Posts tagged books
Posts tagged books
Officially it’s autumn, but seems to think it’s still summer here in Melbourne.
These leaves, scorched in the week of 44C heatwave could, just could, be autumn couldn’t they?
Haven’t really got much to post about as I’ve been reading, reading and reading. Got rather hooked on the works of Peter Goldsworthy. How did this come to be? I’m writing a review of his novel Wish and suddenly had the urge to re-read his collection of short stories in Gravel. I don’t own it, so a trip to the library and home again with Three Dog Night and Everything I knew as well as Gravel in my handy shopper bag. I just couldn’t stop reading - one book after the other. When I was finished all of them my brain just wouldn’t co-operate with any writing at all. It was so full of thoughts. Goldsworthy is quite a storyteller, and they have an edge to them too. Now I have to really get cracking and write that review, but just wanted to check in with the dashboard to see what’s new among those I follow, and put out a few thoughts.
Happy March to you all. Welcome new followers. Thanks one and all for the likes and the reblogs and may I say how much I enjoy your posts.
Mortgages and tertiary education debts were spoken of in Ravi’s hearing, but what he noticed was the magic of money. Disposable income was as silent as snow, and as transformative. It softened monotony, blurring its workaday bones with MP3 players, camera phones, negative ionisers, takeaway coffee in environmentally responsible mugs.
So reflects Sri Lankan refugee Ravi as he contemplates the environment of the workplace at Ramsay, a travel guide publication firm that has just temporarily taken him on in the IT department. Since arriving in Sydney, Ravi had been working in aged care at Banksia Gardens, but in Sri Lanka, in what seemed another life, he and his good friend Nimal were developing a start-up website. That was in the days when Ravi’s wife and son were still alive, and for Ravi life was promising. It was life before the murder of his wife and child and the shock of their bodies left for Ravi to find. Life suddenly became surreal, dangerous and rather than the settled promise of a long family life together, a suddenly single Ravi was being moved from place-to-place for safety as caring people sought to assist his passage away from Sri Lanks to seek safety and asylum - in Sydney, Australia. His landlady’s son has decided Ravi needs to use his computer skills rather than continue working in menial tasks as the aged care facility known as Banksia Gardens.
When Ravi looked back at Banksia Gardens, he saw lives marked by before and after: Youth, health or the simplicity of belonging were landscapes that had been lost. Much had been patched up but nothing could be mended. On inspection, the crack always showed. His new workplace on the other hand, was forward-oriented; the Mission Statement required it. Ramsay was firm flesh, blonde streaks; the smiles that only fluoride and first-world dentistry can achieve. Diversity, diligently practiced, was an HR crusade, but everyone looked alike to Ravi.
Quotes from Questions of Travel by Michelle de Kretser my current reading – and indeed it has been that for more than a month. It is a very densely written more than 500 pages in length. The story is a slow journey indeed, but has been worth the taking, on occasion I almost gave up on it. I am glad I stayed with this book and am about 100 pages to go to the end.
My review of Peace, Love and Khaki Socks by Kim Locke, has been published in the November online issue of Transnational Literature, and can be found here:
Here’s a brief synopsis to whet your appetite…
One sultry morning in Darwin, hemp-wearing army wife Amy Silva grips a trembling fist around two pink lines on a plastic stick. Struggling to come to terms with her rampant fertility, disillusioned with a haughty obstetrician and infuriated by an inordinate amount of peeing, Amy finds solace in a decision to homebirth. After all, it worked for the cavewomen, right? But as a tropical cyclone threatens to whip down the main street, Amy finds herself facing more than biology.
When a boy sold into slavery finds the courage to escape, he is saved by a mysterious stranger, who raises the boy as his own.
Renamed Cesare Montenero after Sicily’s own black mountain, Mount Etna, the boy begins to develop unusual talents, and discovers that he has more in common with his saviour than he imagined. And when he meets the enigmatic Celeste, he suspects for the first time that he may not be alone.
Based on factual events and ranging through Italy, Paris and the rural fringes of coastal Australia, Black Mountain is a haunting exploration of what it means to be human.
I have recently reviewed this book for an online journal and my review can be found at
I came to this book via Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife, a fiction novel that I enjoyed very much. In the list of research sources McLain cites A Moveable Feast as one of her sources. A friend who also read The Paris Wife (we belong to the same book group and it was one of our reading list books) bought Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast and then offered to loan it to me. I am so glad she did that. I really enjoyed the book as Hemingway writes his memories, sort of journal-style, of his time in Paris when he was early 20s and it was the 1920s. He has deliberately avoided trying to introduce his own personal life too much in relation to his first marriage, and yet there are little bits of his personal life with Hadley and later their son Mr Bumby and even FPuss their cat who faithfully guarded their infant son.
What I most liked about this work though is the insights into his writing process that it provides, his times when he was frustrated with his lack of progress, the moments of writer’s block and how he sought overcome them. His pursuit of the ‘one true sentence’ and his constant editing and refining. ‘It could take a whole morning to write a paragraph’.
His writing is lean, and he deplores descriptive paragraphs for their own sake, yet his whole book is one long description; of his work and the process of writing, of certain of his friends and fellow writers, and through it all the fact that he didn’t bemoan his poverty, but allowed it to be a spur towards discipline.
I shall have to purchase a copy of this for my own book shelf as a re-read in moments when I wonder about why I like words, or to write them. It will be a spur to maintain a discipline of practise and to not fear the process of redrafting and refinement until the best one can do is the goal.
I have just finished reading The Paris Wife by Paula McLaine and found it so moving even though it is a fictionalised account of the marriage of Hadley Richardson and Ernest Hemingway.
Now I’ll just have to rear some Hemingway.
Couldn’t stop reading this one. I like Peter Goldsworthy’s writing, having come across his short stories previously. The development of a relationship around the central theme of music whilst not necessarily a new theme is dealt with in a most refreshingly insightful way in this novel. Then there’s the element of ‘coming-of-age’ that almost tattered reference to a story that documents youthful passage into the next phase of the transition from child through youth to almost adult.
Paul Crabbe the young pianist who is the narrator of much of the story, is a young hopeful in the music scene. Parental expectation is balanced with the always mysterious driving force to prove to The Maestro, Eduard Keller, that he, Paul Crabbe, is the stuff of which concert pianists are made, indeed that he is almost above expectation. The Maestro takes it all on board, but also continually drips luke-warm responses that drive this youth all the more forcefully.
Alongside this is the mystery of just who Eduard Keller, The Maestro, really is. Is he a has-been on the concert circuit for instance, now reduced to alcoholism and solitude? What lies in The Maestro’s past that he refuses to address even when questioned directly?
An excellently told story, containing well chosen imagery. I could feel the claustrophobic steamy Darwin Wet and welcome the clear blue-skied, frosty night times of the Dry. The cicadas and frogs and whining hum of the mosquito not far away throughout reading this wonderful book.
Likewise as realisation of just what was within grasp hits the mature Paul Crabbe, I too felt the sadness of opportunities missed as choices were made. A reminder that it is important to remember to listen, not just to words, but to body language, to look closely in order to read the soul behind the eyes, the smile, the gesture of a hand. To read the signs that sometimes speak more loudly than any words uttered.
This was a Christmas gift and one I shall return to many times in the future.