Queensland, the novel follows siblings Ying and Lai Yue, who have fled their family home in China to seek their fortune in Australia. Riwoe explores big questions of identity, racism, colonialism and gender with richly-drawn characters and beautiful writing. This is historical fiction that’s bursting with life and energy.
Josh Sorensen, ‘Taylor Swift and the Rebirth of Poptimism’
Every six-months or so I rewatch James L. Brooks’ Broadcast News. One of those films that becomes increasingly precinct with age, it touches on my pet themes: declining media standards, ethics of representation, and how we (writers, journalists, people) overwork to avoid our emotions (yikes). I accompanied this watch with the Broadcast News episode Blank Check with Griffin David and Kellie Herson’s essay in Bright Wall/Dark Room. The former goes deep on technical aspects and Holly Hunter’s magnificent performance, while the latter unpacks the knot of interpersonal drama that sits at the film’s heart.
I’ve also had ‘A Little Bit Alexis’ on near-constant rotation since Schitt’s Creek won all the Emmys. It’s such a stupid, vapid, ridiculous song (she’s expensive sushi, she’s a cute huge yacht, she’s a little bit single, even when she’s not!) that it’s shot the moon, going from an ironic favorite to a genuine power anthem.
Leigh Hopkinson, ‘Victoria’s Underground Gold Rush’
I’ve just read Tom Doig’s Hazelwood, which I finished in a day. Knowing how long books can take to write I try not to do this, but Hazelwood was pacey, accessible and utterly engrossing. Doig lets the people of Morwell tell their own stories with little editorialising: it’s an effective journalistic technique that takes you right into the heart of the 2014 mine fire.
I’ve also been reading nonfiction essays—one a night in bed on my phone. This week it’s been past winners of the Horne Prize—Anna Spargo Ryan’s The Suicide Gene, Kerryn Goldsworthy’s The Limit of the World and Rachael Lebeter’s Diary of a Wildlife Carer. Also Anna Krien’s incredible piece in The Saturday Paper, ‘24 hours on Melbourne’s lockdown frontline’. It’s a selection of fragmented snapshots, visceral and surreal. Living in regional Victoria, I haven’t set foot in Melbourne for months and feel increasingly dislocated from what it’s been going through.
My son is nearly two and adores books, so I’ve been reading to him a lot, as usual. His latest favourite is Dr Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go! A cruel irony, and perhaps something to look forward to.
Lastly, it’s been a real pleasure watching Simon Bischoff’s film Winter on the Blade, a 45-minute documentary about a rock climbing mission to reach the top of Blade Ridge on Federation Peak during the wettest winter in Tasmanian history. Bischoff’s cinematography is stunning, and the narrative candid, humorous and self-deprecating. It was nice to live vicariously for a bit, and to be inspired.
Marlee Jane Ward, ‘Big Dad Energy’
There Are No Girls on the Internet, hosted by Bridget Todd, highlights the marginalised identities who have shaped the internet since its inception. Their input is undervalued but their contribution is massive.
We know the name ‘Brock Turner’, but in Know My Name by Chanel Miller, his victim (identified up until this point as Emily Doe) tells us hers. A heavy topic, yes, but this memoir is powerful and vulnerable and exquisitely written.
I Am Not Okay with This on Netflix is part-Carrie, part teenage psychodrama. What happens when your intense adolescent emotions turn telekinetic? And the last few minutes of the season blew my mind.
Bunny is a sweet, sweet muppet of a dog (a sheepadoodle? ) and her owner is using an intensive training method and a special audio board to teach Bunny to communicate. What About Bunny? is utterly adorable and a happy thing in this scary world and you can follow her progress on insta.