Thursday, June 30, 2011

july might be more productive

dear june. i'm sorry i didn't bean or read much. here's a list of what i did do:
  • squandered uni hols
  • played with eleven wee puppies
  • maid of honoured
  • danced my legs down to the knees at wedding
  • read beauty queens and laughed the whole time
  • worked on some secret projects
  • ate some of this cake*:

*baked to perfection by betsy jane, 2010 royal melbourne show third-prize winner for her brownies.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Monroe and a Poem

Marilyn Monroe reading Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. Those Awesome people are at it again, with the blog Awesome People Reading.

Shut not your doors to me proud libraries,
For that which was lacking on all your well-fill'd shelves, yet
needed most, I bring,
Forth from the war emerging, a book I have made,
The words of my book nothing, the drift of it every thing,
A book separate, not link'd with the rest nor felt by the intellect,
But you ye untold latencies will thrill to every page.

Shut Not Your Doors - Walt Whitman (Leaves of Grass, 1881)

You can read Leaves of Grass for free at Project Gutenberg or you could go to your local secondhand bookshop and find a musty, pre-loved version to keep forever.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

review : a confederacy of dunces

A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole

You probably read Joanne Horniman's post yesterday over at her blog Secret Scribbled about this wonderful book. This was one of the books I read during those delightful undergraduate years when my classmates took everything rawther seriously, and I reveled in it.

Ignatius, a college graduate, is entirely convinced of his superiority to pretty much everyone and everything in modern life (and much of history too). He's writing a great tome on big chief tablets in pencil. He knows an awful lot and spends his days philosophising and avoiding much of humanity. But when he and his mother (with whom he lives) need money, a new fate awaits Ignatius: "and what a vicious fate it was to be: now he was faced with the perversion of having to GO TO WORK."

As Jo said in her post:

It's a book that could manage to offend everyone, if they wanted to be offended: homosexuals, heterosexuals, blacks, Jews, overeducated fat white boys from New Orleans, little old ladies, mothers ... except that it is somehow one of those books that is so big and warm-hearted and inclusive that (if you read it right, just as you can't be offended by Mark Twain if you read him right) it is actually the most liberal, progressive and forward-looking of novels.

Yet I delight in Ignatius' self-righteous and almost repugnant observations and comments. You feel for the cretin: "I am forced to function in a century which I loathe." I love it because it's honest, but hyperbolic at the same time - yes, that's just how amazingly well written and clever this book is.

The dialogue is pitch-perfect and the descriptions superb. Toole captured all those little parts of human life and culture that just make the words leap from the page, whacking your funny bone on the way to your heart. The dialogues between Ignatius and his mother Mrs Reilly, in particular, are spectacular examples of characterisation and dialogue. Also, it amuses me how Ignatius holds a particular disdain for Mark Twain. Calls him a "dreary fraud".

Jo posted today about John Kennedy Toole's only other novel, The Neon Bible. We'll just have to wonder what other gems Toole would have given us.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

just for the loveliness

darren hanlon sings his song home (from album i will love you at all, which i reviewed here) on a beach. in spain. how wonderful.


visit daz's website.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

review : the taste of apple

Pedro Jones is lost. Abandoned by his father and forced into commission housing with his Filipino immigrant mother, the future seems bleak. But when Pedro meets the 'mad' street busker, Johnny Lazzaro, and gets involved with the East Timor freedom movement, life takes an unexpected detour. James Laidler deftly crafts a cast of vivid characters in this gritty story of self discovery, justice and belonging.

the taste of apple is the story of Pedro. It opens to him standing on the roof of his council flat home in Richmond, looking out over the city, reminding himself to breathe.

‘I take my heart

and nail it
to the Southern Cross.’

It is a heartfelt novel, raw and painful. Pedro’s left to live with his Filipino-bride, devout Catholic, enigmatic mother, after his father leaves one Christmas, in a building full of down-and-outs, refugees and junkies. He’s a boy trying to become a man. the taste of apple travels a long path, covers a lot of terrain from Heidelberg to Richmond to Colac – and looks into the people and the events of East Timor, a country so close to Australia and so seldom in our collective consciousness. Pedro becomes involved in a local community group who work to raise awareness of what has happened in East Timor through the crazy busker Johnny, whose mother was killed in the 1991 Dili massacre and whose father remains imprisoned in a Timor gaol and who opens Pedro's eyes to the world around him.

the taste of apple lies somewhere between a traditional verse novel and a typical prose novel. The author, James, calls it ‘poetic prose’. More of the action and events are narrated than I would have expected, and perhaps some of the poems and scenes could have been tighter, but I think this kind of novel help to bridge a reader unused to a verse novel.

The CD, a collaboration between the author and Warrnambool musician Don Stewart, is great - many of the tracks quite beautiful and evocative and it definitely adds to the experience. However, I found it a little tricky, having to ensure I was at home or had my portable listening device* on me in order to read and listen at the same time, providing, or requiring, a different reading experience (ie. not snatching five minutes in the bank line, ten minutes over a sneaky mid-afternoon coffee) than usual.

I really enjoyed reading the taste of apple, primarily for its honesty and emotion. Pedro has such a distinctive voice and the reader is with him, fiercely so, right from the get-go. I love the exploration of social justice, and how – despite the things that come to pass – there’s hope.

the taste of apple is published by Interactive Press, a small independent Australian publisher. you can buy it here.

visit james' website.

Jess from The Tales Compendium has written a very thorough review, I'd really recommend you go have a read.

*iiiiiiiiiDidn't want this to be an advertisement for any fruit companies.

Monday, June 20, 2011

naked lunch/teen spirit

here we have william s burroughs hanging out with kurt cobain. very cool.

photo from the fabulous website awesome people hanging out together. i came to this blog through sophie isobel at her library adventures. it's wonderful.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

caution : bookseller on the warpath

Nick Sherry has given bookshops just five years before they are obsolete.

You probably saw this article, or at least heard about it.

I was enraged, along with my coworkers and the wider bookselling public. While his intention was probably not to be so blunt, and probably didn't quite mean what it sounded like he meant, he should definitely have thought a little more about it before he spoke such dismal words.

Actually, I also think our feelings are hurt. Here's the Minister for Small Businesses practically throwing in the towel for us...and all the while we're also apparently still staring down the barrel of impending ebook doom. Nick Sherry's website says: "Small business is the backbone of the Australian economy. The Australian Government provides assistance ranging from expert advice to grants to help our small businesses succeed." This is not the way to talk to your backbone!

I'm not all that confident in this minister. Not only am I suspicious he hasn't been into a bookshop lately, I also wonder about his ability to lead and advise in a changing economy and a forward-thinking world. In an interview on ABC News 24 Sherry spoke about technology and the way its development is impacting on the way small businesses are run: "It's not something that necessarily I understand in the sense that I use it a great deal, because I don't." Maybe have a look into that one, Nick.

The way we read is changing, and the way some people buy books is changing. But I don't believe real bookshops will disappear. Real bookshops with real books in them, and real people to help customers choose a new read. People like coming into a bookshop - the amount of comments I get daily...oh what a lovely shop and it's so nice to come in and get advice and you are so lucky to work in a bookshop, it's my dream... And that's the other thing: everyone wants to be Bernard Black! And though modern bookselling requires a lot more dedication and sobriety (sadly) than Bernard's version, working in a bookshop is hella fun. I don't want to not be able to do it anymore.

So maybe, dear general public, just go and have a little visit of your local bookshop this weekend. Don't let Nick Sherry's negativity put you off. Meet the staff, have a chat, poke your nose into the Design section (the frankie Spaces book is awesome), or into History (Parisians, by Graham Robb, is in paperback now), or Classics (a Nancy Mitford book would warm your winter blues) or maybe even Young Adult (this list would go on).

Go visit a bookshop today. Otherwise, we booksellers will be sad:

In associated news: The Book Depository is really fortunate because it's subsidised by the British postal service and is able to offer free postage. Lucky bastards.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

something old

when one doesn't have anything nice to say, it's best not to say anything at all. apparently.

these days it isn't that i can't think of anything nice to say (quite the contrary) but blogging feels like a chore. so i shan't worry myself, but instead offer a little peep at some nice things, which may or may not interest, but what the heck.

wonderful classics*:

and my (and everyone else's) absolute favourite rereads:

and gorgeous wee stories like this one:

if only for tales that start like this:

"once upon a time milly-molly-mandy was going for a picnic.
it was a real, proper picnic. father and mother and uncle and aunty were all going too, and little-friend-susan and billy blunt (because it wouldn't seem quite like a real, proper picnic without little-friend-susan and billy blunt).
they were going to take the red bus from the cross-roads to a specially nice picnic place, where milly-molly-mandy hadn't ever been before because it was quite a long way off. (the nicest places often do seem to be a long way off, somehow.)"

and that include the little gang of picnickers tidying up the picnic ground, which had been ruined by terrible litterbugs, because "mother said: 'i think a place ought to look nicer because we've been there, not nastier!'"

also, i joined twitter and it makes me feel kinda dirty (but can't stop), so i'm taking refuge in worlds where tweets only happen between birds.

*a confederacy of dunces, john kennedy toole. tess of the d'urbervilles, thomas hardy (damn you angel!). little women and good wives, louisa may alcott. selected poems, ee cummings. the heart is a lonely hunter, carson mccullers. for esme with love and squalor, jd salinger. jane eyre and wuthering heights, charlotte bronte and emily bronte. the secret garden, frances hodgson burnett.

Monday, June 6, 2011

review : forgotten

forgotten, cat patrick (hg egmont)

mesmerising cover, quirky premise. it feels like it's designed for marketing pitch meetings and booksellers' spiels: so there's this girl, right? she's called london. and london's memory resets every morning so she can't remember anything from her past. but get this: she can remember forwards - into her future. so yesterday? no no. tomorrow? yes yes.

first of all, this book is very confusing, certainly not an easy read*. other reviews have noted the inconsistencies in the story and what and why she can remember and i'd have to agree. is her future set in stone? can her memories change, you know, if a butterfly flapped its wings in front of her? i'm still not sure, and i've finished the book. and if the future can change, then is anything real? poor old london.

the twist towards the end of the book that shoots the story off in another direction - this is the point in the book that i actually got into it. the love story just didn't sustain my interest, like so many "romances" in so many young adult books at the moment there was attraction for no real reason - made even more unreasonable in this case, given that london had no idea who luke was each day and had to rely on her notes to know what had been going on in her life.
but yes - the twist. it was great. the book should have been about this mystery.

occasionally i blerg-ed at some lines, ie. "the wind sets flight to my bright auburn locks" (i know i go around talking about my hair like that) and also the bit where a car beeps its horn at london and her mum "politely". errrr? a beep is a beep is a beep.

however! forgotten was very interesting novel and for the most part i did actually like london - her voice was mostly fantastic and some lines were delightfully flippant and funny. some nice original observations, the intriguing premise and then the twist spurred me to read through to the end.

reviews here and here, and check out the latest issue of viewpoint.

* i agree with folks that this is not dissimilar (that is, it's similar) to the time traveller's wife which is also an awkwardly written novel. and no, i did not like that book at all. i do like this one better.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

reading matters = raging success!

congratulations to all the folk at cyl for a great conference. i wanted to thank them for letting me volunteer - it was nothing but top fun.*

markus zusak is clearly uber-human. the man has not aged since i first met him around the time the messenger came out nine years ago! he is also quite wonderful. it was rawther special to hear him read from the still-in-production bridge of clay and i can only imagine what it must feel like to have the world waiting, champing at the bit. plus, have you seen which book has been on the new york times bestsellers list for 193 weeks?! like everyone else at the conference, i was really moved by markus saying that he doesn't want for his book to be the best, or the worst - or better or worse than his last - but that he wants to write so like himself that it is the book that only he could have written.

it was a real joy to meet ursula dubosarsky. her presentation about the golden day was an illuminating look at the inspirations and influences behind a story. rebecca stead (in conversation with pam mcintyre) made me laugh, cry a little bit and yearn for a new york childhood - as well as reminding me to back up my computer frequently. finally getting to meet richard newsome, whose books i adore, was a highlight and his panel with thai-riffic! author oliver phommavanh was an absolute riot, irreverent and ace.

in other news: according to recent search stats bean there, read that has become a pirate blog. pirates obviously like coffee and books too: BEAN THERE READ THAR arrrrr. (i added the "arrrrr").

i finished my internship this week and made these to take on my last day (because i know the way to a publisher's heart):

i am reading meg rosoff's there is no dog. last night i watched hannah gadsby's show artscape and it. was. brilliant. (the first part last week was hilarity incarnate too).

*except when i had to be onstage. that bit was SCARY.