October 9, 2017
If you’re not into boxing, you might dismiss Mike Tyson as a thug, convicted rapist and washed-up sell-out. There’s some truth in all these labels, but his autobiography, The Undisputed Truth, is a portrait of an infinitely more complex and confronting character, one who is completely outside the box. His voice, too, is entirely unique, the product of a rough upbringing, years of therapy and rehabilitation and a more-than-passing interest in history and philosophy.
Tyson’s uniqueness comes from having lived life at the extremes. He grew up in unimaginable poverty in Brownsville, Brooklyn, a brutalising environment which he would become his element and he would return to throughout his life. His father was absent, his mother was a madam who filled their house with domestic violence, all night parties and strings of men. For young Mike, there is a straight line from neglect to leaving school at seven to finding a sense of belonging with local petty criminals. His lisp and poor hygiene made him the subject of bullying, and when he lashes out violently, his community gives him accolades. At the age of eleven, he has taken revenge on all those who persecuted him, and has become so infamous that grown men come to fight him. In a dark reflection of the American dream, mugging, robberies and burglaries bring him material success in the form of clothes and pigeons, the latter a local passion that will stay with him into adulthood. By the time he’s thirteen, he’s in juvenile detention. Read the rest of this entry »
January 3, 2017
Sent my novel manuscript to a publisher for the first time. Feelings would best be described as excitement and abject terror.
October 12, 2016
‘The great Australian silence’. It’s a phrase I’ve heard, referring to our country’s whitewashing of its history with its Indigenous people, but one I’ve never really understood. Having read Stan Grant’s Talking to My Country, I feel like I’ve begun to amend my ignorance.
Grant is a Wiradjuri man and journalist who has worked for numerous Australian news networks, as well as internationally for CNN. He has long been an advocate for Aboriginal issues, but has risen in prominence this year on the back of a powerful speech at the Ethics Centre IQ2 Debate in January 2016.
Talking To My Country is a brave, honest and raw book that communicates how it feels to be Aboriginal. It covers, briefly, the history of European and Aboriginal contact: the occupation of land, the genocidal government policies, the theft of children, the sundering of culture, the racism, both official and societal, that plagues Australia to this day. It talks, too, of how the dominant narrative ignores the many atrocities committed by the British during the frontier wars. Read the rest of this entry »
September 7, 2016
I like Tim Winston’s writing. I like his highly readable prose and earthy, often funny, similes. His characters are well defined and his descriptions of landscape evocative without being overwrought. I even like the Australianess of his voice. Sometimes it feels forced, but maybe that’s due to a bias born of the pervasiveness of American and English fiction. It’s partially for these reasons that Cloudstreet is one of my favourite novels.
All Winton’s strengths are present in his latest novel, Eyrie. Despite this, it (pun intended) fails to soar, largely because it commits the cardinal sin of taking the reader for granted.
Eyrie centres on Tom Keely, a former environmental spokesperson who has shut himself away from the world in his apartment, high atop a notorious high rise for Freemantle’s down-and-out. An undefined public scandal and divorce have left him a wreck of a man, broke, jobless, plagued by mysterious migraines and pain, only able to get through the day with booze and fistfuls of pills. Read the rest of this entry »
June 3, 2016
Escapism. It’s a term used for stories that are entertaining, light, and inconsequential. Nothing more than an escape from reality. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay doesn’t just revel in escapism; it makes a two-fisted defence of it.
The novel tells the story of Joseph Kavalier and Sam Clay, two Jewish cousins growing up in the era when Nazism began to cast its shadow across the world. Joe is a talented artist with a passion for escape artists and stage magic. Aided by his family’s life savings, his magic teacher and an inanimate golem, he escapes Europe just as the fascists are closing the trap. Sam lives in New York with his stereotypical Jewish mother (who doesn’t love a stereotypical Jewish mother?) and grandmother, having been abandoned by his circus strongman (really) father. Despite coming from such burly stock, Sam is short of stature and spindly of leg due to a bout of polio at a young age. He has a big mouth, he is able to conveniently translate into a knack for bombastic writing. Read the rest of this entry »
March 18, 2016
Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
Of all the writers I’ve read, Tolstoy is best able to capture the totality of human nature. Again and again, I was floored by the depth of his characters’ internal worlds, his ability to sketch out the motivations and contradictions and fantasies of people whose circumstances are so varied and different from his own.
Anna Karenina is, for those that don’t know, the story of an aristocratic woman who has an affair. There’s also a lot about a guy who likes farming. That’s it. As far as plots go, it’s not the greatest hook, but around this unexceptional subject is more insight into the human condition than you’ll find in a hundred best sellers. Read the rest of this entry »