The Momentum Blog

Digital-first publishing goes hardcore (er, hardcover)

Posted May 31, 2013 by Anne

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The first print review of John Bailey‘s new book Jefferson’s Second Father is in!

“Bailey manages to distil a daunting amount of research into an intriguing tale. It’s a warts-and-all accounting of historical figures and a worthy demolition of the fake idols created today for patriotic or religious adoration.”

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To read the full review, click over to the Byron Shire Echo.

To read the first chapter of Jefferson’s Second Father, read more about John Bailey, add it to your Goodreads shelf or buy the book, you might like to visit the book page here.

The book is available for purchase in both digital and (for the first time in Momentum’s short history) hardback. Let’s be honest, we’re pretty excited about digital books but a Momentum hardback? Wow.


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All Thriller, No Vanilla: how the internet killed the call girl

Posted November 14, 2012 by Annika Cleeve

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Annika Cleeve is a former sex worker who revealed all in her memoir Mattress Actress. A piece of her writing ran in Crikey this week.

I started working in the sex industry in the early ’80s, at age 15, and retired in the early 2000s. During that time I have seen many changes, some good and some bad — namely changes to welfare policy, gender roles, public perceptions of sexuality and sex workers. The most glaring change has been what I refer to as client sexpectations.

I like to draw the analogy of ice cream for sexual mores. In the 1980s, clients were vanilla in their requests and expectations. Occasionally they would want a few toppings, here and there, perhaps some nuts or sprinkles, maybe hot fudge to tickle the taste buds. But in general most gentlemen preferred the standard flavours: caramel, strawberry or vanilla.

From the late ’90s on, pornography became a free click away. LubeTube is free and available 24/7, a veritable Baskins and Robins of sexual availability. It was not just the access that changed during my working life but the content itself dramatically altered.

Vanilla had become a foreign flavour. In the same vein, why would I go out for ice cream when I have a freezer full of the stuff? It used to be that clients sought sex workers for what they couldn’t get at home, or couldn’t be bothered chasing.

Porn no longer has a loose story seductive story attached — pool boy seduced by hot house wife or delivery men assisting a frustrated lonely house-sitter — now it is just straight up hardcore. Videos that commence upon penetration and only last seven minutes. Apparently seduction is passé. Eroticism has been exchanged for sexual aggression, evident in the language as well as the lack of scenario.

Over the years I saw this first-hand, the changing proclivities of the young buck. In the ’80s he was out to please himself, come the ’90s he was desperate to please me and by the 2000s, if he visited at all, he was determined to dominate with a firm hand.

Read the rest of the article over at Crikey. For more on Annika and her book, click here.

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Podmentum: the one where we discover “bathetic” is a word

Posted November 9, 2012 by Anne

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Second podcast! We’re totally on a roll. In this episode we discuss the epic Genre versus Literature battle to the death in the wake of the inaugural GenreCon Australia, then we make fun of Joel for being such a gadget nerd. Also Mark outnerds himself in the recommendations. Enjoy.    

Topic  1 – What we read: Genre v Lit

Arthur Krystal’s Easy Writers: Guilty pleasures without guilt in May in The New Yorker laid down the theory that the divide between genre and literary fiction is becoming less clear, and some genre fiction is now being afforded “literary” status.

Lev Grossman in Time April 2012 responded with an article entitles Literary Revolution in the Supermarket Aisle: Genre fiction is disruptive technology, challenging the idea that literary fiction should be regarded as “superior” to genre fiction. He basically lays down the theory that literary fiction is itself a genre with certain tried and true tropes that every book identified as such follows.

Krystal then responded to Lev Grossman with It’s genre, not that there’s anything wrong with that! in October, which had Joel absolutely apoplectic with rage, and convinced us that it was worth discussing.

Interesting look at horror in The Guardian recently with Horror: a genre literally doomed to hell? 

*note – The Ian McEwan novel that was released the year before he won the Booker for Amsterdam was Enduring Love, not On Chesil Beach (which was actually released a decade later). To my enduring shame, I completely forgot about Enduring Love, which is actually one of my favourite McEwan books. Golf clap.

Topic 2 – Devices: how we read

Joel got his new Paperwhite last week and now that he’s had enough time to fall completely and utterly in love with it, it is probably time to talk about reading technology.

Amazon Paperwhite

 iPad Mini 


Joel’s Recommendation The Silent History – Eli Horowitz The Victory Lab – Sasha Issenberg

Anne’s Recommendations January First – Michael Schofield Life in Publishing Tumblr

Mark’s Recommendation Star Wars Expanded Universe

This episode of Podmentum was brought to you by Stalin’s Hammer: Rome by  John Birmingham, and Drive Me To Distraction by Caitlyn Nicholas 

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My Recovery launch

Posted October 9, 2012 by Anne

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We went to the Sydney launch for Julie Parker’s book My Recovery at The Butterfly Foundation last week. One of the incredible people featured in the book, Sol, spoke about what being able to tell her story in My Recovery meant, and Julie told us about how her early love of books led her to wanting to write a book herself one day – although she never expected to write one quite like this.

Julie also took the chance while at The Butterfly Foundation to hand over a cheque for the first profits for the book, which will go to helping people still suffering from eating disorders.

Here are some photos of the launch, and if you want to see the whole collection step on over to our Facebook page.

Real books!

Delicious launch food


Launch laughs


Book in one hand, dessert in the other. Perfect.

For more information on My Recovery see the book page here, and remember all profits from the book sales will go to helping sufferers of eating disorders recover.

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Interior Fashionistas – the Architects of Decorating

Posted September 28, 2012 by Mary Gilliatt

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No person who is not a great sculptor or painter can be an architect. If he is not a sculptor or painter, he can only be a builder.

John Ruskin (1819–1900), from Lectures on Architecture and Painting

The comment by John Ruskin—that great nineteenth-century art and architecture critic—may seem a little harsh on architects who are not so diversely gifted, not to mention builders, but many of the world’s great architects, particularly during the Renaissance, were indeed sculptors and painters of distinction. Right up until the mid-nineteenth century in America and Europe, when architectural training was finally formalized, most architecture was not practiced as a business but as an art by gifted but untrained amateurs or dilettantes. It is true that there were exceptions. There were architects who called themselves professionals and who were exceedingly busy, but they had learned from observation and theory and were primarily imaginative artists and draftsmen who prepared drawings to be carried out by skilled craftsmen. In France, however, J-F Blondel established the first French school of architecture in the 1730s, which spawned many other such schools. This is presumably why that country took the lead in domestic comforts and sophisticated interiors for so many decades.

In the rest of the world, the majority of architects took little heed of the furnishing and decoration of interiors. A smaller number of architects—such as the English Palladian William Kent and the Neoclassicists Thomas Jefferson, Robert Adam, William Chambers, and James Wyatt—went in the opposite direction, busying themselves with designing every facet of their rooms as well as the furniture. Although early-twentieth-century ladies like Elsie de Wolfe and Syrie Maugham used to call themselves the first interior decorators, they had certainly been preceded by these great Neo-classicists of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. And architectural members of the Bauhaus School, as well as many of the founders of Modernism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, certainly occupied themselves with furnishings and interiors as much as the manipulation of space and the general aesthetics of buildings

In general though and for many hundreds of years, the design of furniture and interiors was left open to gifted cabinetmakers who had enormous influence, and to upholsterers who, recognizing the business opportunities, enlarged their scope to coordinate all aspects of the interior. In eras besotted by fashion, they created trends in furnishing and decorating quite as much as today’s fashionistas. They thus took on the role that segued, in the twentieth century, into the separate profession of interior designer, which, in turn, split up into specialties such as lighting and textiles.

The Dictionary of Architecture and Interior Design will be released on October 1. Click here for more details.

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A peek into the back room of a high class brothel

Posted September 27, 2012 by Annika Cleeve

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An excerpt from Mattress Actress. The seventeen year-old Annika has just started working at a high-class brothel in Sydney, and we pick up the action just after her first trip to a sexual health clinic.

That evening I fronted up to work ten minutes early and Louise greeted me. She took me into what’s called the ladies’ lounge. That’s where the girls put their feet up, watched TV, eat, smoked or just gossiped. Adjoining the lounge was the dressing room. I noticed there was no curtain or door between the two rooms. I later found out it was so that the management could scrutinise the girls while they were dressing. They were always waging war against drugs. Mind you, this day I did resemble a pincushion, thanks to the Randwick clinic, as we called it.

Louise told me to put my bag in the locker in the ladies’ lounge and get dressed. While I did that, she sat and explained the rules to me.

‘Don’t talk to the other girls. Don’t wear black. You must buy a new dress every fortnight, and bring it in for inspection before wearing it. Don’t socialise with the other girls outside of work. Hand in all tips. Do not exchange personal details with clients, this includes accepting business cards. No drinking unless your client is partaking. No personal calls in or out during working hours. No leaving in the middle of a shift, for any reason. Refusal of a client must be based on medical reasons, for example he has warts or VD. The only other reason you can refuse a client is if you know him, like he’s your brother or so forth.

I thought if I just watched TV and fucked I should stay out of trouble.

We went on a tour of the place. It covered at least four other three-storey terraces. There was a bar room that adjoined the office and a formal lounge that extended the length of two terraces but had concertina screens separating the rooms if need be. Also on ground level were four small TV rooms that played hardcore videos all day. Louise explained that one of the receptionists always answered the door and brought the client into room one, if that was busy he would go to room two and so on. If all four rooms were taken he would be escorted to the main lounge. If we were still filling up, the screen would be pulled across and the second lounge could be used. If everything was full, gentlemen could sit in the bar and be offered a drink. Louise didn’t like the place getting this busy but it often did. Some evenings you could find ten to twelve men sitting in the bar.

There were also three spa rooms. Each had a bar, a shower, a large spa, and a plastic-covered double bed that would have looked more at home on a boat. Each room was decorated a different colour, so they were distinguished as the blue room, the pink room or the peach room.

The office was also on the ground floor, right beside the front entrance. It was a small room but very detailed. There were twenty buzzers on the wall, all linked to one of the fifteen rooms upstairs or the spa rooms or the ladies’ lounge, the laundry or the dressing room. There was a specific knock to gain entrance to the office. The desk inside took up most of the room. Behind the desk was a lady who would have been about fifty. She never said a word but had a brain on her like a computer. She was in charge of buzzing the girls ten minutes before their appointment was up to remind them to wind it down, then again at the correct time. I tested her so many times; she was always right on time. Another lady collected the money and did up the pay at the end of each shift. As there were always two shifts a day, there were two managers, two pay ladies and two ladies in charge of the buzzers on any given week. Then there were always two gofers who made drinks, tidied, or stood in the ladies’ lounge inspecting, handbags, make-up and hair. It was also the gofer’s job to inform us of who the client had chosen.

Louise explained the drill to me and I knew that if a girl deviated from Louise’s rules it would be instant grounds for dismissal. I listened intently, all the while wondering if this ice-queen routine was a put on in order to gain our respect and obedience or if in fact she really was like this, even in the quiet of her own home. I also considered that maybe once she got to know me she might chill a bit, realise that I was honest, hard working and not drug dependent at all.

Louise told me I should arrive promptly for every shift, get dressed and wait in the ladies’ lounge for inspection and announcements. The girls all walked together to meet the first client of the evening. We’d stand in a semicircle and introduce ourselves: ‘Hello, my name is Kate.’ When everyone had clearly said her name, we’d leave and go back to the ladies’ lounge. The receptionist would then call on the girl the client requested.

‘Some clients will make their decision directly, if that’s the case take a seat beside him, but don’t speak to him until the last girl has left the room. Ask him whether he cares for a spa—this of course will cost him extra—according to his decision take him to the appropriate room. There, ask him how long he would like to stay, take the money from him, and ask if he wouldn’t mind being inspected first. If you find anything out of the ordinary, come downstairs and we’ll have one of the available girls give a second opinion. If everything is in order bring the money downstairs, and tell us your name, your room number and how much.

‘At your first buzz, say nothing but OK, any other response will lead us to believe you are in trouble. At the end of every job shower, touch up your make-up and show your client out. Let us know you are in the lounge and wait for further directions.

‘At the end of the night you will be called in to the office to receive your pay. You are given fifty per cent of everything you earn and tips are all yours, but don’t let us catch you with money in your condom purse. If you own your own car you can leave on your own, if not, a taxi will be called in your work name. When that arrives you may leave.’

I wanted to pinch myself – surely I had fallen asleep and woken up in an episode of Mission: Impossible.

‘Are we clear on everything?’ Louise asked. ‘Good, then let’s get to work.’ She ushered me into the ladies’ lounge, where about fifteen of the most beautiful women I had ever seen were sitting. ‘Ladies, this is Kate, you all look lovely, have a good night, now, go to rooms one and two. Sue, your regular is in the bar.’ And with that, Louise left. Talk about being thrown in head first!

Like cows going for a milking we made our way downstairs. I tried to remember the names, but there were too many. The funny thing is the names were the same, it was just the faces that varied. In every brothel you go to there will always be a Tiffany, Amber, Storm, Cindy and Bridget.

Thankfully I wasn’t chosen by either of the first clients. That privilege went to Grace, a tall girl who was about nineteen, was almost too thin, and had waist-length fair hair. The gentleman in room two chose Anne. Anne was eighteen, short and stocky but extremely well-endowed.

This gave me time to acquaint myself with the other ladies even though I was under strict instructions not to speak to them.

Finally one girl piped up and said, ‘Welcome.’ Her name was Toni; I later learnt that she used to be named Anthony. But she was stunning and always friendly.

‘Darling, don’t listen to Louise, she’s a ball-busting lesbian who couldn’t cut it as a model because she wouldn’t fuck her way to the top. She’s never actually worked in the sex industry, but by the way she goes on you’d think she invented it.’

For more of Mattress Actress, click here.

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How to be a Pro

Posted September 13, 2012 by Annika Cleeve

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Former sex worker Annika Cleeve used to work under the professional name of Cleo. Here she gives a taste of things to come in her book Mattress Actress, out on the 15th of September.


Sex work is much like any job, you have good days and bad days. You have to suck it up when your boss yells at you, because to do otherwise could mean the loss of your job. That is a professional response to a professional situation.

Some days while I was working I wished there was a camera and microphone in my brain to hear what Annika said as opposed to what Cleo said.


Client:  “So what do you enjoy, Cleo?

Annika: “Money, and lots of it.”

Cleo: “Hey my job is to please you, what do you enjoy, how can I spoil you?”


Client: “No, I want to please you. What do you enjoy?

Annika: “Sex workers are a lot like real women you fuck-wit, boob nibbles and a good head-job, plus that way I don’t have to listen to anymore of your stupid questions.”

Cleo: “I love giving head, would that be ok?”


Cleo: “So you’re an accountant, that must be interesting?”

Annika: “Poor bastard was born without a personality.”


Client: “Sounds like you were enjoying that Cleo?”

Annika “If I say yes will you stop nibbling on my like a fucking puppy attacking a sock? Let’s get this over with.”

Cleo: “Yes indeed, I’m spent, get inside me now.”


I charge extra for stockings and suspenders but no extra for stay up stockings. Those bastards take ages to get on and off so it takes an additional 10 mins in-between clients that I’m not earning money.

This principle extends to showering with clients. Mess my hair and I am going to charge you for an additional 30 mins to re-tame it.

While all this may sound cold and calculated, it is a business. I’ve seen girls not charge sports stars. In my experience, the client will never return if you don’t charge him (and trust me, a guy in his physical peak should be charged double). The same girls that are proud to scream, “I just shagged the recent Brownlow Winner” are not business women.

Sometimes you just want to scream at a client, but you want his $300 to return every week, so if that means biting your tongue clear through you do it.

Perhaps his wife is a domineering ball-buster, and in order to perform he needs to feel superior? Perhaps he in in an unimportant job, and part of his fantasy is to be able to buy and sell people, albeit for an hour. This makes him feel powerful. My job is to submit to his fantasy. Within reason

Not all clients stirred up my anger and frustration. A number of clients elicited my sympathy. They had no desire to be there but their options were limited. Their fantasy of choice was simply intimacy and affection, because at home they had partners who were incapacitated. These clients resented having to use the service and always left feeling guilty.

The stories of wheelchair bound wives, who were left with no feeling from the chest down or other such diseases that left their loving partners unable to make love always bought a tear to my eye.

There were clients who were widowers, who refused to move on or commence a new loving relationship. Thus visiting me was the obvious alternative. These sessions generally involved 5 minutes of sex and 55 minutes of reminiscing about lost love.

This is what it means to be a Mattress Actress – to be whatever the audience requires. To push down your real feelings deep inside, and to perform – to be a pro. A professional.


For more information on Annika and her book, click here

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My Recovery – Mitchell’s Story

Posted September 5, 2012 by Anne

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On My Side

A desire to fit in with a popular group in school prompted Mitchell to become overly concerned with his body and what he was eating, leading to him developing anorexia. While his parents and an inspiring teacher supported him in his recovery, Mitchell proudly claims that it was his own decision to ‘get behind’ himself and give back to others that saw him get well.

Eating disorders have a very female face. Some may think that as a boy and teenager this would mean a harder road to recovery, but eating disorders are a traumatic and horrible experience for any person, regardless of their gender. I never felt unheard or poorly treated as a male with anorexia. I had a loving and supportive family and the professionals I came into contact with never questioned how sick I was or suggested that I couldn’t have an eating disorder because I was a boy. Eating disorders do not discriminate and I’m certain more men are experiencing them than we know about. I think many men have confused relationships with food and their bodies and are likely suffering in silence. I know I certainly did.

I loved the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer and I saw Sarah Michelle Gellar interviewed in a teen magazine in a story that included her height, weight and size. I related to Buffy as she was an outcast at school and dealt with demons and bullies. I thought she was a really strong and kick-ass character and when I read her weight I gave myself a target to be exactly the same. When I went to the doctor and he weighed and measured me, I was the same weight as Sarah Michelle but well and truly under what was seen to be healthy for a boy of my height. Despite that, I was happy to have reached my Buffy goal. My happiness didn’t last for long, though, as I was threatened with hospital, the thought of which terrified me

Throughout the whole time I was losing weight I was becoming increasingly sad and anxious about going to high school. I wasn’t experiencing a terrible depression but I became withdrawn and very quiet. The beginning of my eating disorder was very physical and I had no idea what was happening to me. All I knew was that fat was seen as bad and thin was seen as good, and that was what I wanted. I did have an anorexic voice that would tell me I was fat, needed to exercise more and that no one would hang out with me if I wasn’t thin. It wasn’t completely controlling me but was certainly there and starting to get louder

After I was diagnosed with anorexia, I think it shocked me into getting better. I had been a patient in hospital with pneumonia when I was younger and I hated it. I really had no idea what anorexia was and didn’t even really think I had a problem. I thought I was just dieting. I went home from the doctor and immediately started to eat. I was worried about putting weight back on but eventually things settled and I began to eat normally

I felt much better by the time I started high school. I had good friends and felt more comfortable with myself. By now the eating disorder voice had completely gone and my first three years of school were good. My parents divorced when I was in year nine, which was difficult, but I had known things were coming to an end between them. It was distressing for a while, especially when Dad moved out, and I did find the change hard to get used to. They remained great friends, though, and I saw them both regularly, and as a result, I felt like I had a fairly regular adolescence until I was sixteen

At the beginning of year eleven, my second last year of high school, I started to become more aware of what I looked like again and wanted to feel and look good. I guess I was starting to grow into a man’s body and I wanted to feel as good about myself as I possibly could. I was studying physical education and one day in class we measured our BMI, weight and body fat composition with callipers. As students we did the calliper pinch tests on one another and called out the numbers and results to a larger group. When it came to my turn, I was fixated on the calliper and what it was grabbing. I know now it was just grabbing skin but when I looked down all I could see was fat. It tipped my mind straight into a dark place and that desire to lose weight came back stronger than ever

The eating disorder voice came back immediately but this time it was loud and with me all day, every day. It constantly told me I was worthless and pathetic. It was like a broken record inside my head or a devil on my shoulder yapping in my ear. I began a vicious starve, binge and purge cycle that took over my whole world. I felt guilty even drinking water and I began to lose weight quickly

Everyone noticed how often I would cry at school and had withdrawn from those around me. The happy-go-lucky Mitchell who made others laugh was no longer, and now I would sit on my own at lunch and tune out the world by listening to my iPod. I was incredibly depressed. People around me were very kind and often asked me what was wrong, but I would push them away and say I was fine. My mum and brothers noticed the change in me too, but I totally shut them out

One day at school I felt like I couldn’t take it anymore, so I messaged my mum and told her I needed to talk. I told her everything and she was great. She rang the school and told them what was happening and soon everyone knew my anorexia had returned. Without me knowing, she also contacted a good friend of mine and asked him to watch out for me. By this time, I had started to rebel with a wilder group who smoked, drank and cut school. It never felt comfortable to me but at the same time I felt drawn to them.

To read more of Mitchell’s story, and other stories from survivors of eating disorders, click here.

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My Recovery: Eating Disorder Survivors and Experts weigh in

Posted August 28, 2012 by Anne

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Testimonials are coming in thick and fast for Julie Parker‘s forthcoming My Recovery: Inspiring Stories, Recovery Tips And Messages Of Hope From Eating Disorder Survivors.

“Recovery from an eating disorder can seem confusing and distant. My Recovery brings you closer. Through the hopeful and from-the-heart stories of individuals who’ve been there, My Recovery reveals what recovery looks like. It features valuable insights and tools for recovering from eating disorders and leading a healthy and fulfilling life. This beautiful book has a powerful message that everyone needs to hear: Eating disorders are devastating, serious illnesses. But recovery, while personal, difficult and far from linear, is absolutely possible for everyone. I highly recommend reading My Recovery. It’s one of those books you’ll keep turning to and want to share with others. ”

– Margarita Tartakovsky, Weightless

“My Recovery is brilliant. It’s beautifully written and clearly articulates how different everyone’s journey through illness and wellness is. Treatment cannot be a one-size approach because just like the illness, recovery comes in all shapes and sizes and what works for one person may not work for someone else. All patients, families and treating professionals should read My Recovery.  It’s emotional, hopeful and most importantly, inspiring. For those of us in the thick of the illness, it shed a little light and some hope that there is an end in sight.”

– Ella (in recovery)

“My Recovery will be wonderful resource for people with eating disorders and their loved ones. Hopeful and positive, yet realistic, the powerful message that “Recovery from an eating disorder is possible” comes through in each survivor’s story.”

– Jane Cawley, Maudsley Parents

“As always, Julie’s words are given with kindness, care and compassion. The gift in this book is that it will gently accompany the reader on their own journey of transformation and blossoming. I am sure this book will be of great comfort and empower the many who read it.”

Grace McClure

To read more about My Recovery, or to pre-order the book, click here.

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A Reader’s Guide to Sex

Posted August 22, 2012 by Anne

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“We need to make books cool again. If you go home with somebody and they don’t have books, don’t fuck them.” – John Waters

That’s all very well and good, but these days you don’t need to take someone home for them to be able to see your bookshelf. You just need to show them your device. No not that device.

So before you go all the way home with your date, ask them to hand over their e-reading device. Take a quick look at their library, and use this handy guide to what your date’s taste in books says about them as a lover.

Chuck Palahniuk/Bret Easton Ellis/Philip Roth


If you bruise easily you may want to exercise caution.

Jonathan Franzen/Haruki Murakami/David Foster Wallace

You might need to pull the “shut up and kiss me” routine with this windbag, but once you’ve got things underway you can likely expect this lover to last the distance.

Thomas L. Friedman/Tim Flannery/Michael Pollan

I hope you like body hair. [Um, I wrote that before I saw the above photo and now I’m kind of all turned around on the subject. He’s holding Hot, Flat and Crowded, by the way.]

Richard Dawkins/Christopher Hitchens/Sam Harris

If you’re one of those people who has a tendency toward “oh god” exclamations during sexual activity you may want to tone that down.

Diana Gabaldon/Nora Roberts/Jodi Picoult

There will definitely be cuddling after sex, quite possibly prior to and during the act also. Suffocation warning, and not the good type either.

George R. R. Martin/Robert Jordan/Raymond E Feist

This date has no problem with commitment or patience. Likely to be a dedicated lover, but may require a detailed map. When it comes to the cut and thrust part of the night, expect great things.

Anthony Bourdain/Marco Pierre White/Gabrielle Hamilton

Likely to have an excellent appetite, and a willingness to eat out, if you know what I mean.

Charlaine Harris/Anne Rice/Stephen King

Watch out for teeth. If you like that type of thing, by all means, take this one home. But look, you may want to lay down towels. Could get messy.

Stephanie Meyer/J.K. Rowling/Suzanne Collins

Ask to see their ID and double check their birth date.

Nathan M Farrugia/Louise Cusack/Greig Beck

Definitely, definitely fuck them.

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The Best Book-ish Podcasts: Confessions of a Podcast Addict

Posted July 26, 2012 by Anne

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I’m a huge fan of having things beamed directly into my brain, so obviously podcasts are just about my favourite way to pass the time. Well, that and reading books. My favourite podcasts up until now have been largely pop culture-themed – This American Life, Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, all of the Slate podcasts (with the exception of the sports one because what? But if someone wants to make a good argument in favour of it I’m all ears),  WNYC-created Alec Baldwin’s Here’s The Thing and RadioLab, and the always salacious Risk.

I’m even seduced by economics podcasts like Freakonomics, Planet Money and EconTalk. But up until very recently I’d avoided the world of book podcasts. Too much like work, perhaps. But I’ve been listening to a few lately, and am (predictably) addicted. These are my favourites, but I’m sure there are many more that I’m missing. So in the interests of filling up even more of my time, please make your book-ish podcast suggestions in the comments.

The Bookseller UK’s The Naked Book

This podcast does have a tendency to be a little ‘inside baseball’, but if you have any interest in the future of books and reading I highly recommend keeping an eye (ear?) on it. Philip Jones is the host, and he is joined by some of the most interesting people in the UK (and often US) book industry. It’s actually the podcast of a fortnightly radio show that is aired live in the UK, so there is usually input and questions from twitter and forums.

The Creative Penn

Joanna Penn is a thriller author and entrepreneur who has written, published and marketed several books. Her podcast is a must-listen for anyone with writerly aspirations. I listen to it because it gives a different perspective on the publishing industry to the one I’m usually faced with, and great insight into what it is like to be an author. Joanna is completely unaffected, and she is open and honest about her process. I like her interviews because she has no pretensions and covers exactly what I would want to ask of her guests.

The Moth 

While not technically a book podcast, it is story-based, so it totally counts. If you’ve never heard of The Moth, remedy this immediately. They also have a YouTube channel so you can watch the storytellers as well as hear them (but I prefer doing it the old-fashioned podcast-y way).

Selected Shorts

Ditto. Hosted by the excellent Isaiah Scheffer, these are short stories written by some of my favourite writers (including recently Richard Ford, Jennifer Egan and Etgar Keret) and performed by some of the best actors that New York City has to offer.

Books on the Nightstand 

Two publishing types (Random House US employees, but I don’t hold that against them) talking everything book-y. Reviews, events, book creation and authors, they cover it all – and always have the inside word on the next big book to set the literary world abuzz, just before it hits.

Slate’s The Afterword

An in-depth discussion with authors of non-fiction books. Interesting interviews, and the host June Thomas has such a lovely accent that no matter what they’re talking about I’m always fascinated by the conversation.


Some of my favourite twitter personalities feature on this, with Rebecca Schinsky from Bookriot and recently Jon Page from Sydney’s own Pages and Pages Booksellers talking about the books they’re reading, and then delving into larger topics centred around books and reading. Conversational and fun, with great insight and tips about interesting book-ish sites and blogs.

As you might have guessed from the pic of Archer up top, we’re tossing around the idea of doing our own book-ish podcast at Momentum. Stay tuned for more details (ie stay tuned to find out whether I ever figure out what lead to plug in where), and in the meantime let me know which excellent podcasts I’ve missed.

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Restoring humanity to the greatest survival story in the history of exploration

Posted June 27, 2012 by Adrian Caesar

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The White tells the story of two of the greatest journeys in the ‘heroic age’ of Antarctic exploration: Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated expedition to the South Pole (1911-12) and Douglas Mawson’s trek across King George V Land, eastward from the Australasian Antarctic Expedition’s hut at Commonwealth Bay (1912-13).

When I began work on the book I’d had an interest in Scott for some years and in particular a fascination for the way in which his ‘heroic’ death was seen as a form of ‘self-sacrifice’. His own account of what had happened seemed to me to form the basis of a legend that countless biographies had happily repeated and endorsed. But I was also interested to write something about Australia. A friend alerted me to the figure of Mawson. I began to read about him and came across one of the greatest survival stories (maybe the greatest) in the history of adventure and exploration. Better still, I discovered a connection between Scott and Mawson – in a meeting in London in 1910, Scott had tried to persuade Mawson to join his expedition. Mawson refused, saying he wanted to explore the Antarctic coastline closest to Australia; he wanted to mount an Australian expedition.

From these beginnings, I decided to write a book which would compare and contrast the two men, their characters, their journeys, the cultural differences between them. But what kind of a book? I didn’t want to write conventional biography and I didn’t want to write an academic treatise. On the other hand, the material I had and the issues I was interested in seemed to call for more than a straightforward adventure story.

After several false starts, I had a moment of inspiration. I found a form that could combine the drama and narrative drive of a novel with the more factual and analytic characteristics of non-fiction. Most controversially, perhaps, my way forward also enabled me to imagine and dramatise the characters’ interior life rather than present a distanced account through the lens of conventional biography. In this way I aimed to restore to the characters something of their full humanity.

I was intent on trying to understand why Scott’s death was so famous and Mawson’s survival wasn’t. I wanted to question the received wisdom about Scott and compare and contrast him with Mawson. Ideas about masculinity, heroism and self-sacrifice came under scrutiny as did the different values and beliefs that motivated each man. Scott’s relationship with his sculptress wife, Kathleen, and Mawson’s love for his fiancée (later his wife) Paquita are of much fascination in this context.

My choice of form also highlights the fact that in the last days of each man’s journey there is only one account of what happened: their own. In other words, the ‘facts’ of the matter are difficult to establish beyond doubt. Scott’s account of his own heroic death cannot be seen as disinterested. Mawson’s account of his solo trek likewise may not be the complete story.

I have tried to provide a compelling and cogent account of these extraordinary men and their explorations. Whether I have succeeded or not is for the reader to decide. Readers may also have their opinions on whether the book constitutes fiction or non-fiction. My own view is that it is best described in Truman Capote’s phrase as a ‘non-fiction novel’.

Find out more about the book here.

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Models and their stories

Posted June 26, 2012 by Bessie and Geoff

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Every day, somewhere in the world, a young girl or boy is experiencing one of these stories for themselves, almost word for word.

Since we wrote the book we have had hundreds of models ask if we were writing ‘their story’ in the chapters of this book.

Whilst we have changed dramatically, the model industry remains very much the same, for better or worse.

To some, a wonderful experience full of adventure, glamour, excitement and fun. But to others, a soul sucking self indulgent hell that systematically chews them up and spits them out at the end of their used by date.

We experienced both the highs and the lows and to be honest we wouldn’t change a thing.

Love it or hate it, the modelling world may be superficial, but the people in it are real and have feelings just like the rest of us. This book is their story, and the thousands who have gone before and will come after.

You can find the book, Casting Couch Confidential, here.


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