The Big Issue : Edition 488
BOOKS THE BIG ISSUE 10 – 23 JULY 2015 41 THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WOR LD STEPHANIE BISHOP *** 1/2 ONLINE GRAVITY PAUL X McCARTHY **** THE GOOD STORY JM COETZEE AND ARABELLA KURTZ **** THUY ON > Books Editor Stephanie Bishop’s new book proves that here is one author capable of delivering the traditionally difficult second novel with ease. The Other Side of the World is luminous, lit up by Bishop’s gorgeous descriptions of the trajectory of Henry and Charlotte as they move from England to Australia. Henry is offered a job in Perth and, at the promise of sun and new beginnings, convinces his reluctant wife to join him. The Other Side of the World maps their slow and unsteady acclimatisation. The sun- bleached and cloudless skies bear witness to the incremental ructions in their marriage as Charlotte, in particular, struggles with homesickness and wrangling two small children alone. She is an artist, but her time to paint is often subser vient to domestic duties. A small quibble: while Bishop spends much of the book exploring the family’s tightly circumscribed world, the last section seems rushed. Its unexpected (and rather coincidental) denouement is depicted in broad strokes, which is frustrating when finely detailed work is what Bishop does best. THUY ON The internet is not like IRL. In real life, brands and ser vices often consolidate into two big similar providers – Visa and Mastercard, Pepsi and Coca-Cola, Masterchef and My Kitchen Rules. The internet, Paul X McCarthy argues in his new book, is different. The digital space is like the early solar system: at first chaotic, but then eventually consolidating into large unique objects massive enough to sustain their own gravity. It clarifies its initially bewildering number of options down to one overriding world of its own – a Google or an Amazon or an Apple. Written for both business and general readers, Online Gravity traces the occasionally stuttering rise of the information economy. It examines how the internet shapes our lives now, and how it will continue to do so in the future. From personal marketing opportunities like Twitter and Tinder to strategic business advice, McCarthy (a tech start-up veteran and an academic with a thorough knowledge of the digital past) has written an engaging and at times evangelistic how-to guide for the next ten years of the internet. JAMES TIERNEY “As a genre the novel seems to have a constitutional stake in the claim that things are not as they seem to be, that our seeming lives are not our real lives. And psychoanalysis...has a comparable stake,” says Nobel Prize winner JM Coetzee in The Good Stor y, a conversation between a writer and a psychoanalyst. But when the writer is Coetzee and the psychoanalyst is Arabella Kurtz, a psychologist who draws deeply from complex characters in the classics of literature, a simple discussion becomes a rich contemplation of human and fictional behaviour. Coetzee introduces each chapter, seeking clarification from Kurtz about aspects of human behaviour. Kurtz then responds and interrogates Coetzee’s thoughts, revealing her approach to psychoanalysis and the significance of therapeutic self-analysis in our ‘post-religious’ world. Their conversation is thoughtful, nuanced, non-linear and, as they confess in the introduction, uncertain. But, for the reader, The Good Stor y is surprisingly straightforward and rewarding. PIP NEWLING THIS year marks the 150th birthday of Alice in Wonderland and, unsurprisingly, there are numerous reprints of Lewis Carroll’s classic book being released. An impressive anniversary gift to any devotee of the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts is The Complete Alice – the definitive edition, complete and unabridged. It’s a handsome hardback volume with gold-edged pages and reproduced illustrations that have been respectfully colourised from the original pen and ink artwork of Sir John Tenniel, the leading cartoonist of the day. Appropriately enough, Macmillan is the publisher (they brought out Alice back in 1865) and the set includes the sequel, Through the Looking-Glass, and a deleted episode called ‘The Wasp in a Wig’. In case new readers aren’t familiar with the books’ provenance, there’s also an explanatory epilogue with the story-behind- the-story. The first novel was initially called Alice’s Adventures Under Ground and we get to see a sample of Carroll’s handwritten manuscript and original drawings. In his foreword, Philip Pullman makes the point that these books were said to be “the origin of all later children’s literature”. Previous children’s novels were usually written with a finger-wagging moral in mind, whereas Carroll’s books were fun and whimsical. Even though they were written 150 years ago, they still appeal to every child’s innate sense of silliness and wonder.