Wednesday, October 26, 2011

coffee : truman

on a leafy albert park street corner sits truman. i ate there once, a wee while ago now, but it was delicious and unexpected and i have since returned twice for coffee. the southside is growing on me, though for visiting only of course.

I had The Truman, which was delicious: potato and leek hash with avocado, relish and some scrambled eggs on delicious grainy bread. the old timey plate was a nice touch. and the hash brown was my nom...

coffee, very good. nice and strong. fancy red glass saucer. i would recommend it.

i think my newfound affinity for the art deco south perhaps has something to do with the copious amount of inter-war period books i have been reading: nancy mitford, evelyn waugh, george orwell - as well as modern books that take place during this time: michelle cooper's montmaray books, amor towles' the rules of civility...

broadsheet reviewed it.
and so did the age.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

a novel experience

One Day, David Nicholls (Hodder)

This review is twofold.

First, the story itself. "The international bestseller" One Day by David Nicholls. I did not care for this novel. But I read it through to its end and below there will be spoilers.

Second, I read this book as a Flipback. Tiny book and an amusing, novel amusing novel experience? Oh for the love of a comma!

Now for the second, first. Printed on 'bible paper' it's pretty much necessary to employ the lick-your-thumb-to-turn-page method and, until your eyes adjust, sometimes being able to see the print on the other side so clearly is distracting.

Flipbacks are so delightfully tiny they fit in most small bags and are perfect for the tram. I think the idea is to just use one hand to hold the book, like an e-reader, but I persisted mostly with the two-handed approach.

Somehow I felt betrayed by this book. I feel like it was marketed as literary fiction, though to be honest and fair I don't believe it was. Somehow I had that perception though. Then all the "celebrities" were reading it in my trashy magazines. I thought - wonderful! Literary fiction to the masses! Then they made a film and I thought I had better read it before seeing the movie. It's definitely well written*, engaging and a good novel. I just think that if it'd had Maeve Binchy's name on the cover I might have gone into it with the appropriate expectations.**

Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew (get used to hearing their full names, Nicholls refers to them thus all the time) meet at college. She's young and idealistic, he's charismatic and arrogantly entitled. They've just graduated from Edinburgh university and drunkenly hook up one night, though they don't sleep together, and eventually decide to be best mates. The book then checks in with each of them on the same date each year, spanning the next twenty years. It's a great concept.

Emma is smart and enigmatic, but she sneers at Dexter's wish to travel the world and then she's relegated to failing regional theatre and a dead end job in a shitty London Mexican restaurant.*** Meanwhile Dexter travels, is charming, and then gets work in television. This apparently entitles him to be condescending to Emma whenever they meet because Emma is a dowdy, writing girl who "wonders why sex, even when so enjoyable, leaves her so ill-tempered."**** The reader's sympathy is nearly always with Dexter as he struggles with the rise of fame, the loss of fame, relationships, family and aging.

The characters are self-centred and on the clichéd (ok, ok "everyman") side. Their problems are annoying. Is this kind of novel designed to make me get myself out of a rut? Am I supposed to identify with the characters and their haplessness? Maybe this is why I enjoy young adult literature so much. Even when the characters wallow it isn't the same; there's the future to look forward to - there tends to be some kind of hope.

And what about the ending of One Day, I hear you ask. SPOILERS: So Dexter the cad finally gets the girl (fortunately Emma has become less dowdy in the intervening years) and, because of Emma's love and all, he gets back on track: becomes a better boyfriend, a better son, a better father, a better human being. So, her job done, David Nicholls kills the girl.

I know.

Let's not talk about it anymore.

At least I could imagine this as I read:

Go and watch him sing I've Just Seen A Face.

*Though, occasionally boring. On page 343 "Emma felt the hot tears of humiliation prick her eyes".
**This is not mean to sound disparaging. Yes, I am a MB fan. You knew that already.
***Don't get me started. This didn't make sense!
****Seriously, I don't want get started. Emma was "so very British" while Dexter was allowed to enjoy love and sex and it made me SO MAD.

Monday, October 17, 2011

give your son a thousand dollars a year for five years and tell him to go to the devil

Go forth and listen to W. Somerset Maugham speak about writing. Here. This is a recording from 1951 and is just wonderful. The title of this post, as you will hear, is Maugham's advice to a well-to-do lady in Boston whose son is desirous of a career in literature and who wanted some advice from this esteemed gentleman. Maugham is amusing, honest, and deliciously cutting. But honestly! You must take a little part of your day to listen. You could even click here.

or here.

But I have included some of my choice favourite snippits to lure you to click here and listen:

It is in an author’s power to mould his personality. Of course life will to some extent mould it for him. We are all creatures of circumstance and we should none of us be what we are but for our environment and the happy accidents, chance encounters, trials, pains and pleasures which have befallen us.

Personality is the writer’s stock and trade.

All experience – even the most ordinary and insignificant – is grist to his mill.

Life is the novelist’s business and he can only know about it and write about it with truth and significance if he participates in it.

Without a great deal more than a nodding acquaintance to art and literature, science and philosophy his personality will remain incomplete

The only valid and sensible reason I know for adopting the profession of literature is that you have so strong and urgent a desire to write that you simply cannot resist it.

~W. Somerset Maugham

Saturday, October 1, 2011

coffee : dr jekyll

while southside i had a coffee at dr jekyll, on grey st in st kilda. the courtyard out the back was shadowy and cool and nicely atmospheric. it had a very good crema and though the coffee had a slightly thin taste and was teensy bit bitter, it was nice. very drinkable and a good strength - i had two. menu looked quite delicious and i think would make a really great breakfast-brunch destination.

bravo southside.