Wednesday, August 31, 2011

review : black painted fingernails

black painted fingernails, steven herrick (allen&unwin)

in steven herrick's newest book, published a couple of months ago now, student teacher james is heading to a country town for his very first teaching experience. ostensibly, james is ready - he's got the job, somewhere to stay (and all paid up), he's got the keys to a bmw and a healthy cut lunch for the drive.

luckily for the reader, who might be despairing at this point for james' lack of imagination and sense of adventure, he stops to fill up with petrol and is somehow conned into giving sophie a lift on his way.

sophie is older. she's hair, legs and black painted fingernails. and she's got james pegged immediately and she goes out of her way to encourage, entice and embarrass him out of his shell.

she brings out a tube of lipstick and elaborately applies it to her full lips , then kisses the hankie, leaving a big red pout above my name. she hands it back to me. 'don't wash it. leave it for your mum.'

it soon becomes clear that james is far from ready, and far from willing to enter into the teaching life. and sophie - so cocky and apparently self-assured - is hiding, or has masked, some painful secrets and sadness. the characters are all big-hearted, very real people. they talk, they're awkward.

sophie's third-person narrated chapters deal almost exclusively with her back story and the reader learns how she developed her tough exterior. the scenes with cardigan madrigal, the gentle hippie boy - the only boy in town who didn't like football - of sophie's teen years in her rough country hometown are such a highlight.

and in an unusual move, a number of the chapters are narrated from james' parents point of view. ok, so you don't really want to read about (spoiler) parents having sex, but at the same time it's kind of special to be privvy to angela and michael's experience of being left behind by their only son - coping with his absence and torn between trying to protect him from the world while also wanting him to discover it. complete pic of family and when the time comes, at the end of the novel, we are able to understand the parents' motivations and responses.

on one hand you think you have this story figured out: road trip, coming of age, boy meets a quirky girl and is bewitched. on the other hand...this is steven herrick and it's beautifully written and a truly lovely story.

Monday, August 29, 2011

allez viens je t'emmene au vent

Feeling awfully lazy. I blame the blue skies and sunshine.

Went along to the Melbourne Writers Festy today and wandered in and out of a couple of sessions, slightly vaguely. Nick Earls is just great, funny and friendly and everything he says makes such sense and I really felt like writing a novel was achievable for about fifteen minutes there. Maggie Stiefvater was extremely energetic and spoke so fast sometimes I missed what she was saying but then she explained that she just wanted to write books that made people so emotional that they cried - the big snotty sobbing kind of crying - and this amused me. I was really impressed with the questions the audience asked.

I’ve been reading the blog Hyperbole and a Half quite obsessively because Allie is hilarious and self-deprecating and likes grammar and dogs. I like this blog alot.

In reading news, Kate Constable's Crow Country is amazing. I wrote a little thing about it on the Younger Sun blog. You can read Kate's blog here.

Rereading Mahalia and feeling a funny old feeling now that I have heard Jo Horniman pronounce it ma-HAY-lia when i’ve been pronouncing it ma-HAH-lia this whole time. It's a feeling sort of like an existential crisis plus foolishness.

A friend came home from Africa and brought back the DVD of Spud for us to watch. This is v exciting because this is one of the funniest books I have ever read. The funniest three books I've ever read.

And then I looked at some baby elephants thanks to my Marvellous friend's twitter link.

All these things made me feel better about the Chelsea Hotel closing down without me ever getting to stay there and how BHP is going to make ooh a roughly TWENTY BILLION DOLLAR profit this year and how the newspapers hardly ever publish any articles about young adult literature.

But anyway. Here you can watch and listen to Louise Attaque's song Je t'emmene au vent. It is a supremely daggy film clip but a top song.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

review : yellowcake

yellowcake, margo lanagan (allen & unwin)

forgive me.

i read this a long time ago and meant to write about it straight away, but the stories cased within this beautiful cover are not simple tales to read and flippantly comment on. they are convoluted and mysterious, beautiful and twistedly grotesque.

heads remains looming in my mind, the story in which a golden haired boy portrays innocence and busyness and a sense of purpose in a horrible world where something awful has happened and he's not sure why.

also ferryman, which broke my heart with its light and loving banter between father and daughter ("scowling sarah") combined with the grief and "the ragged crying all around us in the hole, that is me; these two are silent in their cleaving. i lean and howl against them and at last they take me in, lock me in with them."

a honest day's work is truly a stand-out as well, in which a townful of labourers working to butcher and make use of a beast washed up in their harbour, as told from the perspective of a young boy with a crippled foot participating in his first day of work. watching for the 'sizable' 'incoming' and the careful work they do, slicing here and oh watch out, a nerve has made the arm jolt. no - the beast awakens. when it stands, tries to put its skull back on - at once revolting and most certainly fascinating. and the guilt and the shame is evident, at the way they carry out their work, hardly considering the life form that once was. "it could be mistaken for a person, this one." fracks. i have shivers, and a sinking feeling in my stomach, even now.

and if i may borrow from my friend clare, whose review in bookseller+publisher was just...just so.

she wrote: each piece in this collection is truly elegant, and each possesses a haunting, often unnerving quality that leaves the innards of the story lingering long after the last page is turned...lanagan's masterful use of language continues to astonish, with turns of phrase so perfect that you want to roll them around in your mouth until all the goodness is sucked from them and her ability to create powerful stories that demand serious contemplation is unrivalled. the often dark subject matter varies greatly, as each story is wildly different, but the skill with which it is handled is never compromised. yellowcake should eked out over time, each story to be savoured.

what is truly impressive - and is evident in all of margo's work - is the way she can create a world, a community in her stories, no matter how short. she breathes life into her characters and her settings, using language in such a wonderful and inventive way. she explores the physical in a way not many writers do and every story will just blow you away. mindfuck, yes. comfortable, not always.

inspiring and overwhelming? yes, always.

read this review by raych of books i done read.

go and read margo's other books: white time, black juice, red spikes, tender morsels and the upcoming "selkie novel" now officially named sea hearts.
you can also read her blog: among amid while.
many thanks to margo for sending me a copy.

Friday, August 19, 2011

national bookshop day

tomorrow you go to a bookshop. go directly to a bookshop.* do not pass go, do not collect $200.
national bookshop day. it's all part of making sure people remember how incredibly wonderful bookshops are and the job they do within the community. it's about sticking it to the man. you know that scene at the end of empire records? it's going to be pretty much exactly like that.**

the sun bookshop and the younger sun are having a 10am story time with our favourite local (man) william mcinnes for the kidlets and their swooning mums (and dads) and then at 1pm we are launching the rerelease of our favourite local (woman) kerry greenwood's novel medea.

we we we so excited, we so excited.***
and hannah's been making the shop all clean for you.

*though if you detour or deviate in the direction of coffee you will most likely be forgiven. especially if you bring me one. a skinny latte, thanks.
**it will probably be absolutely nothing like that. but awesome nonetheless.
***forgive me for THAT!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Saturday, August 13, 2011

expression is the need of my soul

talking about archies the other week put me in the mind to re-read the wonderfully hilarious poems of archy and mehitabel by don marquis. archy is the reincarnated spirit of a free verse poet, now a cockroach living in a new york newspaper office. at night he scurries out and types poems by jumping and slamming his wee cockroach head onto the typewriter keys - hence lack of capitalisation and most punctuation. the idea is that the newspaper men happen upon the poems in the morning and start printing them as a column.

and here's a piece, a selection, from right near the start:

"expression is the need of my soul
i was once a vers libre bard
but i died and my soul went into the body of a cockroach
it has given me a new outlook upon life
i see things from the under side now
thank you for the apple peelings in the wastepaper basket
but your paste is getting so stale i cant eat it
there is a cat here called mehitabel i wish you would have
removed she nearly ate me the other night why dont she
catch rats that is what she is supposed to be fore
there is a rat here she should get without delay"

archy's poems give a beautifully satirical view of life in nyc in the twenties and thirties, the excesses and toughness of those decades. the poem "certain maxims of archy" is particularly memorable and includes stanzas like this:

"don t cuss the climate
it probably doesn t like you
any better
than you like it"


"prohibition makes you
want to cry
into your beer and
denies you the beer
to cry into"


"boss the other day
i heard an
ant conversing
with a flea
small talk i said
and went away
from there"


"the bees got their
governmental system settled
millions of years ago
but the human race is still

alley cat mehitabel, in her many previous lives, once lived much more grandly than she does now (once she was cleopatra). but she's toujours gai, darlinks, toujours gai even when she's down on her luck and or burdened with kittens. mehitabel never intended a life of matrimony or motherhood:

"the life of a female
artist is continually
hampered what in hell
have i done to deserve
all these kittens"

archy interviews pharaohs in the museum, has a radio interview with mars and one time finds the shift lock (caps lock) key and experiences the JOY OF CAPITAL LETTERS. hilariously funny yet sometimes tragic and cynical, you must get a copy without delay. and what's more, the best of archy and mehitabel is going to be published in october! go, demand your local bookshop order it in! i am placing an order for at least twenty-three as i type this.

go to the don marquis website for more on archy.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Amy and Roger's Epic Detour

started amy and roger's epic detour (by morgan matson published by simon and schuster) today and so far it's quite good. but the most exciting thing is the quote that opens chapter two:

yes! that's the luckies' song california in popular song from the final (amazing) album first frost.
read a review of first frost here. buy it here.
visit morgan matson's website here.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

burn down the disco / hang the blessed dj

i thought you all, though especially aimee, might like this. i loved reading her desert island discs blog post the other day...and haven't really left youtube since...

here are the smiths, in 1986, and two guys in blue shirts near the front doing...

the. best. dancing. ever.

i discovered this through charlie and caroline's blog. they're trying to find out who the air guitar-playing schoolboy is. WHERE ARE YOU NOW, KID?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

happy in seclusion

coffee: skim latte from fresh in leura. very nice.

book: only ever always, penni russon (a&u). very nice also. (plus sad and beautiful).

book: on orchard road, elsbeth edgar (walker).

goes very well with sunshine and blue skies and lunch outdoors.

i make fire.

dear creative writing teacher. i am also doing work. i promise. have fun in class tomorrow nerds!

Monday, August 1, 2011

hey archie!

the archibald prize finalists are on display at the tarrawarra museum of art out in the yarra valley.

there were some fabulous paintings/portraits there and a couple of truly wanky ones. it made me think of the evil sister (and here is a perfect example of her evility) who, at university, used to take evocative photographs and movies then once they were developed/edited she'd go back and read the assignment requirement and make up a meaningful story about what she'd done. and get high distinctions.

here was my personal favourite portrait - the luminous and fairytaleish cassandra golds, as painted by sonia kretschmar (visit her website here). nothing wanky about this! just beauty!

read more about it here

it is a spectacularly gorgeous painting. the words painted on the gold background come from the three loves of persimmon, cassandra's most recent book. the cage torso with the bird battering its wings just stole my heart and can you see the cat shadow?

sonia illustrated the museum of mary child (i still get shivers when i think about this very deliciously creepy book), clair de lune and the three loves of persimmon (all by cassandra) and she also illustrated the fabbity tensy farlow and the home for mislaid children, by jen storer (speaking of jen, she is celebrating the launch of the accidental princess today over at baxter street).

if you go and see the exhibition you can also go wine tasting and probably squeeze in a devonshire tea in healesville. what more could you ask for?!

though my coffee (a rare cappuccino) from the wattleseed cafe was pretty ordinary, the scones however! no time for photo! i et them straight away!