Tracey Slaughter: Best Books I Never Wrote
The Empathy Exams, Leslie Jamison
Delicate odysseys through the personal and political – this may be a book of essays but it makes your chest-wall ache. Taking 'pain tours' through live questions of our contemporary world, Jamison refuses to absolve the intellect from full embodied empathy. Startling insight, naked lyrical tone, the wonder of watching a fine mind pulsing as it writes – this collection takes the essay form to a new and wholly human place.
Legend of a Suicide, David Vann
The shock at the core of these linked short stories has you holding the book away from your body – but it's too late, Vann's images own your skull. This strange cycle of stories revisits and twists the fact of his own father's suicide, replaying details in semi-fictional patterns that haunt, hollow, hurt.
Coldblooded economy and graphic action blend with breathtaking poetry. A book unlike any other, penned straight from trauma, but with transcendent control.
The Wish Child, Catherine Chidgey
You breathe the beauty of this writing so deep it seems like you've called it up from within yourself.
The cryptic voice at the core of this novel travels the wreckage of Nazi Berlin with two small children soaked in Reich mystique and battered by the city's fall – the final revelation of this speaker's identity unveils a historical stain that leaves you reeling.
I was lucky enough to be one of this soon-to-be-published novel's first readers, so I know what riches the literary world has in store…
Room, Emma Donoghue
I'm reading this at the moment, wishing with every word that it was mine! Its point of view is pure genius – the child's voice breaks you with its innocence – and it brings the fierce bond of mother and child to the page in a way I long for, and that is overdue.
Mayhem Anthology 2016
I edited this book; I only wish I wrote it. A collection of the poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction that has poured through my classrooms over the course of my teaching at the University of Waikato: brimming with fresh, raw, confronting, tender, risky, tough writing.
My students stun me with their stories and remind me why we write. I wish I'd started out with this much courage.
* Deleted Scenes for Lovers by Tracey Slaughter (Victoria University Press, $30) is out now.