Sins of the NRL

Last week, Wests Tigers’ Tim Simona was handed a lifetime ban from the NRL. He confessed to charges of gambling on NRL matches, drug use and deceiving a children’s charity. The explosive tell-all interview, Sins of Simona, was the Sunday Telegraph’s cover story. It revealed that his punishable gambling was placing $900 worth of bets on 65 2016 NRL games. Simona, 25, also shared his troubled history with gambling which began with playing the pokies as an 18 year old.

And yet, on the same day the story went to the print, The Sunday Footy show continued to provide betting updates on the day’s games.

And yet, in the off-season, Brookvale Oval was renamed Lottoland Stadium.

And yet, all NRL clubs are sponsored by a betting agency, with exception to the Melbourne Storm whose primary sponsor is Crown Casino.

And yet, when we, the fans, discuss who the favourite is pre-kick off, we look to the betting odds and not to our knowledge and love of the game.

The NRL is not only complicit, but is wholly responsible for creating an institution-wide gambling culture. In its present state, it simply can’t be counteracted with the throw-away “and remember, gamble responsibly” at the end of every betting update, or have a government-sanctioned anti-gambling advert run at half-time.

For all of Simona’s poor choices and unethical behaviour, he was set up to fail by an organisation that wants their cake and to eat it too. While the NRL were busy collecting their profits from betting agency sponsorships and Leagues Club pokie machines, they delivered a hands-off punishment to a player who didn’t commit a crime, but messed with the integrity of the game. To reiterate, Simona’s lifetime ban is for 60 odd $20 bets on NRL games; not for his illegal consumption and possession of cocaine or unethical interactions with a children’s charity. There is no doubt that Simona deserves a hefty punishment for all his stupid, unethical and illegal behaviour; and he should also receive the necessary support for his self-admitted gambling problem.

***

The NRL has a chequered history when it comes to handing down punishments to players who commit stupid, unethical or criminal acts. And yet, it’s been proven time and again that what matters most to the NRL is their integrity – they have a whole Unit dedicated to it. There have been numerous players over the years that have “brought the game into disrepute”. The NRL’s integrity is more than its brand, or the administration, or the clubs, and hardly ever about the individual players, their families and victims of their behaviours/crimes. To bring the game into disrepute is to peel back the curtain on a culture that was created by and for men 122 years ago; a culture that fosters and celebrates entitlement, elitism, and excuses for men to behave badly (also known as “boys being boys”).

The NRL picks and chooses what tarnishes their integrity, and it’s usually whatever effects their bottom line. A 2010 Dally M winner, Todd Carney embarrassed the NRL with the “bubbling” incident; he was promptly de-registered (following a slew of other incidents as well). Son of a League legend and, NSW halfback Mitchell Pearce embarrassed the NRL in 2016 with the “terrier” incident; he was banned for eight weeks and fined a quarter of a million dollars. In 2009, the then up-and-coming Queensland forward Nate Myles embarrassed the NRL by taking a drunken shit in a hotel hallway; he was suspended for six weeks, banned from State of Origin, and fined $50,000.

Many believed these punishments were harsh, as these individual acts weren’t illegal but definitely stupid (and gross!) – Surely their personal embarrassment was enough of a punishment? According to the NRL, it wasn’t, as they were embarrassed too. These high-profile players were publicly punished by the organisation that pays their inflated wage. However, that was the wrong motivation for punishing those players, including Simona. The NRL has never acknowledged their own hand in allowing an environment for those players to do what they did. Those players absolutely deserved to be punished (and must take ownership for their own behaviour); not because they embarrassed the NRL, but because their bad behaviour and the culture in which it’s allowed to thrive must be eradicated.

Despite the warranted punishments, it can be difficult to fully accept the outcomes for those players, when other players who have committed acts of violence against women are hardly punished at all; in fact they are often rewarded. Why? Because domestic violence is a private matter that becomes “a matter for the courts”, therefore having nothing to do with the NRL’s precious integrity. Simona received his lifetime ban, yet Robert Lui who kicked and head-butted his pregnant girlfriend received a North Queensland Cowboys’ contract after serving just a one year ban. Pearce was fined $125,000, yet Greg Bird glassed his girlfriend in the face and was welcomed back into the NRL and, continued to be selected for NSW and Australia. Myles was banned from Origin, yet Semi Radradra who was been charged with several counts of assaulting his partner, has continued to play for the Parramatta Eels.

The NRL has failed so many in their piss-weak approach to domestic violence, first and foremost, domestic violence survivors. It’s pointless for the NRL to say that they’ll “offer support to the young lady/female involved” or for people to cry that the NRL doesn’t create domestic violence, but is simply a sub-section of a bigger problem in society. Instead of using their platform to make profits from unethical sponsorships, they must – as one of Australia’s largest organisations – do and be better when it comes to punishing players who commit domestic violence, and of equal importance, offering genuine and tangible support to the survivors of it. An International Women’s Day luncheon is not the answer.

***

I’ve previously written about the challenges of being a woman, who by default, supports an organisation and culture that is so messed up – how’s that for a problematic favourite?! But I will love the game of rugby league until the day I die. My club’s 2010 premiership will remain of one of my life’s highlights, I will always check the round schedule before committing to catching up with friends, and I’ll always get anxious before an Origin game – the greatest sporting spectacle in the world.  It’s the game, not the organisation that is part of who I am. That’s not to say the game and organisation can be separated, they can’t. So as long as I’m a woman and rugby league fan, I will not shy away from calling out the bullshit (and demanding more) while still loving the greatest game of all that’s been part of my life for over 20 years.

That’s What Makes You Beautiful – The Playlist

2017-02-03-17-00-27

Writing, researching, compiling, and sharing memories with my contributors for my boy band zine has been the most fun I’ve had as a writer to date. I was transported back to my child and teen self, and I discovered a new love and appreciation for boy bands like One Direction and New Edition.

I’m incredibly excited to release my new zine, That’s what makes you beautiful (Girl II Woman: my dedication to boy bands)

To complete my zine, I’ve compiled a playlist of the best known songs I listed next to each of the featured 29 boy bands. One version comes via Spotify (embedded below).

I spent hours researching each group; I watched endless video clips, many of which feature classic music and pop culture moments. So, it would be remiss of me not to include the YouTube links to the video clips (or TV/concert footage in some cases) to each of the tracks as a second version, on this, my interpretation of a boy band best of compilation.

Without encouragement, I could have created a 1000-page zine dedicated to boy bands, and by extension a 1000-hour long playlist. In lieu of that, I invite you to share a link, video, memory or article about your favourite boy band in the comments below.

To purchase a copy of my zine (AUD5) you can do so by:

  1. Emailing me on my contact form to request a copy be posted to you (AUD6 including postage)
  2. Picking one up at Sticky Institute, located in Melbourne’s Flinders Street Station subway.
  3. Visiting me at my table at the Melbourne Art Book Fair on Saturday 18 March, 10.30am-2.30pm at the NGV. I’ll also be selling my two previous zines:
    • New York, I Love You (an ode to the city of my dreams)
    • rare and magical (because redheads are the unicorns of the human species)

But first…

The Spotify collection:

 

The YouTube collection:

  1. I Swear, All-4-One (1994)
  2. Everybody (Backstreet’s Back), Backstreet Boys (1997)
  3. Bye Bye Baby, Bay City Rollers (1975)
  4. Surfin’ USA, The Beach Boys (1964)
  5. Love Me Do, The Beatles (1962)
  6. All Rise, Blue (2001)
  7. I’ll Make Love To You, Boyz II Men (1994)
  8. No Matter What, Boyzone (1998)
  9. House of Love, East 17 (1994)
  10. When the Lights Go Out, 5ive (1998)
  11. I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch), The Four Tops (1965) [performance from 1967]
  12. Sherry, Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons (1962) [medley performance from the mid- 60s]
  13. MMMBop, Hanson (1997)
  14. Every Time You Cry, Human Nature with John Farnham (1997)
  15. ABC, The Jackson 5 (1970)
  16. Burnin’ Up, Jonas Brothers (2008)
  17. Hey Hey We’re the Monkees, The Monkees (1966)
  18. Candy Girl, New Edition (1983)
  19. Step by Step, New Kids on the Block (1990)
  20. I Do (Cherish You), 98 Degrees (1998)
  21. Bye Bye Bye, *NSYNC (2002)
  22. All or Nothing, O-Town (2001)
  23. What Makes You Beautiful, One Direction (2011)
  24. Dance With Me, 112 (2001)
  25. One Bad Apple, The Osmonds/The Osmond Brothers (1970)
  26. Back for Good, Take That (1995)
  27. My Girl, The Temptations (1964)
  28. Anything, 3T (1995)
  29. When You’re Looking Like That, Westlife (2000)

Albums: A Favourites Collection

It’s no secret that my 30th birthday is coming up. I’m having celebrations in Brisbane and Melbourne, because as the event page photos suggest, I’m kind of a big deal! For one of the celebrations in Brisbane I have a private bar, which means I get to do whatever I want with music. Last night, I compiled my playlist with only my music taste in mind – it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to, or more accurately it’s my party and I’ll dance to what I want (don’t worry, I have thrown in a few crowd favourites). Deciding which songs to add to my “Dirty 30” playlist inspired me to create this post about my favourite albums. I’ve previously written about my favourite songs, but this post is about a collection of songs, the albums that inspire me, and ones that make me dance to the tune of nostalgia.

Girl on Fire (2012), Alicia Keys

In the lead up to Alicia releasing her current album HERE, she described it as her best and most raw work yet. Naturally, given that she is my favourite artist of all time, my anticipation was high. Needless to say, after several listens, I’m disappointed. It’s good, but for me it doesn’t compare to her 2012 release Girl on Fire. Vocally, I think it’s her strongest collection, and it’s clear she’s inspired from a place of a lot of love (she gave birth and got married during its production). While I don’t connect to Alicia’s journey that inspired this album, I do connect to the songs in my own way. Tracks including Brand New Me, New Day and the title track are stand outs. It shocked me to discover that this was her worst performing album; I genuinely believe it’s her most beautiful.

Backstreet’s Back (1997), Backstreet Boys

I won’t dwell too much on this selection, as I’m dedicating my next zine to boys bands in which the Backstreet Boys feature heavily. This album was a game-changer. It was the start of my life-long love of all things Backstreet Boys and boy bands. This album put BSB on the map, as their first self-titled album didn’t get them off the mark (and reflective of time, it’s very NKOTB). The classic tracks on this album are of course Everybody (Backstreet’s Back) (which is one of the greatest video clips of all time), As Long As You Love Me and All I Have To Give. And of course my 1997-self had no idea what the super cheesy If You Want It To Be Good Girl (Get Yourself a Bad Boy) meant!

Anthem (2013), Hanson

This album reconnected me with Hanson in a big way. I went to their 2014 Melbourne concert and once I stopped crying about seeing them in the flesh again (I went to their 2012 Brisbane concert); I paid attention to the tracks they performed from this album. They are all amazing. I remember playing the album to family and friends; each of their responses were along the lines of “wow, they’re actually really talented – and don’t look like girls anymore!” Anthem proves that they didn’t sell-out (which, side note, I’ve never understood how it’s a bad thing) and they continued to write and produce their own music under their own label. Stand out tracks on the album include Get the Girl Back, which was their first US Billboard top 40 track in over nine years, Juliet, with Zac as the lead vocalist, and Tragic Symphony. Naturally, Hanson feature in my boy band zine, so you’ll be able to read more about my love for them, and their earlier albums namely the 90s classic Middle of Nowhere.

Kick (1987), INXS

INXS are hands-down my favourite band ever (Bon Jovi are a close second). I discovered INXS in my early teens through a best of album and my obsession with them grew from there. Their best album though, which few would argue, is their 1987 release Kick. It features legendary tracks, New Sensation, Devil Inside, Need You Tonight, Never Tear Us Apart, and Mystify. This album launched INXS’s international career, becoming the best band in the world – which led to their famous Wembley 1991 concert. I love you, Michael!

Cross Road (1994), Bon Jovi

And speaking of my second favourite band, Bon Jovi’s first greatest hits collection Cross Road makes my list. While not a collection of original tracks, it still counts. It was the first album I ever had (followed up with an Elvis double-disc greatest hits) and I played it to death. Literally every song on this album is a classic and most people would know the words to each of them. It was a dream come true to see them live at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium in 2010. It was lucky I got there, I was so sick. I was drugged up on antihistamine so I could dance and sing my way through the whole night. Later that night I had a minor freak out as I took too many, but it was worth it. Especially when they ended the night with Livin’ on a Prayer – on the first note the crowd went wild and it was magic to be part of it!

Americana (1998), The Offspring

In an effort to move on from my ~embarrassing~ boy band phase, I got right into The Offspring. My dad was also a fan (or so he said!) and took me to my first concert in 1999. I distinctly remember wearing fluro yellow cargo pants. I thought I, and the concert, was the coolest thing ever. (Christ! Fluro. Yello. Cargo. Pants. The 90s, what a time to be alive). Anyway, I loved Americana because it was fun and different to any band I loved before them. And I loved it even more because the boys hated it; The Offspring had committed the world’s worst crime, they sold out as the singles released from Americana featured in the top 40. Looking back, most of their songs were pretty shit; gimmicky and ridiculous – Pretty Fly (For a White Guy) – but I will always love this album as a soundtrack to my memory lane.

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010), Kanye West

It’s universally acknowledged that this album is a masterpiece; and it features one of my favourite songs of all time, Runaway. While I’d had a few Kanye tracks in my possession (circa Graduation-era), this album really opened my eyes to his talent and creativity, and generally broadened my appreciation and love of hip hop/rap music. It prompted me to go through his back catalogue and discover his artistic evolution from his first release in 2004 – stopping at 808s & Heartbreak several times, which is stunning but very different to Fantasy. Another big track on this record is Monster which features Jay Z, Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross and Bon Iver. I’ve attempted several times to “perform” this song at karaoke to varying degrees of success! Thanks to this album, I’ve been obsessed with Kanye ever since, and I don’t see my obsession waning anytime soon.

Wildheart (2015), Miguel

I have to thank my good friend Scotty for introducing me to this album, and Miguel. After discussing, at length, our love of Kanye the discussion turned to a broader review of other hip hop, R&B and rap albums. Scotty suggested I would love Miguel and got me onto his music. Miguel has two albums, but I chose this one to start with for no other reason than that I loved the name of the album. I’ve had it on my iPod for a few months now and I repeatedly play the album in its entirety – and I’m not close to being sick of it. Every single song on the album is so beautiful. Miguel has such a unique voice, and he’s not bad to look at either. Stand out tracks are Coffee, Simple Things and Face the Sun.

Hybrid Theory (2000), Linkin Park

In 2000 I was Grade 10, which meant my sister was in Grade 7. I only did netball and debating as my extra-curricular activities, but my sister did everything – musicals, swimming, band, choirs and she even formed her own UN feminist women’s group at some point! As a result, it meant early starts so my sister could get to various rehearsals and training. So I could get driven to school, I too went early even though I had nowhere to be. I sat outside the locker room and chatted to Amanda until her boyfriend showed up, and then I whipped out my discman and listened to Hybrid Theory to kill the time before the rest of my friends showed up. In the same way that The Offspring was a surprising addition to my music taste, so was Linkin Park as most of my collection at the time centred on Jennifer Lopez and So Fresh mix CDs. But for whatever reason I was obsessed with this album (because In The End, it doesn’t even matter), and I recently rediscovered it – and I still love it.

What are your favourite albums?

This book changed my life

Strolling through Brisbane’s beautifully eclectic Woolloongabba Antique Centre this past Christmas, I spotted a postcard in the TAKE ME, I’M FREE stand at the edge of the 1950s-style café.

post-card

Aside from my two zines I published, I hadn’t had a particularly writing-focused 2016 so I had hoped this card would give me the prompt or perhaps the elusive inspiration I needed. So, eleven days into the new year I find myself writing this post, as a break from my writing my third zine!

I’ve previously written a post about my favourite books. Literary classics such as To Kill a Mockingbird and the childhood-shaping collection of Roald Dahl’s works made the list. But in considering the book that changed my life, I can’t go past The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. My original copy is one of my most treasured possessions.

In recalling our childhood memories, for reasons I believe are beyond our understanding (armchair/real psychologists, take a seat), there are some that are recalled with greater clarity and purpose than others. My childhood memory of discovering my life-changing book punches through so many of the others, but finding the word/s to describe the feeling of that discovery… I’m lost.

I want to know the name of the feeling I have when I recall my seven-year-old-self sprinting back to class from lunch for quiet reading; and then… The feeling of carefully dissecting C. S. Lewis’s masterpiece from my special hiding place on the bookshelf, unseen from the eyes of other kids; the feeling of flopping onto the cushions, trying to read as much as I could in the allotted post-lunch calm-down; the feeling of magic and adventure and friendship shared with Lucy, Edmund, Susan and Peter. And I want to know the name of the sensation when I engorged my face into its pages, craving its old book smell.

While I can’t pinpoint the right words to describe those feelings and sensations (maybe I could with a little effort and research), its without hesitation I can pinpoint the exact time in my life when I knew that I loved reading (and writing). But not just as a kid, I knew that I would love reading for the rest of my life.

Thank you, changedmylife.org.au #respectcreators #freeisnotfair #poweredbycopyright

For Pearced Sake!

I had hoped that my first post for the 2016 NRL season would be a review of the Auckland 9s, or a season preview of My Beloveds. Yet one week before the 9s and five before the season proper, I feel obliged to post about what everyone is talking about. Mitchell Bloody Pearce.

As we march toward March with that bring-it-on attitude, it’s masked with trepidation; footy fans all over quietly praying to the footy gods, “come on, we’re almost through pre-season, no one stuff up”.  And with equal amounts of frustration and disappointment we find ourselves talking of yet another player’s <foul / disrespectful / illegal / immoral / vile / stupid> behaviour.

We should be talking about the what impact Sam Burgess will have on his return to Souths, how Shaun Johnson will pull up at the 9s from his sickening injury, how the Broncos’s one-point grand final loss will influence their mental performance, and how good Tim Lafai looks in the Red V (fine, that last one is biased!) We should be talking about The Greatest Game of All. Instead, we’re talking about Mitchell Pearce – Roosters Captain, good first-grader, awful rep player – who was filmed dry humping a dog, pissing himself, sexually harassing a woman and generally being a douchelord.

To say that I’m sick of this shit doesn’t cut it any more. (It’s taken all my might not to write this post in shouty caps.) I am a proud and passionate supporter of rugby league. I’m sick of being embarrassed supporter too. But I find this time around that my embarrassment is directed more toward the fall out from the behaviour than the behaviour itself.

I’m sick of the weak “the NRL is taking this matter very seriously, and will not comment until an investigation is complete” media statements.

I’m sick of the defensive and utterly misguided comments from players, past and present, commentators and fans:

“who hasn’t made mistakes on the grog”,

“it’s been blown out of proportion”,

“he did nothing illegal”,

“no one was hurt”,

“he was in a private home”,

“shame on the person who filmed it”.

I’m sick of the empty apologies through crocodile tears, which rarely acknowledge the victim when there is one, “I’ve embarrassed meself. I’ve let me family down, me club down and the NRL down”.

I’m sick of the laughable punishments of pocket-money fines and a few weeks on the sideline.

I’m sick of the cycle.

There are players currently in the NRL who should be in jail – those who have glassed their girlfriends, beaten their pregnant fiancées, and stomped on strangers heads. The same excuses have been made for them. Naturally, I’m not suggesting Pearce should go to jail. The scale of bad behaviour should be reasonably measured against the punishment. But this is not an excuse for him and his incredibly poor choices.

Therefore in this case, at risk of getting a bad case of the Politics, he should be sacked – for at least 12 months, sanctioned by his club and the NRL. It is the only reasonable punishment. The fact that Pearce says he’s embarrassed is not enough. He must be punished where it really hurts: his privileged livelihood. Very few people have the talent (though Pearce’s can be questionable) and opportunity to embark on a career that is grounded in childhood fantasies, physical dominance, public admiration, with a hero status and a wad of cash to boot. There is evidence to suggest getting the sack works: Josh Dugan who was sacked by his club, and Todd Carney who eventually got booted from the NRL. These are two players who were in the news more for their behaviour than for their performances. It took a torn-up contract for them to get in line. Not a fine, not a suspension but a punishment that fit their crimes of bringing their club and the NRL into disrepute.

Forget about second chances and potentially destroying careers. If Pearce, Captain of the code’s richest club, getting sacked by the NRL and not just by his club (which means, unlike Dugan, another club can’t sign him straight away) is what it takes to set an example for other players then it must be done, no questions asked. We’ve heard it time and again, these players are on a pedestal, they are role models. It’s the badge that comes with the honour of playing the best sport in the world. We as fans appoint them in these precarious positions. No one player is bigger than the game, but it’s players like Pearce who are destroying the game by not respecting the intangible but visible badge on their jersey.

The punishments handed out by clubs and the NRL have always been inconsistent, embedded in a flawed system and entitled culture. Sadly, until this system and culture is radically overhauled, we can’t simply expect good behaviour from players just because it’s what we expect from everyone else. We need to threaten players with their careers.

While it’s unfair to demand perfection, in anyone, it is fair that we demand that players don’t blatantly disregard their privilege and abuse others, including maltese terriers (that’s not meant to be as trivial as it does). We demand it for the good of the game.

 

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2016.

To wrap up the oyster blogger for 2015, I wrote about my inspirations as well as my highlights and lowlights of the year. For my first post, on the third day of a new year, I have thought about what 2016 has in store for me:

  • Next month, I turn 29 years old – the last year of my 20s. SHIT. Am I where I imagined I would be at this age? Probably not, but my pretty excellent Melbourne life is just a stepping stone to what I hope will be a pretty excellent New York life from 2017.
  • My friend Jacque and I have our long-awaited trip to Croatia and Turkey in March and April. We’re about to secure our Turkish tour and Cappadocia hot air ballooning tickets. (I’m told it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience). Jacque is turning 30 years old while we’re there, so I can’t wait to share this trip and milestone with her.
  • Whether I remain at my current workplace for the next month or rest of the year, I hope to work more with my Communications colleagues Erin and Tim – both of whom are intimidatingly excellent writers. I’ve already learnt so much from them, and I’m keen to keep doing so. With this in mind, I hope to write on a more regular basis, attend more in-conversations and workshops, learn more from other writer-friends and explore new writing ideas.
  • I’ll for sure chuck another tantrum and deactivate my dating app for the 3,745th time. Men continue to be gross. I expect nothing to change here, which suits me perfectly, as I’ll be too busy being ***Flawless (grossness and flawlessness don’t mix).
  • I haven’t been to Sydney in a few years, so I’m excited to have a weekend there mid-year. I’ll attend a Dragons game, see my Nanna and Pa, and hang out with my cousins Simon and Emily. I can’t wait to fly somewhere (domestically) for a weekend for a reason that’s mine, and on frequent flyer points.
  • I’ll witness two sets of friends get married: Umesha and Militha in January, and Julia and Tom in September, the latter of which I have the privilege of co-MCing.
  • I’d like to get another tattoo. Maybe. It took me 20 years to get the first one, so it’ll probably take me another 20 to get the second – but that doesn’t mean I can’t think about the design now!
  • I have a big year of saving and researching. I’ve spoken and written about my NYC plan to death – 2016 is a year of action! BRING. IT. ON.
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My happy place.

I’ve written this post from my bedroom (I usually can’t fully concentrate elsewhere). I like to set the creative mood – with the lighting of a lamp and candle, and the sounds of my inspiration music. This year, I’ve begun with a new version: my cheap IKEA lamp has been replaced with a priceless antique lamp (the shade belonged to my Old Nanna), a Glasshouse Manhattan candle – a Christmas present from Mum and Dad and, recently purchased old-school Kanye tunes (how did I not have Stronger?!).

I hope my new-and-improved creative mood is indicative of my 2016: filled with strength and light.

I wish everyone a bright 2016, and to hold onto your strength and light whenever some of your days and experiences aren’t shining as brightly as you hoped.

I leave you with my 2016 ANTHEM PLAYLIST. You’re welcome to borrow it:

  1. She Works Hard for the Money – Donna Summer
  2. Drag Me Down – One Direction (yes, I’m totes a Directioner! Niall is my fave. Discuss.)
  3. Don’t Stop Me Now – Queen
  4. Power – Kanye West
  5. Wannabe – Spice Girls
  6. Empire State of Mind – Jay Z and Alicia Keys
  7. Just a Girl – No Doubt
  8. Believe it or Not ­– Greatest American Hero theme song, Joey Scarbury
  9. 28,000 Days – Alicia Keys
  10. Maneater – Hall and Oates (added for laughs for my sister – who says she originally selected this tune as my intro song for my speech at her wedding! She ended up going with with track 6.)
  11. Out of the Woods – Taylor Swift
  12. ***Flawless – Beyoncé

 

What’s in store for your 2016?

Novels: A Favourites Collection

On this, a rainy and cool November day (bless you, Melbourne, bless you), I have been trying to keep my mind off New York. It was this time last year I was there. In fact, Facebook’s ‘on this day’ tells me I had just arrived after the mammoth cross-Pacific journey. I think about New York daily, so trying to keep my mind off it is tough. But there is no better way to lose yourself, myself, in a good book. A perfectly true cliché. For this post, I present another favourites collection: my favourite novels.

Blogger’s note: No author or genre is off-limits and I haven’t included short stories, novellas or auto/biographies. My list is in no particular order.

A favourites collection
A favourites collection
  1. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee (1960)

I feel like this book would be on everyone’s favourites list. It is a classic. It’s a title we all studied in school. It’s one of few books I’ve read multiple times. I love that the narrative is told through the eyes of Scout, a young white girl. Her perspective brings a sense of innocent curiosity to themes that she barely understands. In using Scout as the narrator, Lee gently assures the reader that they too can look at issues of deep racism, sexual assault, and incest in the same way Scout would. It’s a masterstroke; the adult reader, rightly or wrongly, gets a free pass. Imagine if the story was told by Calpurnia or Tom Robinson or Mayella Ewell?

I have Go Set a Watchmen on my bookshelf. I’ve never felt so anxious to read a book before. I’ve read about The Outrage on The Internet. How could Lee change who Atticus is in such a profound way? What do I tell my child who I’ve named after my favourite literary hero? (Seriously, LOL). But that’s the magic of storytelling; the author can do whatever they damn well please, it’s up to us if we want to go on the journey with them.

  1. Burial Rites, Hannah Kent (2013)

I saw Hannah Kent speak at the Melbourne Writers Festival last year. I hadn’t read her debut book at that point, I was just keen to hear from a female author (she’s two years older than me). Needless to say, I was impressed. What began as a PhD thesis, turned into a multi-award winning novel (there’s even talk that it’ll become a film starring Jennifer Lawrence). Set in Iceland in the early part of the 1800s, it tells the tale of Agnes, a woman punished to death for killing two men. Sitting perfectly in the historical non-fiction genre, the quest for justice and salvation sets this story apart from the rest. I highly recommend this book, and I’m incredibly excited to see what Kent does next.

  1. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis (1950)

I read this book for the first time when I was in Year 2. I still have my original copy on my bookshelf. I distinctly remember coming back to Mr Chapman’s class after each lunchtime to read it, lying on the floor on my stomach, my feet kicked up in the air. It took me a whole term to finish it – even though I was an advanced reader for my age, it was still a big book for a seven year old to get through! I loved all the magic and fantasy this tale offered. I truly felt like I was there with Lucy, Edmund, Susan and Peter as they explored Narnia. I’ve read very few fantasy titles since reading this one. I prefer to read books based in some sort of truth or realism. As an adult, the fantasy genre is one I’ve actively avoided, which on reflection saddens me a little. The whole point of books is to experience some level of fantasy, at the very least stepping out of your own life into someone else’s. Maybe adulthood has made me more discerning than I need to be, but I hope it’s because I know I’ll never have a better fantastical literary experience.

  1. Lady Chatterley’s Lover, D.H. Lawrence (1928)

Lawrence is one of my favourite author’s ever. Women in Love receives a highly honourable mention on my list. He writes beautifully. Lawrence not only pushed boundaries, he exploded through them. His most famous tale defined literary scandal and notoriety. Lady Constance, a young woman who is married to an emotionally abusive, paralysed man, finds what she needs in groundskeeper Mellors. Due its sexual explicitness, there have been several published versions of the story – it was originally published privately in Italy and published openly in London in 1960. Even now, it still falls into the controversial hands of censorship. As of 2009 Australia Post stores refused to sell it (I’d like to casually remind everyone that Australia Post is a government organisation). Intimacy, lust, emotional entrapment, and battles of class and intellect define Connie and Mellor’s forbidden relationship, and the relationships they have with those around them. A brilliant read, especially for those who get a kick out of reading something (still) shrouded in censorship.

  1. In Cold Blood, Truman Capote (1966)

While I knew it existed, I was formally introduced to this book in my journalism course. It was a required reading (and the film Capote was required viewing) – and I didn’t need to be told twice. Capote spent six years researching the murders of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas. His commitment shows, with incredible true and creative detail woven into seamless narratives between the murderers, the Holcomb town folk and the Clutter family. It crosses genre boundaries of true crime and creative non-fiction. In fact, it’s widely considered to be the first non-fiction novel. In Cold Blood is a true masterclass of how research and commitment can shape the quality and reputation a story and its author.

It’s incredible to think the same man wrote Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which is also a wonderful book, but average film. (Fun fact! Capote hated that his ending was changed for the film, and he wanted Marilyn Monroe to star instead of Audrey Hepburn – who was insufferable as ever as Holly Golightly. However, Marilyn’s agent didn’t want her playing another sexy character, fearing it would irreparably damage her career. Meanwhile, Audrey’s agent was terrified that her reputation as a wholesome sweetheart would be ruined by playing her first sexy character).

  1. The Book Thief, Markus Zusak (2005)

Thousands of books have been written about or set in World War II, but I feel like there is something different and special about this one. This is another title I was introduced to during my journalism course. I had no idea The Book Thief was classified as young adult fiction – a genre considered the least credible in the literary world (it’s certainly not my opinion though). The protagonist is Liesel, a young girl orphaned in Nazi Germany who learns the power of reading and language as her world continues to crumble around her. Zusak’s narrative approach of having Death as the narrator rather than Liesel, successfully allows the book to bridge across into the adult fiction genre. Whatever genre it truly fits in doesn’t matter. It’s a delicately told story even though death saturates each page.

  1. Sense and Sensibility (1811) and Pride and Prejudice (1813), Jane Austen

I’m obsessed with the classics, especially ones written by women. Austen’s works get a double-billing on my list. I’ve read P&P a few more times than I have S&S so the former is a slight favourite. I just love the romance and drama of both novels; Willoughby and Mr Darcy, swoon! Even though both stories are traditional (in a gendered-role way), Austen’s beautiful and rich prose still showcases her female protagonists’ capacity to be more than just damsels in distress. I’m truly transported to a different time each time I read them, and I never want to leave.

  1. Nikki Gemmel

A fellow Wollongong girl, Gemmel is my favourite current author. I had the pleasure of seeing her in an in conversation and reading at a Melbourne Writers Festival – I even got to ask a question, and meet her for a signing of her then new release I Take You (directly inspired by Lady Chatterley’s Lover).  Gemmel first garnered fame when it became public knowledge that she authored her first publication The Bride Stripped Bare, which was originally published under Anonymous. Gemmel described the idea of writing anonymously as liberating. She writes about women for women in a way that is ruthlessly honest and brave. She inspires me to write with those same characteristics (I think I said something like that when I met her, I was star struck!) So ladies, put down your E.L. James books, and pick up one of Gemmel’s – you’re welcome.

  1. Roald Dahl

Mr Dahl’s works in entirety gets a special mention. I openly judge anyone with horrified disgust who hasn’t read any of his books (and has/had the capacity to). Your childhood was shittier for it. I feel sorry for you that you didn’t experience his magic – my condescension is noted and I don’t care. I encourage everyone, young and old, to read at least one of his stories. I work at a school, where sometimes I sit in on admissions interviews. It fills my heart with joy when a child answers The Witches or Matilda or James and the Giant Peach when asked what they are currently reading. I remember reading The Twits non-stop until my eyes hurt, and George’s Marvellous Medicine under my blankets with a torch. My special work mug is adorned with Quinten Bryce’s distinct illustrations of The BFG. Roald Dahl was a master storyteller, and you only have to read Revolting Rhymes or Dirty Beasts to know that he was macabre bastard as well. But that’s what makes his stories so perfect.

I’m positive I haven’t remembered a lot of my favourites, but what are yours?