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.