Women & Power: A Manifesto
Mary Beard

Philosophy 

An effective and incisive manifesto, Women & Power by Mary Beard once again underlines that clichéd notion that directs us to conclude, that in order to understand our present we must first understand the heralded acts of our past. Whilst Beard is known primarily as one of ‘Britain’s best known classicists’ and a promoter of our ancient forbears, she cedes most willingly that it is certainly time we reassessed the nature of the Greco-Roman societies; particularly the pedestal on which they currently stand as scholarly exemplars, and the role that women were forced to play within these historic frameworks.

Her piece draws upon – among many other examples – the gendered binaries of both Homer’s Odyssey, and Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, and notes the passive statuette of Homer’s domesticated Penelope (the private woman), and the idiotic portrayal of Aristophanes’ public servant Lysistrata (the public’s spokeswoman). Beard demonstrates the almost unbridgeable gap between these spheres, differentiates how these complex anxieties are undoubtedly caught up in how one regards auditory power, and demonstrates the need to understand these evolving issues with historic clarity when analysing current political and social norms. Whilst perhaps not the most wholistic or dynamic narration of the subject, this 100 page discourse nonetheless offers an amicable first glimpse to the individual looking over the precipice toward feminist literature.  For all genders, Women & Power offers an insight into the historic calamity which has been the oppression of the powerless by the powerful. Yet perhaps all clichés do not have to prove true; firstly, as exemplified by Mary Beard – the so-called ‘losers’ can indeed write effective history. Secondly, for those uncomfortable with the prospect of shared power (e.g. my disagreeable brothers in arms), for one to cede power to another does not make oneself powerless.

Profile Books 2017

 
The Secret Commonwealth - The Book of Dust Volume 2
Philip Pullman

The latest book in Philip Pullman’s epic series which began with the His Dark Materials trilogy, The Secret Commonwealth is set in the same parallel world where we first met Lyra and her dæmon, Pantalaimon. I re-read last year’s La Belle Sauvage, then the new book, and then the original books all over again, just to stay in this fictional universe a little longer. Its a world with many overlaps to our own and some differences, notably that a part of your consciousness is external to you in the form of an animal. It is immensely painful to be separated from your dæmon, and those who have been are viewed with fear and pity. It is one of the ways Pullman explores the idea of character and identity, an an irresistible concept if you’ve ever wondered what your spirit guide, anima or animus might be.  Dæmons are viewed as a possible manifestation of Dust, the mysterious substance flowing through the worlds in Lyra’s story. Although it began as a series for young people, this latest installment is years ahead and a lot more grown up, in much the same way the characters in the Harry Potter books grew with their readers. The Secret Commonwealth is almost bleak in parts, and the themes are dark and complicated. I felt that Lyra went through grueling punishment, especially the second part of the book where I winced through chapters of estrangement, sexual violence and a broken hand. I’ll be eager for volume three though, if only to see anything like a happy ending, or resolution to the story’s multitude of threads.

David Fickling Books / Penguin 2019

Pan's Labyrinth: The Labyrinth of the Faun
Guillermo del Toro and Cornelia Funke

fiction 

Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth is a personal favourite of mine.The strange parallels and thematic tessellations which accumulate throughout the film elegantly express the way that folktales haunt the worlds from which they spring. But how to make this rich texture yield to the page? Cornelia Funke, author of the Inkheart series, was apprehensive for this very reason when Del Toro approached her to author the novelisation. While the bulk of the narrative remains unchanged, Funke’s retelling captures both the childlike wonder and wartime terror which the film so skillfully blends. Funke’s writing softens some of the more frightening and gruesome moments, making it a bit more palatable for those who found the violence of the film a little overwhelming. Those familiar with the story will relish the vignettes detailing some of the concealed histories and myths which structure the original—from the opening paragraphs on Falangist Spain to the provenance of the Pale Man.

 

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In the midst of the Spanish Civil War, Ofélia and her pregnant mother, Carmen, travel to the countryside where the ruthless Captain Vidal—Ofelia’s new stepfather—is engaged in a guerilla war with Republican rebels. Ofélia is drawn to a labyrinth which lies at the edge of the forest, and which is home to a mischievous faun. There she learns that she is the long-lost Princess Moanna, daughter of the king of the underworld, and that in order to reclaim her birthright (and her memories) she must complete a series of tasks to prove that she has not become changed by her time in the human world. As the conflict intensifies and the tasks become increasingly difficult, the worlds of the fairytale and the war blend together, giving the reader pause to reflect on how the stories we tell about nations, the unknown, the other, and ourselves can have disturbing, beautiful, and bittersweet consequences.

Bloomsbury 2019

The Sheltering Sky
Paul Bowles

fiction

I’m hesitant to tick the ‘recommended’ box since this book is unusually, vividly bleak. it’s also considered a landmark piece of twentieth century literature. First published in 1949, it is set in a decimated postwar North Africa, through which Americans Port Moresby, his wife Kit and their friend Tunner move restlessly. Wealthy and aimless, they consider themselves travellers rather than tourists, with Port seeking some kind of defining philosophical experience in the remote Sahara. The precursor to the Beats, Bowles was apparently beset with hippies visiting his home in Tangiers in the hope of meeting a wise sage. He wrote the book in bed (a habit he adopted when freezing desert nights made it impossible to sit at a desk) dissolving writer’s block with liberal quantities of hashish.

I couldn’t find a single character with kindness or other redeeming qualities; the book is a relentlessly hostile description of the meaningless cruelties humans perpetrate on one another and our innate aloneness. Port and Kit are each punished for their wilfull ignorance and apathy. Some passages are a vertiginous deep dive into the horror of death. The writing shows its age by the startling racism and misogyny, branching off the deeper misanthropy.  Perhaps it is not the portrayal of people in the novel which is so upsetting but the creeping suspicion that Bowles might have seen through the artifice of polite society, and be right about us all.

Ecco Press / Harper Collins 2014 

No two persons ever read the same book.
Edmund Wilson

New Edition has been home to lovers of books for over 30 years. Established in Freo during the heady days of the America’s Cup, New Edition quickly became a local favourite. With its wide array of literary, art, poetry and non-fiction titles, it is widely considered one of Australia’s best independent bookshops. Regularly hosting author events and launches, New Edition is a vital part of Fremantle and Perth’s literary community.

Upcoming Events at New Edition

Billy Bragg in Conversation: The Three Dimensions of Freedom

Thursday 28th May 6:30 pm

billy-bragg-speakers-corner

— EVENT POSTPONED —

We still aim to have Billy Bragg visit, but with an indefinite delay. Possibly May, check in with us closer to the date!


Billy Bragg the English singer-songwriter and left-wing activist is coming to Fremantle and New Edition is excited to host an evening where Bragg talks about the importance of three dimensional freedom. At a time when opinion trumps facts and truth is treated as nothing more than another perspective, free speech has become a battleground. While authoritarians and algorithms threaten democracy, we argue over who has the right to speak. To protect ourselves from encroaching tyranny, we must look beyond this one-dimensional notion of what it means to be free and, by reconnecting liberty to equality and accountability, restore the individual agency engendered by the three dimensions of freedom.

Note: this is not a gig, Billy won’t be playing. Ticket price of $20 includes copy of the book.

Billy Bragg in Conversation TICKETS 

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41 High Street Fremantle
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(08) 9335 2383
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