Graffiti of Vladimir Nabokov in Opatija, Croatia. Artist: Henry Kellner. Sourced from Wikimedia Commons.

It’s hard to read Nabokov’s slim, early novel Laughter in the Dark and believe that the author wasn’t fixated on young women. Which is something I didn’t want to believe about him. As a lover of Nabokov’s fiction, I wanted to believe that that was uninformed hype, hysteria, not truth. But I came away from Laughter in the Dark thinking, wow — Nabokov is obsessed with young women, and he hates himself for it.

Reading — and writing — a novel is so much about feeling. To (mis)quote Maya Angelou: ‘I may forget what this novel said, or what its…


An image of Danielle Steel sitting and dressed conservatively, while behind her stands another, funkier Danielle Steel.
An image of Danielle Steel sitting and dressed conservatively, while behind her stands another, funkier Danielle Steel.
Danielle Steel (and klone), photographed by Greg Gorman

Sources say there is no better way to pass the time during your COVIT-19 self-isolation than to read my chapter-by-chapter recap of Danielle Steel’s ‘high-tech love story’ The Klone and I. Brew a pot of tea, put your feet up, and enjoy.

Chapter One

When I set out to read The Klone and I, I hope for a kooky read. Chapter One surprises me; in its most inspired moments, it feels like the beginning of a literary novel. This chapter concentrates on one monumental event: the sudden and, for our narrator, Stephanie, wholly unexpected ending of her marriage to Roger…


Danielle Steel’s San Francisco mansion, which looks a lot like the mansion she describes in ‘Past Perfect’. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Last year, I read an eyebrow-raising profile of the author Danielle Steel. The piece went viral because Steel’s lifestyle seems so bonkers. Reading it, I felt conflicted. I liked that she admitted to living off toast, decaf, and chocolate, but was disturbed that her standard writing shift spanned 20–22 hours. I was impressed at the quantity of her output, but had to wonder at the quality of the books she wrote, churning them out as she does (she’s published almost 200 books). Who was I to judge, though, having never read a single one? I remedied that by going to…


Nabokov’s great novel has gained an unfair reputation in some circles. But Lolita doesn’t glorify depravity. It’s a masterful portrait of a monster, and well worth your time.

‘Lolita’. Read it and judge for yourself. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

There’s no reason to read bad books when more good, more great books have been published than could be digested within the average human lifespan. My definition of a bad book is any book that’s a drudge to read. No matter if it’s classed as ‘low’ art or ‘high’ — if a book hasn’t compelled me within about 30 pages it generally goes back to the shelf. But I’m not completely ruthless…


George Harrison looking a bit grumpy. Photo by Steve Mathieson

What comes to mind when you think of George Harrison? I’m guessing spiritual, peaceful…maybe even Beatle? As a songwriter, Harrison isn’t name-checked as often as John and Paul, but he wrote some of the Beatles’ most beautiful songs (Something, Here Comes the Sun). Sceptics abounded when he launched his solo career in 1970, but Harrison won them over with the beauty and depth of his music.

As well as being the cutest Beatle (fact), Harrison was funny. He never lost his zany Liverpudlian humour, even as his profound spirituality grew. A Monty Python fan, he famously mortgaged his home to…


Australia’s shark guru Richard Fitzpatrick seems as committed to crazy exploits as he is to conservation. Here are 10 of the craziest stories from his book Shark Tracker: Confessions of an underwater cameraman.

Richard Fitzpatrick, author of Shark Tracker, filming on the reef. Photo credit: Biopixel

1. A bite on the bum

On Fitzpatrick’s last day working at the former Oceanworld aquarium in Sydney, he wanted to go out with a bang. The shark tank was overstocked, so he knifed a good-sized snapper in the tank. The fresh blood would excite the sharks more than their usual fare of frozen fish. But Fitzpatrick did not expect to be attacked…until he was. ‘The [grey…

Tara Thorne Burns

Writer and editor

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