Five Great Reads: Michael Palin, small homes and confessions of a sociopath

<span>‘My goal is to take the stigma away’: Patric Gagne, author of Sociopath: A Memoir, has spent most of her life fighting terrible urges.</span><span>Photograph: Zack Wittman/The Guardian</span>
‘My goal is to take the stigma away’: Patric Gagne, author of Sociopath: A Memoir, has spent most of her life fighting terrible urges.Photograph: Zack Wittman/The Guardian

Top of the weekend to you all. Are you venturing out to blow $5.50 on your morning caffeine hit? Or have you taken the advice of our instant coffee taste test so you can put the money you save into a house deposit?

We’ve had homes on the brain this week. From small homes (cool) to Disney homes (wild) to cashing out your super to buy a home (insane), let’s call this the housing edition of Five Great Reads and get into it.

1. Michael Palin on the loss of his wife of 57 years

But first, one of the dwindling number of Monty Python alumni who have not been cancelled. Michael Palin has for the past 35 years been better known for his travel documentaries, for which he credits his late wife, Helen, who gently steered him towards making them.

She died 10 months ago, just before Palin packed his suitcases to shoot a new three-part series in Nigeria. “I was quite concerned about whether I could physically and mentally deal with it,” he confesses. “Actually, it regenerated me in a way.”

Heartbreaking quote of the week: “I’ve been working quite hard since she died, and that’s been a distraction. But every now and then, the house seems empty and you feel you’ll never have a friend as close as that; you’ll never have someone who knows as much about you as Helen did about me.”

How long will it take to read: Six minutes.

2. How to live better in small homes

Tiny homes? Appealing in theory, though once you throw two turntables and a record collection in, there isn’t much room for anything useful.

Small homes? Now we’re talking. Maddie Thomas interviewed five design experts, from Paris to Tokyo to Melbourne, to find out how to make the most of limited space.

Pro tip: Michael Chen, the genius behind the swivel TV set-up pictured above, extols the value of leaving some space empty to provide “visual and spatial relief”.

How long will it take to read: Five minutes.

3. Australia’s housing policy bin fire

Home ownership is an Australian obsession and everyone wants a piece of the action. But housing policy is so dire, Peter Lewis reckons, that any new idea sounds enticing.

Exhibit A: the Coalition’s super-for-housing plan, which would let you give your retirement savings to the sellers running the market while likely juicing up prices even more.

But don’t take my word for it – here’s Lewis steaming in off the long run-up.


“Housing in Australia is a bin fire stoked by shysters pumping up their assets for short-term advantage to the detriment of those they claim to serve. And that’s just the policy auction.” – And that’s just his opening line.

How long will it take to read: Two minutes.

Further reading: First Dog on the Moon mulls over some more leftfield solutions.

4. Life in a Disney town

Maybe living in the Disney IRL Universe is the answer? With homes from US$1m, the masterplanned Cotino community in the Palm Springs desert is borderline affordable from an Australian capital city perspective.

The jury is out on whether the House of Mouse’s latest revenue-raising venture will be the coolest thing out of Palm Springs since Kyuss or a white elephant. But as Oliver Wainwright writes, it’s just the latest piece of cross-promotion from a brand that set that particular template with Disneyland itself.

What are utilidors? The underground service corridors – which went on to influence today’s smart cities – connecting the different themed lands in Florida’s Disney World were introduced after Walt was bothered by the sight of a cowboy walking through Tomorrowland on his way to Frontierland.

How long will it take to read: Four minutes.

Further reading: Speaking of planned cities, Egypt’s looks Dubai-esque and Saudi Arabia’s was clearly too ambitious for its own good.

5. Meet the sociopath who learned to behave

As a child, Patric Gagne stabbed another girl in the head with a pencil. Why? “I just remember feeling this pressure building,” Gagne recalls, “and this girl just happened to be standing next to me when the dam burst.”

Gagne is no Patrick Bateman type. “Warm and funny, articulate and charming” is Emine Saner’s take when they catch up to discuss Gagne’s memoir (creatively titled Sociopath: A Memoir), in which the self-confessed liar and once compulsive thief confesses all – except the details her husband deemed too extreme to print.

Setting boundaries: Like the fictional serial killer Dexter, Gagne developed a “code” to help manage her behaviour. Unlike Dexter, her first rule was “no hurting anybody”.

How long will it take to read: Five minutes.

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