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

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‘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.

***

 

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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

 

 

External Published Work

An ongoing list of my work that has been published on external sites:

“‘I’ve had soap thrown at my head: Retail workers cop Millennial backlash” (Sydney Morning Herald, Brisbane Times, The Age 31/07/2017)

 

“It’s Okay Not To Be Okay” (PULP Media 27/05/2017)

‘I Haven’t Read A Book Since High School’ – The Cry Of Generations Of Non-Readers & What To Do About It (The Vocal 13/03/2017)

‘I Don’t Watch Game Of Thrones’ – How To Survive Missing A Cultural Phenomenon (PULP Media 07/07/2016)

 

 

An Open Letter to 2016

Dear 2016,

You have been an incredibly painful year, perhaps one of the most painful years I have experienced in my lifetime. You took so much, and spread so much despair and misery through our world. You have undoubtedly been a complete shit show.

2016, you killed so many people. In war, in moments of heartless violence, in acts of hatred and discrimination – you took people who still had whole lives to live. You saw bombings and shootings and acts of terror. You saw people suffer through the worst possible things one can go through.

You also took a tremendous number of our role models and heroes from us – David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Prince, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, Harper Lee, Elie Wiesel, Gene Wilder, George Michael, Muhammad Ali, Leonard Cohen, and so so many more.

You also took people close to me and my family. And for that, I’m not sure I can forgive you.

You took me on a terrible ride through personal sadness and heartache and saw me curled up in bed without wanting to leave my house for days for fear of what you might do to the world.

You let bigotry and fear lead the vote for Britain to leave the European Union, and see that same hatred and fear allow Donald Trump to win the US Election.

You have seen so many small acts of hatred turn into large scale movements that have the potential to destroy us. I have never been so disappointed and scared and sad at the state of our world, and 2016, that is your fault.

But 2016, I also have to thank you for a few things.

2016 was the year I found myself so much more attentive to the small wonders of my world, to the little things that make this world worth living in.

2016 was the year that I discovered Hamilton, the year I found myself crying through Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Love Is Love Is Love speech at the Tony’s, the year I lost myself so completely in the soundtrack and let it be the thing I turned to when things felt hopeless.

2016 was the year that brought me more Gilmore Girls, brought me home to a place that I have always loved and will always love, brought my childhood friends back into my life, and brought such joy and fullness that it leaked out of me and caused my Mum to see if I was okay because I was blubbering so loudly.

2016 was the year I finished my undergraduate degree, despite my own personal struggles, and felt so immensely proud of myself for getting through it.

2016 was the year I read 52 books, smashing my own goal of completing the 50 book challenge. It was the year that those same books opened up so many new opportunities for me as a reader, a writer and as a future employee in the publishing business. 2016 was the year that introduced me to so many great feminist writers like Clementine Ford and so many socially aware writers like Julie Koh, someone I have had the great pleasure of meeting. The year I thanked so many writers I admire for the gift of their work.

2016 was the year I started reviewing books, receiving books from publishers, and then started an internship at one of those same publishers – one of the most wonderful places filled with wonderful people. The opportunities that interning there have granted me have been phenomenal, from reading books ahead of their release, to being invited to a special screening of Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. I have also been so lucky in working with the people at that publishing house, who have taken me under their wing and taught me so much.

2016 was the year I took on so many new projects, from poetry to the Mass Book Drop Event for Books On The Rails on Sydney Trains, the year I was paid for my first published piece of writing, the year I noticed my hard work finally paying off.

2016 was the year I went to lots of concerts, alone and with people I love. The year I stopped feeling self conscious in those spaces and danced like the complete dork I am. The year I couldn’t stop myself from thanking the singers, songwriters and musicians I met for the music they gifted me.

2016 was the year that I found people who loved words as much as me, and who were willing to spend their time with me to discuss our work and what writing means to each of us. I got to see my friends create wonderful pieces of art and be so immensely proud of them.

2016 was the year I got to see progress amongst the hatred, the year I found so many new voices to fight for, the year I heard so many new voices speaking out and sharing their thoughts with ever-growing communities, the year I realised I wasn’t going to stop fighting, no matter how crap things get.

2016 was the year of “Ethel, cancel the goblins” and “Obama out” and “Just a smidge” and “It’s okay to be angry” and “The Fantastic Breasts” and endless creative crushes and having breakfast at Tiffany’s for my 21st birthday and spending endless hours with my best friend in the whole world and getting a new puppy and the Hamilton Mixtape and surprise presents and magical bookshops and endless generosity and so many wonderfully body crushing hugs from people I love.

2016 was the year I realised I was so incredibly lucky to be surrounded by so many wonderful people, who even when they didn’t notice they were doing it, made me feel so full of light in my darkest moments and made me smile when I wasn’t sure I would be able to.

All these things have been so vitally important to me and I am so endlessly grateful for them.

I’m not sorry to see you go 2016, but I am glad that you gave me the opportunity to learn so much and open my eyes to all the small wonders of the world amongst all the pain. You gave me the chance to see so much beauty despite the dark, and I am so grateful for that.

But please, don’t come back any time soon.

 

Kind Regards,

Hayley New

 

© Hayley New 2016

On Hamilton, Politics and Pence

 “[Hamilton] is such a nice escape from all the craziness in our world right now. It’s about two famous New York politicians locked in a dirty, ugly, mud-slinging political campaign – escapism.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda on Saturday Night Live

“Vice President-elect Pence we welcome you and truly thank you for joining us here at Hamilton, an American Musical. We really do. We sir, we are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our parents or defend us and uphold our unalienable rights, sir. But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us. All of us. We truly thank you for sharing in this show, this wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men, women of different colours, creeds and orientations and we truly hope that you heard our message sir, because you all represent all of us.”

 – Brandon Victor Dixon at the Richard Rogers Theatre

 

Hamilton is by definition a show about politics. The whole second act is an account of the creation of the American political system. The first act is just as political, singing out about the power of revolution and fighting for the unheard voices. The recently released remixes of Hamilton tracks as part of the highly anticipated Hamilton Mixtape are even more intensely political – just listen to ‘Immigrants (We Get The Job Done)’.

When Mike Pence walked into the Richard Rogers Theatre on Friday night, he knew what he was walking into. The plot of Hamilton is no secret – not only is it pulled from history books, but it has become such a pop-culture phenomenon that even those not schooled in US History know what it is about, and what it has come to stand for. Hamilton is not just about telling the story of an immigrant, or a group of revolutionaries, or even the women who are normally silenced in these stories – it is the very place where these people stand on stage, and sit across from their counterparts in the audience. The cast of Hamilton has always included an incredibly diverse group of people, representing the US to the best of its ability, and this has been one of the most discussed and celebrated aspects of the show’s work. Mike Pence did not go in blindly.

I cannot even begin to imagine the pain it must have caused for the company of Hamilton to perform for Mike Pence that night. Mr Pence, much like Mr Trump has been very open about his proposed policies, and many of those policies are directed at the very people and communities that Hamilton seeks to represent each night. Beyond that, it must have been hard to be an audience member in that room with Mr Pence. New York has been a hot spot for protests against President-Elect Trump and Vice President-Elect Pence since the results of the election were announced. But the actions of the Hamilton company were not just those of protest – they were a show of acceptance, acceptance of the upcoming Trump-Pence administration, and acceptance of the power these people will now hold. More than that, they were an act of faith – faith in their nation’s democracy, and faith in the man standing surrounded by security on his way out of their theatre that he would stop, if only for a moment, to hear them.

The theatre has always been a space for people to ask for people to listen to them. It has become a tradition for cast members to step forward once the show has finished to ask patrons to donate money to a particular cause, or to inform them about large social and cultural issues that they can make a difference in. The theatre has always been a safe space for actors to use their platform to give a voice to the people who aren’t always heard.

Hamilton has participated in this tradition before. And this is no different.

Mr Trump, who took to Twitter to voice his anger, said that “the theatre must always be a safe and special place”, and I fail to see how that was not the case here. When Brandon Victor Dixon stood forward, speech in hand, he was standing there for all the voices who have been crying out in all their different ways since the election. With the greatest respect for the position he had, and for the position the man he was addressing has now gained, he thanked him for listening, for choosing this show, choosing to hear them, and for choosing to stay for a few moments to hear the people he spoke for. Dixon used his position to stand up for the voices needed to be heard – loud, clearly and without hate speech and violence. As Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of the show, tweeted later “Proud of @HamiltonMusical. Proud of @BrandonVDixon, for leading with love. And proud to remind you that ALL are welcome at the theatre.” And honestly, if that does not show the power of the theatre as a safe and special place for everyone, I don’t know what does.

I am not a fan of Mike Pence or his proposed policies, but for a second let’s put that aside. I am not here to talk about my political views, I am here to defend the place of theatre and I want to take a moment to talk about this event specifically. Despite being booed on his way in, Mr Pence did go to Hamilton, and he watched it. Theatre is a space for learning, for education, and a place to test your own personal views. Given that, Mr Pence’s very presence in that space shows, for me at least, a glimpse of hope. He went to perhaps the most political show running on Broadway and listened to every word of it. More than that, when the show ended and the cast stayed to address him directly, he stopped. He didn’t demand an apology. He didn’t walk away. Despite the audience’s booing (which the cast made sure to discourage) he stayed and listened.

And that act of staying and listening gives me hope for the next four years.

So please, Mr Pence, keep on listening.

 

© Hayley New 2016

 

Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World: A Review

 

Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World, the newest picture book from writer and illustrator Kate Pankhurst, is a glorious celebration of the lives of famous female historical figures. As a descendant of the famous Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, it is clear to see where Pankhurst gets her inspiration for a book such as this, and her skill and talent for telling these women’s stories – stories that in many cases have been kept out of the history books for a long time – is incredible.

The list of women included in this book is extensive: Jane Austen, Gertrude Ederle, Coco Chanel, Frida Kahlo, Marie Curie, Mary Anning, Mary Seacole, Amelia Earhart, Agent Fifi, Sacagawea, Emmeline Pankhurst, Rosa Parks, and Anne Frank are all given a place in this magnificent history of brilliant and courageous women doing magnificent things. These women all come from different racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds, allowing women whose voices have traditionally not been given room to be heard in history books to be heard.

But what gets me most about this book is its intended audience – children. As a picture book, and a beautifully designed and illustrated one at that, this book is written for children. So rarely are stories like those of the women included in this book shared with children, and I am so endlessly grateful that Kate Pankhurst wrote this book for them. To introduce children to books and stories with these women, to show them how incredible women have been and continue to be, is so vitally important, and Pankhurst’s book is a brilliant part of that journey. When I first received this book for review, the first thing I said to my Mum was “I wish a book like this had been around when I was growing up.” Because, honestly, they weren’t – and it wasn’t really that long ago that I was a young kid looking for strong, intelligent and courageous women to look up to in books. I wish that in my many library visits, I could have found this book on the shelves and found myself in these women. I sincerely hope that libraries all over will take this book into their collection so that little girls the world over can find an array of female role models to look up to.

Even as an adult, reading this book was a fantastic educational experience. There are figures in this book that I never knew about, and even fun facts about famous women I have admired for a long time that I didn’t know. The illustrations were bright and beautifully drawn – with a quirky and charismatic style. There is no attempt to render women as traditionally beautiful in her illustrations, but rather a desire to make each woman unique and stylise her to best represent her story and the remarkable things she did in her lifetime.

On behalf of all the little girls (and boys) of the world, I am endlessly grateful for Kate Pankhurst and her work in creating this picture book. If even one little girl finds a feminist hero in her library because of this book, her work will have paid off.

 

great_wome_coverFantastically Great Women Who Changed The World (RRP $14.99) is available in all good book stores from October 2016, or directly from the publisher, Bloombury Publishing/Allen & Unwin, here

As always, INWORDSANDINK encourages its readers to buy from, and support their local independent book stores.

Thank you once again to Allen & Unwin for sending me a copy of Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World. 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 2016