How Antony Albanese changed his approach; and erotic queer romcom Astrid Parker doesn’t fail

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Meredith founded the Copeton Crochet Collective in hopes of gaining a circle of friends – a circle where she is in charge and there are no men in sight. Their sisterhood doesn’t quite go as planned when Edith brings along her scruffy grandson Luke, who is interested in needlework, but everyone has their own reasons for joining. Claire seeks an escape from the children’s relentlessness, while Lottie and Harper harbor secrets they’d rather not reveal. But it’s Yasmin – an Australian Muslim who’s tired of being asked about her hijab – that the CCC needs to rally around when a proposed mosque sparks anti-Muslim sentiment in the neighborhood. Will a bright crocheted solution be enough to keep bigotry at bay? Kate Solly’s debut novel is certainly a big-hearted feel-good novel with larger-than-life characters. The storyline doesn’t work as seamlessly as it could on social issues and is a bit predictable, but the characters are as alive as the sense of community they share.

Nonfiction books of the week
Lonely wolf
Catherine Murphy, Quarterly Essay, $24.99

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Two metaphors dominate this essay – the lone wolf of the title and the broader notion of survival in the surf. During the plague year of 2020, Anthony Albanese’s strategy was not to fight the odds, but rather, in his words, to “dive deep, take a breath and wait for the right wave.” This strategy marked Albanese’s transformation from lone wolf to collaborative leader, says Katharine Murphy. While the rhetorical bomb-thrower of the left did not find it easy to bid his time, the ability to plan ahead was honed in his youth. His mother, Maryanne, often suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, and it fell to him to take care of her. Murphy helps us see how such an underrated politician managed to harness the electorate’s appetite for political upheaval and ride the blue-green wave to shore.

Express your enthusiasm
Louise Willder, One World, $29.99

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It’s a wonder Louis MacNeice didn’t snag TS Eliot when he read the blurb to his book of poetry. “His work is understandable but unpopular…” Curiously, Eliot was considered Faber & Faber’s best blurb, although his reverse psychology may have been too subtle for most readers. As a Penguin copywriter for 25 years, Louise Willder appreciates the nuance of the finely crafted blurb and its role in a book’s publishing history. In addition to analyzing the fundamentals of refining a killer blurb, she examines the history of the blurb, the bliss of blurbs that are so bad they’re good, and how different genres call for different styles of blurb. The wit and flair that Willder brings to her work is best captured in this haiku about how brevity and layout can make a blurb sing: “Don’t be afraid of white space / Space is your friend. / It makes everything you write / look better.”

neverland
Tricia Shantz, Surf Research, $70

A tough, conservative, industrial, working-class city. These are not adjectives normally associated with Byron Bay. But that was the world that Australian and American surfers encountered in the 1960s and 70s when they came to the far north coast of NSW and ‘set the agenda for what Byron was to become’. Tricia Shantz has conjured up the early days of this transformation through the eyes of the entrepreneurial and creative group of surfers who fell in love with the waves and natural beauty of the place and became bearers of the counterculture ethos that is Byron’s brand today. Atmospheric imagery combined with the memories of surfers like Rusty Miller and Bob McTavish, who now represent Byron, capture the unique atmosphere and adventurous spirit of those early days before, as Lissa Coote puts it, the lotus eaters fled and “the town settled down settled to a species of spreading in the Middle Ages”.

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Great Australian Places
Graham Seal, Allen & Unwin, $32.99

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In the cult film Paul, two British sci-fi nerds take a UFO road trip across America, only to have their vacation hijacked by a clever alien. This summer break road trip to spooky, sacred, weird and iconic places in Australia offers a possible template for the kind of holiday where reality and myth collide. Places from the Tiwi Islands to Botany Bay where the arrival and influence of foreign Europeans on indigenous peoples can be seen in the landscape; where the brutal treatment of convicts in “The Bloody Bridge” on Norfolk Island is commemorated; where vast tracts of land from Port Augusta to Darwin hum with the history of the overland telegraph; where the origins of the Labor Party can be found under a ghost gum tree in Barcaldine. This is old style Australian folklore updated for 21st century sensibilities.

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https://www.smh.com.au/culture/books/how-albanese-changed-his-approach-and-triumphed-and-an-erotic-queer-romcom-20221226-p5c8s4.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_culture How Antony Albanese changed his approach; and erotic queer romcom Astrid Parker doesn’t fail

Jaclyn Diaz

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