Sunday, 30 December 2012

Staff Picks - Best Books of 2012: Karma

The first of Susan Sontag’s collection of journals, Reborn, provides insightful fragments of a remarkable intellect. Beginning in 1949 from the perspective of a 16-year-old Sontag, the journals document a personal journey oscillating between subtle and sharp reflections of a woman who was becoming a cultural and intellectual icon. Between longer passages are lists, stray thoughts, and incomplete ideas, all charged with potential, with many forming the bases for future essays. From her youthful yet completely self-aware curiosities, to her emotional clarity in intellectualising her emotions and relationships, Reborn presents snapshots of a great mind exploring the potentialities of life.

The thing I like about Miranda July is her ability to stray beyond what is considered “normal” with a completely genuine eccentricity and matter-of-fact approach, which has the added result of making you feel completely together. Her 2005 book No One Belongs Here More Than You: Stories sums this feeling up perfectly. Her most recent book, It Chooses You, is a collection of short interviews accompanied by photographs. The process of creating the book has just as much appeal as the interviews themselves: July was procrastinating from writing a screenplay and instead took to replying to classifieds ads of people selling their everyday items. The book is a charming collection of interviews with the sellers about their objects and the meanings they hold to them, which does much to highlight our own stories about the objects we choose to keep and those we throw away.

Home/World: Space, Community and Marginality in Sydney’s West – Helen Grace, Ghassan Hage, Lesley Johnson, Julie Langsworth & Michael Symonds

A book with lingering relevance, Home/World presents themes found across all urban spaces: marginality, home, community, modernity, nature, and migration.  This collection of essays illuminates not only the ways in which Western Sydney has been negatively represented as a place of disadvantage and grim fates, but also presents rich, grounded reflections of home, community, and possibility. Home/World explores the contradictions, nuances, and ambivalences of feeling at “home” in a city with scattered thoughts on multiculturalism, national identity, and belonging. A very interesting read that lights up intellectual lightbulbs.

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