Less by Andrew Sean Greer
Less is a delightfully funny and poignant novel centred around protagonist Arthur Less. Self-doubting and hence very relatable, failed novelist Less embarks on a round-the-world trip in order to avoid having to attend an ex’s wedding as he nears his fiftieth Birthday. This leads to all kinds of silly adventures. I particularly enjoyed Less’s time in Germany due to his imperfect command of the German language. A series of hilarious faux-pas and misunderstandings are the result.
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
This is such a masterfully constructed novel. A slim book, you nonetheless get to know the protagonist Tony as a schoolboy and as a retiree, all narrated by a retired Tony. In part one, Tony tells his story as he has been telling it to himself his whole life. In part two, Tony is forced to reconsider everything he thought was true about his past, leading to a startling conclusion. This book certainly gives weight to the old adage that things are not always what they seem.
- The songs of trees from ABC RN’s Conversations – have you ever thought about the noises trees make? I hadn’t, making this podcast an incredible eye opener. The interviewee records the songs of trees, an activity which requires incredible mindfulness and attention to detail. The results are recordings which inspire awe at the wonder of nature and a greater mindfulness moving forward of the sounds made by non-sentient but very alive parts of the environment.
- Julia Baird on finding shards of light in dark times from ABC RN’s Conversations – this podcast is full of the wisdom you get from enduring a personal crisis, or in Julia’s case crises (a relationship breakdown and cancer). This is about finding moments of hope and awe even when things seem hopeless. A very timely podcast.
- Hugh Mackay on building community in a crisis from ABC RN’s Conversations – after six decades of social research in Australia, Hugh is one of the best people to hear discuss the current crisis. It is also a great insight into living through the COVID-19 pandemic as someone in their 80s.
Episode six of this six-part series made me absolutely bawl. Based on true stories (including the story of Cornelia Rau, an Australian permanent resident who was unlawfully detained in an immigration detention centre) and set in an Australian immigration detention centre, this is a heart-wrenching series which highlights the immense cruelty and heartlessness of Australia’s asylum seeker policy. I don’t recommend watching this if you’re feeling emotionally tender, but if you are up to it please do watch it. It is absolutely amazing, it really is. And it features an all-star cast including Cate Blanchett, Asher Keddie and more.
Two episodes in to its second season, Mystery Road is as gripping as ever. This is a show packed with Indigenous talent, from lead actor Aaron Pedersen to directors Warwick Thornton and Wayne Blair. In season two, the inscrutable Detective Jay Swan (played by Pedersen), takes on a grisly new case in the coastal community of Gideon, where a headless body is found washed up in the mangroves by a fisherman. Racial tensions and outright racism, drugs, toxic masculinity – the narrative explores all these themes and more.
Nothing particularly major is able to happen at the moment. There are no big outings, weekends away or any of the things I thought I might do in my new home. So there is not really an event I can call up as my favourite event of the month. Instead, there are several things which I have relished over the course of April:
- My new Saturday morning routine of doing a crossword via Skype with Mum and Dad while we all have a cup of tea or coffee and a bite to eat. This is a great way to catch up and continues a routine we shared when I lived at home.
- Running into (not literally of course, not allowed with physical distancing rules) people I know around Hobart. People told me this was a sign of becoming integrated into the Hobart community and it started happening regularly during April. Some young people who have grown up in Hobart despise this aspect of their home town as it means they can never escape the eyes of their Mum’s friend or family dentist, but for me it’s a a really positive sign that I am starting to form networks here and starting to really make this my home.
- Long phone/video calls with friends back in Melbourne. It has been super lovely to see and/or hear my friends who I now haven’t seen for a few months and am missing quite a bit because they are all such wonderful, special people. But spending an hour or two on a call with them is helping to satiate my desire to see them.
- Walks in my local area. I am gradually pounding the pavement of every street and track within an hour or so’s walking distance of my place. I am discovering dead end roads, beautiful gardens and tranquil patches of bushland all within a close radius of my house, all the while looking for wildlife, breathing in the fresh air and having basic but lovely interactions with others who I meet in my travels by foot.
- Regular yoga practice. Being forced to largely remain at home on weekends (aside from trips to the shops or walking) has encouraged me to go deeper into my yoga practice. Strangely enough, I am often not that keen to start a yoga session but once I’m into it, I find it very rewarding, giving me the confidence that it’s worth pushing myself to do it again and again.
Love, hope and peace from Emma.