House of Gucci: A True Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed by Sara Gay Forden (HarperCollins, $25)
I watched the film and then read the book, which made for two unparalleled experiences. There’s detail in the book that captures so much more than the film had time for. This way around, the book becomes the delicious cherry on the cake. “I would rather weep in a Rolls Royce than be happy on a bicycle,” said Patrizia Reggiani, ex-wife to the murdered Maurizio Gucci. It’s that kind of sass that the book’s specific about, whereas the film will capture it in an eyebrow lift or a hitman. It’s not a spoiler to reveal she (maybe?) murdered her ex-husband, heir to the Gucci dynasty, because his spending was out of control - or was it because he was marrying his mistress? Or maybe it wasn’t her at all… Sara Gay Forden, a Milanese fashion journalist of fifteen years at the time of the crime in 1995, documents a riveting account of the Gucci family’s rise, demise and resurgence via every source imaginable. This is a true crime tale for anyone intrigued by high-end fashion, high-profile marriages, Italian decadence, dysfunctional families, and unprecedented luxury.
Tunnel 29: The True Story of an Extraordinary Escape Beneath the Berlin Wall by Helena Merriman (Hachette, $38)
In 1961, student Joachim Rudolph escaped the brutality of east Berlin’s dictatorship through a 135 metre long tunnel he dug under the Berlin Wall. His heroism is extraordinary, as he returned to help other men, women and children escape, spending weeks underground in a space the size of a coffin. Even writing that feels claustrophobic. Ladened with dramatics, such as the Stasi spy infiltrating Joachim’s plans by acting as his comrade, this book reads more like a Cold War spy thriller. However it’s a remarkable true tale of betrayal, disaster and triumph that’s the result of Merrimen sifting through hundreds of hours of interviews she had with survivors and ploughing through thousands of Stasi documents. She’s brought us this unimaginable piece of history, which is a reminder of how far people will go to help one another in times of unbelievable crisis.
Empireland by Sathnam Sanghera (Penguin, $26)
Sanghera argues, with humble persuasion, that what’s made modern Britain today is deeply rooted in their imperial past. From Brexit and schools to museums and sport, he poses an optimistic and balanced case for the benefits in confronting this past head on as opposed to ignoring it. He talks about current affairs with acerbic wit, like when Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg claimed that fish were ‘better and happier’ because they are ‘now British’ after Brexit. He delves into the nation’s selective amnesia, like when the Oxford Union named a cocktail the Colonial Comeback during a debate about slavery reparations in 2015. One of the wonderful things about this book is the merging of memoir and journalism and therefore its readability. Free from pomp and packed with personality and good humour, this book could be the catalyst for healthy debate the world over and is, it seems, an honest portrait of the British nation.
McSweeney’s 65: Plundered edited by Valeria Luiselli with Heather Cleary (McSweeney’s, $56)
When I reviewed Dave Eggers' The Every
in the last instalment for Dispatch, I discovered Eggers' non-profit publishing house in San Francisco. And if you, like me, can’t resist some scintillating literary entertainment then you will thoroughly enjoy these articles on his “Internet Tendency”:
I’m Dying To Hear What You, Some Guy On The Internet, Has To Say About The Russian Invasion of Ukraine
by Carl Osgreaves
We Need To Get Back To Normal, I Say, While I Continue To Live My Life Normally, As I Have Done Throughout This Pandemic
by Eli Grober
Better yet, you can buy the McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, which began in 1998 as a literary journal that published only works rejected by other magazines. The New York Times hailed it “a key barometer of the literary climate,” and it’s a three-time winner of the National Magazine Award for Fiction. I cannot emphasise enough that this book is simply stunning, it’s a shame it’s not of coffee table stature. So much so, I’d call it a work of art. The current circulation, McSweeney’s 65: Plundered, is a series of stories about stolen artefacts and endless job searches, of nationality-themed amusement parks and cultish banana plantations, centred on the theme of the violence that shaped the American continent.