Monday, December 5, 2016

The Long List

It happens every year and it's something I face with trepidation and disdain.

It's our annual book choosing evening for our book group.

It should be a simple process find two books to put up for book group. You have to champion them at book group. They have to be of literary fiction or very good popular fiction standard. Preferably under 500 pages. Easily accessible in bookshops, libraries and online (so the novella your cousin Alice self published won't cut it. It also can't be non-fiction, autobiography or biography - as the latter two are hard to talk about and there is a consensus that there are more than enough fiction books to talk about.

Then, on book group night, everybody champions their books - and we get to vote on which books to read. Everybody is given a bag of 25 lollies. You get to vote on the books you want to read (and you can't vote for your own) The top 12 books are chosen for the year and the reading order is discussed and set down. Everybody knows what is being read and when It's proved a great way of choosing books - and people have a book Christmas list sorted.

For me, what's most difficult is deciding on two books to put up.  There are so many to choose from - and we only have to put up two.

So as with every year, I make a long list and try and decide over the coming week which books I'm going to take with me next Tuesday night. Quite often, it's a bit of a last minute decision, as there are so many good books out there and I can only take two. The book group have to get their book choices in by Sunday - that way if anybody can't make the meeting they get a vote (also stops double ups).

Anyway, here are my long list of books to take along next Tuesday to book group. Suggestions are welcome.

1)  The Signature of All Things - Elizabeth Gilbert

Pluses:  Brilliant book. Unexpectedly and wonderfully researched historical drama about a woman botanist called Alma, who lived a most unexpected life. Lots to talk about. Gorgeously written - I drank in every word.

Minuses:  At just under 500 pages could be seen to be a bit of a house brick.

2) The Night Guest - Fiona McFarlane

Pluses: A mysterious woman comes to live with an old lady in her isolated beachside home. She's haunted by a tiger that keeps coming into the house (on a Queensland beach - go figure) What could go wrong? This won many prizes two years ago and it's poignant and relevant all at once. You keep reading as you need to know what is happening. Australian author.

Minuses:  Not many - might not be everybody's cup of tea. 

3) Elizabeth is Missing - Emma Healey

Maude has dementia. She lives at home by herself, but she's at a point where independent living is almost beyond her - to be honest, she needs somebody keeping an eye on her full time. Maude doesn't live in the present - and the one thing she is adamant about is that her sister, Elizabeth, is missing. Elizabeth has not been seen for nearly 50 years. An unusual murder mystery that spans decades - and has a wonderful look into the life of a dementia sufferer.

Pluses:  A short, quick read. Very topical.

Minuses: might push a few buttons of the book group. Most of us have aging parents. Some of us are tackling / have tackled this sort of thing.


 4) What's Bred in the Bone - Robertson Davies

I adore this book. But I'm not sure other people will. The book follows the life of Francis Cornish, art historian, collector and international man of mystery. I really is the most perfect book. Second in a series (The Cornish Trilogy - The Rebel Angels, What's Bred in the Bone and The Lyre of Orpheus) it is perfect on its own - I know I read this before reading The Rebel Angels. It really is quite perfect in its own right. And Robertson Davies is a Canadian gem - up there with Atwood.

Pluses: A very intelligent read - entertaining yet challenging.

Minuses: A very intelligent read - challenging. May also be a little hard to track down, though the interwebs would be able to get it in there.

5)  Everyone Brave is Forgiven - Chris Cleeve

 I loved this guy's first book. "The Other Hand" or "Little Bee" as it is known was one of the best book group books we've ever had. This is the author's third or fourth book and it looks really interesting. Set in World War II (and I am known as "war girl" it's allegedly set in London and that is about all I know. I just love the author and it's got reasonable write ups.

Pluses: Known author, popular topic.

Minuses: Only just under 500 pages, could be seen as a bit long.

6) Leap - Myfanwy Jones

I don't know much about this other than once again it is a prize winner and I know it has a bit of a local following. All I know about this is that it's main theme is grief and redemption.

Pluses: Easy to get, not too long (270 pages) Australian content

Minuses:  Can't really think of any.

7) Black Rock White City - A.S. Patric

Another book about death and grief. Set in Melbourne, a couple from Serbia try to make a new life for themselves in Melbourne. It's a debut novel and it won the Miles Franklin Award this year.

Pluses: It won the Miles Franklin. Not too long. Local content.

Minuses: Another book about grief. It won a prize - doesn't always mean it's good book club fodder.


8) Cat's Eye - Margaret Atwood

This is an Atwood I haven't read. I know next to nothing about it, other than it is an Atwood. We've done Atwood before (The Handmaid's Tale, Oryx and Crake) and she always goes down well - saying this, I tried to read The Blind Assassin and got about thirty pages into it and threw it against the wall and picked it up a few weeks later when I was cleaning. Cat's Eye has had great reviews. It's Atwood. Atwood is God.

Pluses:  It's Atwood. Easily obtained. It's Atwood. Great reviews. It's Atwood.

Minuses: Nearing 500 pages, it's a little on the long side. Some of the book group might be over Atwood (how could you be over Atwood? It's like being over JK Rowling or Richard Flanagan.

9)  Swing Time - Zadie Smith

I've heard a lot about Zadie Smith's lastest novel. Most of it good. She wrote the incredible White Teeth, which I remember reading on a beach in Mykonos some sixteen years ago. Zadie Smith is about London stories and hyper-realisms. She's about families and every day truths. She's somebody I want to read once again.

Pluses:  She's Zadie Smith. It's all around. It's relevant.

Minuses: It's a bit on the long side of things. She can alienate some people.


So there lies my dilemma. What to choose. What to choose?

I also have to do the really hard part of things - buy the lollies and bag up the lollies. The group asked if they could get the lollies in. My response - "You buy 'em, you bag 'em!.  Strangely - I'm bagging lollies on Sunday night.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Boat Questions

Another late one. I've had a lovely quiet weekend culminating in a trip to the movies to see "The Founder". Now I'm getting ready for an early night as I'm off to see a uni buddy first thing in the morning.

So here are this week's questions. supplied, as always, from Sunday Stealing.


1. YOU HAVE 10 BUCKS AND NEED TO BUY SNACKS AT A GAS STATION. WHAT DO YOU GET?

I'm a sucker for petrol station donuts. Especially the banana custard ones.

2. IF YOU WERE REINCARNATED AS SOME SORT OF SEA DWELLING CREATURE, WHAT WOULD YOU BE?

Probably a dolphin or a seal. I love both of them to bits.

3. WHO'S YOUR FAVORITE REDHEAD?

Julianne Moore. Great actress. Great hair.

4. WHAT DO YOU ORDER WHEN YOU'RE AT A DINER?

We don't really have diners over here as this is Australia, but if I'm in a road house or run down cafe, hot dogs, done the old fashioned way, are great.

5. LAST BOOK YOU READ?

Orwell's "1984" It's all got a bit too close for comfort.

6. DESCRIBE YOUR FAVORITE PAIR OF UNDERWEAR?

I have a very holey and very comfortable pair of black knickers that I just can't throw out.

7. DESCRIBE THE LAST TIME YOU WERE INJURED.

Bruce the Bum Bruise. Tripped at a friend's place, collected a garden bed on the way down. It's still giving me jip in the gym.

8. ROCK CONCERT OR SYMPHONY? LAST SEEN?

Rock Concert. Last one I went to was a few years ago - The Pixies are amazing.

9. IF SOMEONE WERE TO BUY YOU A GIFT, WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE IT TO BE?

I'd love a large two bedroom flat in Richmond.

10. WHAT TYPE OF SHIRT DO YOU BEST IN?

? Strange question. Probably a t-shirt. Like plain old t-shirts.

11. IF YOU COULD USE ONLY ONE FORM OF TRANSPORTATION FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

A very, very nice car. I have a very nice car now.

12. WHAT IS YOUR DEADLY SIN?

Gluttony. The rest of them I have mostly under control.

13. MOST RECENT MOVIE YOU'VE WATCHED IN A THEATER? RATE IT.

I saw "The Founder" today. I give it four stars. Really interesting and Michael Keaton is excellent in it.



14. IF YOU COULD INVENT ONE THING, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

A cure for leukaemia that doesn't decimate the patient. I so wish I could do that.

15. NAME AN ACTOR/ACTRESS YOU'VE HAD THE HOTS FOR?

Clive Owen!



16. WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE CITY? LAST TIME THERE?

London. 2010.

17. WHAT'S THE FIRST WORD THAT COMES TO MIND RIGHT NOW?

Lunch (I have to make my lunch for the week)

18. WHAT TYPE OF PET DO YOU HAVE?

None, but I borrow friends cats regularly when they go away.

19. WHERE HAVE YOU LIVED THE LONGEST?

South Australia, though I've lived in this flat for nearly eleven years - that is something of a record.

20. WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON THAT SPENT $100 ON YOU?

My mum gives me a $100 voucher for Christmas and my birthday.

21. WHAT'S THE LAST PIECE OF CLOTHING YOU BOUGHT?

A pair of 3/4 leggings. They were bought today.

22. WHAT WAS/IS YOUR FAVORITE JOB?

I really enjoyed working in testing in a telecommunications company. That was cool.

23. WHO MAKES YOU LAUGH THE MOST??

Irony. Some silliness.

24. WHAT ARE YOU CRAVING?

I'd murder an ice cream at the moment.

25. WHAT'S ON YOUR MIND?

I have a friend who has a child who is in an intensive care unit at the moment. Coming up to the anniversary of my niece's passing, knowing this time last year my niece was in the same spot is pushing all sorts of buttons. My friend's daughter has completely different condition to my niece, but my heart goes out to her, her family, and especially her Mum. She doesn't leave my thoughts much and I wish them all a speedy and peaceful resolution - whichever  way things may go. I can only keep them in my thoughts.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Song a Day November: What's Up

Half the battle of posting a song a day is finding the song that suits the day - and then finding the words to write about it. So my last song is a little late. Never to worry.

There were a couple of songs that nearly made it. Maybe a Beatles song, I thought. Maybe a bit of David Bowie - A Space Oddity is never amiss. Find something a bit more alternative I thought - Maybe Damien Rice or Alt-J. Maybe go political and find some Redgum or Billy Bragg.

But after two days of wracking my brain, the lyrics that were sitting in my brain came from his song.

In particular "And I pray, oh my god do I pray, I pray every single day, for a resolution..."

Okay, the last word is a mondegreen - it's actually revolution - but resolution works nicely here.

Something that's been on my mind is a study and facebook friend of mine whose child is currently in an intensive care unit. It appears there is hope, but having my family in the same position this time last year, it's brought back a lot of the feelings from last year and that feeling being overwhelmed by what was going on around the place. That sense of helplessness and fear - and part of me just wanting a resolution of all the angst felt at the time.

Anyway, I found this treasure, which is on many people's "I never want to hear that song again" list, up there with James Blunt's 'You're Beautiful", Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" and my special favourites, INXS's "The Swing" and Meatloaf's "Bat Out of Hell" albums (If I hear either again it will be too soon.)

I will always remember this as one of my London songs. Working at a merchant bank, three nights a week in the pub after work, a far easier and carefree time, when I smoked a pack of Marlboro Lights a week and thought I was invincible.

I know much better now.

And I still love this song, even if it was overplayed back in the day.

And I still want her boots.



Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Song a Day November:Show Me The Way

What ever happened to Peter Frampton? He was wonderful. He had a string of hits in the seventies and then all but disappeared. I know he's not dead. I know he's still playing music. I know that he should have been an absolute legend, but the fickle world of music seems to have taken him away from us, although, if you're really lucky, Gold FM or what every your classic rock station may be will play this little beauty or,"Baby, I Love Your Way."

I remember Peter Frampton from childhood. This song reminds me of summer down the beach as a child, with this blaring from the car radio.

It's still a great song. It's a pity he didn't really get out of the seventies in one piece like the Rolling Stones.



Monday, November 28, 2016

Song a Day November: Song Two

I've nearly done it. Yes, there have been days when I've had to double up because it's been busy and getting out the blog post has been a bit difficult - but it's been fun to look at the music in my life and write about it, even if it's only a few lines.

I love Blur - and I love this song. It's another song that reminds me of London and those happier, freer days when we used to go out clubbing. It reminds me of nights out in pubs when the world was just a little more innocent. And it reminds me of jalepeno poppers down at a pub after drama class.

And it's really hard to accept that this came out twenty years ago. Before all men wore product in their hair and shoulder pads had just disappeared and Barings Bank was still around and the world had a little hope left in it.

The great thing about this song. You don't have to know the words. You just have to remember.

WOOOOOOO HOOOOOOO!



Sunday, November 27, 2016

Song a Day November: Skinny Love

Heard a cover of this on the way home. A good cover. Birdy's cover of the song (about the best cover she's done)

But I think this is better. Bon Iver is bloody good.


In the home straight now.

Song a Day November: Mexican Radio

Once again I'm in need of a happy song.

So here is a happy song for yesterday.