Look, it’s not getting any warmer, so there’s probably no point in going out for the next couple of months or so.
Why not rug up with the heater on full blast and dip into a pile of good books instead?
Here’s what we’ve been looking at this month:
By Judd Apatow
With his latest film Trainwreck, starring the outrageously funny Amy Schumer and Bill Hader, hitting Australian cinemas soon, The 40-Year-Old Virgin director Judd Apatow is spoiling us by also releasing this collection of his interviews with some of his most famous comic buddies.
Long before he made it big himself, Apatow used his college radio station as an excuse to interview his heroes, including Gary Shandling and a then up-and-coming Jerry Seinfeld ensconced in a barely furnished West Hollywood apartment. It’s a habit he continued post-stardom, with Sick In The Head an insightful grab bag of inspiration from the best in business.
There’s outrageous stuff in here, from a fresh but far from feeble Eddie Murphy snapping back at a heckler that the reason he should shut up and listen is because “I’m 21, I’m black and I have a bigger d$%k than you”, to Schumer’s admittance that when it comes to body beautiful issues, she’s not above eye candy ogling herself: “I want to look at Jennifer Lawrence eating cereal.”
Chris Rock reveals that despite being a dad, he’s no more ready to clean up his act than Eminem is and legendary Groundhog Day director Harold Ramis acknowledges that any experience involving Bill Murray is better than one without him.
As well as a really cute heart-to-heart with Lena Dunham, Apatow reveals a fair bit about his own life, including family time with the kids and fellow comedian wife Leslie Mann. Sick In The Head is the ideal book to dip in and out of at will, based on your personal favourite funny folks.
By David Suzuki
Another great read you can tackle in any order is Canadian scientist and environmental activist David Suzuki’s Letters To My Grandchildren, which sparked from a personal regret that the language barrier and physical distance from his own Japanese-born grandparents meant he never got to talk to them about their reasons for relocating to Canada.
Doting on his grandkids, Suzuki has put down his innermost thoughts on a wide variety of topics, from marriage equality to feminism, racial prejudice to, of course, our duty to look after the planet.
A sharp mind blessed with grace and wit, these heartfelt missives are not only good lessons to live your life by; they’re also touching glimpses into Suzuki’s love for his family.
By Nancy Underhill
While the talents of seminal artist Sidney Nolan are clear, he was also something of a self-made man in more ways than one, with the larrikin quality of a mercurial trickster, gleefully fudging fact with fiction.
Nolan obfuscated with art historians and journalists alike, carving a personal mythology that was often completely fabricated. It’s fascinating to read how blasé he was about playing up his grandfather’s role in chasing Ned Kelly and feigning a Catholic upbringing. It’s refreshing when academic Nancy Underhill, in trying admirably to piece together the truth, directly acknowledges any doubts.
There’s a detailed examination of the hyperbole surrounding his time with the Reeds at Heide, as well as an intimate account of his rambunctious childhood growing up in Melbourne’s bayside suburb St Kilda, his rampant globe-hopping and celebrated times on the London art scene.
A rich and rewarding tome with gorgeous photographic content, you won’t find a more exhaustive and engaging portrait of the great man.
By Gore Vidal
Something of a literary sensation from the outset, lauded American writer Gore Vidal fell from grace with the release of his overtly queer third novel The City and the Pillar.
It would be some time before the New York Times even acknowledged his existence again, but in the meantime the razor sharp player earned much-needed coin pumping out pulp fiction under pseudonyms. While a trio of hard-boiled books by the name Edgar Box were subsequently re-released under Vidal’s own name, Thieves Fall Out, a Cairo-set tale of femme fatales and double-crossing heavies supposedly penned by Cameron Kay, never was. Until now.
Bringing his trademark smarts to this fertile genre with an uncanny knack for crafting snappy dialogue, Vidal places you right in the heart of the humid city on the eve of an historical uprising, with the spectre of the Nazis still hanging heavy.
It’s impossible to resist lines like, “The revolver was very large, of a foreign make with which he was not familiar. The way it was pointed at him, however, was unmistakable, and he put his hands up immediately”.
By V.E. Schwab
One of the most immediately captivating fantasy novels I’ve dipped into in recent years, V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic has all of the vivid imagination and world-building skills of Neil Gaiman, Philip Pullman or George R. R. Martin.
Set between parallel Londons, the mysterious vagabond Kell is one of the few remaining souls who can slip through cracks in reality. Jumping between our world and his own, a Red London bristling with magic where he was taken in under mysterious circumstances by the royal family, Kell also travels to a White London in the thrall of its despotic twin rulers. Haunting tales tell of a Black London sealed off after some unspeakable tragedy.
A bi of a rascal in a many-sided coat, Kell’s fond of black market racketeering, trading trinkets from one world to the next against the laws of the various lands. Pretty soon this lands him in major trouble and saddles him, unwillingly, with a tough-as-guts Lila. They’re plunged headlong into a wild adventure packed with amusing snark and visceral thrills that demands a sequel.
By Milan Kundera
It’s been 15 years since the last novel by French-Czech novelist Milan Kundera, author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being which was adapted for the big screen by director Philip Kaufman and starred Daniel Day-Lewis and Juliette Binoche. It took two years for his new work, The Festival of Insignificance, to be translated into English.
For those who have been waiting impatiently, they will have to make do with a rather slim tome that relays the misadventures of four mates in Paris who enjoy a philosophical and political duel and make up fake foreign languages to pass the time while waiting on cocktail parties.
A playful affair, while there’s not much to it, The Festival of Insignificance remains an oddly enjoyable endeavour full of strange encounters, most notably at a surreal house party in honour of a dead husband and in a terrifying drowning dream sequence. Interesting.
By David Marks
David Marks has been obsessively collecting novelty cameras since the mid-90s, with a particular interest in the Diana, but also Polaroid camera, both of which could be snapped up for a buck at op shops during the 60s.
This gorgeous coffee table book collects a host of his happy snaps taken on the road. Obsessed with the roadside giants that dot the land, there are incredible shots of Kingston, SA’s Big Lobster and the Big Ned Kelly at Glenrowan in Victoria, alongside a host of other behemoths that look like they’ve just stomped out of a B-movie.
Marks stops along the way to capture faded hotels well past their heyday, cute beach shacks, fairground attractions and sandy milkbars. He also displays a keen eye for old signage, while a haunting image of the Sydney Opera House might just be his finest. Delightful.
By Donovan Cooke with Hilary McNevin
As Marco Pierre White says of his former mentee and fellow Yorkshireman in the foreword to The Atlantic At Home, a cookbook hailing from the mind of The Atlantic restaurant’s executive chef Donovan Cooke, “he was blessed with a surname that was guaranteed to intrigue. Could Donovan Cooke or not?”.
His storied career would suggest the answer is definitely yes. Now you can make up your own mind without leaving the house. Working alongside food writer Hilary McNevin and illustrated by sumptuous photography from Dean Cambry, Cooke delivers 70 of his favourite recipes and then some.
There are hints and tips aplenty, including how best to shuck oysters or fillet a salmon, as well as how to making your own pasta, hollandaise, vinaigrette and a tasty beer batter. A nice touch in a country becoming more and more concerned with provenance and sustainability, there are also profiles of local suppliers.