Sunday, July 6, 2014

Some Holiday Reading

Ahh school holidays where I don't get to write but do get to read. Here's what I've been reading:

The Tremor of Forgery - by Patricia Highsmith
Is it great? I can't tell. Is anything going to happen? I don't care. I was in a state of voyeuristic angst for the whole book and the ending was not at all what I expected  - but I still found this fascinating. It's not even that the language is beautiful or the details compelling; the character is this lukewarm sort of guy... who spends most of the book wondering if anyone likes him, if he's a bad person, if being placed out of context means that you have no legitimate self ... I loved it. Patricia Highsmith's more heady texts are like the uglybeautiful folkart thing you found at the op shop that you can't stop looking at ...

Kill the Music - Nansi Kunze
I had the pleasure of sharing a panel with Nansi at the Death in July festival where we worked out that the kind of books we write are for the kind of girls we were (or maybe wished we were). In Kill the Music, Lorna's an orphan and her older brother/guardian Flint is a member of Turmoil who are MASSIVE and under threat of ... extinction. At the same time Lorna's negotiating being the new girl in a school where everyone thinks they know your backstory. Kill the Music is a pacey, smart, mystery-adventure with exotic locations and a kick-arse heroine.

The Fever - Megan Abbott
Still Megan Abbott can do no wrong. I read this on the plane and was totally taken. In a misty suburban-y small-town high school girls have started fitting and frothing and no one can figure out why. Deenie, fifteen, thinks she might be the link. It's such tight, claustrophobic writing, full of skewed and scary teenage wanting. And made me think about children and parents and friendship and society and how the hell anyone makes it out of the teenage wilderness. Excellent.

Dear Diary - Leslie Arfin
Funny, disturbing real life diary of Leslie Arfin's journey not from 'crayons to perfume', more from 'perms to crystal meth'. Today Arfin writes for Vice and HBO's Girls - in this she responds to her original diary entries, sometimes seeking out POIs for further clarity. Reading it made me wish I hadn't burned my own teenage diaries - then again ... Arfin dedicates it to her parents with the request that they NOT read it. This makes sense. I read it on holiday with my mother and didn't want her going anywhere near it.

Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music  Boys Boys Boys - Viv Albertine
In case you didn't know, Viv Albertine was in the Slits, and before that the Flowers of Romance with Sid Vicious (they never had a gig). I just loved this  - great to have a female perspective on UK punk scene, tracking it's evolution from something reactionary and violently original into people seeing dollar signs everywhere. I loved reading about how Viv was drawn to music, but didn't know how to get into it; how she writes about The Slits as being like a gang, and how she writes about her lost years where she didn't play music. I'm still waiting to hear about Patti Smith's parenting years. What happens to people when they go underground like that ....

Cherry Bomb - Jenny Valentish
Jenny Valentish's debut novel is a 'teenage psychodrama'set in the Australian music industry about the rise and fall of The Dolls, a precocious duo (think more shadowy Veronicas) whose famous aunt (think Courtney-Chrissie-Stevie) fast-tracks their career. Nina Dall's narrative (including lists, anecdotes, and hallucinations featuring Molly Meldrum) - is sharp and funny and unsentimental. Finding out what drives her, and how far she can go before she implodes kept me turning pages in the wee hours to the not-quite-cathartic-but-probably-realistic end.

As Stars Fall - Christie Nieman
As Stars Fall is set in Melbourne and regional Victoria. It starts with a bushfire, then delves into the connecting lives of three teenagers who are each experiencing their own inner chaos. The story unfolds quickly, and the writing is economical but I felt as though I knew these characters - even the parents (something of a rarity in YA). It's a deep and thinky read that explores nature nature and human nature. The Bush-Stone Curlew (call here:  is the unifying 'character' and a symbol and a warning.

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