December 2, 2013 § Leave a Comment
For a while now, I’ve been keeping record of words I come across in my reading and don’t know the meanings of — everything from peregrination to gallimaufry – and making notes about the books I read so that I can later review them, but I so often don’t. So often my scribblings just sit there, little more than wasted ink. Enter Junot Diaz:
For the last three or four years or so, I was trying to read a book every other day and I would write the book down and what I as a reader took away from it — I still have the notebook.
While finishing a book every other day is a little beyond me, keeping a record of what I’ve taken from it isn’t and if I never do write that review, at least I can refer back and remind myself why. My capacity to retain information, store lessons and glean meaning is comparable to that of a goldfish (I was a sponge as a child — a sponge — where did that go?).
When reading, I am so in it, so involved and then, when the last page has been turned, I forget everything. I stop reflecting. It’s like a switch has been flicked and nobody’s home. What’s the point if I don’t absorb anything, turn it this way and that — am I just filling the hours?
So much of what I do seems to be passive: I read something, I watch something, I see something and then I leave it. Even my journal is a mess. By no means is it as reflective and revelatory as this guy’s, which I totally want to read by the way. Usually, I just use the space to whinge and then upon reading it back with a clearer head feel compelled to kick my past self in the shins.
At least this is a way of me doing something with the stuff. Yeah, that’s as articulate as it’s going to get, folks.
November 3, 2013 § Leave a Comment
The Masked Avenger patrols the metropolis by night, upholding justice and ensuring the restful sleep of the citizens under his watch. Joined by his trusty side-kick, Richie the Powerbeagle, the Masked Avenger protects the people of Franklin Street by drawing on a multitude of powers so potent that even he cannot fully comprehend their extent.
Never mind the fact that he’s 12-years-old.
The Masked Avenger can make things happen.
No danger is too great, no injustice too small, but the Masked Avenger may have met his match in the most mystifying opponent of them all, unhappiness, which seeps through the walls of the house at the end of the street.
The simplistic view of the world, that everything can be neatly put in the ‘good’ or ‘bad’ pile, is recognisably child-like. As we grow older, we come to see the grey, often to the extent that it’s all we see. Everything is complex and no decision is easy. In seeing all that we have seen, we complicate, over analyse and confuse, and then something or someone will come along to remind us that it doesn’t always have to be that way. Sometimes things really are just that simple.
“Mild-mannered boy-genius” Liam McKenzie serves as that catalyst, the hero of our story, the Masked Avenger whose greatest power proves, ironically, to be, not his impressive understanding of geo-alchemy or his aptitude for conjuring lightning, but his ability to unmask the convoluted and expose a situation for what it really is.
Craig Silvey’s writing is beautifully stripped back and funny; striking the perfect balance of humouring Liam and his antics without patronising them. In Liam, he captures the naivety and wonder that’s simultaneously so familiar and so alien. Reading, we can’t help but celebrate and admire Liam’s capacity to see things as more than what they are, to take an idea and run with it. He sees the possibility in the everyday mundane, something we all once did – but have since, in the drama and strain of growing up – forgotten how to do. Thankfully, author Craig Silvey remembers.
It feels real and entirely plausible that this only child would monologue his own crime-fighting escapades. Of course, his bedroom would be his secret lair and his dog, his partner-in-crime. And not once, does Liam drop the pretence. Under pressure, one would understand his giving up the ruse, but he never falters. Liam is made of tougher stuff.
The Amber Amulet is a truly endearing novella, punctuated perfectly by Sonia Martinez’s scrapbook-like illustrations and I for one, cannot wait to see what Silvey, a superhero in his own right, pulls out of the bag next.
October 22, 2013 § 2 Comments
1. Jasper Jones of Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey
I’m mad for alliteration.
2. Pippi Longstocking or Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade “Pippi” Longstocking of the Pippi Longstocking series by Astrid Lindgren
Need I say more?
3. Buttercup of The Princess Bride by William Goldman
William Goldman chose this name usually associated with bovine for the most beautiful woman in the world. An unusual choice.
4. Mr. Watzisname of The Faraway Tree series by Enid Blyton
Despite us finding out his real name in the Land of Secrets, he’ll always be Watzisname to me.
5. Hermione Granger of the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
It wasn’t until Hermione gave Krum the lesson on how to pronounce her name in the Goblet of Fire that I stopped reading it as Hermy-own.
6. Sissy Jupe of Hard Times by Charles Dickens
The circus girl who serves as the antithesis to Gradgrind’s (another great name!) regimental education system.
7. Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
He may be an abominable character, but he has a great name.
8. Persimmon Polidori of The Three Loves of Persimmon by Cassandra Golds
9. Angel Clare of Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
Not the most masculine of names and I am yet to read the book, but I fell in love with Eddie Redmayne’s Angel in a bad way.
10. Ivorie Hammer of The Inheritance of Ivorie Hammer by Edwina Preston
October 6, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Stravinsky’s The Firebird: Suite (1919 Version) makes me cry — or at least it does when performed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra with the Disney Fantasia 2000 segment playing in the background.
I dare you not to feel something.
August 8, 2013 § 1 Comment
There are certain books that seem to come at exactly the right time. I don’t know if it’s because I’m at a weird in-between phase at the moment, but recently so many of the books I’ve read have resonated with me and none more so than E. M. Forster’s A Room with a View.
Life is easy to chronicle, but bewildering to practice.
Our heroine, Lucy is travelling Italy with her older, simpering cousin Charlotte as chaperone. In a comical opening — that no matter how I try can’t be separated in my mind from the Fawlty Towers sketch – we learn that the cousins were not given rooms with views in the Bertolini Pension in Florence despite being promised them. Going against decorum, the outspoken Mr Emerson, overhearing their conversation at dinner, insists the women swap rooms with him and his son, George.
Lucy is changed in Italy, and challenged; things happen that lead her to question the judgements of her class. But then she returns home to England only to agree to marry someone who represents all she seemed to overcome abroad.
Life, so far as she troubled to conceive it, was a circle of rich, pleasant people, with identical interests and identical foes. In this circle, one thought, married, and died. Outside it were poverty and vulgarity for ever trying to enter, just as the London fog tries to enter the pine-woods pouring through the gaps in the northern hills. But, in Italy, where any one who chooses may warm himself in equality, as in the sun, this conception of life vanished. Her senses expanded; she felt that there was no one whom she might not get to like, that social barriers were irremovable, doubtless, but not particularly high. You jump over them just as you jump into a peasant’s olive-yard in the Apennines, and he is glad to see you.
Lucy doesn’t know herself, which is part of what makes her so relatable despite the century that separates her from the modern day reader. She is in constant battle with herself as she desperately tries to correlate what she’s feeling with society’s expectations of women in her position. Expectations that she simultaneously takes comfort in and rejects as new, frightening thoughts beyond her learning strike her.
This solitude oppressed her; she was accustomed to have her thoughts confirmed by others or, at all events, contradicted; it was too dreadful not to know whether she was thinking right or wrong.
A Room with a View is inherently funny, and insightful. E. M. Forster has an impeccable knack for providing just enough detail to paint a vivid setting. Italy feels real – the bustle, the heat, the stonework, the history and the passion. Oh, and we mustn’t forget the violets.
In the appendix, A View without a Room, E. M. Forster himself describes the novel as his “most optimistic work”, and optimistic it is, but without being flippant or denying truth. In fact, A Room with a View is so masterfully rich with lessons that all of them can’t hope to be gleaned from one reading, at least that’s the reason I’ll be giving when I dip into this one again.
P.S. Now I am itching to visit Florence.
P.P.S. And I have decided to name my future house Windy Corner regardless of whether it’s sitting on a corner or gets a lot of wind. And yes, before you ask, I will have a tennis court.
July 15, 2013 § Leave a Comment
They say you should never meet your heroes.
I don’t know if that’s true, but I can’t help but feel a little flat after meeting the beautiful Cary Elwes at Comic Con last weekend. Don’t get me wrong, he was very lovely, but in retrospect, I’m a little frustrated with myself. I’m frustrated that I couldn’t articulate what I wanted to tell him, that for reasons I don’t fully understand, I am completely and utterly devoted to a movie he played a part in more than 25 years ago, and a huge reason for that is his performance. Now that I’ve written that down, it’s probably for the best that I couldn’t get the words out.
‘Nice to meet you’ did the job just fine.
And then he called me ‘very sweet’, which completely threw me (it must have been the dress) and left me giddy for the next half hour.
It’s weird that I feel this affinity with Cary Elwes and his work and he doesn’t know me from a bar of soap, but I guess storytelling works that way. Once a story’s out there, it will come to mean a multitude of different things to a multitude of different people. Obviously, this means that sometimes the people you most expect to get it, just don’t, and that can feel a little lonely.
Poor Cary Elwes isn’t to know how damn much I adore his Westley, though he probably had an inkling when I picked the photo I did for him to sign. And though I like to think I have a pretty firm grip on reality, it upset me a little that he doesn’t know how much he and that movie mean to me and no matter what, even if I sit him down and explain it the best way I can, he’ll never quite care as much as I want him to.
But then I suppose it’s the same in reverse.
I’ll never value Cary for the very real person he is, and I wonder, as more and more people line up to have their picture taken with him, hand over memorabilia for him to sign, and ask him to say that line, whether he feels lonely too. How does he reconcile the person he is with the fantasy that thousands of people want him to be?
How do any of us?
July 4, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Last year, I attended a couple of Industry Insider panels run by the Emerging Writers Festival, and this year I was back again.
Arts and Book Coverage was the focus. Once again, the advice was sound:
- Write for as many publications as possible, including blogs
- Do your research before pitching or submitting a piece to a publication: read their stuff, practice writing in their style and to their word limits.
- Always address the editor by name in your pitch – it shows attention to detail and basic research skills
- Write the piece as though you were talking to a friend to avoid pretension
But something about the whole experience fell flat.
The title ‘emerging’ doesn’t hold the same wonder it once did, the same promise. Last year, I embraced the idea of being an ‘emerging’ writer, an ‘emerging’ content creator, whatever. I had big plans; all I had to do was act on them and things would happen. But now, for reasons that aren’t altogether clear to me, labelling myself ‘emerging’ in any shape or form feels ill-fitting in a way it didn’t then. Maybe it’s too idealistic a sentiment.
Maybe I’ve at last come to terms with the fact that I don’t put in the work. And if you don’t put in the work, how can you call yourself an ‘emerging’ anything? I think I’ve accepted that. My priorities are elsewhere now. Whether that’s the right thing remains to be seen.
But it wasn’t until I was sitting smack bang in the middle of that near-deserted room, watching another compelling panel made up of creatives happily sharing their advice that I was struck by this epiphany, this feeling of separation. Something had shifted. They weren’t talking to me anymore.