lip reading: july 2016
About thirty seconds of googling will turn up innumerable think pieces that proclaim the end of the novel or lament the decline of the reading public. Yet print book sales are happily on the rise again and even non-readers can get their narrative fix in the form of recent film adaptations. Despite the distractions of the digital age, books hold as much cultural relevance as ever.
As the year ticks past halfway, and perhaps a few New Year’s reading resolutions have begun to slide, we’d like to introduce you to Lip Reading—a new column about the books in our lives. Each month, you’ll hear from a few Lip staff and writers about our current reading preoccupations. We hope the column will provide some worthy recommendations for the time-poor reader (as well as an incentive for us to read more!).
— Donna Lu, Books & Literature Editor
This month, I’m reading Joe Cinque’s Consolation by acclaimed Australian author Helen Garner. The book is about the death of the titular Cinque whose girlfriend, Anu Singh, killed him with a lethal dose of heroin in 1997, after drugging him by putting Rohypnol in his coffee. Beyond describing the trials of Singh and her friend Madhavi Rao, Garner goes deeper to examine the miscarriage of justice and how Cinque’s family deals with their grief, as well as society’s perceptions of duty of care and ethics in the eyes of the law.
While writing during the trials, Garner was looking for an angle to take to bind the book together, and in the end decided that it could be Cinque’s ‘consolation’ that he did not receive from the justice system. Reading it makes me feel like I’m perched on this wave of overwhelming emotion about to crash. Highly recommended for those interested in Australian true crime, along with those wanting a read on how we as a society view justice, particularly with women.
The book I enjoyed most this month was The Taliban Shuffle by Kim Barker, an account of the years Barker spent as a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Barker’s book is both insightful and laugh-out-loud funny—no mean feat when covering subject matter like suicide bombing and the political failures of the US-led invasion.
Since its 2011 publication, the memoir slash war travelogue has been adapted into the Tina Fey movie Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, which is how I first discovered it. Funnily enough, Michiko Kakutani, the New York Time’s doyenne of literary criticism, may have single-handedly enabled that adaptation. In a book review that predates the film by five years, Kakutani writes that Barker ‘depicts herself as a sort of Tina Fey character’—Fey then read that review, and the rest is herstory.