Saturday, December 5, 2009

Narrelle Harris

Narrelle M. Harris is the author of The Opposite of Life, a Melbourne-based vampire novel. She has also authored three other novels, and wrote an essay for the recently released true crime book Outside the Law 3.

A week ago I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I’ve been accumulating books in a frenzy of late, with a certain level of unjustified optimism that I’ll find time to read them all. The teetering pile contains a fair proportion of vampire fiction – having created a vampire character who collects the stuff it’s become an occupational hazard – but I like to vary my diet.

I loved Thomas Keneally’s Searching for Schindler on many levels. The memoir, an account of the research that went into writing Schindler’s List, is a gem both for those fascinated by the Schindler story and writers in general. The chapters on the business of writing – the research, the self-doubt, the endless waiting for progress on projects that may never come to pass – struck a strong chord. The chapters on his time in Poland in the 1980s also reminded me vividly of the time I spent living there in the mid-1990s.

Australian author Justine Larbalestier came to my attention a few months ago with her blog. She was witty, insightful and very smart so I picked up her YA fantasy How to Ditch Your Fairy. It didn’t disappoint! It’s a terrific book full of vivid characters of all genders and ethnicities and a crisply defined fantasy world. The theme – be careful what you wish for – is perennial, but Larbalestier lifts it out of the ordinary with flair.

Micro-presses have been furnishing me with much delight of late. Perth’s Twelfth Planet Press has several books quite near the top of my ‘to be read’ pile, after the smack-in-the-face freshness of Horn, a hard-boiled fantasy detective novel with unicorns and murder. Peter M. Ball’s book is not for the faint-hearted, but it’s a promising sign of a publisher not afraid to take risks.

Another small Australian press with big potential is Arcade Publications. They produced the compact Madame Brussels: This Moral Pandemonium. Cool bars are now named after the notorious 19th century brothel keeper, but L.M. Robinson has pulled together a robust account of daily life and events surrounding Caroline Hodgson, though the Madame herself remains an enigma.

I’ve also been expanding my e-reading recently. I’ve had a PDA for over ten years now, and fine it easier to travel with my books loaded on that than to haul around a small stack of paperbacks. My latest foray is a brilliant series of YA vampire books called The Wolf House by Mary Borsellino. The author calls them Twilight for punks. I find the two books (of a proposed series of five) to date fresh, exciting, funny and, importantly, easy and engaging to read on my new iPhone.

Of course, every reader should pepper their diet with the classics. Jack Kerouac’s On the Road is my choice for this month. I love the way Kerouac uses language and it’s fascinating to read aloud. I wonder what it would have felt like to read it in the late 50s, when it was first published and everything in it was new and shocking.

After reading about so many strong women recently – Madame Brussels, Larbalestier’s Charlie, P.I. Miriam Aster in Horn – I’m really noticing the lack of women with a narrative voice in this one. Yet Dean Moriarty’s self destructiveness, and Sal’s complicit passivity, are compelling in their own right.

Ah, I miss the days when I read two or more books a week. I’m usually overjoyed to get through a single book in a month, so my recent efforts represent a blaze of activity. Next month I have a host of vampire fiction to read, including Charlaine Harris’ Dead until Dark and The Girl’s Guide to Vampires. I might even actually finish one of them.
Visit Narrelle M. Harris' website.

--Marshal Zeringue