Saturday, 31 August 2013

Book Information Day 5 Challenge

I've had a couple of days off from writing about my reading habits because the weather has been too lovely to stay inside.
My girlfriend was free for a bike ride so instead of blogging I was on the motorbike heading for the east coast of Tassie. There is a wonderful coffee shop there and we sat drinking coffee, eating lunch and chatting riding and motorbikes and other girl gossip.  A great day out.

We are having unseasonably warm weather and although Aussies believe the first day of spring begins on 1 September I don't acknowledge it until the equinox on the 21-22 September. So far I have not been able to find out why Australia uses the first day of the month for seasonal changes when the rest of the world doesn't.  That is probably why they do it.

The topic for today is to   List Some Tearjerkers You Have Read. 

It is difficult to talk about tear jerkers on a spring like day after a long dark winter. Books can be tear jerkers to me for any number of reasons. It can have a very sad ending. A favourite character might die or worse yet a favourite animal character might die. Now that will bring tears any time of the day or night.
It might be a sad story such as war, or child abuse or something else that is generally awful going on in the world.
A tear jerker may also be one of those great sporting achievement stories one reads. Person from down and out, dirt poor, maybe a Mississippi back road with no parents, grows up to achieve some amazingly impossible sporting achievement that no one thought he/she could do.  The team of misfits wins, the disabled adult endures terrific challenges to have a win. I actually might cry more in a tale of that over someone dying at the end of a book.

The third type of tear jerker for me might be a an extremely happy ending. Maybe the missing child is found, maybe the old dog of the elderly man won't die after all (think James Herriot stories).

I had to think back to books I have read and I did manage to remember a few tear jerkers both sad and happy.

Who loved the ending of Stephen King's short story The Shawshank Redemption

and later the film with Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman?  Can anyone keep a dry eye when Robbins gets his own back from the horribly sadistic warden and they end up in Mexico free men? Wonderful stuff.

Then there was the story Marley and Me. Not great literature but guaranteed to cause tears at the end when he dies an old lovable dog after so many years of terrible mischief.

Tuesdays with Morrie with Morrie the elderly man dying of a degenerative disease and his past student sitting by his bedside every week learning all of the lessons the man had to share of life before his death.

Another book that really got me was On My Own by Sarah Delaney. Sarah Delaney was an African American woman who lived for 109 years. She lived in a large family and when almost 100 years old she wrote her biography. At age 102 she wrote another book entitled The Everyday Wisdom of the Delaney Sisters. She and her sister Bessie never married and lived together their entire lives. Bessie was 4 years her junior. At age 106 Sarah lost her 102 year old sister Bessie when she died and she wrote a book about life without her. It was one of the saddest books. She had wonderful memories of her but just missed her so incredibly much.  Neither sister had ever married, Bessie had been a dentist and Sarah a teacher. The stories were amazing and I loved everything about the three books and the ladies themselves. Sarah lived another 3 years without Bessie, dying about 3 years later after the book was published. Mega tearjerker.

Then there are books like The Help where justice prevails, Animal Farm upset me terribly when Boxer the old horse was sent away. I almost had night mares about that. Black Beauty is another tear jerker horse story.
Time Traveller's Wife-the ending. How hard was that? Little Women when Beth dies?

Don't we just love a good tear jerker.  Well I could think of many more but I'd rather know what 3 books you have read that caused you to wipe away a little tear.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Reading Information Challenge Day 4

What is the Last Book You Flung Across the Room?

Well this is an easy one. It happened only a couple of weeks ago. I didn't actually throw the book as I don't like damaging books and I do know that some people actually enjoyed reading this.
It was The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud.  The Guardian gave it a glowing review (here).

It was also reviewed on the ABC (TV) Book Club last month and they had mixed feelings amongst their four panelists.  But I did not like it. I could not take one more page of the whinging whiney Nora. It was never ending. Okay it may have been a book about women's anger. It may have had a lot to do with women's anger in literature and how it may be portrayed. The writing is good and the author was long listed for a Booker Prize with another book but I just couldn't take one more page. Not even one more word.

Maybe if she'd had good reason to be angry and to whine and moan but I didn't think she did. I thought her self pity was just never ending.

When I supervised staff back in my years as a managing speech pathologist I used to get new university graduates who would come back to our base at the end of the day and have hurt feelings because a student's parent was gruff with them or a principal didn't appreciate the work they were doing as much as they thought he/she should.  I used to tell them to go home at night and watch the SBS World News (Satellite Broadcasting TV) and then come in the next day and tell me again what their complaint was.

I think it worked because they stopped complaining. Watching a comprehensive world news broadcast makes the rudeness of those around us pale in comparison.  I wanted to sit down with her and watch an SBS World News broadcast. Had she been clinically depressed I could have understood that. That is a real medical condition. She just didn't have the life she wanted and didn't do much about it. I just wanted to shake Nora.

But instead I shook the book. Shook it free of my grip and actually gave it away to a good friend.  She had seen the ABC Book Show and said to me, "Oh is this the one with the whiney, whinging woman?" "Well," said I, " It is but two of them really liked it. You'll probably really like it. Now it's yours and when you finish pass it on to someone else."  I know there are people who like it. I wasn't one of them.  She fell for it!  I just could not connect as another one of my friends tells me when she doesn't like a book. She is more polite than I am.  So now that question is answered I'll look forward to Day 5 of this interesting challenge that motivates bloggers writing more often on their blogs.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

15 Day Book Information Challenge Day 3

15 Day Book Information Challenge Day 3 

Day Three's Query is:   Who Are Your Blogging BFFs?

This is a difficult question to answer. Although I have many people whose blogs I really look forward to reading and following I can't say any of them are best friends yet.  As I have only been blogging a bit over a year it has taken me quite awhile to fully establish myself in the blogging community and I can't say I've really done it yet.  That wasn't the main reason I started to blog.  Although I have met Elaine now in Tasmania from Random Jottings and consider her a blogging friend the distance between us doesn't permit the every day best friend type of relationship I'd have with people who live near me or whom I grew up with. I also met and travelled with Karyn (apenguinaweek)  in England on our quest to find vintage penguin books. We had quite a successful trip but we don't really have
daily contact or share much information about families and problems that is the cornerstone of best "friend-dom."

For me blogging has been a lot of fun and I have met some wonderful people both face to face and online who share the same interests as I do.  It also organises my mind a bit and helps me focus a bit more than I normally would on my own world of books.   I know that some of my best friends who are not bloggers probably get bored stupid with my blogging tales and talking about the people I meet online.

Sharing the love of books online with others has created some wonderful experiences more as serendipity than seeking out to get to know people better.  Some bloggers I really click with and others I don't.  It has been a fun experience and although I now have more bloggers on my Facebook such as Thomas (My Porch), Elaine, Karyn and Simon (Stuck in a Book) due to blogging I have the opportunity to chat more with them in this fashion.  Maybe one day we'll all meet up face to face and have some good chats and share a drink, but I don't see that happening regularly as we live on three different continents. Having said that I'd love for a book blogger whom I do communicate with regularly to visit Tasmania and I'd be happy to show you our beautiful state and talk books.

Monday, 26 August 2013

15 Day Book Information Challenge- Day 2

15 Day Book Information Challenge- Day 2
Some suspenseful Russian History

This little challenge has been fun so far.  Today's question is:

What are your bedtime reading habits?     

I often read in bed. When I first wake up in the morning (since being retired) it is a real luxury to pick up a book with my first morning cup of coffee and read anything on the pile next to me. It could be yesterday's newspaper, book blogs that have just been posted, a book I put aside the night before or a magazine. I love magazines but not celebrity ones. Australia Road Rider (motorbike riding around the world) and Good Reading Magazine (books) are my two favourites with the occasional Delicious (ABC TV Food Mag) or ABC Gardening Australia. 
I get inspiration from the day knowing people are out there doing all kinds of fun things.

Night time is a good time to read if I'm not too tired. However I am often too tired at night to hold and read a book for a long time.  I have MS and the fatigue sometimes kicks me around a bit. So I use this time for working on my 300 piece computer jigsaw puzzles or my art books that encourage a bit of sketching, colouring, designing while I listen to audio books.  I love the soothing voices of an audio book, it is like being read to sleep though sometimes I go way too late into the night.  I also enjoy reading first thing in the morning or last thing at night because my 2 cats and 3 dogs are generally settled, my other half is either asleep or reading and the house is quiet. No interruptions. Lovely.

Last night I finished Alex Goldfarb & Marina Litvinenko Death of a Dissident - The Poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko and the Return of the KGB.  Had this been a book I never would have picked it up from the library as it is a big book and the topic would have seemed dry.
However I was riveted to this story.  It is an amazing book and although absolutely shocking I learned so much about Russian history since the cold war, the terrible power struggles of the previous political leaders to take over during and after the Chechen War and found the atrocities soul destroying.  

Shasta Litvinenko was a former Russian intelligence officer, who defected from Russia and became a British citizen,  who in 2006 was poisoned by a rare radioactive element called polonium. His death was an incredibly tragic affair and horrendous event.  It was as though a tiny nuclear bomb had gone off inside of him. It took quite awhile to determine his diagnosis and this type of poison could only have come from the highest echelons of the Russian political community. Before he died he wrote a letter outlining who organised the killing, blaming Putin and the entire incident caused an international outrage. 

The book outlines the power struggles, the events that occurred after the break up of the former Soviet Union and the lengths people would go to in order to retain or obtain political clout.  I found the history of Putin quite interesting as he grew up in a hard neighbourhood, always wanted to fit in with gang cultures and according to the authors didn't mind what cause he supported as long as he was part of a group, part of the family of decision makers. He came to power as an unknown during the second Chechen war from a KGB past. He seemed to be the type of person that didn't care who got in his way, he would win at all costs.  The writers discussed the Moscow theatre gas attacks that killed so many people and the take over of the public school where so many students died as terrorist attacks organised by the Putin regime.  

I thought it would be a difficult story to keep track of but the authors were very organised in outlining who everyone was, their roles, their objectives and what happened  in such a way I had no difficulty following the story. It was easier to hear the Russia n names pronounced by the narrator instead of trying to pronounce them in my head.   The narrator was Pete Bradbury who did a wonderful job of reading the story.  Alex Goldfarb was Sasha's  (Alexader) best friend and Maria Litvinenko was his widow. I remember quite clearly, as will most people when this event occurred as it was only a few years ago.  So much happens in the book and I really was on the edge of my seat while listening to it.  I would recommend this narrative to anyone who has any interest in history, especially that of Russia or is just amazed at what humans are capable of in such a negative fashion.  

Sunday, 25 August 2013

A Challenge About Books and Reading Habits

It is a cold, rainy Sunday here and the countdown to spring continues. Did I mention how windy it is too? So instead of riding into the countryside with the Ulysses motorbikers I am tucked up snug and warm at home and catching up on reading all of my favourite blogs. Of course, as happens one led to another. One of my favourite blogs is that of Delaisse (here).  I enjoy her blog because she is a very interesting reader, is excellent at discussing her favourite and not so favourite reads and I love her budgies and rescued battery hens and following their development. I enjoy a personal touch in a blog. Reading her blog today then led me to another blog I was not familiar with, Bex's (here)

She discusses a Book Information challenge she developed to help motivate her to write more on her blog.  I thought I would also participate as it seems quite a few bloggers are and I would enjoy finding out in more depth just what I think of all the book information not only in the heads of others but also my own.

The challenge is listed below and it would be fun if others might take it on board too if they are so inclined. So here goes Day 1. 

This is the 15 Day Book Information Challenge
  1. Make 15 book-related confessions.
  2. What is your bedtime reading ritual?
  3. Who are your blogging BFFs?
  4. What's the last book you flung across the room?
  5. Recommend a tear jerker.
  6. Describe how you shop for books.
  7. Talk about your blogging quirks,
  8. Quick! Write 15 points of things that appeal to you on blogs.
  9. Why do you blog about books?
  10. How do you choose what book to read next?
  11. Show off! 5 of your best blog posts.
  12. How do you fight off blogger fatigue?
  13. Describe one under appreciated book EVERYONE should read.
  14. Tell us your deal breaker.
  15. Who are your book blogging mentors?
15 Book Related Confessions - Day I

1. I feel extremely guilty over the number of books I have that need to be read on my own shelves so I am going to stop buying books for a period of time until I read more of them. This will be temporary but hopefully inspire me to appreciate what I already have. 

2.  When I am reading I often get distracted by my pets who feel they must be with me all of the time and if I am lying around reading I feel guilty b/c I am not outdoors with them. I welcome rainy days.

3.  I am passionate about vintage Penguin books.  I think the books, the stories and the publishing history is fascinating and I love to think about the people who once held them whether in an English parlour or a WWII trench. 

4. I am a slow reader. I envy people who can read quickly but I am not one of them. I am faster probably than most but not as quick as I would like to be. I am easily distracted.

5. I have discovered audio books and I love listening to them at night as I work on an art picture or do a jigsaw puzzle. I like the voices. One FIRM rule though- all books must be unabridged. 

6. I read the book Black Beauty by Anna Sewell about once every 5 years because I love it so much and have done so since the late 1950's.

7. My favourite book illustrator is the British artist Cecil Aldin (here) who drew many illustrations of dogs and horses in Britain. I have a couple of his prints and try to find books with his drawings in them however he is getting a bit pricey these days.

8.  I have every book that William Horwood has ever written in a hard cover first edition copy. I never hear anything about him. He is English, wrote the Duncton Wood tales and many other most interesting fantasy and fictional books. He also did some follow up books to Kenneth Graham's Wind in the Willows series that I quite like. He has a wonderful social conscious and creative imagination. I feel he is incredibly under-rated.

9. John Steinbeck is my favourite American author and I have read everything he published that I  can find but mainly when I was in my 20's. I revisit his books from time to time. I am hoping to read his Letter's book that I found a couple of years ago.

Gary Larson cartoon
10.  I don't read a lot of cartoon books. I grew up with comics and cartoons and always loved Schult's Peanuts series but my favourite cartoonist would have to be Gary Larson of The Far Side. I love his animal cartoons. I laugh until tears roll down my face. 

11. I seldom read books with animals in them because they generally seem to have tragic endings. If I am to read an animal book I have to know ahead of time if that animal will die. I don't like surprises when it comes to animals. I tend to stay away from them as much as possible. For some reason people don't have the same effect except maybe tales related to children.

12. I always enjoy books that take place in the deep south of the USA. Non fiction stories are even better. As a teenager and young adult the Civil War fascinated me and books such as Andersonville and Gone With The Wind were amazing.

13. I would rather go into a bookshop (second hand or independent) in any city more than any other store I can think of. I love bookshops. I love the smell, touching the books and the surprises in the shelves. I get very cranky if anyone rushes me and am very particular who I will shop with. They need to be in the same mindset.

14.  I love the randomness of books in the public library.  I love having a pile of books in my arms and taking them all home. I don't even have to read them all though I try. It's just knowing I can have them for awhile is enough and if I like them enough I can have them come visit again. They are easy company to care for.

15. I think technology is the best thing to have come along in my life and am happy I live in a time that I have access to being able to read anything I can think of  online. It is truly miraculous and probably the best invention of my 60 plus year old life, outside of penicillin of course. 

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Enough is enough! ! ! No MORE BOOKS.

I have a real problem with having just too many books.  There must be 4000 of them in my front room alone.  Add to them the extra 6000 that came on a disc from eBay for the Kindle that gives me 10,000 books at my fingertips.

I know R I D I C U L O U S.  I need to move them on. However I need to read them first.

If you were here in my house and I gave you the tour of the library as you walked into the front room you would see the left wall has ceiling to floor bookshelves and they are lined with my Penguin collections. The Penguins are also double shelved.  If you then looked to the right side of the room again you would see three large bookshelves filled with yet more books.  These are the non Penguins.  These are the books I just have to have when I have visited book sales, garage sales, second hand bookshops, markets and yes new book store shelves.  The percentage of these books that are unread is too embarrassing to publish.

When I got my Kindle a year ago I wanted to get books loaded onto it. Anyone who has an e-Reader will probably know how much fun it is to put books onto it, especially when confronted with all the very cheap and free books 'out there'.

I bought a disk from an eBay seller that said, "Loaded with books from all genres."  It was less than $10.00 and had free postage.  Of course I am going to "buy it now".  However a week later I received an email from eBay staff telling me I would not get this disk as the seller had been de-registered. Oh oh, must be pirated.  I said goodbye to my $10.00 and vowed to leave the book sections on eBay alone.

Two days later the disk arrived. Despite the dire warning from eBay a solidly packaged disk of 6000 books was in my hand, all neatly divided into folders with all genres and all mobi files. Not only that but it contained software to be used to transfer any book file into any other book file I wanted.

But what was really wrong with this disk? Probably the folder that said, "Best of 2011."  I think every book that was ever published in 2011 is on this disk.  Also every crime author I can think of, romance, drama, adventure, travel, comedy....this is a very illegal disk and I am sure now this seller was de-registered with very good reason. I'd be surprised if he isn't doing time somewhere.

Now my dilemma. Do I simply destroy the disk, doing the right thing?  Do I copy it a dozen times and pass it around to my friends?  Well, no. I do have some scruples. However I do not have as many scruples as I once thought I did.  I kept the disk.  I did not pass it on willy nilly. I believe too much in keeping the book markets going.  But there is no way I can destroy all these books. Besides, I justified, there are so many I'll never be able to read even if I am reincarnated in this same household for another 16 lifetimes.  So I have put it in the drawer.  Yes I do take the occasional book from it.

But now , getting back to my original dilemma.  I am going to get really disciplined here. For the next calendar year, yes 2014, but beginning NOW I am only going to read my own books.

My goal is to move on all of the non Penguin books to free up the space so my front room is only the Penguin collection.  All other books, once read will be given to friends, released into the wild or sold. I am not getting any younger and definitely time to downsize. I will put them in bus shelters, in the hands of people who would enjoy them one way or another. I will have competitions on my blog site.

I need an icon now for the blog stating these are the TBR books from my own house. I will work on that one.  However I do belong to a book group and we meet from March - November. That entails 9 books a year of which I don't have. Okay - I will allow myself to buy those books for the book group. I don't want to become a social isolate. Besides, who knows, I may already own those books. But I promise to pass them on once the discussion has finished. I will not hoard them.

As for ordering from the library,  every book listed in the Australian Good Reading Magazine, ABC Tuesday Book Club and every other source of review I read I am now going to stop that. Cold turkey?  Well, ah, no. Instead of putting everything onto the library wish list and picking them up in buckets I will only order one Library book at a time. If it takes 100 days to come in then so be it.

The Challenge:   I will read only the books I own and put the list up linked to the badge. 

This way I can keep track of what I own and what I read.  By doing this I should be able to work through my Century of Books challenge much quicker. I am sure I have a book in my house for every year of that century.  The Penguins alone would fulfil that quest.

Okay- so you heard it here first.  For all of you people out there who want to get through their own TBR books that have been collecting dust for how long??  now is your chance to join this challenge.
Feel free to take the badge and link it to your list of books you own. You might only want to do a list of 10 or 20 at a time. You might want to put up a length of time you will only read these books.  Up to you but I'm going ahead and I am looking forward to clearing out some of my beloved books to someone else.

There will be giveaways from this challenge as well.  If I don't get really stuck into this challenge of mine then you are going to get to know me not through my blog but by watching that awful show on TV about hoarders and all the psychologists that try to get them to clean up their homes. You know what I'm talking about.  So please, don't laugh too hard, just wish me luck.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Thoughts on The Buddha, Geoff and Me

This book was part of last week's Library Loot and I must say for the most part it was quite an enjoyable read (listen as I have the audio book).

I have long had an interest in Buddhism and I checked this book out because I liked the title.  I had heard of it before but it wasn't a book that stuck in my mind to pursue and I only checked it out because I saw it on the new books shelf.

Overall I enjoyed the story. However I think it could have been a bit shorter.  But backing up a bit... The story is written by Edward Canfor-Dumas.  The audio version is read by actor Nicholas Bell.

The story is told in the first person by a man named Ed. Ed is going through a difficult time in his life. Ed is a literature graduate but he has little motivation to do much with it. He wants to instantly be the author of a best selling novel but doesn't want to put in the work to do so.

He tends to spend a bit too much time on the couch with a bottle of booze.
His girlfriend Angie has just dumped him after quite a long time relationship and he is quite obsessed with getting her back.  This is looking quite questionable.  He needs to get off his backside and start thinking about people other than himself.

One day he meets a man called Geoff in a pub.  Geoff talks a great deal about Buddhism but he also smokes and drinks and his life doesn't seem to have much direction either.  He works as a window washer and it turns out there is much more to Geoff than originally meets the eye.

The story then continues on throughout discussing the conversations they have together. Geoff becomes a mentor to Ed.  Every issue or problem Ed raises with Geoff seems to have a pretty neat solution if only Ed could approach his problems from a Buddhist perspective.

At times Geoff's lectures get a bit tedious (at least they did to me) but then I know a fair bit about the teachings of the Buddha so it seemed repetitive.  If a person was approaching this book for the first time with out knowing much about Buddhism they would no doubt learn a bit about this religion from a meaningful perspective.

Religious fiction can always be a bit tricky I think but this story is not told in a preachy way and the path is always open for Ed to choose which way he goes.

There are some other characters that pop up along the way that I really enjoyed.   This book is a very pleasant read, it has some inspiring passages in it and if I was feeling a bit down or tired when hearing this story (unabridged of course) it would pick me up I think.

Sometimes things are packaged a little too neatly I thought and also resolutions were perhaps laid out also a bit too easily but there were a couple of surprises that made me sit up and take notice. I cared about the characters and was interested in seeing how it would all end up.

There are times when you want to kick Ed in the backside and tell him to get with the program but of course one can't be forced to follow pathways they are not ready for yet.  That became quite clear. But does Ed ever get off his backside and see what is out there for him??   You'll have to read the book to find that one out.

I don't rate books but if I did this would be a quick average read and it had enough ideas in it that I could think about to keep my mind ticking over.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Library Loot from the Tasmania State Library (Linc)

Our library in Tasmania is quite well resourced for a population statewide of about 500,000.  The best thing about it is the enormous choice available through internet library loan. Reserve your books online and receive an email when they come in with about 2 weeks time allowed to get into the city to get them.

Most everything about our library is good except the change of name to Linc.  Evidently our library 'lincs' to many other parts of bookish delights around the state and of course there are the education aspects of it all as well.  I still refer to our library as the State Library and will be hard pressed to say, "Why, I got that book just the other day at the Linc."

Tuesday is my library day. Each Tuesday I attend the Play Reading class at our U3A (University of the Third Age) for us old retired people. Mind you I do turn up on my hotrod 300 cc scooter so don't get the wrong picture of what this old retiree is like.  I wear my cons most of the time too because we all know with a good pair of sneakers we can run faster and jump higher.

After the U3A class I go to the two main Op shops to look for Penguin books. Vinnies and the Red Cross Book shop. They often feature in my posts.  Then onto the library. Best thing about riding the old 300 Penguino scooter, as he is called is it is so easy to park in the library lot where parking is at a premium.

The Library Loot this week is quite varied and heaps of fun and also has things to keep me awake at night.

 I saw this book in Glee Books when I was in Sydney and fell in love with it. However as the Library had it I thought I'd check it out first and make sure I didn't fall into an IMPULSE (say that in a deep voice) buy. It is from a Sydney born travel ad food writer, blogger and intrepid gourmet (from the back blurb) and the illustrations alone are enough to own it. I may still buy it yet as I do really love it. Stay tuned for a more complete review in days to come so you can also enjoy the photos and illustrations.

 My dear friend Irene put me onto this book.  It is absolutely fun, fun and more fun. Just a quick blurb- Ies de la Fressange - France's icon of chic- shares her personal tips for style and beauty, gleaned from decades in the fashion industry. I really will have to do a proper review of this book when I've had more time to look at it.  Oh dear- I can see this may turn into a buy as well. The illustrations make me laugh out loud and so motivating when one gets up on a cold, dreary winter's day and only has track pants or jeans in the closet with an old sweatshirt that has a stain on it. I really do NEED a new wardrobe.

 As there is so little excitement in my life at the moment I thought I'd just  lie in bed and scare myself witless with this title I heard reviewed on the ABC Radio National.  It starts out with these words on the back:
Women are supposed to be tender and loving- not cold hearted killers, knife wielding vampires or gun toting hijackers. Yet throughout history, there's been no shortage of less than law abiding ladies.  
Hey you know we all have our moments.

This story has always fascinated me from news reports.  As I had such a good time with the audio book of The Third Policeman (previous post) I saw this on the What's New in Audio books shelves at the Linc.  (oops I said it).
This is the story of the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko and the Return of the KGB.  I thought I'd have a listen to it and see what led up to all of the turmoil around this incident.

The last entry here is another audio book from the same shelves at the Library and I was attracted to the cover and the title. I had absolutely no idea what it was about but brought it home. Now I see it is about Ed, who is having a hard time at work,  in his love life and well generally. (according to the blurb).  Then he neets an unlikely Buddhist- who drinks and smokes and talks his kind of language. Bit by bit things begin to change.

I am a bit concerned when I think about my Loot this week.  If I really leave winter mood and delve into these I may come out as a very chicly (such a word?) dressed female fatale with a Buddhist attitude travelling around looking for great food to cook.  What happens to you if you combine all the themes of your Library Loot this week?   Oops ......another fun game for bloggers to play.

I will let you know how I go with these. They all look great and I' m starting today with the Library reads.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

The Third Policeman - What a wonderful book.

The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien
Audio Book from Naxos Audio Books-The Complete Classics
Read by Jim Norton  actor  (Unabridged) 
Source: Tasmania State Library (Linc)

Published 1967 

Last night the ABC TV's monthly book group reviewed this wonderfully funny classic.  Having listened to the entire book (as I could not find a copy of the book itself right away)  twice in the past couple of weeks I couldn't wait to hear what they'd say about it.  One of their funnier lines was, "I laughed out loud and then had to ask What the frick is going on here?"  If you have read this book, especially for the first time it is impossible to read without asking the same question. And then digging deeper into it you see why it is such a classic.
The author Flann O'brien is Irish. Very Irish. The humour is very Irish. He lived from 1911 to 1966 when he died of cancer. The Third Policeman was his second novel.  He sent it to his publisher who had published his first one and it was rejected. Instead of sending it on to other publishers he did not cope with the rejection very well.  When asked by friends what happened to the manuscript he reportedly told them at one time he had been driving down the road with the windows open in the car when the manuscript blew out of the windows one page at a time. However he couldn't hide it from his wife. He apparently told her it just wan't ready for submission. He had more work to do on it. Sadly the book was not published until after his death.

According to several web pages I read about this author he wrote under many pseudonyms.  One of the guests on the book club show last night reported that O'Brien had articles published in various magazines under various names and then would write to the same magazines, arguing with his own articles under yet other pseudonyms so in fact he was arguing with himself and evidently took great joy when both the article and the letter were published together.   I thought it was quite funny upon hearing this tale told.

Well now onto the book.  
The narrator has no name. He can't recall it as he'll explain. A murder happens immediately as one begins the book.The story then slips into a parallel universe of the absurd. The book is a satire, it has a compelling narrative even if you aren't sure what is happening the first read through it, it is laugh out loud funny and it has a very satisfying ending.   The Irishness of it has been compared to James Joyce, Spike Milligan and the humour of Tristram Shandy.  
Back to the story though.  He and a mate decide to kill a man for his money as they walk along a country road. The narrator is pretty much pushed into this whole dilemma he is not overly happy with but he does bash the man to death early on.
His mate takes the cash box and disappears with it, reappearing on the scene later telling him he will reveal where it is in due time.  

Once he is told where the money box is hidden (under the floorboards in the murdered man's house) he sneaks into the house to retrieve it one night. From then the story takes off into a surreal, otherworld manner and anything can happen. He continues to travel (time travelling a bit here) and meet the policemen who believe in the "Atomic Theory".  This is the belief that atoms can shift between objects, leading men to turn into bicycles which the policemen are quite obsessed with.  Everything in the world appears to be about the bicycle. Other concepts that are dipped into are physics, Catholicism, theory of relativity all in a very humorous adventure.  There is tragedy, there is suspense when he finds himself in dire straits and is about to be hung.  The views of hell are quite extraordinary.  Does this review sound a bit confusing? That is the book of the Third Policeman. 

I find it is a very difficult book to explain but it is a very enjoyable book if the reader takes the time to delve into it with a very open mind and just go with what happens from page to page.  It does all fall into place the more one thinks about it.  The other interesting part of this book is there are extensive footnotes that also have their own events going on not always related to what is happening in the main story.   There are some wonderful definitions of many things in the world. For example the darkness of night is described as "the secretion of black air."  There is even some eroticism in how a female bicycle is described.  I will leave that for the reader to explore. There is so much in this story that I can only touch upon it. It is for the reader to explore, enjoy and interpret as they too travel through out this incredulous story.

From my own reading, from watching the book club's review on TV last night and from visiting a few different web pages this is a story that is a great conversation of religion, death, penance (guilt), science fiction travel, and crime and punishment. It is also a thriller in parts.  I loved this book. I didn't always understand what was happening but by the second reading things did become much clearer. It is not a long book. It really needs to be read more than once and I don't think any decisions as to whether a person likes it or not should be made after only the first reading. There is so much in it and I have no doubt that I will get a copy of my own and reread this again, if not again and again. I loved it.
Would love to know what others thought of it if they have read  or really studied it. 

To view the ABC Book Club Program you can go here.

This book counts on my Century of Books challenge for 1967 (here). 

Saturday, 3 August 2013

I LOVED this Australian book by Christopher Koch

The Lost Voices by Christopher Koch
Published by Fourth Estate- Random House
Source - Bought book for Book Club (Fuller's Book Shop)

This is only the second book I have read by Christopher Koch, the first having been Doubleman which I really enjoyed last year.  It too was a selection for our Fuller's Book Shop group read.
When this book was announced as our August read I wasn't sure what to expect.  However it has turned out to be the best read I've encountered this year if not for quite some time.

The narrator through most of the book is a young man named Hugh Dixon. He lives in a hard working family but when his father takes on a large gambling debt Hugh believes he can get help from his estranged great-Uncle Walter.
Great Uncle Walter is a distinguished Hobart lawyer that Hugh knows little about. Gathering up his courage he visits his uncle's lovely home of privilege and from there an interesting family history ensues.

I don't want to give too much away in this book because there is so much that happens through out this book that I think any reader of it should uncover all of it for him/herself.

It takes place in southern Tasmania and much of the historical information is based on real fact.  There is an exciting convict escape from Port Arthur, bushrangers of the pillaging and robbing type of the late 1800's. A family history that is both fascinating.
Then there is the young Hugh himself as we follow him through out his life. The story is told in flashbacks as Hugh is in his 70's at the time he is recalling his history.

I found the story absolutely fascinating especially as I recognised many of the places Mr. Koch writes about.  I found it fascinating to imagine the bushrangers in the area I now so freely ride my motorbike through and although Tasmanians who grew up or lived in this area would find a special connection to the locale I think anyone who loves stories about art, education, settlement of a wild land, history, memoir, romance and friendship would get a great deal of enjoyment from this book.

There were so many themes ranging throughout the 100 year old history. There were moral dilemmas, ramifications of violence and never very far from the surface is always the absolute consequences of actions completed without fail. Friendship turns to betrayal. Besides all of the day to day actions occurring is also the ongoing interest Hugh and his great uncle share in the Art World. This is a very enjoyable aspect of the entire story from start to finish.  I loved Hugh. He is a great character, full of integrity who leads a life that made me want to know more about everything he did in his life. I genuinely loved the characters in this book. The good guys are good and the bad guys are awful.  There is violence in this story related to the historical settlements of TAsmania in the 1800's but they are in context and makes one appreciate it was in trying to tame a wild land. 

I could definitely enjoy reading this book a second time and highly recommend it.  Would love to know what others think of it. 

Our book club discusses this book on Monday evening and I will report back as to what turns up in that discussion. I am really looking forward to it.  Also by the beginning of the week I should have some Library Loot to post up as well as maybe a little book trivia gleaned from my most recent Good Reading magazine that came in the mail the other day. More on that later.

Source National Library of Australia