Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris

Because I am in #campold, a dinner party conversation I had last weekend was about colonoscopies. More specifically, the person who brought it up was talking about their anxiety – they’ve never had a colonoscopy. Neither have I*, which is probably why I gleefully suggested they should read the hilarious chapter on colonoscopies in David Sedaris’s eighth collection of essays, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls. Continue reading

Vacuum in the Dark by Jen Beagin

Is there such thing as a literary poo joke…?

Jen Beagin’s Vacuum in the Dark opens with Mona, a twenty-six-year-old house cleaner, accidentally washing her hands with a poo, mistaking it for a ‘fancy hippie soap.’ She immediately refers to her imaginary friend, Terry Gross, for advice. Terry suggests breathing through her mouth and repeat rinsing.

“The shits are real, Terry,” Mona said. “They have heft. They engage all the senses.”
“Start keeping a record of some kind,” Terry suggested, as Mona finished vacuuming. “Indicate the time of day, the location, plus a brief description, and maybe include a drawing.” Continue reading

The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib

Perhaps it’s just me but naming the main character ‘Anna’ in a story about an anorexic seems tone-deaf…

Yara Zgheib’s novel, The Girls at 17 Swann Street, focuses on a small treatment facility for women with eating disorders and in particular, Anna, an ex-ballerina.

Anorexia is the same story told every time by a different girl. Continue reading

Heart Berries: A Memoir by Terese Marie Mailhot

I have a weak point when reading – the loss of a child. Stories about losing a child – through death, family separation, to addiction, to crime – hurt my heart more than any other. I’ve mentioned a passage in Yanagihara’s A Little Life that haunts me because it gets to the very core of the issue.

When the loss of a child was revealed at the beginning of Terese Marie Mailhot’s memoir, Heart Berries, I prepared myself for a tough read.

You asked me for my secret. I told you about the son who didn’t live with me. I told you I lock myself in the bathroom to cry when I remember his milk breath… You said you’d be on the other side of the door. That’s how perfect love is at first. Solutions are simple, and problems are laid out simply. Continue reading

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

My thought as I was halfway through reading Andrew Sean Greer’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Less, was why the Melbourne Writers Festival team (i.e. Marieke and her off-sider, Gene) were so invested in the book (they were mad for it).

And then I discovered that there was so much more to Less.

It’s the story of Arthur Less, a mediocre novelist who is about to turn fifty (‘Arthur Less is the first homosexual ever to grow old’). When Less receives an invitation to ex-boyfriend Freddy’s wedding, he plans a round-the-world trip to avoid the nuptials. A string of speaking and teaching engagements takes him from New York and Mexico City, to Rome, Berlin, Paris, Morocco, India and Japan.

While snow glistens on Charlottenburg Palace, Freddy is standing beside Dennis in the California sun, for surely it is one of those white-linen-suit weddings, with a bower of white roses and pelicans flying by and somebody’s understanding college ex-girlfriend playing Joni Mitchell on guitar. Continue reading

Carol by Patricia Highsmith

Believe it or not, Carol is my first Patricia Highsmith. In the past, I’ve dismissed her work as ‘not my thing’ (on account of me being coverist* – you know those crime novels with darkly coloured covers and the author’s name in blocky gold-foil font, often found lying about at beach houses? That.) Anyway, I changed my mind a few years ago when I saw the fantastic play, Switzerland – Highsmith is the subject and the play included bizarre biographical details (things like carrying snails around in handbags). I was intrigued. Continue reading

But My Brain Had Other Ideas by Deb Brandon

Call me a stickybeak (I call it curious / deeply interested) but I love memoirs. I want to understand the emotional context of situations that would otherwise be completely foreign to me.

Medical memoirs occupy a bit of a tricky spot in the memoir market because they usually appeal predominantly to people who are experiencing a similar thing – it makes sense to read about other people’s experience to make sense of your own. While you’ll usually find me in the ‘misery memoirs’ section, I do occasionally stray and Deb Brandon’s But My Brain Had Other Ideas is such an example. Continue reading

Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson

Seems people have strong feelings about celebrity memoirs (usually along the lines of ‘Haven’t you had enough of the spotlight already?!’). I don’t seek them out but nor do I avoid them. I picked up Mara Wilson’s Where Am I Now? because she was appearing at the 2018 Melbourne Writers Festival.

Wilson’s name might not be instantly recognisable but her six-year-old face is. She was the ‘cute’ little star of Mrs Doubtfire and Matilda, as well as many other films and television shows (including Melrose Place!). As the title of the book suggests, Wilson tackles what happens after the ‘cute’ is over (seemed no one wanted Matilda with boobs…). Continue reading