Thursday, December 5, 2013

Christmas Gift Guide

Looking for a Christmas present? Everyone loves books! Here are our picks for Christmas.

The unauthorised biography of Australia’s youngest billionaire, Nathan Tinkler.

Hunter Valley mine electrician Nathan Tinkler borrowed big in 2005, made a fortune from several speculative coal plays, and by 2011 was a self-made billionaire. He had gambled and won, but his volatility and reluctance to pay his debts was making him enemies. He lived the high life as only a young man would, buying luxury homes, private jets, sports cars and football teams, and splurging massively to build a horseracing empire.

Boganaire tells the story of Tinkler’s meteoric rise to wealth, and captures the drama of his equally rapid downfall.

The hilarious and bestselling book that everyone’s loving!

In Girt, David Hunt tells the real story of Australia’s past from megafauna to Macquarie ... the cock-ups and curiosities, the forgotten eccentrics and the Eureka moments that have made us who we are. He recounts the strange and ridiculous episodes that conventional histories ignore, and the result is surprising, enlightening and side-splittingly funny.

Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest is the public face of Australia’s once-in-a-lifetime mining boom. A swashbuckling entrepreneur in the finest West Australian tradition, Twiggy took on mining giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto at their own game – and won. Yet he has also been embroiled in two of the most heated debates in recent Australian history: over the treatment of Aboriginal people and the mining super-profits tax. Twiggy traces Forrest’s business triumphs and disasters to reveal the complicated man behind the myth.

From weight to wee, children to crap dates, nothing is off limits for Chrissie Swan, self-confessed ‘over-sharer’. Celebrity, friendship, love, being a working mum, ‘having it all’ and the general chaos of life – Is It Just Me? is Chrissie at her hilarious, candid and fearless best.

The Best Australian Essays 2013
Edited by Robert Manne

In The Best Australian Essays 2013, Robert Manne draws out this year’s most distinctive voices. This superb collection encompasses the personal, with Robert Dessaix’s distant summer of love and touch-typing and Helen Garner’s reaction to the death of Jill Meagher; and the political, with Chloe Hooper and Pamela Williams reflecting on the last days in office of Gillard and Rudd, while Christos Tsiolkas tells us why we hate asylum seekers and Julian Assange warns of the internet’s threat to civilisation.

In The Best Australian Stories 2013, Kim Scott assembles the most exceptional short fiction of the last year and invites readers to build ‘a rare and intimate relationship’ with these talented writers, one that is ‘essential to storytelling in print, whether on paper or screen.’

Contributors include Kalinda Ashton, Tony Birch, Cate Kennedy, Georgia Blain, Ryan O’Neill, Ashley Hay, James Bradley and many more.

The Best Australian Poems 2013
Edited by Lisa Gorton

This engaging collection presents the outstanding Australian poems of the last year – a fascinating array of voices and styles, subjects and moods. Including many of Australia’s most admired literary figures as well as exciting newcomers, The Best Australian Poems 2013 celebrates the wonder and diversity of language.

Contributors include Les Murray, Mandy Sayer, David Malouf, Clive James, John Tranter, Robert Adamson, Chris Wallace-Crabbe and many more. 

Dorothy Porter was one of Australia’s true originals, renowned for her passionate, punchy poetry and verse novels. This collection, the best of her life’s work as selected by her partner Andrea Goldsmith, presents the many facets of Porter, from her break-out verse novel The Monkey’s Mask to her posthumous collection, The Bee Hut.

Welcome to Paradise, Now Go to Hell, is surfer and former war reporter Chas Smith’s wild and unflinching look at the high-stakes world of surfing on Oahu’s North Shore – a riveting, often humorous, account of beauty, greed, danger, and crime.

Australians have just lived through a period of exceptional prosperity, but, says influential economist Ross Garnaut, the Dog Days are on their way. Are we ready for the challenges ahead?

In Dog Days, Garnaut explains how we got here, what we can expect next and the tough choices we need to make to survive the new economic conditions. Are we clever enough – and our leaders courageous enough – to change what needs to be changed and preserve a fair and prosperous Australia?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Hawthorn fans – want to see your photos in a book?

Calling all Hawks tragics! Want to see your Hawthorn fan photos in a book?

Do you have photos from 2013 Grand Final parties, the Hawks cheer squad, Hawthorn fans, or your pets dressed up in the glorious brown and gold?

In March, Nero is publishing a book for Hawthorn fans, High on Hawthorn: The Road to the 2013 Premiership by Phillip Taylor, and we’re running a competition for Hawthorn fans to have their fan photos included in the book.

What to do:
Email your photos to by Tuesday 31 December 2013.

What do I get?:
Glory, obviously, and your photos included in the book! You’ll also receive a free copy of the book when it comes out. Everyone who enters the competition will also be eligible to buy copies of the book at a 50% discount.

Image specifications:
Photos of fans, grand final parties, friends and family at football games and pets dressed up in Hawthorn colours from the 2013 season. Please include a brief (25 words or less) description of where the photo was taken and when, and who appears in it (if the subjects wish to be named). Photos need to be supplied in the highest resolution possible, and photographers need to clear permission with subjects before entering the competition.

Competition closes Tuesday 31 December 2013. Only winning photographers will be notified.

Good luck – we look forward to seeing your best shots!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

An interview with Andrew Burrell

Andrew talks to us about his new book Twiggy: The High-Stakes Life of Andrew Forrest.

What drew you to write about Andrew Forrest?

I had been covering the resources boom as a journalist in Perth since 2006 (with both The Australian and The Australian Financial Review) and wanted a way of telling the story of the extraordinary economic and social events that have taken place during this period. In choosing to examine the life and career of Andrew Forrest, I had the ideal story of a man who became a multi-billionaire through a combination of good luck and great skill. Twiggy is also West Australian royalty; he is descended from Sir John Forrest, the state’s first premier and a legendary explorer. It also fascinated me that Twiggy Forrest was then taking the first steps towards transforming his public image from wealthy mining magnate to philanthropist. His championing of indigenous employment also set him apart from other mining magnates. Twiggy’s philanthropy has intensified in recent months, which I think makes his back story – how he achieved what he did in business – even more fascinating and newsworthy to a general audience.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Interview with Lisa Gorton, editor of The Best Australian Poems 2013  

What was the selection process like for The Best Australians Poems 2013? 

There are 130 poems in this anthology, selected from several thousand that I read—poems discovered in online and paper journals, newspapers, books and submissions. The process brought home to me the work of those poetry editors and independent publishers who make a place for poetry in Australia—work that forms the basis for an anthology of this kind. I tried to choose poetry in different styles, written out of different ideas of what poetry should be and do, mostly because I think no style or coterie invalidates the rest. Also, I wanted the anthology to offer a sense of what is happening in Australian poetry now. From one August to the next I read all the poems I could, wherever I could find them, amassing over that time a long shortlist. Though it might sound conciliatory, I was struck by the variety and interest of Australian poetry. By September I had a shortlist of perhaps 400 poems that I read and reread. Finally, I chose ones that kept a memorable strangeness on each rereading. Doubtless there were poems that I missed or undervalued, choosing so few poems from so many. That built some anxiety into the process. 

Do you have any favourites among the poems in this year's collection? 

Not really. Perhaps that will come. It is still strange and good to see the poems together, suddenly a book—poems that for a year have been moving singly through stacks of paper in my study. At the moment I like how the poems work together, as if arguing with each other.  

Interview with Robert Manne, editor of The Best Australian Essays 2013  

What do you look for in an essay? 

Having read several hundred essays in preparing this collection, I have come to realise that what I most appreciate is the quality of directness, the presence of an authorial voice with something urgent to tell us about. Some of the essays I most admired made me laugh out loud. Some involved reflections on one or another aspect of the author’s life. Some involved criticism of literature, film, television or the visual arts. Some involved the mounting of an argument on a question about the past or the future. But what all had in common was a sense of immediacy and a determination to communicate something that truly mattered.  

How do you define an essay, and has this changed since editing The Best Australian Essays 2013? 

I have generally found the discussions that stipulate what truly constitutes an essay both tedious and unhelpful. My beginning point was to regard any reasonably brief piece of non-fiction prose as an essay. It was not too long, however, before this changed. Because of the pressures of university life today, where academic preferment is based on “refereed” publications, many pieces in the traditional Australian “small magazines” are now scholarly or quasi-scholarly articles from which the authors’ personality has been erased. For different reasons, it is the same with many of the distinguished examples of long-form journalism that I read which were concerned with conveying information but with little more. Neither the quasi-academic articles nor the pieces of high-quality journalism possessed what I came to think the minimal requirement of an essay—a truly distinctive individual voice.  

Interview with Kim Scott, editor of The Best Australian Stories 2013 

What do you look for in a story

A surprise. Craft. Some sense of it that lingers. A reward.  

What are some of your favourite or noteworthy pieces in the collection?  

Static’, by Cate Kennedy  

Birdcall: 33°21’ N 43°47’E, by Liam Davison (apart from the fact that it’s so difficult to find that degree symbol on the keyboard)  

J’aime Rose, by Tegan Bennett Daylight.
My list could go on, and I would still be sad we can’t share more of those submitted for this too-thin volume.  
What do you hope people take away with them after reading the stories? 

A sense of wonder. A bagful of images. A rhythm to their step and sparkling satisfaction. A gift. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Black Inc. is having a Warehouse Sale – just in time for Christmas! 

Come along and pick up some fabulous Christmas gifts and great summer reads for yourself. 

Black Inc. books, all priced at $5 

Friday 15th November, 4.00pm-6.00pm 
Saturday 16th November, 9.00am-2.00pm 

Black Inc. Office 
37-39 Langridge St, Collingwood VIC 3066 
(on the corner of Cambridge and Langridge streets)

Friday, October 11, 2013

Swingland: Between the Sheets of the Secretive, Sometimes Messy, but Always Adventurous Swinging Lifestyle

We pull back the curtain of the fascinating and often misunderstood subculture of the swinging lifestyle, and chat to Daniel Stern, author of Swingland.

How did you get into the swinging lifestyle, and what attracted you to it in the first place?

I didn't seek out the lifestyle only because I didn't know it existed. By my late-20s, all I knew was I sucked at sex and desperately wanted to improve. All the sex I'd had took place in committed relationships and, I'd found, the emotional entanglements of relationships were distracting me from sexual improvement, which, in turn, precluded me from completely engaging in a relationship. It was a vicious circle that wasn't going to resolve on its own. So, I dedicated myself to sexual batting practice. After months of flat-out rejection from internet searches for casual sex, I started getting nibbles and, eventually, worked my way into NSA (No Strings Attached) sex. Not long after, I learned of “the Lifestyle” and was off and running.

Friday, October 4, 2013

To Serve and Protect: Australia’s public sphere

Black Inc. and Quarterly Essay editor Chris Feik writes about the importance of a healthy public sphere in an extract from the forthcoming book of essays State of the Nation: Essays for Robert Manne.

For several years I have worked not so much in as on the public sphere. I have done this work mainly with Morry Schwartz, on books, the Quarterly Essay journal and The Monthly magazine. I say on not in because I am not so much a contributor to the public sphere as a kind of facilitator of it. My role has been to maintain places for writers to produce work of public interest that is then offered up to a commercial world of readers. In doing this, I’ve developed an interest in what makes for a secure and flourishing public sphere, what kinds of writing are most distinctive to it, and whether Australia indeed has a healthy public sphere.

First, there is the idea of a healthy national debate. I believe that a public sphere can be both corrupted and redeemed. The United States, I think, offers some very clear recent examples of this. With the George W. Bush administration and the Iraq War, we saw a concerted effort to ‘fix the facts around the policy’. Evidence about weapons of mass destruction was distorted or exaggerated in the service of a policy and an underlying world view. Unsupportable or dubious claims were made to the United Nations and in the media about military capabilities and al-Qaeda links; the doubts of UN inspectors were dismissed out of hand. On this view, the public sphere – especially in the form of critics and independent forums – was something to be shaped, suppressed and bullied. We saw papers such as the New York Times buckle, and unlikely possibilities aggressively presented as certainties by government. Later the Times would apologise for ‘coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been’ and acknowledge unbalanced reportage and instances when it ‘fell for misinformation’.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Best Australian Writing 2013

We’re delighted to announce the contributors for The Best Australian Stories 2013, edited by Kim Scott, The Best Australian Essays 2013, edited by Robert Manne and The Best Australian Poems 2013 edited by Lisa Gorton.

Contributors include Helen Garner, JM Coetzee, Richard Flanagan, Murray Bail, Anna Goldsworthy, Christos Tsiolkas, Alice Pung, Simon Leys, Julian Assange, Chloe Hooper, Cate Kennedy, Favel Parrett, Ryan O’Neill, Tony Birch, Georgia Blain, Ashley Hay, David Malouf, Les Murray, John Kinsella, Ali Alizadeh, Peter Porter, Judith Rodriguez and many more.

To see a list of all the contributors visit

The Best Australian Stories, Essays and Poems will be released on Monday 4 November.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

How to keep chickens – Frugavore style

Nutritionist Arabella Forge shows how to grow your own, buy local, waste nothing and eat well in her book Frugavore. She also has the low-down on keeping chooks, Frugavorestyle.

I would love to see a day when every household with its own backyard has a few chickens running loose, every apartment block has its own henhouse and every farm has fresh eggs available for its neighbours. Chickens can play an important role in your garden’s ecosystem: plants thrive when fertilized by chook droppings. Hens also provide excellent eggs and meat and are easy-to handle pets, the perfect choice for inner-city dwellers.

But you don’t have room? Don’t think you could give them a good life? Well, think again. Consider the life of a commercially farmed chicken. They are given unnatural feed, little room to run around and a shortened lifespan. I am sure any chook would prefer even a small backyard with fresh food and room to move to a lifetime in a small metal cage under UV lights. What’s more, chooks are gorgeous and hilarious creatures that will add character to any backyard or vegie patch. 

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 Félix 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.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Redbacks - Books with Bite


This month, Black Inc. is delighted to launch a new imprint: Redbacks – Books with Bite. Redbacks are short books on big issues by leading Australian writers and thinkers.

The series launched with Battlers and Billionaires: The Story of Inequality in Australia, by Andrew Leigh, and Why We Argue About Climate Change, by Eric Knight.

Here, Andrew Leigh and Eric Knight talk about Australian politicians, the mining boom and Australia’s economy, and why their new books have bite.

1. The Redback series is about short books with bite – with a focus on the big issues in politics across Australia. What is the most biting idea in your book

Andrew Leigh:
The notion that inequality falls as well as rises. In fact, my 91-year-old grandfather, Roly Stebbins, has seen inequality fall for most of his life. Australia can increase prosperity without increasing the gap between rich and poor.

Eric Knight:
My biting idea is that freedom is the real reason why we argue about climate change. It is not the science or a sense of moral duty to one's children, even though that is the superficial sense in which the argument is framed. Francis Fukuyama once argued that we faced the end of history where ideas like economic freedom and liberal democracy were settled. I argue in this book that these issues have just resurfaced in more complex, wicked forms.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Toyo wins the 2013 Dobbie Literary Prize!

Congratulations Lily Chan! Toyo has won the 2013 Dobbie Literary Prize which awards a first published work by an Australian woman with a 'life writing' theme. Here are some photos from this afternoon's event in Sydney.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

A writer is someone who writes: 10 ideas about short stories

Laura Jean McKay, author of Holiday in Cambodia, shares her tips for writing.

1. Write.

People will tell you to read and, yes, do that. After you write. Write in a journal. Write for a job. Write letters, poems, scrips, scraps, conversations, memories, parodies, stories that you will never use, novels that people will never read. Write.

2. Circle

Have you ever watched a dog getting ready for sleep? How they circle in their bed, scratch at it, sniff, stare for a while, circle again and then finally settle? Writing is like that. And I call that period of uneasiness, those muddy first words at the start of a story, circling. It’s important, then you get down to business (the story, not sleeping!).

3. Don’t wait for your muse to call

Waiting for a tram to arrive or for a tax return isn’t considered romantic, but the notion of waiting for the muses to strike or for yourself to be discovered is. Writing is active, the romance is in working. Of course there are days when I feel far away from fiction. I can see all the stories as if through a window but can’t get to them. There’s a lot of advice that says put down the pen and try again when you’re inspired. No. Those are the days when you most need to write.

Friday, June 7, 2013

2012 Ashurst Business Literature Prize

The Sweet Spot by Peter Hartcher has won the 2012 Ashurst Business Literature Prize!

Peter Hartcher received his award from the Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP, Federal Member for Wentworth and Shadow Minister for Communications and Broadband, last night in Sydney and our publisher Jeanne Ryckmans was lucky enough to attend. She shared some photos from the night with us:

Congratulations Peter!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Interview with Alan Sepinwall

We chat with with Alan Sepinwall about The Revolution Was Televised: From Buffy to Breaking Bad – the people and the shows that changed TV drama forever

Can you tell us a little about your book The Revolution Was Televised?

The Revolution Was Televised is about a period in American television starting in the late ‘90s when a collection of producers given an unprecedented level of creative freedom introduced the world to some of the best, most transformational drama series in the history of the medium.

How did TV become important to you? What makes TV important generally?

Growing up, it was this magic box in my living room that could transport me to all these places I would never go, meet people I’d otherwise never encounter, teach me, entertain me, etc. TV is a great communicator and a great uniter, though as we move into a more fragmented age of viewing, it can also be a great divider.

With the rise of high-quality narrative TV shows do you think film will catch up again or do you think the art forms now have quite separate cultural roles?

There are still complex and mature film dramas being made, but they tend to exist on the margins of our cultural discourse, whereas it’s hard to go someplace without encountering someone who is crazy in love with Breaking Bad.

You became a TV critic against considerable odds very soon after graduating - do you have any advice for aspiring TV critics?

Write - a lot. The more you write, the better your writing will get. And be prepared to do it for the love of it. Every major success in my career happened because I started writing something (the NYPD Blue fan site, my original blog, this book) on my own, without anyone paying me to do it. That sort of luck will not happen to everyone (I was in the right place at the right time a lot of the time), but if you’re not doing it out of pure enjoyment, then what’s the point?

If you had to choose, which of the shows discussed in The Revolution Was Televised would be your favourite and why?

Going into the process, I’d have picked The Wire as an easy winner. But part of the work of writing the book was rewatching a lot of these series, and being reminded how great they each were in different ways. I’d still say The Wire is the most consistently successful at realizing its ambitions, but I also have a hard time ranking The Sopranos behind anything, if you know what I mean.

The Revolution Was Televised is out now in print and eBook.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Interview with Anna Krien

Photo by Jesse Marlow
We chat to Anna Krien about her new book Night Games: Sex, Power and Sport, which is out now.

What is Night Games about?

Night Games begins with what happened when Melbourne woke after the 2010 AFL grand final to news that two Collingwood players were being questioned by the sexual crimes squad. From here I follow the subsequently linked rape trial of a junior footballer. The book is a bit like a set of Russian matryoshka dolls. The rape trial speaks to a much larger issue of the dark side of Australia’s two main football codes – Aussie Rules and Rugby League.

Over the past decade, the long-held journalistic silence surrounding the murky off-field antics of certain players, their treatment of women and each other has begun to fray, as rumours of hush money and allegations of sexual assault have surfaced. What happens on the footy trip is no longer staying on the footy trip.

I set out to explore this vast culture of entitlement that we, as a footy-obsessed society, have created around footballers, from the lawyers who keep them out of court, the police who cover up their misdeeds and club officials who say ‘boys will be boys’ to groupies, fans and star-struck journalists.

But Night Games is also about issues much bigger than footy – it is about gender and sport and, most importantly, it’s about that unspeakable and disturbing place that lies between consent and rape.

What drew you to write about this aspect of sporting culture?

Over a decade ago, in the front bar of a pub in North Fitzroy, I was listening to the pub trivia going on in the back room when this question came up.
‘What was the name of the girl who died in a hotel room with Gary Ablett?’
I remember sucking in the air like I’d been punched. Surely this isn’t pub trivia, I thought, and then just as quickly I prayed for someone to remember her name, the twenty-year-old footy fan who lay comatose from a drug overdose while forty-year-old Gary Ablett Senior, known as ‘God’ to his admirers, called an ambulance and then did a runner, hiding out with his manager, Ricky Nixon. For hours the girl had been a ‘Jane Doe’ in the hospital.
‘Horan!’ one guy yelled out. ‘Alisha Horan!’ His trivia team whooped. I wrote the incident down on the back of a beer coaster – I didn’t know what I was going to do with it at the time but I just thought, don’t forget this.
So I suppose this book has been hovering in my subconscious for a long time, but it really took shape after I wrote this essay, ‘Out of Bounds: Sex and the AFL’, for The Monthly about Kim Duthie, also known as ‘the St Kilda schoolgirl’.

You haven’t written about sport a great deal previously. Did you come up against any barriers in researching and writing the book?

I can’t say I saw a red carpet rolled out in my honour!

I did get the sense that some people felt like I was stepping on their turf and a few local sports writers I contacted understandably feared I was going to tar all footballers with the same brush. So yes, it wasn’t an easy book to research, and I want to emphasise that Night Games is not anti-sport. There’s this great quote by Robert Lipsyte, an American sports writer: ‘Jock culture is a distortion of sport.’ It’s not sport that’s the problem, it’s men who use sport for power, and the people – teammates, fans, coaches, clubs, doctors, police, journalists, groupies – who let them do whatever they want.

Night Games follows the rape trial of a footballer. You spoke to and spent time with the defendant, Justin Dyer, but you weren’t able to speak to the complainant, Sarah Wesley. Did this affect your reportage of the trial?

Yes, most definitely this affected my reportage of the trial.

I was privy to Justin and his family’s suffering throughout the trial. They were under enormous pressure and I felt for them. At the same time, I was acutely and constantly aware of Sarah’s silence in the story I was trying to write. I had no one with whom to compare the Dyer family’s suffering. Also – I desperately did not want to fill Sarah’s absence with my own reflection, to use a younger version of myself as a stand-in or to use my own experiences to explain hers. As a result, there is a very real gap in this book, a gap I could not fill, and I hope I’ve managed to respect that silence and not tried to plug it up with excuses.

Night Games: Sex, Power and Sport is available now.

Books for Mother’s Day

Why not get your mum a book for Mother’s Day? We all know everyone loves books! Here are our picks for Mother’s Day.

Night Games
Sex, Power and Sport
By Anna Krien

In the tradition of Helen Garner’s The First Stone comes a closely observed, controversial book about sex, consent and power.

Both a courtroom drama and a riveting work of narrative journalism, Anna Krien takes a balanced and fearless look at the dark side of footy culture.

‘One of the most anticipated books of the year’ – Books+Publishing

Why your mum will love it
Readers who enjoy narrative journalism such as Chloe Hooper’s The Tall Man, Anna Funder’s Stasiland and Helen Garner’s non-fiction will love this fearless investigation into the dark side of footy culture, sex, consent and power.

Welcome to Your New Life
By Anna Goldsworthy

Welcome to Your New Life is Anna Goldsworthy’s humorous and heartfelt memoir about having her first child. Should she indulge her craving for sausage after sixteen years of not eating meat? Will her birth plan involve Enya or hypnosis, or neither? And just how worried should she be about her baby falling into a composting toilet?

‘so funny and moving that you feel you are living more vividly’ – Anna Funder
‘A keen-eyed, funny, tender, wonderful book.’ – Chloe Hooper

Why your mum will love it
Self-deprecating, humorous and beautifully written, this memoir evokes the journey of parenthood, the shock of the new, and the love that binds families together.

Political Animal
The Making of Tony Abbott

By David Marr

Tony Abbott is poised to become the nation’s next Prime Minister, and, more than ever, Australians are asking: what kind of man is he and how might he run the country?

‘A more fair-minded and more generous assessment than many people, perhaps myself included, had expected.’ – Tony Abbott

Why your mum will love it
Political Animal is an illuminating portrait of Tony Abbott the man and the politician. And besides, everyone’s mum loves David Marr!

Unsuitable for Publication
Editing Queen Victoria

By Yvonne M. Ward

Unsuitable for Publication reveals the real story of Queen Victoria, based on unprecedented access to the royal archives. For the first time, readers can gain insight into Queen Victoria’s experiences of motherhood and her struggle to combine the roles of ruler and wife.

Why your mum will love it
It’s a fascinating piece of historical detective work about one of the most influential women of the nineteenth century.

Animal Wise
The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures
By Virginia Morell

Did you know that crows improvise tools, chimps grieve, ants teach, earthworms make decisions and birds practise songs in their sleep? Animal Wise is a dazzling odyssey into the inner world of animals.

‘A journey to the centre of the animal mind’ – Temple Grandin

Why your mum will love it
Elephants, wolves, dolphins, parrots and more, Animal Wise is a fascinating account of animals and their many talents.

Ghost Wife
A Memoir of Love and Defiance

By Michelle Dicinoski

Ghost Wife is the heartwarming account of Michelle Dicinoski’s marriage to her wife, Heather.

‘Insightful, supple and gorgeously written’ – Benjamin Law

‘Moving, irresistible and new, this memoir will inspire readers to honour all that is hidden in the past – and within ourselves.’ – Gloria Steinem

Why your mum will love it
Ghost Wife is a stunningly written memoir about love, family secrets, acceptance and the hidden world of people who live outside social norms, sometimes illegally.

The Happiness Show
A Novel 
By Catherine Deveny

The Happiness Show is Catherine Deveny’s smart, funny and heartbreaking novel about love and marriage, sex and friendship, and the messiness of second chances.

‘A fun, feisty read. I was hooked from the first page.’ – Mia Freedman

Why your mum will love it
Sexy, hilarious, outrageous and moving, The Happiness Show explores the rules and taboos of contemporary relationships and the pursuit of happiness.

A Memoir

By Lily Chan

In Toyo, Lily Chan tells the story of her grandmother’s remarkable life. Set across Japan, India and Australia, it follows Toyo from her unusual upbringing in Japan to her experience of the war and her eventual journey to Australia.

‘This is a beautifully lyrical and compelling voice, infused with deep insight and love’ – Alice Pung

Why your mum will love it
Toyo is the story of a strong and resilient woman who rose to the challenges she faced, to live an extraordinary life.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Q&A with Anna Goldsworthy, author of Welcome to Your New Life

Anna Goldsworthy speaks to us about her new memoir Welcome to Your New Life.

What’s your new book Welcome to Your New Life about?

It’s a book addressed to my first child, mapping the months of his gestation and the first two years of his life, for which he retains no memory of his own. I hoped to write a small tale and a large one at the same time: nothing and everything happens.

What was the most surprising thing for you about having your first child?

It has been a non-ending sequence of surprises. But perhaps the greatest surprise was how completely my baby was his own person, from the very first moment. I had previously imagined parenthood as a version of self-love, fuelled by narcissism. The surprise was that it is about loving somebody completely other, at a level that transcends self-regard.

Welcome to Your New Life is your second memoir. Did you always plan to write another memoir after Piano Lessons?

Absolutely not. After writing Piano Lessons and then talking about it exhaustively, I was thoroughly bored by ‘Anna Goldsworthy’, and had grander projects in mind. But over the course of my pregnancy and the early months of my son’s life, I jotted things in my notebook, until I realised I was accidentally writing another book.   

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Yvonne M. Ward discusses Unsuitable for Publication

We talk with Yvonne about her experiences writing Unsuitable for Publication: Editing Queen Victoria.

Can you tell us a little about Unsuitable for Publication?

My book tells the story of how Lord Esher and Arthur Benson went about the task of selecting and editing the first three volumes of the Letters of Queen Victoria published in 1907.

The idea of publishing the letters of a monarch was totally novel. People generally welcomed the opportunity to read the writings of their much-loved Queen; some courtiers argued that they were unsuitable for publication. Her son, King Edward VII, seemed to have no opinion either way, but, ultimately, he had power of veto over the content of the volumes.

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.