Convenience Store Woman (Sayaka Murata)

(2018 translation from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori) Keiko Furukura isn’t a convenience store worker, she is part of a convenience store. “I was wasting time talking like this.  I had to get myself back in shape for the sake of the store.  I had to restructure my body so it would be able to move more swiftly and precisely to replenish the refrigerated drinks or clean the floor, to more perfectly comply with the store’s demands”.  Keiko is content living as a cell in a convenience store, but her family and her (very few) friends are not content. “‘Keiko,…

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Crossroads (Jonathan Franzen)

The first volume of Jonathan Franzen’s saga of contemporary American family life, “Crossroads” (2021) promises less to come. The Hildebrandts of New Prospect are falling apart and they don’t know it.  Worse still, they are unremittingly dull, and the author doesn’t know it.  The hypocritical, craven pastor father, Russ, lusts after a parishioner. He despises his peculiar and repressed wife, Marion.  He loathes a popular youth worker at the church ‘Crossroads’ group.  He acts inappropriately with teenaged girls.  That’s about all he does. The Hildebrandt parents barely register their children – the all-American elder son, the thinly-realised daughter, the drug-addled…

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The Power Broker

(Robert Moses and the Fall of New York) (by Robert A. Caro, 1974) That this brick of a book (well over a thousand pages) about public infrastructure is so compelling is due to, first, its traverse of key decades in the rise of America (1920s to the 1960s); second, the author’s awesome depth of research and keen grasp of his subject; and third, the subject himself: the most famous public official in New York (perhaps America), Robert Moses (18 December 1888 – 29 July 1981), a humanities man, without engineering qualifications, who yet singlehandedly matched the Pharaohs and the Romans in…

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Vale Republican Party Rascal

P.J. O’Rourke, Journalist and satirist (14/11/1947 – 15/2/2022) O’Rourke was once (c. 2009) a guest on the ABC’s Q & A programme, surrounded by the usual suspects. After listening to the various diatribes, he stated a forceful rhetorical question: “Why does the Left assume we’re all as stupid as they are?” His whole life was filled with such sublime bon mots. Read one of his essays, diary notes or other pieces, and you will find a fair bit of wisdom and a hell of a lot of hilarity. (A firm favourite is his ‘book review’ of “Everything to Gain: Making the…

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The Art of War, Peace and Palaver

(By Paul Brennan) (Amazon, 2018) Over 23 hundred years ago, a dynastic militia in China wrote down their collective thoughts on the strategic management of conflict. The Art of War (aka Sun Tzu, after the Order’s paterfamilias – see main image) is recognised as a classic handbook for modern problems (whether in war, business or interpersonal quarrels). Litigation and legal negotiations are often referred to as war (or business) by other means, and can arise or be ignited from clashes of personality as well. Thus, some 23 hundred years later, experienced Queensland Lawyer Paul Brennan gives us a legal take…

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