Wednesday, March 30, 2011

brkich gives me things

in a stroke of rare luck, i won a competition this week and just today i received my prize!

a gorgeous hand-printed cushion from burgeoning melbourne fashion label brkich (you say it "bur-kitch"). brkich's queen belinda does all the screen printing herself, from her own designs and then makes her fabric into tops, shorts and these wonderful wrap skirts that tuck up in seemingly random places - to fabulous effect. she also makes brooches and other accessories and i would highly recommend you have a little look-see.

i love my cushion. it makes my granny chair* and me very happy.

visit brkich's blog

*actually given to me by my little granny


Congratulations Shaun Tan, it's certainly your year!

Today he is the winner of the prestigious (and lucrative) Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award.

what the jury had to say:

Shaun Tan is a masterly visual storyteller, pointing the way ahead to new possibilities for picture books. His pictorial worlds constitute a separate universe where nothing is self-evident and anything is possible. Memories of childhood and adolescence are fixed reference points, but the pictorial narrative is universal and touches everyone, regardless of age.

Behind a wealth of minutely detailed pictures, where civilization is criticized and history depicted through symbolism, there is a palpable warmth. People are always present, and Shaun Tan portrays both our searching and our alienation. He combines brilliant, magical narrative skill with deep humanism.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

coffee : can't find a seat?

because there just aren't enough cafes in yarraville, here's one more. from the people who brought you cornershop - wee jeanie. just down by the train line (where there ought to be an overpass but isn't - grrr) it's not quite finished, but looking pretty gorgey already with a potentially nice courtyard and beautiful wooden furniture.

yes yes yes.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

reader, i can't say i liked it...

blurb: Forced to drop out of an esteemed East Coast college after the sudden death of her parents, Jane Moore takes a nanny job at Thornfield Park, the estate of Nico Rathburn, a world-famous rock star on the brink of a huge comeback. Practical and independent, Jane reluctantly becomes entranced by her magnetic and brooding employer and finds herself in the midst of a forbidden romance.

But there’s a mystery at Thornfield, and Jane’s much-envied relationship with Nico is soon tested by an agonizing secret from his past. Torn between her feelings for Nico and his fateful secret, Jane must decide: Does being true to herself mean giving up on true love?

An irresistible romance interwoven with a darkly engrossing mystery, this contemporary retelling of the beloved classic Jane Eyre promises to enchant a new generation of readers.

reasons why jane eyre cannot be rewritten with a modern twist:

1. it's creepy when a 19-year-old nanny goes around falling in love with her 30-something employer
(with subclause 1.1 being that its particularly creepy when she insists on calling him "mr" and not his name)

2. when a grown man locks his schizophrenic wife in the attic, with only an alcoholic nurse to look after her, it's not pathetically, romantically tragic - it's effing criminal.

jane is a beautifully presented book: gorgeous, whimsical, mysterious cover and lovely rough-edged paper. but on the inside it's a horse of a completely different colour.

that colour is twilight.

i know that jane eyre is not everyone's cup of tea, but it's one of my favourite books for its simple but lyrical writing and for jane - the reserved, but strong-willed, independent woman. plus, it's rawther romantic.

april lindner's jane is an intensely boring character - an affront to feminism. in trying to portray jane as staid and introverted, the author has made her bland. her falling in love is unbelievable, her calling him mr rathburn the whole time is unrealistic and creepy, and she was forever going for a lie down on her bed to listen to his music, which she had never been interested in before, but wow! listen to those lyrics! that voice! swoon! i think i'm in loooove! jane in this incarnation is ... bella.

even bloody wikipedia gets it: [jane eyre] is a novel often considered ahead of its time due to its portrayal of the development of a thinking and passionate young woman who is both individualistic, desiring for a full life, while also highly moral. Jane evolves from her beginnings as a poor and plain woman without captivating charm to her mature stage as a compassionate and confident whole woman. As she matures, she comments much on the complexities of the human condition. Jane also has a deeply pious personal trust in God, but is also highly self-reliant. Although Jane suffers much, she is never portrayed as a damsel in distress who needs rescuing. For this reason, it is sometimes regarded as an important early feminist (or proto-feminist) novel.[1]

there is no such jane to be found within these pages.*

five-year-old maddie (whom jane is supposed to be nannying) is used merely as a prop, brought out when jane needs to speak to/be in the presence of mr rathburn. (and also, i don't know many five year olds who have a nap every day). nico rathburn is basically edward cullen but cooler (can i help picturing him as rufus humphrey? no i can not). any spark or attempt at love twixt the two characters falls flat. the dialogue is clunky and at times it feels like the characters are just play acting, trying to give the impression of being like jane and mr rochester.

i was intensely disappointed by this one.** it hurt my heart.

*i know there will be some who don't see jane eyre this way.
**and i couldn't help thinking: so much work goes in to producing a single book and in this case - why? what did someone see in this book? where did they envisage it going? who are its readers?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Finding Grace, by Alyssa Brugman

Grace had a brain injury. That's just how she was.
She spent a lot of time sitting in her leather wing-backed chair just staring out the window. I didn't really know what was happening inside her head and I didn't really think about it.
I was eighteen and knew everything. Well, not everything, but I did know a great deal about a great many things. For example, I knew that time healed most wounds and those that it didn't you simply got used to.
That was before I met Grace or Mr Alistair Preston.

Rachel, just after finishing high school, gets a job as a live-in carer for a woman named Grace, who has an acquired brain injury. Grace can walk and eat, but Rachel has to make sure she goes to the loo, has to put her to bed and make sure she doesn't hurt herself.

At first Grace scares Rachel, with her blank stare, slack lips and drool, but soon Rachel comes to realise there is still someone in there, that Grace hasn't disappeared completely. It's so beautiful, every time I read this, to watch Rachel learn and question herself and her understanding of the world.
Mr Preston is Grace's lawyer, he's the one who picked Rachel. When he comes around he speaks to Grace lovingly, buys her shoes and very good wine - he doesn't treat her like everyone else does. His dedication and guilt and grief is heartbreaking.
Rachel is hilarious. She sings out loud as she walks down the street, uses a snorkel in her car because the windows hardly open and the radiator blows coolant in through the vents, she blushes horribly (frack - her attempts to hide the blush from the handsome boy she meets in her first uni lecture - I couldn't laugh enough!) and has an extremely unique perspective. I love her.

Mama Bear sent me this the year after I finished school, when I was working in Scotland, and it was so wonderful that I couldn't bear to part with it and it became part of the massive haul I brought with me when I came back. I don't remember when I met Alyssa Brugman, but I must have, and I also must have told her that story.

If you have not yet read this remarkable novel, then shame on you. Get thee to a library (or a bookshop). It has a very pretty new cover, which looks like this:

published by Allen&Unwin in 2006

Sunday, March 20, 2011

review : one of our thursdays is missing

for your reading pleasure, a very special visitor review:

One of our Thursdays is Missing, Jasper Fforde (Hodder & Stoughton)

If a university literature lecturer and an absurdist personality came together for a night of sweet passion, the resulting baby would be novelist Jasper Fforde. Having established a reputation with The Eyre Affair as a ridiculously talented writer with two Fs beginning his surname, Fforde has given us the sixth book in the Thursday Next series.

Our story is a metafictional adventure set in the Bookworld, where all the written books live in an inverted sphere with flesh and blood characters. This is where we find our heroine, the fictional Thursday Next. Her namesake – the Real Thursday Next – is due to negotiate peace talks preventing a war between genres…however she is nowhere to be found. Fictional Thursday secretly pursues the case with her cocktail-making robot butler.

One of our Thursdays is Missing is peppered with literary references that would make any self-respecting Lit student pat themselves on the back on many pages. The many jokes for the sake of wordplay and literary reference could be found a bit wanky by some, but I couldn’t help but giggle at the jaded conspiracy theories placed in fiction instead of non-fiction, meeting the Great Gatsby’s younger brother Mediocre Gatsby, and when our heroine crash landed into a “mimefield” which was full of, well, men dressed in black slacks, striped shirts, white face paint and large hats who became silently murderous when not applauded.

Impossible to pinpoint one genre for One of Our Thursdays is Missing, I can only describe it as kind of like playing bingo with Dr Who and John Cleese, using a four dimensional piece of paper. Trust in Fforde’s creations as they navigate their world and relish the ride.

Now where’s my robot butler? I need a Tahiti Tingle.

If you like your books metafiction-fantastic this will be your cup of tea.

review by Arlene

Saturday, March 19, 2011

why claude, what a lovely beret!

Claude in the City, Alex T Smith* (Hodder)

Claude is a small, plump dog who wears a beret and a lovely red jumper.

He's a little bit Eloise. But a bit more canine. And instead of a Skipperdee and a Weenie he has a friend called Sir Bobblysock, who is 'both a sock and quite bobbly'.

Claude decides that today is the day to go and explore the City. Shopping (for berets), people-watching, a visit to the art gallery and oh perhaps just stopping a robbery. A visit to the hospital later in the story (poor old Sir Bobblysock doesn't feel too crash hot) gives Claude the opportunity to work on his doctoring skills and fix up some big wrestlers who have a mysterious sickness.

The black, white and red illustrations are wonderfully lively and incorporate the words right in there (and also add to the Eloiseishness), the humour is perfect for the kidlings and also for parents and aunties and nannies reading it to them. Delightfully lolish.

*I know I am going to accidentally tell customers it's written by Alex P Keaton. But he was way too conservative to write such a brilliant book all about time wasting and frivolity. Also, too fictional.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

coffee folk

as we ate a breakfast of warm and fluffy vegemite scrolls (and some of us had doughnuts, or even just one bite of someone else's doughnut) we ordered coffee at the barefoot barista up the street in port fairy. my skinny latte was delicious. the soy was perfecto too.

it was folk-a-licious.

the coffee line inside the festival grounds is always a massive wait (and the coffee there not as good as at barefoot barista), but it is a top place to meet and talk to some great people. to the lovely lady from mount gambier - i hope you had a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

vis stores now

it was quite remarkable to see this:

turn into this:

visible ink is a student-run literary anthology out of the RMIT professional writing and editing diploma. last year we received around 200 submissions for this edition. i wish i had a picture of the piles of submissions to show you, very unruly and wonderful. out of that 200 we had to select a tiny sample for the journal (there were only a few heated discussions). and with such a diverse bunch of editors and readers on the selection committee, we ended up with such a delightful mishmash of pieces: 16 stories. 11 poems. 12 images.

the editing process was probably my favourite part of being on the visible ink team. emailing and talking to the authors about their words and stories - perhaps seeing a little something that they could no longer see, knowing their piece as well as they did. learning a little something about inDesign (being thrown in the deep end a little) was horrible and fantastic at the same time. i felt just a touch proud of me when it was all over. i hope all 'our' authors are happy with the finished product - we are so grateful for their talent.

here's the first piece in the anthology (one of my absolute faves):

The Sniper on the State Library Dome
by Michael Crane

The man with madness
in his eye looked down
and aimed his high-powered rifle
at the many people on the street
below and fired and yelled
‘This is because I read Jewel's
a night without armour and she
did not love me.' He put another
bullet in the chamber and fired and said,
'I read Bukowski and I'm tougher
than him.' He moved his position
to the left of the dome, reloaded
and fired and hit a woman
on her way to work at the library
and he said, ‘This is for the Great Gatsby
because I loved Daisy.' He fired a few
more shots and hit a man reading Playboy
in a newsagency. He decided his killing spree
was too slow so he took out a submachine gun
and fired at the pedestrians on the street.
‘This is because of Hemingway,' he said,
'for running with the bulls and this one
is for James Joyce writing books
I could not understand and this
Is because Gertrude Stein was too fat
and this is because Truman Capote
was gay and take that Homer, Shakespeare
and Chaucer for rhyming with obscure words.'
He ran out of bullets and took out knives
and stared to hurl them down
as the policemen snuck up behind him
and wrestled him down to the ground
and a few weeks after his trial
he was led to the execution chamber
and the priest took out the Bible
and the man said, ‘Not another book!’
And he screamed all the way down
to the electric chair until the very end.

you can buy visible ink at readings bookstores, the sun bookshop in yarraville and by snail mail (contact the committee via the website). if you are of a writerly persuasion, submissions will surely open soon for this year's vis ink. keep your pens poised and your eyes peeled.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

our australian girl

in honour of international women's day today:

our australian girl is a new series (published by penguin books) about four girls from different points in australian history. each story is accompanied by little illustrations by lucia masciullo.

meet grace (written by sofie laguna) takes place in 1808 and like many children in crowded and poor london, grace is a mudlarker - she spends her days searching for things to sell in the foetid water and mud of the thames. until one day she steals some apples to feed a horse she loves and finds herself thrown into old bailey - destined for hanging or transportation to sydney cove. grace is a lovely character, sweet and caring, and i await her sea voyage (for this, spoiler alert, is what happens) eagerly in the next three books to follow.

alison lloyd's meet letty tells the tale of a young girl who accidentally accompanies her sister's trunk onto a ship bound for the colonies, her sister travelling there as a free settler. i was a bit frustrated with letty not recognising who she could trust on the ship, but she was so willing to help people that i couldn't not like her.

meet poppy (by gabrielle wang) is the story of a chinese-aboriginal girl who runs away from her mission school, disguised as a boy, to meet up with her brother on the gold fields. i think this one was my favourite of the three so far - poppy is such a great character and she gets to eat dinner with a bushranger, for crying out loud!

the last girl in the series, meet rose (sherryl clark), is set just before federation and as women are campaigning for the vote. (a topic close to my heart) rose's mother wants her to be a proper young lady, but rose has other ideas...and a very modern henrietta dugdale-esque aunty ready and willing to indulge them! i believe that the australian women actually called themselves suffragists, though, to distinguish themselves from the british suffragettes. but that's ok.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

coffee : de clieu on gertrude street

de clieu opened last year, by the people who brought us seven seeds (in carlton) and i popped in spur of the moment as i dashed out for lunch two rainy mondays ago with a broken shoe (so i actually was half-limping/half-shuffling) and spotted some nice nursing student friends of mine on their break.

the coffee was perfect and service quick.

the crockery the same as at the cornershop (so i felt at home immediately) and while the staff were grumpy and aloof (perhaps they were just looking down on my $10 broken shoe), i've kind of started to expect it...this is not a good thing, surely. but this current trend of service with a snarl is a debate for another day.

thumbs up.
187 gertrude st, fitzroy

broadsheet review here

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Visible Ink Launch

Tonight is the launch of VISIBLE INK, a literary anthology put together by first year students* of RMIT's Professional Writing and Editing course.

It's a really great edition if I do say so myself, with stories - about love and loss and possessed "bad" hands - and poems - about love and lust and snipers on the state library dome - as well as some fantastic illustrations and some lovely photographs.

The launch starts from 6.30 pm at the John Curtin Hotel on Lygon Street in Carlton. There'll be music by an excellent local band From Magnum and then readings from the book by a couple of the authors, as well as some great spot prizes (such as Readings vouchers and chocolate and copies of the book).

Go through to the website here and check out our awesome launch poster - can't get the darned thing to upload here.

See you there!

* we're launching it late, and are now second year students