It’s time again – time for Past, Present and Future, the fortnightly blog post in which I invite a very special guest to grab a cup of tea and come time travelling with me. The idea is really simple – I ask someone bookish to share with me a little bit about the book they’ve just read, the book they’re reading right now, and the book they’re planning to read next. No crystal ball required.
Joining me on the blog this fortnight, it’s editor of Tincture Journal, Daniel Young. Let’s find out what Daniel’s been reading…
The team at Writers Bloc have been running book clubs in Sydney, and the book I’ve just finished was our selection for the July Cult Classics book club. These clubs are now also being run online, so you can join the Facebook group if you are interested in discussing interesting new books, journals and TV shows with like-minded people. So far we’ve read One Hundred Years of Solitude, Slaughterhouse Five, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and The House of Mirth. There is also a Bright Young Things book club, but I’m unable to keep pace, although I did manage to sneak in Holly Childs’ recent novella, No Limits.
This month we’ve read Elizabeth Harrower’s The Watch Tower. I had suggested reading something by Harrower without really knowing too much about her: just some vague awareness that her out-of-print books were being revived by Text Classics and that her work was much admired by the likes of Patrick White. It was another book club member who suggested we start with The Watch Tower and I’m very glad we did.
This is a beautifully written book that captures the horrifying realities of psychological abuse that can be hidden among us in everyday life. Set in World War II on Sydney’s north shore, the book constantly shifts between the perspectives of two sisters, Laura and Claire, and their life with Laura’s husband Felix. There is a depth of psychological insight here that serves as a fine example of what novels can do that other forms cannot:
She had a sensation of having mislaid a vital pleasure that she could not quite remember, or a piece of herself. There was nothing to dream!
This book could be described as a domestic drama, but it’s an intense and satisfying read that will remain with me for a long time. Essential Australian literature.
I’ve just started reading Bark, the latest collection by Lorrie Moore. I bought it about a
month ago and it rose very quickly to the top of my reading list for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I’m basically a sucker for short stories and it seemed like a lighter choice after reading The Watch Tower. Secondly, Lorrie was interviewed recently on the KCRW Bookworm podcast and this piqued my interest to delve more deeply into her stories. So far I’ve only read the first story, Debarking:
But this, the Spam postcard and the note, he felt contained the correct mix of offhandedness and intent. This elusive mix—the geometric halfway point between stalker and Rip van Winkle—was important to get right in the world of middle-aged dating, he suspected, though what did he really know of this world? It had been so long, the whole thing seemed a kind of distant civilization, a planet of the apings!—graying, human flotsam with scorched internal landscapes mimicking the young, picking up where they had left off decades ago, if only they could recall where the hell that was.
The deft mix of humour and truth is so far an intoxicating one. While I’ve encountered a few of her individual stories around the place, I hadn’t yet read one of her full collections and don’t yet have a good sense of her oeuvre. So far so good!
Things get tricky here because my “to-read” pile is almost taller than my coffee table (and that doesn’t count the ebooks, magazines and lit journals!). I’m also knee-deep in submissions for Issue Seven of Tincture Journal and it’s really about time I bedded down the content and started the editing process. Then there’s my own writing, including an impending historical fiction assignment, which is really going to need more attention in the coming weeks.
However: there are two main contenders for my next read and the choice will come down to timing. Firstly, I really want to read The Sleepers Almanac No. 9. These collections of short fiction, published by Sleepers Publishing, are always full of brilliant new Australian writing and I’ve been meaning to get to this latest volume since it came out in April.
The next novel in my list will probably by The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler—another book club selection! I’m super excited that I’ll finally have a reason to get into some Chandler: my own little hard-boiled wonderland on the couch.
Daniel Young is a reader, writer, editor and software developer from Brisbane, currently living in Sydney. He is the founder and editor of Tincture Journal, and his short fiction has been published in Hello Mr. Magazine, Cuttings Journal and in Seizure‘s Flashers project. He is struggling to write a novel while studying a Master of Arts in Writing. You can find him on Twitter @jazir1979.
Thank you Daniel, and happy reading. I’m bumping The Watch Tower further towards the top of my To Read pile! If you’re not already aware of Tincture, make sure you click the link above and go take a look.
I spent most of last week freaking out about all the writing I have to do at the moment, then when I sat down and wrote a list of everything on my plate…it wasn’t actually as overwhelming as I thought. Also, I need to learn that panicking about deadlines, strangely enough, doesn’t make them go away.
Writing is happening. With a little luck, I’ll have a new review online very soon.