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!

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