Friday, November 23, 2012

there will be books

I heard the term aliterate for the first time this week, over at Madwomen in the attic. It really struck me because I think I'm going through a period of it myself. This quote set some kind of recognition off in me: "I look at the books on my coffee table and they're like bricks to me." (from Love Me, Garrison Keillor)

I look at all the books on my desk, bedside table and bookshelves and they overwhelm me. They beg to be read and I pick them up, flick through their pages and desperately want to read them but I don't feel like I can give them the attention they deserve, and the attention that will allow me to fully appreciate the stories and the writing. I have also been writing madly these last few weeks, which surely impacts on my ability (or non-ability) to concentrate on a book. There are too many voices in my head already.

I'm not worried, I know that it won't be long before I'm one with the books again. It's just frustrating.

In my reading group we're reading Caitlin Moran's How to be a Woman out loud, so at least my life isn't totally book-barren. Tonight's group was particularly nice because we also got takeaway from the Moroccan Soup Bar (oh yum, chickpea bake) and I got to bounce a baby on my knee.

Other bookish things:

The Underground New York City Public Library website, which is a "visual library featuring the Reading-Riders of the NYC subways." I have always loved seeing people reading on trains and trams and I nearly always want to talk to them about their books, whether they're enjoying it, if it's the first time they're reading that particular book or if it's a favourite. I especially loved this image, of two young people looking at The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.

I was reminded of this video, which is a little old but still makes me happy:

Not only that, but I can't wait for you all to read Melissa Keil's Life in Outer Space, which is the first novel to be published through the Ampersand Project and is the first book that I've watched (and helped!) go the whole way from reading pile to edits, to pages, to printer. Not only even that, but I love it.

I also absolutely love Anna and Gareth's What we have been reading posts over at Able and Game.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

the museum of australian children's literature

This is a good place, with weekend bread* all week long, it's a writers' retreat where I don't have to pay, where there are fresh eggs, sixteen puppies and four dogs.

There's Where the Forest Meets the Sea, Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge and Barbro Lindgren's The Wild Baby**.

There's all those Paul Jennings Un- books and The Wayne Manifesto and Penny Pollard's Diary.

There's Killer McKenzie, a whole mess of well-thumbed Margaret Clark books, about fifteen copies of Bridge to Wiseman's Cove, advance reader copies of late-90s Australian YA, there's Margo Lanagan's perfect Touching Earth Lightly.

I haven't lived at "home" since I was seventeen, but that just makes going to visit even better. And it's not just the puppies and the homemade sourdough and the lovely things to read...

*at my house we only buy special sourdough (like Irrewarra or Phillippa's or Zeally Bay) on the weekends, for a treat.
**not Australian. but still the best.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

my family and other animals

I'm not sure how I came to be a grown-up before reading this book. Many, many people have told me about it, how it's their favourite book and how much I would love it. And love it I did!

It opens with a 'Speech for the defence', which is part disclaimer, part explanation, of how Gerald Durrell (aged ten) and his family came to move from England to Corfu. He dedicates the book to his mother: 'As my brother Larry points out, we can be proud of the way we have brought her up; she is a credit to us.'

It's a madcap story, hijink-filled, and so engagingly, laugh-out-loudingly written by Gerald twenty years later. The descriptions of Corfu, and their life there are detailed, original and so very funny when they need to be.
We ate breakfast out in the garden, under the small tangerine-trees. The sky was fresh and shining, not yet the fierce blue of noon, but a clear milky opal. The flowers were half-asleep, roses dew-crumpled, marigolds still tightly shut. Breakfast was, on the whole, a leisurely and silent meal, for no member of the family was very talkative at that hour. By the end of the meal the influence of coffee, toast, and eggs made itself felt, and we started to revive, to tell each other what we intended to do, why we had intended to do it, and then argue earnestly as to whether each had made a wise decision.

Gerry's best friend is his dog, Roger - obviously something quite dear to my heart - and their master and faithful pet relationship is delightful.
In those early days of exploration Roger was my constant companion. Together we ventured farther and farther afield, discovering quiet, remote olive groves which had to be investigated and remembered, working our way through a maze of blackbird haunted myrtles, venturing into narrow valleys where the cypress-trees cast a cloak of mysterious, inky shadow. He was the perfect companion for an adventure, affectionate without exuberance, brave without being belligerent, intelligent and full of good-humoured tolerance for my eccentricities. If I slipped when climbing a dewy shiny bank - Roger appeared suddenly, gave a snort that sounded like suppressed laughter, a quick look over, a rapid lick of commiseration, shook himself, sneezed and gave me a lop-sided grin. If I found something that interested me - an ant's nest, a caterpillar on a leaf, a spider wrapping up a fly in swaddling clothes of silk – Roger sat down and waited until I had finished examining it. If he thought I was taking too long, he shifted nearer, gave a gentle whiny yawn, and then sighed deeply and started to wag his tail. If the matter was of no great importance, we would move on, but if it was something absorbing that had to be pored over, I had only to frown at Roger and he would realize it was going to be a long job. His ears would droop, his tail slow down and stop, and he would slouch off to the nearest bush, fling himself down in the shade, giving me a martyred look as he did so.

The animals, the people. It's wonderful and hilarious. Mother's voluminous bathing costume, Larry's friends who come and go, the bats, turtles, dogs, snakes, lizards, mantids. Gerry's boat, The Bootle-Bumtrinket ('it was not only an unusual name, but an aristocratically hyphenated one as well') and the general anarchy of their house, particularly Gerry's birthday party pandemonium.

Most definitely makes me want to move to Greece.