Yesterday, I posted a mini review for the fiction titles I read during March. Today we a take a quick peek at the non-fiction. It has been a great reading month.
My March book club read was Archie Roach’s Tell Me Why. It was a moving, honest account of his life.
Archie Roach is a Gunditjmara and Bundjalung man, who was born in Victoria in 1956. He shot to fame in Australia in 1990 with his debut single, Took the Children Away. He was taken from his family, along with some of his siblings, when he was only three years of age. This is a first hand account of the damages caused by being part of the Stolen Generation. My book group found it compelling and heart-breaking, yet ultimately hopeful.
Sometimes you can go years without really changing as a person. Maybe you get a little rounder, a little balder, but inside you’re the same man.
Title: Tell Me Why: The Story of My Life and My Music Author: Archie Roach ISBN: 9781760854539 Imprint: Simon & Schuster Australia Published: 5th August 2020 (originally published 1st November 2019) Format: Paperback Length: 384 pages
Incantations is a slim volume that has travelled with me for many months in my work backpack. As a result it is looking rather battered – or well-loved, whichever you prefer!
Over my morning coffee once or twice a week, I would take in one portrait at a time along with Jaireth’s insightful comments. The portraits included in this book are from the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra. Along with Hisham Matar’s A Month in Siena, Jaireth has taught me to look more deeply, slowly and carefully at art. To hone in on the details, to check in with the feelings it evokes and to sit with the mood or the atmosphere of the setting (or sitter as in the case of portraiture).
Melancholy. It is all about the eyes. Their absence, in fact. The face hides them, unwilling to reveal them.
Title: Incantations Author: Subhash Jaireth ISBN: 9780994456557 Imprint: Recent Work Press Release Date: August 2016 Format: Paperback Pages: 120
Bedtime Story is a May new release from Chloe Hooper. It’s a memoir of sorts centred around her response and reaction to the news that her much older partner has been diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of cancer. They have two young children together. This book becomes her way of working out how to talk to them about illness, the possibility of death, and the grief and loss that comes with both, via children’s literature.
I really appreciated Hooper’s work in The Arsonist, but something about this one didn’t quite gel for me. I suspect, like with Julia Baird’s Phosphorescence which everyone else loved, I’ll be an outlier in not raving about it. The stuff about children’s literature and the author’s lives was fascinating, as was the role of oral story telling through the ages and across cultures, but the rest…insert shrug. I think I’m going through a phase where other people’s personal lives are more than I can cope with, especially people I don’t know. I spent most of my reading time with this book wanting to run away from it.
Every night when the light’s switched off, familiar objects in your room mutate. What daylight tames, the dark untames.
Title: Bedtime Story Author: Chloe Hooper ISBN: 9781761103513 Imprint: Simon & Schuster Australia Published: May 4, 2022 Format: Paperback Pages: 256
I was somewhat dubious about In Cars: On Diana at first glance. However the very first image changed all that.
Leanne’s ink paintings evoked so many memories and feelings about Diana – her image, her form, fame and elegance. Her gestures and style are so familar, so iconic, yet Leanne has brought something fresh to this well known story. It’s a visual essay and also a poem – a homage. There is recognition and affinity. For me Diana’s final car journey haunted every page, although this was not necessarily Leanne’s intent.
I am just a handful of years younger than Diana. My teenage years and twenties were filled with her image. She was everywhere. It’s rather weird to know someone’s gestures and profile so intimately, like your own mother or sister’s, that you recognise her by the merest glimpse. This is the price of celebrity. To have your image splashed everywhere, to be so known by the world, yet to be so misunderstood and alone. This tension is what Leanne captures so eloquently.
My favourite pictures of Diana are of her getting out of cars | car after car, black, plush, neutral interiors, backdrop and frame her frame.
Title: In Cars: On Diana Author: Leanne Shapton ISBN: 978164969889 Imprint: Tablo Tales Published: 1st April 2022 Format: Hardback Pages: 158
- Essay Two | Lydia Davis
- Burning Questions | Margaret Atwood
- Digging for Richard III: The Search for the Lost King | Mike Pitts
- H is For Hawk | Helen Macdonald
- This post was written on the traditional land of the Wangal clan, one of the 29 clans of the Eora Nation within the Sydney basin. This Reading Life acknowledges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are this land’s first storytellers.