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ROBERTSON: THE JUSTICE GAME

If you have any interest at all in justice, law and more specifically, barristers and the judiciary, do read the The Justice Game . There are very few books that have the ability to make me truly “laugh out loud”, and this is one of them.

Geoffrey Robertson QC is originally a Sydney boy who lives in London. He is an enormously talented lawyer with an illustrious history of defending liberty and pursuing justice not only for his clients but for the community at large.

I have found The Justice Game a compelling read, engaging and hilarious. Not to mention inspiring, especially for a lawyer with budding ambitions to join the bar. It is somewhat of a memoir, recounting very well-known cases that Robertson has been involved in, such as the Gay News case, the ABC trial and the Boggs case.

I think the title is an interesting one, describing justice as a “game”. Certainly when you read this comic work, you do certainly gain the impression that the business of pursuing justice in court rooms that at times resemble theatres is just that - a game.

GREER: THE FEMALE EUNUCH

My boyfriend is a feminist. So he says.

When I brought this book into his place, he said ‘good for you’. We are both lawyers. When I say I want to become a Supreme Court judge, he says no, sweetheart - aim for the High Court. And when I read feminist texts he does not grimace as many men I know do.

So, his intentions are good. However, when I wear his baggy Berkeley law school tees around the house, he complains. He doesn’t like me wearing his clothes. He prefers I wear my yoga tanks, with my ample breasts and skinny arms on show for his viewing pleasure.

Exactly this type of male behaviour is what Greer is pissed off about in her classic text. While my boyfriend’s penchant for my breasts does not bother me terribly (at leasts he wants these babies on the bench), the actions of other men do. The men that don’t really think I, along with my female colleagues, are really “up to the job” when it comes to complex and expensive litigation.

A mentor of mine advised me recently that to become a brilliant litigator, one must have a ‘fire in the belly’. That fire to succeed exists within me - it always has. But something other than the will to succeed is feeding that fire. To prove I am not simply a maimed male - a eunuch. I am a woman, whole and complete and resplendent in the glow of oestrogen and progesterone.

FORSTER: WHERE ANGELS FEAR TO TREAD

I’ve read a lot of Forster, and I always enjoy his brand of social irony and tendency to make fun of his characters. Forster is a master of portraying fundamental differences in cultures and people; in Howards’ End, we are privy to a juxtaposition between the English and German cultures; in A Passage To India , a story of colonialism and misunderstandings between people of different backgrounds, Forster explores the landscape of India and its people, and in Where Angels Fear to Tread , the focus is on Italy.

Forster often wrote about travel to foreign places, reflecting his observances of a population growing more and more nomadic. Certainly I look around and realise that people in the first world do keep on moving. Whilst this may make us more ‘worldly’, cultures do clash. If you’re interested in seeing how these clashes play out, go and pick up Forster.

GIBRAN: THE PROPHET

I like a skinny book with big ideas - especially when they relate to free love and shedding one’s clothes. Yes, this book inspired the 60s free love movement; it’s a handbook of how to live freely, basically; it talks of law, clothing, food, love, marriage, reason and passion, amongst other things.

I enjoyed The Prophet because it was mesmerising, poetic (Gibran was, of course, a poet). I also enjoyed his beautiful illustrations of nudes (he was also an artist - he was a very good ‘slashie’).

Here is one of my favourite excerpts:

For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.

This reminds me of a beloved poem of mine by John Keats - ‘Ode to Melancholy’, which states:

Ay, in the very temple of Delight
Veil’d Melancholy has her sovran shrine

I believe it is important in one’s life to realise that the same things that bring us joy will ultimately demise and bring us grief. To recognise the joy and sorrow in everything and to submit to one’s emotions is to live well.

KUNDERA: THE JOKE

Pardon my hiatus, dear readers. I have been working hard and returning home only to have enough energy to sink into my bath and inhale the burning aromas of extravagantly priced Diptyque candles, whereupon I become docile to my fatigue and begin to slumber, risking drowning and a potential death by romantic candlelight. I have, however, been reading, and the latest delight is Kundera’s The Joke , his very first novel. The Joke , contrary to its title, is not really a ‘humorous’ book; it is about a young Czechoslovakian male - Ludvik - whose entire life is essentially ruined following a joke he makes on a postcard whilst at university about the communist party: “Optimism is the opium of the people! A healthy atmosphere stinks of stupidity! Long live Trotsky!”. Ludvik himself is a communist supporter, and is subsequently kicked out of the party and his university, banished to a horrible military camp. It shows the limitations imposed on one’s life by the state and the disastrous, life-altering consequences of a single misunderstood act. Of course, this is Kundera, and the novel is actually quite funny. The characters are wonderfully delineated and the meditations on life, love and politics spot-on. It’s not as good as The Unbearable Lightness of Being , but it’s certainly up there.

BRASSAI: HENRY MILLER THE PARIS YEARS

For fans of Henry Miller’s writing and life, this is your book. I do love a good hardcover book with a great cover; The Paris Years features a classic black and white image of Miller. The content is even better, describing the crazy passion of this American writer living life to the full extend every day abroad in Paris. I’ve been flirting with the idea of living in Paris since I was about 16 and I really do feel as if it needs to happen in the next couple of years. This book, if you have similar ambitions, will tip you over the edge and make you yearn for the streets of Par-ee.

KEROUAC: ON THE ROAD

This is the sort of book I love to read whilst sitting in the sun wearing wayfarers and a check shirt, listening to Dylan’s Highway 61  with my boyfriend’s head in my lap. Because that to me defines freedom and youth, and On the Road is all about being freewheeling, just like a rolling stone. The characters are mad and the road trip wild. Enjoy the ride.

GINSBERG: HOWL

Really, Ginsberg is God. God of poetry - amazing, stream of consciousness poetry. I loved wandering around the Lower East Side in New York when I was there, thinking about Bob Dylan and Ginsberg in the 60s hanging out in the bars and cafes, pioneering a movement in music and poetry. Ginsberg’s writing is, much like Jack Kerouac’s, carefree and upbeat - crazy and beautiful and wild all at the same time. I have a giant red book of pretty much everything Ginsberg ever wrote, which I treasure and intend on passing onto my offspring one day when they are old enough to recognise genius. I also have “Howl” and some other poems in a tiny pocket series, which is small and thin enough to slip into the back pocket of a Chanel 2.55 to read on the train. In this edition, the epic poem “Howl” is complemented with poems like “America”:

America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing. America two dollars and twenty-seven cents January 17, 1956. I can’t stand my own mind. America when will we end the human war? Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb

and one of my favourites - “Song”:

The weight of the world is love. Under the burden of solitude, under the burden of dissatisfaction the weight, the weight we carry is love.

Long live the Beat Generation.

WARHOL: THE PHILOSOPHY OF ANDY WARHOL

Truly, Warhol was a fascinating character. And this book is certainly very interesting - very eccentric, and very, very funny. My favourite chapter is the one entitled “Love (Puberty)”, with its sub-headings, “Feeling Left Out”, and “The Psychiatrist Never Called Back”. I also enjoyed the “Love (Senility)” chapter, with its subheadings “My Telephone Dream Girl”, “Frigidity” and “Romance is Hard but Sex is Harder”. I could quote the whole book, honestly - this stuff is genius. It’s frank and it’s mad and it’s hilarious. And it makes you want to listen to the Velvet Underground. Linger on, your pale blue eyes .

WOLF: THE BEAUTY MYTH

Amadeo Modigliani

The word “feminist” is somewhat of a pejorative term in our world, instantly invoking images of excessively hairy women with breasts gone south from all that bra-burning and whatnot. To many, the “feminist” is just an angry, bitter and unattractive woman never ogled by the male race. A feminist is someone who believes in equality of rights, and as such, we - women - should all call ourselves feminist. Before The Beauty Myth , I had never read feminist literature, save a few articles in my law degree about the Feminist Perspective on Tort Law, for example. I have read half of the Female Eunuch , but that was years ago. The Beauty Myth really opened my eyes; not only to the field of Feminist Literature but to my own oppression, and the oppression of every other female on this planet. The Beauty Myth is a scathing book that critiques the beauty industry with its unattainable standards of what is beautiful as being the ultimate backlash to women breaking down the power structures during the first wave of feminism. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good beauty routine - I love makeup. I love using products that make me smell like a cocktail on a tropical island, and I enjoy controlling my hair growth. What I don’t enjoy, however, is watching friends that I love starve themselves to look as if they have been in a concentration camp to attain some warped feminine ideal promoted by the beauty and fashion industry.

"The more legal and material hindrances women have broken through, the more strictly and heavily and cruelly images of female beauty have come to weigh upon us…During the past decade, women breached the power structure; meanwhile, eating disorders rose exponentially and cosmetic surgery became the fastest-growing specialty…pornography became the main media category, ahead of legitimate films and records combined, and thirty-three thousand American women told researchers that they would rather lose ten to fifteen pounds than achieve any other goal…More women have more money and power and scope and legal recognition than we have ever had before; but in terms of how we feel about ourselves physically, we may actually be worse off than our unliberated grandmothers."

The above, I feel, is true. Little girls nowadays list losing and maintaing a low weight as high on their list of objectives. It’s startling talking to nine year olds - stripped of their innocence and childhood, they are propelled into the world of waxing, tweezing, covering, enhancing, using a digitally airbrushed model as a benchmark of what a girl should look like. Where are the girls who want to sit on the High Court or be responsible for medical breakthroughs? Perhaps you may not agree with all that Wolf writes, but it is a compelling read that reveals some startling truths. If anything, it will make you feel less guilty about skipping your beauty routine at night when you’re too tired to make it to the bathroom. Don’t let The Beauty Myth get you down.