Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Books for Father’s Day

Still looking for a gift for your dad for Father’s Day? Look no further! Here are some book recommendations we think your dad will love.

David Hunt

In this hilarious history, David Hunt reveals the truth of Australia’s past, from megafauna to Macquarie – the cock-ups and curiosities, the forgotten eccentric and Eureka moments that have made us who we are.

“Hilarious and insightful – Hunt has found the deep wells of humour in Australia’s history.” – Chris Taylor, The Chaser

David Marr

If your dad’s a political junkie, this is the book for him. Rudd v. Abbott includes the definitive and revealing portraits of the two men battling it out for the prime ministership. Published in the weeks before Rudd was deposed as prime minister in 2010, Power Trip revealed Rudd to be a man with “an angry heart”. Political Animal, with its revelation of “the punch”, triggered intense scrutiny of Abbott’s character in 2012. Essential pre-election reading.

Andrew Leigh

Battlers and Billionaires looks at equality in Australia, from our egalitarian beginnings, to the rise of inequality in the nineteenth century, and the fall of inequality from the 1920s to the 1970s. Now inequality is returning to the heights of the 1920s, and Leigh looks at what it means to have – and keep – a fair go.

Laura Jean McKay

Beyond the killing fields and the temples of Angkor is Cambodia: a country with a genocidal past and a wide, open smile. A frontier land where anything is possible – at least for the tourists. Laura Jean McKay’s short stories explore the electric zone where local and foreign lives meet.

David Marr

Cronulla. Henson. Hanson. Wik. Haneef. The Boats. In Panic, David Marr cuts through the froth and fury that have kept Australians simmering over the past fifteen years.

Alan Sepinwall

The Sopranos, Oz, The Wire, Mad Men, Deadwood, 24, Breaking Bad. What more do we need to say? Celebrated TV critic Alan Sepinwall chronicles the remarkable transformation of the small screen over the past fifteen years.

Laura Tingle

Rather than relaxed and comfortable, Australians are disenchanted with politics and politicians. Laura Tingle shows that the reason for this goes to something deep in Australia: our great expectations of government. Now we are an angry nation, and the Age of Entitlement is coming to an end. What will a different politics look like?

Hugh White

China is rising, but how should America respond? White controversially argues that America’s best option is to share power with China and relinquish its supremacy. The China Choice is an urgent intervention in the China debate, and provides a blueprint for a peaceful future.

“A must-read” – Bob Hawke

The China Choice is an exceptionally thoughtful systhesis of the arguments and influences which bear upon the coming shape of the Pacific.” – Paul Keating

The gift that gives all year round! Buy a Quarterly Essay gift subscription before Father’s Day, and your dad’s subscription will start with the September Quarterly Essay, an explosive profile of Cardinal George Pell, confessor to Tony Abbott, by David Marr. A definite must-read!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Interview with Periel Aschenbrand about On My Knees: A Memoir

Can you tell us a little about your book On My Knees and how you came to write it?

It’s a funny question that people often ask, how did you come to write this book? I feel like I am really sort of the vessel through which the book passes, it kind of writes itself. I don’t really “set out” to write a story, I rarely outline anything, I only keep notes of things I think are smart or funny or interesting or seem important somehow and these notes are everything in my life and they are everywhere—on my phone, on my laptop, Post-It notes are everywhere and then there are tons of notebooks with scribbles in them that I try to keep track of. I know I must forget a ton of stuff, so probably the work that survives is the most critical (or so I like to think). But writing for me is like peeing. It’s very natural and I can’t really stop it.

As you depict them, the important people in your life are entertaining and often hilarious – do you feel compelled to share them through your writing? How do they respond to being written about?

Other than my mother, who knows it’s not even worth trying anymore, I think people have a romantic notion of what it means to be written about. Their ideas of themselves and how they would portray themselves are often very different than reality. Which is to say that they really like the idea until they actually read the book and then they freak out and get all paranoid. I try to explain that nobody actually gives a shit and that as far as I’m concerned, they should be thanking me for what I don’t disclose, but they rarely buy that.

What appeals to you about memoir writing? Do you have any advice for aspiring memoir writers?

I am totally incapable of writing anything else. This may have something to do with the fact that I am a complete narcissist. But I can only write in my own voice, and my constant challenge is to try to get everyone else as interested in me as I am in myself. My advice to any aspiring writers (memoir or otherwise) is to READ READ READ. And then, go into banking. Unless you are seriously obsessed with writing and you love writing more than you love anything else - then you should write. Because you have to be willing to sacrifice everything for a very long time in order actually “be” a writer. And if that’s the case, then you’re very lucky because I think it’s the best life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

What is the worst piece of life or romantic advice you have ever been given? Did it lead you astray?

Worst advice is that there are rules about dating and sex i.e. you shouldn’t have sex on the first date. It didn’t lead me astray because I never paid attention to it!

In addition to being a writer, you are also the creative director of an online concept boutique, House of Exposure. What is an online concept boutique and how did House of Exposure come into being?

Basically I get to work with a wide variety of incredible artists, designers and photographers and come up with limited edition products—from lipsticks to baby clothes, which we sell exclusively on and are designed exclusively for us. In a certain way it’s really elitist and highly curated. I’m totally obsessed with design and oversee everything down to the most minute detail but, on the other hand, it’s very democratic as things are very affordable. I think anyone who appreciates beautiful things should be able to access them.

On My Knees is available now in print and eBook.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Little-known facts from Australian history

Girt: The Unauthorised History of Australia by David Hunt, is a side-splittingly funny history of Australia, which tells the real story of Australia’s past, from megafauna to Macquarie ... the cock-ups and curiosities, the forgotten eccentrics and Eureka moments that have made us who we are.

Here are some little-known (and hilarious!) facts from Australian history.

• Near enough’s good enough: The Captain Cook Monument at Botany Bay honours Cook for first setting foot on Australian soil on 28 April 1770, although he didn’t arrive until the following afternoon. There can be no finer tribute to Australia’s “she’ll be right” attitude than this error having remained uncorrected for over 140 years.

• Misdirection: In 1606, Willem Janszoon of the Dutch East India Company landed the Duyfken near present-day Weipa on the Cape York Peninsula. He named the new land Nova Guinea and distinguished it from New Guinea, which he called Os Papua. To further complicate things, he named part of Os Papua Nieu Zelandt. Janszoon soon sailed home in a state of geographical confusion.

• A waste of perfectly good kitchenware: Another Dutchman, Dirk Hartog, visited Western Australia in 1616. He spent three days finding nothing of interest, nailed a pewter plate to a post and buggered off back to Batavia (Jakarta). His countryman Willem de Vlamingh visited eighty-one years later and took the Hartog Plate, replacing it with another plate (confusingly also known as the Hartog Plate). In 1801, Frenchman Jacques FĂ©lix Emmanuel Hamelin came to see the famous plate and was so moved that he left his own plate behind. Louis de Freycinet, a less culturally sensitive French tourist, stole the second Hartog Plate in 1818. You can see the first Hartog Plate in Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum and the second in the Western Australian Maritime Museum if you have nothing better to do than look at old plates.