Hawking: In Memoriam

I grew up in a world where Stephen Hawking was a fixture, a man that had and would always exist. My young brain perceived him to be as lasting as the very universe he studied, holding as much power, and as long an impact, as the stars.

But even stars don’t live forever. Eventually their lights dim and die.

***

I was and continue to be a huge science geek. Whilst I didn’t continue my formal science studies past Year 10, I have long maintained an enormous interest in science, and the incredible understanding it allows us to gain about our world and all the worlds beyond it. Dr Hawking and his work became a part of my love for science. But beyond that, Dr Hawking himself became something of a wonder to me.

As a young girl with big dreams and often very little hope of achieving those dreams, Dr Hawking was a reminder that no matter how rough things got, dreams could be achieved. Dr Hawking was dealt one of life’s toughest cards when he was diagnosed with a rare form of ALS at 21, and given two years to live. And yet, he persisted. He continued to do what he loved and what he wanted – pursuing the absolute reaches of knowledge and the universe.

It sounds cliché, but I often thought that if he could work through all the trials of his disability and the difficulties attached to not only work and excel in his field, but become a legend among the likes of Einstein, Darwin and Galileo, then there was nothing that could stop me from reaching my goals.

***

Stephen Hawking was the subject of many jokes for most of his life, his computerised voice perhaps the most imitated voice in comedy. But that very voice gave some of the best speeches of our time, and one of the most recognisable men by extension. And Hawking was no stranger to humour, often noted for his own wildly raucous sense of humour. Even with major paralysis to most of his body, he often cracked a smile at his own jokes in interviews and speeches.  This is a man who knew how to live, even when the very act of living was a full-time job in itself.

Hawking made the best of a bad situation, devoting his life to learning and searching, something I value and admire more than anything. Hawking never stopped looking up and out, looking for answers he knew he might never get, but working towards those answers nonetheless. And he got a hell of a lot of answers. More answers than most of us could ever hope to gain or even understand as brilliantly as he did.

***

In his memorial statement regarding his friend, Neil deGrasse Tyson said “his passing has left an intellectual vacuum in his wake. But it’s not empty.” And he’s right, it’s not empty. Hawking paved the way for many people to continue learning, and in particular, helped pave the way for people with disabilities and impairments to gain access to opportunities that weren’t always open to Hawking himself.

There’s no other way of putting it: Hawking was a goddamn legend of astronomical proportions. He helped us understand our universe, and more than that sparked a curiosity in so many of us that continues to fire our desire to learn.

All the times we felt like we felt we weren’t good enough, Hawking was there to tell us that “the universe doesn’t allow perfection” so not to worry. Whenever we felt small, Hawking was there to remind us that “we are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.”

We are better for living in a world that had Stephen Hawking in it, and his absence will be felt across the stars.

 

Vale Dr Hawking. You will be so greatly missed.

 

 

© Hayley New 2018

Advertisements

2018 Reading Resolutions

Last year, I didn’t quite make it to the 50 books I was aiming to read. However, I did manage to achieve some of my other reading goals like making sure at least half of what I read was written by women, people of colour and otherwise broadening my reading habits.

This year, I am not going to do the 50 Book Challenge as I have attempted in the past, but rather write down a set of reading resolutions or goals that I want to achieve this year. I think it is important to continue to challenge myself as to the types of books I read and continue to broaden my reading habits. So here are my reading goals for 2018:

 1. At least half of what I read has to be written by women and/or female identifying authors.

Women are notoriously under-represented in all media, and books are no exception. So many female writers still struggle to compete for shelf space against their male counterparts and I want to support women writers in all genres to help encourage a change in the way we view female writers. As a woman writer myself, I want to show solidarity.

2. At least half of what I read has to be written by people of colour i.e. non-white authors.

Much like women writers, people of colour are notoriously under-represented on bookshelves. Last year, I was introduced to so many brilliant writers by taking on the challenge to read more writers of colour, and I want to continue that this year. I also want to read more books that share experiences that are different from my own, so this is a perfect way to read more from and about communities other than my own.

3. I want to read more YA and junior fiction.

Children’s books are special – there really is nothing like them. They are so important in fostering a love of reading and I want to recapture my love for children’s and YA books – something that I have been ignoring a little in my reading lists the past few years. I also want to see where the gaps in the YA and junior fiction genres are in terms of subject matter and under-represented communities. I think it could be really interesting to see how both junior and YA fiction books have changed since I was reading primarily in these categories.

4. I want to read more books by Australian authors.

We are incredibly lucky to have so many brilliant writers in Australia. I have been really bad at keeping up with some of the brilliant Australian releases over the last few years, and I want to know more about what Australians are writing about, as well as bask in the glory of all that Australian talent.

5. I want to spend more time reading for fun instead of street cred.

I have a really bad habit of reading books because they are deemed ‘literary’ or ‘an essential read’, and then ignoring the books I really want to enjoy because my ‘literary’ pile is so big. Since I started working in the Publishing Industry, this has gotten even worse because I want to be included in all the discussions about those high literary wonders. I want to stop caring so much about what people think about what I am reading and spend more time reading books I think are really fun to read, regardless of their street (or rather, office) cred.

 

I am going post my ongoing 2018 Reading List separately and update it throughout the year, partly to hold myself accountable to these goals, and partly to share some really good books with you all in case you are stuck for a recommendation.

So what are your reading goals for 2018? Whether it is a number goal or a list of things you want to read more about, I want to hear what you are reading this year. Comment below or tweet me @haylesnew.

 

© Hayley New 2018

 

My Favourite Books of 2017

This year has been an absolute whirlwind of killer books. I have read so many brilliant books this year that I thought it was worth sharing my list of my best books of the year.

Please note: this list is in no particular order, but I have categorised them by genre for those looking for specific recommendations.

 

American War

Best Dystopian/Political Fiction:  American War by Omar El-Akkad (Pan Macmillan) 

Okay, I might have said that I have listed these in no particular order, but hands down this is my favourite book of the year. I was sent a copy for review earlier in the year but simply could not form the words to do this book justice. Taking place in 2047, where America has been ravaged by a second Civil War and a devastating plague, this book follows a young Sarat Chestnut who is caught up in the politics and devastating effects of the Civil War from age six. Oil is outlawed, Louisiana is half underwater, unmanned drones fill the sky, and death seems to permeate the air. Soon Sarat begins to be shaped by her particular time and place until, finally, through the influence of a mysterious man, she is turned into a deadly instrument of war.

This book came to me in one of my deepest moments of grief over the Trump Presidency earlier this year, and I would be amiss to say that grief did not shape my reading of this book. However, I think, rather boldly I know, that this book is our generation’s 1984. Omar El Akkad’s American War has all the makings of dystopian fiction – a post-fossil fuel world, a war, changing geographic landscapes, altered political boundaries, a weaponised disease, displacement narratives, a rebel army, and a heroine who has grown up in this space of conflict. But more than that, it feels so unbelievably close to happening.

This book made me mad in so many ways, and made me feel all the grief and loss of the world that Sarat makes her choices in, as well as the grief and loss and sheer anger of our current socio-political landscape. This is the book I will never ever forget, and the one that has shaped so much of how I view our world as it currently stands. For a debut, this book sets a sky-rocketing precedent for how books should be written and I cannot recommend this book enough.

 

orange_grove_2000px-768x1216

Best Novella or Short Novel: The Orange Grove by Larry Tremblay (Peirene Press) 

Larry Tremblay’s The Orange Grove fundamentally changes how you think and feel about a major contemporary issue. But it is also a book that makes you feel conflicted about that change, largely because that issue here is suicide bombings. Whilst it in no way justifies these horrible acts of violence, it does create a space to think about the term ‘victim’ in a more nuanced way, including those who are deliberately misled and coerced into committing acts of violence on behalf of organised terror groups in that victim label – especially since the person committing an act of violence in this book is a small child.

I’m not going to say too much more about this book as I reviewed it earlier this year, but if you would like to know more, check out my review here.

 

The Mothers

Best Fiction: The Mothers by Brit Bennett (Penguin Random House)

This is an incredible debut novel by such an extraordinary talent. Brit Bennett’s The Mothers is such an incredible read, rich with the promise of being a modern classic. Filled with secrets that flourish in a small town, this book hooked me from the very first sentence and I couldn’t put it down. I read it so quickly despite trying to savour it and I immediately lent it to a friend so I could talk to someone about it. This book was so incredibly wonderful in its exploration of the dynamic between our younger selves and the people we become as a result of those younger selves, as well as how our relationships with ourselves and others are changed by personal choices. I was also incredibly impressed by the unabashed way this book talked about abortion without any hesitation about it – something few novels do. This book discusses abortion as a fact rather than with any judgement or debate about morality, and that was really something new to me in fiction and I really found it refreshing to read a book that didn’t try to tip-toe around it.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Brit Bennett at this year’s Sydney Writer’s Festival, and hear her talk about the book and its many seemingly controversial themes, which only increased my love for this book ten-fold. I can’t wait to read more from Brit Bennett in the years to come.

 

Hunger

Best Memoir: Hunger by Roxane Gay (Hachette)

Reading Hunger felt like a punch to the gut. The sheer raw intimacy of the novel and Roxane Gay’s incredible candor about her own body, and her reflection on the way we talk about our relationship with our bodies really got to me. I won’t lie, I cried in public A LOT reading this book, and often refer to it when I am reflecting on my own experiences with food and my body. I don’t know anyone who wasn’t incredibly moved by this book and I cannot express my love for it enough. Whether you have ever had a negative relationship with your body or not, this book should be required reading for everyone, especially in a world so focused on bodies and the space they take up in our everyday lives.

 

9780734418074

Best Junior Fiction: Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend (Lothian Children’s Books)

Working at Hachette Australia during the lead up to and during the release of Nevermoor has been one of the highlights of my year, and will likely be one of the highlights of my career. I read this gorgeous book back when I first started full-time at Hachette in June and instantly fell head over heels for this magical world led by the magnificent young Morrigan. Jessica has created such a brilliant world and I can’t wait to read more and more. I wrote a piece about how incredible a moment Nevermoor is in children’s literary history here and I encourage you to read this brilliant book as soon as you can.

 

The Wonderling COVER IMAGE med res (002)

Best Junior Fiction (Illustrated): The Wonderling by Mira Bartok (Walker Books)

Okay, I am being a little sneaky here and popping a second junior fiction book in to this list simply because I could not decide between these two marvellous books. Mira Bartok’s The Wonderling has re-ignited my love for children’s books and I cannot praise it enough. Everyone I know who has read it thus far has been entirely enchanted by it and I will be holding onto my copy for a very long time. I reviewed it earlier this year and was entirely taken with it, and I highly recommend that anyone with children add this to the pile of books they read with their child, if only to give them an excuse to fall in love with this incredibly sweet book and it’s hero Arthur.

 

The Hate You Give

Best YA Fiction: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (Walker Books)

I have read quite a bit of YA in my time and yet, I think this is the book that changed how I see YA as a whole. Starting with the death of a young African-American teenager at the hands of a white police officer and following the aftermath of his death throughout the community, this book was an incredibly powerful read. Dealing with powerful topics such as racial politics, social class, family dynamics, crime and justice, and overarching themes of friendship, family and personal identity, this book is the standout YA novel I think we all needed to read. After hearing pre-publication buzz about it, I practically begged Walker Books for a review copy and I read and reviewed it so quickly simply because of how brilliant it was. I know many of my friends are reading it now and I will continue to recommend it to those who haven’t yet read it. Like American War, this book fell into my hands at just the right moment and I felt so angry and sad and yet somehow full of hope all at the same time. Young people deserve books like this that talk about what is happening in their world, and I can only hope that more authors write books as powerful as this for YA audiences.

 

9781444934007

Best Graphic Novel: Illegal by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin (Hachette Children’s Books)

I’m not usually one to read graphic novels, and as a first taste of the genre, I have to say that Illegal really won me over. A depiction of the experiences of a young refugee making his way across Europe, Illegal is an incredible introduction for young readers into the discussions around refugees and their experiences. As an adult reader, I didn’t feel that this book particularly skewed towards children in such a way that it alienates older readers, and that only made it feel like a more essential text overall. I think that this book should be made required reading in schools, particularly young high-schoolers just starting to find their voices in relation to current social and political debates. Truly an incredible introduction to both graphic novels and their potential for creating important discussions.

 

Artemis

Best Sci-Fi: Artemis by Andy Weir (Penguin Random House)

I have been eagerly awaiting the release of the new Andy Weir novel since I first finished reading The Martian. The Martian was such an incredibly unique book that I was a little worried at first about how Artemis would stack up against it. However, it really got me in from the first page and didn’t let go. Led by a female protagonist who has spent most of her life living on the lunar colony Artemis, this book diverges from Andy Weir’s debut book and creates a more accessible tale about a futuristic life on the moon, with Andy Weir’s signature scientific realities woven throughout. Whilst there is less science directly written into the story than The Martian, this story still uses the particularities of Weir’s scientific style to lend a more realistic glimpse into a potential future of life on the moon, and the link between a lunar colony, law and governance, and the potential for crime to flourish in the space between a lunar city like Artemis, and the Earth.

 

41rrZplMctL      The Sun and Her Flowers

Best Poetry: milk and honey/the sun and her flowers by Rupi Kaur (Andrews McMeel) 

I had the incredible pleasure of meeting Rupi Kaur at the Sydney Writer’s Festival this year and hearing her speak about her work only cemented my love for her poetry. As a long time lover of poetry, reading both her collections this year really drove home how influential poetry can be, especially when detailing both personal and political experiences. the sun and her flowers in particular was incredibly compelling and broke open so many important social themes that I am interested in learning more about and reading more about and, of course, Rupi brings such beauty and raw truth to every word that she writes. Whilst I know poetry isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and Rupi’s work has drawn controversy for some of its content, I highly recommend that you give it a read.

 

Special Mentions:

All of these books below were incredible reads, and I want to mention them for their amazing storytelling and ability to make me remember them long after I finished them.

Moonrise

Moonrise by Sarah Crossan (Bloomsbury)  See my review here.

The Hate Race

The Hate Race by Maxine Beneba Clarke (Hachette Australia)

Release

Release by Patrick Ness (Walker Books)  See my review here.

City of Thieves

City of Thieves – David Benioff (Hachette)

 

All the books mentioned in this piece are available in all good bookstores now. As always, INWORDSANDINK encourages its readers to buy from and support their local independent bookstores.

Thanks to all the publishers who have sent me books for review over the course of 2017. As always I have not been paid to write any reviews by the publishers or authors of these books, however I would like to extend my appreciation for their time and effort in publicising these books and sending me copies in exchange for honest reviews.

 

© Hayley New 2017

“NEVERMOOR”, The Word On Everyone’s Lips

I was an intern at Hachette Australia when I first heard the word Nevermoor. The manuscript was being passed around the office with excitement. The first time someone told me I should read it, I was in the print room, binding some documents, and the Head of Sales (my now boss) asked if I had read it yet. When I said no, he promptly told me I needed to read it as soon as possible – it was going to be something incredible.

The first time I actually got the chance to read Nevermoor, it was a few months later – I had just gotten my job as Sales and Product Coordinator at Hachette, and was handed a proof copy of Nevermoor by my friends in the Children’s Department after I had been helping them mail out gorgeous hardback proofs to media and booksellers and was asked again if I had read this book. I was promptly handed a proof copy to read after admitting I was probably the last person at Hachette not to have read it.

I devoured it in about 48 hours.

Nevermoor Tweet.JPG

 

Jess Townsend2
Jessica Townsend, the 32-year-old wonder behind Nevermoor

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow is the debut novel from Jessica Townsend, and it has become a phenomenon well before its release. “Nevermoor” is probably the most used word at Hachette after “book”. Booksellers have been talking about Nevermoor for months. Fox bought the film rights nearly a year ago, and book nerds the world around have been eagerly awaiting the release of the book that has caused so much excitement.

Nevermoor is the story of Morrigan Crow, a young girl born on an unlucky day, and subsequently blamed for all local misfortunes. The curse also means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on Eventide. But, just before the worst is to happen, Morrigan is whisked away by a strange man called Jupiter North, who takes her to safety in a secret magical city called Nevermoor. In Nevermoor, Morrigan is put forward by Jupiter to contend for a place in the Wundrous Society – the city’s most prestigious organisation, but in order to join she must compete and succeed in four trials against other children, each bearing an extraordinary and magical talent. Morrigan, bewildered by it all, has no idea what her talent could possibly be. However, to stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good and avoid the death prescribed to her outside the city, Morrigan will need to find a way to pass the tests.

It is hard to find the right words to describe how utterly brilliant this book is. Jessica Townsend has weaved the most magical world since Harry Potter, and made me fall in love with characters in a way I haven’t for a long time. I won’t lie – I have a bit of a crush on Jupiter North, even if I am not supposed to, but even more than that I love Morrigan and all she stands for. Morrigan is the kind of hero that defines the magic of children’s fiction, and one that I wish I had when I was a child myself.

Comparisons to the brilliance of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter are thrown about in regards to a lot of books, but rarely are they as true as when they are said about Nevermoor. Jessica Townsend has herself said she owes a lot to J.K. Rowling :

“I get this weird feeling that as a children’s author, I’m supposed to be coy and evasive about admitting Harry Potter as an influence. That even now, 20 years after the publication of The Philosopher’s Stone, I somehow ought to be denying the hippogriff in the room that is this massive literary touchstone. Pretending I wrote Nevermoor in a cultural vacuum.

Well, I didn’t. Nevermoor was influenced by everything I’ve ever read, watched and loved, and that absolutely includes Harry Potter. I’m part of the lucky generation that queued in bookstores at midnight for Order of the Phoenix after an agonising three-year wait. As a series, Harry Potter lit my imagination on fire and made me see the scope of world-building that was possible in children’s literature. I refuse to be dispassionate about something I love so much.”

– Jessica Townsend, ’20 years of Harry Potter: five local authors assess the cult of the boy wizard’, Sydney Morning Herald, June 16 2017

Jess Townsend
Jessica Townsend with a copy of the soon to be published Nevermoor

For me, it is impossible to read Nevermoor and not acknowledge Jessica’s paying tribute to Harry Potter, largely because reading Nevermoor for the first time felt incredibly like reading Harry Potter for the first time – full of magic and excitement and so much joy. Nevermoor makes you feel like a child again, in all the best ways. I keep comparing it to childhood favourites of mine – Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter and Roald Dahl – because it feels like a classic right away. Children will grow up loving this book and its characters. Young girls will grow up looking to Morrigan as a role model the same way I grew up idolising Hermione Granger – and that makes me so incredibly happy.

I am incredibly lucky to have been a part of the community of people who have read Nevermoor before its release, and even luckier to be working with the team behind Nevermoor’s publication. Seeing how much love has gone into seeing this book flourish has been so wonderful, and it makes me even more excited to see Nevermoor go out into the wild and into the hands of children (and adults alike!). Books like this come around very rarely, and I am so glad that I have been able to see this book bring smiles, laughter and a spot of Wunder into the lives of everyone who has read it thus far. I can’t recommend this book enough, and when it is released in just over a week, I beg you to go and get your hands on a copy as soon as you can. You won’t regret it.

 

9780734418074.jpg

 

Jessica Townsend’s Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow (Lothian Children’s Books, RRP $16.99)  is available from October 10th 2017 in all good bookstores. As always, INWORDSANDINK encourages its readers to buy from and support their local independent bookstores and support independent press.

Please note that whilst I work for Hachette Australia, I was not in any way asked or obligated to write this review. All opinions expressed in this piece are my own unless expressly stated otherwise.

 

 

 

© Hayley New 2017

MOONRISE Giveaway!

I am a big fan of YA author Sarah Crossan, the brilliant author of One, The Weight of Water, Apple and Rain, and co-author of We Come Apart (which I reviewed earlier this year). In September, Sarah’s much anticipated new novel Moonrise is due to be published and I have teamed up with the folks at Bloomsbury Australia to do a special Moonrise Proof Giveaway!

I am currently about halfway through this brilliant story, written in Sarah Crossan’s signature verse style and I can’t wait to share the book love with you.

ABOUT MOONRISE

The astonishing new novel from Carnegie Medal, CliPPA Poetry Award, YA Book Prize and CBI Book of the Year Award winning author Sarah Crossan. 9781408867822

They think I hurt someone.
But I didn’t. You hear?
Cos people are gonna be telling you
all kinds of lies.
I need you to know the truth.

Joe hasn’t seen his brother for ten years, and it’s for the most brutal of reasons. Ed is on death row.

But now Ed’s execution date has been set, and Joe is determined to spend those last weeks with him, no matter what other people think …

From one-time winner and two-time Carnegie Medal shortlisted author Sarah Crossan, this poignant, stirring, huge-hearted novel asks big questions. What value do you place on life? What can you forgive? And just how do you say goodbye?

 

ABOUT THE GIVEAWAY

I have ONE proof copy of Moonrise to giveaway. To enter the giveaway all you have to do is email inwordsandink@gmail.com with the Subject Line “Moonrise Giveaway” and includes the following:

  • Your Name
  • Your Mailing Address
  • Why you want to read Moonrise in 25 words or less

Entries will close Friday 18th August at 5pm (AEST) and the winner will be announced shortly after on Twitter (@haylesnew) before being contacted directly.

Please note: This giveaway is restricted to Australian residents only. No international entries will be considered.

I can’t wait to see your entries and share the Moonrise love with you all!

Good luck!

 

© Hayley New 2017

‘The Cut’ & Brexit: An Interview with Peirene Press’ Meike Ziervogel

Peirene Press are masters of translated European fiction that speaks to the heart and soul of a particular moment in time. Last year, Peirene Press took a leap and began the Peirene Now! Series, commissioning short novels about current events that are heavily shaping our world today. Last year’s breach was one of the most introspective novels I have ever read, taking the experiences of refugees in the Calais refugee camps and turning them into incredibly heartbreaking short stories. In 2017, Peirene Press have published the second book in the Peirene Now! Series – The Cut. The Cut is a brilliantly written exploration of Britain and the people who voted in the Brexit referendum and uthor Anthony Cartwright gives equal space to both sides of the debate, whilst weaving a complex web of human relationships.

The Cut is the first novel I have seen, let alone read, about Brexit. Whilst the Brexit vote and recent General Election in the UK have been heavily documented by the media, The Cut is the first literary take on the effects of the vote and the implications for the British public. The book itself was funded by a kickstarter campaign that raised £6,745 ($11,412 AUD), so it is clear that this is a book that people not only wanted to read, but wanted to have a hand in producing.

I was lucky enough to interview Meike Ziervogel, founder and commissioning publisher at Peirene Press, about The Cut. A writer herself, Meike grew up in Northern Germany, before moving the the UK in 1986. Our interview is below…

***

HAYLEY: First of all, thanks for taking the time out to discuss The Cut with INWORDSANDINK. So, how did the idea for the Peirene Now! Series come about?

MEIKE: Peirene’s specialises in translated fiction. This means that we can only choose from what is already out on the market in another country. Over the last few years, we started to realise that there are sometimes urgent issues we like to see addressed in literature but we couldn’t find a story about it anywhere. So we decided to set up a series of commissioned novels responding to pressing topics that are concerning us and our readers right this very moment.

HAYLEY: How important was it to you to commission a novel about Brexit?

MEIKE: The referendum has been one of the most important political events in the UK this century. It concerns us all.

HAYLEY: Why did you decide to commission the novel after Brexit rather than beforehand (as a speculative novel perhaps)?

MEIKE: Brexit hasn’t happened yet. So I commissioned the novel – and the novel was written – before Brexit, but – of course – after the decision to leave the EU.

Before the referendum I lived in a bubble. I assumed there would be no Brexit – ever. The outcome of the referendum was a shock and a wake-up call for me. I suddenly understood that I live in a divided country. I commissioned Anthony Cartwright to create a literary bridge between the two Britains that opposed each other on referendum day.

HAYLEY: What about Anthony made you decide he was the person to write this book?

MEIKE: I wanted a story that would make me see what I previously wasn’t aware of. Anthony comes from the Black Country where many people voted for Brexit. His four previous novels are all set in Dudley. Emotionally and psychologically he understands the area and he empathizes with the people who voted ‘no’ to the EU. Moreover he is a very good writer. Before I commissioned Anthony I read his fourth novel, ‘Iron Towns’ and I enjoyed it. I could see that Anthony would be bring the right sensibility to the subject matter.

HAYLEY: How did you negotiate what this book would discuss? What was that process like?

MEIKE: Anthony’s remit was to create an artistic response to what had become apparent during the referendum – the division of this country into two halves. Initially we discussed possible story lines. Then we had editorial meetings after each draft, discussing and refining the story line, imagery and characters.

HAYLEY: What about this book really spoke to you about pre- and post-Brexit Britain?

MEIKE: It was only after the book had been completed and I could take a step back from it – read it like a reader and not as an editor –  that I realised how Anthony’s subconscious had thrown up the perfect image for the situation in our country. We, i.e. both sides of the divided country, The Remainers and Brexiteers, are in bed together. We have a relationship – a troubled one, yes but we have to live together. We can’t get away from each other. In The Cut neither Cairo nor Grace want their relationship to end badly. We – the Remainers and the Brexiteers – have to be careful that our relationship, too, doesn’t end badly. I believe that neither side really wants that to happen.

HAYLEY: As someone who was born in Germany, what does a book like THE CUT mean to you? What about it speaks to your experiences as a European immigrant in a country that has rejected the EU?

MEIKE: I have dual nationality. I have lived all my adult life in the UK. This is my home. I, too, need to change, in order to change the political situation. I can no longer excuse my lack of political engagement. And so I have now become a member of the Liberal Democrats and I campaigned for them during the last election.

***

 

The_Cut_2000px-568x900

 

The Cut is available in all good bookstores, or directly from Peirene Press. As always, INWORDSANDINK encourages its readers to buy from and support their local independent bookstores and support independent press.

Thank you once again to Peirene Press for sending me a copy of The Cut, and to Meike for taking the time out to answer my questions. Please note, whilst I was sent the book for reviewing purposes, I was not in any way paid or financially obligated to write this review.

 

© Hayley New 2017

A Journal of Small Pleasures | New/Old Music

 

There has been a surge of new music releases in the last few weeks. But none have captured me in the way that a small number of artists have.

***

2013 and 2014 were strange years for me, marking my final year of high school and my first year of university. It was a time of major transition, not only in terms of education, but also of changes in my personal relationships with people and how I viewed myself. I spent a lot of time travelling – long car trips with friends, bus rides to work, trains to and from university – and these vast spaces were filled with music. My tastes in music had changed and evolved over this time, and while a few old favourites stayed, a lot of new music poured into my life.

***

PARAMORE

Paramore was not new to me in 2013. I had always been surrounded by Paramore fans, but I had never found myself as hooked on their music as my friends.

But then the self-titled album came out. And Paramore became a staple for me. They featured on every mix CD I gave to my friends for long car rides. We all knew the words, and the right moments to clap in the middle of a song.

‘Still Into You’ made me envious of Hayley Williams and her crazy vocals. ‘Ain’t It Fun’ was the growing-up anthem I didn’t know I needed until I had it on loop. ‘Grow Up’ helped me get over bad friendships that were falling apart. To this day, that song always reminds me of the friends I had to leave behind in order to find myself.

Paramore’s self-titled album was the right album at the right time.

***

HAIM

I came across HAIM by accident. I had heard ‘The Wire’ on the radio more than once, and it often played at work, but I never knew who sang it. Spotify rectified that for me.

I soon played all of Days Are Gone on repeat for hours in my room and danced around to the stunning vocals and dramatic beats. I had never heard anything like these women. I wanted to be as effortlessly cool as they were. ‘If I Could Change Your Mind’ was the song I listened to whenever I was getting ready to go out, and I spent longer than I care to admit trying to learn the dance routine from the music video.

HAIM sang their way through my train journeys and there was a song for every moment, every feeling I had. And they were mine. None of my friends knew them, and I never shared them. HAIM was my little secret, and I wanted them to stay that way. Sometimes music feels like it should just be yours, if only for a short while, and I didn’t want to lose HAIM. They were too important.

***

BLEACHERS

Bleachers was a gift given to me by Lena Dunham’s Girls. After binge watching Girls I fell into a Google wormhole and came out the other side clutching Strange Desire.

I knew Jack Antonoff from his FUN days, but Bleachers was such a different sound. ‘Rollercoaster’ was instantly a summer song. It was bright and beautiful and fun. But it was probably ‘I Wanna Get Better’ that hooked me. I was going through a rough patch when I heard this song for the first time, and it got right at the heart of how I was feeling without making me feel like a cliched sad person.

Bleachers was unlike anything I had listened to before, and I was surprised to find myself listening to it as much as I did. I didn’t love the whole album equally, but I knew the songs I was going to keep with me in case of an emergency, and that was important in those days.

***

Recently, each of these groups have released new music for the first time since 2013/2014. Whilst I listened to their old music every now and then since, it was the recent release of new music from each of them that has pulled me in all over again.

It is strange hearing these voices for the first time again. They are new. But they are familiar as well. And somehow it makes it seem like 2013/2014 again.

I am in a new period of transition at the moment – finishing up my undergraduate course at university and working out what to do next. I have big plans, much in the same way I did back then. But the strange tug of the past has curled around my heart in these songs.

It is amazing how much emotional value music has for us. For me, music is always intertwined with memories – of specific events, of certain friends, of big moments in my life – and it was a weird coincidence that all three of these groups that had such an impact on an important moment of my life have released new music at the same time, a time that mirrors the changes of 2013 and 2014. All those memories of happy moments, moments where hard choices were made, and moments of in-between are flooding back with these voices, these songs.

I am a different person then I was, and these songs remind me of that. But some things haven’t changed at all, and it is the comfort of knowing that I will always be able to mark my memories with music, with this music, that brings a little more sun back.

It’s time for memories worth the soundtrack I have been given.

 

I have made a Spotify Playlist with some of my favourite songs from Paramore, HAIM and Bleachers, from their 2013/2014 albums and their latest releases. Check it out here.

 

© Hayley New 2017