October has been a busy, busy month. I returned from my trip overseas at the end of September, and immediately started packing to move out. I finally moved out, but my partner and I decided to paint the two bedrooms in the place we’ve moved into, so I’ve spent many October days inside, applying coat after coat of paint. When I wasn’t painting, I’ve been writing job application after job application, trying to find myself a job. And after three months of not being able to write a word, I finally sat down at my laptop and started writing again, and I have some exciting projects coming up over the next few weeks and months which I’ve been working on, one of which is getting my blog back on track. So finally I’m feeling ready to get back into reading and blogging regularly.
I’ve decided to start this new post on the first Monday of every month, because I don’t exclusively read Australian books. I choose to blog about Australian books because I’m exploring what makes a book Australian, but to read exclusively Australian books would be to shut out a large majority of wonderful reads! So here’s a look at the other books and magazines I read this month (3 of which, were, admittedly, Australian).
The new edition of Frankie magazine, a bimonthly Australian publication with a strong focus on anything vintage and creative types. I find some editions more inspiring and more to my interest than others, and this month’s wasn’t an edition I read and thought WOW, but they did have a wonderful feature on some zine creators, who publish zines on everything from dogs to coffee.
My new discovery this month was SLOW Magazine, a quarterly Australian publication about the slow living movement. It is a wonderful publication. This month had an in-depth feature on the philosophy of the Steiner school system, a handwritten extract by Tim Winton from his new novel Eyrie (which I’ve been promised as a Christmas present, so I still have two months to wait before I get to read it!) and the experiences of different families as they swapped their fast-paced city lives for country living. It will definitely become one of my few regular magazine buys.
The Lifted Brow Melbourne Writers Festival Edition. I’ve reviewed The Lifted Brow on my blog before, but this edition was really something- the team wrote, edited, designed and printed the magazine all during the week of the Melbourne Writers Festival. And I must say, it’s a wonderful issue, all the more so because it was put together in a week. One week. I won’t say any more. If you want to know what’s inside, you’ll just have to get yourself a copy.
Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. I actually won this book back in April, without really knowing what the book was, but from the first page, I was hooked. Sandberg writes about women and careers. She acknowledges that it is, of course, a woman’s choice to decide if she wishes to work in or outside the home, but that for those who choose to work outside the home, there are still major obstacles which prevent women from getting to the top of her profession (if that’s what she chooses to do). I’ve never read anything like this book. Sheryl makes some excellent points, others I don’t agree with, and still more which I’d never really considered, but can already see in my own approach to my work and career. A fascinating book!
I knew that not all magazine editors would be like Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada, or the famous Anna Wintour. But when I started reading The Vogue Factor, I did also have in the back of my mind that Kirstie Clements had worked for Vogue for over two decades, and that Vogue is a high-end fashion magazine. So I certainly didn’t expect the book to be about such a down-to-earth, realistic, genuinely grateful for her opportunities Vogue editor.
Kirstie Clements’ The Vogue Factor is written about Clements’ years working for the magazine. She worked her way up from humble beginnings working on reception to become the editor-in-chief. And how easily even that opportunity could have passed her by: she convinced her interviewer to put her on trial first, before another girl also in consideration for the job, and that if they liked her, they wouldn’t have to bother replacing her. As they say, the rest is history.
It is impossible not to like Clements and the way she writes about the amazing career she forged for herself. She never takes any of it for granted. It is clear that she’s always worked hard, and been grateful and gracious about all the opportunities which have come her way. She also offers a stern lesson for all her readers: if you want something, and you’re willing to work hard enough to get it, it just might come your way. This is how she ends up as the editor of Vogue, and how she finds herself interviewing Crown Princess Mary in Denmark, one of many amazing experiences Clements has had. Unfortunately, Clements’ story is also a reminder that you can be doing everything right and still it’s not quite good enough, as she discovered when she was sacked out of the blue from the magazine in 2012.
What I truly loved about this story is the complete Aussie-ness of it. Vogue Australia is small fish compared to the other Vogue editions around the world, and must make do with its smaller budget, distance from the rest of the world and being considered not as important as the other Vogue titles. But that is also what makes the Australian edition great, as the magazine constantly features up and coming and established Australian models, celebrities and designers. The plight of the magazine is the plight of the Aussie battler on the international fashion scene, as is the plight of Clements as she works her way up to become editor-in-chief.
I have a whole new appreciation for Vogue and the tireless hours spent creating such a magazine. It is a high-end fashion magazine, and not everyone can afford to spend thousands on Prada. But everyone can appreciate the creative pursuits of the magazine and of those featured in it, and be proud of the fact we had Kirstie Clements at the head of the magazine for so long.
Published Melbourne University Press, 2013
Review copy thanks to Net Galley
Late last year, I discovered a gem of the Australian literary scene. I can’t remember exactly how I found them, but I stumbled onto their website late one night and, looking through the content, I was intrigued enough to buy an issue of The Lifted Brow magazine. I soon discovered it was a magazine full of surprises, and well worth eleven (Australian) dollars.
The first surprise was that the magazine wasn’t exactly a magazine. Then again, maybe I’ve been brainwashed into thinking that magazines should be A4 and glossy. The Lifted Brow is neither. It is more like a newspaper. My second surprise was that Alice Pung, a well-known Australian author, had written a piece for this particular issue. I don’t know why was I surprised at that. I guess because I didn’t expect it, and I like it when I meet the unexpected. My third surprise was that the more I read, the more I loved it. I particularly enjoyed their arts lift out, Middlebrow. There are clearly some very talented writers and artists who have found themselves a home within The Lifted Brow, and thank goodness they have. It’s such a relief to have found a magazine which actually has something thought-provoking to say. And one which also doesn’t take itself too seriously. While The Lifted Brow is run out of Melbourne, the magazine accepts submissions from creative types all over the world, although a large majority are Australian.
My fourth, and I’m sure not final, surprise was that when I arrived home from a trip to the coast over the summer, I found a copy of The Lifted Brow’s latest edition, number 15, waiting for me. I had not yet ordered that copy. So a huge thank you to The Lifted Brow, for restoring my faith in Australian magazines, for giving me something interesting to read, some original comics to laugh at and some amazing artwork to admire. And thank you for sending me your latest issue. I’m already looking forward to the next one.
I’ve subscribed to Voiceworks for over two years now, and the literary magazine always features some of the best of Australia’s young writers. However, I absolutely fell in love with the most recent issue, Issue #88, Translate. My interests in writing and foreign languages collided with the theme of this latest issue and I read it straight through from cover to cover.
Voiceworks is a magazine for young Australian writers under 26 years of age, published by Express Media. The magazine is a wonderful stepping stone for young writers and provides fantastic opportunities for these writers to see their name in print.
While the standard of writing and design is always high, the latest issue was absolutely brilliant. It was the final issue from editor Johannes Jakob, before he handed the reins over to new editor Kat Muscat, and he definitely left the magazine on a high note.
On my initial flick through the magazine, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw one of my favourite poems, ‘The Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost, translated into six different languages over a double page spread, from Japanese to Norwegian. I first discovered Frost’s poem in high school and the words struck such a deep chord with me I can still remember the first time I read the poem. It won’t be long before this double page spread is hanging over my writing desk.
There is also an interview with literary translator Chris Andrews. I also found this piece particularly engaging, as being a translator is something I’ve considered as a career path. It was really interesting to read the different aspects of this work, and the problems and challenges encountered in accurately translating someone else’s work into another language.
Maryam Tayyaba’s non-fiction piece ‘The Linguistic Adventures of a Pakistani Hybrid’ is another gem of a read. It is about her experiences growing up as a Pakistani Australian, focusing mainly on the time her family spent three years living in Pakistan when she was a teenager. Tayyaba writes with such conviction and contemplation and really manages to articulate the challenges of growing up in the midst of two different cultures and languages.
As far as fiction was concerned, I loved Jack Vening’s short story ‘In Transit’. It is an example of just how good young Australian writing can be.
While the latest issue of Voiceworks is dedicated to the theme of translation, this issue proves that the topic is something which speaks and inspires young Australian writers.
Voiceworks, quarterly publication
Print edition, $10
ebook from $4.99