Issue #11: Technology and your brain
Technology, in one form or another, has been part of human life since time immemorial. Early inventors developed flints and axes, wheels and pulleys, presses and pens, engines and electricity; and early adopters reaped the rewards – cutting, rolling, learning, and powering their way ahead of the pack.
Thanks to the technologies of earlier eras, much of the modern world gained access to clean water and abundant food, was safeguarded from many crippling diseases, could communicate freely and widely, and was granted admittance to a library that would have made an enlightenment thinker gasp.
With the technologies of today, we’re undoing centuries of work: we’re polluting the water and destroying the land, we’re awash with disorders of the mind, we’re contacting without communicating, and we’re using our plenitudinous library – the Internet – to watch videos featuring funny felines.
Yes, we have access to those earlier technologies, and better ones still, yet we’re using them to – as Neil Postman put it some 30 years ago – amuse ourselves to death.
Imprint: DIRECT FROM SUPPLIER
Womankind magazine, a 132-page, beautifully-designed, ad-free magazine for women launched at the Byron Bay Writers' Festival in July 2014.
Womankind is an eclectic mix of art, poetry, politics, feminism, philosophy, design and inspiration. Contributors to the seventh issue include Rhian Sasseen, Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore, Lucy Treloar, Shari Erickson and Jason deCaires Taylor, amongst others.
If you would like a back-issue of any earlier edition of Womankind, please specify in the comments section of your order.
Imprint: DIRECT FROM SUPPLIER
An astute novel about inner-city Australian racism?— and about humanity prevailing over entrenched prejudice.
Jack van Duyn is in his comfort zone. A pot-bellied, round-shouldered cabbie in his mid-fifties, Jack lives alone, has few friends, and gets very little out of life. He has a negative opinion of most other people – especially refugees, bankers, politicians, and welfare bludgers.
Jack doesn't know it, but his life is about to be turned upside down. A minor altercation in a kids' playground at an inner-city high-rise estate catapults Jack into a whirlpool of drug-dealing, ASIO intrigue, international piracy, and criminal violence. And he can't escape, because he doesn't want to: he's fallen in love with the beautiful Somali single mum who's at the centre of it all.
The ensuing turmoil propels Jack out of his comfort zone, forcing him to confront some unpleasant truths about himself. After decades in the doldrums, can he rise to the challenge when the heat's on?
Drawing on his many years of experience as a politician at the centre of bitter debates about refugees and multiculturalism, Lindsay Tanner explores the emotional landscape on which these issues are played out. As we follow Jack's hair-raising journey from crisis to crisis, a powerful plea for tolerance and understanding unfolds – directed at both sides of Australia's great cultural divide.
In Brazil, you can commune with spirits and you can party with gods. In Brazil, you can learn a lot about life, heroes, and possibilities.
We might think we know about Brazil. We've watched the World Cup, we've heard about the danger and the corruption, we've seen the samba and the rainforest. But Brazil still holds secrets.
Over many years, Fran Bryson developed a fascination with Brazil that slowly became an obsession. In the course of several journeys she discovered the country: from the glittering modern city of Brasilia to the small, deeply religious towns, and from the inner reaches of the Amazonian jungle to the vibrant backlands - home to cowboys and troubadours.
In Brazil is Fran's experience of travelling through one of the world's most colourful and contradictory nations and, in doing so, making sense of her life and the world around her.
Fourteen brilliantly inventive stories from Fiona McFarlane, Miles Franklin-shortlisted author of The Night Guest
These wide-ranging stories resonate in the way of only the finest writing and the most pleasurable reading. There are storylines that seem straightforward on the surface but have a dozen things circling underneath, others that sit just off-centre with a particular lens trained on human behaviour. All of them zoom in on life's unknowable points, strange moments around which fortune turns; all make superb use of ambiguity and foible. A man living temporarily in a hotel becomes a sudden stranger to himself. A young girl in rural Queensland feels her world tilt when American soldiers parachute in during World War II. A lottery win sees a man receive a poignant lesson in the nature of luck. The father of a boy who narrowly escapes tragedy cannot see things in quite the same way afterwards . . .
Fiona McFarlane can sculpt a character with one telling observation, turn a story with a single line. Her proclivity for seeing the bizarre in the ordinary, her sense of mystery and wit, and her deftness with detail make her that prized thing - a seriously good writer who is also effortlessly readable. And her ability to tell an unlikely storyline in a way that convinces utterly makes her a true original. The High Places is richly nuanced writing full of surprises.
Warriors reveals the disastrous consequences of power abused, and the broken people left in its wake.
From the moment the Abbott government took office, the prime minister and his staff ruthlessly controlled ministers, backbenchers, the public service and the media. But the centralised decision-making that had been so effective in opposition turned out to be a disaster in government. Warriors is the first draft of history - the inside story of the Abbott government, told in stunning, revelatory detail.
With this highly anticipated new novel, the author of the bestselling Life of Pi returns to the storytelling power and luminous wisdom of his master novel.
The High Mountains of Portugal is a suspenseful, mesmerising story of a great quest for meaning, told in three intersecting narratives that touch the lives of three different people and their families, and taking us on an extraordinary journey through the last century.
We begin in the early 1900s, when Tomás discovers an ancient journal and sets out from Lisbon in one of the very first motor cars in Portugal in search of the strange treasure the journal describes. Thirty-five years later, a pathologist devoted to the novels of Agatha Christie, whose wife has possibly been murdered, finds himself drawn into Tomás's quest. Fifty years later, Senator Peter Tovy of Ottawa, grieving the death of his own beloved wife, rescues a chimpanzee from an Oklahoma research facility and takes it to live with him in his ancestral village in northern Portugal, where the strands of all three stories miraculously mesh together.
Beautiful, witty and engaging, Yann Martel's new novel offers us the same tender exploration of the impact and significance of great love and great loss, belief and unbelief, that has marked all his brilliant, unexpected novels.
Imprint: TEXT PUBLISHING
Who is this guy, Dad? What is he doing here?'
With an absent wife and a daughter going off the rails, wealthy art collector and philanthropist Simon Strulovitch is in need someone to talk to. So when he meets Shylock at a cemetery in Cheshire's Golden Triangle, he invites him back to his house. It's the beginning of a remarkable friendship.
Elsewhere in the Golden Triangle, the rich, manipulative Plurabelle (aka Anna Livia Plurabelle Cleopatra A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever Christine) is the face of her own TV series, existing in a bubble of plastic surgery and lavish parties. She shares prejudices and a barbed sense of humour with her loyal friend D'Anton, whose attempts to play Cupid involve Strulovitch's daughter - and put a pound of flesh on the line.
Howard Jacobson's version of The Merchant of Venice bends time to its own advantage as it asks what it means to be a father, a Jew and a merciful human being in the modern world.
Imprint: HOGARTH PRESS
In May 1937 a man in his early thirties waits by the lift of a Leningrad apartment block. He waits all through the night, expecting to be taken away to the Big House. Any celebrity he has known in the previous decade is no use to him now. And few who are taken to the Big House ever return.
So begins Julian Barnes's first novel since his Booker-winning The Sense of an Ending. A story about the collision of Art and Power, about human compromise, human cowardice and human courage, it is the work of a true master.
Imprint: JONATHAN CAPE
In Girl in a Band Kim Gordon, founding member of Sonic Youth and role model for a generation of women, tells her story. She writes frankly about her route from girl to woman and pioneering icon within the music and art scene of New York City in the 1980s and 90s as well as marriage, motherhood, and independence.
Filled with the sights and sounds of a changing world and a remarkable life, Girl in a Band is a moving, evocative chronicle of an extraordinary artist.
Imprint: FABER AND FABER
All Asanka knows is poetry. From his humble village beginnings in the great island kingdom of Lanka, he has risen to the prestigious position of court poet and now delights in his life of ease: composing romantic verses for love-struck courtiers, enjoying the confidence of his king and covertly teaching Sarasi, a beautiful and beguiling palace maid, the secrets of his art.
But when Kalinga Magha, a ruthless prince with a formidable army, arrives upon Lanka's shores, Asanka's world is changed beyond imagining. Violent, hubristic and unpredictable, Magha usurps the throne, laying waste to all who stand in his way. Under his terrifying rule, nothing in the city is left untouched and, like many of his fellow citizens, Asanka retreats into the shadows, hoping to pass unnoticed by the tyrant. But it seems his new master is a lover of poetry.
To Asanka's horror, Magha tasks him with the translation of an epic Sanskrit poem, a tale of Gods and nobles, love and revenge, which the king believes will have a civilising effect on his subjects, soothing their discontent and snuffing out the fires of rebellion he suspects are igniting across the island.
Asanka has always believed that poetry makes nothing happen, but as each new chapter he writes is disseminated through the land and lines on the page become cries in the street, his belief and his loyalties are challenged. And, as Magha circles ever closer to the things Asanka treasures most, the poet will discover that true power lies not at the point of a sword, but in the tip of a pen.
Imprint: BLOOMSBURY CIRCUS
'Real adult life seemed to exist over there, somewhere as distant and unreachable as Uranus. He had no idea how people crossed over to this place, or why; over all, the demands of being grown up seemed exhausting. He wondered why no one had written a book called How To Be A Person.'
Jonathan Trefoil's boss is unhinged, his relationship baffling and his apartment just the wrong side of legal. His girlfriend wants to marry someone just like him -- only richer and more organised with a different sense of humour.
On the plus side, his two flatmates are determined to fix his life -- or possibly to destroy it altogether. It's difficult to be certain because, being dogs, they only speak dog.
Poor Jonathan. He doesn't remember life being this confusing back in the good old days before everyone expected him to act like a person, but one thing he knows for sure: If he can make it in New York City, he can make it anywhere.
But can he get out of advertising, meet the girl of his dreams and figure out the gender of his secret crush?
Given how it's going so far, probably not.
Following the publication of A Thinking Reed, Barry Jones was staggered by the response to his lists of the literature that has had the most profound affect on his life and thinking. In this book, he expands on these lists, to write about the music and the literature that has inspired him to take us on a deeply considered and richly rewarding journey of the mind. His many fans are waiting eagerly for this generous book.
Imprint: ALLEN AND UNWIN
A sparkling talent makes her fiction debut with this infectious novel that combines the charming pluck of Eloise, the poignant psychological quirks of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and the page- turning spirit of Where'd You Go, Bernadette
Reclusive literary legend M. M. 'Mimi' Banning has been holed up in her Bel Air mansion for years. But after falling prey to a Bernie Madoff-style ponzi scheme, she's flat broke. Now Mimi must write a new book for the first time in decades, and to ensure the timely delivery of her manuscript, her New York publisher sends an assistant to monitor her progress. The prickly Mimi reluctantly complies-with a few stipulations: No Ivy-Leaguers or English majors. Must drive, cook, tidy. Computer whiz. Good with kids. Quiet, discreet, sane.
When Alice Whitley arrives at the Banning mansion, she's put to work right away-as a full-time companion to Frank, the writer's eccentric nine-year-old, a boy with the wit of Noel Coward, the wardrobe of a 1930s movie star, and very little in common with his fellow fourth-graders.
As she slowly gets to know Frank, Alice becomes consumed with finding out who Frank's father is, how his gorgeous 'piano teacher and itinerant male role model' Xander fits into the Banning family equation-and whether Mimi will ever finish that book.
Full of heart and countless 'only-in-Hollywood' moments, Be Frank with Me is a captivating and unconventional story of an unusual mother and son, and the intrepid young woman who finds herself irresistibly pulled into their unforgettable world...
Imprint: CORVUS BOOKS
The Romanovs were the most successful dynasty of modern times, ruling a sixth of the world's surface. How did one family turn a war-ruined principality into the world's greatest empire? And how did they lose it all?
This is the intimate story of twenty tsars and tsarinas, some touched by genius, some by madness, but all inspired by holy autocracy and imperial ambition. Montefiore's gripping chronicle reveals their secret world of unlimited power and ruthless empire-building, overshadowed by palace conspiracy, family rivalries, sexual decadence and wild extravagance, and peopled by a cast of adventurers, courtesans, revolutionaries and poets, from Ivan the Terrible to Tolstoy, from Queen Victoria to Lenin.
To rule Russia was both imperial-sacred mission and poisoned chalice: six tsars were murdered and all the Romanovs lived under constant threat to their lives. Peter the Great tortured his own son to death while making Russia an empire, and dominated his court with a dining club notable for compulsory drunkenness, naked dwarfs and fancy dress. Catherine the Great overthrew her own husband - who was murdered soon afterwards - loved her young male favourites, conquered Ukraine and fascinated Europe. Paul was strangled by courtiers backed by his own son, Alexander I, who faced Napoleon's invasion and the burning of Moscow, then went on to take Paris. Alexander II liberated the serfs, survived five assassination attempts, and wrote perhaps the most explicit love letters ever written by a ruler. THE ROMANOVS climaxes with a fresh, unforgettable portrayal of Nicholas and Alexandra, the rise and murder of Rasputin, war and revolution - and the harrowing massacre of the entire family.
Written with dazzling literary flair, drawing on new archival research, THE ROMANOVS is at once an enthralling story of triumph and tragedy, love and death, a universal study of power, and an essential portrait of the empire that still defines Russia today.
Imprint: WEIDENFELD & NICOLSON
'This house is not as good as our old house,' said Peter. 'I want to go back.' But no one heard except for Harold, the dog. Neither of them slept that night, in their room overlooking the unfamiliar woods...
What Peter did next, and how he kept the dark on the other side of the bridge, make a magical story of friendship and resilience.
Imprint: ALLEN AND UNWIN
An extraordinarily powerful and personal meditation on race, culture and national identity.
In July 2015, as the debate over Adam Goodes being booed at AFL games raged and got ever more heated and ugly, Stan Grant wrote a short but powerful piece for The Guardian that went viral, not only in Australia but right around the world, shared over 100,000 times on social media.
His was a personal, passionate and powerful response to racism in Australian and the sorrow, shame, anger and hardship of being an indigenous man. 'We are the detritus of the brutality of the Australian frontier', he wrote, 'We remained a reminder of what was lost, what was taken, what was destroyed to scaffold the building of this nation's prosperity.'
Stan Grant was lucky enough to find an escape route, making his way through education to become one of our leading journalists. He also spent many years outside Australia, working in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa, a time that liberated him and gave him a unique perspective on Australia. This is his very personal meditation on what it means to be Australian, what it means to be indigenous, and what racism really means in this country.
TALKING TO MY COUNTRY is that rare and special book that talks to every Australian about their country - what it is, and what it could be. It is not just about race, or about indigenous people but all of us, our shared identity. Direct, honest and forthright, Stan is talking to us all. He might not have all the answers but he wants us to keep on asking the question: how can we be better?
Imprint: HARPER COLLINS
The Sick Bag Song is an exploration of love, inspiration and memory shaped around the events of Cave's 2014 tour of North America. It began life scribbled on airline sick bags during the 22-city tour. It soon grew into a restless full-length contemporary epic. Spurred by encounters with modern day North America, and racked by romantic longing and exhaustion, Cave teases out the significant moments, the people, the books and the music that have influenced and inspired him, and drops them into his Sick Bag.
Foreword by Noel Pearson
It is easy to assume that constitutional recognition of indigenous Australians is a project of the left in Australia, and something that the right staunchly opposes.
This collection challenges that assumption. It frames indigenous constitutional recognition in the context of conservative and liberal philosophical thought, and demonstrates that there may indeed be a set of reforms for constitutional recognition that can achieve the symbolic and substantive change sought by indigenous leaders, while at the same time addressing the critical concerns of constitutional conservatives and classical liberals. More than that, this collection demonstrates the genuine goodwill that many Australians share for the cause of indigenous recognition that is both practically useful and symbolically powerful.
Prestigious Australian leaders and thinkers from diverse fields, including defence, business, journalism, law and religion, share their thoughts on what recognition means to them and how it might be achieved. Authors including The Australian's Chris Kenny,Major General Michael Jeffery, Cardinal George Pell, Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson, Australian Christian Lobby's Lyle Shelton, former Australian Business Council president Graham Bradley, and former Menzies Research Centre director Julian Leeser, offer compelling arguments in support of recognition. Malcolm Mackerras and Lloyd Waddy reflect on their experiences during the 1967 referendum and the 1998 constitutional convention. Constitutional arguments are provided by prominent lawyers, including ACU's Greg Craven, Sydney University's Anne Twomey and UNSW's Fergal Davis.
Imprint: MELBOURNE UNI PRESS
In the Port Macquarie penal settlement for second offenders, at the edge of the known world, gentleman convict Hugh Monsarrat hungers for freedom. Originally transported for forging documents passing himself off as a lawyer, he is now the trusted clerk of the settlement's commandant.
His position has certain advantages, such as being able to spend time in the Government House kitchen, being supplied with outstanding cups of tea by housekeeper Hannah Mulrooney, who, despite being illiterate, is his most intelligent companion.
Not long after the commandant heads off in search of a rumoured river, his beautiful wife, Honora, falls ill with a sickness the doctor is unable to identify. When Honora dies, it becomes clear she has been slowly poisoned.
Monsarrat and Mrs Mulrooney suspect the commandant's second-in-command, Captain Diamond, a cruel man who shares history with Honora. Then Diamond has Mrs Mulrooney arrested for the murder. Knowing his friend will hang if she is tried, Monsarrat knows he must find the real killer. And so begins The Monsarrat Series, a fast-paced, witty and gripping series from Tom Keneally and his eldest daughter, Meg.
Go Set a Watchman is set during the mid-1950's and features many of the characters from To Kill A Mockingbird some twenty years later. Scout (Jean Louise Finch) has returned to Maycomb from New York to visit her father Atticus. She is forced to grapple with issues both personal and political as she tries to understand both her father's attitude toward society, and her own feelings about the place where she was born and spent her childhood.
Imprint: WILLIAM HEINEMAN
At twenty, Karl Ove moves to Bergen. As the youngest student to be admitted to the prestigious Writing Academy, he arrives full of excitement and writerly aspirations.
Soon though, he is stripped of youthful illusions. His writing is revealed to be puerile and clichéd, and his social efforts are a dismal failure. Awkward in company and hopeless with women, he drowns his shame in drink and rock music.
Then, little by little, things take a brighter turn. He falls in love, gives up writing in favour of the steady rewards of literary criticism, and the beginnings of an adult life take shape.
That is, until his self-destructive binges and the irresistible lure of the writer's struggle pull him back.
In this fifth instalment of the My Struggle cycle, Karl Ove discloses his personal and often deeply shameful battles with introversion, alcohol abuse, infidelity and artistic ambition. Knausgaard writes with unflinching honesty to deliver the full drama of everyday life, in a breathless novel poised between a desperate yearning to be good, and the terrible power of transgression.
Malcolm Turnbull says we need to be agile citizens, and that there has never been a more exciting time to be an Australian. On the other hand, the mining boom is over and a question looms: is a recession on the way?
In this timely and original essay, George Megalogenis investigates a nation in transition. What will a new Australia look like, economically and socially? What are the new politics of change and renewal?
Megalogenis wonders why for so long we stopped being able to think about or prepare for a different future. Why so defensive? Now we are faced with a growing underclass, rising inequality and diminishing opportunities for the young. Have 25 years of growth and unprecedented prosperity come to this? How do we re-imagine a wealthy country notable for its equality; a cohesive country notable for its diversity?
A contentious, deeply moving ode to friendship, love, and urban life.
A memoir of self-discovery and the dilemma of connection in our time, The Odd Woman and the City explores the rhythms, chance encounters, and ever-changing friendships of urban life that forge the sensibility of a fiercely independent woman who has lived out her conflicts, not her fantasies, in a city (New York) that has done the same.
Running steadily through the book is Vivian Gornick's exchange of more than twenty years with Leonard, a gay man who is sophisticated about his own unhappiness, whose friendship has 'shed more light on the mysterious nature of ordinary human relations than has any other intimacy' she has known.
The exchange between Gornick and Leonard acts as a Greek chorus to the main action of the narrator's continual engagement on the street with grocers, derelicts, and doormen; people on the bus, cross-dressers on the corner, and acquaintances by the handful.
In Leonard she sees herself reflected plain; out on the street she makes sense of what she sees.
Written as a narrative collage that includes meditative pieces on the making of a modern feminist, the role of the flaneur in urban literature, and the evolution of friendship over the past two centuries, The Odd Woman and the City beautifully bookends Gornick's acclaimed Fierce Attachments, in which we first encountered her rich relationship with the ultimate metropolis.
'The most incisive portrait of Turnbull that's been written.' - David Marr
A scintillating biography for an election year . . .
In Stop at Nothing Annabel Crabb recounts the Malcolm Turnbull story with characteristic wit and perceptiveness.
Drawing on extensive interviews with Turnbull, Crabb delves into the young man's university exploits - which included co-authoring a musical with Bob Ellis - and his remarkable relationship with Kerry Packer, the man for whom he was at first a prized attack dog, and then a mortal enemy. She asks whether Turnbull - colourful, aggressive, humorous and ruthless - has changed sufficiently to entrench himself as prime minister. She tells how he first lost, and then won back, the Liberal leadership, and explores the challenges that now face him as the forward-looking leader of a conservative Coalition government.
This is a memorable and highly amusing portrait by one of the country's most incisive writers.