Tag Archives: books

Looting the Corpse

I often drop in on Melbourne artist Jennie Rosenbaum’s website yet it was her twitter entry this morning which resonated with me. I was preparing this post under the title “Goodbye Borders”.  Thank you Jennie for the new title and for the validation of my feelings.

She tweeted;
The borders closing sale is both intriguing and sad, it feels a little like looting a corpse.

Two days ago I was in Perth and walked by the Border’s store in Hay Street. I had read the newspaper reports of this book store being placed into receivership and closed down. Not just in Perth but Australia-wide.

It wasn’t until I went inside that the full extent of this tragedy hit me.

I am a sucker for book stores and I found myself tearing up just a little. I also dropped thoughts of buying any books. It felt sacrilegious. I knew I would not be able to enjoy reading anything bought here under these circumstances.

I snapped these shots and said a mental “Goodbye”

God and Book Burning

Bunny Suicide

A certain Bullfrog and several tadpoles presented me with Andy Riley’s new book; Return of the Bunny Suicides for Christmas.

Described as “Watership Down for the deeply sick.” I think that perhaps my offspring are trying to hint at something.

Here is an example.


If I were going to review this book, I would have so say that it is not as impressive as the first volume. The bunnies seem to have become more determined and inventive while being less artistically satisfying. Yet there is still a perceived attraction for the “deeply disturbed”.

Of whom I am not one. No! Not at all.

My Fiction and Me

Some readers may have noticed that there is a new group amongst my Blog Roll; “Idiosyncratica”. This is a group of blogging writers and readers who have decided to form a group and “do something” together, each month.

This is my contribution to our first effort. “My Fiction and Me”.  Each member should introduce the other group members to the kind of fiction they write or enjoy reading and explain a little about how it relates to them — why it inspires/drives them etc. Perhaps I went a little overboard with the “little” explanation.
I began reading before I was four years of age. I taught myself, with my mother’s bemused help, to read the back of a cereal packet. I ate Weeties for breakfast and was able to talk my mother into explaining just how that big word on the front of the packet told her it was “Weeties”. It seemed I had always known the letters and soon I had deciphered the back of that packet. Or, rather, I read a little more with each new box of cereal.

Living on a farm, distant from schools and in a time little removed from the horse and cart, I spent my first year of school learning at home. I gained several bad habits. The worst and most enduring was that I discovered that the writing I was reading was repetetive. So I only needed to look at a phrase to know what it said. Without concously looking at the individual words, from the age of five I was reading in phrases. I could see and register the minor differences without trouble. This habit meant I rarely looked at a word by itself. Spelling and pronounciation were foreign languages to me. They still are!

Comprehension was just something which happened. Once read, a book was remembered. Not the phrases but the salient points, the plot. I had plots and the children of plots running around in my brain from the age of six or seven. Plots which were all action yet I knew they needed and were about people. Instinctively I pulled back from writing people. That early year without schoolmates had marked me for life. I never did get to know how minds work, how people spoke, the differences in syntax and dialect. I heard it but somehow lacked the confidence to use it in a story. Instead I found a love of the predictable, of mathematics and science. I avoided the complexities of humanity. Yet I continued to read. I was still fascinated by the way words followed each other.

In a schoolworld where Shakespeare and Dickens were royalty, I developed a hatred of Dickens. His stories reminded me so much of the flat one-dimensional plots I had rolling around in my mind that I found nothing in him to hold me. Or to convince me that he was a great writer. Indeed, for my Eng Lit examination just before I wasn’t able to go to University, I wrote an essay on why I considered Dickens to be the greatest fraud in the history of English Literature. Somehow I was accidentally awarded a distinction for that paper.

While I had enjoyed my studies of Shakespeare, upon leaving school I discovered the true form of bookishness for a science-based readaholic. I found the realm of the Science Fiction magazine. AE Van Vogt, EE (Doc) Smith, Clifford Simac, Hal Clement and then the big three. Azimov, Clarke and Heinlein. Forget human interest. Here were Space Travel, BEM’s and Interstellar Conflict. There was also the humour of Clarke and Spider Robinson. I began committing more and more puns. In a twisted way they sometimes let me see a deeper truth. Mixed in with all this science was a good dose of Fantasy Magazine fiction. This developed through Tolkein into an abiding love of Celtic and Norse Fantasies. Lovecraft and Poe also had their influence.

My mother had introduced me to Agatha Christie and the detective novel. Where people act according to a formula and while strong emotions cause the murders, the unravelling of the mystery was always clinical, clean and scientific. This lead, somehow, into the action of Hammond Innes and Alister McLean. It was here I discovered the repeated plot lines. Spy tales and thrillers became a comfortable way to read words.

Shortly after I left school, I was allowing my lack of people-knowledge take a back seat to my more confident hormone-driven instincts and a girlfriend introduced me to Gibran and Khayyam. Suddenly there were words which took me inside my thoughts, which changed my view of the world. Not overnight, but over a decade. The progress was slow and inexorable. I had discovered poetry. At the same time I discovered I was not unique. Other people had deeply held feelings and ideas and urges. And in poetry I had discovered a way of expressing myself. I had long since discarded my childish storylines and plots and had decided I could not write. In my poetry I could express myself, and since I was not sharing it, it was safe to expose myself.

Over time I lost my youthful enthusiasm for God and Religion and while I moved, philosophically, towards atheism, I had developed a love of the druidic verbal currents of Tolkein, Lewis and others who wrote tales based on the Celtic magics. After several decades of Science Fiction I was moving towards the poetic and the mythic. Verbally I was punning and inventing silly rhymes yet writing virtually nothing. I was not in an environment where writing was expected. Everything was verbal, instantaneous and discardable. During the Seventies I had found the modern poets, the minstels, Diamond and Kristofferson and Dylan. Rod McKuen was in there as well.

Like much of society I stagnated during the 1980’s. A time notable only for the work of Meatloaf, and a few movies.  My Horrors were both Rocky and a little Shopped, my Gods became Crazy and rhinos stomped camp fires. These influenced my world view, not always for the best according to some who knew me. I avoided Abba and the rest of the disco insanity at every opportunity!

It was not until the mid 90’s when I discovered the internet and its usenet offspring, the news groups, that I suddenly found an outlet for decades of pent-up writing. I could rant in groups which discussed current affairs, I could be disgusting in groups which told off-colour and politically incorrect jokes, I could be inventively crude in the limerick group I began to inhabit. I began to relearn skills I had neglected. I found that others placed a value on my words. My writing began to develop a rhythm, a style of its own. Based upon the use of emotive words and images, using myth while addressing current themes. I used my poetic experience to shorten my longwinded sentences.  The strict limerick form taught me to condense a thought into as few words as possible and so, while I continued to write mostly free-form verse, the words became fewer and the content denser.

I discovered blogs as a place I could store my thoughts, as a place where I could both practice my own writing and find others writings, and as a place where I could be as self-indulgent as I wanted. At the same time, I discovered digital photography. For years I have used very cheap, always slightly blurred cameras yet I always had a vision of what could be done with photography and its resultant images. About five years ago I was able to indulge myself and purchase some good equipment. As a photographer I am self-taught and, like all philistines, I knows wot I likes.

I began publishing some of the images I had captured with my cameras. As my confidence in this hobby grew, I found I was using those images to fill in huge gaps between the few words I felt necessary to post with the photographs. It is true. A picture is worth a thousand words!

So, am I a reader, a writer, a poet or a photographer?

Sometimes I wish I knew.

Kama Sutra of Reading

Found on the awesome blog of the intelligent and captivating, though NSFW, nursemyra was this cartoon from the book Design Humor: The Art of Graphic Wit written illustrated produced by Steve Heller.

There is a city in the UK named “Reading”. I shall draw no conclusions – – –

106 Books

This is a meme I found over at Helen’s blog. One that (Un)relaxeddad and Anthromama have been doing recently. It is about LibraryThing’s list of the top 106 books that lie unread on people’s shelves. You have to bold the ones you’ve read of your own accord, underline the ones you had to read for school or university, and italicize the ones you started but didn’t finish. I’ve added an extra bit and have *starred* the books that are, indeed, sitting on my shelf unread.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi : a novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick

Ulysses – I keep starting it
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
The [A] Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
*The Time Traveler’s Wife*
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran: a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked: the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury Tales – Most of
The Historian: a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible

Angels & Demons
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels
Les Misérables
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – DNF
The Prince

The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes: a memoir
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter
*Eats, Shoots & Leaves* Bit by bit in the bookstore
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
White teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield

Book Review; Metro Girl, Janet Evanovich.

Having taken Stephanie Plum to, and possibly over, the top, Evanovich has moved to Florida and found a new heroine. Alex Barnaby is looking for her disappeared brother but her interaction with Stock Car driver Sam Hooker is the main story line. Not quite as mysterious as Plum’s Ranger but quite as super dominant male, Hooker is irresistibly male and not averse to a little adventure.

From Miami to Cuba and back again, with Gold and Mysterious Cargo and determinedly evil crooks, Alex is able to hold her own with everything that is thrown at her. While she does relax back into a ladylike persona to allow Hooker to do his masculine things and continually save her from the baddies, one gets the feeling this is just a sop to the males around her and that she could have quite easily coped all on her own.

This is light, trite and great fun. Chick-lit for the masses.