The Big Issue : Edition 495
BOOKS THEBIGISSUE9–15OCT2015 41 Readers can be snobs when it comes to the work of enormously successful writers. We accuse them of selling out and abandoning the struggle to make honest work against all odds. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love, knows this better than anyone, but guess what? She doesn’t give a rat’s. Her latest offering, Big Magic, is a self-helper for creatives and its message, while not entirely original, is honest. Anyone with a creative bent will benefit from being reminded that martyrdom is destructive, that pragmatism is essential and that your ideas are not your own – much less sacred. Gilbert’s prose is not inspired, but it is inherently readable. She imparts palatable pop wisdom through personal anecdotes and turns to Seamus Heaney, Einstein, scenes from 30 Rock and even fridge magnet clichés to back up her arguments. Perhaps the most resonant lesson Gilbert offers is the relationship of creators to their ideas as a collaboration between independent equals; great ideas are sentient beings seeking a human. Less spiritual readers may find some sections a little lofty and far-fetched. LUCY NELSON BIG MAGIC ELIZABETH GILBERT *** Zeroes – the first of a new series written by Australian author supergroup Scott Westerfield, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti – comes at superhero origin stories from a new direction. This superhero team is a group of friends from different walks of life who are drawn together by their strange powers. In the vein of Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, Zeroes attempts to push past the colourful two-dimensional personality of the standard superhero. The book’s protagonists include women of colour, kids with disabilities, lower-income and disadvantaged kids, as well as middle-class kids, and works hard to bring their individual challenges into focus. The Zeroes are not great heroes, and their fledgling abilities more often cause trouble, rather than get them out of it. But through this, the Zeroes learn about adulthood and friendship, and develop their own views on the world. Zeroes is a well-written, funny and absorbing read. The only disappointment is the fact that even with three Australian authors, the story’s still set in America. RAPHAELLE RACE The elderly Cripps had a dog by default (an unwanted Christmas present). They fed and washed him, but that was the extent of their care. They didn’t even grant him a name, so the black-and-white mutt called himself Sad. Even though he thought he was very clever, his songs were interpreted as noise, his interesting dirt patterns as destructive digging. Then one day, a truck came and took everything away. E xcept Sad. This picture book, rendered in soft pastel colours, will strike a chord in anyone who loves animals. Fortunately, the new owners of the house are a family with a little boy, Jack, who slowly begins to court the attention of the woebegone dog. Sad is greeted with sausages, his own basket and most importantly of all, love. Sandy Fussell’s book explores responsible pet ownership: how patience and tolerance are more crucial than material goods when it comes to settling a new furry friend into the household. It’s a great introductory book for kids who’ve never had a pet before. THUY ON ZEROES SCOTT WESTERFIELD, MARGO LANAGAN, DEBORAH BIANCOTTI ***** SAD, THE DOG SANDY FUSSELL, ILLUSTRATED BY TULL SUWANNAKIT **** IT’S A MARK of a book’s success when it starts to inspire parodies, and many classics now have cheeky and irreverent spin-offs. There are many riffs on Jane Austen’s novels, for instance: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. The Harry Potter books have also been reconstituted in a series of novels by Michael Gerber (Barry Trotter and the Shameless Parody, Barry Trotter and the Unnecessary Sequel and Barry Trotter and the Dead Horse). Then (inevitably) there’s been Fifty Sheds of Grey (Erotica for the Not Too Modern Male) and Fifty Shames of Earl Grey, as well as The Hunger Pains and Alice in Tumblr-Land. Whether you regard them as mock tributes or canny marketing tie-ins, these parodies are more fun than malicious. Children’s picture books, in particular, seem to elicit some brilliant responses. Instead of the bear, there’s We’re Going on a Bar Hunt; instead of the moon, there’s Goodnight iPad. Meanwhile, the poor old very hungry caterpillar has been turned into The Very Hungover THUY ON > Books Editor Caterpillar. Recently, one of my favourite kids books – the Hairy Maclary series by Lynley Dodd, featuring a ragtag of mischievous dogs – has had a gruesome, but funny, makeover by Michael Ward: Zombie McCrombie from an Overturned Kombi. Needless to say, these books are much less kid-friendly than the originals.