Today in brief: In this week's Friday High Five, we say goodbye to Ray Bradbury (with help from Neil Gaiman); look at terrifying French picture books for children; travel to the location of the mining boom; discover a documentary on AIDS in San Francisco; and read a new short story by Maile Meloy.
We take a look at our five favourite links from around the internet this week.
Some believe we should tread cautiously with our children’s books, being careful not to startle young minds. Others, such as the late Maurice Sendak, believe that children are naturally drawn to dark tales, and we shouldn’t coddle them with pastel sweetness. The French are certainly in the second camp, if their recent literature is anything to go by.
The Guardian has recently published ten terrifying children’s picture books from France, with topics including My First Nightmare, The Rabbits' Revenge, The ABC of Anger, and a book in which death visits a little girl and kills her. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll hide under the bed.
Ben Law’s moving and insightful essay on Timothy Conigrave’s Holding the Man and AIDS in Australia has had an overwhelming reader response over the past week (with good reason). Many have commented on how his piece has made them want to discover (or revisit) Holding the Man. Others have expressed a desire to find out more about the early days of the AIDS epidemic and how it affected the individuals caught up in it.
Last Sunday night, ABC2 aired a terrific documentary on AIDS in San Francisco in the early 1980s, during the days a diagnosis meant almost certain death. When We Were Here interviews five people who lived through that time, including a man who survived the deaths of two lovers and countless friends (and his own diagnosis) and a nurse who worked in the first AIDS ward. You can watch it on iView now.
Meanjin has just published a brilliant essay looking at Australia’s mining boom from the inside – and it’s fascinating, mind-boggling reading. Gillian Terzis channels Michael Lewis, as she travels to the Pilbara and visits the mining communities at the heart of the boom, where a three-bedroom house in the middle of nowhere rents for $1650 to $1900 a week, workers live in caravans in the driveways of houses with yachts in the front yard, the backpackers' accomodation is booked 12 months in advance, and a council street sweeper earns $91,000 plus per year.
Naturally, when you walk into Karratha McDonald’s and discover the cost of a single Big Mac is $9.65, you are forced to recalibrate your understanding of economic bubbles. The Big Mac index, invented by the Economist in 1986, is a light-hearted attempt to compare purchasing-power parity (what you can buy for your dollar) in different economies. My Victorian dollars did not take me very far out west.
Some authors I read and loved as a boy disappointed me as I aged. Bradbury never did. His horror stories remained as chilling, his dark fantasies as darkly fantastic, his science fiction (he never cared about the science, only about the people, which was why the stories worked so well) as much of an exploration of the sense of wonder, as they had when I was a child.
Bradbury himself has a piece in the current New Yorker, a science fiction special, in which he writes about his own childhood inspiration, Edgar Rice Burroughs:
I memorized all of ‘John Carter’ and ‘Tarzan,’ and sat on my grandparents’ front lawn repeating the stories to anyone who would sit and listen. I would go out to that lawn on summer nights and reach up to the red light of Mars and say, ‘Take me home!’ I yearned to fly away and land there in the strange dusts that blew over dead-sea bottoms toward the ancient cities.
Looking for some long weekend reading? Maile Meloy’s collection Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It was the pick of 2010 for many reviewers; her latest short story, ‘The Proxy Marriage’, is available for free on the New Yorker’s website. Here’s a taste:
But Monty made a mistake. He sat Bridey down in his parents’ living room, two days after the dance, and told her that he’d wanted three things out of high school: to be captain of the tennis team, to get into Berkeley, and to have a serious girlfriend. The first two had already happened, and Bridey would be perfect for the third. She reported the conversation to William, laughing. ‘He was so earnest,’ she said. ‘About his goals.’
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