The Reading Hour.

books

Tonight at 6pm marks 2015’s edition of The Reading Hour.

In celebration, here are the books I’ve read in the past year and a brief review of them.

What have you been reading since last year’s event?

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay.

If you haven’t read Roxane Gay’s book of essays since it was released last year, then what the hell have you been doing?! Gay is one of the best writers out there, and her take on all things pop culture and the conflicted relationship feminists sometimes have with it is a must read.

Death Clutch by Brock Lesnar.

This is one of those terribly ghost-written wrestling autobiographies and the main reason I read it was because it had been sitting in my to-read pile for far too long. Brock Lesnar is one of my least favourite wrestlers mostly because he was the first one I met and he was an asshole. This book gives a glimpse as to why he’s so introverted, which can sometimes come across as rude and ungrateful.

Rebels & Chicks: A History of the Hollywood Teen Movie by Stephen Tropiano.

Having been written a decade ago, this book unfortunately misses many of the teen movies we’ve come to know and love since then, such as Mean Girls and John Tucker Must Die, not to mention the booming genre of fantasy/dystopian teen flicks. But it does provide a pretty thorough and entertaining history of many teen movies you might have missed from as far back as the ’50s and, of course, the golden age of teen flicks, John Hughes’ ’80s.  

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert.

This was one of those books that, no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t get into. The main reason I stuck with it was because it was a gift and I wanted to tell its giver that I’d actually read it.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.

Carrying on from the funk that Madame Bovary got me into, I spent a few weeks reading this on public transport (which, at over 600 pages, is no mean feat!) but my mind wandered elsewhere.

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham.

Of all the celebrity memoirs I read over the past year, I’d probably recommend this one the most, if only for the salacious alleged molestation Dunham detailed and her experiences breaking into sexist Hollywood.

Too Much Money by Dominick Dunne.

Not one of Dunne’s better books but a carefree romp for the reader nonetheless.

The Bling Ring by Nancy Jo Sales.

This was also a gift from the same person who gave me Madame Bovary. I’m pleased to report it held my attention much more than Flaubert.

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel.

Another gift, and one of my first forays into comic books. I enjoyed it more for the story than Bechdel’s illustrations.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins.

By far the worst instalment in the Hunger Games trilogy. I know it’s set in a dystopia, but Mockingjay was thoroughly depressing.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler.

I had such high hopes for Yes Please, but it was mediocre, both in writing style and humour.

Maybe the Moon by Armistead Maupin.

One of only two books written by Maupin outside the Tales of the City franchise, I didn’t fall in love with the characters as I have with his previous books, but it was an interesting story based on the life of Tamara De Treaux, the actress who played E.T.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.

Not as good as the movie and I struggled with the animal cruelty portions.

Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy.

One of the most overrated feminist texts I’ve read. This is probably a testament to the fact that it was written ten years ago and feminist theory has come a long way since then, baby. A lot of unnecessary scaremongering not unlike this recent Vanity Fair article on Tinder and online dating in general.

The Night Listener by Armistead Maupin.

Maupin’s second non-Tales book, it was turned into a film in 2006 starring the late Robin Williams which was dubbed as a “psychological thriller”. While I would say the book is far more campy than a psych thriller has a right to be, I did enjoy the suspense of Maupin’s fictionalised real-life encounter with Anthony Godby Johnson, the young author of a book about his abuse as a child, which later turned out to be a hoax.

Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism by Natasha Walter.

A poor woman’s Female Chauvinist Pigs.  

The Secret History by Donna Tartt.

This book could have stood to be shorter, but it is very suspenseful and lives up to the hype.

Wild Things by Brigid Delaney.

I had high hopes for this modern-day Aussie version of the aforementioned The Secret History set in the residences of an elite Sydney university. The local spin increased the novelty factor, but I was expecting more.

An Untamed State by Roxane Gay.

Not for the easily triggered, Gay has a knack for writing about suffering that is second to none.

Redefining Realness by Janet Mock.

If you ever need to explain the plight of trans people and how to talk to and about them, I can’t recommend Janet Mock’s memoir highly enough.

Bitchfest: Ten Years of Cultural Criticism from the Pages of Bitch Magazine by Andi Zeisler (ed).

A selection of some of Bitch magazine’s best pop culture writing from its inception in 1996 to this book’s publication in 2006. Another decade has passed since then, so it’ll be interesting to see if Bitch comes out with another collection. I hope so. In the meantime, subscribe to them.

The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf.

There’s a lot to be said for feminist theory that is accessible to its readers and I don’t think The Beauty Myth is. I found it hard to stay focussed on some of its more wordy theories and criticisms.

Periods in Pop Culture by Lauren Rosewarne.

Who would’ve thought there were enough examples of menstruation in pop culture to warrant a whole book?! I enjoyed this exploration of periods in pop culture and its demystification of something that is normal but rarely discussed.

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie.

I was obsessed with this movie as a kid so I thought I’d finally read the book. The movie trumps it TBH.

Deep Water by Patricia Highsmith.

I had different expectations for this relationship thriller but I was pleasantly surprised by what Deep Water turned out to be.

Laurinda by Alice Pung.

One of the best YA’s I’ve read… well… ever. Pung has a knack for putting to paper the way inner city teens talk and the dynamics of private school girls. If you’re looking for something easy to read but gritty, Laurinda is the one for you.

Nightlight by Harvard Lampoon.

This book made me understand the nuances between satire and parody: satire is smart and crafty, parody is the equivalent of Chief Wiggum—annoying and stupid.

Bossypants by Tina Fey.

In the vein of Amy Poehler’s Yes PleaseBossypants wasn’t as good as I thought it would be. In fact, it was barely funny.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty.

This was one of the best books I’ve read all year. It looks at the funeral industrial complex and argues that people have options for their loved ones in death that don’t include embalming, a sterile mortuary and an impersonal traditional funeral.

The Wife Drought by Annabel Crabb.

A lot of statistics and studies brought down what is otherwise a funny, engaging argument for more equality between men and women in the home and at work.

Big Girls Don’t Cry by Rebecca Traister.

With the announcement of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential run, I thought I’d finally get around to reading Rebecca Traister’s take on the 2008 election, which has been on my to-read list for years. It was interesting, however its distant tone means I barely remember its contents only a few months after reading it.

Holding the Man by Timothy Conigrave.

This is a beauty of an Australian fictional work and I can’t wait to see the film it was recently adapted into. Very tender and sad but also brilliant.

Playland by John Gregory Dunne.

This book began the series of four books I attempted to into over the course of a few weeks but just couldn’t. I think this one was about Hollywood (as Joan Didion’s husband and Dominick Dunne’s brother, it seems only fitting) but I gave up after less than 100 pages.

Falling Man by Don DeLillo.

I got almost to the end of this novel about September 11 after realising I’d taken in nothing.

Oswald’s Tale by Norman Mailer.

Coming in at over 800 pages, I couldn’t justify giving any more than about 90 pages of my time to this biography of Lee Harvey Oswald.

The Feminisation of American Culture by Ann Douglas.

I’d bought this book six years ago when its contents may have interested me, but upon cracking its spine, I realised I was no longer.

I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron.

The Most of Nora by Nora Ephron.

I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron.

I decided to get into Nora Ephron after the previous spate of books that kind of made me hate reading. Whilst I’d never read any Ephron before, I did devour most of her movies over the summer, so I thought her book writing might be similar. I was right, although I did end up encountering most of her essays more than once as these collections tended to double or triple up on some of them.

Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas by Jane Mayer & Jill Abramson. 

Another book that had been on my list for years that I decided to read upon HBO’s announcement that they’d be turning the sexual harassment of Anita Hill by current Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas into a biopic starring Kerry Washington as Hill. While Strange Justice isn’t light reading by any means, it did enlighten me to the politics of the case ahead of the biopic.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.

I was late to the party on this one. I did have a little cry as was expected, but I found its protagonist annoying, the dialogue unrealistic, and the writing misogynist at times.

The Sex Myth by Rachel Hills.

Naomi Wolf and Ariel Levy, take note: this is how you write feminist theory. With an informal, accessible tone and a non-judgemental discussion of sex, this is the seminal text about sex and feminism for the millennial generation.

Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman.

I had no idea some of the Netflix series’ characters would be so heavily based on real people Piper Kerman encountered during her incarceration that inspired the show. While her story and her subsequent work with the Women’s Prison Association are important, I found some of the language she used alienating and transphobic, in particular.

Paper Towns by John Green.

Despite The Fault in Our Stars‘ overhype, I still had high expectations for Paper Towns, which I had written on my to-read list next to the words “debunking of Manic Pixie Dream Girl”. While the book tries hard to do that, particularly towards the end, it ultimately fails. Also, too much use of the word “ret*ard” and Quentin’s friend Ben is a complete creep who refers to women as “honeybunnies”. Gag me.

Scandals of Classic Hollywood by Anne Helen Petersen.

I love Anne Helen Petersen but I didn’t necessarily love her take on classic Hollywood which is arguably what made her famous. I’m looking forward to her dissection of more modern stars and the gossip surrounding them for her second book.

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee.

No wonder Harper Lee kept this original manuscript of what would eventually become To Kill a Mockingbird hidden for so long. It’s pretty average on all counts and focusses far too much on the racism we’ve all heard about. Mockingbird is by far the superior text so if you aren’t able to separate the two in your mind, steer clear of this one.

The Unspeakable by Meghan Daum.

This, along with Laurinda and Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, was perhaps the best book I’ve read all year. Featuring only a few longform essays, The Unspeakable is bookended by the two standouts: “Matricide”, in which Daum explores her ambivalence and sometimes rage towards her dying mother, who passes away less than a year after her own mother with whom she had a tumultuous relationship; and “Diary of a Coma”, which details the viral infection that almost killed Daum, again, less than a year after her mother’s death. Challenging, laugh out loud funny and gasp-inducing.

In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume.

Based on the real life events in Judy Blume’s hometown in the ’50s, where three planes crashed in the period of a few months, I expect to finish this one tomorrow. I’m enjoying the story however there are far too many characters and giving them equal time in their own little mini-chapters distracts from the central story of Miri and her family.

Related: The Reading Hour 2014.

The Reading Hour 2013.

The Reading Hour 2012.

Blood Bonds—The Sisterhood of Menstruation.

Interview with The Sex Myth Author Rachel Hills.

Elsewhere: [Bitch Flicks] Lena Dunham, Slenderman & the Terror of Little Girls.

[Vanity Fair] Tinder & the Dawn of the “Dating Apocalypse”.

[The Hairpin] Scandals of Classic Hollywood.

[The Independent] Go Set a Watchman: Atticus is Now a Racist in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird Sequel.

Image via HuffPo.

Event: The Blogcademy Melbourne.

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This year has been one of professional development. I’ve completed two unpaid internships at Meanjin and The Lifted Brow, I’m working for Outback Championship Wrestling as their TV show’s host (which I have no idea how to do!) and I’ve spent my fair share of dosh on both in-person and online workshops, the most expensive of which was the Blogcademy, at upwards of $AU800.

That event took place last week at the Establishment Studios on Grattan Street in Prahan and was hosted by darlings of the blogging world Gala Darling, Shauna Haider and Kat Williams. I’d secured my place earlier in the year before I’d done many of the other workshops I mentioned above so by the time last week rolled around I was feeling about as professionally developed as I’m going to get so I wasn’t as excited as some of the other Blogcadettes seemed to be. Another factor that contributed to my stillness was that I’ve long stopped trying to monetise my blog, and instead I’m focusing on my freelance career (more to come on that soon).

Having said that, though, what I was most looking forward to was being around successful businesswomen who I hoped would inspire me going into the New Year.

While I certainly felt galvanised by Gala, Shauna and Kat and their stories, I felt that the workshop was a bit “Blogging 101” and that anyone who already had a blog, as was the case with all but one or two of the attendees, would already be familiar with much of the content.

I told some of the Blogcadettes at lunch on the first day what I was hoping to get out of the class, and that watching the Headmistresses divide the modules that make up the Blogcademy amongst themselves based on who was best equipped to teach them impressed me. As someone who really values their time and will not work for free anymore, I really respect the three women’s routine and that they were also able to work on their own businesses and blogs in the downtime between teaching modules. (What impressed me less was that the handful of volunteers assisting over the course of the two days were unpaid.)

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Putting to use my newfound Instagram skills after abusing the photobooth.

As the second day wore on, it became clear to many of the Blogcadettes that we perhaps weren’t going to get our $800 worth of blogging wisdom. The first half of the day consisted of taking the perfect Instagram picture, which is all well and good for those who rely heavily on that mode of social media such as Gala, Shauna and Kat, but I really hoped to get something more out of the social media component than how to take the perfect selfie. We then proceeded on to a one hour and fifty minute lunch before starting back on how to monetise your blog. By that point all the attendees had had a chat about the Blogcademy not living up to our expectations and that disillusionment could be felt in the Establishment Studios.

I’d told one of the other Blogcadettes my admiration for Gala, Shauna and Kat’s time management skills and she agreed but added that it could be construed as boredom, disinterest and concern with what was happening on their Twitter and Instagram than being engaged with us. It really hammered home that they’re businesswomen looking to make money from us; they’re not our friends as much as they may make us feel that way when reading their blogs (which could perhaps be the benchmark for successful blogging).

A couple of other people said that the bulk of the notes they made whilst in the workshop were of how they would better facilitate it, which is a pretty damning testament. Many others were disappointed at the lack of engagement and one-on-one time; “was anyone addressed by name over the two days?” someone wondered. (The consensus was mixed on the use of nametags, which I think could have been helpful.)

I’m making the Blogcademy sound like a painful, not al all valuable chore of a workshop and it was anything but. I got some good feedback on my blog, and somewhat of the kick up the ass I needed to implement changes to it. I probably wouldn’t recommend it, and I would encourage anyone looking to help out the next time the Blogcademy rolls into town to ask for payment; with 150 attendees in 2014, there should surely be some funds left over to support other budding businesswomen. (What’s that they say about women who don’t support other women…?) But the most invaluable aspect of the workshop was meeting the awesome women in the blogging community that travelled from interstate and overseas to attend, which I really respect and admire. Those who live in Melbourne are some kick-ass ladies I’m really looking forward to meeting up with again.

Failing that, at least I’ll be able to claim the Blogcademy back on tax!

The Reading Hour.

It’s that time of year again and, in the spirit of tonight’s Reading Hour, I thought I’d tell you what I’ve been reading since last years’ event.

Rookie Yearbooks 1 & 2 by Tavi Gevinson.

I fell in love with Tavi Gevinson at last years’ Melbourne Writers Festival and had to snap up Rookie Yearbook One at the event’s bookstore. The second yearbook I got after visiting the U.S. late last year. They both compile the best of the Rookie website for those who don’t always have the chance to check it out. My favourites were anything by Sady Doyle and Lena Dunham’s interview with Mindy Kaling.

Hollywood Babylon by Kenneth Anger.

My former housemate bought this at a secondhand bookstore in Geelong when we went there for an exhibition and surprised me with it for my birthday. I ended up using some of the intel I gleaned from the book for an article on the dark side of Hollywood that I’m shopping around, and it informed me when I went to the Museum of Death in Los Angeles, to which Kenneth Anger is a benefactor.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins.

I read this around the time the second movie came out and I think I enjoyed the big screen version much more than the print one. I liked how the film streamlined much of the at times unnecessary plot additions.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn.

Gillian Flynn has fast established herself as one of my favourite writers, and this is not only my favourite book of hers, but also one of my favourites in general. Couldn’t recommend it highly enough. A gritty page-turner that kicks Gone Girl’s ass.

Mateship with Birds by Carrie Tiffany.

I was unimpressed by last years’ Stella prize winner.

Inferno by Dan Brown.

I made the mistake of taking this hefty tome on my trip to the U.S., thinking I would get most of it read on the plane but I was still lugging it around for weeks after I returned home. I think because I read it pretty sporadically throughout the trip I didn’t get as into the story as I have with other Brown books. I did like the notions of overpopulation and the need to eradicate part of the population for the greater good of the human race, though.

Well Read Women by Samantha Hahn.

This is more of a picture book than anything with read substance, but I was gifted it in the States for my birthday after having mentioned it months and months before!

Floundering by Romy Ash.

I really enjoyed this debut novel from Ash, which was shortlisted for many a prize upon its release. If you like evocative Australiana in an alternative style, I urge you to pick up Floundering.

The Way We Lived Then: Recollections of a Well-Known Name Dropper by Dominick Dunne.

A sort-of pictorial autobiography of my favourite author that I picked up from New York’s famous Strand bookstore.

Reel Religion: A Century of the Bible on Film by the Museum of Biblical Art.

I couldn’t tell whether this guide to the exhibition of the same name at New York’s Museum of Biblical Art was propaganda or, as it asserts in its title, a history of the Bible on film. Either way, if you ever have some spare time in Central Parker West, check out the free museum.

How Did You Get This Number? by Sloan Crosley.

Crosley seems to have lost her allure since I last read her work in book form, I Was Told There’d Be Cake, a few years ago.

Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews.

What a horror show this was! I primarily read it so I could watch the Lifetime movie of the same name starring Heather Graham and Kiernan Shipka, but I had been wanting to satisfy my curiosity for it for quite a while.

The Family Law by Benjamin Law.

Laugh-out-loud funny as Law always is.

The Fabulous Moolah: First Goddess of the Squared Circle by Mary Lillian Ellison with Larry Platt.

Another one I got in New York at Westsider Rare Books and, as an autobiography of perhaps the most famous—and certainly the longest active—female wrestler, I had to snap it up.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn.

This marks the third and final Flynn book I’ve read, and while the colleague I borrowed it from found it boring, I loved it almost as much as Sharp Objects. It features another eleventh-hour plot twist that Flynn has become famous for. Can’t wait to see what her next release will be.

John Belushi is Dead/Hollywood Ending by Kathy Charles.

I’d been wanting to read Hollywood Ending for quite a few years, but little did I know that the book was also published under the title of John Belushi is Dead, so there I was with two copies of the same book and no place to go. It turned out to be a spectacular waste of money as I was sorely disappointed by this narrative.

Tragic Hollywood: Beautiful, Glamorous, Dead by Jackie Ganiy.

This book nicely elaborated on much of what I learned on my visit to the Museum of Death and a Tragical History tour of L.A. but, as a self-published effort, it was riddle with spelling and grammar mistakes and continuity errors.

Audition by Barbara Walters.

While I think Barbara Walters gets kookier and more conservative with age, she was once a pioneer for women in broadcast journalism, and her autobiography was fascinating if, expectedly, long.

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent.

Another one I’d been putting off, but it lived up to the hype. I’m excited to see how the story of the last woman executed in Iceland will play out on the big screen as it has been optioned for film.

2Pac VS. Biggie: An Illustrated History of Rap’s Greatest Battle by Jeff Weiss & Evan McGarvey.

Didn’t tell me what I didn’t already know about Tupac Shakur, but I’d never really been a Biggie fan, so this book did shed some light on one of rap’s biggest stars.

An Inconvenient Woman by Dominick Dunne.

I picked this up along with Dunne’s autobiography at The Strand, and it was quite enjoyable.

Mary Ann in Autumn by Armistead Maupin.

I always enjoy Maupin’s stuff, and this marks the likely second-last installment of his Tales of the City saga, in which he revisits his beloved characters from 1970s and ’80s San Francisco in the modern day.

Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang by Joyce Carol Oates.

You never know what you’re going to get when it comes to Joyce Carol Oates, which can be thrilling and disconcerting. I’d have to go with the latter in this instance.

Changed for Good by Stacy Wolf.

Two of my favourite things: feminism and Broadway musicals. For anyone who’s got an interest in either of these things, this is a fascinating look at both, with a particular focus on Wicked, which I went to see for the seventh time on the weekend!

The Fictional Woman by Tara Moss.

Perhaps the Aussie book of the year, Tara Moss can be seen everywhere promoting her latest book—part memoir, part exploration of female tropes and stereotypes—and talking about everything from the Bechdel test to her rape and miscarriage. She writes in accessible terms and makes strong points.

The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas.

This book, a present from my housemate, has been languishing on my to-read pile for three years, so I thought it was high time I see what all the fuss was about. I’d watched the series so I was familiar with the premise and its aftermath, but I was quite taken aback by the misogyny and racism of pretty much all of the characters. Whether that was impeccable storytelling by Tsiolkas or the author’s biases I’m not sure; I guess I’ll have to read more of his work to find out. Next of his on my list: Barracuda.

The First Stone by Helen Garner.

Speaking of ingrained misogyny, Garner attempts to unpack the alleged sexual assault of two female students by a male authority figure at Melbourne University in the 1990s. What she actually ends up with is an out-of-touch, victim-blaming, second-wave VS. third-wave piece of misogyny. I would direct all readers away from this and towards Anna Krien’s Night Games: a much more balanced take on similar events.

Animal People by Charlotte Wood.

I’d been wanting to read this since I saw Charlotte Wood as part of the Melbourne Writers Festival a couple of years ago, and I devoured it in the space of the day. (I was without electricity so there wasn’t much else to do!) Pretty easy reading with a nice juxtaposition between human idiosyncrasies and animal mannerisms.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

I’ve already read this book, but I’m rereading it currently as research for a piece about the upcoming film adaptation. This is the third Flynn book I’ve read in the past year.

What are you reading for the Reading Hour?

Related: The Reading Hour 2013.

The Reading Hour 2012.

Tavi’s World at Melbourne Writers Festival.

Taking a Bite Out of the Big Apple: My Guide to New York City.

Cherchez la Femme Fatale, Take 2.

Stella: A Prize of One’s Own at The Wheeler Centre.

The Slap & Men Who Cheat.

Why Young Feminists Still Have “A Long, Long Way to Go” in the Eyes of Second-Wave Feminists.

Night Games by Anna Krien Review.

You Animals.

Elsewhere: [Rookie] Sady Doyle.

[Show & Tell] Tara Moss On Ner Latest Novel The Fictional Woman & the Bechdel Test.

[SMH] Under the Skin.

Event: A Very Manhattan Halloween.

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halloween marilyn monroe

orange is the new black costume

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We found Wally (or Waldo, as they are wont to call him over here).

ursula the little mermaid costume

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Pets on parade.

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Feminists in arms. (Norma Jean did work in the factories during World War II, after all, just like Rosie!)

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regina george halloween costume

On Wednesdays we wear pink.

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tonto halloween costume

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jellyfish halloween costume

the birds halloween costume

Unfortunately you can’t see The Birds, but this is Tippi Hedren.

In New York City’s Greenwich Village Halloween Parade I was surprised to be the only Marilyn Monroe in attendance that I could see. There were some arguably culturally insensitive costumes (a Tonto and a plethora of “sexy” Native Americans), a Banksy, some political statements (anti-fracking, anti-spying) and a kick-ass version of Orange is the New Black, complete with whiteface, marching in one of New York City’s most revered institutions.

Revelers dressed as jellyfish with umbrellas ruled the night and came prepared for the rain that was forecast and appeared on schedule as the parade began around 7pm. 60,000 people were expected to show up to walk and, seeing as last years festivities were interrupted by superstorm Sandy, 2013’s Halloween was a long awaited one. New Yorkers have a knack for rising above adversity and Thursday night was no exception.

While the parade is certainly an event that adults relish the opportunity to participate in, being a non-alcohol and -drug-fuelled event there were plenty of children and pets dressed up and ready to march up 6th Avenue, between Spring and 16th Streets, where the parade ended. A few blocks away (thought that didn’t stop my party from getting lost in transit!) was the official parade after party at Webster Hall, transformed into Webster Hell for the festivities. Thousand-dollar prizes were given to the best dressed, which included a white Little Wayne, Regina George, several Rosie the Riveters (the best one I saw came replete with the posters’ yellow background festooned to her in cardboard, which we didn’t manage to catch on camera) and many a Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus. A virgin was sacrificed on an occult alter at midnight, which we unfortunately missed on one of the many floors of partying. Tickets to the after party don’t come cheap, though, starting at $40 and increasing as the event draws closer (I paid $75 for my ticket, while those who opted to buy on the door were looking at $100 a pop!). Webster Hall undoubtedly pulled in an exorbitant amount of cash in ticket and bar sales, but the actual parade relied on $50,000 of KickStarter donations to get up and running again this year, as they were uninsured for the effects of Sandy.

Halloween is certainly gaining traction in Australia, increasingly among adults as much as trick-or-treating children, but America goes all out. Part of the reason I’m in New York City at this time of year is specifically to attend the 40th anniversary of the parade and the after party, assembling my costume months in advance and carting it halfway across the world, while the friend I’m staying in the city with and I traipsed through the Upper East and West Side’s thrift stores in search of the finishing touches for her costume (a silent film star).

Halloween here is not for the faint-hearted; many residents and businesses adorn their facades in all manner of holiday paraphernalia, soccer mums ferry their kids to and from school in costume, and over $7 billion is spent on costumes, candy and general Halloween merriment. No matter how you feel about it, All Hallows Eve is an exercise in Americana that doesn’t look to be going anywhere any time soon, especially not in the heart of New York City.

Elsewhere: [DNAinfo.com New York] Village Halloween Parade Needs $50K to Recover from Hurricane Sandy.

Images via April Bonnick.

Event: Anne Summers in Conversation with Julia Gillard.

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Of course Sydney had to go and rain on Melbourne’s parade with all the newsworthy items from Julia Gillard’s first public interview since she was ousted as Prime Minister on 27th June this year coming out of her conversation with Anne Summers at the Opera House last Monday night.

But, from some of the reports I read (I didn’t watch the live broadcast on ABC News 24 as I wanted to be surprised for Tuesday night in Melbourne), the Sydney event was more of a girly advice session than a discussion of her time in the top job and what her future entails.

Luckily, Melbourne took the latter route, with #JuliaTalks(ing) about her sexist treatment (which spawned Anne Summers’ The Misogyny Factor) by the media, her colleagues in parliament and the general public. While the exasperated woman sitting next to me kept groaning every time sexism was brought up (seriously, considering the tone of her time in the top job, why would you go to a Julia Gillard talk with one of Australia’s most prominent feminists and not expect to hear about this?), I was pleased with the topics discussed.

Gillard talked about how she was working towards a “Labor government focussed on women and girls” but that’s now shot to shit along with the in-power government’s view of women. When asked how she feels about Tony Abbott assigning himself the portfolio of the Status of Women, Gillard reiterated her Sydney sentiments in that he should rely heavily on Tanya Plibersek and that she hopes “he finds it the most character building task of his prime ministership”.

On her famous misogyny speech—one year old today—Gillard certainly didn’t foresee it “going off on social media” but, to be fair, she certainly “didn’t foresee the level of misogyny” that marred her prime ministership, either. While on one hand, Gillard relayed an anecdote of her time as a lawyer with Slater & Gordon (“You may have heard about my time with the firm,” she joked) and the bitter clients she encountered to illustrate that she isn’t going to have that outlook on what transpired—“You can have a crap rest of your life or you can move on”, she was surprised at the “benign” reaction to her sexist treatment by the media. If the “Ditch the Witch” and “Bob Brown’s Bitch” signs and slurs had been geared towards a black politician, the media and the general public would rightly be uproarious, she said. She was also disappointed that no politicians from parties other than her own reached out to her to offer their support during the height of her misogynist treatment. (Who could really say what the “height” was? It lasted all throughout her run.)

Another high profile person she was disappointed in who criticised her unfairly and irrelevantly was Germaine Greer, who made those inappropriate comments about the way she dresses and the size of her ass. I, along with so many others, I’m sure, wish she would just admit that she said the wrong thing instead of repeatedly defending her comments.

But Gillard could take a page out of that playbook when it comes to her views on marriage equality. If Gillard truly believes that there are “different ways of acknowledging love and personal commitment than marriage”, hence why she doesn’t advocate same-sex unions, then that’s fine (except not really). But I have a sneaking suspicion that she really does believe in equality, both in marriage and otherwise. (Though her asylum seeker policies left much to be desired, and she did express sorrow for the current discourse on refugees.) I just wish she would come out and say it.

Much of Gillard’s prime ministership was steeped in disdain, but audience member Evie, 11, asked if she had “any fun being Prime Minister?” Gillard replied that she gets a kick out of the fact that her treatment whilst leading the country means that 11-year-olds know the word “misogyny”. In all seriousness, though, Gillard does hope that “more inspiration than anxiety is passed on to [the next] generation.”

Related: The Misogyny Factor by Anne Summers Review.

In Conversation with Germaine Greer.

Event: Destroying the Joint? at Melbourne Writers Festival.

The opening paragraph of disability activist and writer Stella Young’s chapter in the recently released tome Destroying the Joint begins thusly:

“Destroy the joint? Shit, I’d be happy just to be allowed in the joint.”

And on Sunday, when the Melbourne Writers Festival event Destroying the Joint? was held in Deakin Edge at Federation Square, Young might have been able to get in the joint, but she was certainly not able to get on the stage.

While inexcusable on the part of Fed Square and MWF, Young’s imposition did serve to remind us of a very important point: as a disabled woman, she cops a double-whammy of discrimination.

The event started only a few minutes late as organisers scrambled to move the stage to an accessible level, and Young explained that sadly, she’s come to expect things like this. Whereas when she was younger she might have consented to being lifted onto the stage and having a little cry about it, as a disability activist she will not allow ignorance to infantilise her anymore.

I definitely take my able-bodiedness for granted, but I can sort of relate in the sense that as a woman, I’ve come to expect to be harassed when I leave the house. This isn’t an everyday occurrence, to be sure, but it happens far too regularly for my liking. I’m sure many women can empathise.

This is why I will be attending SlutWalk this weekend; to have an opportunity to strut the streets in solidarity with likeminded people who won’t put up with street harassment, victim-blaming, slut-shaming and just plain bigotry and discrimination. Young will also be there as a speaker.

But back to last Sunday’s event, in which a show of hands indicated the amount of people who’ve protested or engaged in activism in some form in the past six months. Young and her fellow panellists, Destroying the Joint editor Jane Caro and author of The Activists’ Handbook Aidan Ricketts, stated the importance of physical protesting, like marching for refugees or marriage equality or attending SlutWalk, as opposed to slacktivism, which movements such as Kony 2012 and Destroy the Joint itself. Young even joked that she fantasises about chaining her wheelchair to a W-class (well, pretty much all except C- and D-class) tram in protest of their inaccessibility.

There has been much maligning of Destroy the Joint, with vocal opponents of it, such as Gretel Killeen and Helen Razer, deriding its angry tone. While I think getting outraged about things you’re passionate about can be useful, Caro asserts that spewing outrage doesn’t work. Young tended more towards my way of thinking, in that outrage as the primary emotion can be moulded into more constructive outlets and avenues: like SlutWalk and Destroy the Joint.

Caro also noted that it’s important to set small goals and always be moving the goalposts. Small aims are easier to reach, engender positivity and allow you to always be setting new victories to achieve.

Related: Hating Kony is Cool.

Women Say Something: Should We Destroy the Joint?

Event: Tavi’s World at Melbourne Writers Festival.

tavi gevinson melbourne writers festival

The coup of the 2013 Melbourne Writers Festival, which kicked off late last week, is undoubtedly 17-year-old blogging wunderkind Tavi Gevinson.

Her keynote address on Friday night at the Athenaeum Theatre sold out in a matter of hours, and we were stuck up the very top, practically in the rafters, which is what we get for arriving nigh on 6pm. Anyone who’s been on the internet in the past five years can see why Tavi is so popular; she’s an anomaly who attended fashion weeks before she was in her teens and now runs one of the best online magazines out there for not only young girls, but people in general, called Rookie. If I can’t be Tavi or have her as a friend, I’d like to know how, as Carrie Bickmore mused on The Project, to make a child like her. She’s got her shit exponentially more together than most adults I know.

Having said that, though, I’ve never been a die-hard Tavi fan. It wasn’t until she launched Rookie and started writing about feminism that I really caught what she was kicking. Her TEDx talk sealed the deal for me.

So apart from what I read on Twitter and in the odd interview, there was much that was new to me in Tavi’s talk. For example, I didn’t realise what a stone cold geek she is. If anyone else revealed they colour-coded Beyonce and Taylor Swift lyrics and made maps of the locations mentioned in Lana Del Rey songs I would have thought them tightly-wound nerds. (This coming from someone who spent hours cataloguing pictures from WWE.com by wrestler, colour-codes her bookshelf, and still stuck pictures of celebrities all over my school books well into university, mind you.) But Tavi has an endearing authenticity (which was a theme that ran through her talk) about being a “professional fangirl”. Her mantra, which I’m now going to adopt, is “let others like stuff the way you like stuff unto you.”

When many kids her age are more concerned with partying and their iPhones, it’s amazing that someone who’s still in high school and runs a business that sees her jetsetting across the world (and road tripping across the country) has time to compile in-depth journals about “Strange Magic” (the synchronicity of a location reminding you of a song reminding you of a memory reminding you of a movie reminding you of another song…) in between utilising her “pop culture tools” (the books, movies, tv shows and music that take her to her happy place; another Tavism I’m stealing).

I am so in awe of Tavi, honestly. It takes so much courage to reveal her fangirl idiosyncrasies to worldwide audiences whilst going through the awkwardness that is adolescence. Again, how do I make one of her…?

Elsewhere: [The Project] Tavi Gevinson.

[Rookie] Rookie Road Trip.

Image via MWF.