Most essays take a vivid and telling image as their point of departure, but then range more widely. On the whole, the essays are provocative and richly suggestive, rather than exhaustive; and it is unlikely anyway, to my way of understanding, that the meanings and resonances inherent in a symbol can ever be fully enumerated. That is why they remain vital as symbols, able to intrigue, fascinate and transport.
The book is an encouragement to risk, go deep, and try new ideas. Practising what she preaches, White opens up about her own struggles with depression, divorce, and health problems. Despite the honesty that underlies the book, White is never dour, using herself as an example, and asserting the unique voice that every person has.
In England, writer Zadie Smith and actor Chiwetel Ejiofor and rock singer Kele of Bloc Party have made their own giant splashes, as had the androgynous singer Ephraim Lewis, before he died; and Ejiofor played a cross-dressing designer in Kinky Boots, and Kele is gay and alludes to that experience in his songs.
Liza Bakewell is a linguistic anthropologist but Madre is not an academic tome; more like a dance through the linguistic history and difficulties of a word in the Spanish language that does not just mean ‘mother’. Madre, it becomes clear, can take on all sorts of meanings depending on the context of its use.
Scott-Norman’s book provides fifteen different nuggets of wisdom from some of Australia’s most popular, dynamic and confident stars. All of them were bullied, some so badly that you have to wonder how they managed to make it through at all, much less to rise to the heights of success that they did.
If you’re an artist–an author, a painter, a musician or an actor–who has chosen to live a creative life, you can’t avoid anxiety. It’s part of the process, inherent in the work you do. Coming to grips with that anxiety can be the difference between working and not working, which can be the difference between a fulfilled life that has meaning and one that is unsatisfying and meaningless.
Dale Peterson takes the unusual angle of examining how evolution has shaped animal behavior in the area of cooperation. He uses research in cell biology to talk about the limbic brain, emotional responses to things like tickling, fear, grief and love
His piece on Björk has the advantage of the concrete and the seeable. There are mysteries here but they are the mysteries of the tangible, the creative mind grappling with and solving problems. It is a stark contrast with the murkiness of his piece on Schubert.
If this book makes even a small chip in the notion that a standardized test score is the best indicator of intelligence, it will have been worth Robinson and Aronica’s investment of time. For those of us reading it, it could do much more. It could open our eyes about the great diversity of unique capability that we all have and help us to think in much broader terms about ourselves, our children, our colleagues, and indeed our world.
That the book remains elegant, moving, upbeat, erudite, lucid, and calm throughout the morass is due to Barnes’ great skill as a writer. Nothing To Be Frightened Of is, as one would expect from Julian Barnes, a tightly written, and ultimately affirmative piece of work that takes the reader on a journey that ends in exactly the place you’d expect. Black humour notwithstanding, it’s one of those books that will enrich your life, at least while you’ve still got it.