Sunday 24 November 2013

Travelling Offers Little Time for Reading

Okay, I am trying to catch up but haven't had a lot of time.  Am reading and will write about some of that later on but I can say the best book I've read lately is called  Stop What You're Doing and Read This.  It is a collection of essays written by writers such as Jeanette Winterson, Zadie Smith and Mark Haddon to name a few.

I would read an essay or two each night before lights out and I think it is one of the most inspiring reads about reasons to read I have come across in ages.  I will definitely reread it once I get home because I'd like to pay more attention to it.

There were so many quotes I'd like to share and it is the first book I have gone through with a pen, yes not pencil, but a pen and marked thought after thought so I could come back to them.

I would like to share some of those quotes at the end of future
posts and I know the Travellin' Penguin would get a big kick out of them as well.

I think I may do a bit of that in the future.  It's lovely to read other people's thoughts about what they read and also why they read.  So many different thoughts out there in the world about books, E-books and other forms of writing.

I find as I sit in airports I cannot concentrate reading much because of the noise. I need a quiet environment to read these days so once I get on the plane I reach into my stash of newspaper pages, Sunday supplements, previously cut out articles and small books of essays or short stories as well as magazines.  It is only the long haul overseas flights where I can actually settle into a novel as I find watching movies impossible as sound systems are so poor. So not many movies for me even if there is a good title or two.

As I am visiting several friends and relatives and computers are of varying availability I must rely on the good hearted nature of everyone to use theirs as I haven't brought my laptop with me this trip.  I don't see family members very often so don't get on line much other than to check messages from home and the occasional Facebook page.

I will be back with  more regularity in future and must say I do enjoy tapping into a post of one of my favourite blogs listed on this site to see what others are doing in the meantime. It is more motivation and creates a bit of excitement of things to put online once I get home. Being away from home offers time for thoughts and reflection on more directions for my own writings to go.

I imagine things here will be a bit hit and miss until after Christmas when Australian summer well and truly bursts onto the scene in Tasmania and long lazy days will permit many activities I enjoy  including spending time with the Travellin' Penguin's adventures. Happy Thanksgiving to the American readers. I am spending it in Tennessee with my elderly mother and brother's family and it is the first one I've had together with my sister who is flying in from California, brother and mother all in the same place since childhood. That was a long time ago. Thankful times.

Saturday 16 November 2013

Jack London Book Illustrations - First Edition covers.

This is the second part of my short Jack London series. If you have missed it you can read it in the previous post.  Jack London was introduced to me at a very young age. His name was always around us growing up in Michigan even though he was a Californian. His books appealed to young and old and the stories of Call of the Wild and White Fang were harsh introductions into the wildnerness that was north of our country. Stories of the Yukon were always popular with kids and not only the boys. I loved them though they weren't always easy stories. Especially if you loved animals the way I did.

The Jack London Historic site has published a calendar for 2014 and illustrated it with his first edition book covers.  I really enjoyed looking at all of them so thought I would share them in the event there may be other Jack London fans out there.  So if you're not a Jack London fan then stop here but if you enjoy book covers from the early 1900's have a look.

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Jack London Historic Museum and Park Part I

I first read about the Jack London Historic Park in the Good Reading magazine (here) in Australia. As soon as I saw the article I put it on my list of things to do when I got to my sister's place in northern California.
As it turned out the park is only an hour's drive from her house and she had never heard of it.  So Sunday morning we loaded the car with picnic food and drinks and off we went.

From San Francisco you drive north to Sonoma and then onto Glen Ellen. The centre is a part of Glen Ellen and very easy to find. Ask any local.

Driving through Glen Ellen.
 We got a bit waylaid at the Jack London wine and chocolate centre and we had to pick up a few things at the Jack London shopping centre and deli.  Do you think maybe they use his name a bit much?

We found the park with no trouble at all and parked the car, waved at some ladies in the carpark who had finished their ride with their horses and we walked back towards Jack's house.

Jack London's history is an incredible one. The things he accomplished in his very short life amazed us.
(main source of following information from Jack London Ranch Album -Heritage Publishing Co- Valley of the Moon Natural History Assoc.)

Born in San Francisco in 1876 he went on to do the following things:
  • 1885: Discovered the world of books at Oakland Public Library where he became avid reader
  • 1889: Graduated from Oakland Cole Grammar School and did odd jobs to buy a skiff and sail around Oakland Bay
  • 1890-91: Worked full time at a pickle cannery. Quit that job and bought a sloop with borrowed money
  • 1893: Sailed as a seaman for seven months to Japan
    Jack London's Library and writing room

    A scene from one of the bedrooms
  • 1893-94: Worked as a laborer in Oakland but tiring of this became a hobo and travelled much of the USA and Canada
  • 1895-7: Completed course at Oakland High School and attended University of California Berkeley
  • 1897: Traveled to Klondike for gold rush but did not strike it rich
  • 1898-9: Unable to find employment, began writing 19 hours a day. Rejected for months before first sale to Overland Monthly for $5.00
  • 1900: On 7 April married E. Maddern. Evidently his first marriage was not a love match but a marriage of convenience and to bring forth healthy children.  He also met Charmian  Kittredge (his future wife and love match)
The stables where he kept his shire horses.

The vineyards in front of his house. (in fall colour)

  • 1901: Daughter born
  • 1902: Second Daughter born while Jack was vacationing in Europe after spending 3 months on assignment in London.
    Jack London
  • 1903: Publication of 2 significant books: Call of the Wild and People of the Abyss, an in-depth sociological study of the slums of London. Separated from his wife.
  • Set up a ranch, buying more land over coming years and instigating agricultural practices based on the Chinese practices that were 4000 years old. 
  • He also preached about Socialism at Yale University. He preached widely against capitalism after observing the extreme poverty in the streets of London when living in England.
  • 1904 Covered the Russo-Japanese war for Hearst Publications
  • 1905 Married Charmiane Kittredge after separating and divorcing his first wife. 
  • 1916: After a history with kidney disease he died 22 November.
He died at the age of 40 having written more than 50 books and countless numbers of short stories and magazine articles.

Sunday 10 November 2013

Penguins and Sandcastles

As readers of this blog will know I am visiting family in the USA.  For some reason I have not had much jet lag, must have been all the drinking of water and the lovely flight I had on Virgin Airlines even if the food wasn't that great. 
Urban Ore- Novato CA
 I am visiting my sister who lives just north of San Francisco.  Yesterday she took me to a second hand bookshop in quite a posh suburb and it was the most sanitized shop I have ever seen. Books weren't very old and in excellent to mint condition. Lots of beautiful novels by great authors but I couldn't get in the mood. It was too clean.

I really like a bookshop that puts dust in my nose and dirt on my hands.  The kind where you find wonderful old quirky and out of print books and sneeze the whole time you're looking at them.

I thought this was quite touching.
Today we found such a place. My sister has taken me to it before when I have visited. It is called Urban Ore and is in the Novato area north of San Francisco. Any local would be familiar with it because it is like the largest tip shop known to man. There are old pianos, doors, window frames, dishes, clutter and you name it you will find some version of it.

My sister was looking at old doors with glass panels in it. I went straight to the books and records. I listened to the Beatles 65 LP album as I rummaged through shelves of books. Good condition? Most of them. Dusty? Absolutely. Fun? Yes

Now, my friends know I collect vintage Penguin books and I have never found a vintage English published Penguin book in the USA in my life.  But this area has lots of universities and lots of readers and they read Penguins at one time.  I found one vintaged numbered Penguin from the main series. I didn't have my  list with me and I probably already have it. It does look familiar but it was the only Penguin in the place and the book area is very large. 


Of course I bonded with the little fella and thought, "Right. Now you will live in a large colony of Penguin books in Tasmania for many years to come."  So into the bag he went.  I also found another Penguin book that is part of the Penguins 70 anniversary series which is newer but they are lovely little books. These seemed to be the only two Penguins in the place so thought they'd travel back to Australia better together than alone. After all it is a long flight.

The other books looked interesting as reading books so I picked them up as well.

Books bought included: Vintage Penguin No. 1922, Henry James, Spoils of Poynton; Melissa Bank's The Worst Thing a Suburban Girl Could Imagine (Penguin 70's series); Circuit by F. Jimenez, Story of a Migrant and A Signature On A Portrait- Highlight's of Tolstoy's Thoughts. This little book is also signed by the author. He evidently lives in California so must have been locally published.

The rest of the day was spent at Ocean Beach in San Francisco attending a sand castle competition near the Cliff House.  We walked several miles down the beach and back and by the end of the day I was happy to get back to my sister's place to now collapse into bed.  Funny how jet lag starts to catch up about 2 or 3 days later.
This book is Moby Dick. There was a large whale nearby but the book caught my attention.

The Sydney Opera House. It was next to the Great Wall of China exhibit.

The Statue of Liberty
So American Penguin hunting has begun and so far it is going okay.  But lots of fun is being had along the way. We still have several weeks to go.

Thursday 7 November 2013

Almost a Penguin Pot

As this post is published I will be cramped into an economy seat on a Virgin Airline flight to San Francisco from Hobart/Sydney probably trying to either sleep or read. Maybe I'll be engrossed in a good movie. I remember the last time I flew long distance (home from England) I watched the entire series I of Downton Abbey. That sure helped with the long time in a small seat.

My birthday is happening while I'm away and as my other half Tom will be home caring for our multitude of furry kids I won't be sharing it with him.  Last night he came in with a large box and asked me if I wanted my birthday present early.  What a silly question.  Was he really expecting me to say, "No, I'll wait until I get home." ?

I opened up the large box (don't you just love a large box wrapped up in gift paper), Koko the cat paying close attention to the cord wrapped around it now moving around a fair bit and I was very happy to see this beautifully Penguin orange teapot and two large cups.

I love it. Thank you to Tom, Wally, Koko, Molly, Odie and Uncle Buck who all signed the card.
I'll be home in the Penguin library in no time, with a cup of tea as I catalogue probably yet more books.

It is very lovely when one has a happy day.

Wednesday 6 November 2013

Travelling America- Family, Friends and Books

The Penguin and I will be heading to the United States on Thursday morning.  I am not looking forward to the long flights though I always cope with it okay.

The Kindle is loaded with some books. Some of the titles are Murder in Mississippi by John Saffran (Australian view on the trial of an African American man convicted of killing a well known white supremacist). I am already well into it.

I also have Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry's 1985 Pulitzer Prize winner, a Michael Connelly mystery, Dangerous Games by Michael Prescott, The Empty Family by Colm Tóibin, Jupiter's Travels by Ted Simon (motorcycle travel book) and Dreaming of Jupiter (the follow up visit years later by Ted Simon).

I included some Mark Twain, Charles Dickens and Jane Austen in case I'm feeling I need some solid brain food too.

E-books are great for travel. All of those stories in one small packet.

Plans so far include visiting my sister just north of San Francisco. Hoping to go to the John Steinbeck Centre in Monterey CA and the Jack London State Park/Museum in Novato California.  Then onto Florida to stay with a friend for a week. We have written to each other for 25 years but not seen one another. We used to work in the same school all those years ago. We're going to do some American Mall shopping and some touristy things in Ft Myers Florida where I used to live. She is taking me on a tourist ranch type tour that often has an alligator on the bus. That could be interesting!

After all that hilarity I'll be flying to Nashville Tennessee to stay with my mother and brother's family for two weeks. That will include a Thanksgiving dinner which I have not done in two decades as well as seeing the Macy's Day parade on TV that morning for the Christmas season kickoff.

I am also hoping to get to a large book shop I mentioned earlier and spend some time with my 'Lil' Brother who I haven't seen in almost 3 years.  My mother is close to 90 years old now and it will be nice to spend time with her. She is addicted to vintage films and no doubt I will see several movies from the 1940's and 50's and she will tell me about everyone who features in them as well as additional stories to go with it. She is to old movies as I am to Penguin books. We love them.

Then I head back to California again for another short week with my sister. I'm hoping we might see City Lights bookstore in San Francisco this year but we'll see what's going on. In any case I'll enjoy the warmer weather I'll have in California and Florida as we're going back into a cold snap here for the next 10 days.

So as they say in Kansas, I'm off to see the Wizard…………..

Sunday 3 November 2013

Books for the Century 1900- and More.

This week has been very busy and will continue to be now for the next 5 weeks.  I finished Cold Comfort Farm for our Monday night book group. I won't review it because it has been reviewed to death but I will say I really enjoyed it.

It is the story of Flora who is orphaned at the age of 19 and needs to find a place to live. She is a very organised tidy person and she loves nothing more than tidying up everybody else's life.

She writes to all of her relatives, most of whom are very distant and asks for a place to live. She ends up at a distant cousin's farm in rural Sussex and falls into a household of extremely quirky, eccentric cousins.  Her job is then set for her to sort out everyone's life and she doesn't forget the animal's either. The state of the cows and the bull is cringe worthy.

It took me awhile to get into it but once she steps foot onto the farm everything falls into place.  I have read both positive and negative reviews of this book but I would certainly put it in the positive pile.

The writing is good though it takes awhile to get used to the dialect she uses of the countryside.  I always enjoy dialect and I feel it adds a great deal to the feel of the region.

I would definitely recommend this book. It also counts towards my Century of Books challenge (here) as it was published in 1932.  Also it is book number 140 in my vintage Penguin Book Collection.

I am looking forward to the discussion at the book group tomorrow night.

Now, speaking of Century of Books Challenge. I am participating in it but not nearly as quickly as others who have really taken it to heart.  However I did accidentally find a book in my favourite second hand bookshop in Hobart (Imperial Books on Collins St) of this wonderful book that relates to the challenge very, very much.
It is entitled Brilliant Careers: The Virago Book of 20th Century Fiction. It lists the name of an author and the associated chapter provides an excerpt from the recommended book for every year of the 20th century starting with 1901 and ending with 2000.

I have been thinking a great deal about my reading habits for 2014 and I have decided I will very much focus on the books I already own. I also know from perusing my library in The Library Thing that I have a book published for every year of the challenge with the Penguin books alone.  So next year will focus on the Century of Books challenge using my own library of books both Penguin and non Penguin.

Of course I will still look at current books and books that tend to fall out of the sky unexpectedly. But that will be the focus. I actually think I can stick to that plan.

This Thursday I pack up and head to the USA. I will be visiting three states, California (my sister), Florida, (a good friend I haven't seen in years) and Tennessee, (my brother's family and my mother).
How crazy is this? McKay's Bookstore (second hand books,CDs & LPs )
Nashville Tennessee

I hope to visit a second hand book shop in each location and Nashville has an enormous second hand book shop called McKay's  (here).  They have miles of second hand books and they are all organised very well.  So I will continue to be on line with updates and Facebook with trip photos. If you'd like to participate with me on this trip be sure to check back.

I hope anyone interested in the Century of Books challenge will enjoy the Table of Contents list of authors for each year of the 20th Century.  If you can't read the pages and would like more information let me know in the comments section and I'll be happy to send it to you.