Drinking the days: biographies and oysters

January 28, 2020 at 10:36 am | Posted in Australian memoir, Christina Stead, Democracy, Dennis Glover, Kay Schubach, Living creatively, mental illness, optimism, value of the arts | Leave a comment
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‘Set wide the window. Let me drink the day.’ American writer Edith Wharton (1862-1937) wrote that. I love it and would often think of it after opening the curtains first thing.

But her words took on a tragic tone in the mornings after the bushfires began. We could no longer open windows. Canberra’s air quality suddenly became literally the worst city in the world.

Actually it wasn’t as sudden as it seemed. Canberra’s air quality has been gradually worsening in the past few years, along with the rest of the country’s, thanks to our Government doing less than nothing about vehicle and other emissions responsible for raising CO2 levels.[1]

But I was aiming at an uplifting, positive post, damn it! I normally slant towards the upbeat, the whacky, the whimsical, but before veering in that direction, a serious point needs to be acknowledged. Continue Reading Drinking the days: biographies and oysters…

Hectic Reading. Starting all over again (3)

January 16, 2020 at 12:14 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

via Hectic Reading. Starting all over again (3)

Reinventing our lives: surviving with the help of literature

December 28, 2019 at 6:11 am | Posted in Andrea Goldsmith, Australia behind, Bookshops, capitalism, Charlotte Wood, creativity, depression, Inequality - Australia, mental illness, optimism, value of the arts, writers' health | Leave a comment
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When I was in Dublin in September I bought some wonderful books. A favourite is the intriguing, personal and beautifully written Hidden City: Adventures and explorations in Dublin by Karl Whitney (Penguin, 2014). (I’ve lent it and others to friends and can’t take a photo of its cover or some other favourites at the moment!)

Stitched Up: The anti-capitalist book of fashion (Pluto Press, London, 2014) is a compelling account of how the fashion industry exploits and damages both the environment and individuals. Tansy E. Hoskins’ exposé was an eye-watering shock to me on both counts.

I had no idea about the toxic chemicals involved in high-fashion clothes production, or how, for instance, models are sometimes treated as they are in the pornography industry – dispensable and beneath contempt.

Continue Reading Reinventing our lives: surviving with the help of literature…

John Clanchy’s brilliant new novel ‘In Whom We Trust’

December 12, 2019 at 7:22 am | Posted in Australian novels, Finlay Lloyd, Historical novels, John Clanchy | 1 Comment
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The best historical novels vividly evoke the past while illuminating the present. Award-winning writer John Clanchy’s new novel In Whom We Trust exemplifies this. Set in a country town in Victoria just before and during World War I, the plot is narrated through the viewpoints of Father James Pearse and two orphans who came to Australia from England, Thomas Stuart, formerly a London chimneysweep, and Molly Preston, at thirteen or fourteen, a few years older than Thomas.

Father Pearse’s housekeeper Mrs Reilly (who even irons his newspaper for him) tells him one evening that a mysterious visitor came while he was out walking. He is intrigued, and so are we, as Mrs Reilly in her infuriatingly vague way continues ‘ladling out this miserable stew of half-facts’ about the visitor.

Later that night Pearce discovers that it is Thomas Stuart, who lived at St Barnabas’ orphanage where Father Pierce was chaplain for a couple of years. Father Pearce recalls Brother Stanislaus ‘and his austere band of Brothers’ there. Thomas, who is now (just) old enough to enlist for the First World War, has something to tell Pearse. Continue Reading John Clanchy’s brilliant new novel ‘In Whom We Trust’…

Jules Clancy’s new e-book, Love Your Waistline and Your Food

October 19, 2019 at 5:43 am | Posted in Cook books, health, nutrition, recipes, writers' health | Leave a comment
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Jules Clancy (pictured) was living in Cooma when I first discovered her blog, https://thestonesoup.com and I was working at the National Rural Health Alliance. Jules was a good example of an enterprising rural woman and I shared much of her nutritional and culinary advice as well as her blogs and books with my readers.

She is a good writer and has a knack for making healthy cooking fun. At her blog and website you’ll find a goldmine of easily digested information and this book is the latest of a long series of excellent e-books. Love Your Waist Line and Your Food: A food lover’s guide to healthy cooking and eating habits in 28 days includes a low-carbohydrate eating plan, simple recipes for meals, snacks and sweet treats, and much more, all written in Jules Clancy’s accessible style.

Why low-carb?

Carbohydrates affect blood sugar levels, creating a roller-coaster of highs and lows that you’ll notice in big fluctuations in your energy. Carbs are addictive, they interfere with hormones such as the ones that regulate hunger and the feeling of fullness, they affect brain health, feed cancer cells and give you wrinkles. If these reasons are enough for you, read on.

Continue Reading Jules Clancy’s new e-book, Love Your Waistline and Your Food…

Savouring time – First Class train travel and first class reading

September 15, 2019 at 4:39 pm | Posted in Burgundy - description, Gail Honeyman, loneliness in literature, Sally Rooney | 1 Comment
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In the days when we had time for afternoon tea …

I used to go into the Co-op Bookshop at ANU in the 1990s, in those days when workers had time for afternoon tea and when the university bookshop used to sell a wide range of high quality books, not today’s electronic gadgets and toys and, apparently as an afterthought, some course handbooks. I used to go there with a friend at afternoon-tea sometimes and he’d say, ‘Prize and size, Penny. Find me a book that’s won something, and find me something brief. Life is short. I don’t have time for 300 page novels.’

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is 383 pages but my old friend would be whipping through it in no time like I’ve just done. And what it might lose in size it makes up for in prize: many prizes. Gail Honeyman’s novel (HarperCollins, 2017) won the Costa First Novel Award for 2017, the British Book Awards Book of the Year for 2018 and several others, including the Specsavers National Book Award for Popular Fiction, as well as making it onto lots of award shortlists and longlists.

Eleanor Oliphant lives an ordered life in Glasgow with defined boundaries and carefully built up habits. She has her job in a Graphic Design office – but not, as she’s quick to point out, doing anything in the creative department. At lunch-time she eats her sandwich in the staff room and does the Telegraph cryptic crossword. That’s where her Classics degree comes in handy.

Outlining her weekend routine takes only a sentence or two and then what comes next tells us everything we need to know about her circumstances: ‘Monday takes a long time to come around.’

Continue Reading Savouring time – First Class train travel and first class reading…

Only Marcus knows: Sex in fiction

July 26, 2019 at 3:58 am | Posted in Bad Sex in Fiction | 2 Comments
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‘The sex in your novel I can understand,’ said a friend as we stood in adjoining lanes in the shallow end of Civic Pool. ‘The sex in A.S. Byatt’s novel you’d need a PhD in English Literature to understand.’

‘I’ve got one of those,’ I said, pulling my goggles into place. ‘Can I borrow it?’

‘I’ll bring it tomorrow,’ he said, before swimming away.

And that is how I came to have A.S. Byatt’s Babel Tower, all 618 pages of it, about to topple off the tower of books on my bedside table. But I too gave up on it, not because I couldn’t understand the (admittedly erudite) sex scenes but because I came to this sentence, quite early on:

Continue Reading Only Marcus knows: Sex in fiction…

Slowing down – A beautiful book on sustainable living: Mark Boyle’s The Way Home

July 10, 2019 at 4:26 am | Posted in Blasket islands, capitalism, digital technology, E.F. Schumacher, Mark Boyle, rural Ireland, Simplifying, Small Is Beautiful, sustainable living | Leave a comment
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The Way Home: Tales from a life without technology. Mark Boyle. (Oneworld Publications, 2019)

It’s a surprise to learn that Mark Boyle has a degree in Economics and Marketing. He lives in rural County Galway in a dwelling he built himself. He chooses to live without electricity or running water. He has no car and of course no phone – landline or mobile – but the thing that really brought home to me his hard-line stance is this: he won’t use matches either.

Once you’d spent the hours and labour (not to mention generating blisters) on making a fire with your bare hands I can’t imagine ever letting it go out.

Mark Boyle writes that he also has neither clock nor watch. Would a sundial count as technology? Probably not, but its use might be a bit limited in western Ireland, which receives roughly twice as much rainfall as the rest of the country.

And lighting? ‘Making a candle is easy. The real craft lies in the first part of the process: the keeping of the bees,’ he writes. ‘Actually, the most difficult part of candle-making is deciding to reject electrical lighting.’ Continue Reading Slowing down – A beautiful book on sustainable living: Mark Boyle’s The Way Home…

Thinking women, hope and regeneration

June 12, 2019 at 6:56 am | Posted in Andrea Goldsmith, Australia behind, Australian novels, Democracy, Living creatively, Movies, optimism, Toni Jordan | 2 Comments
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 Am I advocating escapism?

It’s been hard to find anything uplifting to say in the last few weeks. The last time I read John Milton (1608-1674) was in English (Hons) many years ago. But I just came across a quotation from Paradise Lost that seems like a sanity-saver in the world we’re enduring now.

‘The mind is its own place, and in itself

Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.’

I can imagine a certain homeless lad I see often, camping endlessly outside Dickson Woolworths, waiting for a Government flat to come up – or any of those poor, skinny, desperate blokes on Manus Island or Nauru who find themselves simultaneously in Hell and in Limbo – saying, ‘Yeah, that’s easy for him to say!’

And yes, Milton had his books and his house, music and writing, and his wife (a succession of three) and children.

But everyone has his own trials and Milton was blind when he wrote Paradise Lost, and of course when writing poignant poems like ‘When I consider how my light is spent’. His first two wives died, he also lost a son and a daughter, and he had a strained relationship with his remaining daughters.

Continue Reading Thinking women, hope and regeneration…

After She Left – Penelope’s adventure with the idea of patience

May 9, 2019 at 1:18 am | Posted in Impact Press, Perseverance in writing, Publishing industry, Ventura Press | 4 Comments
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At a quarter of a century between novels, and not for want of trying, I now have the authority to write about the value of patience and persistence.

I wrote the first draft of my new novel After She Left over ten years ago. It was the creative component of a PhD. The theory component involved getting my head around a lot of French Postmodern theory and that took up most of the time, along with writing a commissioned non-fiction book on the side, which my employer said was six months’ worth, but which took about two and a half years.

A long time before that I’d been reviewing for The Canberra Times and the literary editor gave me a biography of French sculptor Camille Claudel. I always wanted to write a happy ending to her ghastly story. In between getting a less ambitious first novel published (Full House, Simon & Schuster, 1993) I’d written two other novels and couldn’t get them accepted.

Putting the accountants in charge

Publishing was changing. Previously a publisher would take on a new writer whose manuscript showed potential but who needed editorial guidance to lift it to the next level. But as neoliberal dogma took over more and more of our world, huge corporations started taking over smaller presses. The new managers were not the “gentleman publishers” of before. They were only focused on profits and no longer interested in literary novels being subsidised by the higher sales of bird books and cookery books. Now everything had to result in high sales.

Continue Reading After She Left – Penelope’s adventure with the idea of patience…

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