Technological ineptitude but all things seem possible

December 28, 2013 at 12:41 am | Posted in Books, Quotations | Leave a comment

First, an apology. I was taught how to blog by a not very good teacher who has gone on to something else and can’t be contacted. I didn’t realise until just the other day that in order to edit one’s blog, presumably one doesn’t have to press ‘Publish’ and then press the Edit to make changes but that there is a ‘Save’ and if I press that and then ‘Edit’ I get a chance to correct mistakes before I ‘Publish’. All this is guess work. I’ve just realised that it’s my more or less 1st drafts that must fly into followers’ in-boxes when I press ‘Publish’; and the version of two minutes later, edited, with corrected typos and the small changes that make a big difference are saved for posterity but that is not the version that followers receive! So sorry. It won’t happen again.

(It is just arbitrary; the above seems to have worked but now I don’t have any scope to fill in the Categories or tags. Sigh.)

People sometimes ask me how I come up with such fascinating books to read. Apart from having a BA (Hons) in English Literature (ANU, 1985) behind me plus 20 odd years of book reviewing, I rely a lot on the reviews in the New Yorker, the Literary Review and the Guardian Weekly. But the best one is the Guardian Weekly’s section just before Christmas where about 40 famous writers in English recommend their top few for the year and are given a paragraph to say why. You usually find some particular titles turning up on several lists and these are the ones that will usually be riveting.

This year’s section has Roddy Doyle, Philip Pullman, Michael Palin, Hilary Mantel, Lionel Shriver, Bill Bryson and Colm Toíbin and many others. As you probably know, The Luminaries won the Booker prize this year, and it is 830 pages long. Robert McFarlane writes ‘I read Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries three times in my capacity as Man Booker judge and each time round it yielded new riches. It is a vastly complex novel about investment and return, gift and theft, value and worth …’ (Guardian Wkly 20 December 2013, p. 50)

Someone gave it to me for Christmas and I’m really looking forward to reading it. But 830 pages – phew! Maybe I should postpone it until after my commissioned book deadline. My own favourite for this year? The one that really stands out for me is Andrea Goldsmith’s The Memory Trap. I loved it for the beauty of the language, the fascinating theme and the un-put-down-able plot. I actually tried to stretch it out so I wouldn’t have to finish it – and yet I also longed to read it as fast as I could! It’s about love, memory, relationships and more. I also loved Andrea Goldsmith’s previous novel, Reunion, which I thought was stunning, and it’s a mystery to me why such a great writer is not being feted and adored the world over. You will think about the ending of Reunion for a very long time.

A book I keep returning to is Michael Dirda’s Book by Book: Notes on Reading and Life. You can dip into it anywhere and find treasure. There are wonderful quotations – to choose three at random, two of which happen to be relevant for this Australian holiday season. The first is not I hope relevant to anyone reading this. Franz Kafka wrote in his diary: ‘Sunday July 19, slept, awoke, slept, awoke, miserable life.’ William Gerhardie says, ‘We refilled our glasses with cognac, after which all things seemed possible.’ And Albert Camus said, ‘No one who lives in the sunlight makes a failure of his life.’

I don’t think he was thinking of the scorching Australian sun. I don’t understand what exactly he means but I love it. I don’t know the context but I imagine he is using sunlight as a metaphor for hope and optimism and focusing on the positive in life. Well that’s me for sure, so I won’t be a failure, even if I never get another novel published. (I know, I know, we can publish our own now. No time at the moment; I barely have time to submit it to publishers, and I want to try them first, the few who still accept “unagented” novel submissions. And no, no agent because it’s harder to get an agent now than it used to be to get a publisher.)

Now before I ‘Publish’ this I’ll do it in ‘Save’ and see if my deliberate typo (is that an oxymoron?) appears. I have hope and optimism and all things seem possible, even without a cognac!

Lost in the corridors of time

December 22, 2013 at 2:03 am | Posted in arthritis, Books, health | Comments Off on Lost in the corridors of time
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I’m back. Because finally I sent in my draft of Chapter 2 of the Churchill Trust book. I’d been working on it for ages, getting up at 5.00 am and writing before work and it was a hard one plus had been very busy at my other job, my real job, and the day I finished the chapter I was so tired that I came home from work and slept 14 hours in a row.

Now I am half-way through This Is Not the End of the Book (London, Vintage, 2012) which is a conversation between Umberto Eco and Jean-Claude Carrière. I’m not a big fan of Eco but I love Carrière, who is a really good screenwriter and writer. He writes about our loss of being in the present moment, a theme I often raise in these blogs – he travels a lot (and gets in different time zones) and gets ‘lost in the corridors of time’ – just in conversation poetic phrases run off his tongue. I love it so much I will borrow it for my title.

Titles are hard. That’s why so many people borrow them from other works, like the film Days of Wine and Roses – what a great title! Great film too, about alcoholism, with Lee Remmick and Jack Lemmon. The title comes from a not very good poem by Ernest Dowson that includes the very good line:

‘They are not long, the days of wine and roses’

Poignant. The feeling I get is of deep nostalgia. So sad. Nostalgia is not something I’ve had much experience with, luckily. I’ve known some people to be virtually crippled by it. I can barely imagine. (Just Googled Dowson and learnt that he died of alcoholism at 32!)

Carrière quotes a Bavarian comedian Karl Valentin: ‘In the past, even the future was better.’

Ha! He also says that the worst criticism of Jesus that Mani, a Christian heretic who founded Manichaeism, made was that Jesus didn’t write anything down.
And Eco says, ‘He did once, in the sand.’

And I thought: How does anyone know that? Maybe that scene is in the Bible, written by an eye-witness, an Apostle who saw Him writing some profundity in the sand. I also thought: Maybe writing was really hard for Jesus; maybe He was dyslexic.

Possibly a blasphemous thought. Ha.

Before I talk myself into more hot water, let me tell you what else made me so tired I slept for 14 hours straight: osteoarthritis. It’s exhausting. The Chinese say that the legs are the second heart. I interpret that to mean: pretty damn essential. Now I know the truth of this more than I ever wanted to know. To continue a conversation about that, to which previous blogs have been devoted, I’ve come to the end of my year of the A to Z of alternative therapies for it. Of all these, I wouldn’t say that any did no good. They all worked to some extent and all were good for other things and health in general. But I have three favourites: Acupuncture, the Infrared sauna, and Hanna Somatics (similar to the Feldenkrais method, which is also very, very good).

Acupuncture takes away the pain. But not immediately. After several weeks of weekly sessions it does, and does so for several months. Then you have to go back and do more weeks of weekly sessions. And it does nothing for flexibility.

The Sunlighten Infrared sauna is very effective too. Someone told me that Sunlighten is the best brand. I bought a solo one and this is also the cheapest. Sunlighten salesperson Peter Reynolds was knowledgeable about infrared saunas and very helpful over the phone and by email. When it was delivered, I used it for a fortnight or so once a day and felt improved. Then I went away for a fortnight and towards the end of the first week I was really in pain. When I got back I leapt into it immediately and did two 30 minute sessions a day and after a few days it got a lot better. From my experience it’s worth the investment. It’s good for pain relief and promotes healing and flexibility was a bit better too. Go to or you can ring for free: 1800 786 544.

There is a great book by Martha Peterson called Move without Pain, about Hanna Somatics. It’s about muscle memory and full of easy exercises that straighten out our bodies. It’s wonderful, (and so is yoga of course). Move without Pain can be ordered from America, it’s not available in Australia. (New York, Sterling, 2011) The exercises in it are quick and easy and painless and will make very fast improvement in your life – since most of us sit too much, which is the cause of a lot of problems – I think I can make that generalisation safely. Peterson’s writing is a pleasure to read too, she has an appealing casual and clear style, which makes you feel she is with you, taking you through the exercises and that you are in good hands.

Now, have a great break, a peaceful Christmas and happy New Year. Have some days of wine and roses and enjoy them while they last.

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