Candy: A Novel of Love and Addiction


By Luke Davies

Ballantine Books, 1998.

Like Trainspotting, Candy depicts heroin addicts in a British subculture, but it is set in Australia, not Scotland. “Candy” is the slang name of the unnamed narrator’s two great loves: his girlfriend and heroin. He introduces her to the drug, and they descend from being high on life, love, and drugs, to being shamed through prostitution, crime, addiction, and recovery. With no character background, the book reads as a string of scams to score money and heroin: some hilarious, some desperate, and some both at once. One scam starts when they answer a ringing public phone that the caller mistakenly believes is a suicide prevention line. Candy and the narrator are ruthless but human; their likableness and the immediacy of their dramas make them sympathetic even when pathetic. The writing is lean and strong but offers no resolution. Although that reflects junkies’ reality, sometimes the pacing is jarring as the characters take action long after the audience is ready. Still, the good writing, realistic portrayal, and affable characters plunge readers into the junkies’ world, safely returning them with veins intact. (Booklist)

Luke Davies was born in Sydney in 1962. He is currently on an Australia Council writers’ fellowship and has worked variously as a teacher, journalist and script editor. Luke Davies’ collection of poetry Absolute Event Horizon was shortlisted for the 1995 Turnbull Fox Phillips poetry prize.

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The Blue Sky

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By Galsan Tschinag

Translated by Katharina Rout
Milkweed Editions, 2006 

Galsan Tschinag is the German name taken by Irgit Shynykbai-oglu Dshurukuwaa, a Tuvan born in Mongolia in the early 1940s. Tschinag studied in Germany in the early ’60s and ended up leading the Tuvan people, dispersed under Communism, back to the High Altai mountain region. This autobiographical novel, the first of a trilogy, mines his Mongolian boyhood as a youngest child with an unusual devotion to his grandmother (who comes to live with his immediate family in their yurt). Galsan has aspirations to increase the family’s holdings to 1,000 animals and a yurt with a mirror and a suitcase. As Tuvan customs get disrupted by the Communist government’s attempts at societal homogenization, the boy continues to tend sheep without the company of his siblings (sent to boarding school) and turns to Arsylang, his dog, for companionship. The foundations for his natural ambitions disappear piecemeal. Tschinag offers softly outlined characters more in the oral tradition than that of the novel, and fly-on-the-wall depictions of the Tuvans, a generally nonaggressive, nomadic tribe with a knack for maxims and poetic superstitions. Descriptions of the Altai mountains, remarkable sky, and closeness to the flock are slow but rich. The book is filled with small pleasures. (Publishers Weekly)

Wild Form & Savage Grammar

By Andrew Schelling

La Alameda Press, 2003. 

These essays are reports from an increasingly important crossroads where art and ecology meet. Andrew Schelling belongs, in the words of Patrick Pritchett, “to a small group of poets who are actively engaged with the rhythms and pulses of the natural world.” He is also the preeminent translator into English of the poetries of ancient India. Wild Form, Savage Grammar collects ten years of essays, many of which investigate the “nature literacy” of American and Asian poetry traditions. Other topics include recollections of Allen Ginsberg and Joanne Kyger, wolf reintroduction in the Rocky Mountains, pilgrimage to Buddhist India, and the possible use of hallucinogens among Paleolithic artists. An underlying commitment to ecology studies, Buddhist teachings, and contemporary poetry weaves the collection together. (Publisher’s description)