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Episode 16 – Critic’s choice

Kate Cuthbert

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This episode I am joined by award-winning book reviewer, critic and genre-fiction advocate Kate Cuthbert!

After working for more than a decade in trade publishing, notably initiating the Escape Publishing imprint of Harlequin Australia, and serving as its Managing Editor for almost seven years, as well as working at the Australian Library and Information Association, Kate is currently the Program Manager at Writers Victoria and is also pursuing a PhD examining rural settings in Australian popular fiction.

Kate spoke about her love for genre-fiction, how (and why) she is reaching for horror during quarantine, how much fun it is to research a PhD when it’s on the topic she’s writing it on (listen out for an early book rec here!) and just what her favourite, most basic snack and drink combo to ‘eat when no-one is watching’ is … it’s a good ‘un!

The pairings: 

We Are Never Meeting In Real Life by Samantha Irby

Sometimes you just have to laugh, even when life is a dumpster fire. Blogger and comedian Samantha Irby turns the serio-comic essay into an art form. Whether talking about how her difficult childhood has led to a problem in making “adult” budgets, explaining why she should be the new Bachelorette–she’s “35-ish, but could easily pass for 60-something”–detailing a disastrous pilgrimage-slash-romantic-vacation to Nashville to scatter her estranged father’s ashes, sharing awkward sexual encounters, or dispensing advice on how to navigate friendships with former drinking buddies who are now suburban moms–hang in there for the Costco loot–she’s as deft at poking fun at the ghosts of her past self as she is at capturing powerful emotional truths.

Kate paired this fun, light, life-affirming, dip in and out of read with her most basic snack … a sweet, sweet, sweet, the sweetest Moscato going around, wheat crackers and a cream cheese dip.

Bluebird, bluebird by Attica Locke

When it comes to law and order, East Texas plays by its own rules–a fact that Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger, knows all too well. Deeply ambivalent about growing up black in the lone star state, he was the first in his family to get as far away from Texas as he could. Until duty called him home. When his allegiance to his roots puts his job in jeopardy, he travels up Highway 59 to the small town of Lark, where two murders–a black lawyer from Chicago and a local white woman–have stirred up a hornet’s nest of resentment. Darren must solve the crimes–and save himself in the process–before Lark’s long-simmering racial fault lines erupt.

A rural noir suffused with the unique music, colour, and nuance of East Texas, Bluebird, Bluebird is an exhilarating, timely novel about the collision of race and justice in America.

 Kate chose a classic, slow-cooked Texan barbecue and a beer as the perfect pairing for this deeply nuanced, sharp book in which the Texas setting is almost a character of its own. 

The Wanderers by Meg Howrey

In four years Prime Space will put the first humans on Mars. Helen Kane, Yoshi Tanaka, and Sergei Kuznetsov must prove they’re the crew for the job by spending seventeen months in the most realistic simulation ever created.

Retired from NASA, Helen had not trained for irrelevance. It is nobody’s fault that the best of her exists in space, but her daughter can’t help placing blame. The MarsNOW mission is Helen’s last chance to return to the only place she’s ever truly felt at home. For Yoshi, it’s an opportunity to prove himself worthy of the wife he has loved absolutely, if not quite rightly. Sergei is willing to spend seventeen months in a tin can if it means travelling to Mars. 

As the days turn into months the line between what is real and unreal becomes blurred, and the astronauts learn that the complications of inner space are no less fraught than those of outer space. This is a book about the great search to understanding. Understanding the world around us, space, but also to understanding the human heart.

Justine paired this slow, inward looking, blurred reality book with that iso experience. Yep, she went there!


This episode of Literary Elixirs was recorded via Zoom, please forgive any minor technical glitches!   

Into/Outro music is Mosquito Mojito by Rachel K. Collier. Sourced from Free Music Archive under a Creative Commons Licence.