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browsers

I’m working on three really large scale writing works at the moment, and I’m finding it impossible to sit down and read a full novel, which is a new and bewildering feeling. As a result though, I’m finding I’m loading my bedside up with ‘browsers’: brilliant reads which, for whatever reason, can be dipped in and out of. Here’s a rundown of the browsers I’m loving, and learning to love, at the moment:

Song For Night – Chris Abani

Anyone who’s read this book will surely balk at my suggestion it’s a browser. I list this book here as no insult to Abani and his harrowing, soul-destroying account of a mute child soldier (his tongue has been cut out, as have those of the rest of his ‘regiment’ to avoid them startling each other when dismembered while combing for land-mines) wandering for weeks through a nightmarish, war-torn African landscape in a bid to be reunited with the rest of his platoon of child-soldiers. After reading this book cover to cover once and ending up catatonic with depression, I’m now reading back on it at the pace of about a chapter a week and trying to digest it properly. Not light reading, but it will never leave you. And I mean never. And that’s really something.

Women Leaders of the Spoken Word Revolution – edited by Alix Olson

roxy – fresh
from the dominican republic—
lives on the first floor
and me – a haitian talking
american – i live
on the third. she’s twelve
years old and i’m nine but we’re friends cus
neither of us is allowed
to go outside. there is no play

for the daughters of immigrants
who rest under project ceilings.
we are our parents’
only investments…

(from we live up here, by Lenelle Moise)

Bring it on. This book deserves it’s own post, and I’ll probably give it one sometime. It draws the women of the US spoken word scene into the spotlight, giving space for several pieces of poetry accompanied by mini-manifestoes on their art and lives.

One Magic Square: Grow Your Own Food in One Square Metre – Lolo Houbein

I am definitely not a ‘one square metre’ gardener. I’m a rip up the whole lawn, throw compost down, scatter bucket loads of seeds and sit back and watch the chaos kind of gardener, but this book rocks for several reasons. Firstly, gone are the Home and Garden glossy pics of plots so green you know for sure they’re GM, and nuked with pesticides. The offerings shown in this book are real: bruised but juicy, moth-nibbled but crisp, just like the read is. Grow Your Own Food is a tribute to haphazard growing at its best, and without condescension. A chunky square book peppered with rough sketches for small plot ideas, it’s also very well indexed so you can flip back and forth easily.

The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas – edited by Sam Durant

My favourite of the lot, this precious, thick, full colour catalogue of Emory’s career as the Black Panther Movement’s designated revolutionary artist contains essays by many interesting figures, including poet Amiri Baraka, and Bobby Seale. And of course, Douglas is still producing political prints as we speak. Check out his Obama print here.

Overland 194 – edited by Jeff Sparrow

Cate Kennedy’s Five Dollar Family: my God! And thankyou for reviewing Π.O’s New and Collected (though the review could have been much longer): this life effort (though I understand there’s enough work remaining to print a Volume 2) seems to have been overlooked by a swag of prizes. Under-reviewed genius.

Stuff White People Like – Christian Lander

Yeah, I know, this has become a cult hit and it’s all a bit one-trick-ponyish now but, particularly for a black person, it has it’s moments of cringe-worthy truth. You just have to remember that it all started out as a list-blog, and it doesn’t pretend to be anything other than the tongue-in-cheek browser it is. Some gems:

# 63 Expensive Sandwiches:
…If you are in the position where you need to take a white person to lunch for business or pleasure, saying “I know a great sandwich shop,” will always bring out a smile. The white person will then tell you about the great sandwich shop in the town where they went to college and how they had a crush on a waiter, or that there was some special sandwich that they always ordered. This will put the person in a good mood.
It’s important to note that this type of restaurant is best for business or friendship situations as it is very neutral and does not carry connotations like Sushi or Breakfast.
These sandwiches generally start at $8.99….
Also note: white people will wait up to 40 minutes for a good sandwich.

#116 Music Black People Don’t Listen To Anymore
…white people are work tirelessly to keep it alive. Apparently, once a music has lost its relevance with its intended audience, it becomes MORE relevant to white people.
Historically speaking, the music that white people have kept on life support for the longest period of time is Jazz. Thanks largely to public radio, bookstores, and coffee shops, Jazz has carved out a niche in white culture that is not yet ready to be replaced by Indie Rock. But the biggest role that Jazz plays in white culture is in the white fantasy of leisure. All white people believe that they prefer listening to jazz over watching television. This is not true.
Every few a months, a white person will put on some Jazz and pour themselves a glass of wine or scotch and tell themselves how nice it is. Then they will get bored and watch television or write emails to other white people about how nice it was to listen to Jazz at home. “Last night, I poured myself a glass of Shiraz and put Charlie Parker on the Bose. It was so relaxing, I wish I had a fireplace.” Listing this activity as one of your favorites is a sure fire way to make progress towards a romantic relationship with a white person…

If anyone is reading any other great ‘browser’ books I can add to my bedside table, please post them here.

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

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Maxine Beneba Clarke is an Australian author and slam poet of Afro- Caribbean descent. Her short fiction collection Foreign Soil won the 2015 ABIA Award for Best Literary Fiction and the 2015 Indie Award for Best Debut Fiction, and was shortlisted for the Stella Prize. Her memoir, The Hate Race, her poetry collection Carrying the World, and her first children’s book, The Patchwork Bike, will be published by Hachette in late 2016.

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  1. Do books that you’ve read so many times that you know them almost by hearts count as browsers? If so, I’d list Norman Linday’s Curate in Bohemia, his novella about the Melbourne art scene in the 1890s. It still cracks me up every time I read it.

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