Archive for the ‘literature’ Category

A Sydney reader – 10 classics to read before you visit

August 28, 2011

Thinking of Sydney? I’m off there soon and it got me wondering how my my view of that city has been shaped by its literature.  So here are 10 books selected from my own reading that will get you in the mood for a visit!

The fatal shore

The timeless land

No barrierStorm of time

The secret river

Seven little Australians

Playing Beatie Bow

  • Playing Beatie Bow / Ruth Park – children’s time travel adventure about love and family and growing up.  Read this before you visit The Rocks as most of the places in the book are still there…

Ride on stranger

  • Ride on stranger / Kylie Tennant – an early 20th century journey through a Sydney of con men and communists, radio and religion and the road to independence.  Sharp and funny.

The harp in the south

Women in black

I came to 5 of these from film or TV tie-ins – Seven little Australians, The timeless land trilogy and Playing Beattie Bow – with a very young Peter Phelps as Judah.  All my editions of these ones are tie-in editions with stills on the covers – adaptations do lead you back to the source material!


5 books meme

June 21, 2011

In the interests of not staying up till midnight for each blogpost I’m preparing this one early, and having my first go at a meme, the 5-books-meme!  Thank goodness for Library Thing which should make this quite easy!  I also had an online book-buying binge whilst I was laid up with my sprained ankle – have you tried Booko yet?  It’s an Oz price comparison site and absolutely brilliant.  I’ve got lots of books on the go and in the to-read pile!

1. The books I’m currently reading:

Empty cradles / Margaret HumphreysAlthough I’ve got a few in my currently reading collection in LT, I am only seriously reading two books at the moment:  Empty Cradles (a re-read prompted by going to see Oranges and Sunshine last Friday, just as wrenching and horrifying as I remember) and Dancers in Mourning by Margery Allingham.  I’m a long time fan of the four Queens of crime, Margery Allingham, Agatha Chistie, Dorothy L Sayers and Ngaio Marsh.  (Nice to see some fellow DLS fans in the #blogjune blogroll – that’s you Hecuba Reads and you Bookends!)  My Mum and sister have complete sets of Aggie, I’ve had a complete collection of DLS’s detective fiction for years, and I’ve only recently completed my Marsh collection.  Dancers in mourning / Marjorie Allingham

So now I’m working my way to a complete set of Campion stories by Allingham.  (Not sure if I’ll go for the later ones written by her husband, I couldn’t come at the Jill Paton-Walsh continance of Sayers’ work).  I particularly love these ladies’ works written and set in the 30s, indeed, when I went to art school and studied art history I found the art milieu of the interwar period strangely familiar, and realised I knew the atmosphere from reading detective fiction!  Soviet Club anyone?

2. The last books I finished

Homer's Odyssey / Gwen CooperI’ve already written about Little Bets, so I’ll talk about the two previous finished reads: Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper and  The Phantom tollbooth by Norman Juster.  Homer’s Odyssey will appeal to the many cat-lovers amongst #blogjune’s participants (Bookslibrariesandcats for example!).  I found this story just a bit too catty in its early chapters (my mum agreed, but we are, I confess, dog-people) however I persisted and it drew me in, I was ultimately moved by how one small, blind, cat became the cat-alyst for growth in his owner’s life.  Phantom tollbooth / Norman JusterThe Phantom Tollbooth is the childrens’ classic that got away and that I’ve only read as a grown up (the Green Knowe books are another example of childrens’ books I came to late and loved)  Again I’m in the zeitgeist with this one as  Joy’s book blog has already reviewed this gem for Blogjune!  (And thanks to ABE Books Reading copy book blog for alerting me to this one!)

3. The next books I want to read:

In tearing haste / Debora Devonshire and Patrick Leigh FermorIn Tearing haste : letters between Deborah Devonshire and Patrick Leigh Fermor.  I’m a huge fan of PLF and the Mitfords so I’ve been looking forwards to this one.  I’d begun this and put it aside, and the death of PLF last week will add poignancy to the read.  Again, there are plenty of PLF fans amongst the Blogjune bloggers:  RuminationsRead it 2011 and Hecuba reads (again!, Hecuba Reads, I feel I’m getting to know you…). The well at the world's end / A J Mackinnon Then I’ll get stuck into The Well at the World’s End by A J Mackinnon.  I think I am in love with Mr Mackinnon after reading his Unlikely Voyage of Jack de Crow.  I laughed so hard on the train that the woman opposite asked me what I was reading.

4. The last book I bought:

Art and fear / D Bayles and T OrlandArt & Fear : observations on the perils (and rewards) of artmaking  by David Bayles and Ted Orland.  This was listed in the reading list in the back of Little Bets and as my art practice has been languishing this may be what I need to read…

5. The last book I was given:

The Boatswain’s Manual  by William A McLeod.  It came via my sister’s mother-in-law and I can feed my inner sailor with this book, published in 1957 (I have the 1962 reprint) as:The boatswain's manual / William A McLeod

Most seamanship books available to young seamen are of the advanced textbook type… Such books are of little use to those who wish to learn the rudiments of seamanship work …these pages have been compiled as a book of elementary knowledge for the beginner and also as a reference book for older deck ratings, especially those who seek information relating to everyday seamanship problems…

So, there we have it, my reading past present and future, and how delighted I am to find fellow readers with similar interests in the Blogjune blogroll.  Ain’t the interweb thingy grand!

Oh yes, I should mention that though I’ve got Kindle for iPhone, Stanza and iBooks on my iPhone, I am reading all of these in “dead tree” format…

Reading “Little Bets”

June 4, 2011

I’m reading Peter Sims’ Little Bets : how breakthrough ideas emerge from small discoveries.

Little Bets / Peter SimsIt’s a fun book to read, and I’m finding it inspiring – promoting the (reasearch validated) idea that successful creativity and change doesn’t come from top down planning, but from having an open mind, experimentation, play, flexibility, a willingness to fail, and a willingness to capitalise on small wins… there’s a lot to think about and a lot to apply, privately and professionally!

So where does Luxo Jr. come in?  Sims uses several running examples throughout his book, including the story of how Pixar went from being a struggling computer hardware company to the giant of computer animation it is today.  Pixar didn’t start with a mission to make feature length movies –  Luxo Jr. was a short film originally made to promote their hardware products at SIGGRAPH in 1986.

In 1987 Pixar showcased a new film, Red’s Dream  at SIGGRAPH, this time to demonstrate not just their hardware, but their RenderMan 3D animation software.

The company’s core hardware and software business was still struggling, and there was a tough battle in 1988 to convince Steve Jobs (who owned the company and was keeping it afloat) to make another film – Tin Toy.

Tin Toy won the Academy Award in 1988 for the Best Animated Short Film.  The company began to move its focus from hardware and software to animation (you’ll need to read the book for the full story) and Tin Toy became the basis for Toy Story.  


How did I come to be reading a management book on creativity?  That’s a lesson in serendipity and chasing ideas!  First, last October,  I heard Bob Sutton (Stanford Professor of Management Science and Engineering) speaking on ABC Radio National’s Background Briefing on The business of being a boss.

The no asshole rule / Bob Sutton  I was intrigued, and bought a copy of Bob’s book The no asshole rule : building a civilized workplace and surviving one that isn’t (another good read for anyone in employment!), then I began to follow Bob on Twitter (@work_matters).  From Bob’s tweets and linked blog posts I found out about Enchantment / Guy KawasakiGuy Kawasaki’s book Enchantment : the art of changing, hearts, minds and actions (also recommended) and finally, Little Bets.  These are just some of the reasons I love Twitter!

On independence…

May 28, 2011

Cover image for "In tearing haste"I’ve just started reading In tearing haste : letters between Deborah Devonshire & Patrick Leigh Fermor which promises to be a delight, comprising as it does of the letters wonderful PLF and Deborah Devonshire (one of the Mitford sisters).  Even before the letters begin there are gems to be found in the potted biographies each correspondent has written about the other.  This remark by Debo about the youthful Paddy was a real zinger:

At the age of eighteen (‘and three-quarters’, he says, for accuracy) he yearned to go to Greece.  He could not afford the fare so he walked there.  What a lesson to young people now, who write to strangers asking for money to enable them to travel

In tearing haste (2009), p xvi

Beware the grey ones

November 28, 2010

I’m having a bit of a binge reading JB Priestley and came across this strangley pertinent quote in his short story The Grey Ones (collected in The other place and other stories of the same sort (1953)):

Between them, [they] managed to put an end to everything that added a little colour and sparkle to life round our way. Of course they always had a good excuse — economy and all that. But I noticed [they] only made economies in one direction, on what you might call the anti-grey side, and never stirred to save money in other directions, in what was heavily official, pompous, interfering, irritating, depressing, calculated to make you lose heart. And you must have noticed yourself that we never do save money in those directions, either in municipal or national affairs…

To me it feels oddly like a call to arms…

The more things change

January 5, 2009

It is one of the symptoms of this age of nerves and hysteria that we magnify everything , that our boasts are frantic and our scares pitiable, that we call a man who plays well in a football match a hero, and that all successes are triumphs…

The Sketch, 1909  (quoted in Shakleton’s forgotten expedition, Beau Riffenburgh, Bloomsbury 2004, p281)

Nothing much changes, but it seems good to me that I (and many others) know who Shackleton is, but I doubt as many could name a football hero from 1909!  One hundred years from now who will be remembered?  Ben Cousins or Fiona Stanley?

Why not call it “Domestic blend”

January 5, 2009

Welcome to Domestic Blend, cheap to make and read and chiefly made up of odds and ends!  I’m not so sure about the solid worth and respectability!

‘I’ve been trying to get out a name for Twentyman’s shilling tea. As far as I can make Hankin out, it has no qualities except cheapness to recommend it, and is chiefly made up of odds and ends of other teas.  The name must suggest solid worth and respectability.’

‘Why not call it “Domestic Blend”? Nothing could sound more reliable and obviously nothing could suggest so much dreary economy.’

Murder must advertise, Dorothy L Sayers, NEL 1978 (1933), pp 36-37.

 It’s interesting how literature can inform your life – a recent advertising campaign for something called Simply Tea nagged at a buried memory – what did it remind me of? I ruminated for a while before the Eureka moment – ‘It’s Domestic Blend’.  Then I re-read the book with great pleasure (and felt less enthusiastic about the tea, although it’s OK for everyday!)

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