What We’re Reading

Each week we bring you a sample of the books we’re reading, the films we’re watching, the television shows we’re hooked on or the music we’re loving.

Chris is watching Downton Abbey

Melbourne winter says to me, get a series, snuggle up and press play on Downton Abbey. I’ve just started with season one, episode one and I’m hooked!

I’m also reading, well behind the rest of Melbourne, but still …*Night Games* by one of Reading’s most loved authors, Anna Krien. What a terrible tale so beautifully written. Hang your head in shame Melbourne town.


Bronte is reading The Vanishers

Julia Severn is a talented student at an elite institute for psychics but when Julia’s mentor, the legendary Madame Ackerman, grows jealous of her protégée’s talents, she forces Julia to relive her mother’s suicide and then launches a psychic attack. Julia retreats to a faceless job in Manhattan where she is recruited to help track down a missing person.

In short - I absolutely loved this novel. I read it a few months back and recently picked it up again to locate a particular passage that had stayed with me. I immediately felt the same pleasure I’d had at an initial reading. The writing is funny and smart, and besides being a thrilling story about psychics who seem to have a lot in common with academics (albeit with magical abilities) - The Vanishers is also a fascinating meditation on mothers and daughters. As Julia navigates the strange yet familiar word Julavits has created, her relationships with other females shift and evolve. There’s rivalry, selfishness, dubious mother substitutes - all described through Julia’s endearingly self-deprecating voice.

Julavits is a co-editor of The Believer and is currently working with Sheila Heti and Leanne Shapton to put together a book that will explore the multiplicity of motives that inform how women decide to present themselves, and what style means. You can participate in the book at www.womeninclothes.com by answering their survey. I’m part-way through filling it out and really recommend others to do the same.


Belle is reading Lydia Davis

I am about to finish an advance reading copy of Fiona McFarlane’s exquisitely written The Night Guest. Fiona’s short story, ‘Art Appreciation’, was recently published in the The New Yorker, which I also loved. The book comes out in September.

I’ll be out of town this weekend, in Jamieson, and will be taking with me The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis. Davis is the contemporary hero of the short story for many writers and readers and this book collects her writing from across three decades. I have also been enjoying browsing Stefan Marx’s This Sounds a Bit Like Goodbye, a collection of his recent drawings from New York City.


Nina is reading Tampa

I am reading an advance copy of Alissa Nutting’s upcoming novel Tampa (out in August, available for pre-order now). Tampa is the story of 26 year old sociopath, sex addict and pedophile Celeste Price. Celeste has become a middle school teacher with the sole aim of finding a fourteen year old boy to be her lover, a goal she pursues with laser-like focus throughout the first four chapters (which is as far as I’ve read to date).

The novel is confronting, sexually explicit, and makes for some very uncomfortable reading (especially on the tram!) But Alissa Nutting is a skilled writer and she’s created a fascinating voice for Celeste that draws you along – invariably cringing, but also having a lot of fun. Celeste is crazy, callous and cruel and being inside her head is an amusing, shocking and disgusting experience.

This is the kind of novel I imagine book clubs will have a field day discussing (if they aren’t adverse to explicit content). Here’s a short, interesting interview with the author where she answers questions about her motivation for writing on this topic.

Look out for a piece by Estelle Tang in our next Readings Monthly on Tampa and other novels that explore intense adult-child relationships.


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