Explore the 2024 Program

Writers Talking Writers: Part 3

Authors An Yu (Braised Pork) and Meg Mundell (The Trespassers) share a recent read they can't stop thinking about, an upcoming release to look forward to, and an all-time favourite. 

Pop into your local bookshop or check out Gleebooks online to get hold of these wonderful reads.

An Yu was born and raised in Beijing, and left at the age of 18 to study in New York at NYU. A graduate of the NYU MFA in Creative Writing, she writes her fiction in English. Her short stories were finalists for the Short-Story Award For New Writers from Glimmer Train and the Annual Contest from Dogwood Journal. Braised Pork is her first novel. (Lydia Tasker, our Program Manager, recommended Braised Pork on our blog earlier this year.)

A book you’ve read recently and you can’t get out of your head

Then The Fish Swallowed Him by Amir Ahmadi Arian has it all. The prose is poignant, the themes are urgent, the story is deeply haunting, and the characters are unforgettably complex. But the novel keeps coming back to me with its small moments – an image, a phrase – wherein Arian’s brilliant portrayal of the human psyche shines the most brightly.

An upcoming release that you’re itching to get stuck into

Pew by Catherine Lacey promises to be a provocative story about the social and psychological dynamics of a small Southern town, observed by a fascinating narrator. A genderless and silent stranger is found asleep on a pew at the beginning of the novel while the town is preparing for a mysterious Forgiveness Festival. The residents confess their secrets and fears to Pew as they take turns hosting this silent stranger, until eventually they begin to feel unsettled by Pew’s presence.

A favourite read you come back to when the world feels strange and uncertain

I Am a Cat by Natsume Soseki has a way of bringing me comfort like no other book I’ve read. It’s light and humorous, yet what makes it a masterpiece are the well-observed, honest and harsh criticisms of human nature and society behind the witty voice of the narrator. Written in the early 1900s as a satire on Japanese society during the Meiji period, the conversations between the characters feel relevant even today. No matter how many times I’ve read it, I Am a Cat always feels refreshing, and the contemplative tone makes it a calming read at night.

Meg Mundell's second novel The Trespassers, a near-future literary thriller set on a migrant-labour ship, has been optioned for TV. Meg's first novel Black Glass was shortlisted for several awards, and she has published in Best Australian StoriesThe Sydney Morning HeraldThe AgeThe MonthlyGuardian AustraliaMeanjin and elsewhere. She also edited We Are Here: Stories of Home, Place & Belonging, a collection of true stories by writers who've experienced homelessness.

A book you’ve read recently and you can’t get out of your head

Jesse Ball’s The Census has haunted me for months. It’s such a strange, beautiful and sad book. It tells the story of a father and son embarking on a final journey together, driving across country on a mysterious and slightly sinister mission that’s never properly explained. It reminds me of The Road (a book I adore), but less bleak. It’s a love story, in a way: the love of a parent for their child.

A new release that you’re itching to get stuck into

I’ve heard good things about The Coconut Children, Vivian Pham’s debut novel. It centres on two teenagers growing up in Cabramatta in the 1990s, and draws on the author’s experiences of growing up in Western Sydney as the daughter of a refugee. Pham wrote it while still in high school, which blows my mind. I figure anyone who can write an entire book before they hit adulthood, let alone get it published, has something interesting to say.

A favourite read you come back to when the world feels strange and uncertain

My favourite books have earned their places on my shelves – just looking at them conjures up good feelings. But I’m not a huge re-reader. There are so many books, and a finite number of reading hours in a person’s life. And I like not knowing what will happen on the next page: for me, that element of surprise is part of the joy. But I am re-reading childhood favourites with my son, who’s seven. At the moment we’re reading James and the Giant Peach, which I loved as a kid. Turns out I’d forgotten huge chunks of it. So maybe I should be more open to re-reading other old favourites.