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Issue 11: Crime, Women, and Outsider Perspectives

Pamela is visiting for the Sydney Writers’ Festival; she’ll be interviewing Colson Whitehead on Saturday night. But our little event was meant to be a more casual affair, and with beers and bites for around 25 New York Times subscribers, I’d bet a few connections were made among readers and writers.

Pamela’s conversation with Sarah — which we streamed live to Facebook — explored a wide range of subjects from narrative structure to dreams to New York editors to why women accused of heinous acts tend to draw more attention and scrutiny than men. I found myself shuddering a bit when Sarah said she wrote the book after a dream in which Lizzie showed up beside her bed and told her “my father has a lot to answer for.”


Sarah Schmidt describing the dark dreams that lead to novels. Credit Damien Cave/The New York Times

Nightmares aside, the issue of crime, women and judgment is clearly still with us. Just this week, Australians were treated to extended coverage of Schapelle Corby, the everyday Aussie beach girl who said she is afraid of the media frenzy that will greet her in Australia when she is deported from Bali after spending several years in prison for smuggling marijuana to the Indonesian island.

There’s also the trial of Sharon Yarnton, a former prison guard accused of trying to kill her husband by blowing him up in a car after discovering he was having an affair.

And of course, let’s not forget all those smiling portraits we’ve seen of blonde Cassie Sainsbury, 22, who was arrested in Colombia last month after police said they found 5.8 kilograms of cocaine in packages that she said she received from a man who deceived her about their contents.

I’m not sure what these cases (or the fascination they attract) can tell us about Australia, if anything. But I’m curious how all of you would describe Australia’s relationship to crime coverage generally, and especially cases involving women.

I admit, there seems to be something deeper going on here with the way these stories are told and consumed, not just in the daily news but also in the writing of authors like Helen Garner. I don’t have any grand conclusion or even a specific article in mind but I am sincerely curious and perhaps a bit inspired by an exchange last night between Pamela and Sarah.

It occurred near the end of their discussion, when the dumplings had cooled and the wine glasses emptied. Pamela asked Sarah a question I had also been wondering about: “Do you think there was a benefit to you approaching this American story as an outsider, as an Australian?”

Sarah nodded. “It can often be easier to come at things as an outsider,” she said. “You see a lot of things others don’t.”

Tell me what you think about that comment, and about my questions on crime and women by emailing us nytaustralia@nytimes.com.

Subscribers can also join us in the NYT Australia Facebook group for additional enlightening discussion (including a debate about Roger Moore).

Now here’s my weekly Times roundup and some book recommendations from a few of our “culture club” attendees.

P.S. — Thanks to everyone who attended Wednesday night’s event.



Credit George Etheredge for The New York Times

On the Road

Sometimes, great journalism is a matter of empathy on location — you go to a place where the voiceless gather, and you let them speak and reveal their dignity and struggles. This photo-plus-interview piece on truckers in Middle America managed to be both simple and profound.



Mr. Moore in the Bond adventure “Moonraker” (1979). He was the oldest Bond ever hired, taking on the role when he was 45. Credit United Artists

A 007 for Gen X?

Tony Scott (yes that’s how he’s known inside The Times) has strong feelings about the death of Roger Moore, arguing that he’s the ultimate James Bond, especially for those of us caught between the eras of Sean Connery and Daniel Craig. I’m partial to Mr. Connery in part because, well, Jeopardy!



Dr. Joseph Ibrahim, a trauma surgeon and the son of an Egyptian immigrant, worked for hours to save people wounded in the Pulse nightclub attack. Credit Hilary Swift for The New York Times

Silent Heroes

Watching the aftermath of the Manchester bombing, I was reminded of when I was sent to Orlando to cover the attack last year at the Pulse nightclub. At a time when terrorism is once again being closely tied to immigrants and Islam, I thought it might be worth resurfacing my profile of Dr. Joseph Ibrahim and remembering to search for those who play heroic roles in the background of tragedy.



Credit Adam Dean for The New York Times

Look, Learn, Remember

I’m biased, but The Times really does consistently publish the world’s best photography. This photo essay from the oil fields of Myanmar should not be missed (that’s one of the photos above) but I also wanted to directly bring you our Lens feature on Matthew Sherwood’s series about Australia’s stolen generation.

Here are a few of the images and comments he collected from mixed-race children who had been kidnapped from their families during Australia’s disastrous experiment with forced assimilation.



Credit Matthew Sherwood

“I feel very much that I can’€™t connect properly with my family like I would have growing up as brother and sister. I see other families, and how other families act, brothers and sisters, and look at the way they love each other and joke and carry on; we can’™t do that, because we got no history together, because we were all taken and separated in different ways.”



Credit Matthew Sherwood

“They robbed us. I feel angry. I feel angry about the fact that I can’t speak my mother’s language.”



Credit Matthew Sherwood

“To be quite honest, if we didn’t have each other, I don’t think many of us would have survived. We used each other to counsel each other, just sitting around talking about things, how we felt — the anger — just spending time together and talking about it and reflecting on a lot of those things helped us heal within ourselves.”


… And We Recommend

Finally, here are some of the books and capsule reviews from The New York Times subscribers who joined us at our culture club event in Sydney with Sarah Schmidt and Pamela Paul.

Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey

“I read it after I moved to Balmain East and gave me a more developed sense of home to read fiction set here. And even though Peter Carey heavily foreshadowed the ending, it was still a shock.” — Jackie Range

Essential: Essays by the Minimalists by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus

“A handbook in how to ‘strip back’ modern life, I’ve found it a great guide for reconnecting with life’s most important things.” — Louise Jackett

Joe Cinque’s Consolation by Helen Garner

“It is a sad book about a young man’s death and it’s consequences. It’s an exploration of the legal system and how nothing is as it first appears.” — Andrew Turner

Source: NYT > World

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