Monday, August 30, 2010

did you know that steph bowe is really funny?

i went to hear steph in conversation today at the writers' festy. not only was she well-spoken and supremely sophisticated, she made the school kids there really interested (i was so impressed with those kids, actually, their questions were great) and she made some brilliantly dry quips that had me in hysterics. so here's me:
my review of girl saves boy will go up tomorrow (probably)

coffee : cornershop cafe

the cornershop cafe in yarraville does the best coffee in the wild west. well, at least in yarraville. occasionally i'll get a coffee that's been slightly over-extracted, but thankfully it doesn't happen all that often!

their menu is delicious and there are lots of options for vegetarians, which is nice. if you go for lunch or dinner i really recommend the zucchini fritters and my friends tell me the meatballs are wonderful. for breakfast i often get the fruit toast, and sometimes what i call the "fancy scrambled eggs" - the eggs with cavolo nero and herbs.

the atmosphere is bustling but organised - sometimes on the weekend you do have to wait a loooong time because every single person in yarraville is trying to eat there - and it's particularly nice in the evenings when they dim the lights and there are candles on the tables.

this review is great. plus you get to see all the beautiful people who work there. and even one of my colleagues (i shan't say which one she is, in case she's shy)

just a wee disclaimer - this place is next door to my work. therefore, i go there all the time and feel like i own the place.

Friday, August 27, 2010

coffee: green tambourine take two

so since my review i have been back to the green tambourine to try the coffee again. it was better this time and i drank it all (it was made by a man, not the girl who made them last time) but it wasn't great. it was scalding hot, slightly bitter, and the milk was not done properly:

the people who work there are very friendly and willing to please. the food looks fresh. people seemed to be enjoying themselves. oh! in particular, this is apparently a pram- and child-friendly place, so that's nice. and they use organic foods so i am sure the eggs are delish.

but the coffee just isn't to my taste. which is all i really care about in a cafe. (oh, and no tv)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

i will love you at all - darren hanlon

i will love you at all


another brilliant album from the talents of darren hanlon, nomad folksinger, friendly, funny and engaging performer. none of his albums have disappointed me, in fact all have floored me with their excellent lyrics and toons. the harmonies are amazing and i mostly choose to sing those (loudly in the car). he plays guitar and banjo and a ukelele.

a highlight of the new album is the magnificently beautiful scenes from a separation, which chronicles the demise of a relationship:

we earmarked our august vacation as a fine place to fall apart
and we heard that a trial separation was a quaint idea for a new start
then the city approached like a bandit
my hands shook as they gripped the wheel
as if i'd aways known there's no place like home
to show you the way that you feel


this bit doesn't really come across fully when prosaically written, but it rolls and repeats and is lovely in song:

you offer two corners of the sheet we fold over and over and over again and then in the middle we meet.

and the song's also funny (bittersweet funny):

right now i'm watching a drummer
haul his drums into a bar
and deep down i'm secretly happy
that i play the harmonica
no i'm not saying i'm lazy
i just take more time to digress
and i've more than three ways i empty my days
now that you're not around to impress

butterfly bones for the opening line of the whole album:

when one year ends and another begins and the sky is a shower of sparks
with your skinny girl arms with their hairs on their ends like exclamation marks

folk insommnia for the following:

but i grew up in a big hurry
and then one day i start to worry
that i am gonna be a goner
before i read all the books i wanna
and if i plant a tree now it'll be fully grown
long after i'm just dust and bone

...

so i'll just plant a tree i'll never see grow
put a seed in the ground where no one will know
gonna make my plan when the morning breaks
but i just don't know how long it'll take

i went to his instore at polyester records in the city a couple of weeks ago which was an intimate and hilarious gig. then last friday (the 20th) it was the offical launch of the new record at the delightfully gaudy and ostentatious thornbury theatre. the place was packed. i was so impressed with his drummer sarah who didn't really know some of his earlier songs, but just had a bash and really gave the already fantastic song (there aren't enough songs about) squash a new oomph. and i laughed my way through the song-in-a-day number 17 about not catching a bus (and the girls' hand claps especially).

watch this video clip.

darren lives here

Monday, August 23, 2010

review: good oil

Good Oil, Laura Buzo (Allen & Unwin)

Amelia is 15 and has just got a job at Woolies, where she meets 21-year-old Chris and she is fairly instantly smitten. They click right away, spend their breaks discussing literature and philosophy and there are moments where Amelia thinks that maybe she is in with a chance. Buzo has perfectly captured the somewhat obsessive nature of teenage crushes, as Amelia analyses the smallest of exchanges and looks.

‘I am acutely aware of Chris’ movements at work. I see him approaching even when I’m studying a bag of beans to distinguish whether they’re broad beans or round beans. I know which girls he has talked to throughout the shift. I know when he’s preoccupied or playful by the way he moves. I know it all. Sometime I mutter his name under my breath like a madwoman.’ (p31-32)

After 90 pages of Amelia’s point of view, the reader becomes privy to Chris’ side of the story through diary entries (mostly drunken) and we realise that Chris is struggling with some love questions himself. Though it at times seemed a little didactic (or at least strangely over-explanatory) when Chris lectures Amelia on the history of feminism, it still was very interesting to have the topic broached.

I have a little niggle – when Chris is lambasting Amelia over the thing that happens at Bianca’s party I found myself laughing at what he was saying, and his manner, before realising a few pages later that he was actually supposed to be a serious exchange, and not a playful, hilarious one. I’d be interested to know if others read it the way it was intended, or if they had the same reaction as me.

Overall, Good Oil is a very enjoyable read for both girls and boys (though mostly girls) and is a great first novel.

Friday, August 20, 2010

remembering henrietta dugdale

with the election looming and a somewhat sombre and yet anxious feeling mumbling and grumbling around me everywhere i go, it makes me frightened and sad just how many youths i know who are so apathetic and generally unwilling to put effort in to care at all. but on the other hand there are many who are so passionate and i feel so sorry they can't vote - when they know more than me and are actually out there working for their cause already. i can only imagine the frustration.

but it's made me muse about all those people who have fought for my right to vote and how we must not take it for granted.

i was involved in a project at uni in 2007 where we were to write essays on an aspect, or a figure, of the fight for female suffrage in victoria (which was achieved in 1908) and we published our essays in a rather neat book entitled they are but women: the road to female suffrage in victoria and it was launched by former vic premier joan kirner.

i wrote about this fantastically eccentric woman named henrietta dugdale, who lived from 1826-1918 and campaigned vocally for the cause. she was saucy and clever. she wore trousers that she fashioned herself, was skilled in carpentry and grew her own food. journalists and critics called her unwomanly and a he-woman - the former in an entertaining article in the punch magazine in 1884. she spoke out about women's rights in legislation and was the president of the victorian women's suffrage society.

henrietta also wrote a novel, which you can read at the state library of victoria, called a few hours in a far-off age (it was published in 1883). the novel is narrated by a woman who has time travelled from the (1883) present day to a year far in the future. the woman, whom one would assume was based on henrietta herself, spends a number of hours observing a family examine a museum exhibit specialising in the nineteenth century ‘christian era’, which is otherwise known in the future as ‘the age of blood and malevolence.’ the mother, an extremely wise and self-possessed woman, encourages her teenage son and daughter to question and understand this horrific era in human development but to remember not to judge their ancestors by the standards of modern life. they look at the clothing (so restrictive!) their politics and even their inferior intelligence. i'd really recommend anyone to go and read it.

the other essays in the book cover other quirky female figures such as brettena smythe, who championed birth control and was also part of the suffrage society, bessie harrison lee, who was the more conservative (but no less passionate) leader of the temperance society, a wonderful piece about the everyday women of davis street who signed the 'monster' petition for women's suffrage of 1891. there are essays on the commemorative fountains you see around melbourne and even one on the maligned sir thomas bent, premier of victoria and who reluctantly, but finally, had the women's suffrage bill passed into law in 1908.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

CBCA Book of the Year Award

!KATE'S SUPER-AWESOME PERSONAL PICKS FOR BOOK OF THE YEAR!

(real results out tomorrow, friday 20th august)

tensy farlow and the home for mislaid children, jen storer (viking)
younger readers. it's just brilliant.

the wrong book, nick bland (scholastic)

bahaha i love this one. it's my pick for the picture book of the year - or the early childhood, as they call it now.










schumann the shoeman, john and stella danalis


for the picture books for grown ups (aka the shaun tan award)















maralinga: the anangu story, yalata and oak valley communities with christobel mattingly (allen & unwin)

for the non-fiction prize










loving richard feynman, penny tagney (uqp)

and this is my pick for the young adult.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

coffee : green tambourine cafe

sometimes things aren't bad, they are just not to my taste. and sometimes things are bad.*

i was excited to learn that a new cafe was opening on albion street but didn't get around to visiting until today. it's got a cool name: green tambourine. i like green, i like tambourines.

they have lots of green things on their menu: green eggs and ham, pea fritters...err...other things. the menu is green too. and the tops of the chairs.

but the decor is unappealing, it's almost sterile. it has a real Ikea vibe to it. now, i am a melbourne wanker, but i don't need mismatching chairs, or milk crates (ahh, i do love you, a minor place) but i felt like i was in a a trying-to-be-funky school caf. perhaps once the cafe has had more use it will seem less so, but the place didn't say "welcome" to me.

the staff were friendly, though. until the girl who made the coffees coughed on us when we were paying.


the coffee was awful. it turned up looking all weak. ended up tasting like milk with essence-of-burnt-coffee flavouring. apparently, my friend betsy jane's strong latte was equally as milky. we couldn't drink them.

and then this was the kicker: a flat screen tv. in a cafe. where i am expected to read the paper and do my work and write my novel.

i don't think i'll go back.

a minor place, i am so sorry i cheated on you. but you were closed today. please never close again.

*other people have thought that this place is good. maybe you wanna trust them instead. i won't be offended.
UPDATE: i went back and tried the coffee again, you can read about that here.

Monday, August 16, 2010

it's grievous

dead best friends, dead boyfriends. grief. summer. smacking of sarah dessen. i read these books in tandem with one another and may have possibly confused their plots.

a love story starring my dead best friend, emily horner (penguin)

cass' best friend julia died in a car accident. in the "then" sections we read about cass' determined plan to ride her bicycle across the united states to california, thereby fulfilling her and julia's plan of the summer. she takes julia's ashes for the ride. in the "now"cass is helping julia's old friends stage a ninja musical, penned by julia in the year before she died.

this one surprised me. it was a little confusing flipping from the present to the near past and the present. there's no "before" which would be a more common device, so it's nice to read something done a little differently. cass was a very interesting protagonist, i really liked her, especially how gutsy and capable she was. i loved that she knew so much about bikes and how to build excellent ninja theatre sets.

i didn't know anything about this before i read it, just picked it up because i'd seen the title, and it was one we didn't order in at work. got my copy at the little bookroom, though this event was overshadowed by the denver fiasco and i didn't get around to reading it 'til the other night. it was really great to read a book in which the characters' homosexuality, while not made to appear like a walk in the park, was discovered and explored in a very natural way, i never felt as though any moralistic hand of god was going to come down and judge the world. gay teens are being increasingly represented in their literature, which is refreshing. (i try not to think about the narrowmindedness of some politicians around at the moment. ones with creepy thin lips especially)

twenty boy summer, sarah ockler (little, brown)
aka chlamydia: a how-to guide, aka i know who you did last summer.

just being facetious. ignore me. it wasn't all that bad. though wasn't great.
anna, frankie and matt are best friends. frankie and matt are also brother and sister. then on her fifteenth birthday anna and matt kiss, they spend the next month seeing each other secretly, constantly. before they can break the news of their love (or at least very strong affection) to frankie, matt dies. the main story takes place almost a year later as anna joins frankie's family on a holiday to california. frankie has become a wild child since her brother's death and anna has not been able to talk to her about matt at all. frankie decides that they will chat up/maybe kiss at least twenty boys each over the five-week break and that anna should have sex to get rid of the albatross that has been hanging around her neck.

there were parts of this book that were excellent. i think ockler has a great talent for comedy and wrote the teenage voices really well. i was laughing out loud at some of the things frankie said, and some of anna's observations about love, life and the universe were brilliant and quirky. i particularly liked her musings on the expression "to lose one's virginity" as though you discarded it through carelessness. it's really hard to write good grieving though. while i know i was supposed to be sad for anna and for frankie and her family, i didn't feel it. ockler's prose became awkward as she told us all about the tears, the sobbing, the crumpled body on the sand next to me, the red eyes...instead of crying along with anna i was getting impatient and cynical. the last chapter or two were so cheesy that i had cheese-dream nightmares. however, it's a good read and anna and frankie are great characters.

outcome: dead girlfriends win.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

morocco



review : mirror

illustrated (or should i say built?) in jeannie baker's iconic collage style, this is a beautiful picture book to take time over. there are two stories and the book opens - now, how to describe this? - you open the book. on the left hand side there is the story of an australian family as they pass a regular day: breakfast, shopping, dinner, bedtime. on the right hand side is a moroccan family as they do the same. the little boys from each family wear a red top. the dads are in blue. everything is mirrored, but reflecting the different cultures. it's lovely - the moroccan landscapes in particular.

i could pour over jeannie baker's books for hours. years, even. as i read through her incredible where the forest meets the sea (1988) and window (1991) now, it is hard to believe i have been looking at them so long. and that i can still find new details every time.

mirror is published by walker books.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

international roast

lauren, from i was a teenage book geek, expressed a kind of wistfulness that the cafes i talk about here are all on the other side of the world from her. so today i have a little shortlist of the awesome places i've eaten, drunk and sat for hours...all in the northern hemisphere!

the troubadour in earls court, london.

the coffee in the uk is just not as good as it is in australia (hmm. maybe there are places that make great coffee, but i just don't know them. it's possible). but it wasn't bad here, as i recall. this place thinks it is pretty fantastic and so do the hipsters who frequented it while i was there so it's almost definitely about four times less cool than it may appear. however, the staff were strange and friendly. inside the place looks like a gypsy den with all kinds of bric-a-brac and from the outside it's a european nook that draws you in. plus there is an impressive list of people who've played music at the troubadour, including his bobness, mr bob dylan. so there's a tick in my book!
their website is here.

the elephant house, in edinburgh.
a cliche, i know! and i did visit this place in an homage to her highness madame jk rowling and i admit to taking along a pen and paper in the hope i too could one day buy my own castle. but it's a lovely place in its own right. great coffee, excellent tea, delicious shortbread (shaped like an elephant!) and wonderful people. i also found my delightful flat from a poster put up here (delightful is an enormous overstatement).
website here.

la mascotte in montmartre, paris.
'eric, s'il te plait!' though much more wine than coffee was ever consumed here, the mascotte remains one of my favourite places in france. a lovely friend frequents this place with all her amis everyday - they call it the chapel, and head down to pray every day, isn't that a scream?! - and on a sunday there is an accordionist. their short black, aka un expres, is bitter but hits the spot. here is my only picture of the mascotte, a photo of truffle the dog. those are not my legs.
website here.

Friday, August 13, 2010

review : guitar highway rose

guitar highway rose (allen&unwin), by brigid lowry, was published in 1997.

it is the story of rosie: who lives in perth and is hanging around being fifteen, arguing with her mother, wishing she was older, waiting for her life to begin. it's also the story of asher: a dreadlocked, reluctant byron bay evacuee, come to perth because his parents have separated. theirs is a sweet and quirky friendship and then developing into, possibly, something more. they both love music and secondhand clothes, the ocean and the idea of freedom. asher is unhappy in perth. rosie feels restricted at home. then, when asher is blamed for something he didn't do, the two decide to take a little spontaneous holiday.

i turned fifteen in 1997. guitar highway rose was practically my bible. i read it all the time. i made my friends read it. it got me into allen ginsberg, made me want to run away. it was the reason i bought hippie skirts and bought my doc martens. i wanted to pierce my nose and learn how to play guitar.

reading it again today i wonder if brigid lowry wrote all the little segments at all different times. they appear as lists, or observations on one person or another, or on themself. for example: 'pip and rosie walk to school / monday' and 'what the homeroom teacher said' and 'contents of asher's pockets'. some of them seem like they might have started as exercises in order to develop her characters and setting - what a brilliant idea. lowry has written very, very convincing teenage voices, both rosie and asher. "bloody mother. carrying on and on. silly old bag. wasn't she ever young and fun-loving? anyone would think i'm an axe-murderer or something."

it's only rosie's mum lily who i feel doesn't quite hit the spot for me, her voice coming across as a little bit of a caricature of an overbearing mum. also, the segments in which the characters narrate their thoughts and emotions, and not able to watch and see through a scene, make me feel as though i am being told how to feel.

but, nevertheless it is such a marvellous story, a must-read book. and in spite of a bit of a moral (or compromise) in the end, i think this celebrates a bit of rebellion and adventure, how fifteen is a bitch but it's also exciting and precious and ...i'm so glad i'm not fifteen anymore.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

up with rainy days and with poetry!


here is my favourite bit of allen ginsberg's howl.

so, as we all know, it begins -

'i saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked...'

then it goes -

'who threw their watches off the roof to cast their ballot for Eternity outside of Time & alarm clocks fell on their heads every day for the next decade,
who cut their wrists three times successively unsuccessfully, gave up and were forced to open antique stores where they thought they were growing old and cried,'

Monday, August 9, 2010

shipwrecked by despair

mimi and the blue slave, catherine bateson (woolshed press, september 2010 release)

i just finished this one before i got up this morning and was a red-eyed blubbering mess as i closed the book.

mimi is a young girl, fan of all things piratical, whose father has died suddenly and she and her mother must muddle through what their lives have now become. mimi has a blue pirate slave called ableth who is always there to talk to, to be reassured by and to bounce ideas off.

i'll review this properly in september, but for now just tell you that it is wonderful and sad and beautiful and to keep your eye out.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

coffee : elk horn road house cafe

the elk horn road house cafe is on wallington road in wallington (brief intro to wallington: on the way between geelong and ocean grove; home of the strawberry fair - which used to be totally so much radder than it is now, if it still even exists; one of the places i grew up)

but elk horn...

coffee was nice. a bit weak and milky, but then i like strong coffee and next time i will just ask for a strong one. simple. the taste was very nice. brunch was great too - all local produce and homemade chutneys and jams (and when i say homemade, i mean the people serving us actually made it).

however, it is still very strange, surprising and quite nice to have somewhere in wallington to go for a good coffee!

elk horn has a website here.

book launch : graffiti moon

today was the official launch of cath crowley's wonderful new novel for teenagers (and teenagers at heart) graffiti moon. gabrielle wang made a beautiful speech and read two excerpts.






it was a fantastic event with a lot of interesting and lovely people; gorgeous, bright kids running around; champagne; laughter and A GIANT CAKE IN THE SHAPE OF A SPRAY CAN! one of cath's friends made it and it was delicious as well as attractive.
apologies that the pics aren't of brilliant quality, but i hope they capture what was a great afternoon event. megan has some more (err...better) pics over at literary life.

i reviewed it a little while ago. if you've reviewed it too, leave a comment on this post and we can all read it!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

interview: fiona wood

fiona wood is the author of six impossible things (my review here), one of the most exciting releases this august.

fiona is supremely nice and very funny (not to mention tres stylish) and her book had one of the best launches i've been to. not only did i help drink readings hawthorn out of red wine*, but i also sneezed some of it out of my nose laughing, first at kaz cooke's launch speech, then the reading from the book. after that, fiona made a lovely speech. if she was nervous, you couldn't tell.

Six (hopefully not impossible) Questions

Q1: Where did the brilliant germ of an idea for Six Impossible Things come from?
It started with the idea of Dan - although he didn't have a name them - a shy, wordy-nerdy character having a tough time, who kept coming to mind, and I wanted to give him a story. I was attracted to the idea of this unlikely guy getting to go to the ball (year nine social), and that's where his name came from - an anagram of Cinderella. The other image I had in mind was two houses side by side in a terrace, identical from the outside, but completely different inside. One family with lots of money and one family with none, and how that didn't matter at all to the kids. And I wanted some connection through the attics. The mother's wedding cake business idea (and her talking people out of getting married) had been floating around separately for a while, too, initially as part of a completely different story.

Q2:You mentioned at the launch that this book was three years in the making – yikes! – is there anything that didn’t make the cut that you really wish could have remained?
Q3: Likewise, anything added in at the last minute that you can’t imagine having left out?

Earlier drafts had the dog Howard's thoughts expressed. Even though Dan couldn't hear them, the reader could see them, and knew whether Dan was guessing them correctly or not. The book as it is now just has what Dan imagines Howard is thinking. This change resulted from a note from my editor, and he was right, it was a point of view inconsistency. It did give me a little pang when I chopped all that out. Something I added in the last draft are the scenes in which Dan nearly kisses Estelle in the cactus house at the botanic gardens, and then wonders what the hell is happening between them - if anything - when he goes for a run later that day. The story really needed those two beats to keep their building relationship bubbling along.

Q4: If they were to make a movie of Six Impossible Things, who would you want to play Dan?

I have to say, I'd like to cast Robert Pattinson at fifteen. I think he could play that slightly gawky, awkward, but potential for great cuteness well. And he'd play shy well, but also convey humour and warmth as Dan's confidence grew. He's got the whole social misfit thing happening, so all we'd need is a rewind button on his age.

Q5: Now that the book is out in the wild world is there anything you want to say, or to tell the book something?

About sending it out there: I'm so pleased when people read the book and like it - this will sound strange, but it makes me feel happy for Dan and the other characters. I've spent so long with them, they feel like people to me, and so of course I want readers to like them. But to the book I'd say, 'book, you are who you are, some people will like you, and some people won't. And that's okay.'

Q6: Can you tell us some (maybe six?!) things about your next novel?

1 The protagonist's name is Sibylla Quince, but she is called Sib or Sibbie by everyone except her oldest friend Michael Cassio who always uses her full name.
2 The first draft is about one third written, but fully plotted.
3 It's set over one term in an off-campus, live-in school camp for year 10 students.
4 Sib's best friend isn't as nice as Sib thinks she is.
5 Its themes are friendship and betrayal, and its working title is 'Pulchritude' - what an ugly word for beauty.
6 Lou from Six Impossible Things is in it.

v clever about dan cereill being an anagram of cinderella, i feel a bit stupid that i didn't get that. also very exciting news about pulchritude, or whatever it ends up being called in the end. lou is such a great character and it will be great to read more about her. i hope we don't have to wait three years.

thank you fiona, so much, for your excellent answers and agreeing to this wee interview.

i am fairly sure that more people will like your lovely book than not. i wish it well!
visit fiona's website!

p.s. if you don't believe me about how awesome this book is you can read another review here.
p.p.s. you can see photos from the launch here and here. i am not in any of the photos.

*not entirely true

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

hard-boiled inception

been to see inception tonight. i really liked it. very fun, suspenseful and enjoyable. i loved the paris scenes, i really liked the special effects (and i am not a special effects fan in general) and i especially loved the collective response at the end by the entire cinema. won't spoil it for those who haven't seen it yet...but those who have probably experienced the same thing.


i will certainly be v soon re-reading haruki murakami's hard-boiled wonderland and the end of the world. surely the inspiration for the film?! i love murakami (and this one, along with a wild sheep chase, is my favourite) and maybe the popularity of this movie will introduce even more people to him. i don't know, though, how many people are noting the similarity. a quick google search suggests some are.

i bought my copy of hard-boiled wonderland at shakespeare and company in paris. i do like this shop even though it's flooded with hipsters and poseur-tramps and i wish i had been around when ginsberg was there, or anaïs nin...or even back before that in its real and original version with sylvia beach when she published joyce's ulysses and movable feasts were attended by fitzgerald and gertrude stein and, of course, hemingway (and ezra pound, whose poems i like, though he was a fascist).

i am sure to have very strange dreams tonight.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

an ode to capitalism

denver, david mckee (andersen press)

excuse me while i saliva VOMIT on this book.

denver is the story of a philanthropic and generous billionaire (called denver) who lives in the manor house and employs all the townspeople to do things for him, like clean and cook and drive his car and scratch his bum. but he's not a money-grubbing miser at all! denver loves to paint: he's an artiste! denver himself is a colourful chappie with a snappy suit and a hat. the townspeople have naive, wide-open eyes as though drugged or hypnotised. denver pays his slaves-aka-employees well and treats them nicely and everyone in town loves him and loves each other and everything is hunky dory.

until one day some scheming, trenchcoat-wearing, man-in-shadow, evil communist comes along and slyly, quietly, poisons the minds of the townspeople - why should denver have so much, while you have so little? so they revolt and denver is so unhappy that they've turned against him that he divides his wealth equally between everyone and leaves town.

denver finds another town and paints all day and his paintings are so popular that it isn't long before denver is filthy rich again. BUT! the greedy townspeople back at his old town have squandered their new-found wealth. the town is falling down around them; they're alcoholics, insane, turned to prostitution and gambling.* they need denver back to restore order and make their lives good again, through reaganomics and the trickle-down effect.

so denver thus returns, takes his rightful place at the top of the pyramid and his minions fall back into place in their orderly and obsequious proletariat bottom of the heap, where they should be.

THE END.

david mckee is the author of many, many books - including that lovable patchwork elephant elmer. you can read the blurb from the book here.

*poetic license; interpreted through illustrations, not text.

UPDATE: reading another review of this book, i felt i must share this line from denver that i had forgotten between vomiting all over the bookshop floor in disgust and getting home to relay it to you (canNOT believe i forgot this one, it was the worst bit of the whole sorry story). this comes at the very end of the book: ‘As for the stranger, he’s still wandering around breeding discontent. If he comes your way, don’t listen to him’. yikes.

Monday, August 2, 2010

review : six impossible things

Six Impossible Things, Fiona Wood (Pan Macmillan)

[Dan’s] life is a mess, but for now he’s narrowed it down to just six impossible things.

Dan Cereal is a dickhead.

At least, that’s how the first day at his new school turns out for Dan Cereill (it’s pronounced “surreal”). He’s fourteen, skinny and smart. His dad has declared himself bankrupt and gay at the same time and Dan and his mum, now penniless, have taken refuge in a Heritage Trust Gothic Victorian Terrace scented with eau d’urine (de chien et de chat et de tante agée).

It’s not all bad, though. There’s the beautiful girl next door; Dan knows that he and Estelle are perfect for one another. They are! They like the same music! Other things! And ‘There’s this sky she likes.’ (one of my favourite lines…had me singing ‘excuse me while I kiss this guy’ à la Jimi Hendrix). Unfortunately for Dan, the reason for his great ‘in’ with the girl (next door) of his dreams is a shameful reality…he’s found and read her diaries.

The dialogue is perfect. I loved Fred’s plan for what they could do if they sold the antique desk belonging to Dan's late great-aunt: ‘So we could flog this, substitute a copy and get fake ID, plane tickets to LA, fake driver’s licences, and drive across America to New York, have ourselves a time, and be back in time for Year Ten. What do you say?
Yeah, one little flaw – we can’t fake drive.’ (p.20)
The pop culture references are great and they actually work, which is rare. (Like Estelle, I too watched the final musical moment of Skins season one a number of times.)

What I particularly loved about Six Impossible Things is that it doesn’t limit itself to the relationship – or lack thereof – of Dan and Estelle. There is the wonderful support cast, who provide friendship, advice and antagonism. There is Howard, Dan’s inherited dog. There are the awesome best friends – pimply Fred and Lou and Estelle’s best friend Janie Bacon. There is the bully Jason ‘Jayzo’ Doyle. Oliver, the hipster-poseur replacement father figure/possible serial killer who lives down the back garden and his girlfriend DJ Pony.

But more importantly, on Dan’s list of the six impossible things he wants to accomplish, he wants to make his mother happy, he wants to support his family and knows he should patch things up with his dad. His mum’s wedding cake business isn’t doing well, probably not helped by the fact that she seems to be constantly able to talk the brides out of it. So Dan wants to get a job to support his little family. Like one of John Green’s endearing nerd heroes, like a perfect awkward Nick Earls character, Dan Cereill is a very smart young man, thoughtful and kind. This novel is fabulous.