Thursday, 28 February 2013

Why Is Everyone So Restless?

I have just experienced four books with similar themes yet quite different from each other. Is it just me or have people had it with their lives?  Don't get me wrong. I am a happily married, animal loving person with great friends living in a beautiful country but don't most of us just want a travel adventure that is different?  Do they want to get away from the everyday ordinariness of what to expect everyday?  Yet if life were up and down all the time wouldn't that be just as bad?

For some reason these books have all visited our house this past year. The most recent acquisition was:

The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. This one must be my favourite of these books. I bought this book simply because I was intrigued by the title.  An old man about to celebrate his 100th birthday, tired of  fuss and people who bore him, slips out of the window and disappears.
Of course it is very difficult to get away with this action as everyone immediately begins looking for him and of course he isn't a very fast mover.
He ends up at the bus station and goes as far as his money allows. The remainder of the book outlines the many adventures and misadventures he has.  The book is Swedish and quirky and I really enjoyed it. The Swedes seem to have a wonderful knack of making a reader really feel the country side, the climate, the eccentric characters. It is a fun read.I never knew what was going to happen next and I cared about the people I met.  I'd love to have sat in a farm house kitchen with the characters and shared a meal.                                                                                                                                                                        

The second man on the run or should I say "on the walk" is the story of another elderly gentleman, this time in England who receives notification that a woman he worked with 20 years previously is dying of cancer.  He walks off the pages of the book of  The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. She sends out a simple message to people she has known to give them this sad news yet she hasn't had any contact for all of these years.  He writes a response but isn't happy with the way it sounds and as he walks to the post box to post it out he decides to keep walking. He doesn't seem to get out of the rut he lives in very much and as he finds the weather to his liking he walks yet farther to another post box. He then decides he is going to walk the 250 kms or so it would take across England to deliver his note in person.

As he walks he shares his experiences about the people he meets, his thoughts, his memories of the woman he is off to see and his poor wife is left as a quite bewildered old soul on the home front thinking he truly has lost his mind.  Yet again a man is on the road, reflecting over his past life, facing his mortality and wondering how he has come to the point he has.  I didn't enjoy this book as much as the "Man Who Climbed Out the Window" as Harold reminded me too much of the character in the book Mr. Rosenblum's List by Natasha Solomon. Although the two stories are vastly different I felt the location was very similar as well as the style and 'feeling' I got as a reader. Hard to explain.  Mr. Rosenblum was a Jewish man who had emigrated to England with his wife and followed a list for himself of goals to attain to become a proper Englishman. I found it to be a charming book, very quirky and I cared a great deal about him and his wife.

Walking across England to deliver a message to someone who had not been seen or spoken to for more than 20 years made Harold a bit unbelievable to me. However I did care about him and wanted to know what happened. Yet I often wonder....why are the English gentlemen in so many 'quaint' novels portrayed as short, quiet, exceedingly polite and very boring characters.  I find it is such a stereotype. Are any of my English mates out there able to enlighten me?

The final book of someone trying to cope with life in a strange fashion was one I picked up at the library. Entitled The Woman Who Went to Bed For A Year by Sue Townsend appealed to me on a couple of fronts. Mainly because I was very tired the day I checked it out and the thought of living in bed for a year was appealing.  I think this is a clear example of choosing a book completely by its cover.
I read the first 100 pages and decided to not finish it as there are other books I would prefer to read.  I don't know if I am tired of people climbing out of windows to escape nursing homes, walking across England to wrong rights and visit old times or hearing about people simply trying to find a place in their life even if they have lived most of their lives.  I just couldn't read any more and time to go into something completely different. Also I didn't feel much empathy for her and I was happy for her to just stay in her bed while I went and completed other things.

I must say I laughed when I reviewed my book list and thought why am I being drawn to these titles. Mainly because I love quirky stories but I like for them to be believable  Mr. Rosenblum was believable as was the old guy wanting to escape the nursing home though the rest is pure fiction.  Both of those books were fun. They also had a hard edge of reality to them. Mr. Rosenblum had been through the Polish invasion and the whole holocaust tragedy. The old man in the nursing home was just over it all and wanted an adventure. I think many people could relate to these concepts.

Trekking across a country on a whim with no cash, clothes, or reliable reason or going to bed for a year was a bit too much of a "Let's be clever with our plot" and see what happens.  I am sure there will be others who enjoyed these books but they weren't at the top of my pile once I finished or didn't finish as was the case with the bed ridden woman.

It is interesting all of these novels are modern books having been published fairly recently.  Is this concept something new to books of the 21st century?  Are there other books out there from the earlier times where people decided to not face daily life and thought up random excuses?  Well, maybe Don Quixote but that was centuries ago and he was mad.  I can't think of any others but there are people out there who read a lot more books than I do.

It has been a fun topic to think about and if I am to wake up tomorrow morning and don't want to change the  dog's neatly used pee towel in the kitchen anymore as she can't get through the night without it and if I don't want to clean up the garden yet again after more wind undoes the previous work what will I do?  Go to bed for a year?  Walk across Australia to go look for more Penguin books somewhere?  Maybe I'll just take off on my big scooter with my tent and sleeping bag and have an adventure in the Australian outback. But then my new big scooter isn't due to arrive for yet another 3 or 4 weeks. In a novel it would be here by now.  Would anyone be interested in that story?  Just a bit of quirkiness for thought.  Would love to hear any thoughts.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

What an interesting idea to catch up........

.......on all those unfinished books.  I saw this idea in the Sunday newspaper the other day. It was actually meant for people who have several credit cards they haven't paid off.  As I only have one credit card with a small outstanding balance I wasn't too concerned but I do enjoy reading the financial pages of the Sunday paper.
The Barefoot Investor is a young man named Scott Pape and he has some good ideas.

He mentioned if one has several debts it is easier to lay them out as dominoes are laid out. Start with the smallest one due and then the next larger one and so forth. You leave the largest one, such as the house mortgage at the end.  You would then pay them off in order. Get rid of those smaller ones.

Sunday I caught up with several blogs and I noticed again that several people had mentioned (including myself) that we have too many books on the go.  I thought to myself perhaps I could do the domino routine with my books.

Lay them out according to the least number of pages left to read or the priority of needing to read them.

I have four books I want to finish quickly. However I find I am going slowly.  Being in a great mood today as the temperatures have dropped significantly over night and we had some very heavy rain this morning I felt complete relief. Let's hope it lasts until all the fires are out around this state.

I thought with my own domino presentation I would read the two short stories waiting in my book Four Stories by American Woman. I have been dilly dallying around with this book for far too long. Life in the Iron Mills by Rebecca Harding Davis is only 38 pages long. Shame I have not finished it. The next one to finish off this lovely book is Souls Belated by Edith Wharton which is also only 30+ pages.

Should be able to flip that domino over in no time. Next is finishing up The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed out the Window by Jonas Jonasson. A most quirky little book I have been enjoying but keep setting it aside for no explainable reason , really.

Then I need to read Perfume by Patrick Suskind which I have not started yet. I have been strongly advised by friends to read this since posting up The Pigeon by him also. A good friend of mine had a copy and she handed it to me and said, "Read it" as I handed her the Pigeon and also said "Read".

Last one on the list of dominoes (this round anyway) is The Road Less Travelled by Mike Tong Lee. Mike is a good friend who rides a motorbike. He began this hobby, sport, obsession once retired and has written about how he took the plunge, bought his bikes, rode to a rally in Queensland from Tasmania and how he continues to really enjoy the world of motorbiking.  I put this book at the end of the 'game' so to speak as I am looking forward to reading it very  much and seeing if I can spot people in it whom I know. I do hope there are juicy bits about them.

So although I finish this post with still a bit of debt on my credit card, I do have a plan to finish off these four books and hopefully put the dominoes back in their box where they belong when they aren't being played with.   Does anyone else have dominoes lying around their house they can make a pattern with?

Monday, 18 February 2013

Question: What to do on a HOT day?

The Derwent Valley just to the southwest of Hobart.
Everything looks like dead straw.
Answer: Find an air conditioned book shop or charity shop that sells books.  Today is HOT. I keep reading the English blogs and hear about the cold. I wish we could share some temperatures.  It is almost 5:00 pm and it is 34 degrees C or 95 F.  As Tasmania is not generally a state that gets a great deal of heat we really feel it when we do.
Yesterday was my weekly motorbike group ride and it was hot and dry. Fires continue to rage nearby and everyone keeps an eye on the wind direction.

But when these days are here we must make the best of them. My house doesn't have air conditioning and with 5 pets who all want to sit on me if I sit down to read something all that fur drives me mad.
Normally our landscape is green and lush. We're in drought but rain
is predicted for tomorrow. Fingers crossed!
So today I got in the car. Turned the air conditioning on and the car was definitely the place to be. No animals, just coolness. Then decided I needed to drive some place to continue to enjoy the coolness. I know the charity shops tend to be cool. Especially Vinnie's.  The Red Cross shop wasn't bad either. I haven't been in either of these shops for several weeks to do a bit of Penguin Hunting so thought today was a good day to do it.

Took my $15.00 I had in my purse and had quite a find.  Enjoy the photos as I enjoyed the coolness.
The Hops fields are doing well as they are irrigated. Located
near a river at least the beer crop shouldn't suffer this year.

I really enjoy these original
Penguin classics.  This is L 13 published
in 1949 complete with beautiful dust jacket.
Penguin No 2556, a humorous look at
British law and "the shrinking rights
of the individual in the British Courts.
Common Sense- Uncommon Law- and Fun

An lovely old cover of Joseph Conrad.
Number 2062- published in 1963 by Penguin.

A story of "what happened when Prohibition closed
down the Old Ship, one of the last Inns of
England. Published 1958 by Penguin. Number 1338

A very humorous illustration on front
cover.  Story is about Silvio a rich Italian dilettante and his beautiful young wife firmly agree to forgo their nightly love making so he will have the energy to write a successful
novel. This is the tale of what goes wrong with
that decision.  Published in Penguin 1964. No 2072
This book looks like it should have been
published as a non fiction Pelican but has come through
as one of the main series numbers (2063).
One of the later Penguins. 
This appears to be an out of print Australian
Aboriginal tale of a young Aboriginal girl from
Adelaide who explores Melbourne in the sixties.
Sounds interesting and haven't seen it before
from Magabala Books

I can never go past a good reference book
regarding books about books. This has enormous
amounts of knowledge about the plot lines of well known
classics and their authors.  A great one for dipping into and out of.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

The Catch Up of All Catch Up Posts

Book Review:
I have not been in the mood for reading. Whatever the reason I just cannot get excited about it but I am now starting to turn that around a bit.

I read Popular Penguin's novella The Pigeon by Patrick Suskind and really enjoyed it. The story focuses on Jonathan Noel who has worked as a security guard at a bank for 30 years.  His upbringing was difficult as his father was a senior Nazi officer and there were other men who could really have been his father. His upbringing was extremely unorthodox and not too pleasant as we learn from his memories. His background continues to cause him to display many dysfunctional behaviours as a result.

As the book is such a short one I don't want to ruin any of the story for anyone. The main thrust of the tale though is Jonathan lives in a tiny room in an apartment block that he eventually buys. Everything is in its place and that gives him security. One morning as he leaves his apartment for work there is a pigeon sitting on the floor in the hallway outside his door.

It has fouled the floor which distresses him to no end and it stares at him with its beady eyes.  The next 24 hours and how he spends them, coping with the complete distress of his encounter with this bird covers many memories, fears of mortality, and possible changes in his future. Jonathan thrives on security and sameness and his world goes in circles when he doesn't believe he has the structure he relies upon.

The tale is quirky and I think it was so interesting because it is such a short novella. From memory I think it was 77 pages long.  I cared about this man and wondered what on earth was the problem with meeting up with a pigeon but combined with his memories of childhood and his coping skills it becomes a bit clearer as the story progresses.  I am sure there are people who would not enjoy this book but I am not one of them. I would recommend it.

I'd be quite happy to revisit it again now that I have read it through once.  Patrick Suskind is an interesting writer and I wouldn't mind looking at him in more depth and learning what else he has written.

Library Loot:
I had to go into town today so thought I'd pick up a couple of my books that had come in. They are interesting and hope they will kick start my reading again.  Sally Morgan is an Aboriginal writer who is best known for her wonderful biographical My Place.  If anyone wants to read a good book relating to the removal of Aboriginal children from their parents in order to assimilate them into a white culture this is a good place to start. I didn't know she had written a children's book and as I have five grand nieces/nephews under the age of 6 I am always looking for books for them to send as gifts. The book I picked up today is The Last Dance by Morgan.  The illustrations are beautiful Aboriginal depictions of various animals in the Australian culture however I thought the single sentences on each page are so gloom and doom relating to global warming I don't know if a child who wants to relax with a book at night would enjoy this. I felt depressed reading it. I think most of us know about global warming and although there are some scary situations where some world leaders still do the nay saying routine most children are stronger believers than the adults who share the world with them.

Sample sentences are: Flatback Turtle - beautiful bright purple and yellow images but the turtle is swimming in oil and it simply reads "Coated by slick oil he swims searching for clear ocean."
Turn the page and you have Yellow snouted Gecko in brilliant reds depicting hot flames and trees burning and it states "Across the hot earth she races from the blazing fire".

Maybe find it in the library or have a quick look at it but unless you want to send a child to bed with acute sadness I wouldn't recommend it for bedtime reading. Perhaps save it for a school lesson on this subject so the kids can then go on and do other happier things later in the day before they sleep. However the illustrations (designed) by Luke and Vida Kelly published 2012 are beautiful.

Next book I picked up is You'll Be Sorry  When I'm Dead by Marieke Hardy.  People in Australia either love this woman or hate her. I love her. She's intelligent, unorthodox, loves books, works as a freelance writer and is often on radio interviews. She truly doesn't care what people think of her and this adds to her quirkiness. She is also very well read.  She is a key member of the ABC First  Tuesday Book Group now being called the ABC Book Group which is great fun with much dissension regarding chosen books by  members of the group and their guests. So I am looking forward to dipping into this autobiographical account.
The inside book cover states ".........there is nothing Marieke Hardy won't write about. Welcome to a chronicle of broken hearts, fervid pursuits, passionate friendships, deranged letter-writing, the allure of the bottle, the singular charms of musicians, the lost song of youth, and three very awkward evenings with varying prostitutes- exactly zero percent of which the author's parents will want to read." 

The other book I picked up is Madhur Jaffrey's Ultimate Curry Bible.  I have always enjoyed her writings and first encountered her on an SBS television show quite a few years ago as she wandered through kitchens throughout Asia cooking the most wonderful things I had ever seen.  I have followed her from afar and as I've been in a kitchen reorganisation mood, getting rid of the old and cracked and bringing in the new and fresh as well as revisiting cook books I ordered this.

Looking forward to noting a few good recipes. The third item from the library is a DVD called Agatha Christie: A Life in Pictures.  I saw it, had never heard of it so checked it out.  I have been watching more than a few Hercule Poirot (I believe BBC ) productions on summer television (you know the shows they put on when nothing new is out there yet because it's summer) and loving them.  I had never been a fan of his but something clicked and I really enjoy his character. There is much more to him than I thought.  Agatha Christie on the whole is coming to life for me for the first time ever so this should be interesting.

The other news here and probably the reason for watching a bit too much TV and not reading much is because the fires have been back here again. My other half has been house sitting for good friends of ours for 3 weeks not far from where we live and he has had friends with their dog staying there for a few days after having to evacuate their home of more than 30 years. They had to leave behind their sheep and 30 year old donkey and get out. I find these bush fires very distressing and although they have returned home with their dog and their cat who was staying with me, the fires are still not under control and if the wind goes one way they will return to their area and if the wind goes another direction they will hit the suburb above us on the mountain. We live in the foothills of Mt. Wellington also so could be next in line. In previous years the fires have been known to come through this area and into South Hobart where we are. Temperatures are now cooler for a few days and winds have died down but Sunday and Monday are forecast to bring more hot temperatures again and if the winds flare we will be looking for the embers that precede the fire by up to 3 kms.
So much destruction of habitat, homes and infrastructure is distressing and wearing as these fires have not let up now for weeks. But we all need to be pragmatic, do what we can and just stay safe and help each other.

I did have a good day out Saturday when I attended a large food festival in Launceston in the north of the state. A friend and I went up on a bus. She had originally booked it with another friend who in turn had become very ill and couldn't go so I went in her place.  We had beautiful Tasmanian wine and food and enjoyed ourselves a great deal. Though I find bus journeys, especially on smaller buses quite exhausting. The weather was beautiful, the music very good and the food beautiful. My favourite was he raspberry pana cotta. Stunning with all fresh ingredients from this beautiful food state we have here.
So that catches me up a bit. I have a Classics Club post to put up soon but will do that in a day or two. I had hoped to join in the Les Miserable read along   but can't find the book and I am so sick of hearing about the movie from everyone that I just completely lost the mood. Maybe another time. I'd like to read something I'm not familiar with and the Classics Club plus my Fuller's Book Shop book club will keep me busy in the meantime. We just finished discussing Middlemarch this month which I have talked about previously.

So until the next post I hope everyone is well and enjoying whatever they have on the go at the moment.

Currently reading The 100 Year Old Man Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. Stay tuned for that one.