Sunday 31 August 2014

Five New Penguins and One Revisited

Today I went to the Red Cross book shop which has the best bargains in town. It is a wonderful book shop and many people use it.  It has great turnover and my South Hobart friend Brian has made it his mission to visit the shop twice a week looking for Penguins for me and Zane Grey books for him.

Penguin No. 2408 Lovely cover
When I went in to the shop today there was Brian sitting comfortably in a chair discussing books and movies with the elderly ladies that volunteer in the shop.

He is quite funny as I hear him say, " No she won't want that one, it has the ISBN on the spine. Just the ones with the numbers."  He makes me laugh as he is a real scrounger.

I am sure if he ever invited me into his home I'd find he's close to being a hoarder if he isn't already. He tends to visit our house once a week for a cup of coffee and a chat about his beloved 40's movies and western and war books.  He'll bring me a Penguin and say, "Do you have this one?"  I always tell him "No" and he says with a big grin on his face, "Well you do now.."

He has come up with heaps of Penguins, many of which I have. I put those into a box and when I get enough, take them to auction. With the money I get at auction I buy him Humphrey Bogart and Mickey Rooney movies and Zane Grey westerns.  It is really quite funny.

But now and again he comes up with the winners, the ones I don't have yet.
Both of us get enormous pleasure from the Penguin hunt.  He is getting very good now at finding the series Penguins published before 1970.  At first he was bringing me everything Penguin ever published.  I had to put a stop to that.

When I left the shop I was just getting my helmet on to get on my bike and Brian came running out of the shop. Now he is 78 and overweight so it was a sight.  He was waving a cerise Penguin in the air above his head. "Do you have this one?  We just found it."  I do have it but I said, "No a pink Penguin, a great find and gave him the two dollar coin to go back in and pay for it." "Well you do now" he said. Big smile on his face he took the 2 dollar coin back into the shop, a job well done.  It really is heartwarming, the things that give us joy.

 So here is the loot from today with Brian, the Red Cross lady and myself all searching out Penguins.

Cerise Penguin- I have it so will turn it into a Humphrey Bogard DVD for Brian

Penguin 2391 Not heard of this author. Love the cover.

Reading the back of this Penguin, No 2389 made me laugh. His books are always funny.

A Victorian novel written by an author I have not heard of either. No. 1569

This may have been Find of the Day. A Penguin Handbook No. PH 29- 1957

Friday 29 August 2014

A Springtime Walk in Winter

This week has seen amazingly warm temperatures in Hobart. After some Penguin hunting in town (will share that bounty soon) I came home on the scooter and took two of my dogs for a walk.  Everything seems to have bloomed overnight so I headed out with the dogs and camera in search of colourful flowers. So here is that walk up my road for those of you who have not been on Strickland Avenue before.
The wattle trees are in bloom.

I leaned over to look at the tiny blue flowers and Odie and Molly decided they needed to look too.

Daffodils were everywhere.

Little blue flowers were coming out under this tree.

Even the honey bees were out. Nice to see them.

The colours of these bottlebrush are beautiful. The honey eating birds like these.

Australian plants are so interesting. I'd like one of these bushes.

Lots of these trees everywhere but the sun shining on it made it particularly gorgeous.

These little ponies are a new addition to the neighbourhood. I haven't seen them before. They were very interested in us.

I don't know the name of these but they sure are a lovely blue.

These are in our front yard. They mark where the ashes of our last generation of pets rest.

Our humble home. All our money goes into my book collection. Ha ha

Thursday 28 August 2014

Four Out of Five from Library Loot Read Now

Three posts back I described going to the library and picking up five of the thinnest books I could find, checking them out and reading them in the three week allotted time period.  I wanted to break the reading slump I was in of reading part of a book then tossing it aside as I just could not get into it or lost interest.

Well I must say this trick worked.  I have now read four of the five books and so far pretty much enjoyed them.  Today I am going to talk about two of them.

The first is the Zadie Smith book The Embassy of Cambodia.  It is almost as short (69 pages) as a short story however it just doesn't fit that mould at all.

The Embassy of Cambodia is a short book of the haves and the have nots of English society.  Fatou is a domestic servant for the Derawel family in the town of Willesden.

Fatou sneaks out of the house everyday to go to the local swimming pool using the guest passes she finds in a drawer at the family's house. She walks past the Embassy of Cambodia in this residential neighbourhood and often wonders what goes on behind the tall walls. Often she knows there is a badminton game happening, other times she can only wonder.

Her main experience with life at this point in her life is the walk, the people she meets, the neighbourhood between the home she lives and works in and the swimming pool several blocks away.

The little book is about her simple, limited life and the futility of not being one of the wealthier people.  She is an integral part of the Derawel's family but you wouldn't know it to speak to them. She is truly under appreciated.
I truly felt for this girl and wanted much for her. By the ending which comes quite quickly she may be moving in an entirely different direction.  I didn't believe this was a strong story, I think it would have been better to have been turned into a proper novel because the character of Fatou had more dimensions to her than were fleshed out.

I would have liked to have known more of her past and of course her future. Seems it was just starting to take off when the ending came but I would still recommend reading this if you want something short and sweet to take up some time.

Except from The Embassy of Cambodia:
"When the Embassy of Cambodia first appeared in our midst, a few years ago, some of us said, "Well if we were poets perhaps we could have written some sort of an ode about this surprising appearance of the embassy.' (For embassies are usually to be found in the centre of the city. This was the first one we had seen in the suburbs.) But we are not really a poetic people. We are from Willesden. Our minds tend towards the prosaic. I doubt there is a man or woman among us, for example who - upon passing the Embassy of Cambodia for the first time- did not immediately think: 'genocide". 

The next book that I really enjoyed was the Quantum of Tweed by Conn Iggulden.  I really dislike the cover of this book and I don't feel it does the story any good at all.
Evidently Conn Iggulden is a successful author of historical fiction writing. He has done a series on Julius Caesar and on the Mongol  Khans of Central Asia. This is a completely different direction for him. Another short book at only 74 pages this book has by far been the best of the four I picked up.

It absolutely worked for me with a distinctive beginning, an interesting middle and an end that worked very well.

Albert Rossi is a tailor of a men's shop that has become quite boring to run. He is driving in the city one day when he accidentally hits a man in the street  who runs out in front of him.  As he gets out of his car and checks him someone comes up from behind and puts a gun to him. It turns out the man he hit was the target of a hired assassin and Albert in killing him with his car did the man a favour. The hired assassin tells him to get in his car and take off. However Albert is so nervous he doesn't back up the car to leave but instead hits the accelerator, hitting the second man and what he thinks, killing him. His mobile phone flies out of his hand. Albert jumps back out of the car, grabs the phone and his number plate to the car that has fallen off and takes off.

Later the mobile phone rings, Albert answers it and is told where to pick up "the rest of his money" now the targeted man has died.

Albert decides to take up the role as  he finds the excitement rather hard to ignore and when a call comes through telling him where the money has been left he picks it up.

He has a real experience when he not only succeeds at this job but then takes another one. Will he take another job as he finds out he is really quite good at this?  Will the policeman who spies him and has a " feeling" about him thwart his plans? This was a really quick read, I enjoyed it quite a bit and couldn't but help laughing at the predicament he gets himself in.  This is a great little self contained book in such a short style and it just seems to work. At least I thought so.  I enjoyed both of these books and am now looking forward to reading something with a bit more substance.

I have not yet read the fifth book yet and don't know if I will. I think four out of five is a good number and now I'd like to get stuck into some of my own books on the shelves so I can move them on.  I really do have far too many books but I love going into the front bedroom and gazing at the shelves and seeing them all there, mainly unread and knowing the adventures that are waiting there.

In the past two weeks I have experienced being a hired assassin, a domestic servant in England, locked up in a Thai prison and a woman who has lost her finances due her husband's unemployment with a rich friend coming to visit.

I think after all of that I need a good sit down and a cup of tea.  I wonder what experiences will come up in the next books I climb into.

What do you do when you get into a reading slump??

Excerpt from Quantum of Tweed:
This is the description just after he has hit the first man.

"In the stunned moment that followed, Albert swallowed nervously. With trembling hands, he turned off the radio-rather than have a Bonnie Tyler belt her way through a chorus that could only be slightly sinister in the circumstances. The silence was eerie. The sort of silence that is interrupted by a dead man sliding into view can never be the 'nuns in a reading room' kind. "Eerie" is very much it for the slight squeak of a size nine brogue on your windshield. It did not help that Albert recognised the brand of socks as one he had marked down to 40 percent of its full price."

Saturday 23 August 2014

How Many Literary References Do You Hear In A Day? Ever Notice?

I know we book bloggers are always talking about books during the day but quite often when I am out and about I hear references to books read or authors from all walks of life and from many sources.

Last night was the start of the two day Literary Fest held in Hobart each August. It is held at the Playhouse Theatre, an old theatre in Hobart that features mainly amateur plays and actors.  The literary fest is a short film festival though short plays are performed.  They produce six short plays varying in length from 5 minutes to 30 minutes in three separate sessions. Friday night, Saturday afternoon and Saturday evening.  After each session an experienced theatre adjudicator talks about the plays and at the end of the Saturday night session all actors and audience members are invited to a supper, drinks and awards.
Franz Kafka

I went last night and sat by myself because I can never get people to go with me to these things.  Mainly because I decide to go to them at the last minute.  I did meet people in the audience I knew and we all shared some conversations about the experience.

As the night went on the young people, mainly students from college and university presented plays they wrote, produced and acted in.  I was surprised at the reference to books and literature just in passing of everyday tasks.  Literary terms that are in our vocabulary that we may use when talking to friends or doing mundane jobs such as washing the dishes in a group of people at a party.  I began to pay attention and in an hour I heard four references to stories or authors.

Kafkaesque, Quixotic and Zombie books were mentioned. Then up popped a reference to Mary Shelly and Frankenstein. 
I thought "What a diversity and how would the conversations have changed if people had not read these books by Kafka, Cerventes and Shelly."  Not to mention all of the books and films about zombies.

I know all of us hear literary references in daily living but do we ever pay attention to it to see just how prevalent it is?   I think I'll listen more often and let you know what conversational literary references I may come across as I shop for groceries, meet friends for coffee or just hang out in the city doing errands.  How many are there?  Would love to know what you hear whether it be classic or popular. What books and references do people work into their conversations without actually talking about the contents of the book?

I often attend events or go to cafes on my own and it is great fun to listen in on conversations.  Last night I overheard three young men discussing how they eat a chocolate crunchie bar. One man said he chews all the chocolate off the whole things then eats the middle crunchie part. It really is quite interesting what you learn when sitting quietly listening to people talking around you.
The things I hear from thetheatre audience.

Friday 22 August 2014

The Betrayers by Robert Morrison (Australia)

The Betrayers by Robert D. Morrison is a short novel published by Indra Press in Australia.  It is the story of a young Aussie woman, Candace who has fled to Thailand after the sudden suicide of her father. The story of Candace begins with her in a Thai jail after being caught with a kilo of heroin.  Each chapter tells the story from a different person's point of view. The dead man's brother (her uncle) Travis has organised to visit Candace from Australia also bringing her brother Vern, a pro footballer with him. They stay with a friend who works at the Aus. Embassy and his Thai mistresses' place. We hear first from Vern, then the next chapter is from the mistress, the Mia Noi. There is a further chapter from the friend who works in the embassy then the sexy reporter who Vern meets his first day in Thailand. She wants the story of Candace to benefit her own career. Then the two remaining chapters are from Uncle Travis and finally Candace herself.

What are they going to do about Candace's situation with a possible death sentence hanging overhead.  While the concept of the story is very interesting, the delivery of it through the eyes of the main players is quite an uneven tale. The story jumped from event to event with a couple of almost bad sex scenes and even a rape tossed in.  The dialogue I can only describe as clunky.  There are several pathways that could have been developed that don't seem to be.

The author does not seem to have a lot of experience writing novels. His experience from my online reseach turned up short stories and he had a couple of plays produced in Sydney.

After I read that about him I could see that this could have made an interesting play script. There were also several misspelled words in the book which always bothers me. I would have either extended this story into a proper longer novel or seriously edited it into a short story or play.

I did like the characters but didn't get to know them as I would have liked to. Candace is such a nasty person I didn't care if they got her out of jail or not. I would have left her there. The ending arrives very quickly and I have to say I just went "What?"

There is a lot of potential with this author but he needs to get his technique down a bit more and
prioritise some of the story lines. I thought there were too many and he couldn't properly develop all of them in such a short novel. Has anyone else read anything or know anything more about this Australian author? I wouldn't mind reading something else  by this a
uthor as he gains more experience with novels to see if he develops more as a writer.

An excerpt from beginning of book:

We are hardly off the bus that brought us to the terminal building from the plane parked out on the runway before they grab me: half a dozen little bozos in chocolate-coloured uniforms and carrying them stubby little semi-automatics. We hadn't got as far as customs, even. As a front rower in the Bondi Seagulls I could a' took them all on with no trouble except they had guns and me standing there with bags under each arm--mine and Uncle Travis'. Even then I would a' had a go but Uncle Travis looks at me frowning and shakes his head so I let them put the handcuffs on me and go with them into this little room off the main corridor. Uncle Travis comes too but he is stopped at the door.


Thursday 21 August 2014

Library Loot-- Well Sort Of

Yesterday was my Play Reading class and afterwards I generally go to the State Library either to pick up something I ordered or to return things. I seldom pull books off the shelf to bring home. For one, they are generally by people I have never heard of. If I want something really good or current I need to place a hold on it and then pick it up when the library staff notifies me.  Secondly I have so many books at home that I shouldn't go anywhere near a library.

I have been in a reading slump. That's not to say I haven't been reading. I have, but I seem to get about 1/3 to 1/2 into a book and then lose interest. Nothing is really grabbing me. No idea why but we all do this from time to time.

I was walking into the library to pick up the DVD of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. I really want to see this as the short story by James Thurber has always been a favourite. I can't believe it is anywhere near as good as the short story.

I had a brain wave so to speak. My brain waves are rather innocuous so I don't get too excited about them. They can occur anywhere and usually don't amount to a lot but the idea did involve the library and I was there so why not.

I decided I would walk the stacks and pick the five slimmest volumes I could find. I knew I could finish them, I knew I'd have no idea about any of the books chosen and I knew they would vary by degree in how good, well written, interesting they are.

This is what I found as I walked up and down the aisles of fiction.

1.  The Betrayers by Robert Morrison. An uncle and nephew go to Bangkok to visit the sister who has been arrested for drug trafficking. They see her and she looks emaciated with circles under eyes and dark as bruises and the skin of her face stretch tight over her cheekbones.(from back cover.) Their father was an Australian artist who committed suicide not long before and the experience in Bangkok draws them all together. (Inside front cover of DJ) We'll see. 139 pages.

2.  Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli. In the heart of Mexico City a woman, trapped in a house and a marriage she can neither fully inhabit nor abandon, thinks about her past. She has decided to write a novel about her days at a publishing house in New York about the strangers who became lovers and the poets and ghosts who once lived in her neighbourhood.  In particular, one of the obsessions of her youth-Gilberto Owen- an obscure Mexican poet of the 1920's, a marginal figure of the Harlem Renaissance, a busker on Manhattan's subway platforms, a friend and an enemy of Federico Garcia Lorca. Somehow as she writes the two lives connect across the decades. 148 pages.

3. The Embassy of Cambodia by Sadie Smith. Now I have certainly heard of this author but not this book. Inside cover of DJ states "A rare and brilliant story from Zadie Smith taking us deep into the life of a young woman, Fatou, domestic servant to the Derawals and escapee from one set of hardships to another." Beginning and ending outside the Embassy of Cambodia which happens to be located in London. It is a story of how small things in an ordinary life always raise larger more extraordinary questions. Hmmm. 69 pages

4. Quantum of Tweed by Conn Iggulden. (From back cover) Albert Rossi has many talents. He can spot a cheap polyester at a 100 paces. He knows the value of a good pair of brogues. He is in fact the person you would have on speed dial for any tailoring crisis. When Albert accidentally runs over a pedestrian, he is launched into the murky world of murder for hire. Instead of a knock on the door from the police, he receives a phone call from a man who sounds surprisingly like Stephen Hawking. At that moment Albert Rossi decides to change careers. His life is about to get a whole lot more interesting.  This is a Quick Reads book which makes me think it must be one of those high interest low reading books. It is from England and at only 74 pages I am bound to finish it.

5.  Secrets by Patricia Scanlan. Published by New Island Public Door Ireland. It states- Kate is finding it hard to come to terms with her husband's unemployment. She and Bill are struggling to pay the bills. They don't have enough money for the children's Christmas presents. And having a boastful next door neighbour isn't helping either.  Then Kate's old friend Carmel phones to say that she'll be visiting soon. Carmel is glamorous and rich- she seems to have it all. What will Kate do? She hasn't told Carmel about Bill's job loss and she's too proud to admit that they're in trouble. But Carmel has a secret of her own.  76 pages

There you have it. I have 3 weeks to finish these five little books before they are due and then I plan to review all of them. I'm hoping to kickstart my reading habit again, gain more enthusiasm in what is still a chilly winter and at the end of those three weeks begin on my enormous TBR pile. Wish me luck.

Sunday 10 August 2014

The Opera Rigoletto at MONA Museum Cinema today

A couple of years ago an art loving gambler named David Walsh built the MONA museum (Museum of Old and New Art) in Southern Tasmania to house not only his art collection but to exhibit art from all over the world. The MONA museum is anything but traditional and it is one of the best things to happen to Hobart almost ever.  People can drive to the museum, about 20 minutes north of the city or hop on the regular ferries at the waterfront and come by boat. Many tourists prefer this method as they may not have their car with them.

The view from the waterfront.
It is a beautiful, very modern building that is specifically built to house all types of art. When you walk into the main building you take an elevator down to the fourth floor, the whole building is mainly underground, to the cinema.

The cinema is great fun as the screen is very big, the chairs are comfortable, including big comfy leather arm chairs scattered around.

The museum grounds are part of a large winery, and we entered down a long driveway through the vineyards. There are several different buildings. Some for meetings and conferences, restaurants, cafes and the main museum.  The art is almost always controversial and some of it most confronting.  David Walsh made his millions through gambling around the world and as he grew up in Tasmania he wanted to give something back to the state he loves.

People within Tasmania have free entry and people from everywhere else have to pay $20.00 per person.  MONA is very much on the world stage now for modern museums and the place is always rocking with people.  It is just such a treasure.
Act I - A casino in Las Vegas
As the museum and the grounds are quite extensive, I am only going to focus on the cinema today.

We arrived at the cinema about 10:30 this morning for an 11:00 sitting.  We got there early so we could get through the doors as soon as they opened. We wanted to sit in one of the red leather armchairs that are so comfy. There is a bar just outside the entrance door and we ordered a couple of coffees to take inside.  You can also have snack foods brought into you by staff.  Today was the last performance of this wonderful opera Rigoletto and there weren't many people there because it was a Sunday morning. 

This particular performance of Rigoletto (a Michael Mayer production) has been modernised and the setting for it was Las Vegas in 1960.  It was inspired by the casinos and the lifestyle of the Rat Pack in that year.
Rigoletto's daughter 
It was performed by the Metropolitan Opera in New York City and was filmed live. We watched the film. It felt as though we were there only we thought it was even better.  The screen is very large. (The photo of the theatre inside doesn't do it justice.) The actors were from around the world and their voices were incredible.

We sat mesmerised for the two hours and the time went by so quickly.  I have never been to a film of a live streaming of opera and it was most enjoyable. The focus was so much on their faces and you could really see everything close up.  The sound system is very good and the music surrounded us.
There are more events planned in future months.  I hope to report back on some more.  They show operas, films, theatre and art exhibitions from around the world.  It is silly because we have this wonderful facility in our back yard and we haven't attended a lot of things. Yet people come from all over Australia and overseas to attend the events that MONA provides.  I don't think I'll be so slack in the future.

Friday 8 August 2014

Books Galore at the NEW Tip Shop

Construction work at the site of the tip (dump to you Americans) had been going on for ages and nobody knew what was going on. Suddenly there was a grand opening. Yeah, a grand opening of a tip shop, the dump, landfill.  When Australia was going through the "collector's frenzy" as the rest of the world probably knows with England's Bargain Hunt and America's Pickers, Container Wars etc. everything was marked up in price sky high.  Penguins in the tip shop went from 10 cents, 50 cents suddenly to 2, 3, 5 dollars a book.

Of course nobody bought them so they sat on shelves for ages. They also took the best of the best from the tip landfill and opened up a shop in the city centre called "Collectables."  Now, that store was expensive. I found an old, smelly Penguin book that somebody thought was rare because the colour was the wrong colour for the genre. Some bright spark found somewhere that a particular book had been printed with a purple cover and the staff member said it was supposed to be green.

Well, actually it was supposed to be cerise because it was a travel and adventure. He put $20.00 on it. I explained to him it wasn't worth half that but nope, no luck. It sat on the shelf for over 2 years. Then they marked it down to $10.00. I told him again it wasn't worth half that as it was filthy dirty, yellowed and it really did smell.  Nope, no luck.  Next year it went down to 50 cents and they still couldn't sell it. I don't know what happened to it in the end.

Anyway. Collectables closed. Ha!  I knew it would. They priced themselves right out of the market and everything in this two story building went back to the.............guess where? The Tip Shop. The downmarket tip shop. Last stop - Landfill.  I was delighted. Not only that but they opened a wonderful, brand new building. Purpose built for all those things that are excellent all the way down to can't even sell it in an op shop.  This really is the last stop before landfill sucks the stuff into its bowels.

Good news is there are tons of books and they are actually sorted. Not really into any kind of genres but on fresh new book shelves that you can read, not scattered around in shopping trolleys that you have to dig through.

Well I went to the tip shop today as I was out on my bike. The sun was shining, it was 11 degrees C so not bad (52 for you Farenheit people). I hadn't been there in a while so the Penguin hunting began in earnest.  This is what I found. All of these books for $8.00 in total. Enjoy (if you're a Penguin person like some of us) and until next time......

Part of the book section. There are about 5 or 6 shelves like this. 

A Penguin Vintage Puffin
Original Puffins are harder to find than Penguins b/c children were hard on them.
Another old Puffin Book

Number 2133  Looks like a real cold war book from late 50's to 60's
Number 2816- How sixties does this look.

This is a real find. Green ones are quite collectable and this is a very early first.
Number 279

An old Georgette Heyer at 2511.  Interesting cover.

This book is from the Penguin Poets series. An interesting cover.
I find these little partial Penguins as I call them that have been removed from boxed sets.
The original boxed sets were published for Penguin's 60th birthday. I have the completed box sets
but whenever I see these little books I pick them up because I can't stand the thought of them lying in landfill with the
seagulls pecking at them. I have a whole pile of them.