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Something Old, Something New (Aus/NZ Issue Four)
by Kate Whitfield
Magazine Issue: AUS/NZ Issue Four
Finding a good read can be harder than a cat's head and it's never more crucial than now, when the great outdoors moves indoors and a good book becomes a great night in. Here Kate Whitfield dips into the archives and pulls out a couple of top picks. Being old just makes them classic.

Lolita Vladimir Nabakov 1955 Penguin Books

Reading Nabakov, in the context of other writers, is like biting off a great slavering gobful of chocolate after nibbling on lo-fat wafers - rich, substantial, decadent, and leaving you the slightest bit queasy.

You all know the story: depraved Old World paedophile and sexually precocious 12-year old New World "nymphet" in a relationship that profoundly shocked the public when Lolita was released. Almost 50 years later, the book is still shocking. It's the personal memoir of 'Humbert Humbert', told as a sentimental story of man meets girl. With awesome skill, Nabakov manipulates the language to draw an image of a painfully real and pathetic young girl without ever breaking character as the monster who sees her only as the ultimate sexual prize. If you can stomach it for long enough to find the hidden sympathy for this not conventionally innocent pubescent, you will find a profoundly humane book that is moving and disturbing in ways that no one else has been original enough to try.

The Sheltering Sky Paul Bowles 1949 Penguin Books

Perpetual travelers Kit and Port Moresby arrive in North Africa after WWII, Broody, aloof Port seeks a place unsoiled by the war, while nervous Kit seeks half-heartedly to save their marriage. Pretty soon things go pear-shaped, and the couple embarks on a fairly infernal and rather strange desert odyssey.

According to the introduction, Bowles used Surrealist automatic writing, which partly explains why the story changes direction completely right in the middle. Strangely again, though, there's a certain pleasure in the ensuing sense of rootless wandering.

The allure of this book is its Saharan atmosphere. Bowles depicts a place more desolate than the ocean, where we can see the heat haze, hear the groans of camels and the freak out of the lack of medical facilities.

Shiny and New New releases that'll teach you about the rest of the world from the comfort of your own couch.

The World from Italy, Football, Food and Politics George Negus Harper Collins $27.50

A little over the Australia way of life, George Negus packed up the wife and tin lids and moved to Italy where everyone shares the same passions as him - food, politics and football. A rollicking tale of George's travels while reflecting on the Italian's attitude to life, globalisation and IT. A super-easy and entertaining read.

The Global Encyclopedia of Wine Harper Collins $99.95

It's got it all - a cd rom, maps, great photos, relentless detail and guides to every wine region in the world. Naturally all of the usual geographic suspects are covered - France, Italy, America, New Zealand et al; but what makes this book an interesting read rather than an encyclopedia as all the unusual suspects it covers - China, the Middle East, Croatia and Turkey to name a few. An introduction to everything wine at the beginning and a comprehensive wine table at the end, makes a pretty complete package.

Jancis Robinson's Concise Wine Companion Jancis Robinson Oxford University Press $29.95

Wine Jedi Jancis Robinson has squished her monstrous, famous and well respected Oxford Companion to Wine into a concise version. To do so, almost two-thirds of the original companion have been cut out, hard covers removed and photos taken out. But if you're after the final word on wine in a book that doesn't require your entire upper body strength to open, this may very well be it.

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