James Button, author of Speechless : A Year In My Father’s Business, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

James Button

author of Speechless :
A Year In My Father’s Business

Ten Terrifying Questions

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1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born, raised and schooled in Melbourne. I have lived in the city for 45 of my 51 years. The writer David Malouf said that Brisbane, where he grew up, was the city he felt from the body outwards. Melbourne is like that for me. I would like to write about it one day.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

A writer, a writer, a writer. I’ve dabbled with the idea of doing a few other things (politics, teaching…) but writing is the only job I think about doing every day. I’ve been a particular kind of writer — a journalist — for 23 years, but I would like to try other forms, too. It’s also the only skill I have. If reading is banned tomorrow, I’ll be sweeping the streets.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

A belief that I could do anything. At 18 I thought I would write Ulysses. Now I reckon I’ll be lucky if I get to read Ulysses.

4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?

In Grade Three a teacher read my creative writing essay to the class, and I thought: I can do this.

Reading Helen Garner’s Monkey Grip, at the age of 20, thrilled me, because it was about the inner suburbs I lived in, and it showed me that you could write about the places and lives you knew, however ordinary they might seem on the surface.

At the age of 24 I became a journalist for a city newspaper and for my first job was sent to a faraway northern suburb to interview a 14-year old pool playing prodigy. I was astounded by the roaming freedom journalism gave you, the discovery that everyone had a story to tell, and would tell, if you opened your notebook and said you were from the daily newspaper.

5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? aren’t they obsolete?

Not at all. For the amount of work and thought that goes into it, for its potential impact, and for its simple usefulness and beauty, there is still nothing like a book.

6. Please tell us about your new book, Speechless : A Year In My Father’s Business…

It is an account of a year I spent in Canberra, writing speeches for a Prime Minister, failing for complex reasons largely out of my control, learning a little of how government works, and reflecting through this experience on the life of my father, a former Federal Government minister, and how his life shaped mine. It is a memoir of how life often doesn’t quite turn out the way you think but is fascinating all the same.

(BBGuru: here is the publisher’s blurb – An absorbing story of what happens behind Canberra’s closed doors by leading speechwriter James Button.

James Button spent a year writing speeches for Kevin Rudd. Before that, he reported on politics as a highly regarded journalist for Fairfax. But James also has politics in the blood: his father was the diminutive but larger-than-life Senator John Button, who was a minister in the Hawke and Keating governments.

Growing up, James watched a roll-call of political luminaries debating the fate of the Labor Party. He saw great victories and defeats at close hand. He believes both his father and his family paid a heavy price for politics.

Speechless is James’ highly personal account of a year working in Canberra, seen from both the inside and the outside. It’s told through his experience of Kevin Rudd’s failure to tell his story, and how this helped destroy his prime ministership. It also reflects on how far the Labor Party has moved from the idealism and pragmatism of his father’s generation. He ends on a note of hope for the Party’s revival.)

Click here to buy Speechless – A Year In My Father’s Business from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop

7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?

The best books make us feel less alone, more aware of how the world is, more deeply alive. I would like to write a book that did all that.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

People who move from hardline positions to the middle, who come to understand complexity while not losing sight of their goal. Malcolm X and Nelson Mandela come to mind.

9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

I still hope to write a novel, even if it’s not Ulysses.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Follow good people. Keep a notebook. Remember that stories are everywhere — if you go deep enough, nothing is boring. Write and read all the time.

James, thank you for playing.

Click here to buy Speechless – A Year In My Father’s Business from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop

Major General John Cantwell, author of Exit Wounds: One Australian’s War of Terror, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Major General

John Cantwell

author of Exit Wounds : One Australian’s War of Terror

Ten Terrifying Questions

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1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born and raised in Southeast Queensland, living for a time on a farm. I was the oldest of eight kids, but I failed to set the standard in schooling where I was always too easily distracted by girls, music and almost anything else you care to mention. The best thing one of my teachers could say as I left school was, “Should do alright in the Army.”

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

I always had an interest in the Defence Forces and joined the Army as a private at the age of 17; little did I dream I would serve for 38 years and end up as a major-general. When I joined I was attracted to the idea of adventure and mateship. Years later, the friendships I formed in the Army remain very important to me, especially among those I formed in difficult situations such as combat or emergencies.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

I was incredibly naive at the age of 18. I’m not sure I had any strong beliefs, except for the value of family life. When I completed a Masters degree many years later I had a chance to think deeply about profound issues like life and death, the importance of big ideas, and the mess human beings have got themselves into on so many occasions. Wisdom comes late to some people.

4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?

No.1. My marriage to Jane was far-and-away the best thing to ever happen in my life; she has been at my side through so many adventures and a few dark days for the last 35 years.

No.2. Going to war (first Gulf War n 1990-91) was a life-changing event; it was the start of 20 years of struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

No.3. Seeing my book in printed form, on a shelf in a bookstore, was pretty cool; I hung around hoping to see someone buy a copy but I was out of luck!

5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? aren’t they obsolete?

There’s nothing quite like the feel of a book in your hands, the anticipation of opening it for the first time, and the satisfaction of closing it when it’s been read. Books may one day disappear but I’m glad mine saw the light of day in physical form. E-books are, for the moment at least, a powerful adjunct to traditional books; we need to embrace them. Electronic media (blogs, etc) is instant but ephemeral.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

“Exit Wounds” is the story of my experiences in three wars, all different but brutal. It is not a war story, however, although it uses modern war as its framework. The book describes my struggle with the emotional damage that comes from terrible experiences. I have laid myself bare in the hope of exposing this often hidden aspect of what we ask of our military personnel, and encouraging others to seek help. I have battled PTSD for 20 years; this book is an account of that fight, the ugliness of combat, the sorrow of loss, and the first of many steps along my pathway to recovery and redemption.

(BBGuru: Publisher’s blurb – ‘This is my story, but it is also the story of thousands of Australian veterans from Iraq, East Timor, Afghanistan and other conflicts who bare similar emotional scars. This is what becomes of those men and women we send off to war, pay little attention to, then forget once they are home.’

As a country boy from Queensland, John Cantwell signed up to the army as a private and rose to the rank of major general. He was on the front line in 1991 as Coalition forces fitted bulldozer blades to tanks and buried alive Iraqi troops in their trenches. He fought in Baghdad in 2006 and saw what a car bomb does to a marketplace crowded with women and children. In 2010 he commanded the Australian forces in Afghanistan when ten of his soldiers were killed. He returned to Australia in 2011 to be considered for the job of chief of the Australian Army. Instead, he ended up in a psychiatric hospital.

Exit Wounds is the compassionate and deeply human account of one man’s tour of the War on Terror, the moving story of life on a modern battlefield: from the nightmare of cheating death in a minefield, to the poignancy of calling home while under rocket fire in Baghdad, to the utter despair of looking into the face of a dead soldier before sending him home to his mother. He has hidden his post traumatic stress disorder for decades, fearing it will affect his career.

Australia has been at war for the past twenty years and yet there has been no stand-out account from these conflicts—Exit Wounds is it. Raw, candid and eye-opening, no one who reads this book will be unmoved, nor forget its imagery or words.)

Click here to buy Exit Wounds from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop

7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?

I want this book to show others that the emotional damage that often accompanies warfare and other traumatic experiences is a normal reaction to abnormal events, that is anything but a sign or weakness or failure, and that there is a way to recover through admitting that the problem exists then getting help.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

My wife Jane is my hero. She, like so many wives and partners of soldiers, has served her country in ways that never get recognised but which support and heal our fighting troops. She is the love of my life.

9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

I want to beat my PTSD; I’m well on the way. I want to help others recognise and heal their own emotional wounds; this book is a start. I’d like to write some more; it is hard work but intensely satisfying.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Write from the heart, be disciplined, strive for brevity, and ignore advice from newly published first-time authors. (BBGuru: Great answer!)

John, thank you for playing.

Chris Hammer, author of The Coast and The River, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Chris Hammer

author of The Coast and The River

Ten Terrifying Questions

—————————-

1.  To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Tasmania, grew up and schooled in Canberra. I went to uni in Bathurst and, later did a second degree at the ANU in Canberra.

I’ve been a journalist for the past 25 years or so, mostly covering federal politics and international affairs.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

At twelve I wanted to be a test cricketer. At eighteen I wanted to be a film director. At 30 I wanted to be a foreign correspondent. Strangely enough, I was a pretty good cricketer and loved playing it, but it didn’t tick all the boxes. As I grew older, I became more and more interested in marrying together creativity with intellectual challenges. That’s why I became a journalist. I did become a foreign correspondent, travelling the world for SBS, but daily journalism, even long-form journalism, doesn’t give you the freedom or the canvas of writing a book: that’s something special.

3.  What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

That I had all the answers – or at least had a fair chance of finding them. As if.

4.  What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?

Nothing. I grew up in a loving and secure family in Canberra in the sixties and seventies, so nothing ever happened. Ask anyone who was there. The world washed over me. Man landed on the moon when I was nine, but I didn’t think it was such a big deal.  I was  incensed at the injustice of the Vietnam War and apartheid in South Africa, but that was a long way away from my own experience. I was simultaneously precocious and phlegmatic. Then  puberty hit and the decline set in. I’ll never again be as smart as I was at age twelve.

But I was an early and avid reader. The books that caught my imagination at a very early age were the legends of King Arthur. I’m not sure the subject matter is as important as the fact that these were the books that hooked me. If I were a kid today, it would probably be Harry Potter.

My daydreams of retirement centre around writing and reading, that magical swirl of words.

5.  Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? aren’t they obsolete?

As a journalist/video producer I have worked for newspapers, television, magazines and on line. So I haven’t lacked opportunity. But none of them provide the freedom, the length or the purity of writing a book. The pleasure found in writing a book is similar in some ways to the pleasure derived from reading one: being able to engage your imagination and immerse yourself totally. I think that’s why books aren’t obsolete and aren’t likely to become obsolete: they provide an unrivalled immersive experience. Film and video can be powerful, but by their nature most of the  imagining is done by the producers, not the viewers. With books, the imaginative process is more equally shared between writer and reader.

6.  Please tell us about your latest book…

It’s called The Coast: a Journey Along Australia’s Eastern Shores. It’s travel writing, but travel writing with a purpose. I travel down the east coast of Australia, from the Torres Strait to Tasmania, exploring environmental issues. It’s not an essay. It’s more of a celebration of the coast and the people who live along it, how fortunate we are and why we should cherish it.

(BBGuru: publisher’s blurb -

The Coast and its people help define our identity. Most Australians live in suburbia, but our hearts are elsewhere.

From the winner of the ACT Book of the year Award for his first book, The River, comes this celebration of the Australian seascape, from its natural grandeur to the quirky individualism of those who live beside it. It is also the heartfelt and pertinent story of the issues facing our coast today and the resilience of communities at a turning point.

Chris Hammer travels the length of the east coast of Australia on a journey of discovery and reflection, from the Torres Strait to Tasmania; from an island whose beach has been lost forever to the humbling optimism of the survivors of Cyclone yasi; from the showy beaches of Sydney to a beautiful village that endures despite the loss of its fishing fleet.

This is a relevant, satisfying and highly readable book, imbued with a sense of optimism and humour. Even as new economic imperatives emerge and the shift in our climate becomes apparent, we can revel in the heritage and character of our shores, reminding us why The Coast is so important to all of us.)

Click here to buy The Coast from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop

7.  If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?

I don’t set such lofty ambitions for my books.  If they provide readers with some pleasure, some food for thought, and some temporary relief from the mad vortex of daily life, then they may have assisted in some incremental way in our ongoing struggle against the banal, the vapid and the incessant noise of consumerism.

8.  Whom do you most admire and why?

I’m not much impressed by celebrity, material success or high office.

I’m more impressed by those selfless people who freely give of their time to care for others – I’m far more selfish.

But I guess I’m most impressed with people who are comfortable in their own skins, who don’t care what others might think of them, and who set their own priorities. There’s a certain grace in that, I think.

9.  Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

To write books full time. In Australia, that’s pretty ambitious.

I’m not much taken by ambition as defined by the traditional notions of getting ahead. I work in parliament house in Canberra, which is chock-a-block with politicians (and journalists) who are more interested in personal advancement than in producing anything worthwhile. I’d much prefer to produce work that I’m proud of than getting ahead.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Write what you’d like to read, with honesty and authenticity, rather than try to write what you think will appeal to publishers or readers.

Having a book published is a wonderful experience, but don’t let it be an aim in itself; what’s the point if it’s not written from the heart?

Chris, thank you for playing.

Click here to buy The Coast from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop

COMING SOON: Moranthology by Caitlin Moran, author of How To be a Woman


Moranthology

‘In How To be a Woman , I was limited to a single topic: women. Their hair, their shoes and their crushes on Aslan from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (which I KNOW to be universal).

‘However! In Moranthology – as the title suggests – I am set free to tackle THE REST OF THE WORLD: Ghostbusters, Twitter, caffeine, panic attacks, Michael Jackson’s memorial service, being a middle-class marijuana addict, Doctor Who, binge-drinking, Downton Abbey, pandas, my own tragically early death, and my repeated failure to get anyone to adopt the nickname I have chosen for myself: ‘Puffin’.

‘I go to a sex club with Lady Gaga, cry on Paul McCartney’s guitar, get drunk with Kylie, appear on Richard & Judy as a gnome, climb into the TARDIS, sniff Sherlock Holmes’s pillow at 221b Baker Street, write Amy Winehouse’s obituary, turn up late to Downing Street for Gordon Brown, and am rudely snubbed at a garden party by David Cameron – although that’s probably because I called him ‘a C-3PO made of ham’. Fair enough.

‘And, in my spare time – between hangovers – I rant about the welfare state, library closures and poverty; like a shit Dickens or Orwell, but with tits.’

Click here to order Moranthology from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop

Read Caitlin’s awesome answers to our Ten Terrifying Questions

COMING SOON: Am I Black Enough For You? by Anita Heiss (Available April 2012)


I’m Aboriginal. I’m just not the Aboriginal person a lot of people want
or expect me to be.

The story of an urban-based high achieving Aboriginal woman working to break down stereotypes and build bridges between black and white Australia.

What does it mean to be Aboriginal?

Why is Australia so obsessed with notions of identity?

Anita Heiss, successful author and passionate campaigner for Aboriginal literacy, was born a member of the Wiradjuri nation of central New South Wales, but was raised in the suburbs of Sydney and educated at the local Catholic school. She is Aboriginal – however, this does not mean she likes to go barefoot and, please, don’t ask her to camp in the desert.

After years of stereotyping Aboriginal Australians as either settlement dwellers or rioters in Redfern, the Australian media have discovered a new crime to charge them with: being too ‘fair-skinned’ to be real Aborigines. Such accusations led to Anita’s involvement in one of the most important and sensational Australian legal decisions of the 21st-century when she joined others in charging a newspaper columnist with breaching the Racial Discrimination Act. He was found guilty, and the repercussions continue.

In this deeply personal memoir, told in her distinctive, wry style, Anita Heiss gives a first-hand account of her experiences as a woman with an Aboriginal mother and Austrian father, and explains the development of her activist consciousness.

Read her story and ask: what does it take for someone to be black enough for you?

PRE-ORDER your copy of Am I Black Enough For You? by Anita Heiss
from Booktopia, Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop

About the Author:  Dr Anita Heiss is the bestselling author of Not Meeting Mr Right and Avoiding Mr Right, both published by Bantam Australia. Anita was recognised for Outstanding Achievement in Literature in the 2010 and 2011 Deadly Awards for her novels Manhattan Dreaming and Paris Dreaming. A writer, satirist, activist, social commentator and occasional academic, Anita is a member of the Wiradjuri nation of central New South Wales, an Indigenous Literacy Day Ambassador and a board member of the National Aboriginal Sporting Chance Academy. She lives in Sydney and but dreams of living in New York.

Rupert Murdoch : An investigation of political power by David McKnight

When Rupert Murdoch called, Prime Ministers and Presidents picked up the phone.

David McKnight exposes Murdoch’s unflinching use of his media empire to further his political agenda over decades. This is the story behind the hacking scandal that rocked the world and shook the Murdoch empire.

‘A study of dangerous media abuse of power and of abject government weakness in regard to it. This is a disturbing book.’ – From the foreword by Robert Manne

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation is the most powerful media organisation in the world. Murdoch’s commercial success is obvious, but less well understood is his successful pursuit of political goals, using News Corporation as his vehicle.

David McKnight tracks Murdoch’s influence, from his support for Reagan and Thatcher, to his attacks on Barack Obama and the Rudd and Gillard governments. He examines the secretive corporate culture of News Corporation: its private political seminars for editors, its sponsorship of think tanks and its recurring editorial campaigns around the world. Its success is reflected in the fact that the campaigns are familiar to us all: small government and market deregulation, skepticism on climate change, support for neo-conservative adventures such as Iraq and criticism of all things ‘liberal’.

While the phone hacking crisis has tarnished his reputation, Rupert Murdoch’s influence is far from finished.

DAVID MCKNIGHT is Associate Professor in the Journalism and Media Research Centre at the University of NSW, and a former journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald and ABC TV’s Four Corners.

Click here to order your copy from Booktopia, Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop

A Twitter Year: 365 Days in 140 Characters compiled by Kate Bussmann

The first of its kind, A Twitter Year distills a year of conversation, argument, revelation and revolution into a ‘review of the year’ as written by the Twitter community.

Where can you find first-hand accounts of the Arab Spring, Japan’s nuclear disaster or the Norwegian atrocities? Thousands flouting celebrity superinjunctions? X-rated snaps of politicians? A babysitter mistaken for a cricket match? The answer, of course: on Twitter.

The first of its kind, A Twitter Year distills a year of conversation, argument, revelation and revolution into a ‘review of the year’ as written by the Twitter community. With profiles of top users and fascinating stats, it captures the biggest events in current affairs, culture and sport – from the death of Osama bin Laden to the demise of the News of the World, the panic at the London Riots to the excitement of the Royal Wedding.

In the year the social network celebrates its 5th birthday, Twitter continues to grow at an incredible rate. There are now over 200 million accounts across the world, including Lady Gaga, the British monarchy, Lord Voldemort and a lot of pets. A Twitter Year gathers some of the funniest and sharpest tweets to bring you a unique celebration of the way we talk now.

‘As millions of devotees have discovered, Twitter turns out to have unsuspected depth…In short, the most fascinating thing about Twitter is not what it’s doing to us. It’s what we’re doing to it’  – Stephen Johnson, Time

‘I like to follow my [something] Martha Stewart, ‘cause Martha Stewart she keeps it scuttered and buttered, baked and flaked and she love to wake and bake with the big Snoop Dogg. You feel me?’ – Snoop Dogg

Kate Bussmann is a magazine and newspaper journalist and blogger. Her writing has been published in the Guardian, Observer, Sunday Times, Sunday Telegraph, Red, Marie Claire, Grazia, Stylist, Shortlist and many more around the world. She is based in London, and has just returned from three years living and working in New York.

Peter Popham, author of The Lady and the Peacock: the Life of Aung San Suu Kyi, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Peter Popham

author of The Lady and the Peacock: the Life of Aung San Suu Kyi

Ten Terrifying Questions

———————————-

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in a village in County Cork, Eire, then moved to England when I was a baby and grew up in Richmond, south-west of London, famous for its glorious park. I went to a London grammar school where I edited the school magazine and had my first encounter with Australia via Richard Neville when I became one of the schoolkid editors of a notorious issue of Oz magazine.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

Writer, writer and writer. Like my dad. It was what I was good at, and I liked his lifestyle of staying home all day, smoking his pipe and occasionally firing his catapult at the pigeons.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

That the United Nations was going to save the world.

4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?

My parents’ divorce, unfortunately, which brought home the impermanence of ‘home’. Reading Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry and beginning to appreciate what prose could do, and what style was. Encountering Zen Buddhism when I was teaching English in Japan, and learning a little about silence.

5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? aren’t they obsolete?

Not yet!

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

A woman in her early forties with an academic husband, two sons and a comfortable life in England dreams of one day emulating her heroic father, who fought for and won his nation’s independence. But it’s just a dream – until she finds herself plunged into the thick of a mass uprising and discovers her destiny. It sounds like a novel and I hope it is as gripping as one, but it is the true story of Aung San Suu Kyi, a true heroine of our times.

(BBGuru: from the publisher -

The definitive biography of Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s pro-democracy leader.

Until she was released in November 2010, Aung San Suu Kyi had been under house arrest in Burma for fourteen of the previous twenty years. She was already confined to her home when the party she co-founded and led, the National League for Democracy, won a landslide victory in a general election in 1990. The result was never acknowledged by the military regime in power for many decades.

Yet, headline, tragic events have happened in Burma in recent years: the brutally put down uprising of the monks and nuns in 2007, the devastation left by Cyclone Nargis in 2008, and then Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial following the entry into her home of an American intruder who swam across a lake to reach her. Since then there have been sham elections held in November 2010, and ‘Daw Suu’ (as the Nobel Peace Prize laureate is known) was released into an uneasy stand off with the junta.

Praised all over the world for her martyrdom, a matchless emblem of Buddhist fortitude and good humour to her people, there is no public figure in the world today who can compare to her. Yet no book has yet been written that does justice to her extraordinary story: brought up mostly in India, settled in N. Oxford with her English scholar husband and two sons, called back to Burma to look after her sick mother, then caught up in a revolutionary uprising for which she became leader, yet trapped inside the country – never to see her husband again.

The Lady and the Peacock is the first, accessible biography of Aung San Suu Kyi. It will become the definitive work on this extraordinary woman, of whom Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said: ‘Aung San Suu Kyi is a remarkable and courageous human being. Listen to her voice and be inspired…’ )

7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?

To enable at least a few people to see that, while life can be futile, it doesn’t have to be. It’s up to us.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

The Dalai Lama. Who has transformed the shit of humiliation into spiritual gold.

9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

I have written a good book. I would like to write another.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

If you like it, just do it! And never slacken your standards.

Peter, thank you for playing.

This Changes Everything : Occupy Wall Street & the 99% Movement

Occupy Wall Street protests have spread around the world, with a common slogan of “We are the 99%.”

But there is a great deal of confusion and misperception about this movement. This book clarifies the who, what, when, where, why, and how of this movement. It provides profound insight into the movement’s power, messages, significance, methods, and impact. The editors of YES! Magazine bring together voices from inside and outside the protests to show how the meaning and impact of this movement are much bigger and more far-reaching than is being reported.

The central thesis of this book is “This Changes Everything.”

The authors show how this movement changes (1) how citizens view themselves, (2) what citizens see is really going on in the world, (3) what is possible in creating a world that works for the many (the “99%”) and not just the few (the “1%”), and (4) how citizens can bring about changes they seek in their communities, nations, and the world.

The Occupy Wall Street movement names the core issue of our time: the overwhelming power of Wall Street and large corporations—something the political establishment and most media have long ignored.

But the movement goes far beyond this critique. This Changes Everything shows how the movement is shifting the way people view themselves and the world, the kind of society they believe is possible, and their own involvement in creating a society that works for the 99% rather than just the 1%.

Available through Booktopia from the middle of December 2011 – pre-order here

Death in Perugia: The Definitive Account of the Meredith Kercher case from her murder to the acquittal of Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox by John Follain

Taking the advice of that horrible fellow on Gruen Planet last night I am putting this up now for fear that in two weeks time no one will be able to remember what the hell it was all about. 

John Follain, who covers Italy for the Sunday Times, tells the definitive inside story of this extraordinary case.

Shortly after 12.30pm on 2 November 2007, Italian police were called to the Perugia home of 21-year-old British student Meredith Kercher. They found her body on the floor under a beige quilt. Her throat had been cut.

Four days later, the prosecutor jailed Meredith’s flatmate American student Amanda Knox, and Raffaele Sollecito, her Italian boyfriend. He also jailed Rudy Guede, an Ivory Coast drifter. Four years later Knox and Sollecito were acquitted amid chaotic scenes in front of the world’s media.

Uniquely based on four years of reporting and access to the complete case files, Death In Perugia takes readers on a riveting journey behind the scenes of the investigation, as John Follain shares the drama of the trials and appeal hearings he lived through.

Including exclusive interviews with Meredith’s friends and other key sources, Death in Perugia reveals how the Italian dream turned into a nightmare.

About the Author

John Follain was born in 1966. He studied at Oxford before joining Reuters, for which he worked as a correspondent in Rome and Paris. He has covered Italy for The Sunday Times since 1998. His previous books include THE LAST GODFATHERS and ZOYA’S STORY on an Afghan resistance fighter, which was translated into fourteen languages. He was voted runner-up for the 2006 Paul Foot Award for Campaigning Journalism, and nominated for the 2008 Magazine Journalism Awards for his interview with the Knox family.

Published in August:

The Fatal Gift of Beauty

by Nina Burleigh

The sexually violent murder of twenty-one-year-old British student Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy, on the night of November 1, 2007, became an international sensation when one of Kercher’s housemates, twenty-year-old Seattle native Amanda Knox, as well as her Italian boyfriend and a troubled local man Knox said she “vaguely” knew, was arrested and charged with the murder. The Fatal Gift of Beauty is award-winning author and journalist Nina Burleigh’s mesmerizing literary investigation of the murder, the controversial prosecution, the conviction and twenty-six-year sentence of Knox, the machinations of Italian justice, and the underground depravity and clash of cultures in one of central -Italy’s most beloved cities.

When Perugia authorities concluded that the murder was part of a dark, twisted rite—a “sex game”—led by the American with an uncanny resemblance to Perugia’s Madonna, they unleashed a media frenzy from Rome to London to New York and Seattle. The story drew an international cult obsessed with “Foxy Knoxy,” a pretty honor student on a junior year abroad, who either woke up one morning into a nightmare of superstition and misogyny—the dark side of Italy—or participated in something unspeakable.

The investigation begins in the old stone cottage overlooking bucolic olive groves where Kercher’s body was found in her locked bedroom. It winds through the shadowy, arched alleys of Perugia, a city of art that is also a magnet for tens of thousands of students who frequent its bars, clubs, and drug bazaar on the steps of the Duomo. It climaxes in an up-close account of Italy’s dysfunctional legal system, as the trial slowly unfolds at the town’s Tribunale, and the prosecution’s thunderous final appeal to God before the quivering girl defendant resembles a scene from the Inquisition.

To reveal what actually happened on that terrible night after Halloween, Nina Burleigh lived in Perugia, attended the trial, and corresponded with the incarcerated defendants. She also delved deeply into the history, secrets, and customs of Perugia, renowned equally for its Etruscan tunnels, early Christian art, medieval sorcerers, and pagan roots.

The Fatal Gift of Beauty is a thoughtful, compelling examination of an enduring mystery, an ancient, storied place, and a disquieting facet of Italian culture: an obsession with female eroticism. It is also an acute window into the minds and personalities of the accused killers and of the conservative Italian magistrate striving to make sense of an inexplicable act of evil. But at its core is an indelible portrait of Amanda Knox, the strangely childlike, enigmatic beauty, whose photogenic face became the focal point of international speculation about the shadow side of youth and freedom.

Reviews

“Finally, the twisted tale of Amanda Knox, the all-American college girl convicted of murder in Italy, gets the telling this extraordinary story deserves. Nina Burleigh’s immersion in Italian cultural history provides a context that allows us–first the first time–to understand how this international miscarriage of justice could have occurred. Stirring, compelling, and in the end a tragic tale worthy of Italian opera.” –Joe McGinniss, author of Fatal Vision, The Miracle of Castel Di Sangro and The Rogue

“The global media, in its frenzied coverage of the sensational Amanda Knox murder trial, overlooked what Nina Burleigh has skillfully unearthed and analyzed–a compelling chain of evidence, subtle levels of significance. Her telling of the tale is clearly the only one that gets it right.”–John Berendt, author of The City of Falling Angels and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

 

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