Well read-head: Three cheers for the world wide web
Some people are obsessive about cleanliness. Others can’t leave the house without checking the stove twenty eight times.
My compulsion is reading. Lost pet posters, religious tracts, magazines, junk mail, children’s books, fashion websites, coffee shop noticeboards, blogs: if it has words on it, I can’t help myself reading it.
The extent of my addiction struck me once when I was sitting in a doctor’s waiting room.
I scanned the table for reading material, hoping for a dog eared copy of Vanity Fair. Instead, the only two magazines left were Sailing World and American Cheerleader (I was in the US).
After a pang of disappointment and a few seconds of lip chewing, I reached for American Cheerleader and buried my nose in it.
As I learned more than I’ve ever needed to know about the merits of spirit sticks and how to execute the “twisted sisters” manoeuvre, the thought never even crossed my mind that there was a third option: reading nothing.
I read about topics that interest me and topics that don’t. As long as an article piques my interest with its opening, I’ll read on. And then, if I love it, I’ll try to foist it on everyone around me with the fervour of a newly minted born again Christian.
I constantly email articles to friends. I send text messages like “You MUST go out RIGHT NOW and buy such-and-such a book – I can’t WAIT to talk to you about it!!”
Recently, I was at dinner with friends the night after reading a piece in The New Yorker about invasive animal species overrunning Florida. “Oh my God, I have to tell you about this story about gigantic pythons invading Florida,” I enthused as their eyes glazed over. “No, no, I promise it’s really interesting, people buy them as pets and then let them go into the wild when they get too big and now the pythons are mutating and it’s incredibly creepy and one python had a death fight with an alligator in the Everglades that lasted for 24 hours!!!”
The Punch is now going to be my enabler, allowing me to pester not only family and friends, but also complete strangers.
Every fortnight, I’ll post ten great things to read, watch or listen to. No subject or publication is ruled out. My goal is to share things that are interesting, informative, entertaining and well executed. I’m particularly fond of witty writing, so expect a bit of humour. Don’t expect to see dull but worthy. I should make it clear that I don’t endorse the content of any item that I post. I simply point them out to you as interesting things at which to take a look.
So, to that end, here are the best of my recent trawlings:
1.Like me, you’ve probably never wondered how it is to go through life as the brother of a notorious killer. But if you read this article, you’ll learn. Mikhal Gilmore is a writer with Rolling Stone and the brother of Gary Gilmore, an American murderer who was the subject of Norman Mailer’s brilliant 1979 non fiction book The Executioner’s Song. Mikhal wrote an essay for the British literary magazine Granta about being Gary’s brother. It is riveting, harrowing and spectacularly well written. I found it on the recommendation of the Australian novelist, Christos Tsiolkas.
2. If you missed this recent Alexander Downer column in The Advertiser, check out what he “didn’t have the guts to say as foreign minister”.
3. Fascinating piece in The Economist about how comedians are tackling (or not tackling) President Obama.
4. Have you noticed that teenagers seem to “hug it out” more than when we were young? According to The New York Times, it’s a new trend.
5. This piece from men’s magazine GQ about Donald Rumsfeld generated a lot of buzz in Washington. Keep an eye out for the John Howard reference on page 3.
6. The blog, F**k You Penguin, tells cute animals what’s what and it’s a daily source of laughs. Here’s one of my favourite recent postings.
7. George Vaillant is an American psychiatrist who, for more than 40 years, has been running an incredible experiment into how people deal with the curve balls life throws. The study has been going for 72 years in total and follows 268 men who were in the Harvard sophomore class of 1937 (John F Kennedy and Ben Bradlee were two of the original participants). Vaillant wrote a book called Adaptation to Life in the 1970s, based on the study to that date. The Atlantic recently profiled Vaillant and updated his findings. So what’s the secret to happiness? It lies in how we relate to other people.
8. I read A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz over my Christmas break. About thirty pages in, I told my husband I thought it would be one of my favourite books of all time. And now it is. If you like early John Irving (The World According to Garp, A Prayer for Owen Meany), you’ll love it. It’s hilarious and highly original.
9. One of my favourite twitterers (or tweeters, whatever they’re called) is the comedian, Dave Hughes. He’s both funny and endearing. He’s chatting a lot recently about his newborn son, Raff. Follow him here.
10. If I piqued your interest with the Florida invasive species story, it’s unfortunately not available online. But if you can pop to the library and get your hands on the April 20 edition of The New Yorker, you won’t regret it. Just don’t read it late at night like I did or you’ll be spooking yourself with thoughts of 25 foot pythons and gigantic lizards taking over the planet.
- You can see Leigh Sales on The ABC’s Lateline and follow her on twitter at http://twitter.com/LEIGHSALES
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