The Bookshop that Floated Away
Sometimes in life you have to break up with the boyfriend, give a twos up to the bank, borrow a tonne load of money from your parents and set sail in your barge-cum-book-shop, bartering words for food and other services while getting repeatedly injured by lock mechanisms the length and breadth of Britain. That’s exactly what Sarah Henshaw did in her quest for brighter horizons, and the hilarious misadventures that follow her not exactly thorough business plan for a travelling barge-based bookshop make for seriously witty reading. Her determination in the face of steep odds is admirable, and the eclectic cast she encounters are a hoot, whether she’s being accused of looking like a homeless person by a teenager dyeing their hair pink in a public toilet or being mistaken for a relative of Shakespeare by Japanese tourists. Along the way she reveals a surprising amount of useless but fascinating facts, as well as quite a bit of literary (and otherwise) history. Buy it here.
The Digested 21st Century
Constable and Robinson
If you often find hefting a Man Booker prize brick in the bookshop then putting it back with fear in your heart, then this collection of Digested Read column entries in by John Crace in The Guardian UK might be for you Not only does he reduce great walloping books into an 800 word, often quite wicked, summary, he then offers this digested read digested to one or two lines too. Yann Martell’s The Life of Pi is reduced to, “Johhny Morris goes to sea and returns with the Booker. Or did I dream that last bit?” His riotous summary of Donna Tart’s The Little Friend, her slightly disappointing follow up to The Secret History, has our plucky young heroine Harriet ask, “Do I have to be in a book with such a clumsy opening sentence?” and also notes, “10-year-old-daughter with the brown bob who bore absolutely no resemblance to the author.” Buy it here.
Hardie Grant Books
Gold-Walkley winning journalist and TV presenter Mary Delahunty was given exclusive access to former PM Julia Gillard during her final year in office for this, “fly-on-the-wall,” account. It is truly perplexing, therefore, how little of a sense of actually being there Gravity allows. Oh, all the big events in that tumultuous annus horriblis, leading to the reinstatement of PM Kevin Rudd, are present and correct, but there’s very little here that fleshes out what’s already been reported ad infinitum – a fact merely exacerbated by quoting great swathes of other journalists work, as well as Hansard. When she does talk to Gillard, their conversation is delivered in bland chunks with none of the colour that allows a reader to feel like they’re eavesdropping. Gravity regularly wanders into hagiography, with repeated references to the ex PM’s outfits and her “alabaster skin.” Delahunty’s language is clunky, particularly her regular cloud watching comments and this corker: “Images over the year I’d been tailing her flashed through my head like a Filofax.” Filofax? Seriously? The 80s called and they want their stationery back. Buy it here.
All reviews from Stephen A Russell.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Stephen A Russell for the lowdownunder says: “Much will be made of Andy Serkis’ performance in the role of Caesar, and it is nothing short of magnificent, but fair mention should also be given to Toby Kebbell, who almost upstages him as the aggressive Koba.”
The Lunchbox has been compared to a mix-up if Brief Encounter and The Shop Around the Corner. A stifled man and a married woman fall into a chaste relationship when they are given the wrong lunches.
Without a doubt the movie of the week. Director John McDonagh (The Guard) teams up again with fabulous Irish actor Brendan Gleeson in this story about a priest whose life is threatened in confession.
Album of the week
The Flaming Lips
7 Skies H3
The Flaming Lips have not been in true form since 2002’s Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robot, but 7 Skies H3 manages to edge back towards the band’s former greatness. That might seem unfair, given that they have released six albums in the past 12 years, but the new album has the multi-layered soundscapes that made this great American band legendary to begin with – hear Can’t Let It Go and In a Dream. I like how they link between songs – there are two sets of tracks with the same names – and are still unafraid of sounding big. The album’s signature tune is also it’s namesake and has a pure Lips sound.
Adelaide: The Australian Ballet presents Cinderella. Details here.
Brisbane: Brisbane French Festival. Details here.
Melbourne: Melbourne Theatre Company presents Glengarry Glen Ross. Details here.
Perth: Perth International Burlesque Festival. Details here.
Sydney: Bastille Day Celebration 2014. Details here.