Monday, 26 September 2016

Recent reads - spring 2016

Have I mentioned how amazing holidays are because I finally get to read the books I've been meaning to for so long? I'm particularly thrilled because now I'm a third of the way through my holiday reading list, having finished: 2/6 holiday reads! 🎉📚✔️✔️

The current issue of Dumbo Feather magazine is particularly brilliant. All interviewees are change-makers of some sort, including feminist icon Gloria Steinem, who's mission is to make invisible injustices visible ✊; Indigenous advocate and opera singer Deborah Cheetham, who urges Australians to continue actively learning from Indigenous Australians as we are only denying our own richness of lives and understanding of the world by shutting out that part of our histories 🎙; and environmental activist Laurie David, who most famously produced Al Gore's 'An Inconvenient Truth' 🌿. Her quote from this film - "Between denial and despair there is action" - really resonated with me, leading me to feel incredibly inspired and empowered to continue pursuing the social justice issues I feel strongly about ✊🎙🌿👊.

I have to admit (in case you've had similar thoughts) that it took me a while to enjoy reading Dumbo Feather 😱. The interviews are presented differently to others, and I found the layout a bit off-putting to begin with (very narrow margins, varying text sizes - don't ask 🙄). But if you're interested, I urge you to persevere, because now I'm loving its conversational style and the fact that it does present all interviewees as ordinary people who have courageously pursued what drives and inspires them. Not to mention what I now consider to be the gorgeous layout of the magazine itself - there's something so satisfyingly indulgent and pleasing with it 😍!

Cate Kennedy's 'Dark Roots' made me re-appreciate the beauty of short stories. For a while now I've avoided reading fictional novels because I haven't felt like I had the time to properly immerse myself in the world of novel-length stories. So instead I've read various collections of non-fiction articles, which I've felt are more achievable but can at times feel burdensome. Short stories could be the antidote to this dilemma, and Kennedy's collection was particularly immersive.

Set in Australia 🇦🇺 , the stories focus on various tipping points in the mostly ordinary lives of everyday people. Kennedy unpacks the seemingly insignificant moments that lead to potentially life-changing outcomes; from a woman queueing at Australian customs who is attempting to smuggle heroin into the country 🛬, to a woman who's lover becomes comatose after asking her to buy black sesame seeds from the shops 🏨. Not all stories are heavily burdensome; with others more lightheartedly exploring the coincidences that sprout up in life 🔮.  But there's certainly a sense of unease that permeates the collection, leaving you contemplating these significant moments and causing you to reexamine similar turning points in your own life. As someone who can go through life wondering 'what if...', these stories particularly resonated me as many of them centred around this very question. And if you're someone who tends to wonder about life's choices in the same way, you'll probably find these stories equally immersive and satisfying.

Monday, 18 July 2016

I'm back!

In short: Thanks to Annabel Crabb, Leigh Sales and Lena Dunham for reigniting my wish to blog again.

Wowzas. It's been 12 whole months since I last posted here. How time flies when you're finishing your teaching degree, applying for jobs, travelling around South America and starting your first year of teaching. Humble brags aside, it has been an incredibly busy 12 months, where I sadly haven't been able to read as much as I'd like to. Subsequently I haven't felt like I've had the time to properly reflect on the few books I have read either.

And if I'm going to be perfectly honest with you, I was feeling quite uninspired and overwhelmed by the prospect of writing more blogs for a while. Am I even supposed to admit that? Is that like a parent admitting that sometimes they really can't stand their children? Well, I've said it. And while the reasons for feeling this way are varied and will become more apparent shortly, I've decided to share some of the thoughts I've had over the past 12 months so that you can get a better idea of where I'm at. If you don't really care, then this process will still be beneficial for me as it will remind me that blogging is a perfectly legitimate way to be spending my free time.

So, without further ado, here are some of my thoughts from the past few months:

5. Recently I've read lots of books that have blown my mind in awesomeness.

So much so that I've been bursting to share their awesomeness with anyone I can. Some of these gems include Phoebe Gloeckner's The Diary of a Teenage Girl: An Account in Words and Pictures, Michael Cunningham's The Hours and Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway. Stay tuned for reviews of these, and many more, over the next few weeks.

4. I love that I get to relive the pleasures of books I read when I'm reviewing them.

That's part of the reason why I don't write about books I dislike - there's no need to re-live the disappointment or frustration again. Not to mention that I rarely finish books I don't enjoy to begin with anyway. Though that's beside the point.

The point is, when I'm writing about books I've enjoyed reading, I get to emotionally reconnect with the said books and - to borrow an idea from Amy Poehler's memoir Yes Please - 'time travel' back to when I was reading it and re-live the pleasures I experienced. Who wouldn't want to go through that fun journey again and again?

This brings me nicely to my next point, which is...

3. I'm forced to reconsider the issues/themes/conundrums the books raise in more detail than I would if I was just reading them without a third-party outlet.

Now, don't get me wrong. Sometimes it is nice to just read something for pleasure's sake without having to dissect and analyse the bigger picture meaning of the characters/symbols/themes in the books.

BUT, part of the pleasure I find with books is exploring how they compliment and/or contradict the way we as readers make sense of our world. This is a pleasure I've been attempting to communicate with my English students, who despite being an apathetic audience at times, have reignited the enjoyment of reading for me.

This realisation is also partly due to my discovery of Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales' podcast Chat 10 Looks 3, which entertainingly explores the books, movies, TV shows and articles that Crabb and Sales consume. Their enthusiastic and critically insightful reviews have heavily influenced me wanting to get back in the game of reviewing too. So, if either Crabb or Sales happen to be reading this blog, thank you very much!

2. I've decided to put less pressure on myself.

This may surprise you depending on how highly you rate this blog. But honestly, I'm not one who likes to produce things that are sub-standard. I'm one of those people who during a job interview will genuinely say that my weaknesses include my debilitating tendency to be a perfectionist.

Yet still, I've published posts on this blog that I'm not 110% happy with. And instead of moving on and working on my next hit post, I've previously felt completely debilitated by producing writing that I'm 110% satisfied with. It sounds ridiculous, I know. But yet I found myself at the point where I decided to stop writing altogether as I was too frustrated with publishing 'sub-standard' posts.

This is an attitude I'm not particularly proud of, especially as I try and discourage my students from adopting similar behaviours when they are frustrated with their work. So, in light of not being a hypocrite, and inspired by events in episode 10 of the fifth season of Girls (where the protagonist Hannah Horvath decides that she's ready to recommence writing after a two-year hiatus), I decided that I would take my own advice and improve my writing in one of the best ways I can - by writing more and being open to advice on the areas I know aren't working.

1. What about the books I read in the past 12 months that I didn't make enough notes about to write reviews on... 

...Won't they get upset if I ignore them altogether? 

Perhaps. So to make it up to them, I've made a collage of some of the books I did read so they can get some recognition. It's also an opportunity for me to show off my newly learned skill of collage making...voila!

Phew! I'm exhausted now! So much so that perhaps it'll be another 12 months before I write anything else...

Just kidding (wait, were you just breathing a sigh of relief?). Anyway, I will stop, let you celebrate the fact that this blog hasn't gone away forever, and reassure you that it won't be too long before the next post is up.

Until next time...

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