As I write this in mid-January it looks like we may be coming out the other end of the terrible events of this summer. While millions of dollars have been pledged to the RFS and the main charities, Gleebooks has maintained its commitment to raising funds for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. So often with big tragedies such as this, the smaller charities lose donations as people understandably give their all to help the victims. I’ve also signed up as a donor to The Guardian Australia. I’ve been horrified by appalling fake news spread by News Ltd and right-wing social media—arsonists, the Greens lighting fires to prove a point about climate change, maps of the fires being doctored to make them look more widespread than is the case etc etc. It’s more important than ever that we support a free, fair and unbiased press and The Guardian vowed, well before this disaster, to stay on the climate change story as long as is necessary—which is going to be a very long time given the government’s attitude. According to Scotty from Marketing, we need only learn resilience and all will be well!
Like many of us, I lay low and read a lot over my small break. Two debuts impressed: Braised Pork by An Yu, a Chinese writer (who doesn’t live in China) is a wonderfully evocative and contemporary tale set in Beijing and Tibet, about a young artist whose husband suddenly dies, leaving her questioning her life and her upbringing by her single mother and aunt. In beautiful language and incorporating elements of magical realism that really work, An Yu has written a tender story about love and family.
My Dark Vanessa is an American debut by Kate Elizabeth Russell—a book for the #metoo movement. Vanessa, a 15year old girl begins what sheconsiders a ‘love affair’ with her teacher. She continues seeing him off an on through her 20s, always believing in his love for her, until another young woman accuses him of sexual harrasment and wants Vanessa to back her up. Now in her early 30s, Vanessa has to question and confront the beliefs she has held onto for nearly 20 years about the ‘affair’. Written in the first person, this feels like an astonishing insight into the pychology of an abused woman. It reminded me of one of the stories in Lisa Taddeo’s Three Women. Not brilliant literature but extremely readable, at times very moving, and very topical.
I’ve also read Irish author, Anne Enright’s wonderful book Actress. A character study of a mother and daughter, this is a beautifully written (needless to say) story about a star of stage and screen, told from the daughter’s point of view. Wonderful. I loved it. The cover on my uncorrected proof, which will probably be on the finished book as well, is of a young Carrie Fisher watching her mother Debbie Reynolds from the wings of the stage.
2020 is the 10th anniversary of gleebooks at Dulwich Hill. Watch this space for announcements of a celebratory kind.