Broadside 2019 – Zadie Smith

There were moments when I wanted to call out “Stop! Wait! I need to process that!” during the conversation between Jia Tolentino and Zadie Smith at last weekend’s Broadside festival. Their banter was rapid-fire; the topics they were discussing were big and intense ; and it’s taken me a week to reflect on all that was covered.

Zadie got straight into it with, “I’m always thinking a lot about death. And human autonomy, free will. Shit like that.” She was being truthful and funny all at once. Continue reading

Broadside 2019 – Helen Garner

What a day! The inaugural Broadside Festival opened with Helen Garner in conversation with Sarah Krasnostein.

It was the first time I’d heard Helen speak (despite trying to get to her rare speaking engagements in the past). My immediate impression was that she was much warmer and funnier than I had expected (I guess my expectations were unthinkingly based on her subject matter and her spare, pared-back prose).

The conversation began with talking about publishing a diary, something that by nature is intended to be private. On rereading her diaries, Helen said, “There was a lot of boring stuff in there, which naturally I found fascinating. To sort out what others would find interesting about you is actually quite a challenging process.” Continue reading

The Aftermath by Rhidian Brook

Why, why, why have I left my review of Rhidian Brook’s historical novel, The Aftermath, so long? I had so much to say about it when I finished it in July (although, perhaps too much and that’s why my thoughts were a jumble). Anyway, it’s worth a brief review because it’s a book that I think will be among my favourites for the year. Continue reading

The Electric Hotel by Dominic Smith

In 2014, I completed a year-long 1-second-a-day project. My kids still ask to watch the seven minute result, enjoying the flashes of the everyday and odd sound-grabs. I was reminded of it when I read Dominic Smith’s latest novel, The Electric Hotel.

The novel focuses on Claude Ballard, a pioneer of silent films.

Strangers have always interested me, Claude said. The way they illuminate their own sorrows or joys when you least expect it. It might be half a second of staring into space, then it vanishes. Continue reading

Royals by Emma Forrest

Imagine if Jeanette Winterson wrote episodes of Made in Chelsea, and set them in the eighties? You’d have Royals by Emma Forrest.

Royals opens with 18-year-old Steven, preparing for a street party to celebrate the wedding of Lady Diana and Prince Charles. Steven is obsessed with fashion, and dreams of leaving behind his working-class upbringing to become a designer. Steven’s mum is his greatest supporter, and his father is a violent alcoholic.

He was jealous of me and Mum. It upset him that I made her happy. He wanted her to be happy, but he didn’t know how to do it himself. He bought her perfume on her birthday and he hit her. He got her kitchen remodelled, and he hit her. Continue reading