Monday, 29 July 2013

A Bit of a Catch Up

Well things seem to be settling down finally.  T is home from his month long visit back to the USA and Canada to see relatives.  He's over the jet lag.  My Sydney trip is behind me. Great fun.  Four of the five animals have now recovered from their poison episode and no word from the neighbours who so carelessly left it lying around.  I don't envy the insular life they seem to be developing for themselves. My old guy Wally is still having blood clotting issues but hopefully it will be corrected with this new batch of treatment that ends in 2 weeks time.

I have been putting in native plants to attract more birds to my garden. The back yard is full of birds. We have only recently fenced in the front yard to make a bigger playground for the pets and now I have bird attracting natives around the entire fence line. Will be nice when they grow up in the next couple of years. I have also put in a cherry tree and an apricot tree so looking forward to their future as well.

Our winter weather has been very mild lately which is great and not overly windy. The rains we had were hard and made the ground softer to dig so a good time to put the plants in.

I have found a few new Penguin books (new to me I should say) for the collection and am about to get them catalogued and shelved.

I am also up to date with a bit of book reading.  I finished a fluffy book which is all I could concentrate on when the animals weren't well as I was worried about them. Called The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty.
It was one of those books where chapter I is about one set of characters, then chapter II introduces another set and chapter III another set yet and then finished with chapter IV with yet another dilemma. Then it repeats, gradually integrating the problems of everyone intermingling with each other until the final solutions at the end.  It centred around an old murder of a school girl, a who dunnit, romance, affairs, a disillusioned old woman and strong friendships.  It was an enjoyable read though I think a tad too long. I would have edited it a bit tighter.

But it was something to read in the evenings and I certainly didn't need to concentrate. I got it from the library after reading a review on it somewhere along the line. It was on my list of books I keep on the library website.

Then after that I was ready for something much better and the Fuller's Bookshop August Book club read, Lost Voices by Christopher Koch must be the best book I've read in a very long time. We are going to discuss it at the book group next week so I'll hold off saying much on it now. It deserves a bit more thought than what I can put down here but suffice it to say I LOVED IT.

The ABC's Tuesday book group is going to discuss The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien and The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud next week.  I picked up TWU at the local book shop and could only find The Third Policeman as an audio book (unabridged so that's okay) at the local library. It has 6 CD's and I have listened to 2 of them. I am listening to the second CD again as this is a very interesting story and I have not yet figured out all the symbolism. I need to research the story a bit more because there is so much in it and will do a separate post on it before too long.

I just wanted to get something posted up as I have been a bit slack with my postings mainly because I am just so disorganised with other things going on.  I have no idea if this will improve or not, my organisation skills related to blogging, but at least I am getting some record of my books up and other life events for the fun of it.

I continue to enjoy reading everyone else's blogs and they keep me smiling when things don't always go according to plan. Eventually when I see the regularity of other people's blogs I get motivated.  So stay tuned. Something will be posted again before too long.

Friday, 12 July 2013

On My Way to Sydney

Tomorrow I start a little holiday.  T. is home from his overseas family visit and now I have 5 days coming up in Sydney with a good friend who brings the train down from north of Sydney for a girl's week out.

We did this last year and the year before so I guess now it has become a tradition. The short holiday centres around a performance at the Sydney Theatre Company each year.  This year we will be seeing the play The Maids with Cate Blanchett in a main role.  She is a stunning actor and two years ago we were fortunate enough to see her in Uncle Vanya by Checkov.

Sydney often has big light shows down at the harbour and the last time we were there we enjoyed many colours and images flashed across the buildings that surround Circular Quay and on the opera house. The opera house has so many different personalities that shine depending on the time of day and year that one visits.

I have lots of book news but have had absolutely no time to do anything properly.  I have a review to do of a light hearted read, some Library Loot, some books I got in a stocktake sale and a wonderful old 1960's Penguin publishers gift from a friend not to mention the book I'm reading for my August book group.

I had hoped to get some postings up today before I left but as mentioned in a previous post I am still treating our 3 dogs and 2 cats for the poison bait the neighbours put down.  They unfortunately have ingested a very debilitating poison that has an ingredient that used to be strictly regulated but now can be found in common rat poisons in the local supermarket. The neighbours who put it down have been absolutely no hope whatsoever and couldn't even be bothered to go back to the store where they bought it let me know the brand name so we're going through trial and error.

Blood tests today show the animal's blood clotting times are still taking way too long so onto yet another 2 weeks of treatment with more blood testing to follow.  But moving along...I have been reading, seeing a couple of films and now looking forward to some Penguin hunting in Sydney, shopping and browsing happily through bookstores with both new and second hand books.

Travellin Penguin and I really need a holiday break from our cold winter weather we have been experiencing here of late.

Friday, 5 July 2013

A Lovely Australian Book Group Every Month on the ABC

On the first Tuesday night of each month our ABC has a wonderful half hour book show that runs from 10:00 -10:30 pm.  It is hosted by Jennifer Byrne who I always find to be a really vivacious and passionate book lover.

Her regular guests are Jason Steger who writes about books in the Melbourne Age newspaper and who I admire greatly as well as Marieke Hardy who I absolutely love. Marieke can polarise people more than probably needed but she is a young intelligent, quirky reader and good friends with the other two. I know Simon of Savidge Reads adores her as he often mentions her in his blog.

Each month they review a modern novel and a classic novel chosen by one of the guests. In addition to Jennifer, Jason and Marieke they have two additional guests that change from month to month. They are almost always authors and are usually Australian authors and they tend to bring in writers who are participating in literary festivals happening around the country at any given time.

On the Tuesday nights other than the first one of the month Jennifer often interviews an author and I have watched some excellent half hour interviews with Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan and Ian Rankin to name a few.

The best part about this program is it is played on ABC's iView service which means people around the world (as far as I know) can access the program.

Their web page can be found here.

Their August reads to be discussed on Tuesday 6th of August will be:
The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud for the modern book and the more classic book will be Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman.

I am hoping to read at least one of these books in time for that program if I get my hands on them.

I hope anyone that enjoys a fun filled half an hour television program with good humour and interesting books will have a look. Better than that, make yourself a cup of tea or coffee, fire up the web page, sit back and watch the program.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Vintage Books: So Long See You Tomorrow

Well, things are looking up quite a bit this week compared to last. The animals have all been on their poison antidote of Vitamin K and everyone is cooperating. It is as if they know they need to take these giant tablets and though the cats hiss at me it they do manage to swallow these things.

This week was our First Monday night of the month Book Group meeting at Fullers Bookshop.  It is a small group, usually of 6 people but I enjoy the size.  We sit in the closed cafe in the evening at the book store and discuss the books chosen for us by the group facilitator Ali.  I enjoy being in the shop after hours where I can smell all the books and walk quietly around looking at everything.

Ali always has the kettle on, an assortment of teas on the table and a very large Kit Kat bar to share on a plate. It is enough.

The book So Long, See you Tomorrow by William Maxwell is a very short book.  It is only 153 pages but there is so much within it could have been 300 pages.

William Maxwell was an author I was not familiar with but I would certainly read more of his books, especially his short stories and another one that has similar themes called They Came Like Swallows.

Mr. Maxwell was born in 1908 in Illinois, USA. In 1918 his mother died in the flu epidemic that swept the country.  This event never left his life or his writing and many themes of loss permeate much of his writing.

This book was published in 1980 (happily I can add it to my Century of Books challenge.)  There is a very useful introduction to the story and author by Ann Patchett that everyone in the group enjoyed. It helped give insight into the story that was to follow.

The story is narrated by the son of Lloyd Wilson.  We learn in the first page that Lloyd Wilson is milking the cows on the farm one morning when he is shot and killed whilst sitting on his milking stool.  We don't know who murdered him but as the story slowly unfolds this becomes clear.

The story isn't so much about the murder itself but the ramifications of this man's death.

The son (narrator) is never identified by name.  The book has two families that run parallel to each other. It is also told in flashbacks. When we begin the narrator is in his 70's.  He writes in first person when referring to himself and third person when referring to the rest of the characters.

The narrator's son, I will call him the "boy," loses his mother at a young age. Everything changes in his world. His father marries again several years later but this isn't as successful as the family would like.

The second family is comprised of Clarence (father), Fern (his wife) and their son Cletus.  Cletus and the "boy" become friends and their lives intersect throughout the novel.

The themes reinforce that everyone has their own story and if something significant happens in one's life, especially if it is a tragic event, it will stay with you throughout your life.  Not only in memory but in the entire way life is shaped towards others and in your response to events.  It is a story of betrayal.

Lloyd Wilson and Clarence were the very best of friends anyone could be. What happens in this story makes that fact all the more tragic.  Due to one event everyone in the small community, their family, their friends, their livelihood are all heavily impacted.

William Maxwell's writing is beautiful.  I think some of it is the most beautiful prose I have read anywhere in a long time.  The book is tightly edited but this would no doubt be because Mr. Maxwell worked for 40 years as the Editor of New Yorker magazine.

The only thing I didn't like about his writing was the female characters did not seem to be as well defined as the male characters.  It was as though they were shadows around the edges, the catalyst for some of the events but the men were incredibly clear.  I would recognise them if they walked up to me.

The story begins quickly, the circumstances and events set out and nothing is lost.  The reader certainly finds out how one act can have consequences that continue to be with the characters through their life.

I loved this book.  It isn't the happiest book on earth but I didn't feel sentimental or wiped out by it.  I enjoyed reading all of the words on the pages.  His thoughts will stay with me for a long time.

The narrator loved to read as a child and there is a wonderful passage about reading a book.

"When I got home from school I did what I had always done, which was to read, curled up in the window seat in the library or lying flat on my back on the floor with my feet in a chair, in the darkest corner I could find. The house was full of places to read that fitted me like a glove, and I read the same books over and over. Children tend to derive comfort and support from the totally familiar- an umbrella stand, a glass ashtray backed with brightly coloured cigar bands, the fire tongs, anything. With the help of these and other commonplace objects- with the help also of the two big elm trees that shaded the house from the heat of the sun, and the trumpet vine by the back door, and the white lilac bush by the dining room window, and the comfortable wicker porch furniture and the porch swing that contributed its the sounds of the summer night- I got from one day to the next."

I would be interested if others have read this and if so what they thought of it.  I look forward to crossing this author's path again sometime.