This is a first novel, by an old friend: a romance, a family saga, and a story about friendship, centred on the Clarke family of Twin Pines farm and tThis is a first novel, by an old friend: a romance, a family saga, and a story about friendship, centred on the Clarke family of Twin Pines farm and their lives, loves and tragedies over the years. It is a first novel, and self-published through Amazon Digital Services, so it could do with a polish and maybe an edit, but with that said, I was impressed.
The two main characters, Paul and Joanne, begin the story miles apart - geographically and socially. In fact, they don't meet until a good way into the book. But by then, we have come to know each of them so well that their meeting is thick with meaning and significance. Both have experienced tragedy and pain: Paul's family history is weighed down with dark secrets and violence, and the cycle threatens to repeat itself in his own unhappy youthful marriage. In contrast, Joanne's life seems on the surface to be blessed with privilege and success, but in reality is emotionally bleak, until even the superficial gloss collapses and she is left with almost nothing.
The most powerful part of the novel involves Joanne's friendship with Sandy, a wild, ferociously independent young woman whose carefree life is abruptly turned upside down. Their friendship is compelling and the painful emotional journey they share felt raw and real, moving me to tears more than once. Sandy is the catalyst who transforms the lives of those around her; but she is also a frightened, angry, believable human being struggling to deal with the harsh cards she's been dealt. It's heartfelt stuff, and for me it formed the emotional core of the story.
Thankfully, amid all this tragedy and intensity, there are also plenty of likable characters, acts of kindness and decency, and of course a simmering love story. Another aspect I particularly enjoyed was the novel's rich, affectionate portrait of farming life (and, later, of the Waiheke vineyards). The practical details of farming, fishing, boats and restaurants all form part of this patchwork quilt; physical work is enjoyed and celebrated, landscapes are explored. At its best, Carlton's writing brings the intimate texture of the characters' lives to life through these prosaic everyday details.
So, if you enjoy the romance and/or family saga genres (and don't mind a few rough edges and the odd typo), I recommend you give The Quilt a try. And I'm looking forward to more from Rochelle Carlton....more
To my surprise, this is one of my favourite versions of D&D ever. A consolidation of all that's come before, rather than a radical departure. BeauTo my surprise, this is one of my favourite versions of D&D ever. A consolidation of all that's come before, rather than a radical departure. Beautifully done....more
"Outside in the city, traffic lights changed colours, casting quick spells of prohibition and release."
aTwo lines to demonstrate why I love this book:
"Outside in the city, traffic lights changed colours, casting quick spells of prohibition and release."
"Given the chance to be cruel did you get cruelty out of your system by acting on the chance, or did you invite it in?"
This book is beautifully written, but more importantly it is smart, wise, thoughtful, morally complex and intensely human. As a bonus (although really this is central to the novel), it's also shot through with a powerful sexuality; the sly, ambiguous, difficult pull and tug of emerging adolescent desire. The Changeover in this story has many resonances, and the transition to adulthood is a significant one. Mahy - as always - explores it with a touch of gleeful wickedness, without simplistic judgement, and with great unsentimental kindness.
There is plenty of the supernatural in The Changeover, but as Sorry Carlisle says of himself at one point, sometimes "super-natural" means especially natural (rather than outside it). Mahy's characters are strange and unreal, but in ways we recognise.
Was clearly written quickly and occasionally feels a bit rushed, but all that is quite understandable. Full of fascinating detail and taken as a wholeWas clearly written quickly and occasionally feels a bit rushed, but all that is quite understandable. Full of fascinating detail and taken as a whole pulls back the curtain to reveal some of the seedier back alleys of NZ politics. More than anything, I hope plenty of National Party supporters read it - especially those people I know personally, who would be appalled by what is going on. Even the tone of the emails and discussions revealed would be enough to outrage many, not to mention the realisation that some of our own local MPs got into parliament partly through the underhanded efforts of people like Simon Lusk and Cameron Slater. The chapter that shifted my reaction from curiosity to deep fury was the section on corporate lobbyists' involvement with and funding of the right wing attack blogs - which amounts to significant amounts of money, ghost writing of posts and even extensive commenting under assumed names. Realising how much time, money and effort is going into covert manipulation of online discussion by corporate interests and very nasty right wing professional political "consultants" left me utterly appalled. The specific revelations of deception and unethical behaviour by members of the current government are, of course, damning and well documented, and important. But the book is well worth reading aside from all that, as an insight into some of the toxic elements at work in our political landscape. The same people, ideologies and tactics appear again and again in NZ politics over the last 10-20 years, and if we don't want them to weaken our democracy and turn NZ into a copy of America's corrupt and broken system, we need to recognise and understand what they are and how they work. This book is essential reading....more
I want to give this 6 stars. Easily the best thing I've read so far on the politics of pornography - and it's about so much more as well. It's a smartI want to give this 6 stars. Easily the best thing I've read so far on the politics of pornography - and it's about so much more as well. It's a smart, nuanced exploration of both the power and fear of erotic fantasy in contemporary society:
"This book means to offer a different footing for debates about pornography. Its position is that the differences between pornography and other forms of culture are less meaningful than their similarities. Pornography is a form of cultural expression, and though it's transgressive, disruptive, and hits below the belt - in more ways than one - it's an essential form of contemporary national culture. It's also a genre devoted to fantasy, and its fantasies traverse a range of motifs beyond the strictly sexual. Sex is pornography's vehicle, and also its mode of distraction, but coursing through pornography's dimly lit corridors are far larger issues. Abandon your prejudices about what kind of language is appropriate to serious philosophical inquiry, and you can see that within the staged, mythic world of pornography a number of philosophical questions are posed, though couched in a low idiom: questions concerning the social compact and the price of repression, questions about what men are (and aren't), what women are (and aren't), questions about how sexuality and gender roles are performed, about class, aesthetics, utopia, rebellion, power, desire, and commodification."
Through close readings of pornographic magazines, films and texts - from Hustler to Guys in Gowns,Jumbo Jezebel, and Strictly Spanking, and regular digressions into cultural theory, anthropology, psychoanalytic theory and politics, politics, politics, Kipnis draws out some of those questions and shines a fresh light on what underlies our fascination with and fear of pornography.
The opening chapter is a harrowing account of how Daniel DePew, a young man involved in the gay S&M scene, ended up imprisoned for 33 years in a case "permeated at all levels" with fantasy. This chapter is confronting, disturbing and demonstrates how high the stakes go when considering the morality, legality and political acceptability of erotic fantasy. It also introduces certain themes and ideas that will resonate throughout the following chapters, which explore various pornographic subcultures, ideas of taste and aesthetics, body politics, gender, class and social hierarchy.
In addressing anti-porn campaigns, Kipnis sidesteps the usual pro- and anti- rhetorical strategies and instead explores the cultural, historical and political contexts in which such campaigns take place, teasing out obsessions with purity and pollution, innocence and corruption, gender identity and transgression, class hierarchies and propriety, taste and disgust that inform them. In the process, she takes such campaigns - and their rhetorical strategies - apart far more effectively than anything else I've read.
In the end, it's hard to dispute her argument that even offensive pornography can be worthy of serious (non-censorial) attention:
"Despite whatever chagrin it may induce, offended parties (male and female) might want to reconceptualize pornography's offenses as a form of social knowledge. These offenses have eloquence. They have social meaning."
Reading this book 18 years after it was first published, I found myself thinking its relevance has grown, as debates about the destructive (or not) effects of pornography have spread to encompass all of popular culture. Arguments about sexualisation, misogyny, violence, racism and offensive or upsetting content rage across social media, the news media and academia. I myself have felt and expressed deep concerns over all of these things in the context of the comics industry, and I'm sure I'll continue to be involved in those conversations. But Kipnis' analysis forces me to think more deeply about what underlies my concerns, what really bothers me about certain narratives and fantasies, and whether even deeply offensive fantasies can have social and personal value:
"Preserving an enclave for fantasy is an important political project for the following reason: pornography provides a forum to engage with a realm of contents and materials exiled from public view and from the dominant culture, and this may indeed encompass unacceptable, improper, transgressive contents, including, at times, staples of the unconscious like violence, misogyny, or racism. But at the same time, within this realm of transgression, there's the freedom, displaced from the social world of limits and proprieties, to indulge in a range of longings and desires without regard to the appropriateness and propriety of those desires, and without regard to social limits on resources, object choices, perversity, or on the anarchy of the imagination."
It's a testament to the power of Bound and Gagged that it not only confirms and enriches views I already held (about the anti-porn movement, for example), it also disrupts political positions in which I had felt quite secure. I'll be thinking about this book for a long time (I read a library copy, but now I'm going to have to buy my own, so I can re-read it with plenty of underlining and marginal notes).