Monday, June 18, 2012

What We're Reading, Watching and Listening To

In our spare time, when we aren’t hard at work publishing fantastic books like Laura Tingle's new Quarterly Essay and Ryan O'Neill's breakout short story collection, we’re reading books by other publishers, watching lots of great TV, seeing some amazing films and listening to plenty of music. 

In the spirit of sharing our great finds, we present to you the books, TV shows, films and music currently preoccupying our staff. 

If you have any great recommendations of what we should read, watch or listen to next, let us know in the comments.


I'm reading: Experience with Evil by Ross MacDonald – obscure volume by the crime fiction master.

I'm watching: Borgen – the "Danish West Wing" except vastly smarter and less sentimental.

I'm listening to: Father Creeper by Spoek Mathambo – scary South African rap; and Music for String Instruments by Gyorgy Kurtag – elliptical and intimate quartets.

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I’m reading: The History of My Body by Larissa Bird and published by Experimental writing classified as fictitious memoir. Fascinating, dark stuff. Have been alternating with the manuscript of Hugh White’s forthcoming book with us The China Choice – which is nothing less than masterful.

I’m watching: Game of Thrones season two.

I’m listening to – have not contracted! – Dengue Fever. California meets retro Cambodian pop.

Editor #1

I'm reading: Jonathan Franzen's 2002 essay collection How to Be Alone. I occasionally find Franzen's rants about the alienating nature of technology tiresome (when it gets too much, I stop reading to check my Twitter feed), but his essays on his father's descent into dementia and the self-denying stories that smokers tell themselves are particularly insightful.

I'm watching: Season 4 of Breaking Bad. I have four episodes left to watch, and I'm on tenterhooks about where the characters are headed. The experience of watching the show is akin to watching a car crash in slow motion. That sounds awful, and it is, but it's also one of the most compelling series I've watched in a long time.

I'm listening to: 151a, the debut album from Kishi Bashi, which is a joyous romp through a folk-music field with a looping pedal for company. When I need an adrenalin rush, I turn to Icona Pop's seriously catchy song 'I Love It'.

Editor #2 

I'm reading: A YA novel, Scatterheart, by Lili Wilkinson. I'm only about fifty pages in but am already gripped by this story of a fourteen-year-old girl in nineteenth-century London who, when her father abandons her, is falsely accused of theft and sent off to the colonies as a convict. Wilkinson is an acclaimed young Australian author and I've been meaning to read her work for years.

I'm watching: My partner and I were keeping up with a few shows, but they all finished their seasons recently — Fringe, Lost Girl, Game of Thrones and Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries. We've moved on to a new Canadian sci-fi drama called Continuum, but so far I'm not all that impressed.

I'm listening to: I don't listen to a lot of new music, but I've been enjoying Florence + the Machine's latest album, Ceremonials, which a good friend gave me.

Subscription Manager

I'm reading: I have two books on the go at the moment – Lives by Peter Robb, and A House and Its Head by Ivy Compton-Burnett, both of which I'm really loving.  So far I've only read the Australian biographies in Lives, whose voices Robb weaves so seamlessly through his expansive musings, as he reaches for an understanding of their lives. By contrast, Compton-Burnett's dialogue and prose is taut and sparse, and is as precise and utterly ruthless as her best characters.  Two wonderful storytellers, with completely different styles. 

I'm watching: I've just watched Bertolucci's The Spider's Stratagem. An elegant film looking at identity and history, as a man goes to a small town in search of the truth about his father's death thirty years earlier under Fascist Italy. Beautiful images and lighting, influenced by the paintings of Magritte.

I'm listening to: Irrepressibly energetic Franco-Kraut electro pop band Stereo Total on Musique Automatique, Let England Shake by PJ Harvey, The Balanescu Quartet covering Kraftwerk in their own wonderful way on Possessed, the ever-beautiful Felt Mountain by Goldfrapp, and anything and everything by Eartha Kitt, because she's divine!


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I'm reading: Recently finished Into the Woods by Anna Krien. Having grown up in Tasmania this is a truly frightening exposé. For me, Into the Woods backs-up many long-standing suspicions with an extremely solid dose of well-balanced research. Essential reading for any remotely environmentally conscious Australian, whichever side of the fence you stand on. Now reading: The Glass Canoe. Commendable reissue of a near lost Australian classic. I must admit it's my first encounter with David Ireland and I'm only a few chapters in – but he delivers, with an incredibly engrossing style, tales in which the Australian pub becomes near mythical in its role as a central force in daily life. Each short chapter is as easily consumable as the next – just like the next fleet of fresh glass canoes (aka, cold glasses of beer). 

I'm watching: Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Louie, and Girls. Uh-oh, I'm sounding like an HBO snob. Mad Men: as troubled and brilliant as ever; Game of Thrones: very silly medieval-pulp but I'm persevering nonetheless; Girls: also very silly but delivering more irreverent humour with its cohort of NYC hipsters. And Louie: hilarious. Never pulls a punch on life as a parent (or any topic, for that matter). As equally disturbing as it is incredibly funny. Whatever you think of him, he's an extremely brave man.

I'm listening to: After a bender of 1960s-70s free jazz including Sun Ra, Alice and John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Peter Brötzmann and anything released by BYG Actuel (to name a few), I dipped into some Turkish psychedelia; there's a lot to discover, but noteworthy are Erkin Koray and Selda. Returning to the ugly Australian underground of yesteryear: recent reissues of Bloodloss and feedtime are essential avant-neanderthal pub rock. Currently exploring the vast discography of key Japanese underground figure, Keiji Haino. His back catalogue is intimidating in its scope, but a recent release hooked me in: IMIKUZUSHI. An improvised collaboration with Jim O'Rourke and Australian noise overlord Oren Ambarchi (here on drums rather than his now trademark guitar-explorations). Its all wild free improvisation, meteoric guitar histrionics backed by an incessant kraut-like pulse, capped with Haino's unmistakable voice; at 60 years old, whether he's whispering strange haikus or un-strangling ferocious howls, its hard not to believe he has taken on superhuman status. A favourite of 2012.


I'm reading: proofs of Toyo: A Memoir by Lily Chan, a beautiful and utterly compelling debut. Very excited about its release in September.

I'm watching: embarrassing, age-inappropriate TV shows on ABC iView including Country House Rescue, Silk and reruns of Miss Marple.  

I'm listening to: In re-run mode here too, with Tchaikovsky's ballet suites and The Shins' Wincing the Night Away. I haven't had a chance to listen to their newish album yet, but hoping to soon.

Sales Manager

I'm reading: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. I can’t stop analysing those around me for introversion. Interesting history and fascinating research. And a TED talk.

I'm watching: Breaking Pointe. It’s terrible. Follows the lives and loves of 6 ballet dancers at Ballet West in Salt Lake City: soapie meets Jersey Shore meets Centre Stage. I’m addicted, not least to the (often) half-naked male dancers.

I'm listening to: The Shangrilas. It makes me feel badass while driving home with surfboards on the roof.

Publicity Manager

I'm reading: I've recently read two amazing works of non-fiction. The first is Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, the book which inspired Sonia Faleiro to write Beautiful Thing. I read Random Family after Sonia listed it as one of her favourite books, and it's one of the most clear-eyed and well-realised works of journalism I've read. Published in 2003, LeBlanc spent over ten years researching and writing Random Family, and it follows the lives of two young girls, Jessica and Coco, who fight to survive grinding poverty in the Bronx. The other book is Katherine Boo's Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, which is also brilliant. Next up is Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones.

I'm watching: In fits and starts, Girls and Veep. Both very entertaining.

I'm listening to: Chet Faker’s Thinking in Textures, ‘QueenS’ from THEESatisfaction's awE naturalE and ‘Walk Away’ by The Harpoons. They all put a spring in my step on cold winter mornings.

Marketing Manager

I'm reading: I just bought two books I'm excited about – The Year of the Gadfly by Jennifer Miller (I’m a sucker for a good boarding school novel), and Memoirs of an Addicted Brain by Marc Lewis (I eavesdropped on someone talking about it and it sounded so fascinating I had to buy it immediately.) Before I had a chance to start on these my colleague lent me the brilliant Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc. I’m finding absolutely heartbreaking and fascinating – I can’t put it down.

I'm watching: The Good Wife. Season one is an enjoyable case-of-the-week legal drama but season two turns the show into something more – full of delicious intrigue, backstabbing, double-crossing and a plethora of interesting characters. It’s fantastic. Julianna Margulies, Christine Baranski and Archie Panjabi do some amazing work as the three female leads.

I'm listening to: my walking-to-work playlist currently features a lot of Moby, Radiohead and Florence + the Machine with a sprinkling of Madonna, ABBA and Alanis Morissette for good measure.

Office Manager

I’m reading: Tourist Season by Carl Hiaasen: a colourful and blackly comic crime novel set in South Florida. It’s easy and entertaining and reading about Miami during the eighties in this miserable Melbourne weather is actually warming me up...

I’m watching: Justified. A crime show set in rural Kentucky starring Deadwood’s Timothy Olyphant. The accents alone are enough to keep me watching and it’s based on an Elmore Leonard story so it’s got some literary cred too.

I’m listening to: Hall and Oates. All the time. My boyfriend hates me.

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