Welcome to Past, Present and Future! This is the first post in a new fortnightly series in which I invite a special guest over to Book to the Future to grab a cup of tea and come travelling through time with me.
The idea is simple: I ask someone – an author, a blogger, someone from the literary world – to tell me a little bit about the last book they read, the book they’re currently reading, and the book they’re planning to read next. In other words: past, present and future.
My first guest is none other than Kirsten Krauth, author of just_a_girl!
The books piled beside me as I sleep tend to naturally teeter in the past, present, future categories: books I’ve just read hover there waiting for me to blog about them, take notes on, learn technique from; the book I’m currently reading (there usually is only one at a time) is on the top of the pile or, most likely, it’s the Kindle, where the ‘must have now’ moment sends me scurrying in excitement; and future books sit at the bottom, precarious, weighing me down or enlivening me with their possibilities. I’ll get to them all one day.
I just finished Tim Ferguson’s memoir Carry a Big Stick and this has sent me down a comedy memoir route. I was browsing a friend’s bookshelf and noticed Tina Fey’s Bossypants. I kind of missed the Tina Fey revolution. I’ve never watched Saturday Night Live, and 30 Rock passed me by too. But I recently saw her in the latest Muppets (fabulous Siberian performance) and was struck by her elegance, voice, and natural comedic talent. The book is brilliant. Funny, geeky, with a feminist edge. When she starts off doing comedy and impro, the women are given sidekick roles — the girlfriend, mother — if they’re lucky enough; often the men prefer to work with other men in drag. But Fey’s involvement in the TV industry has changed all that. The memoir looks at her childhood, her theatrical dreams, her early struggles, her love of impro, and the challenge in balancing young children and producing a highly successful TV show. It’s a great read about how to manage others too. After finishing the book I started tracing her career on YouTube: the Sarah Palin times; hosting the Golden Globes. But what really gobsmacked me (read lower lip on the floor) was the way she (and co-host Amy Poehler) introduced Leonardo di Caprio at the awards ceremony in 2014. Billy Crystal, or even Ricky Gervais, would never have gotten away with this (keep watching, keep watching!). Seeing Leonardo’s beetroot blush still brings a smile to my face — and I have huge admiration for Fey’s audacity and hope some of it rubs off on me.
I have just started Laura Jean McKay’s Holiday in Cambodia. Friday Night Fictions is a club for debut authors that I run over at Wild Colonial Girl blog, and McKay’s book featured in the November soiree last year. I travelled to Cambodia in 2005 and wrote voraciously about it in a journal at the time. Though I’ve done a bit of travelling, it’s still my favourite place. McKay’s collection of short stories is challenging and gutsy, and takes on a range of characters and situations that any traveller to the region will recognise. She explores the tensions between tourism and local culture beautifully — with observances that can shock too. Her writing is always convincing and strong. I’ll be interviewing her in the next couple of weeks and I’m looking forward to finding out more about how she collected the stories and her own experiences in the country.
Anna Krien’s Night Games has been at the top of my list for a while now. Her nonfiction narrative about AFL football, rape culture, and how the teams and courts deal with it, has been nominated for the Stella Prize and widely covered in the media. My own writing, especially the novel just_a_girl, is very much concerned with the place of young women in contemporary society and culture: how they are viewed; how they are treated; versus how they like to perceive themselves; and where the power in all of this eventually lies. I’m also very interested in this idea of ‘good girls’ (those who don’t provoke) and ‘bad girls’ or ‘sluts’ (asking for it). When I was a teen in the 80s, these were very common ideas and insults and I’d hoped things had changed in the intervening twenty years. But my research — and it appears, Krien’s — reveals that these ideas have pretty much stayed the same, especially when it comes to attitudes of teenagers and those in their early 20s. I’m greatly looking forward to reading Night Games because I love good narrative journalism – and I haven’t read a book like this for a while.
Kirsten Krauth’s first novel just_a_girl was published in 2013, she blogs at Wild Colonial Girl, and writes on regional arts for ABC Arts Online. She will appear at two sessions at the upcoming Sydney Writers’ Festival in May:
Forest for the Trees: Writing and Publishing in 2014, how to publish and market a debut novel, Thursday 22 May, State Library of NSW, 10am–4.30pm. (More info – tickets available from the SWF website.)
Past, Present and Future will be back on Monday, May the 12th, when another author will come time travelling with me – and no, I’m not giving you a hint who it is!
(And f you’re wondering what happened to my usual Book to the Future Bookmarks post, worry not: it’ll be online next Monday. And yes, this means there’ll be at least one new post on Book to the Future every week.)
Finally, huge thanks to Kirsten for being my first guest! If you’ve read any of these books (or you’d like to) Kirsten and I would love to hear your thoughts…