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Reading time: Winter reading edition!

Books, how I love you.

Collected Poems by Amy Witting

Holy cow this book was amazing. All the elements of a glorious romance: a random grab from the library shelves (cute cover, y’know?) and then immediate, irreversible intoxication with the poetry. I don’t know how to praise it without sounding gushy, but everything about these poems was wonderful. There were funny poems, sad poems (seriously: tears), haunting poems, and some of the most thought-provoking poems I’ve ever read. This is a wonderful book. The poems about birds were magnificent (‘the magpie’ and ‘bellbirds’ are favourites); and ‘Epping station’, ‘peace’ and ‘hypnotherapy’ were so beautiful; and ‘la tres chere speaks of Baudelaire’ is brilliant. ‘breakdown’ was profound and insightful — all right, that’s enough. I could go through every poem in this collection and praise it. They’re all excellent: the overall collection gives an astonishing, delicate, articulate expression of the complete gamut of human feeling — fear, curiosity, insecurity-rooted-apologies, joy, peace, bliss, humour — it’s a book that delights, stimulates, and (most amazingly and beautifully of all), grows you.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thomson

A very different second book! Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a cracking good read; fast and exciting and funny, but with an undeniable aftertaste of fear and disillusionment. The narrator is packed off to Las Vegas by his publisher to cover a major race: he grabs a hire car, his lawyer, and a lot of drugs. They’re very high before the book begins, and they remain high for most of the book, periodically surfacing enough to articulate some of the incidents they caused (which they otherwise zoom past at amphetamine speed) and describe their surroundings. It’s great! It’s funny and exciting: and then, every so often, the narrator becomes sober enough to touch on the fear at the heart of the book. The promise planted by the 60s has evaporated, leaving meanness and baffled, blank-brained everyday citizens. The narrator’s disappointment bleeds into fearful unhappiness: these moments are temporary, assuaged as soon as the narrator takes on the next high. He pursues highs with desperation, and even with the some of the bizarreness and freakishness of the long binge, you can see why. Fantastic use of the unrelabile narrator, wonderful pace, exciting and funny: it’s a huge rush with a potent and fearful message in the afterglow.

Who We Were by Lucy Neave

Who We Were is Neave’s first novel and it is a sharp, fine, compelling one at that. It’s set during the Cold War, when two Australian scientists move to New York to work on government-funded projects. The secrecy their respective jobs demand plant doubt and fear between them, as the life they have built together begins to crack and deeper secrets begin to emerge. The atmosphere in this book is amazing: the pace at which the sense of menace develops is great, never sluggish and never rushed. The growing sense of unease in the characters is never really looked in the face, making it frightening in its vagueness, like something glimpsed out of the corner of the eye. The characters are as real as any people I have known (perhaps more real than some, come to think of it), and the power of deception and fear is explored with a restrained touch. I guzzled this book over the course of two days: it’s fast, absorbing and altogether fantastic.

There are still two months of winter to go, and that means a lot more reading from me. Yes ma’am, yes sir.

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