Good Reading : December January 2005
biography word of mouth Goat Brad Land There have been many movies made about college fraternities but most make light of the way these groups operate. Goat looks beyond the expected pranks and bullying and delves into the terror and abuse that students can inflict on each other when faced with peer pressure. In this raw and honest memoir, Brad Land describes how he was abducted and attacked by two teenagers when he gave them a lift home after a party, then left in the middle of nowhere, battered and bruised. After this incident he is constantly haunted by the two men, who come to represent all his fears. When Brad recovers and heads off to college to meet up with his brother, he is still vulnerable and begins to feel isolated and alone. Unable to re-estab- lish the close relationship he once had with his brother, he pledges himself to the Kappa Sigma Fraternity where he hopes to find kindred spirits. This places Brad in the path of even more abuse and denial, and it is only when he finds the courage to leave this violent group that he begins to heal. Land’s wonderful narrative style allows us to enter the secret world of initiations and ‘hazing’ ceremonies – and what he reveals is quite shocking. ★★★★ Hodder $27.95 Reviewed by Melissa Wilson Clara’s Witch Natalie Andrews It was with a degree of apprehension that I began reading this story; the title and dust jacket created a premonition of gloom. But before long I was totally engrossed in Clara’s story, beginning with her Scot- tish childhood during the war, when children were bundled onto trains and billeted with complete strangers with whom they stayed for the next four years. By the age of ten, Clara had experienced abandonment, relocation, and the volatile, unpredictable behaviour of an alcoholic father. With their mother in hospital, Clara’s eldest sister Elspeth is granted special permission to take her three younger siblings on an assisted passage to maternal grandparents in Australia. Life improves marginally for Clara under grandmother’s strict rule until her widowed father arrives, melancholic and still alcoholic. Clara’s life becomes a roller coaster of experiences and emotions as she deals with her ‘witchy eeries’, as she calls her bouts of irrational fear.The human spirit is indeed indomitable as this amazing woman faces a recur ring illness which hospitalises her for many months, two marriages and a break- down but triumphs in the search for her identity and place in the world. ★★★ Fremantle Arts Centre Press $24.95 Reviewed by Val Lockerbie-Smyth Truth & Beauty: A Friendship Ann Patchett If you put Ann Patchett’s Truth & Beauty in the category of celebrity biog- raphy, you must redefine your terms and adjust your guilt level. Patchett isn’t your average celebrity, even if literary authors can be considered famous. Despite huge success with Orange Prize-winning Bel Canto, Patchett is quietly talented, her books more nuanced than showy. Her new book chronicles her extra- ordinary friendship with a fellow author, the now-deceased Lucy Grealy. Grealy, author of Autobiography of a Face, had childhood cancer that left her with a deteriorating jaw and endlessly changing face, along with a body stunted at pre-adolescence from radiation. Truth & Beauty follows the evolution of two young writers as students at the famed Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where they frittered their time chasing boys, fumbling though teaching, and loving each other fiercely.We track them through a doomed marriage (Patchett), destructive sexual behaviour (Grealy), rejection slips (both), painful and prolonged surgeries (Grealy), book deals (both), and drug abuse (Grealy). Though the stories in Truth & Beauty brim with hardship, Patchett transforms them with her spare, beautiful prose, enhanced by Grealy’s idiosyncratic letters. ★★★★ RG Fourth Estate $27.95 Reviewed by Jennifer Levasseur Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery Free admission Open daily 10am – 5pm Closed Christmas Day, Anzac Day & Good Friday Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery 40 Macquarie Street, Hobart tel (03) 6211 4177 info (03) 6211 4114 www.tmag.tas.gov.au When in Hobart glimpse into unique worlds... . . .all things are strange and curious. . .