Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Welcome to Your New Life

In this second part of a three-part series, Anna Goldsworthy writes about obsession and finding the right voice for her new memoir Welcome to Your New Life.

I never planned to become a memoirist, let alone a serial memoirist. After the publication of my first book, Piano Lessons, I intended to plunge into fiction, or biography, or anything else that was not memoir (graphic novels? encyclopaedia?) – if only to shed the taint of the word. But there was another project closer to hand: my baby. And a small problem: I couldn’t think of anything else.

Piano Lessons is generated by an obsession with music; Welcome to Your New Life by an obsession with a child. Each book seeks to transcribe an experience that is largely inarticulate, but in many ways Welcome was more difficult. Someone once told me that experience should be allowed to mature for a decade before being transformed into art. I’m not sure if this is true, but it had the ring of authority about it. In Piano Lessons I notated my adolescent foibles with serenity, confident that a statute of limitations applied.

Welcome to Your New Life enjoys no such vintage. It is a book hewed out of the desperate present, and as such is written in present tense. Babies live exclusively in the present, and parenthood is such an act of empathy that you find yourself doing the same. (Sleep deprivation takes care of the rest, shoring away both memory and aspiration.) In prose, there are clear advantages to present tense – immediacy, intensity – but it also offers less perspective, and less digressive ease. A friend described Welcome as a ‘photo album of emotion’, and my original notes – dashed down while breastfeeding, or during nap-time – were almost exclusively impressionistic. The challenge was binding them into some sort of narrative. Piano Lessons settled comfortably into the template of bildungsroman, but my life as a mother had no clear structure. Or if it did, I was so stuck in the present moment that I could not see it. It took me some time, and some living, to discover it: a descent into chaos, and partial re-emergence.

As I wrote, the book automatically fell into second person. I thought it might switch to third person when my baby was born, and for his first half hour, when he was still a stranger to me, it did. Then it immediately swivelled back to you. Okay, I thought, gritting my teeth: an entire book in second person present tense. That sounds about like my life at present. And so the book is addressed to my son, as a record of those early years in which he was not yet laying down his own stories.

The memoirs I like best are those least fascinated by their authors: memoirs that gaze outward, rather than towards their own navels. Inevitably, there is a lot of navel-gazing in the first part of this book, but I hope it is less about this particular mother than about motherhood: a type of travel writing from a terrifying, wonderful, foreign land.

Welcome to Your New Life will be released in April.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Black Inc. Review Their Pets

We've gone slightly animal mad here at Black Inc. mainly due to the recent release of Virginia Morell's fantastic new book Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures. So in a homage to one of our favourite sites Review of My Cat - Black Inc. have decided to review their own pets.

Leave a review of your own pet in the comments to win a copy of Animal Wise!

Friday, March 8, 2013

International Women's Day

Happy International Women's Day! We're proud to celebrate some great new writing by women writers.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

61st APA Book Design Awards

Congratulations to our designer Peter Long who has two books shortlisted in the 61st APA Book Design Awards!
Check out the rest of the shortlist at the APA website.

Virginia Morell discusses Animal Wise

We speak to Virginia Morell about her fascinating new book Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures

Can you tell us a little about your book Animal Wise and what makes it different from other books about animals or animal intelligence?

I think a key difference is that my book is also about the scientists who are exploring animal minds and emotions. Hal Herzog, an animal researcher who wrote Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat, sent me a kind note. He said, “You’ve turned the question of ‘what does it mean to be a bat’ on its head. You’ve asked ‘what does it mean to be an animal behaviorist?'"

I’d never thought of my book in exactly those words, but Hal is right. I wanted to show who the scientists are who investigate the minds and emotions of animals; what draws them to their ‘study’ animals; what’s the relationship between the researcher and his/her animals. So as well as looking at exciting new discoveries about animal minds, Animal Wise is also about the kind of people who ask extremely difficult questions — such as "what is it like to be a fish?" or "do elephants grieve?" and how these researchers then go about finding the answer.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Welcome to Your New Life

We’re very excited about Anna Goldsworthy’s second memoir, Welcome to Your New Life, which will be released in April. Here, in the first of three parts, Anna writes about how Welcome to Your New Life came about.

‘So, what are you working on now?’
‘A memoir of motherhood. It’s sort of comic, sort of deadly serious...’

But the smile has already frozen; the eyes glazed over. Or worse: there’s the knowing chuckle. ‘Another motherhood memoir! Every generation thinks it invents motherhood, doesn’t it?’

Are there really so many motherhood memoirs? Because when I fell pregnant, I felt ill-equipped by my reading for what was to follow. I had enjoyed a much more thorough apprenticeship in the male midlife crisis, and could more readily imagine wielding a penis than a belly full of child or a breast full of milk.

‘English literature had never interested itself in mothers or motherhood,’ wrote Germaine Greer in 1999. ‘Until recently women have written little or nothing about the emotional cataclysm of becoming a mother.’ There are notable exceptions, such as the brilliant memoirs of Rachel Cusk and Anne Enright, but I am yet to discover these alleged libraries of them. Perhaps motherhood has been deemed too lowly a subject for capital L Literature.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Story Behind Ghost Wife: A Memoir of Love and Defiance

By Michelle Dicinoski

I married my American wife, Heather, on a wintry Toronto day in December 2005. A few days later we left Canada, and despite the vows we’d made, and the rings on our fingers, and the marriage certificate stored in our luggage, we were as unmarried as ever, as far as the United States and Australian governments were concerned. Crossing the Canadian border, I wondered whether I would feel different on the other side … Nope. But I was different, in ways that were hard to explain.

From the time Heather and I decided to marry, I knew that our marriage would ‘disappear’ like this, and, I wanted to record the disappearing act. In blog entries and journals I wrote about our wedding journey, which took us from Brisbane to Boston to Toronto to Florida, and took me on my first overseas trip. When we returned to Brisbane, I began to turn the experience into a book.

I thought this book would focus on my relationship with Heather—and it does, for the most part. But when I began writing, a surprising thing happened. Other stories began spilling out of me, stories of old secrets from my family’s past. Like the tale of my acrobat great-grandfather on my Dad’s side, a child migrant and one of Australia’s first Japanese immigrants. His ethnicity was so well concealed that I didn’t know about it until I was at university.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Animal Wise

10 amazing facts about animal intelligence from Animal Wise by Virginia Morell - in stores today!

#1. Great Bowerbirds are artists. Australian bowerbirds do not just randomly set out their piles of decorations but rather arrange them to create the illusion of perspective, a technique often used by artists when painting landscapes. When researchers rearranged the male birds’ displays the birds quickly restored every item to its proper place.

#2. Sharks have been on earth for more than four hundred million years.

#3. Crows and rooks create and use different types of tools from things they find. For example, crows can bend straight wires into hooks to get at food, and rooks have demonstrated a basic understanding of physics by employing the principles of water displacement to better access food.

#4. Fish not only feel pain but can suffer, experience emotions and are self-aware. In the past, researchers believed that fish had very simple brains, however new studies have found that this is not the case.