2018 Mid-Year Wrap: Blue Moon Edition

on Tuesday, July 3, 2018
Alright, so 2018 hasn't exactly been the blazing return to blogging that I was hoping it might be. I did manage to squeeze a semi-respectable sixty three books into the first half of the year, though. So that's got to count for something. Hopefully, I'll write something of substance about some of them at some point but, until then, here's a list (in no particular order) of a few that I really loved.

The Everlasting Sunday by Robert Lukins: A masterclass in building narrative tension, this exquisite debut crackles with solar flares of burgeoning masculinity. Set in a school for wayward boys, The Everlasting Sunday explores what it means to become a man when you have been thrown on society's scrap heap. It's cold, it's brooding, and it slams you in the gut with a sledgehammer. Just brilliant.

Census by Jesse Ball: A book so staggeringly beautiful that I was compelled to stop ignoring this blog and review it. Ball's surreal tribute to his brother is both magical and heartbreaking. Easily his best novel since his masterpiece, Silence Once Begun.

Flames by Robbie Arnott: Flames is so unlike anything I've read lately that I find myself tongue tied trying to get across how bloody great it is. Daring in form and almost folkloric in tone, Arnott weaves together threads of nature, myth and Tasmanian history into a compelling family saga. Flames is overflowing with incredible ideas and unexpected, delightful imagery. A truly original piece of literary fiction.

Pink Mountain on Locust Island by Jamie Marina Lau: Another experimental triumph, Pink Mountain... positively bristles with raw energy. It shoots all over the place in short, sharp chapters, taking in drugs, gambling, art and some pretty screwy family dynamics along the way. There are times that it flies off the rails, but that only adds to the thrill. Buckle up, if you dare.

Fish Girl by Mirandi Riwoe: A gorgeous novella that makes high art of Somerset Maugham's scraps, The Fish Girl will draw you in gently before plunging a thousand daggers into your soul. I know it's technically not a 2018 book but I'm happy to play fast and loose with the rules for a book this extraordinary. And thanks to the folks behind the Stella Prize for making me aware of its existence. Their picks are consistently spot on, but this year was a particular standout.

The Cage by Lloyd Jones: Well this was unexpected. Lloyd Jones writing the best work of Kafkaesque fiction about Europe's refugee crisis? Who'd have thunk it? Shades of the great Czech master abound in The Cage, not least of which is the titular contraption itself. Read it for a sophisticated, compassionate and brutally honest meditation on how we (mis)treat the outsider and how easy it is to slip into unthinking cruelty.

One Of The Boys by Daniel Magarial: A couple of pages into this devastating novella and you know you're in for a harrowing read. A father tricks child services into giving him custody of his two sons, only to brutally mistreat them as he descends into a drug-addled hell. One of the Boys is about as confronting as it comes, but there is exhilaration to be found in the boys' resilience and ultimate rebellion.

Peach by Emma Glass: Speaking of confronting, you'll be hard pressed to find anything as difficult to read as this breakout debut novella. It took me a few pages to work out what was going on and then it struck me: I was being made witness to the immediate aftermath of a rape as the narrator struggles to make sense of her experience. Written in stark, hallucinatory snippets, Peach is, as I called it in my review, a hell-ride into the hyper-real. Read it and weep. Literally.

Well, that's about it on the reading front. As for music, 2018 has been pretty good with only a couple of future classics. My favourites so far:

Bloomington Cutters - Humming Status, Singing Quo.
Slow Bloom - Hex Hex Hex
Spanish Love Songs - Schmaltz
The Bennies - Natural Born Chillers
Pass Away - The Hell I've Seen
Tiny Moving Parts - Swell
Pennywise - Never Gonna Die
The Last Gang - Keep Them Counting
Captives - Over The Rainbow
Late Bloomer - Waiting