Read The Unknown Terrorist by Richard Flanagan

From the winner of the Man Booker Prize. What would you do if you turned on the television and saw you were the most wanted terrorist in the country?

After spending a night with an attractive stranger, Gina Davies becomes a prime suspect in an attempted terrorist attack. When police find three unexploded bombs at a stadium, Gina goes on the run and witnesses every truth of her life turned into a betrayal.

A devastating picture of a world where the ceaseless drumbeat of terror alerts, news breaks, and fear of the unknown push one woman ever closer to breaking point, The Unknown Terrorist is a novel that with each passing year seems more relevant and more prophetic.

https://www.penguin.com.au/books/the-unknown-terrorist-9781761048173


The Unknown Terrorist, the fourth novel by the Australian novelist Richard Flanagan, tells the story of Gina ‘Doll’ Davies, a stripper who becomes embroiled in a terrorist plot. The various elements of her life, whether it be not having a bank account or the job that she chooses to do, mean that she is made the scapegoat for a terrorist threat.

I wrote a longer reflection here.

Continue reading “📚 The Unknown Terrorist (Richard Flanagan)”

Read Lola In The Mirror by SupaduDevSupaduDev

A girl and her mother have been on the run for sixteen years, from police and the monster they left in their kitchen with a knife in his throat. They’ve found themselves a home inside a van with four flat tyres parked in a scrapyard by the edge of the Brisbane River.

The girl has no name because names are dangerous when you’re on the run. But the girl has a dream. A vision of a life as an artist of international acclaim. A life outside the grip of the Brisbane underworld drug queen ‘Lady’ Flora Box. A life of love with the boy who’s waiting for her on the bridge that stretches across a flooding, deadly river. A life beyond the bullet that has her name on it. And now that the storm clouds are rising, there’s only one person who can help make her dreams come true. That person is Lola and she carries all the answers. But to find Lola, the girl with no name must first do one of the hardest things we can ever do. She must look in the mirror.

https://www.harpercollins.com.au/9781460759837/lola-in-the-mirror

I wrote a longer review here.

Marginalia

Mr and Mrs Finlay

France has the Mona Lisa. Egypt has the pyramids. Queensland has Moreton Bay bugs.

Santa Claus with Sore Head

Nothing. Not a single acknowledgement. And that makes perfect sense. For I do not exist. For I am nobody. For I am nothing. But then, truth be blurted, there’s power in being nobody. When you’re nobody, you are free to be anybody. Astronaut. Actress. Archaeologist. Or even a lowdown, dirty, send-her-straight-to-hell, suburban drug-slinger. Because if nobody can see you, then nobody can see your shame. Nobody can see your sorrow. And nobody can catch you crying your heart out.

Things That Go Bump in the Night

‘Her name is Phoebe Gould,’ Topping says. ‘Phoebe is the woman who wants to tell you who you really are. She’s asked to be the one who tells you everything. She’s convinced the story will be easier to . . . digest . . . if it comes from her. We tend to agree,’ he continues, ‘but we’re gonna play it how you wanna play it.’
‘It’s that bad, huh?’ I ask.
Millar leans forward at the desk. ‘It will be a difficult story for you to hear,’ he says.
‘I can handle difficult.’
‘Maybe difficult isn’t the right word,’ Millar says.
‘What’s a better word for it, Cameron?’ I ask. ‘Traumatising? Brutal? Impossible? Unbelievable? If it’s any of those, don’t sweat it. I can swallow any of those.’
He nods. Tucks his right thumb inside his fist and squeezes it three times.
‘Sad,’ Topping says. ‘Sad is the word for it.’
‘You must see a bit of it.’
‘What?’
‘Sad.’
‘Yeah,’ he says. ‘I see a bit of it. Too much.’
‘I’m sorry to add to the pile.’
He shakes his head. ‘I’m sorry you’ll have to hear such a sad story.’
‘How sad is it?’
‘Might be the saddest story I’ve ever heard. That’s why I’m not sure you should hear it from us.’

The Hunter and the Prey

Dark rooms are good for dreaming when you’re awake

Nothing real to be seen in darkness, she said, and nothing real to see you. You can be invisible down here. When you’re invisible, you’re no one. When you’re no one, you can be anyone.

‘I told you,’ Lola says, ‘your past is an unimaginable horror show of tragedy and intrigue. But, please remember this, the past has nothing to do with who you are. And the past has nothing to do with who you will be.’

The mirror was never magic,’ Lola says.
‘It wasn’t?’
‘Of course it wasn’t. Magic mirrors don’t exist.’
‘Then how come I can see you now?’
‘Because you are magic,’ Lola says. ‘You’ve always been magic. You’ve never needed a mirror to see who you are.’

Who Are You?

I am love. I am forgiveness. I am memory. I am misfortune. I am pain. I am art. I am friendship. I am family. I am sorrow. I am hate. I am rage. I am beauty. I am wonder. I am ink. I am blood. I am learning. I am longing. I am action. I am courage. I am laughter. I am joy. I am gratitude. I am fire. I am water. I am dirt. I am past. I am future. I am fate. I am taken. I am lost. I am returned. I am found. I am heard. I am seen. I am home. I am here.

Read https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cat%27s_Cradle

Cat’s Cradle is a satirical postmodern novel, with science fiction elements, by American writer Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut’s fourth novel, it was first published in 1963, exploring and satirizing issues of science, technology, the purpose of religion, and the arms race, often through the use of morbid humor.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cat%27s_Cradle

I had never read any of Kurt Vonnegut’s work and had little idea of what to expect. I could tell you that he wrote Slaughter House Five, but have no knowledge what the novel is about. I was watching The Deadliest Infectious Disease of All Time | Crash Course Lecture and John Green referenced a poem from Cat’s Cradle.

“Don’t try,” he said. “Just pretend you understand.”

“That’s—that’s very good advice,” I went limp.

Castle quoted another poem:

Tiger got to hunt,

Bird got to fly;

Man got to sit and wonder, “Why, why, why?”

Tiger got to sleep,

Bird got to land;

Man got to tell himself he understand.

This led me to the library and borrowing the book.

The book traces the narrator’s effort to write a book about the day of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. This leads him (and us) down one rabbit hole after another, from Felix Hoenikker’s creation of ‘ice-nine’, the island of San Lorenzo, Bokononism and the destruction of the world where all the world’s oceans are turned to ice.

There is so much to take in with Cat’s Cradle, whether it be the science, the absurdity and the modern world. Some novels capture their time, while others send messages that linger on. I had to check when it was written (1963) as so much of it still seemed relevant, especially working on a complex project. I now respond to colleagues about my work with ‘Busy, busy, busy’.

Had I been a Bokononist then, pondering the miraculously intricate chain of events that had brought dynamite money to that particular tombstone company, I might have whispered, “Busy, busy, busy.”

Busy, busy, busy, is what we Bokononists whisper whenever we think of how complicated and unpredictable the machinery of life really is.

But all I could say as a Christian then was, “Life is sure funny sometimes.”

It is much better than talking about magic.

Vonnegut has explained the short chapters as a ‘mosaic of tiny jokes’:

Cat’s Cradle, despite its relatively short length, contains 127 discrete chapters, some of which are verses from the Book of Bokonon. Vonnegut himself claimed that his books “are essentially mosaics made up of a whole bunch of tiny little chips… and each chip is a joke.”[1]

Cat’s Cradle by Wikipedia

Alternatively, Kleon claims Vonnegut wrote ‘everything for his sister’:

Vonnegut said that in hindsight he realized that he wrote everything he wrote for his sister, just trying to make her laugh…

Be a Good Date by Austin Kleon

The fear I had was that the greatest joke in the end was us as a reader in taking the world so seriously at times?

Stylistically, the way in which the narrator incidentally unpacks Bokononism reminded me of the creative way in which Thomas More explores Utopia. I was also left wondering whether I am missing the modern humourist in my reading, as I would place Vonnegut along side other modern authors, such as Paul Auster, Thomas Pynchon and Joseph Heller. To me they all encapsulates the saying, “Cartoon descriptions? How else to describe a cartoon world?” However, someone else made the case to me that the best way to explain these authors is drugs. Think I will stick to cartoon descriptions.

In the end, I feel that Cat’s Cradle is one of those books that I could come back to again and again and get something different each time as it is so overloaded with information that we can never quite understand everything all at once. Of course this is the case with all readings, but I feel Vonnegut makes us strangely aware of this.

Marginalia

THE MOST VALUABLE COMMODITY ON EARTH

It isn’t looking for a better cigarette filter or a softer face tissue or a longer-lasting house paint, God help us. Everybody talks about research and practically nobody in this country’s doing it.

DYNAMITE MONEY

Had I been a Bokononist then, pondering the miraculously intricate chain of events that had brought dynamite money to that particular tombstone company, I might have whispered, “Busy, busy, busy.”

Busy, busy, busy, is what we Bokononists whisper whenever we think of how complicated and unpredictable the machinery of life really is.

But all I could say as a Christian then was, “Life is sure funny sometimes.”

MEOW

My second wife had left me on the grounds that I was too pessimistic for an optimist to live with.

THE BOKONONIST METHOD FOR HANDLING CAESAR

There was a quotation from The Books of Bokonon on the page before me. Those words leapt from the page and into my mind, and they were welcomed there.
The words were a paraphrase of the suggestion by Jesus: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s.”
Bokonon’s paraphrase was this:
“Pay no attention to Caesar. Caesar doesn’t have the slightest idea what’s really going on.”

A BIG MOSAIC

You’ll forget it when you’re dead, and so will I. When I’m dead, I’m going to forget everything—and I advise you to do the same.”
“Has she been posing for this or are you working from photographs or what?”
“I’m working from or what.”
“What?”
“I’m working from or what.” He tapped his temple. “It’s all in this enviable head of mine.”

RING OF STEEL

Truth was the enemy of the people, because the truth was so terrible, so Bokonon made it his business to provide the people with better and better lies.”

A WHITE BRIDE FOR THE SON OF A PULLMAN PORTER

“Don’t try,” he said. “Just pretend you understand.”
“That’s—that’s very good advice,” I went limp.
Castle quoted another poem:
Tiger got to hunt,
Bird got to fly;
Man got to sit and wonder, “Why, why, why?”
Tiger got to sleep,
Bird got to land;
Man got to tell himself he understand.

Read The Midnight Zoo

The Midnight Zoo is a 2010 novel by Sonya Hartnett. It was first published on 1 November 2010 in Australia and was then released in the United States a year later. It follows the story of two gypsy boys that find an abandoned zoo after fleeing a traditional celebration. The novella has gained critical praise for its “lyrical” prose and for the illustrations in the United States version, done by artist Andrea Offermann.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Midnight_Zoo

The Midnight Zoo, a zoo of talking animals taken out of their original habitat, but left unattended after an invading army takes the owner away. Three Romany children, Andrej, 12, his brother Tomas, 9, and baby sister Wilma, stumble upon the zoo while escaping the soldiers. The rest of the novel occurs over one night, exploring ideas of freedom and responsibility. All in all, Sonya Hartnett is the children’s author for children who want things a little different.

Marginalia

Alex Baugh provides an interesting commentary on the ending:

Hartnett does not spare the reader any of the horrors of war in her descriptions.  Knowing this, when I came to the end of the novel, I didn’t not see it as hopeful or life affirming.  At the end, when the figure of a woman in a dark cape appears, the children and animals see who they want to see, someone they believe will take care of them.   For Tomas, she is his mother, for Andrej, she is Saint Sarah, patron saint of the Romany; for the animals, she is Alice.   And when I thought back on the sentence “They had journeyed to the final edge of life beyond which there were no walls,”(pg 214) my initial reaction was that the planes had returned with their bombs and it was the moment of death when the woman called the children come and eagle prepares to fly, but it was also the moment when they have found true freedom in death.

The Midnight Zoo by Sonya Hartnett, illustrated by Andrea Offermann by Alex Baugh

Note, Dr Pam Macintyre has created a useful teaching resources associated with the text.

Read https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Picnic_at_Hanging_Rock_(novel)

Picnic at Hanging Rock is an Australian historical fiction novel by Joan Lindsay. The novel, set in 1900, is about a group of female students at an Australian girls’ boarding school who vanish at Hanging Rock while on a Valentine’s Day picnic, and the effects the disappearances have on the school and local community. The novel was first published in 1967 in Australia by Cheshire Publishing and was reprinted by Penguin in 1975. It is widely considered by critics to be one of the greatest Australian novels. In 2022, it was included on the “Big Jubilee Read” list of 70 books by Commonwealth authors, selected to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee of Elizabeth II.[1]

Picnic at Hanging Rock (novel) by Wikipedia

I remember watching Peter Weir’s The Picnic at Hanging Rock, well I definitely can recall the girls and the soundtrack, but what surprised me was how little of Joan Lindsay’s story the picnic actually takes up. It is a fascinating story that unravels as it goes on. Romy Ash touches on the dream-like element to the narrative.

Picnic at Hanging Rock was written quickly, after Lindsay had a particularly vivid dream, and it’s a dream state that permeates the narrative. The characters fall in and out of sleep, daydreaming in a way that suggests they may have woken up in a different reality. We see this just before the girls disappear.

On the Unpublished Ending of Picnic at Hanging Rock, and Other Mysteries by Romy Ash

I wonder if the story would have had the same impact if the final chapter with the girls travelling through a ‘hole in space’ had not been removed?

“Stan Grant” in REVIEW: Australia Day (Stan Grant) – Read Write Respond ()

Read https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fight_Club_(novel)

Fight Club is a 1996 novel by Chuck Palahniuk. It follows the experiences of an unnamed protagonist struggling with insomnia. The protagonist finds relief by impersonating a seriously ill person in several support groups, after his doctor remarks that insomnia is not “real suffering” and that he should find out what it is really like to suffer. The protagonist then meets a mysterious man named Tyler Durden and establishes an underground fighting club as radical psychotherapy.

Fight Club (novel) by Wikipedia


Imagine if Joseph Conrad’s Kurtz was your split personality? While instead of becoming the police after their time as ‘droogs’ as is the case with A Clockwork Orange the nihilists are the police. This is the world that Chuck Palahniuk brings us into. Just as we might say that everything, whether it be our jobs, IKEA furniture, cinema, colonisation of space, is *political* , the question I feel Fight Club grapples with is what is life beyond all this?

Marginalia

Chapter 1

We have sort of a triangle thing going here. I want Tyler. Tyler wants Marla. Marla wants me.

I don’t want Marla, and Tyler doesn’t want me around, not anymore. This isn’t about love as in caring. This is about property as in ownership.

Chapter 4

The people I know who used to sit in the bathroom with pornography, now they sit in the bathroom with their IKEA furniture catalogue.

Chapter 5

I just don’t want to die without a few scars, I say.

It used to be enough that when I came home angry and knowing that my life wasn’t toeing my fiveyear plan, I could clean my condominium or detail my car. Someday I’d be dead without a scar and there would be a really nice condo and car. Really, really nice, until the dust settled or the next owner. Nothing is static. Even the Mona Lira is falling apart. Since fight club, I can wiggle half the teeth in my jaw.

There’s grunting and noise at fight club like at the gym, but fight club isn’t about looking good. There’s hysterical shouting in tongues like at church, and when you wake up Sunday afternoon you feel saved.

Chapter 10

Me, when I go to the beach, I always sit with my right foot tucked under me. Australia and New Zealand, or I keep it buried in the sand. My fear is that people will see my foot and I’ll start to die in their minds. The cancer I don’t have is everywhere now. I don’t tell Marla that.

Chapter 11

I tell the detective, no, I did not leave the gas on and then leave town. I loved my life. I loved that condo. I loved every stick of furniture
That was my whole life. Everything, the lamps, the chairs, the rugs were me. The dishes in the cabinets were me. The plants were me. The television was me. It was me that blew up. Couldn’t he see that?

Chapter 13

For thousands of years, human beings had screwed up and trashed and crapped on this planet, and now history expected me to clean up after everyone. I have to wash out and flatten my soup cans. And account for every drop of used motor oil.
And I have to foot the bill for nuclear waste and buried gasoline tanks and landfilled toxic sludge dumped a generation before I was born.

“Recycling and speed limits are bullshit,” Tyler said. “They’re like someone who quits smoking on his deathbed.”

Chapter 15

The mechanic says, “If you’re male and you’re Christian and living in America, your father is your model for God. And if you never know your father, if your father bails out or dies oris never at home, what do you believe about God?”
This is all Tyler Durden dogma. Scrawled on bits of paper while I was asleep and given to me to type and photocopy at work. I’ve read it all. Even my boss has probably read it all.
“What you end up doing,” the mechanic says, “is you spend your life searching for a father and God.”
“What you have to consider,” he says, “is the possibility that God doesn’t like you. Could be, God hates us. This is not the worst thing that can happen.”
How Tyler saw it was that getting God’s attention for being bad was better than getting no attention at all. Maybe because God’s hate
better than His indifference.

My tiny life. My little shit job. My Swedish furniture. I never, no, never told anyone this, but before I met Tyler, I was planning to buy a dog and name it “Entourage.”

Chapter 18

If you can wake up in a different place. If you can wake up in a different time. Why can’t you wake up as a different person?

Chapter 19

You’ve got to find Tyler.
You’ve got to get some sleep.
Then you’re awake, and Tyler’s standing in the dark next to the bed.

“Every time you fall asleep,” Tyler says, “I run off and do something wild, something crazy, something completely out of my mind.”

We both use the same body, but at different times.

“Remember this,” Tyler said. “The people you’re trying to step on, we’re everyone you depend on. We’re the people who do your laundry and cook your food and serve your dinner. We make your bed. We guard you while you’re asleep. We drive the ambulances. We direct your call. We are cooks and taxi drivers and we know everything about you. We process your insurance claims and credit card charges. We control every part of your life.
“We are the middle children of history, raised by television to believe that someday we’ll be millionaires and movie stars and rock stars, but we won’t. And we’re just learning this fact,” Tyler said. “So don’t fuck with us.”

I was here first.
Tyler says, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, well let’s just see who’s here last.”
This isn’t real. This is a dream, and I’ll wake up.
“Then wake up.”
And then the telephone’s ringing, and Tyler’s gone.

Chapter 20

This way, when deepspace exploitation ramps up, it will probably be the megatonic corporations that discover all the new planets and map them.
The IBM Stellar Sphere.
The Philip Morris Galaxy.
Planet Denny’s.
Every planet will take on the corporate identity of whoever rapes it first.
Budweiser World.

Chapter 21

Only in death will we have our own names since only in death are we no longer part of the effort. In death we become heroes.
And the crowds yell, “Robert Paulson.”

Read A Clockwork Orange – The International Anthony Burgess Foundation

A Clockwork Orange is a dystopian satirical black comedy novella by English writer Anthony Burgess, published in 1962. It is set in a near-future society that has a youth subculture of extreme violence. The teenage protagonist, Alex, narrates his violent exploits and his experiences with state authorities intent on reforming him.[1] The book is partially written in a Russian-influenced argot called “Nadsat“, which takes its name from the Russian suffix that is equivalent to ‘-teen’ in English.[2] According to Burgess, the novel was a jeu d’esprit written in just three weeks.

A Clockwork Orange (Novel) by Wikipedia


Although I saw A Clockwork Orange years ago, I had never read Burgess’ book. I was intrigued by the two versions, US and British. Although I agreed with leaving off the ‘final chapter’ of Picnic at Hanging Rock where Lindsay explained what happened with the girls travelling through a hole in space, I am not sure if I missed something, but I thought that original version where the book ends with the narrator settling down asked more questions than ending with . It all makes me appreciate the achievement of Stanley Kubrick more and more.

There are so many aspects to reflect upon, whether it be the classical music, the violence, the aversion therapy, the use of language.

Upon its release, A Clockwork Orange received mixed reviews. While some complained about its violence and language, others noted that the novel raised important ethical questions, such as whether it is better for a person to decide to be bad than to be forced to be good and if forcibly suppressing free will is acceptable.

A Clockwork Orange by Britannica

Marginalia

But, brothers, this biting of their toe-nails over what is the cause of badness is what turns me into a fine laughing malchick. They don’t go into what is the cause of goodness, so why of the other shop? If lewdies are good that’s because they like it, and I wouldn’t ever interfere with their pleasures, and so of the other shop. And I was patronizing the other shop. More, badness is of the self, the one, the you or me on our oddy knockies, and that self is made by old Bog or God and is his great pride and radosty. But the not-self cannot have the bad, meaning they of the government and the judges and the schools cannot allow the bad because they cannot allow the self. And is not our modern history, my brothers, the story of brave malenky selves fighting these big machines? I am serious with you, brothers, over this. But what I do I do because I like to do.

Bookmarked https://www.theredhandfiles.com/how-do-you-reconcile-your-faith/ (theredhandfiles.com)

Our lives are complicated and we all think and do things that are often unfathomable to one another, but we do so because we live our experiences and find our truths in different places. To my considerable surprise, I have found some of my truths in that wholly fallible, often disappointing, deeply weird, and thoroughly human institution of the Church. At times, this is as bewildering to me as it may be to you.

In the end I suspect that it is within the music that we will all find one another.

Source: The Red Hand Files #280 by Nick Cave

Nick Cave on the importance of the artist being honest to themselves and finding each other in the music.

Watched Love in Bright Landscapes: The Story of David McComb of the Triffids by Contributors to Wikimedia projects from Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

Love in Bright Landscapes: The Story of David McComb of the Triffids is a feature-length documentary, depicting the life and times of late Australian songwriter David McComb (February 17, 1962 – February 2, 1999) best known for his work with the Triffids, a band he co-founded in Perth, Western Australia. The Triffids were active between 1978 and 1990.

The film was the directorial debut of Melbourne-based writer/broadcaster Jonathan Alley, who also wrote the documentary screenplay. The film was produced by Atticus Media and The Acme Film Company and distributed in the Australian/New Zealand territory by Label Distribution.

The title Love in Bright Landscapes refers both to the Triffids’ compilation of the same name, released in 1986, and the poem by Spanish literary figure Rafael Alberti, who published The Coming Back of Love in Bright Landscapes] in 1973.[1]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_in_Bright_Landscapes:_The_Story_of_David_McComb_of_the_Triffids

I had watched Great Australian Albums episode on Born Sandy Devotional and listened to Kirsten Krauth’s Almost a Mirror episode on ‘Wide Open Road’, so I was aware of The Triffids story. However, what Jonathan Alley brought to the table with were some of the voices closest to David McComb. What was weird though about this was that by the time this documentary was released in 2021, how many of these voices were long past, a point made by Alley in the credits.

One aspect that I felt Alley made more light of was McComb’s life after ‘Born Sand Devotional’. I had not realised that the record company wanted to seemingly replace the band in the recording process for Calenture, their Island Records debut. It makes you wonder in this circumstance where David McComb stops and the band begins, a similar experience I had reading Love & Pain by Ben Gillies and Chris Joannou.

Another interesting aspect to this sort of documentary are the voices that are included and the subsequent ones that are excluded. For example, Bleddyn Butcher is not a part of the discussion. Maybe as he has his own book Save What You Can, then he did not feel the need to be involved or was not asked?