Books

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Children’s stories can challenge stereotypes

<p>As book week draws near, new research shows the potential power of children’s books to challenge gendered stereotypes in science, technology, engineering and maths. Meanwhile Australian children are spoilt for choice when it comes to diverse books, keep reading below for some recommendations.</p> <p>A research team from the Netherlands, the United States and Canada found when children were read a story that countered stereotypes, for example about a girl who’s good at maths, afterwards they were less likely to hold gendered stereotypes than the control group. The paper is published in PLOS one.</p> <p>The study involved reading aloud to more than 300 North American six to eleven-year-olds, with each child randomly assigned to be read one of three different books. </p> <p>The first story was stereotype-consistent, in which a boy character performed well in maths, while a girl was shown liking and excelling in reading. The second was a counter-stereotypical case, where the story was the same but the characters’ genders were reversed. The third was a neutral story where swimming and tennis replaced the activities of maths and reading.</p> <p>After being read one of the three, the children completed a child-friendly ‘implicit association test’, which involved sorting maths words (like addition, count, math, numbers) and reading related words (like books, letters, words, read) into boy and girl categories. They also completed a ‘self-concept’ test, answering questions like ‘how much do you like maths?’</p> <p>While gendered stereotypes about STEM can be formed early, an important finding of the study was that children’s attitudes are malleable, and books which counter stereotypes can help challenge the status quo.</p> <p>The findings are significant given globally and in Australia, women and girls are under-represented in STEM fields and professions, with gendered perceptions a contributing factor, acting as a barrier to girls’ engagement. </p> <p>Jo Panckridge is a teacher-librarian and the Victorian president of the Children’s Book Council of Australia. She says diversity in all its forms is having a huge impact in the publishing world. </p> <p>For Australian books offering an antidote to traditional gendered views about STEM, Panckridge reels off a long list of titles, starting with Our Little Inventor by Sher Rill Ng. It’s about a girl who invents an air purifying device to solve pollution.</p> <p>Everyday Wonders by Natala Graetz, is brilliant for younger readers Panckridge says. The book highlights mothers who are “ordinary but powerful women – they can be doctors, they can be lawyers, they can be scientists, they can be all sorts of things”.</p> <p>Stellarphant by James Foley tells the story of a girl elephant who wants to be an astronaut but is refused by the managers at Space Command. The picture book showcases “a great example of persistence and resilience” and the love of engineering, space and mathematics, Panckridge says.</p> <p>Heroes, Rebels and Innovators by Karen Wyld celebrates the significant contributions of seven iconic Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and is shortlisted for the CBCA’s Eve Pownall Award for factual books.</p> <p>Andrea Beaty’s Ada Twist, Scientist and Rosie Revere, Engineer deserve a mention, along with Alex Miles’ series Girl Geeks about a group of ten-year-olds who like to code and play video games. </p> <p>“Dreaming with eyes open…” is the theme for this year’s CBCA book week (August 20 – 26). </p> <p>Panckridge says it is both a celebration of First Nations’ storytellers, as well as more broadly “an invitation for children, and teens and young adults, to dream to venture into books, to lose yourself in books and explore the places and people and experiences that stories of this country enable us to understand and to learn from.”</p> <p><strong>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/people/social-sciences/childrens-books-combat-stereotypes/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">cosmosmagazine.com</a> and was written by Petra Stock.</strong></p> <p><em>Image: Shutterstock</em></p>

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Larry Emdur opens up on "feud" with Rove McManus

<p dir="ltr">Larry Emdur has spilled the beans on his “long-running feud” with one of Australia’s best-loved TV personalities in his new book.</p> <p dir="ltr">In his Happy As memoir, Larry recalls how his feud with Rove McManus began after Wheel of Fortune was cancelled, and Emdur looked for someone to blame. </p> <p dir="ltr">“Naturally, I blamed it entirely on Rove. And so began our long-running feud,” he wrote.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We’ve sumo-wrestled, we’ve taunted each other on social media, we’ve had a boxing match which only ended when I punched him in the dick. But I still consider him one of my great mates.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“Early one morning, Rove even took it upon himself to appear in the big window behind Kochie and Mel Doyle on Channel 7’s Sunrise with a huge handwritten sign that said: SAVE LARRY.”</p> <p dir="ltr">In the memoir, Emdur shares his first meeting Rove in detail, outside of a garage.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Hi, I’m Rove!” said the incredibly enthusiastic, smiley young guy who shook my hand at the garage door. If the Energiser Bunny had a long-lost human brother, this was him. “Oh, my gosh, thanks for coming in, we can’t believe you’ve come in!"</p> <p dir="ltr">From that moment on, he and Rove struck up a unique friendship and went into comedy together on The Loft Live, which was produced in a garage at RMIT Uni in Melbourne and broadcast on community TV Channel 31.</p> <p dir="ltr">"Rove once told me his budget for the show was $50 a week, but I could tell the show actually ran on adrenaline, enthusiasm, naivety, a truly wonderful sense of the absurd and a passionate love of television."</p> <p dir="ltr">Happy As by Larry Emdur, published by HarperCollins, is on sale from August 3 and available for pre-order now.</p> <p><span id="docs-internal-guid-70e0c2e8-7fff-48d3-a729-0c00fa23c851"></span></p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image: Getty</em></p>

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George Floyd deserved a better life

<p>George Perry Floyd, Jr. was murdered when Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin sank his knee into Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds. Video footage went viral within hours, helping to inspire protests against racism and police violence that lasted all the American summer of 2020.</p> <p>But while the size of the protests was unprecedented, the activism of that summer had <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-fury-in-us-cities-is-rooted-in-a-long-history-of-racist-policing-violence-and-inequality-139752" target="_blank" rel="noopener">deep roots</a>. Journalists across the United States and indeed the world, focused attention on that history of protest, as they had done during the 2014 police killings of Eric Garner, choked to death in New York, and Michael Brown, shot in Ferguson, Missouri.</p> <p>At the Washington Post, reporters and researchers devoted significant resources to a six-part series, <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/10/12/george-floyd-america/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">George Floyd’s America</a>. Now, two of those journalists, Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa, have expanded the work into a book: <a href="https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/703358/his-name-is-george-floyd-by-robert-samuels-and-toluse-olorunnipa/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">His Name Is George Floyd: One Man’s Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice</a>.</p> <p>When Floyd was born in 1973, 200,000 people were incarcerated in the US. By the time of his death, as Samuels and Olorunnipa point out, that number exceeded 2 million. The proportionate rate of growth of that number in <a href="https://usafacts.org/data/topics/security-safety/crime-and-justice/jail-and-prisons/prisoners/?utm_source=usnews&amp;utm_medium=partnership&amp;utm_campaign=fellowship&amp;utm_content=bracketed_link" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Texas</a>, where Floyd grew up, is even worse. <a href="https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/articles/2021-10-13/report-highlights-staggering-racial-disparities-in-us-incarceration-rates" target="_blank" rel="noopener">African Americans are locked up at 4.75 times the rate of white Americans; Latinos at 1.3 times the rate</a>.</p> <p>This <a href="https://www.sentencingproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/intl-rates.png" target="_blank" rel="noopener">extraordinary rate of incarceration</a> is a political choice rather than a reflection of more violent criminals being locked up. Rates of incarceration <a href="https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download;jsessionid=ED19CF648065ABC51FE1605ED5D77E32?doi=10.1.1.462.6544&amp;rep=rep1&amp;type=pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">increase</a> with political conservatism and the increased rates of poverty, income inequality and unemployment that accompany that conservatism. Extensive investment in prisons, jails and police forces has created a self-perpetuating system that evolves by producing the very criminals it locks up.</p> <p>This life-and-times biography poignantly depicts the mechanisms by which African Americans, especially male children and adults, become disproportionately the fodder for that system. A long history of racism, it might be said, funnelled George Floyd to prison.</p> <h2>The grandson of sharecroppers</h2> <p>Floyd’s two parents were both born to <a href="https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sharecropper" target="_blank" rel="noopener">sharecroppers</a> in North Carolina. The cycle of poverty in which they were trapped was not of their own making. Black Americans have been prevented from building wealth from the moment slavery ended.</p> <p>Floyd’s great-great-grandfather, for example, who was born into slavery in 1857, amassed land worth $US30,000 in 1920, but his white neighbours stole it from him by a mixture of fraud underpinned by the threat of violence. That tale is absolutely typical for a majority of Black families in the US South.</p> <p>The knock-on effects have been intensified by government policies that meant for generations, Black Americans had <a href="https://theconversation.com/to-see-the-legacy-of-slavery-look-at-present-day-school-systems-43896" target="_blank" rel="noopener">fewer opportunities for education</a>; <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/25/opinion/sunday/race-wage-gap.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">earned</a> <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/06/04/economic-divide-black-households/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">less</a> even for the same work; and were <a href="https://www.npr.org/2021/11/17/1049052531/racial-covenants-housing-discrimination" target="_blank" rel="noopener">prevented</a> <a href="https://aas.princeton.edu/news/2020-pulitzer-prize-finalist-history-race-profit-how-banks-and-real-estate-industry-undermined" target="_blank" rel="noopener">from buying property</a> that would <a href="https://www.vox.com/identities/2019/12/4/20953282/racism-housing-discrimination-keeanga-yamahtta-taylor" target="_blank" rel="noopener">build wealth over generations</a>.</p> <p>Desperate for a better life for her three children, Floyd’s mother uprooted them to Houston, Texas, when Floyd was four. There, they lived in public housing in the segregated <a href="https://www.gpb.org/news/2020/07/20/george-floyds-third-ward-reflections-on-the-neighborhood-made-him" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Third Ward</a>.</p> <p>Government policies that requisitioned homes from Black residents elsewhere in Houston had forced them into this section of the city. In the Cuney Homes development, known as “the Bricks,” even today the median income is <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/george-floyd-neighborhood-stimulus/2021/04/09/59f57e7c-9623-11eb-962b-78c1d8228819_story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">US$15,538</a>, well under half the <a href="https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/MEPAINUSA672N" target="_blank" rel="noopener">national average</a>.</p> <p>Floyd attended the local Jack Yates Senior High School, opened in 1926 when education was segregated by race and never the equal of other Houston schools catering to white children. As Floyd grew to 193 centimetres tall, he learned to offset the alarm that his size and colour induced in people.</p> <p>He became self-deprecating and deliberately easy-going, charming people across generations everywhere he went. Excelling at football, he secured entry to college.</p> <p>But Floyd’s dreams of playing pro football were stymied by his academic achievements. Never good at tests, Floyd fell behind by middle school and struggled to graduate high school. There were just not the resources in the schools to make up for living in poverty in an overcrowded flat with the responsibilities of caring for relatives.</p> <p>After four years at two colleges, Floyd dropped out and returned to Houston. Not long after, he was arrested for the first time for selling drugs.</p> <p>Samuels and Olorunnipa do an extremely good job of showing that at every node along the passage toward being turned into fodder for the prison-industrial complex, Floyd’s chance of escape was significantly less than that of a white man of the same age. Reading how Floyd’s options narrowed, it was impossible not to share his frustration and despair.</p> <h2>Forensic exposé of injustice</h2> <p>Quotas for arrests meant police sought the “low-hanging fruit” of petty drug dealing done on the streets. Misconduct charges for these police officers are common: the cop who arrested Floyd in 1997 for selling drugs was sacked in 2002 after being charged with theft and hampering arrest. The officer who arrested Floyd in 2004 was “later accused of falsifying charges in hundreds of drug cases, including the one involving Floyd.”</p> <p>Chauvin himself had faced <a href="http://complaints.cuapb.org/police_archive/officer/2377/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">29 charges</a> of misconduct and internal investigations prior to murdering Floyd. (Only 18 appear on the city’s police internal affairs records.) But because <a href="https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/state-policing-reforms-george-floyds-murder" target="_blank" rel="noopener">records of “decertification” are patchy</a>, such “wandering” officers can often get themselves <a href="https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/wandering-cops-moving-from-department-to-department-is-a-roadblock-to-police-accountability" target="_blank" rel="noopener">rehired</a>.</p> <p>The officers can stay unaccountable by targeting impoverished men who, unable to afford lawyers, are more likely to accept plea deals. Floyd was never tried by jury; he rather accepted eight plea deals.</p> <p>He knew that even if he got to court, the decision was unlikely to be positive because the state of Texas does not provide public defenders. Rather, the court pays for a private lawyer to defend those who can’t afford their own representation. Judges in Harris County, where Houston is located, more often than not will appoint lawyers who had donated to their election campaigns.</p> <p>In 2007, police arrested Floyd for a violent assault on evidence provided by a dubious photo ID process. (It has since been improved.) Facing up to 40 years of prison, a reluctant Floyd accepted a plea deal for five.</p> <p>Claustrophobia made Floyd’s time in prison difficult, and yet he discovered that none of the mental health, drug addiction, or education programs included in legislation such as the notorious <a href="https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/analysis-opinion/1994-crime-bill-and-beyond-how-federal-funding-shapes-criminal-justice" target="_blank" rel="noopener">1994 Crime Bill</a>, which sloshed billions of dollars into prison building, were available. As the authors point out, it was only after the <a href="https://www.communitycatalyst.org/blog/how-structural-racism-fuels-the-response-to-the-opioid-crisis#.YtX8puxBxqs" target="_blank" rel="noopener">opioid crisis</a> hit white communities that such funds were expended. In short, whereas policymakers declared crack cocaine a crime problem, they saw opiate addictions, more commonly associated with white people, as an epidemic or public health emergency.</p> <p>The man responsible for prosecuting the case against Derek Chauvin, Jerry Blackwell, knew well the racism inherent at every level of what we uncritically call “the criminal justice system.”</p> <p>Blackwell anticipated the defence would claim that Floyd’s drug use or some physical anomaly was the reason he had died. He therefore required an independent medical examiner review the coronial findings into Floyd’s death.</p> <p>That person, and the examiner who worked for the Floyd family in the civil case against the city of Minneapolis (which the city settled before trial for a <a href="https://www.npr.org/2021/03/13/976785212/minneapolis-agrees-to-pay-27-million-to-family-of-george-floyd" target="_blank" rel="noopener">record $US27 million</a>), both questioned whether the autopsy had been conducted correctly. Specifically, they doubted whether the incisions made on Floyd’s body were sufficient to ascertain the cause of death. And, indeed, the defence claimed that Floyd’s drug use and a supposedly enlarged heart had contributed to his death.</p> <p>This was not unique; as the authors report, in 2021 researchers found evidence that medical examiners “had misclassified or covered up nearly 17,000 deaths that involved police between 1980 and 2018”.</p> <p>All this detail might make the book sound dull, but the research is woven lightly through the account of Floyd’s life so as to maintain momentum. We learn too about Floyd’s family, friends, girlfriends, and his young daughter Gianna. The authors bring to life Floyd’s ability to take people as he found them, underpinned by a deep Christian faith in God.</p> <h2>Activism</h2> <p>The final third of the book, which focuses on events after Floyd’s death, is also gripping. Even as we know the outcome, the twists and turns in the criminal case against Chauvin make for heart-in-the-mouth reading. Chauvin was <a href="https://theconversation.com/relief-at-derek-chauvin-conviction-a-sign-of-long-history-of-police-brutality-159212" target="_blank" rel="noopener">convicted of murder and manslaughter</a> and is serving a 22-and-a-half year sentence. And in <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/jul/07/derek-chauvin-sentenced-violating-george-floyd-civil-rights" target="_blank" rel="noopener">early July</a> a federal judge sentenced Chauvin to 21 years in prison for violating George Floyd’s civil rights – the sentence will be served concurrently.)</p> <p>Even more striking is the depiction of the bravery of protestors in Minneapolis and of Floyd’s family members, especially his brother, Philonise Floyd, as they seized an opportunity they never wanted – as spokespeople for justice.</p> <p>Joined by the civil rights veterans, the Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, Philonise campaigned hard for federal legislation to reform policing. Republican opposition to the hardest-hitting sections of the <a href="https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/1280" target="_blank" rel="noopener">George Floyd Justice in Policing Act</a>, introduced to Congress in February 2021 by Rep. Karen Bass, meant the bill foundered – and has still not been passed.</p> <p>Unlike all the earlier sections of the book, the activism around police and legislative reform is not given quite the context it deserves. Although Samuels and Olorunnipa interviewed 400 people for their book, activists who have long campaigned against police brutality and for the <a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/2426-the-end-of-policing" target="_blank" rel="noopener">dismantling</a> of the entire criminal justice system in favour of a society built on <a href="https://www.teenvogue.com/story/what-is-prison-abolition-movement" target="_blank" rel="noopener">equal distribution of resources</a>, such as <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVjMNMG6Mxo" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Angela Davis</a> and <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/17/magazine/prison-abolition-ruth-wilson-gilmore.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Ruthie Wilson Gilmore</a>, do not appear.</p> <p>Nor is there much comment on the <a href="https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/state-policing-reforms-george-floyds-murder" target="_blank" rel="noopener">efficacy of prior efforts</a> to reform the criminal justice system via legislation. Banning choke-holds, for instance, will not end police murders when Black lives are still not regarded as mattering as much as those of white people.</p> <p>This criticism aside, His Name is George Floyd is a monumental achievement – a work of activism in itself.</p> <p>Bringing Floyd vividly to life, it makes an impassioned and persuasive plea for the dignity and preciousness of life. The book’s cover deliberately evokes the <a href="https://www.torranceartmuseum.com/staffpicks/2021/1/7/i-am-a-man-written-by-hope-ezcurra" target="_blank" rel="noopener">posters held aloft during the 1968 workers’ strike in Memphis, Tennessee</a> (when Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed), that proclaimed “I Am a Man.”</p> <p>George Floyd was a man, too, who deserved a better life.</p> <p><strong>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://theconversation.com/george-floyd-deserved-a-better-life-a-new-book-charts-his-trajectory-from-poverty-to-the-us-prison-industrial-complex-and-the-impact-of-his-death-182947" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>.</strong></p> <p><em>Images: Penguin</em></p>

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5 minutes with author John M. Green

<p dir="ltr">In the OverSixty “5 Minutes With” series, we ask book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next up is John M. Green who is debuting his sixth book, <em>Framed</em>.</p> <p dir="ltr">John worked as a director at a leading investment bank for 30 years before deciding to pursue his writing career.</p> <p dir="ltr">Framed is inspired by the infamous robbery that took place at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in 1990 and looks at the world of art theft and organised crime.</p> <p dir="ltr">With six books already published, John M. Green has started working on his seventh one. </p> <p dir="ltr">Watch this space. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>What inspired you to write <em>Framed</em>?</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Being confronted by a series of empty frames on the walls inside Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, frames where thieves - in a billion-dollar art heist in 1990 - sliced out and stole three Rembrandts, a Vermeer and five works by Degas, among others, works that have never been recovered. From that day, I’ve been haunted by the question: where are these works today? </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>You’ve written six books, did you do anything differently for <em>Framed</em>? </strong></p> <p dir="ltr">I wrote <em>Framed </em>while convalescing from open heart surgery, so readers might find a greater love of life in it. And due to the COVID lockdowns, I wrote <em>Framed </em>with far fewer distractions … I wasn’t travelling anywhere, for business or pleasure, I didn’t have to attend physical meetings, you know the rest. In many ways, it was my most satisfying writing experience, and I hope it shows in the reading.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>If you could tell your younger writer something, what would it be? </strong></p> <p dir="ltr"> Stop thinking about writing a novel, and actually start writing it. But most importantly, finish it.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>What is next on the agenda for you as an author? </strong></p> <p dir="ltr">While Framed is about art - and murder, my seventh novel is about theatre - and murder.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>What is one book you recommend everyone should read?</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I was utterly entranced. </p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Images: Supplied</em></p>

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A dystopian or utopian future? Claire G. Coleman’s new novel Enclave imagines both

<p>I was reading Noongar author Claire G. Coleman’s third novel, <a href="https://www.hachette.com.au/claire-g-coleman/enclave" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Enclave</a>, a few days after the US Supreme Court <a href="https://theconversation.com/us-supreme-court-overturns-roe-v-wade-but-for-abortion-opponents-this-is-just-the-beginning-185768" target="_blank" rel="noopener">overturned</a> the Roe v Wade judgement, a political victory for a conservative project many years in the making.</p> <p>As Michael Bradley argues in <a href="https://www.crikey.com.au/2022/06/27/trumps-activist-supreme-court-abortion-us-christian-theocracy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">his recent article in Crikey</a>, those driving this project “want to live in the America of their small imaginations: white, straight, patriarchal, Christian and mean”.</p> <p>Such small imaginations also inhabit the world of Enclave. Divided into two parts, the novel opens in a dystopian society just enough like our own to be disconcerting.</p> <p>The third-person narrative is told from the perspective of Christine, who is soon to turn 21. She has recently completed her undergraduate degree and is about to enrol in a Masters of Pure Mathematics. She has grown up in a walled town ruled by a Chairman and controlled by an Agency full of identity-less men in charcoal suits, backed up by security forces. People are led to believe that the widespread <a href="https://theconversation.com/big-brother-is-watching-how-new-technologies-are-changing-police-surveillance-115841" target="_blank" rel="noopener">camera surveillance</a> and armies of <a href="https://theconversation.com/eyes-on-the-world-drones-change-our-point-of-view-and-our-truths-143838" target="_blank" rel="noopener">drones</a> keep them safe.</p> <p>The world is hotter than our own, so everyone lives indoors in temperature-controlled environments. Opening a window in your own home is enough to alert the security forces. Light does not illuminate – it sneaks up, heats up, blinds and glares. It is violent and ugly bright, not unlike the “blank and pitiless” gaze from W.B. Yeats’ poem <a href="https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43290/the-second-coming" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Second Coming</a>.</p> <p>Christine lives a life of seemingly immense privilege. Servants are bussed in from outside the wall each day to serve her every whim. The <a href="https://theconversation.com/algorithms-can-decide-your-marks-your-work-prospects-and-your-financial-security-how-do-you-know-theyre-fair-171590" target="_blank" rel="noopener">algorithms</a> of the Enclave’s social network anticipate and manufacture desires that are met before Christine is even aware she has them.</p> <p>The Safetynet’s news service feeds residents a constant stream of images of the terror, violence and chaos outside the wall, from which the Agency is protecting them.</p> <p>The people of the Enclave live in uncannily similar homes that all seem new – even the faux old buildings of the University. They present perfectly manicured and curated lives on Safetynet socials. The town is nominally Christian, but no one goes to church.</p> <p>Christine is just starting to wake up to the reality of her situation. Her family is cold and loveless. Her father is a callous and unfeeling patriarch who works for the Fund, which controls the finances of the town. He wants Christine to do the same, at least until she gets married.</p> <p>Her mother drinks herself numb during endless long lunches with empty women who all share the same cosmetic surgeon. She exhorts her daughter to do the same, which is both menacing and hangover-inducing.</p> <p>Christine’s brother Brandon, a clone of her father, is a business student preparing to work for the Fund. He is, as she suggests, a real dick.</p> <p>Christine is also mourning the mysterious disappearance of her best friend Jack who, in a dig at the handful of controversially well-funded programs in the Australian university system, studied in the <a href="https://theconversation.com/western-civilisation-history-teaching-has-moved-on-and-so-should-those-who-champion-it-97697" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Western Civilisation Studies</a> department. She is awaiting a message from him through a secret channel. It never arrives.</p> <h2>Becoming illegal</h2> <p>Life in the Enclave is deeply oppressive, not to mention boring. Questioning the status quo is not tolerated. The lonely, loveless and listless descriptions of Christine’s world are enervating.</p> <p>Although she is meant to be rather smart, Christine has a remarkable lack of curiosity – an effect, one supposes, of the world in which she is raised. But for the first time in her life, she is starting to notice that all of her servants are brown-skinned or darker. Though they move around her home silently, catering to her every need, she doesn’t know any of their names.</p> <p>Things come to a head when she sees for the first time that one female servant in particular is breathtakingly beautiful. She feels desires that she wasn’t aware were even possible, and kisses her. They are caught on one of the many surveillance cameras. Her family is appalled, not only because Christine is attracted to a woman, but to a dark-skinned woman. According to her father, this makes her a “dyke, race traitor, bitch”. (I was more concerned about the power dynamics between master and servant.)</p> <p>Christine is cut off from everything – money, accommodation, communication – and taken into custody. She thus learns that Safetown, the name of her walled Enclave, is actually a private facility, so being without support is trespass. She is, in effect, illegal.</p> <p>Safetown, it transpires, is one of several organisations that established walled enclaves made possible by earlier government policies and laws. It is an economic and socio-political enclave started by extremely wealthy people, to produce and sustain a homogenous society.</p> <p>Christine is cast into the world outside Safetown: a hellish liminal zone where sunburned white exiles, dressed in rags and living off soup kitchens, slowly go mad. In this violent and dangerous place, people survive by trapping rats and pigeons with discarded wire. This wasteland is littered with corpses, evidence of prior occupation of the land on which Safetown was built.</p> <h2>Utopian and dystopian</h2> <p>Coleman’s vision is both utopian and dystopian. The world of the Enclave is a dystopia created in an attempt to realise an exclusive utopian vision: a homogenous world of straight white people served by a coloured underclass. In Safetown, everyone believes themselves to be protected from the chaos and violence outside the wall.</p> <p>Part two reveals Safetown as the walled dystopia the reader already knows it to be. And it offers a revised postcolonial and queer utopia – a place of radical inclusivity, in the form of a more technologically advanced version of Melbourne.</p> <p>Buildings are covered in plants to combat climate change. Trains are free to keep cars off the road. There is a universal income. Education is free and world-class. There is no surveillance or drones. Food is multicultural and always delicious; the coffee uniformly good (in that sense, not too different from Melbourne today):</p> <blockquote> <p>It was like a fever dream of a civic heaven, all light and beauty and people in connection with the natural world, which appeared to be invited into all human spaces […] And everywhere there were people, men, women, people she could not determine either way, every spectrum of skin colour from darker than Sienna to lighter than her.</p> </blockquote> <p>Like all literary utopias, Coleman’s idealised city reminds us that change is possible if we can imagine an alternative vision that makes change worth fighting and hoping for. But the novel also falls prey to the dangers of all utopias with its ideological certainty, its lack of nuance, the totality of its vision, and its dehumanisation of those who don’t share it.</p> <p>Surely, I’m not the only reader who is suspicious of a <a href="https://theconversation.com/friday-essay-our-utopia-careful-what-you-wish-for-165314" target="_blank" rel="noopener">utopia</a> in which everyone is beautiful. And a place where everyone is happy all the time has its own sinister and coercive feel, flying in the face of the human condition as it does.</p> <p>Having said that, Enclave is a novel that inclines towards hope. It touches on many of the issues of our own world – the ecological crisis, the scourge of racism, Australia’s treatment of refugees, greed and the manufacture of algorithm-driven desires, our acceptance of widespread digital surveillance and stolen attention, and the refusal to adequately acknowledge prior occupation and dispossession. It also reminds us of the dangers of the othering politics of fear.</p> <p>Enclave’s epigraph and some of its section titles are taken from Yeats’ The Second Coming, which describes a strange alternative to the prophesised return of Jesus. The poem opens in a world spiralling into chaos where</p> <blockquote> <p>The best lack all conviction, while the worst<br />Are full of passionate intensity.</p> </blockquote> <p>The Second Coming proposes a catastrophic and apocalyptic vision for a world on the brink of self-destruction that seems all too apt for the present moment. Coleman’s novel offers us an alternative: a world in which people, in meeting the demands of the present with curiosity, courage and conviction, can bring about a more just and inclusive future.</p> <p><em><strong>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://theconversation.com/a-dystopian-or-utopian-future-claire-g-colemans-new-novel-enclave-imagines-both-182859" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>.</strong></em></p> <p><em>Images: Goodreads</em></p>

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To read or not to read? Is that the question?

<p>In June this year, a six-month-old interview went viral.</p> <p>Sarah Underwood is a 23-year-old British author whose debut YA novel, <a href="https://www.harpercollins.com.au/9780008518097/lies-we-sing-to-the-sea/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Lies We Sing to the Sea</a>, has been described as a “<a href="https://www.waterstones.com/book/lies-we-sing-to-the-sea/sarah-underwood/9780008558536" target="_blank" rel="noopener">sapphic reimagining of the Odyssey</a>”. In an interview with a student magazine at Imperial College London, Underwood said that she had never read the Odyssey. No, not even in translation.</p> <p>Mockery ensued. Underwood was declared “Twitter’s main character” for the day. In a tweet liked by 11,290 people, the literary writer Brandon Taylor shared screenshots of the interview, commenting: “Some people should not be allowed to write books.”</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Some people should not be allowed to write books <a href="https://t.co/WIBaDDA272">pic.twitter.com/WIBaDDA272</a></p> <p>— Brandon (@blgtylr) <a href="https://twitter.com/blgtylr/status/1537175245530046465?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">June 15, 2022</a></p></blockquote> <p>Taylor’s acerbic takes are always a delight, and to any lover of reading the response to Underwood’s statement is understandable.</p> <p>But there is another way to look at it. Declarations of not-reading are not just complacent admissions of ignorance. Not-reading is not a simple absence of reading, a blank space where a text should be. It can be a mode of engaging with a text.</p> <p>After all, the decision not to read a text is based on a belief that we already know what it contains. We know (or think we know) what we are choosing to read or not read.</p> <p>In the case of the Odyssey, there is a lot of material to base that decision on. The orally-composed ancient Greek epic poem, first fixed in written form around the late 8th century BCE, is referenced in thousands of poems, stories, songs, films, video games, and other art forms. These works have been created over millennia, across hundreds of countries, languages and cultures.</p> <p>The Odyssey has been translated, rewritten, reimagined and riffed on in a myriad ways; it has meant many different things to many different people.The Odyssey is not the only text that has, as the author Geoff Ryman puts it, “kept on growing […] gaining meaning with each repeat”. More recent examples include multiple retellings of Jane Austen’s novels and L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900), the subject of Ryman’s luminous novel of not-reading, <a href="https://www.hachette.com.au/geoff-ryman/was" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Was</a>.</p> <p>The long, broad, multiplicitous reception histories of texts like these burst the boundaries of their “original” forms. As Ryman observes, they grow, fragment, and spread as “a thousand icons scattered through advertising, journalism, political cartoons, music, poetry”.</p> <p>Through ongoing engagements with these fragmentary, second-hand Odysseys, Sarah Underwood has constructed an image of the Odyssey. In his book <a href="https://www.routledge.com/Translation-Rewriting-and-the-Manipulation-of-Literary-Fame/Lefevere/p/book/9781138208742" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Translation, Rewriting, and the Manipulation of Literary Fame</a> (2016), Andre Lefevere says this is exactly what “the majority of readers […] mean” when they “say they have ‘read’ a book”. They mean “that they have a certain image, a certain construct of that book in their heads”.</p> <p>Pierre Bayard, the world’s funniest literary theorist (and one of the sharpest), takes this argument further in <a href="https://www.bloomsbury.com/au/how-to-talk-about-books-you-havent-read-9781596917149/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">How To Talk About Books You Haven’t Read</a> (2007).</p> <p>He says that after a person has read a book, they have only the memory of it, an image in their head. But a person who hasn’t read the book may have a very similar image of it in their head, gleaned from second-hand sources, in much the same way that Albrecht Dürer drew his <a href="https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/356497" target="_blank" rel="noopener">“Rhinoceros”</a> without ever having seen a real rhinoceros.</p> <p>Reading (or not-reading) is a fuzzy phenomenon that, as Bayard observes, “does not obey the hard logic of true and false”.</p> <h2>Filtered interpretations</h2> <p>But isn’t there something to be said for going directly to a text, rather than looking at it through a filter of other people’s interpretations? This idea also turns out to be a mirage.</p> <p>Even if Sarah Underwood had read the Odyssey in the original Greek, she would not have been accessing it directly. The text she read would be compiled by a <a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/work-and-the-reader-in-literary-studies/F9FD2AC33A78BCF5A670BE71C9A7045E" target="_blank" rel="noopener">modern-day editor</a>, who has made thousands of interpretative choices, adjudicating between conflicting manuscript versions. Underwood’s reading would be guided by the introduction and notes in the edition she chose, and by her access to multiple other modern-day interpretative aids, such as dictionaries and commentaries.</p> <p>When the distinction between reading and not-reading is so blurry, an open declaration of not-reading can be seen as a rhetorical device, a position statement.</p> <p>In this context, Sarah Underwood is in good company. There are many other famous not-readers of the Odyssey, including the filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen, who claimed they had only read the classic comics version before making <a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-coen-brothers-wacky-odyssey/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">O Brother, Where Art Thou?</a>.</p> <p>In his epic poem <a href="https://us.macmillan.com/books/9780374523503/omeros" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Omeros</a>, the Nobel Prize winner <a href="https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/derek-walcott" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Derek Walcott</a> has his poet-narrator address the spirit of Homer and admit</p> <p>I never read it<br />Not all the way through.</p> <p>Through this deliberately irreverent statement, Walcott positions himself at a subversive distance – not so much from Homer himself as from the appropriation of Homer’s work by a <a href="https://www.bloomsbury.com/us/classics-and-colonialism-9780715633113/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">conservative, colonial tradition</a> of reading Homer as the wellspring and property of “<a href="https://pharos.vassarspaces.net/2021/08/25/greek-myth-pharos-surveys/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Western civilisation</a>”.</p> <p>Walcott’s claim to have “not read” Homer is actually a claim to have engaged with his work in a deliberately improper manner – that is, on terms other than those of the dominant culture. Instead, Walcott tells us, he has encountered Homer through the living voice of the author, through his complex reception history, and through the landscape and people of the Caribbean.</p> <p>By not-reading, Walcott <a href="https://www.sfu.ca/~andrewf/CONCEPT2.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">blasts Homer out of the continuum of history</a> – out of the meanings assigned to him by a Western colonialist tradition – and gives him new life in a rich new context.</p> <p>Just like reading, not-reading can be simple or complex, reactionary or progressive. It can be complicit with a dominant culture, or resistant to it.</p> <p>The question of whether Sarah Underwood has or hasn’t read Homer is a red herring. What matters is whether she recontextualises the old stories in a way that responds to our contemporary concerns. And ironically, to find that out, we will have to read her book.</p> <p><em><strong>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://theconversation.com/to-read-or-not-to-read-is-that-the-question-185393" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>.</strong></em></p> <p><em>Image: Shutterstock</em></p>

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Ash Barty’s books released!

<p dir="ltr">Ash Barty’s new book series has finally been released. </p> <p dir="ltr">The former World No.1 announced the exciting news on Instagram along with adorable photos of her with her niece and other children reading books from the series, <em>Little Ash</em>. </p> <p dir="ltr">“Today's the day! The first four books in the Little Ash series are out now from @harperkidsau @harpercollinsaustralia,” she wrote.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I loved books growing up and watching the joy my niece now gets from reading inspired this series. </p> <p dir="ltr">“It's been so fun adding elements of my childhood to these stories, in a way that I hope will make children smile. </p> <blockquote class="instagram-media" style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/Cfpi8q2BkCy/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="14"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"> </div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <div style="padding: 12.5% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; margin-bottom: 14px; align-items: center;"> <div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(0px) translateY(7px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; height: 12.5px; transform: rotate(-45deg) translateX(3px) translateY(1px); width: 12.5px; flex-grow: 0; margin-right: 14px; margin-left: 2px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(9px) translateY(-18px);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: 8px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 20px; width: 20px;"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 2px solid transparent; border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4; border-bottom: 2px solid transparent; transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: auto;"> <div style="width: 0px; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center; margin-bottom: 24px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 224px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 144px;"> </div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/Cfpi8q2BkCy/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A post shared by Ash Barty (@ashbarty)</a></p> </div> </blockquote> <p dir="ltr">“I want these books to help kids learn to be comfortable with themselves and get the confidence to try new things. </p> <p dir="ltr">“Thank you to @jasmin_mcgaughey and @jadey.draws for helping me bring Little Ash to life.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Barty shocked fans across the world when she announced on March 23 that she would be retiring from tennis.</p> <p dir="ltr">The 25-year-old then came out to say that she will be writing a <a href="https://oversixty.com.au/entertainment/books/little-ash-is-now-ready-to-inspire-the-next-generation" target="_blank" rel="noopener">children’s book series</a> called <em>Little Ash</em>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Ash teamed up with First Nations creatives Jasmin McGaughey and Jade Goodwin “to bring young readers this fun and exciting new illustrated series about school, sport, friendship and family”.</p> <p dir="ltr">Order the book <a href="https://linktr.ee/ashbarty" target="_blank" rel="noopener">here</a>. </p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Images: Instagram</em></p>

Books

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A new book argues Julian Assange is being tortured. Will our new PM do anything about it?

<p>It is easy to forget why Julian Assange has been on trial in England for, well, seemingly forever.</p> <p>Didn’t he allegedly sexually assault two women in Sweden? Isn’t that why he holed up for years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid facing charges? When the bobbies finally dragged him out of the embassy, didn’t his dishevelled appearance confirm all those stories about his lousy personal hygiene?</p> <p>Didn’t he persuade Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning to hack into the United States military’s computers to reveal national security matters that endangered the lives of American soldiers and intelligence agents? He says he is a journalist, but hasn’t the New York Times made it clear he is just a “source” and not a publisher entitled to first amendment protection?</p> <p>If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, you are not alone. But the answers are actually no. At very least, it’s more complicated than that.</p> <p>To take one example, the reason Assange was dishevelled was that staff in the Ecuadorian embassy had confiscated his shaving gear three months before to ensure his appearance matched his stereotype when the arrest took place.</p> <p>That is one of the findings of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, whose investigation of the case against Assange has been laid out in forensic detail in <a href="https://www.bloomsbury.com/au/trial-of-julian-assange-9781839766220/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Trial of Julian Assange</a>.</p> <p>What is the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Torture doing investigating the Assange case, you might ask? So did Melzer when Assange’s lawyers first approached him in 2018:</p> <blockquote> <p>I had more important things to do: I had to take care of “real” torture victims!</p> </blockquote> <p>Melzer returned to a report he was writing about overcoming prejudice and self-deception when dealing with official corruption. “Not until a few months later,” he writes, “would I realise the striking irony of this situation.”</p> <p>The 47 members of the UN Human Rights Council directly appoint <a href="https://www.ohchr.org/en/special-procedures/sr-torture" target="_blank" rel="noopener">special rapporteurs on torture</a>. The position is unpaid – Melzer earns his living as a professor of international law – but they have diplomatic immunity and operate largely outside the UN’s hierarchies.</p> <p>Among the many pleas for his attention, Melzer’s small office chooses between 100 and 200 each year to officially investigate. His conclusions and recommendations are not binding on states. He bleakly notes that in barely 10% of cases does he receive full co-operation from states and an adequate resolution.</p> <p>He received nothing like full co-operation in investigating Assange’s case. He gathered around 10,000 pages of procedural files, but a lot of them came from leaks to journalists or from freedom-of-information requests. Many pages had been redacted. Rephrasing <a href="https://www.britannica.com/biography/Carl-von-Clausewitz" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Carl Von Clausewitz</a>’s maxim, Melzer wrote his book as “the continuation of diplomacy by other means”.</p> <p>What he finds is stark and disturbing:</p> <blockquote> <p>The Assange case is the story of a man who is being persecuted and abused for exposing the dirty secrets of the powerful, including war crimes, torture and corruption. It is a story of deliberate judicial arbitrariness in Western democracies that are otherwise keen to present themselves as exemplary in the area of human rights.</p> <p>It is the story of wilful collusion by intelligence services behind the back of national parliaments and the general public. It is a story of manipulated and manipulative reporting in the mainstream media for the purpose of deliberately isolating, demonizing, and destroying a particular individual. It is the story of a man who has been scapegoated by all of us for our own societal failures to address government corruption and state-sanctioned crimes.</p> <h2>Collateral murder</h2> <p>The dirty secrets of the powerful are difficult to face, which is why we – and I don’t exclude myself – swallow neatly packaged slurs and diversions of the kind listed at the beginning of this article.</p> <p>Melzer rightly takes us back to April 2010, four years after the Australian-born Assange had founded WikiLeaks, a small organisation set up to publish official documents that it had received, encrypted so as to protect whistle-blowers from official retribution. Assange released video footage showing in horrifying detail how US soldiers in a helicopter had shot and killed Iraqi civilians and two Reuters journalists in 2007.</p> <p>Apart from how the soldiers spoke – “Hahaha, I hit them”, “Nice”, “Good shot” – it looks like most of the victims were civilians and that the journalists’ cameras were mistaken for rifles. When one of the wounded men tried to crawl to safety, the helicopter crew, instead of allowing their comrades on the ground to take him prisoner, as required by the rules of war, seek permission to shoot him again.</p> <p>As Melzer’s detailed description makes clear, the soldiers knew what they were doing:</p> <blockquote> <p>“Come on, buddy,” the gunner comments, aiming the crosshairs at his helpless target. “All you gotta do is pick up a weapon.”</p> </blockquote> <p>The soldiers’ request for authorisation to shoot is given. When the wounded man is carried to a nearby minibus, it is shot to pieces with the helicopter’s 30mm gun. The driver and two other rescuers are killed instantly. The driver’s two young children inside are seriously wounded.</p> <p>US army command investigated the matter, concluding that the soldiers acted in accordance with the rules of war, even though they had not. Equally to the point, writes Melzer, the public would never have known a war crime had been committed without the release of what Assange called the “Collateral Murder” video.</p> <p>The video footage was just one of hundreds of thousands of documents that WikiLeaks released last year in tranches known as the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/jul/25/afghanistan-war-logs-military-leaks" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Afghan war logs</a>, the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/oct/22/iraq-war-logs-military-leaks" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Iraq war logs</a>, and <a href="https://theweek.com/articles/488953/wikileaks-cablegate-dump-10-biggest-revelations" target="_blank" rel="noopener">cablegate</a>. They revealed numerous alleged war crimes and provided the raw material for a shadow history of the disastrous wars waged by the US and its allies, including Australia, in Aghanistan and Iraq.</p> <h2>Punished forever</h2> <p>Melzer retraces what has happened to Assange since then, from the accusations of sexual assault in Sweden to Assange taking refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in an attempt to avoid the possibility of extradition to the US if he returned to Sweden. His refuge led to him being jailed in the United Kingdom for breaching his bail conditions.</p> <p>Sweden eventually dropped the sexual assault charges, but the US government ramped up its request to extradite Assange. He faces charges under the 1917 Espionage Act, which, if successful, could lead to a jail term of 175 years.</p> <p>Two key points become increasingly clear as Melzer methodically works through the events.</p> <p>The first is that there has been a carefully orchestrated plan by four countries – the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden and, yes, Australia – to ensure Assange is punished forever for revealing state secrets.</p> <p>The second is that the conditions he has been subjected to, and will continue to be subjected to if the US’s extradition request is granted, have amounted to torture.</p> <p>On the first point, how else are we to interpret the continual twists and turns over nearly a decade in the official positions taken by Sweden and the UK? Contrary to the obfuscating language of official communiques, all of these have closed down Assange’s options and denied him due process.</p> <p>Melzer documents the thinness of the Swedish authorities’ case for charging Assange with sexual assault. That did not prevent them from keeping it open for many years. Nor was Assange as unco-operative with police as has been suggested. Swedish police kept changing their minds about where and whether to formally interview Assange because they knew the evidence was weak.</p> <p>Melzer also takes pains to show how Swedish police also overrode the interests of the two women who had made the complaints against Assange.</p> <p>It is distressing to read the conditions Assange has endured over several years. A change in the political leadership of Ecuador led to a change in his living conditions in the embassy, from cramped but bearable to virtual imprisonment.</p> <p>Since being taken from the embassy to Belmarsh prison in 2019, Assange has spent much of his time in solitary confinement for 22 or 23 hours a day. He has been denied all but the most limited access to his legal team, let alone family and friends. He was kept in a glass cage during his seemingly interminable extradition hearing, appeals over which could continue for several years more years, according to Melzer.</p> <p>Assange’s physical and mental health have suffered to the point where he has been put on suicide watch. Again, that seems to be the point, as Melzer writes:</p> <blockquote> <p>The primary purpose of persecuting Assange is not – and never has been – to punish him personally, but to establish a generic precedent with a global deterrent effect on other journalist, publicists and activists.</p> </blockquote> <p>So will the new Australian prime minister, Anthony Albanese, do any more than his three Coalition and two Labor predecessors to advocate for the interests of an Australian citizen? In December 2021, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/jun/02/labor-backbenchers-urge-albanese-to-stay-true-to-his-values-on-julian-assange-trial" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Guardian Australia reported</a> Albanese saying he did “not see what purpose is served by the ongoing pursuit of Mr Assange” and that “enough is enough”. Since being sworn in as prime minister, he has kept his cards close to his chest.</p> <p>The actions of his predecessors suggest he won’t, even though Albanese has already said on several occasions since being elected that he wants to do politics differently.</p> <p>Melzer, among others, would remind him of the words of <a href="https://theelders.org/news/only-us-president-who-didnt-wage-war" target="_blank" rel="noopener">former US president Jimmy Carter</a>, who, contrary to other presidents, said he did not deplore the WikiLeaks revelations.</p> <blockquote> <p>They just made public what was the truth. Most often, the revelation of truth, even if it’s unpleasant, is beneficial. […] I think that, almost invariably, the secrecy is designed to conceal improper activities.</p> <p><em><strong>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://theconversation.com/a-new-book-argues-julian-assange-is-being-tortured-will-our-new-pm-do-anything-about-it-183622" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>.</strong></em></p> <p><em>Image: Shutterstock</em></p> </blockquote> </blockquote>

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5 minutes with author Sally Piper

<p dir="ltr">In the Over60 “5 Minutes With” series, we ask book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next up is Sally Piper who is debuting her third book, <em>Bone Memories</em>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Piper worked as a nurse and nurse educator, specialising in neurosurgical critical care and decided to use her experience in people’s vulnerabilities to write her books.</p> <p dir="ltr">With <em>Bone Memories</em>, Piper explores grief, family, murder and media representation of female victims of crime. </p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Bone Memories</em> is out now and can be purchased <a href="https://www.uqp.com.au/books/bone-memories" target="_blank" rel="noopener">here</a> and enjoy the <a href="https://d3f44jafdqsrtg.cloudfront.net/book-clubs/BookClubNotes_Bone-Memories.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">book club notes</a> with your friends.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>What inspired you to write Bone Memories?</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">The story grew first from questions I had about how victims and survivors of a crime might memorialise the site where their trauma had occurred. I wondered whether being close to this ground brought people comfort or if proximity to it harmed them further. I wondered what it made their grief look and feel like when they moved across that ground and how that relationship might affect them or change over time.</p> <p dir="ltr">Through the story, I hoped to explore how trauma lives in the body and for some people how it also lives in the land where that trauma occurred; how history and geography for some are inextricably linked. And I wanted to explore how people reconcile this link or what happens if they are unable to.</p> <p dir="ltr">Equally, I often think about the effect that witnessing violence has on children, even if they have little or no memory or understanding of the event. Would they have some innate sense that they had witnessed something terrible? If so, how might this play out as they matured?</p> <p dir="ltr">In writing Bone Memories, I hoped to answer these questions. But as is often the case with any writing project, once you get into it, doors open to other thinking as well. With this story I was once again drawn into what forces impact upon women's safe and free movement through the world (something I explored in my previous novel,<a href="https://www.uqp.com.au/books/the-geography-of-friendship" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> The Geography of Friendship</a>), but this time I looked at it in the way that the media represents female victims of crime; how some crimes against women are reported with a sympathetic narrative, one that elicits intense social empathy, and at other times women are essentially blamed for their own deaths.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong> Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">I read widely and often around obscure topics, which inevitably takes me down rabbit holes of thinking, so ideas I hadn’t previously considered important suddenly become so. This is the best kind of information gathering, because it is unexpected. It is also one of the reasons I never plan my stories, allowing them to evolve organically. And neither do I allow myself to know the ending of a novel. Because if I get surprises along the way, then it is my hope that readers will too.   </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>How do you deal with writer’s block?</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Writer’s block is a phrase I won’t use in relation to my writing practise. It sounds too much like a disease that I’m at risk of ‘catching’. When I’m struggling to start or progress a work it is usually because I haven’t thought enough about what it is I want to say. Or as Jonathan Franzen puts it: ‘the blank page in the mind has to be filled before you have the courage to face the actual blank page.’ Which is to say, think first, write later. If I get stuck, I go back to the original questions I began the story with: What do I want this story to say? What are the themes and issues I want it to address? Who are the stakeholders? Not being able to find the words is often because I have lost sight of the answers, or I need to ask myself new or better questions.</p> <p dir="ltr">There is also something else that can stop a work in its tracks, which masquerades as writer’s block: procrastination. But procrastination is a defence mechanism, another word for fear or a lack of self-belief. It protects us from criticism. It keeps us safe from failure. It saves us digging deeply into the personal stuff of what we’re writing about, which is often the place where the gold is found. The solution then is to find courage, trust yourself and persevere.  </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>What is your work schedule like when you're writing?</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">When working on a new project, I write most days, mainly in the morning. The afternoon is usually spent editing that morning’s work, often after a bushwalk, an activity I call writing away from the desk. Once away from the work, I see it through a different lens: an editorial one. I find the rhythm of walking allows for clearer thinking, helped in no small part by fresh air and the calming beauty of the bush. With this clarity I can usually work out what isn’t working in the story, and often why as well, so that I come back with a solution. Sometimes I cut the walk short because I’m excited to get back and make the changes.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Do you expect Bone Memories to become a TV series?</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">I think every writer has a secret dream that their story will be reimagined for the screen, and there certainly is more scope for these opportunities now with the rise of streaming services such as Netflix and Stan. When this dream came true for my second novel, The Geography of Friendship, which is to be made into a 6-part TV series by Aquarius Films and Rose Byrne’s Dollhouse Pictures, I was absolutely thrilled to think that the characters in that story would be reimagined in this way. So, it is hard not to hope for the same thing for my third novel, Bone Memories. It is a deeply human, family-centric story with strongly realised characters and a sharp eye for the Australian landscape, so I think it would make an excellent adaptation. But of course, I’m not at all biased!</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Images: Fiona Muirhead/Supplied</em></p> <p> </p>

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Plagiarism, John Hughes’ The Dogs and the ethical responsibilities of the novelist

<p>John Hughes’s novel The Dogs has been withdrawn from the longlist for the Miles Franklin Prize after an <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2022/jun/09/miles-franklin-nominated-novelist-apologises-for-plagiarising-nobel-laureate-without-realising" target="_blank" rel="noopener">investigation by The Guardian</a> identified numerous instances of plagiarism. Hughes’s lifting of passages from other books has sparked furious debate and literary detective work – mostly on Twitter – prompting questions about the nature of influences, literary pastiche and the attribution of sources in novels.</p> <p>Hughes acknowledged he had unintentionally borrowed from the 2017 English translation of Nobel prize laureate Svetlana Alexievich’s The Unwomanly Face of War, after The Guardian applied document comparison software to both books, finding 58 similarities and some identical sentences.</p> <p>Further investigations by academic Emmett Stinson and writer and critic Shannon Burns exposed the apparent copying of passages from books such as <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/jun/15/parts-of-john-hughess-novel-the-dogs-copied-from-the-great-gatsby-and-anna-karenina" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Anna Karenina, All Quiet on the Western Front, and The Great Gatsby</a>.</p> <p>This week, meanwhile, poet Lachlan Brown has posted <a href="https://twitter.com/lachbr/status/1538406796024377344" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a series of Google documents</a> identifying similarities between phrases and passages in The Dogs and those in Eric Newby’s Love and War in the Apennines, W.B. Sebald’s The Emigrants, <a href="https://drive.google.com/file/d/1t9k9aZGMgofYcRNbMCvO0LZB4Zyv0gNq/view" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Amos Oz’s Judas</a>, and Loren Eiseley’s <a href="https://drive.google.com/file/d/1-xE6x9b99s26jukvfLjWd71idOy9f0zd/view" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Invisible Island</a>.</p> <p>Australian National University academic Millicent Weber has also added to the <a href="https://twitter.com/Millicent_Weber/status/1538759965694783489" target="_blank" rel="noopener">growing list</a>, highlighting similarities between phrases used by Hughes and phrases in work by five other writers including Saul Bellow and Nadezhda Mandel’shtam.</p> <p>In response to the accusations of plagiarism, Hughes released two statements. In the first, he explained he had <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2022/jun/09/miles-franklin-nominated-novelist-apologises-for-plagiarising-nobel-laureate-without-realising" target="_blank" rel="noopener">inadvertently incorporated passages typed up from Alexievich’s book</a> into transcripts from his grandparent’s stories of surviving the second world war, which appear fictionalised in The Dogs. Hughes apologised to Alexievich and her translators “for using their words without acknowledgement”.</p> <p>Last Thursday, however, after further revelations, Hughes released a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2022/jun/16/john-hughes-i-am-not-a-plagiarist-and-heres-why" target="_blank" rel="noopener">second, longer statement,</a> explaining why he was not a plagiarist. Rather than a mea culpa, he drew on arguments first proffered by the Romantic poets of the <a href="https://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199644179.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780199644179-e-24" target="_blank" rel="noopener">late 18th century</a> about the impossibility of originality, and the importance of drawing on other writers’ work as part of the creative process.</p> <p>“It is a rare writer who doesn’t use the work of other writers in their own work”, Hughes said. He went on to cite modernist poet T.S. Eliot, who wrote in his 1920 essay collection, The Sacred Wood:</p> <blockquote> <p>Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.</p> </blockquote> <p>The Dogs is a novel, in part, says Hughes, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2022/jun/16/john-hughes-i-am-not-a-plagiarist-and-heres-why" target="_blank" rel="noopener">about secondhand stories</a>: fragmented, contradictory memories of war. It is a complex, multi-generational work, narrated by the protagonist, Michael Shamanov, a scriptwriter, and centring on his relationship with his elderly mother, Anna, who is slowly dying in a nursing home. Shifting between past and present, it traces the family’s traumatic history, exploring the tension between the need to remember and the desire to forget.</p> <p>The controversy around this novel, which was previously shortlisted for the New South Wales and the Victorian Premiers’ Literary Awards, echoes recent Australian plagiarism scandals, raising difficult questions about publishing and creative processes. But this one, to say the least, is especially messy.</p> <h2>Cento defence</h2> <p>In his statement of defence (published before this latest material was posted on Twitter), Hughes contended he is <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2022/jun/16/john-hughes-i-am-not-a-plagiarist-and-heres-why" target="_blank" rel="noopener">“no thief”</a>. He had “wanted the appropriated passages” – which, aside from those taken from Alexievich, he did not name – “to be seen and recognised as in a collage”.</p> <p>This is a common line of argument in plagiarism scandals, frequently understood as the “cento defence”. A cento is a poem comprised entirely of lines written by other poets, an ancient form of collage dating back to <a href="https://poets.org/glossary/cento" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Homer and Virgil</a></p> <p>The success of this form is predicated on two key factors: the transformation of the “stolen” works into something new, interesting or valuable, and an explicit acknowledgement of the processes at work.</p> <p>But if, as Hughes claims, The Dogs takes “ventriloquism as its theme”, intra-textually signalling to the reader that experimental games such as pastiche are at play, why did this not form part of the contextual discussions about the novel?</p> <p>(Indeed Hughes’s publisher, Terri-ann White, said on Friday <a href="https://upswellpublishing.com/category/news" target="_blank" rel="noopener">she felt “affronted”</a> on learning, from his second statement, that he wanted the appropriated passages to be recognised as in a collage.)</p> <p>Hughes is right: there is a legitimate tradition of bricolage and pastiche as artistic forms; but in doing so, even T.S. Eliot used extensive citations.</p> <p>Terri-ann White, <a href="https://upswellpublishing.com/category/news" target="_blank" rel="noopener">went on to say</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>I have published many writers who use collage and bricolage and other approaches to weaving in other voices and materials to their own work. All of them have acknowledged their sources within the book, usually in a listing of precisely where these borrowings come from.</p> <p>I should have pushed John Hughes harder on his lack of the standard mode of book acknowledgements where any credits to other writers (with permissions or otherwise) […] are held. I regret that now, as you might expect. To have provided a note in this book with attribution would have been the only way to treat it.</p> </blockquote> <p>The freedoms of fiction do not absolve the author of the need to reference when lifting passages of work from others.</p> <h2>Conflicting statements</h2> <p>Australia has a long history of literary scandals. One recent plagiarism case involved Newcastle poet Andrew Slattery, whose prize-winning poem Ransom, published in 2013, was discovered to be comprised of the work of 50 other poets, such as Charles Simic and Robert Bly. Slattery used the “cento defence”, claiming this poem was part of a “cynical experiment.” He acknowledged, however, that it should <a href="https://www.newcastleherald.com.au/story/1775720/newcastle-poet-in-plagiarism-scandal/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">“have included footnotes”</a>.</p> <p>In 2020, however, when poet Judith Beveridge was revealed by <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/sep/09/poetry-plagiarism-copying-maya-angelou-ira-lightman-will-storr" target="_blank" rel="noopener">poetry sleuth</a> Ira Lightman to have used phrases borrowed from other poets in a number of her poems, including Incense, At Dusk, and Making Perfume, her confession and swift apology ensured there was <a href="https://www.theaustralian.com.au/subscribe/news/1/?sourceCode=TAWEB_WRE170_a_GGL&amp;dest=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.theaustralian.com.au%2Farts%2Fprime-ministers-top-poet-judith-beveridgeused-the-words-of-others%2Fnews-story%2F7978d96c83fb2cb5ee534c7cb147fc76&amp;memtype=anonymous&amp;mode=premium&amp;v21=dynamic-cold-test-noscore&amp;V21spcbehaviour=append" target="_blank" rel="noopener">comparatively little outrage.</a></p> <p>Interestingly, in his book of autobiographical essays <a href="https://giramondopublishing.com/books/the-idea-of-home/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Idea of Home</a>, Hughes describes an early (but abandoned) <a href="https://www.theaustralian.com.au/subscribe/news/1/?sourceCode=TAWEB_WRE170_a_GGL&amp;dest=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.theaustralian.com.au%2Farts%2Freview%2Fdriven-to-obsession%2Fnews-story%2Fc1a113a20a7b159f553bb3b5297cccbb&amp;memtype=anonymous&amp;mode=premium&amp;v21=dynamic-cold-test-score&amp;V21spcbehaviour=append" target="_blank" rel="noopener">doctoral research project on Samuel Taylor Coleridge</a>. An English poet and literary critic, Coleridge – one of the founders of the English Romantic movement – was one of literature’s most <a href="https://www.themarginalian.org/2013/10/21/coleridge-and-plagiarism/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">notorious plagiarists</a>.</p> <p>Hughes’s case is made particularly messy and unusual by the conflicting statements offered by the author: not only is The Dogs ostensibly an example of pastiche, as noted, but apparently also the result of untidy note-keeping, and an unintended side effect of how “influence […] plays such a crucial role in the creative process”.</p> <p>As it continues to play out on Twitter, with yet more source texts being discovered, the scandal has focused attention on the responsibilities of the author, the complexities of writing fiction, and the ethics of creative practice.</p> <p><em><strong>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://theconversation.com/plagiarism-john-hughes-the-dogs-and-the-ethical-responsibilities-of-the-novelist-185386" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>.</strong></em></p> <p><em>Images: Giramondo Publishing/Good Reads </em></p>

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Frankenstein: how Mary Shelley’s sci-fi classic offers lessons for us today about the dangers of playing God

<p><a href="https://www.penguin.com.au/books/frankenstein-9780241425121" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus</a>, is an 1818 novel by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Set in the late 18th century, it follows scientist Victor Frankenstein’s creation of life and the terrible events that are precipitated by his abandonment of his creation. It is a <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gothic_fiction" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Gothic novel</a> in that it combines supernatural elements with horror, death and an exploration of the darker aspects of the psyche.</p> <p>It also provides a complex critique of Christianity. But most significantly, as one of the first works of science-fiction, it explores the dangers of humans pursuing new technologies and becoming God-like.</p> <h2>The celebrity story</h2> <p>Shelley’s Frankenstein is at the heart of what might be the greatest celebrity story of all time. Shelley was born in 1797. Her mother, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Wollstonecraft" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Mary Wollstonecraft</a>, author of the landmark A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792), was, according to that book’s introduction, “the first major feminist”.</p> <p>Shelley’s father was <a href="https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/godwin/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">William Godwin</a>, political philosopher and founder of “philosophical anarchism” – he was anti-government in the moment that the great democracies of France and the United States were being born. When she was 16, Shelley eloped with radical poet <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Percy_Bysshe_Shelley" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Percy Shelley</a>, whose <a href="https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46565/ozymandias" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Ozymandias</a> (1818) is still regularly quoted (“Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!”).</p> <p>Their relationship seems to epitomise the Romantic era itself. It was crossed with outside love interests, illegitimate children, suicides, debt, wondering and wandering. And it ultimately came to an early end in 1822 when Percy Shelley drowned, his small boat lost in a storm off the Italian coast. The Shelleys also had a close association with the poet <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord_Byron" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Lord Byron</a>, and it is this association that brings us to Frankenstein.</p> <p>In 1816 the Shelleys visited Switzerland, staying on the shores of Lake Geneva, where they were Byron’s neighbours. As Mary Shelley tells it, they had all been reading ghost stories, including Coleridge’s <a href="https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43971/christabel" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Christabel</a> (Coleridge had visited her father at the family house when Shelley was young), when Byron suggested that they each write a ghost story. Thus 18-year-old Shelley began to write Frankenstein.</p> <h2>The myth of the monster</h2> <p>The popular imagination has taken Frankenstein and run with it. The monster “Frankenstein”, originally “Frankenstein’s monster”, is as integral to Western culture as the characters and tropes from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.</p> <p>But while reasonable continuity remains between Carroll’s Alice and its subsequent reimaginings, much has been changed and lost in the translation from Shelley’s novel into the many versions that are rooted in the popular imagination.</p> <p>There have been many varied adaptations, from <a href="https://youtu.be/TBHIO60whNw" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Edward Scissorhands</a> to <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LGzc0pIjHqw" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Rocky Horror Picture Show</a> (see <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/film/2021/feb/11/the-20-best-frankenstein-films-ranked" target="_blank" rel="noopener">here</a> for a top 20 list of Frankenstein films). But despite the variety, it’s hard not to think of the “monster” as a zombie-like implacable menace, as we see in the <a href="https://youtu.be/BN8K-4osNb0" target="_blank" rel="noopener">trailer to the 1931 movie</a>, or a lumbering fool, as seen in <a href="https://youtu.be/nBV8Cw73zhk" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the Herman Munster incarnation</a>. Further, when we add the prefix “franken” it’s usually with disdain; consider “frankenfoods”, which refers to genetically modified foods, or “frankenhouses”, which describes contemporary architectural monstrosities or bad renovations.</p> <p>However, in Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein’s creation is far from being two-dimensional or contemptible. To use the motto of the Tyrell corporation, which, in the 1982 movie Bladerunner, creates synthetic life, the creature strikes us as being “more human than human”. Indeed, despite their dissimilarities, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NoAzpa1x7jU" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the replicant Roy Batty in Bladerunner reproduces Frankenstein’s creature’s intense humanity</a>.</p> <h2>Some key elements in the plot</h2> <p>The story of Victor Frankenstein is nested within the story of scientist-explorer Robert Walton. For both men, the quest for knowledge is mingled with fanatical ambition. The novel begins towards the end of the story, with Walton, who is trying to sail to the North Pole, rescuing Frankenstein from <a href="https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/0c/Caspar_David_Friedrich_-_Das_Eismeer_-_Hamburger_Kunsthalle_-_02.jpg/1280px-Caspar_David_Friedrich_-_Das_Eismeer_-_Hamburger_Kunsthalle_-_02.jpg" target="_blank" rel="noopener">sea ice</a>. Frankenstein is being led northwards by his creation towards a final confrontation.</p> <p>The central moment in the novel is when Frankenstein brings his creation to life, only to be immediately repulsed by it:</p> <blockquote> <p>I had worked hard for nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body. For this I had deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart.</p> </blockquote> <p>Victor Frankenstein, like others in the novel, is appalled by the appearance of his creation. He flees the creature and it vanishes. After a hiatus of two years, the creature begins to murder people close to Frankenstein. And when Frankenstein reneges on his promise to create a female partner for his creature, it murders his closest friend and then, on Frankenstein’s wedding night, his wife.</p> <h2>More human than human</h2> <p>The real interest of the novel lies not in the murders or the pursuit, but in the creature’s accounts of what drove him to murder. After the creature murders Frankenstein’s little brother, William, Frankenstein seeks solace in the Alps – in <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wanderer_above_the_Sea_of_Fog#/media/File:Caspar_David_Friedrich_-_Wanderer_above_the_sea_of_fog.jpg" target="_blank" rel="noopener">sublime nature</a>. There, the creature comes upon Frankenstein and eloquently and poignantly relates his story.</p> <p>We learn that the creature spent a year secretly living in an outhouse attached to a hut occupied by the recently impoverished De Lacey family. As he became self-aware, the creature reflected that, “To be a great and virtuous man appeared the highest honour that can befall a sensitive being.” But when he eventually attempted to reveal himself to the family to gain their companionship, he was brutally driven from them. The creature was filled with rage. He says, “I could … have glutted myself with their shrieks and misery.” More human than human.</p> <p>After Victor Frankenstein dies aboard Walton’s ship, Walton has a final encounter with the creature, as it looms over Frankenstein’s body. To the corpse, the creature says:</p> <blockquote> <p>“Oh Frankenstein! Generous and self-devoted being! What does it avail that I now ask thee to pardon me? I, who irretrievably destroyed thee by destroying all thou lovedst.”</p> </blockquote> <p>The creature goes on to make several grand and tragic pronouncements to Walton. “My heart was fashioned to be susceptible of love and sympathy; and when wrenched by misery to vice and hatred, it did not endure the violence of the change, without torture such as you cannot even imagine.” And shortly after, about the murder of Frankenstein’s wife, the creature says: “I knew that I was preparing for myself a deadly torture; but I was the slave, not the master, of an impulse, which I detested, yet could not disobey.”</p> <p>These remarks encourage us to ponder some of the weightiest questions we can ask about the human condition:</p> <blockquote> <p>What is it that drives humans to commit horrible acts? Are human hearts, like the creature’s, fashioned for ‘love and sympathy’, and when such things are withheld or taken from us, do we attempt to salve the wound by hurting others? And if so, what is the psychological mechanism that makes this occur?</p> </blockquote> <p>And what is the relationship between free will and horrible acts? We cannot help but think that the creature remains innocent – that he is the slave, not the master. But then what about the rest of us?</p> <p>The rule of law generally blames individuals for their crimes – and perhaps this is necessary for a society to function. Yet I suspect the rule of law misses something vital. Epictetus, the stoic philosopher, considered such questions millennia ago. He asked:</p> <blockquote> <p>What grounds do we have for being angry with anyone? We use labels like ‘thief’ and ‘robber’… but what do these words mean? They merely signify that people are confused about what is good and what is bad.</p> </blockquote> <h2>Unintended consequences</h2> <p>Victor Frankenstein creates life only to abandon it. An unsympathetic interpretation of Christianity might see something similar in God’s relationship with humanity. Yet the novel itself does not easily support this reading; like much great art, its strength lies in its ambivalence and complexity. At one point, the creature says to Frankenstein: “Remember, that I am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed.” These and other remarks complicate any simplistic interpretation.</p> <p>In fact, the ambivalence of the novel’s religious critique supports its primary concern: the problem of technology allowing humans to become God-like. The subtitle of Frankenstein is “The Modern Prometheus”. In the Greek myth, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prometheus" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Prometheus</a> steals fire – a technology – from the gods and gives it to humanity, for which he is punished. In this myth and many other stories, technology and knowledge are double-edged. Adam and Eve eat the apple of knowledge in the Garden of Eden and are ejected from paradise. In 2001: A Space Odyssey, <a href="https://youtu.be/RWCvMwivrDk" target="_blank" rel="noopener">humanity is born when the first tool is used</a> – a tool that augments humanity’s ability to be violent.</p> <p>The novel’s subtitle is referring to Kant’s 1755 essay, “The Modern Prometheus”. In this, Kant observes that:</p> <blockquote> <p>There is such a thing as right taste in natural science, which knows how to distinguish the wild extravagances of unbridled curiosity from cautious judgements of reasonable credibility. From the Prometheus of recent times Mr. Franklin, who wanted to disarm the thunder, down to the man who wants to extinguish the fire in the workshop of Vulcanus, all these endeavors result in the humiliating reminder that Man never can be anything more than a man.</p> </blockquote> <p>Victor Frankenstein, who suffered from an unbridled curiosity, says something similar:</p> <blockquote> <p>A human being in perfection ought always to preserve a calm and peaceful mind … If the study to which you apply yourself has a tendency to weaken your affections, and to destroy your taste for those simple pleasures in which no alloy can possibly mix, then that study is certainly unlawful, that is to say, not befitting the human mind.</p> </blockquote> <p>And also: “Learn from me … how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow.”</p> <p>In sum: be careful what knowledge you pursue, and how you pursue it. Beware playing God.</p> <p>Alas, history reveals the quixotic nature of Shelley and Kant’s warnings. There always seems to be a scientist somewhere whose dubious ambitions are given free rein. And beyond this, there is always the problem of the unintended consequences of our discoveries. Since Shelley’s time, we have created numerous things that we fear or loathe such as the atomic bomb, cigarettes and other drugs, chemicals such as DDT, and so on. And as our powers in the realms of genetics and artificial intelligence grow, we may yet create something that loathes us.</p> <p>It all reminds me of sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson’s relatively recent (2009) remark <a href="https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780191826719.001.0001/q-oro-ed4-00016553" target="_blank" rel="noopener">that</a>, “The real problem of humanity is the following: we have Paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions, and god-like technology.”</p> <p><strong><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://theconversation.com/frankenstein-how-mary-shelleys-sci-fi-classic-offers-lessons-for-us-today-about-the-dangers-of-playing-god-175520" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>.</em></strong></p> <p><em>Image: Shutterstock</em></p>

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Grace Tame’s sneaky dig in book cover

<p>Grace Tame has revealed that the three wolves represented on the cover of her memoir are media bosses she’s constantly clashed with. </p> <p>The activist shared a sneak peek into the cover of the book - The Ninth Life of a Diamond Miner, A Memoir, is set to be released on September 27.</p> <p>The cover shows an illustration of three wolves and two of Tame’s face in which two of them are “growling” at Tame while another has his head bowed.</p> <p>The 2021 Australian of the Year drew the cover herself using a $1 ballpoint from Woolies and has now explained who the wolves represent in the response to a tweet.</p> <p>“Three guesses who the wolves on my book cover are lol,” Tame responded to an article underneath a picture of Kerry Stokes, Rupert Murdoch, and Peter Costello posted on Twitter by Crikey writer Bernard Keane.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Three guesses who the wolves on my book cover are lol</p> <p>— Grace Tame (@TamePunk) <a href="https://twitter.com/TamePunk/status/1536862564151242753?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">June 15, 2022</a></p></blockquote> <p>Tame is not short of any exposure by mainstream media but has been frequently targetted by the trio media empires of Seven West Media, News Corp and Nine. </p> <p>She has also called out the fact that the majority of Australian media is owned by Rupert Murdoch.</p> <p>Tame is quite vocal about the media’s bias toward her and has frequently called it out.</p> <p>Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who is calling for a royal commission into Rupert Murdoch, previously defended the activist after she was targetted by the Murdoch media for her stance. </p> <p>“There goes Murdoch, trying to bully Grace Tame like they have so many voices for progress over the years,” he tweeted.</p> <p>“They whine about ‘cancel culture’ but they will try to cancel anyone who doesn't share their reactionary worldview. We need more diversity, not less. #MurdochRoyalCommission”</p> <p>Tame’s book is ready for <a href="https://www.panmacmillan.com.au/9781760988050/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">preorder</a> at $49.99 as a hardcover with her publisher’s Macmillan Australia sharing a brief description of what to expect.</p> <p>“Grace Tame has never walked on middle ground,” it began.</p> <p>“From a young age, her life was defined by uncertainty - by trauma and strength, sadness and hope, terrible lows and wondrous highs. As a teenager she found the courage to speak up after experiencing awful and ongoing child sexual abuse. This fight to find her voice would not be her last.</p> <p>“In 2021 Grace stepped squarely into the public eye as the Australian of the Year, and was the catalyst for a tidal wave of conversation and action. Australians from all walks of life were inspired and moved by her fire and passion. Here she was using her voice, and encouraging others to use theirs too.</p> <p>“The Ninth Life of a Diamond Miner is Grace's story, in Grace's words, on Grace's terms. Like Grace, it is sharply intelligent, deeply felt and often blisteringly funny. And, as with all her work, it offers a constructive and optimistic vision for a better future for all of us.”</p> <p><em>Images: Pan Macmillan Australia/Facebook</em></p>

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Macbeth by William Shakespeare: a timeless exploration of violence and treachery

<p>Macbeth issues a warning: the greatest risk to the inner life comes from the delusion that it does not exist.</p> <p>“A little water clears us of this deed,” says Lady Macbeth, thinking that getting the look right will make it right. But in doing so she commits treachery upon her inner life.</p> <p>In a world where existence seems increasingly to equate to self-projection, she is an example of the mistake we make when we see the visible surface of public and social media as the place where reality plays out, the place where we see what we are.</p> <p>Macbeth, like most of Shakespeare’s plays, sets two worlds spinning: one of outer action and one of inner being. The collision of their orbits provides the spark for the drama. The themes of Macbeth’s outer world of action are violence and treachery. The intersecting themes of its inner world are ambition, and moral reasoning.</p> <p>In exploring what holds a society together and what tears it apart, the play doesn’t just condemn violence, it dramatises its uses. The play showcases both loyal violence and treacherous violence.</p> <p>In Act One, Scene One, a soldier reports that Macbeth, a Scottish general, has shown prowess on the battlefield and “unseamed” his rebel opponent, Macdonald, “from the nave to th’ chops.” That means he cut him in half.</p> <p>Macbeth does this in loyal service to King Duncan, and usually enters the stage splattered with blood, that of his victims and his own – blood lost in service to his king. The military campaign is to suppress domestic rebellion. Among the rebels is the “disloyal traitor” the Thane of Cawdor, whose title Duncan transfers to Macbeth, commanding that the treacherous clan chief be executed.</p> <p>Macbeth’s first promotion, then, is gained through the sanctioned violence of killing traitors. There is a fragile moment at the beginning of the play, when this violence seems to have restored order.</p> <p>Macbeth’s second promotion is also achieved through violence, but this time by premeditated treachery. The witches on the heath greet him as Thane of Glamis, which he is, Thane of Cawdor, which we know from Duncan’s command that he will be, and “king hereafter”.</p> <p>This sets the spark to the powder keg of Macbeth’s ambition. Violence is in his repertoire and he needs only to take one violent step further to fulfil their prophecy.</p> <p>The thought of killing the king, a thought “whose murder yet is but fantastical”, occurs to him immediately. And when he arrives back at his castle, his wife Lady Macbeth urges him to “catch the nearest way” to fulfilment of the prophecy by stabbing King Duncan to death as he sleeps in their home.</p> <p>Here one of the inner-world themes intrudes – who is morally responsible for what Macbeth does? Do the witches wield power over him? Does Lady Macbeth, as the architect of regicide, carry equal blame with Macbeth?</p> <h2>Outer and inner dimensions</h2> <p>The unfolding of their murderous plot is dramatised by Shakespeare as having outer and inner dimensions. The physical world is portrayed as instantly ruptured by their act of violence. Even before Duncan’s murder is discovered, Lennox speaks of the unruly night that has passed: chimneys were blown down, strange lamentings and screams of death were heard in the air, and the earth shook and was feverish.</p> <p>There is dramatic irony in Macbeth’s response to this poetic description of cosmic disorder: “It was a rough night.”</p> <p>Society is also fractured. Duncan’s sons flee Scotland. A mood of paranoid crisis sets in as Macbeth is crowned.</p> <p>But the treachery resonates inwardly, too, and Shakespeare keeps the inner dimension perpetually before the audience. That image from Act One of a man split down the middle is a potent symbol for the destruction the Macbeths have wrought upon themselves.</p> <p>The order of Macbeth’s mind begins to break down the moment he murders his king. He roams out of the king’s chamber with the bloody daggers still in his hands saying he has heard a voice cry, “Sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep.”</p> <p>Lady Macbeth seems to preserve her practical mindset for a time. She says “a little water clears us of this deed”. But this is another moment of dramatic irony. Her moral delusion is patent.</p> <p>It seems that Macbeth, with his auditory and ocular hallucinations, has the clearer moral vision. Inevitably, her sleeping mind goes to war with her waking consciousness: “Out damn spot!” She cannot unsee the blood on her hands.</p> <p>The Macbeths have failed to anticipate that their inner lives – their minds and their functional connection with the world – will be broken by their outer action. Remarkably, these mental, physical, spiritual breakdowns are rendered from the sufferers’ point of view.</p> <p>Before he kills the king, Macbeth gives a speech about ambition that shows he has the moral insight to avoid the crime. He says he has “no spur to prick the sides of [his] intent”, using the metaphor of riding a horse to express that there is nothing about Duncan to urge him forward into the act of murder.</p> <p>Macbeth realises he has “only vaulting ambition”, which leaps over itself and falls on the other side. He anticipates the catastrophe, but he kills the king anyway.</p> <h2>The twists and turns of moral reasoning</h2> <p>Why does Shakespeare include such contradictions?</p> <p>Shakespeare understood that it is spellbinding to witness a character forming an inner resolution, or breaking one. In Macbeth, the stakes are high: an innocent life and a kingdom’s peace hang in the balance. The tension is relentless. Lady Macbeth enters, cutting off Macbeth’s reflection on ambition. He has just reasoned himself out of committing the murder, and she reasons him back into it.</p> <p>The play dramatises the twists and turns of moral reasoning and the pressure of emotional coercion on conscience. Macbeth is wise and compassionate one instant, and preparing to kill his friend the next. This challenges our tendency to see the world in black and white, populated by good people and bad people.</p> <p>All of the themes of Macbeth – violence, treachery, moral reasoning, conscience and ambition – were close the surface of public consciousness in Shakespeare’s day.</p> <p>Since Henry VIII left the Catholic Church, establishing himself as the head of the Church of England in 1534, the nation’s political landscape had been riven by religious opposition. This affected people’s everyday lives and challenged their deepest inner convictions. In 1557, you could be burned as a heretic for being Protestant; in 1567, you could be burned as a heretic for being Catholic.</p> <p>Being able to see the soul in motion, as Shakespeare allows his audience to do, was a fantasy that interrogators of both Catholic and Protestant persuasions would have cherished.</p> <p>By the time Shakespeare wrote Macbeth, he was a member of The King’s Men – a playing company patronised directly by a new king – James the First of England and the Sixth (you guessed it) of Scotland. What can we make of the fact of Shakespeare writing a Scottish play for a Scottish king, who is also the boss of his particular business enterprise? He had to be very careful.</p> <p>Shakespeare steered a clever course. His play seems mildly topical and politically correct on the surface, but underneath it complicated the moral questions of its moment.</p> <p>The first thing to be aware of is that James had a preoccupation with the occult. In 1597, James had published a book called <a href="https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/king-james-vi-and-is-demonology-1597" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Demonology</a>, seeking to prove and condemn witchcraft. He had it published again in 1603 when he became King of England.</p> <p>Shakespeare seems to pander to this obsession when he includes witches in his play, who discuss spells and make prophetic predictions.</p> <p>Notice, though, that Shakespeare leaves unanswered the question of their moral culpability. We are left wondering whether it pleased or disturbed King James that the supernatural element in the play explains very little about the actions of its characters. Shakespeare portrays the Macbeths’ ambition for power as perfectly adequate motivation for their criminal action.</p> <p>The second thing to be aware of is <a href="https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/gunpowder-plot-medal" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the Gunpower Plot</a>. When Macbeth was first staged in 1606, England was reeling from the discovery of a nearly successful conspiracy to blow up parliament. If successful, the attempt would have killed the king and a large number of the nation’s ruling class, and triggered catastrophic civic disorder.</p> <p><em><strong><span id="docs-internal-guid-135d13f4-7fff-d17f-1de6-16b48e264f18">This article originally appeared on <a href="https://theconversation.com/macbeth-by-william-shakespeare-a-timeless-exploration-of-violence-and-treachery-175631" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>.</span></strong></em></p> <p><em><span>Image: Shutterstock</span></em></p>

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Readers Respond: What were the best books you’ve read this year?

<p dir="ltr">They say old is gold and nothing compares to holding an actual book to escape reality.</p> <p dir="ltr">But when was the last time you saw someone reading an actual book? And no, a Kinder or iPad does not count.</p> <p dir="ltr">(Yes, we’ll completely ignore the fact that you are reading this on a device as well. But this is not a BOOK now, is it?)</p> <p dir="ltr">It’s quite rare, but nothing beats holding a book and being able to turn the pages, and technology just won’t ever fully replace that feeling. </p> <p dir="ltr">So we decided to ask our audience about some of the best books you’ve read in the past year. </p> <p dir="ltr">Some titles were so interesting that we’ve added them to our own list of books to read. </p> <p dir="ltr">Check out some of your responses below. </p> <p dir="ltr">Valerie Brown - The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley. A story within a story of each book. Have just read the last in the series - The Missing Sister.</p> <p dir="ltr">Kathy-Colin Macdonald - April Fools Day by Bryce Courtney. I don't like his fiction stories but this is an eye opener. Written with love about his son a haemophilia, who dies of AIDS from a blood transfusion in the 80s or 90s when being gay was definitely not acceptable and AIDS was a gay disease. Truly moving.</p> <p dir="ltr">Margaret Louise Pavlovic - The Girl Who Left by -Deborah Gravonich wrote this true story about her mother leaving war torn Croatia. Great read.</p> <p dir="ltr">Helen Ulgekutt - A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. Great story, easy reading!</p> <p dir="ltr">Carol Jean - Fall and Rise by Mitchell Zuckoff and Every Day is a Gift by Tammy Duckworth.</p> <p dir="ltr">Kerri Anderson - Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton.</p> <p dir="ltr">Robyn Bright - The Happiest Man On Earth by Eddie Jaku.</p> <p dir="ltr">Peter Baly - Ken Follett’s latest book Never. So close to the truth of what could happen in the current climate when nations start using nuclear weapons against each other. Compelling reading.</p> <p dir="ltr">Pauline Cox - Too many to count. I don't read, I devour. </p> <p dir="ltr">If you’d like to share some of your best reads, click <a href="https://www.facebook.com/oversixtys/posts/pfbid0obuim5oEWqoRXZhLNSbFp1aQnRKC3CenRCkcHWuNBXkGYbV6BWDSxSJWqTmgTHUnl" target="_blank" rel="noopener">here</a>. </p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image: Shutterstock</em></p>

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Little Ash is now ready to inspire the next generation

<p dir="ltr">Ash Barty’s children’s book is all ready for pre-order just three months after announcing her retirement from tennis. </p> <p dir="ltr">The former World No.1 shocked fans across the world when she announced on March 23 that she would be retiring from tennis.</p> <p dir="ltr">The 25-year-old then came out to say that she will be writing a children’s book series called Little Ash, which is now ready for pre-order and set for release in July.</p> <p dir="ltr">Ash teamed up with First Nations creatives Jasmin McGaughey and Jade Goodwin “to bring young readers this fun and exciting new illustrated series about school, sport, friendship and family”.</p> <blockquote class="instagram-media" style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/CeR-8C4BhGa/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="14"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"> </div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <div style="padding: 12.5% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; margin-bottom: 14px; align-items: center;"> <div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(0px) translateY(7px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; height: 12.5px; transform: rotate(-45deg) translateX(3px) translateY(1px); width: 12.5px; flex-grow: 0; margin-right: 14px; margin-left: 2px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(9px) translateY(-18px);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: 8px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 20px; width: 20px;"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 2px solid transparent; border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4; border-bottom: 2px solid transparent; transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: auto;"> <div style="width: 0px; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center; margin-bottom: 24px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 224px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 144px;"> </div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CeR-8C4BhGa/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A post shared by Ash Barty (@ashbarty)</a></p> </div> </blockquote> <p dir="ltr">“I’ve been working on something special that I’m excited to share with you! Coming in July, Little Ash is a series of books for young readers aged five and up,” she wrote on Instagram. </p> <p dir="ltr">“Reading to my nieces and nephew is something I love to do, and seeing their little faces light up when we read a book they love is magic. </p> <p dir="ltr">“With First Nations writer Jasmin McGaughey and illustrator Jade Goodwin, I’ve created Little Ash to be fun and relatable for all kids.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Supporting kids’ education is something I’m passionate about and if I can help encourage new readers that will make me very happy.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The Little Ash series is now available to pre-order!”</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Images: Instagram</em></p>

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5 minutes with author D.L. Hicks

<p dir="ltr">In the Over60 “5 Minutes With” series, we ask book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next up is D.L. Hicks who is debuting his second book, <em>The Fallback</em>.</p> <p dir="ltr">D.L. Hicks has worked as an officer with the Victorian Police for more than 25 years and decided to put all his real-life experiences on the frontline on paper. </p> <p dir="ltr">Using his frontline experience, D.L. Hicks brings you along the journey that explores desperation, vulnerability, the lengths people will go to to get what they want, and whether you can ever change who you truly are.</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>The Fallback is available for <a href="https://www.booktopia.com.au/the-fallback-d-l-hicks/book/9780648677048.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">preorder now</a> and is due for release on May 31.</em></p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>1. How has your background of being a police officer contributed to your writing style? </strong></p> <p dir="ltr">One of the most common pieces of advice given to any writer is ‘write what you know’, and I’m no exception when it comes to that. As well as bearing witness to crimes and criminal activity, being a police officer gives me a firsthand insight into the effect this type of behaviour has on victims and offenders, as well as the emergency workers whose job it is to attend critical incidents. From the most minor car accident to a life-threatening assault or even a homicide, police officers are tasked with taking control of the situation, investigating it and hopefully bringing it to some sort of resolution. To be able to draw on those experiences from a career approaching 30 years in the job is a valuable tool for me as a writer – not only in terms of plot and story arc but also in observing the characteristics of different people involved and the manner in which they deal with things. Hopefully being an ‘insider’ in this world gives my writing authenticity and credibility.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>2. How long were you thinking of writing <em>The Fallback</em> before you decided to go ahead with it?</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">The idea for The Fallback had been buzzing around in my head for some time before I actually put it down on paper. Once I had overcome the excitement of having my first book – <em>The Devil Inside</em> – published and out in the world, I was then able to focus more on The Fallback and expand on the initial concept. The writing and editing process to get this novel to the point where it now appears on the shelf took around 18 months to 2 years, squeezed in around full-time police work and existing in a family including two teenagers!</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>3. What was one of the most surprising things you learned when writing your book? </strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Although it shouldn’t be surprising, the editing process – in sharpening a rough diamond first draft into something that can actually be released – amazes me. There are so many character story arcs that require fleshing out or resolution, and so much additional information that is added to round out characters and enrich the overall quality of the novel. It is definitely a collaborative process – so much work is put in by the writer and their editor after the initial story has been written to make the finished product so much more polished than what was first put on the page.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>4. What book(s) are you reading right now? </strong></p> <p dir="ltr">I am constantly reading – it is one thing I love doing and always try and make time for, even if it’s just a chapter or two in bed at night. Most books I read are crime novels – Christian White, Jane Harper, Jo Nesbo, Michael Robotham, Chris Hammer, Lee Child – however in saying that, I am always open to good book recommendations from any genre. The best two books I have read lately are not crime fiction at all – Bluebird by Malcolm Knox, and Still Life by Sarah Winman. I have just finished Kill Your Brother by Jack Heath – definitely a crime novel!</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>5. How do you deal with writer’s block? </strong></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 12pt; margin-bottom: 12pt;">I haven’t had to deal with writer’s block too much yet, although there are certainly times where things flow better than others. Taking a break can be useful – getting out in the fresh air walking the dog, leaving the writing aside for a small period of time and then returning to it can usually get the creative thoughts flowing again. Sometimes I think it’s beneficial to just try to just focus on getting something down on the page - even if it isn’t award winning literature – to progress the storyline. Once the words are down they can always be sharpened up at a later stage. </p>

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Lisa Wilkinson’s book price slashed by 70 percent

<p dir="ltr">The price of Lisa Wilkinson’s new book has been slashed by more than 70 percent.</p> <p dir="ltr">The former <em>Today Show</em> co-host released a memoir called It Wasn't Meant To Be Like This in November 2021, which addressed – among other things – her pay dispute with Karl Stefanovic. </p> <p dir="ltr">However, her book was not well received as the RRP took a massive cut by up to more than 70 percent at some retailers. </p> <p dir="ltr">Kmart was selling a paperback copy of the memoir for $24 and placed it on clearance for a measly $6.</p> <p dir="ltr">Big W had the book for RRP $45 and slashed a massive 73 percent off the pricing to just $12.</p> <p dir="ltr">Amazon also had the book for $12 with only Booktopia and Dymocks keeping the price at $36 and $45 respectively.</p> <p dir="ltr">Despite the price cuts on her book, it has now been revealed that Wilkinson is making money off it in a different way. </p> <p dir="ltr"><em>The Project </em>host is promoting her memoir at exclusive women’s networking breakfast group Business Chicks, where attendees are also being charged the full $45 for her book.</p> <p dir="ltr">She also held an event at the luxurious Melbourne Crown Palladium to a sold-out crowd of more than 500 attendees.</p> <p dir="ltr">Tickets to the event ranged from $145 to $185 per seat.</p> <p dir="ltr">In an Instagram post in April, Wilkinson promoted her new book tour “after a couple of false starts at the end of last year, courtesy of good old COVID”.</p> <blockquote class="instagram-media" style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/tv/CcfEm0IhvYR/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="14"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"> </div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <div style="padding: 12.5% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; margin-bottom: 14px; align-items: center;"> <div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(0px) translateY(7px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; height: 12.5px; transform: rotate(-45deg) translateX(3px) translateY(1px); width: 12.5px; flex-grow: 0; margin-right: 14px; margin-left: 2px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(9px) translateY(-18px);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: 8px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 20px; width: 20px;"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 2px solid transparent; border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4; border-bottom: 2px solid transparent; transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: auto;"> <div style="width: 0px; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center; margin-bottom: 24px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 224px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 144px;"> </div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" href="https://www.instagram.com/tv/CcfEm0IhvYR/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A post shared by Lisa Wilkinson (@lisa_wilkinson)</a></p> </div> </blockquote> <p dir="ltr">“I’ll be telling the stories BEHIND the stories in the book, the truth about some of the headlines you may have read in recent times, the many lessons I’ve learnt across the years, the people I’ve met, and why the book almost didn’t happen,” her caption read.</p> <p dir="ltr">“And if you already have the book, please bring it along for me to sign, or you can purchase one on the day, and I’ll be signing those too.”</p> <p dir="ltr">She went on to convince attendees about the event which would include some “darn good coffee” as well as a great networking space.</p> <p dir="ltr">“And again, thank you to everyone who continues to send me messages, stop me in the street, and share their thoughts in book clubs around the country about how much the book has meant to them…you sincerely have no idea how much your feedback has, in turn, meant to me. Thank you.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image: Instagram </em></p>

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Peppa Pig accused of "brainwashing" children by anti-vax community

<p>Peppa Pig has been slammed by the anti-vax community, as a 2021 children's book in which Peppa gets a vaccine, has been turned into an episode of the popular TV show. </p> <p>Furious parents have accused the animated children's show for "brainwashing" young audiences into getting vaccines, before denouncing the Covid jab as a "toxic injection" that is the equivalent of "child abuse".</p> <p>The fury was sparked following the novelisation of an episode of the cartoon, Peppa Gets a Health Check, that debuted on television screens last year and comes weeks after the NHS started Covid vaccinations for younger children.</p> <p>In the animated episode, Mummy Pig takes her daughter, Peppa, to see a doctor - who measures her height and weight, looks in her ears, listens to her heartbeat, and asks questions about whether she likes broccoli - as well as taking note of the loudness of her 'oink'.</p> <p>But in the book version, Peppa Gets a Vaccination - which appears to be virtually the same plot -  Peppa is also told by the polar bear character medic, "Now it's time for your vaccination, do you know why we have vaccinations Peppa?"</p> <p>The book continues, 'Peppa put her hand up. "Yes! <span style="font-family: graphik, Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 16px; letter-spacing: -0.1600000113248825px; background-color: #ffffff;">They stop</span> us from getting ill, and that helps people around us, too."'</p> <p>In an online review of the book, one furious parent wrote, "This is so wrong. Our kids don't need toxic injections, or face masks, it's child abuse. Just stop, leave our kids alone."</p> <p>Another review called the book "Absolutely disgraceful", as the parent said they would "not be letting my kids watch or read any of this s***".</p> <p><em>Image credits: Ladybird Books / Getty Images</em></p>

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Teen makes prom dress out of Harry Potter series

<p dir="ltr">A high school student has used pages from the Harry Potter book series to make a very different prom dress.</p> <p dir="ltr">Hailey Skoch created the gown from the popular books, saying the idea came to her after seeing a similar concept online.</p> <p dir="ltr">The 18-year-old spent a total of four days carefully crafting her beautiful dress which, instead of turning pages, will certainly turn heads. </p> <p dir="ltr">“I really wanted to do something more unconventional, and I’ve been obsessed with Harry Potter forever,” she told ArkTimes.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I love to read. So I threw some stuff together and decided to make it a ballgown.”</p> <p dir="ltr">She said it really helped to have the series playing in the background while she worked.</p> <p dir="ltr">Hailey explained the reasoning behind using the Harry Potter books, which she said were the “books of my childhood” and brought her peace during her parent’s divorce.</p> <p dir="ltr">Come the day of the prom, Hailey’s dress certainly had heads turning to take a peek at the book dress.</p> <p dir="ltr">“It was completely insane because I just kind of entered and everyone was kind of doing their own thing. One person saw me, and then another.</p> <p dir="ltr">“It was almost creepy in sync, everyone’s heads just turned. It was the craziest feeling I’ve ever had.”</p> <p dir="ltr">After sharing photos of her dress online, Hailey was headhunted by several designers and photographers who wanted to get their hands on it. </p> <p dir="ltr">“I was this shy, nerdy, geeky kid that was looking for some magic in my life,' she said. '[These books were] just such an inspiration at a time when I was so vulnerable and needed it most... I have such a great love for these books.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Images: Instagram</em></p>

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