My main money-earner is working as a freelance copywriter for advertising agencies. I have been doing it for around six years, and during this time, my ability to read novels has almost vanished.
In Year 9 PE, Ms Worrall said that female endurance athletes often stop menstruating in the lead-up to big events like marathons. My understanding at the time was that, with so much energy diverted to other parts of the body, the egg-making bit needed to have a rest.
I think a less traumatic version of this happens with advertising work and novel reading. You spend so much energy inventing single-minded crap about frozen garlic bread that the bit of your brain that can absorb five hundred pages of uncertainty just shuts down.
To be clear: Advertising is the endurance event, novel reading is the menstrual cycle and I (James) am the woman in the tracksuit.
I still read stuff, though. Most recently: David Sedaris’ essays, Tim Key’s poems, Twitter. The last novel I both finished and loved was A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan.
Internet-wise, Read.Look.Think handpicks a thoughtful, weekly list of internet reads that are not limited to numbered lists and opinions about Lena Dunham.
Polaroids of Androids is a music website based in Sydney. Amongst strong opinions, they give airtime to Australian music and creativity that would otherwise be ignored. The chaps who write it are passionate, tasteful and eloquent beyond the title of ‘blogger.’
Brown Cardigan is a wordless stream of visual dark matter from all over the internet. It’s fairly distasteful and I look at it every single day.
My digital subscription to The New Yorker sits on my iPad, somewhere between 90 and 95 per cent unread.
Mostly though, I read comics. Here’re a few of my regulars:
Saga, by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples, is set in its own bizarre universe. I won’t say ‘space opera’—just that it is a pithy, funny, beautifully drawn love story that I can’t put down.
Hawkeye, by Matt Fraction, follows Clint Barton (Hawkeye) and Kate Bishop (Hawkeye) through their messed up, contemporary lives as sort-of-superheroes. Matt Fraction writes dialogue like people speak—which seems obvious but is not.
Also by Matt Fraction, Sex Criminals is a genuinely funny and empowering story. It’s all in the name, kind of.
Last week, a friend found me a copy of Jonathan Ames’ The Alcoholic in Dalston Oxfam for 49p. Ames is the guy who created the HBO series, Bored to Death. The Alcoholic is like that, but a few shades darker.
Australia-wise, I think Pat Grant’s Blue should be on the national syllabus. It’s a graphic novel about three teenagers who skip school to go surfing, only to end up investigating rumours of a dead body. It’s part-autobiographical, part sci-fi and if you were the type of person who writes about writing, you might say that it ‘explores themes’ of immigration and racism and life in small-town Australia.
I relocated to the UK just over a year ago. So far, I love it. But it’s also made me nostalgic for Australia. Conveniently, my grandmother sent me over a collection of Henry Lawson’s poems for Christmas.
I’ve always been familiar with the big hits of bush poetry, but had never sat down and given them a proper, adult read. It was always more of a cross-legged on carpet, Mrs Hillerman reading to the class situation. Perhaps it’s the familiar settings or some homesickness, but Henry really hits me in the back of the throat lately.
It makes me feel like nothing’s changed. There are still gum trees and sadness and alcoholism. Australian males are still cutting conflicted, isolated silhouettes in the landscape. It’s just that now they do it with bottles of Pure Blonde and those big, embarrassing Android phones, which just isn’t as cool.
James Ross-Edwards is a regular man from Sydney who lives in London. Read some of his commentary at @Frank_Sartor.