Three writers that I enjoy, admittedly some more in the past, have consecutive daytime sessions on at the Melbourne Writers Festival this year. I will be in the last week of my annual leave, freshly returned from caravanning to Woolgoolga and am going to enjoy a solo matinee of sorts. And should be able to beat those pesky comuters home on PT too.
I took a photo of my reads for the past 6 months (missed a couple though), and perhaps it’s books from the early 20th century, or maybe it’s just history books, but boy do they LOOK dull. I’ve loved them all regardless, but they hardly bring the excitement factor.
Jonathan Raban – Coasting (1986)- I was worried I might have fallen out of love for this writer since not reading him for 15-odd years, but his book about circumnavigating Britain delivered (yet again). My favourite travel writer I think. 4 stars.
Nicholson Baker – House of Holes (2011) – Delightfully pervy and erotic with a lot of imagination. I thought this was his best book of all. 4 stars.
Arnold Fellows – The Wayfarer’s Companion (1937) – I learnt a lot about the architecture of cathedrals and monasteries in Britain, amongst other things. 3 stars.
Julien Gracq – The Shape of a City (1985) – Magnificent tribute to his home city of Nantes, France in the early 1900′s. Almost unbearably nostalgic. 4 stars.
Maurice Ashley – Louis XIV and the Greatness of France (1946) – A shortish summary of his life and legacy. A great read. 3.5 stars.
A.R.Burn – Agricola and Roman Britain (1953) – Another short summary of this well documented Roman born AD40 just before the conquer of Britain. Loved it. 4 stars.
E.S. Turner – Amazing Grace (1975) – A bit of an embarrassing admission of mine to read about all the silly and eccentric Dukes of England. 3 stars.
Arthur Hayden – Chats on Old Furniture (1905) – Some nice old pics and strong words about the merits of Jacobean, Stuart and French furniture. They all seem to love Chippendale too. Some of the pieces are ghastly! 3 stars.
Robert McFarlane – The Old Ways (2012) – It’s won many accolades however the best stories are in the first half, and it gets a little dull and repetitive beyond that. What’s with 68 pages of Glossary, Bibliography and Notes at the rear? 3.5 stars.
A.H.M Jones – Constantine and the Conversion of Europe (1948) – The first of the Teach Yourself History series that I had to slog through, possibly since the author seemingly had many reservations about this not very intelligent, and easily angered Holy Roman Emperor, but also because the road to Christian unity was littered with squabble after squabble with purist offshoots who all sounded similar after awhile. 2 stars.
So, the pancreatic episodes continue, and Kim needed to rush me in to Emerg in January and March (on my birthday) – both times I stayed less than a day (3 hours for the first, and 12 for the second). Both times I needed no painkillers as the intense pain simply subsided after an hour of agony. On both occasions I had a glass or two of red wine the night before, so my latest theory is that mild alcohol levels are triggering things and I’m now 6 weeks into a lull in that regard, and things seem fine. Still too scared to go far from home for the moment though.
In more positive news, I started running again – beginning at a low base and working my way back. Doing 20+ minutes around the Tan was humbling, and after 8 runs I’m not sure I’ll ever get back to 15′s, but it’s slowly coming back to me. I’ve been offered membership in the Dad’s Army Running Team at work, which is humiliating since I’m not yet even 50, and I’m not ever going to be a father of a human, but I accepted since the pain is lessened listening to the stories of other runners. I even had a great conversation about the Roman Empire and the conquest of Britain whilst tottering around the MCG last week in my lunchbreak.
Our neighbours are selling up their Pascoe Vale cafe and house and heading over to Greece for a year, so have been tidying up their highly abandoned front yard, and generally are home a lot more. I’ll miss Yoda and her mother and their gregarious warmth, and think about their open future. I still think of former neighbours and wonder about their health – Betty (who is surely dead by now), Bill the TAB-loving Taxi driver with angina, and his strident, forthright Yugoslav wife Zora, who seemed to do everything around their place, and who wanted me to acquiesce to her views on plants to put in my garden and colours to paint the house. I bet they are still bickering in Coburg somewhere.
That Marcel Proust’s first volume of “In Search of Lost Time” was published, I decided I would start on it, as there was a good chance it would stay unread otherwise. There was never any question that I would finish the full 3000 pages of the 7 book work, but the first, “Swann’s Way” seemed achievable.
In many ways I was quite charmed by the book and it’s famously long sentences. I immediately recognised it as something Gerald Murnane must have been heavily influenced by, though when I Google the two names now, I discover more crossover between Samuel Beckett than the Frenchman. Apart from mild irritations about a boy’s obsessive wish for nightly kisses from his mother, and the overly long and repetitive jealous episodes of Swann when seeking to know the whereabouts of Odette, it was really quite a good read. The parts about small town French life, the eccentricities of Aunt Leonie, maid Francoise and the social life of the Verdurins were such fun. 4 stars.
Hot on the heels of this I found a charming little volume at Alice’s Bookshop recently. My version, published in 1929, “A Short History of Hampton Court” by Ernest Law (which I now see is an e-book if you’re into them) was a quick read with many quaint drawings of the rooms, the cupolas, the Great Hall and the many splendorous windows. Surprisingly, the history started with Cardinal Wolsey’s occupation at around 1514, with only a line or two about its former use by the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem. It seems odd to me how quickly the info drops off before the late 1400′s, since the value of a nationwide census was shown with the Domesday Book of 1086. I guess religious orders are boring.
If you didn’t know English History, you’d be frustrated by this book, as it really only deals with who stayed at Hampton and what happened there – the masques / plays – Shakespeare’s visits, and numerous stories of haunted rooms. The sheer size and opulence of the Palace was just staggering, and it was considered the finest in all Europe at the time – 1200 rooms, kitchen fireplaces that were 7 foot tall by 18 foot long, capable of roasting entire bulls within. All throughout is made mention of Wolsey’s exquisite taste in furnishings, artwork and precious stones and how he lived in finer splendour than Henry VIII, which may have even brought about his downfall . I’d just love to visit it next time I go to London.
She was pfaffing about, darting in and out, and pecking Fergus when we heard a small yelp and then the back left leg limp began. But it didn’t abate overnight and she was unable to bear weight, which pretty much reduced her to a 2 legged dog over the weekend since her front right is completely stuffed also.
The cat flap for toilet breaks was out of the question, so before we went back to work, I got her looked at to find my 13 year old has a footballing injury, and has torn her cruciate ligament and needs immediate reconstruction surgery. Then they said it would be like an 85 year old having a new hip and she’d be in for 3 days “just in case”. So, I’m working from home on Friday in a nursing role and hoping it doesn’t go downhill as quickly as it can when your dog loses its independence. I’m hopeful though.
They’ve been on my desk for months awaiting a fair hearing, or a night when I could be arsed, and now that I’m getting DC’d playing WoW, the time has come for the shortest of summaries.
Koch’s “The Dinner” first captivated me with it’s Lobster cover, and then infuriated me with it’s ending. A provocative and calculated attempt to goad anyone with a sense of justice, and like The Slap, provide fodder for lacklustre dinner party conversations, if anyone has them anymore. I couldn’t believe how angry this book made me, so 4.5 stars for trolling me so comprehensively.
Next up, the book that cemented Australian Patrick White’s Nobel Prize for Literature in 1978, “Voss”, which won the Miles Franklin and a book whose enigmatic title I’d long wondered about. Probably the 4th White book I’ve read, but one of the best. An imaginative remake of the failed 1849 cross-Australia trek by Ludwig Leichhardt, the utterly impenetrable Voss, driving further and further into the desolate interior, his mind awash in a cool, spiritual relationship with a tortured Sydney schoolmistress. It was a great contrast between their circumstances and in White’s sparse hand, it was a memorable exchange. 4 stars.
Last up, a populist map book by Simon Garfield “On the Map”, full of pics and oddities and chapters that explored everything from Ptolemy to Harry Beck’s London Underground map and Sat Nav. systems. Extremely readable, and had me searching Ebay and Abebooks.co.uk for a nice fresh 1908 copy of Baedeker’s “London and its Environs”, where I’ve since unfolded it’s delicate maps and read all about the beheadings in and around The Tower. 3.5 stars and great fun.
It’s quite simple. I wanted to buy a $1.99 game on the Google Play store for my phone, to replace the wonderful Ingress. Purchase failed: Error Code blah blah etc…
I look it up, and it turns out my Google Wallet account is apparently suspended, pending verification that my credit card is actually mine.
Only, what they want me to do is scan my drivers license, AND a utility bill and attach them to an online form, and then wait 5 days for a response. Online I read of plenty of people saying that this was not enough and that its taken months of generic template replies and guff, and they are no closer to being able to purchase anything.
So, goodbye Google Wallet – I refuse to give you more than I need give any other vendor in the online market place. From a customer who’s never once failed to make a payment, or had anything less than a perfect financial history of bill paying etc.
I am astounded and angry. I guess Ebay and PayPal are the winners, but I still don’t get my game. Oh well.
As a boy of maybe 10 or 11, on a miserable day like today, in the middle of a crime fighting mania that would last 3 months tops, I confounded my parents by sitting under a rug beneath the Melaleuca on our nature strip, sheltered from the gentle rain. I had cut out a small snippet of The Sun which from memory was called Stolen Cars and listed maybe 50 car registration plate numbers in a small table.
My main aim was to do my bit as a citizen and call the Police when one of these cars drove past, which was once every couple of minutes; I was sure that being so close to the crime centre of Reservoir meant my strike rate would be decent, but I never did make that phone call.
I only lasted two weekends in those pre-Walkman days before a new mania took hold of me. I don’t remember if it was Astronomy, Bird Watching or Biggles books, but they were all around that time and were equally exciting and life changing.
I am back to my usual self and habits now, so that means sneaking in a beer whenever I can (ha, that sounds so furtive), and to procrastinating with my reading by playing on my Samsung Note 2 at all times of the day and night. There’s just no way a book can hope to compete, so after I’ve checked Tour de France live comments on the Skoda Tracker, and browsed Twitter, RSS feeds and my guild website, the book gets about 5 mins of attention before I crash. On the way to work I play Ingress – that’s another post I suppose.
So, it’s no surprise that the most recent books read all get a lacklustre rating from me – they barely stood a chance. The Emigrants by Sebald was what I call “my sickness book” as it tainted my growing interest in history to the point where the association with nausea meant I thought I would have to throw it away. I felt physically ill looking at the cover. Remarkable! Although the critics would disagree (it won the Berlin literature prize) I thought it was his worst. 3 stars – and mainly for the Ambros Adelwarth story. I hope a dud Gall Bladder hasn’t ruined Sebald for me forever.
After that, history and war books lost their appeal, so I sought the ribald sensibilities of Mario Vargas Llosa’s “The Notebooks of Don Rigoberto” which was just what I needed. The Peruvian has quite an intellect and imagination, but read superficially the book is still quite an erotic blast, and I got an education about the works of Egon Schiele in the process. 4 stars.
Last was The Voyage by Australian Murray Bail, which I found both frustrating and contrived but continued to turn pages nonetheless. I have since read a very favourable review by John Banville who pointed out the uniqueness of the writing and the unpredictable elements, but I’m not convinced. 3 stars.
Really can’t be bothered writing a proper synopsis of some recent pancreatitis problems, and since I’ve told my sorry story 20 times, I’m just going to say I’m back to 66 kilos from 61 and I’m feeling fine and am already bored of being back at work after an 8 week absence. Have even snuck in a couple of pots of stout this past week with no adverse effects, though I don’t feel I’ve quite got my past liking for it back yet – tasted slightly odd to me.