Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe

Okay, first I’ll get the gratuitous pics out of the way…

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I do sometimes read non-fiction…

I’ve done more non-fiction reading this year than I have in previous years. Partly stuff associated with uni, partly stuff about dementia (particularly relevant to my family at present), and of course I continue to be a sucker for a memoir.

I’ve jotted down a few thoughts on some of the books I’ve read recently – not reviews as such, just a record. Continue reading

My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff

New York, 1995, and newly graduated 23-year-old Joanna Rakoff has deserted her ‘nice college boyfriend’ and has moved into a slope-floored, unheated apartment in New York with domineering Don – a Marxist, aspiring writer, and everyday arsehole.

Although she dreams of becoming a poet, Rakoff takes a job as an assistant at the literary agency that represents J. D. Salinger. The ‘Agency’ is from another era – plush wood-panelled offices complete with Dictaphones and typewriters; old-time agents doing business their way, including martini lunches and afternoon naps; and a boss (‘swathed in a whiskey mink, her eyes covered with enormous dark glasses, her head with a silk scarf in an equestrian pattern’) who keeps track of her authors on specially printed index cards. Her boss notes –

‘…agents used to be upstanding. None of these multiple submissions…no auctions, with publishers bidding against each other. It’s uncouth. That’s not the Agency way. We send things out to one editor at a time. We match writers with editors. We have morals.’ Continue reading

Non-fiction November: Be the Expert/ Become the Expert

Most of my non-fiction reading is related to what I’m studying/ have studied at uni – genetics and now counselling. Although these areas are separate, there’s a fascinating intersection when you start looking at the role of instinct, intuition, nature/nurture and fields such as neuroplasticity.

Like this week’s Nonfiction November host, Sophisticated Dorkiness, I’m going to break the rules a little bit and offer up a list that’s a combination of Be the Expert and Become the Expert – three books about the intersection between our physical being and our psychological being.

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Non-fiction November – Book Pairings

I’m not a huge reader of non-fiction but my book shelves reveal my weaknesses – books about genetics, pop-science, the Art Deco era, and memoirs (am I allowed to count them as non-fiction?) make up the bulk of my non-fiction reading.

On the strength of that (and a little belatedly), I have decided to take part in Nonfiction November (spotted at JulzReads and Sarah’s Book Shelves).

This week’s non-fiction topic is ‘book pairings’ – pair a non-fiction title with a fiction title. Continue reading

Once We Were Sisters: A Memoir by Sheila Kohler

There’s a line in Sheila Kohler’s memoir, Once We Were Sisters, that is representative of much of her story – ‘As is so often the case, truth is crueller than fiction.’

Kohler begins with the terrible moment when she discovered that her sister, Maxine, had been killed. Maxine’s husband drove them off a deserted road in Johannesburg – he survived the crash, she did not. Continue reading

The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein

This book. Wow.

Harrowing. Courageous. Repulsive. Compelling. Heartbreaking. Uplifting. Fascinating.

The Trauma Cleaner, like its star, Sandra Pankhurst, is genre-defying. Author Sarah Krasnostein shadowed Sandra over a number of years, observing her day-to-day activities and recording the story of her life before she was a cleaner. And that story is remarkable – Sandra was a husband and father, drag queen, sex reassignment patient, sex worker, businesswoman, and trophy wife. As a ‘trauma cleaner’, Sandra cleans places others dare not go – homicide, suicide and death scenes; meth labs; homes of hoarders; and places ravaged by water, mould and filth.

Sandra knows her clients as well as they know themselves; she airs out their smells, throws out their weird porn, their photos, their letters, the last traces of their DNA entombed in soaps and toothbrushes. She does not, however, erase these people. She couldn’t. She has experienced their same sorrows. Continue reading

Book vs. Film: A Long Way Home / Lion

I’m skipping a review of A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley and instead suggesting that if you don’t already know this incredible story, see the film asap (note that the main difference between the book and film is that the book includes detail about Saroo’s time in India once he was reunited with his biological family, whereas the film ends with the reunion).

Film – Continue reading