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Showing posts from January, 2017

What I've Been Reading lately

The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Wndow and Disappeared. by Jonas Jonasson This 2010 novel is hard to categorise: comedy? historical novel? farce? All of the above? The complex plot meanders, Forest Gump style, through the history of the 20th Century. It's very funny in parts, but is either not spectacularly well written, or not well translated from the original Swedish, or both. The complicated and inventive plot kept me persevering far past the point where the literary critic in me was screaming give up now, there are a dozen far better things waiting for you on your to be read shelf . It has been made into a variably reviewed Swedish movie, and is crying out for Hollywood to take notice. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children/ Hollow City / Library of Souls. by Ransom Riggs. I saw the movie Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children on a plane a few weeks back, and on the strength of that bought the boxed set of 3 novels by Ransom Riggs.  The m


  It's 10 o'clock on a cloudy Sydney morning and the temperature outside is 36 degrees and rising. Thunderstorms are forecast for later in the day, so Naomi will lead  the expedition to Five Dock Park very soon. I'm coming home in a few days but Clemency will stay here. Nick was riding his bike to work a few days back and was bowled on a roundabout by a distracted driver. He broke the windscreen of the offending Toyota with his head but escaped - miraculously - any damage to his head and neck. 3 cheers for bike helmets! He does have a few other injuries, which are inconvenient rather than life threatening so Clemency will continue the nannying and chauffeuring which have been occupying us for the last few days. She's getting pretty adept at negotiating Sydney traffic and in manoeuvring an electric wheelchair up a ramp and into the back on an SUV.  Ask any Kiwi for their opinions of Australia and odds are they'll mention snakes and spiders in the first couple


View from one of the streets during an evening walk in MY neighbourhood. I have hung a bird feeder under the eaves of the roof on a corner of the deck that can be seen from the couches of our living room. The tuis visit it most obligingly and satisfactorily, but there is a problem. It seems that our deck is now a very desirable piece of tui real estate, and at sunrise several of them have taken to staging quite heated discussions about its ownership. Tui song is a beautiful sound, and I was thrilled the first time, but sunrise South of the 45th parallel is before 5 am these days and they are loud. As early risers the tuis are only slightly more Trappist than the blackbirds who take up duties pretty much immediately after the tuis leave off. The blackbirds really appreciate the efforts Clemency has been putting into the garden since her retirement, what with the recent explosion in the worm population and everything, and they too have some unresolved ownership issues concerning


It's 6 am and there is the usual knock on the caravan door as Noah makes his pre-breakfast visit. He comes in, makes himself at home, and we go through the routine which is evolving day by day. Over the week one element has grown and now crowds out all the others. "Talk the Beebops, Pappa" , he says, almost as soon as he arrives, and this initiates a game which he is very reluctant, always, to end and very eager, at any opportunity, to recommence. He has a stuffed rabbit, Beebop, well, two actually. A year or so ago Beebop was lost, and Noah was distraught with grief. His mum managed to find a replacement in a local toy shop and to distress it into a reasonable facsimile and effect an impersonation. Of course, a  day or two later the original made his way home, so now we have Old One Beebop and Other One Beebop. So Noah and the Beebops set off on an adventure, often involving air travel, pirates, policemen, cannonballs, submarines, the drinking of fluffies and the ea

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Jonathan Safran Foer's 2005 novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close   is one that I found compelling - I read it in a couple of days - but somehow, not particularly enjoyable. The premise is intriguing: the book tells the story of a nine year old boy, Oskar Schell, whose father was killed in the 9/11 attack. Oskar finds a key in a vase belonging to his father, and feels compelled to discover the key's origins and purpose. From a note left inside the vase Oskar concludes that the owner of the key is named Black, and sets out to visit everybody in New York with that surname. The book is thus a kind of journey story, and is filled with a range of eccentric characters, but there was some thing about it which I did not find engaging. The novel is told in the first person, but Foer contrives, by introducing two separate series of letters,  to shift the narrator from Oskar to his grandfather (writing to Oskar's father) and his grandmother (writing to Oskar himself). The let


An evening walk with Clemency after a busy day. This is the Andersons Bay inlet, ten minutes walk from my back door. Epiphany, being the twelfth  day of Christmas, was when I took down the Christmas tree. Of course. All the little angels and glass stars and balls and various peculiar manikens and sewn things with abstracted shapes were sealed in bags, along with another year's memories, and stored. Then I took the tree outside to where it will be cut into firewood, and packed the crib scene and poured out the steel bowl of water and  wrapped up the long rope of lights and vacuumed up the old pine needles. Thirty or forty times now, I have done this.  Christmas ends, with me handling all these things, and as I clear them away, remembering the long history of each with fondness and thanksgiving. I spent the rest of the day in my study. I emptied drawers and shelves. I fed black council rubbish bags with CDs and the notes from long past conferences. How had I managed to acc


I slept away the first couple of days. Not dozing, but deep dreamless sleep which crept up on me wherever I happened to be sitting. I hadn't realised I was so deeply tired. Days tired. Months tired. Decades tired. There are no anchor points to the day except the ones I choose to find. So, shortly, this is what life will be like, all the time. I have finished slogging my way uphill through the Torah and am into the easy downhill of the historical books. I am surprised to be reminded how much space is given over to Balaam - 3 chapters, more or less, which is an interesting comparison to the brevity of the Christmas stories . And I had forgotten that Moses had him executed. I'm reading a few books, concurrently as is my wont. Cynthia Bourgeault on the Trinity. Mitch Cullen's Mr Holmes . Evan Thompson's Waking, Dreaming, Being. Clemency has just finished Archibald Baxter's account of his time as a conscientious objector in the First World War , We Will Not Cease.