Bibliophile | New books for your summer reading

Further Fables: Queer and Familiar
by Margaret Marrilees
Wakefield Press

Fables: Queer and Familiar started online and then the stories were broadcast as a radio serial before being published as a collection in 2014. These further fables take the characters from Australian writer Margaret Marrilees’ most recent novel Big Rough Stones and the reader is drawn into the lives of lesbian grannies Anne and Julia.

The 45 vignettes of are illustrated by Chia Moan as Merrilees shares the domestics, the political battles and the queer idiosyncrasies of three generations. There are lessons the lesbian grandmothers learn from the subsequent generations and there are lessons that they can in turn pass on.

We share their domestic trails such as cleaning the u-bend in the laundry as well as eavesdropping on their self doubts. We spend time with their friends to discuss plebiscites, safe schools and refuges, and debate the implications of Easter. We also accompany them on protests demanding marriage equality on the steps of parliament and joining Extinction Rebellion in climate change protests.

Merrilees says that her fables are “the complete instructions for being a lesbian granny” but there’s always a wider audience for tales that teach us about life … and Aesop didn’t include stories about coming to terms with gender fluidity.

Lezly Herbert

Me
Elton John
Macmillan

Elton John’s memoir takes you on several journeys. The journey of a boy from an unhappy home in suburban Pinner to globe trotting international rock star, the musical journey of a keyboardist in a blues band to a loves of all genres of music and champion of fresh talent, and the journey of man from egocentric, demanding, drug addicted pop star, to a more subdued father, philanthropist, industry elder and rights advocate.

The singer would be the first to admit that there are still moments when he is an egotistical tantrum throwing diva, but he shares the ups and downs that have slowly changed him over his many decades in the entertainment business.

While there no shortage of celebrity tales of his fun feuds with Rod Stewart, his interactions with the royal family, his friendship with Princess Diana, and many others, what is really interesting is when his rock star world collides with the lives of everyday people. In this hefty autobiography John shares the details of failed relationships, successful friendships and creative challenges.

The singer is surprisingly honest about some of the records he made in the late 80’s when he was at the height of his drug addiction, describing them as appallingly terrible. He also reveals he has little ability to anticipate which songs will be a hit, he pleaded with his record company not to release Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me, and was taken aback when Sacrifice became one of his biggest hits.

While the book is peppered with anecdotes that are funny, shocking and revealing. The overall journey JOhn recounts is one of getting to know who you are as a person, and changing the things that you can change, even if it takes your entire life.

Graeme Watson

Create Your Own Midlife Crisis
by Marie Phillips
Allen & Unwin

British writer Marie Phillips is the author of the international bestseller Gods Behaving Badly which is a comic fantasy about ancient Greek gods living in modern-day Hampstead. It has been translated into 20 languages and made into a film starring Sharon Stone and Christopher Walken in 2013.

Her latest book opens with “You are a woman in midlife, with a husband, a daughter and a successful career, but the nagging sense that something is missing. You will need all your intelligence and ingenuity as you weave your way through the perilous midlife maze.”

This is a choose-your-own-adventure book that allows you to follow many of the predicaments that a modern mid-life crisis can lead to when you wonder how you ended up where you are. Whilst in a boring management meeting, you are offered three choices – to text a colleague with whom you have been flirting, to tell your boss the meeting is wasting everyone’s time or to give a tissue to a colleague who won’t stop sniffing.

And so the journey begins … To run away to Brazil, turn to 34; to look up get-rich schemes turn to 98; to get a tattoo, turn to 147; to burn down your house, turn to 145 and if uncertain, toss a coin. Where can your life lead when you’re given a second or third chance?

Phillips’ entertaining book would make fantastic post dinner party entertainment – the story could be read aloud and the choices and outcomes debated. The stories are short enough that many lives could be unfolded, hashed over and discussed in an evening.

Lezly Herbert

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