The Iron Council
Miéville, China (Del Ray, 2004 ISBN: 0-345-46402-8)
One of my friends emailed me recently and said “Ok, I’m a quarter of the way through The Iron Council. Tell me it gets better.”
And I said, “Keep reading.”
And the next day she said, “WOW. THANK YOU!”
I knew what she meant. The first section of the novel can be confusing – I’ve known friends to discard the book before the plot starts to become cohesive. I’ve read reviews where people have disliked it; I suspect they also gave up early and didn’t keep going. If you keep reading, the brilliance starts to kick in and you end up engulfed in this wonderfully insane world with its insane physics and marvelous storytelling.
Bloomsbury, July 2015, RRP $29.95
There are a number of different ways to write a novel based on historical characters. You can go for a modernisation of the characters and follow the general story but change bits of the plot – Susan Kay’s Elizabethan Legacy, which is a total romp and hugely enjoyable despite it’s lack of accuracy.
You can interweave an imaginary character into a historical narrative; Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon introduces Lawrence Waterhouse into the development of the code breaker during WWII to such an extent that I have no longer any idea what really went on because my memory of the history is so tarnished by reading it. Loved that book: I have a cat named after Enoch Root, one of the minor characters. Continue reading
JUSTIN BIEBER FIRST STEP 2 FOREVER: MY STORY
Bieber, Justin (Harper Collins, 2010 ISBN: 978-0-00-742692-8)
I paid a whole $4 for this little gem in an op shop in Bentleigh. I scored such a bargain. This book is full of so much good advice, you only have to open it at a random page and read out the words – the truth shines forth for all to see.
“I’m not a fighter by nature, but, if I believe in something, I stand up for it.” I mean, can you argue with that?
THE DOG SQUAD
Penguin Australia, May 2015, RRP $32.99
A number of years ago I traveled to Tasmania by boat. When we arrived at the port, the customs team brought their sniffer dogs to have a sniff at everyone’s bags. The dog stopped at a young Asian woman’s pack, and sat down. The customs people asked the girl, “Do you have any fruit in your bag?”
The poor girl had turned white with fear. Clearly she thought someone had hidden drugs in her bag and she was about to get arrested in a country where she didn’t understand the language and she went into a panic. Eventually the customs officers calmed her down and kept saying “Fruit? Do you have FRUIT?”.
First published 1946
I was in primary school when I was given the set of Malory Towers books as a birthday gift. I’d read a lot of Blyton before then, as my mother was a baby boomer; so I had grown up with the 1950s copies of the Five Find Outers and Dog series, The Famous Five, The Secret Seven, etc.
Malroy Towers is by far my favorite series she wrote.
THE GRAND SOPHY
Heyer, Georgette (The Book Club, edition 1951 (orig 1950), ISBN – n/a)
I was at a social event back in the 1990s and someone was reading a copy of The Grand Sophy. Soon there was a collection of us standing around laughing and giggling in reminiscence of it’s amusing scenes. The boyfriend of one of the girls wandered over to see what we were talking about.
“Oh,” he said. “A romance book.” And he attempted to walk off. The poor man, he never understood till then exactly how offending a bunch of nerds can go down so very badly. He was sat down and lectured for about two hours on the merit of Georgette Heyer and how, while romance was part of it, it was a genius comedy he was dissing out of hand. I believe I recall his feeble excuse was that his mother had some Georgette Heyers. We all then agreed his mother must have excellent taste in books. Continue reading
Du Maurier, Daphne (Pan, reprint 1975 (orig 1938), ISBN 0 330 24709 3)
About three years ago I lent some of my favorite books to a friend who wanted to read more. I included Rebecca (I have the version as shown, I bought it some time in the 80s) amongst other incredibly excellent books. After some time she gave them back and said she’d not really enjoyed them.
“You read literature, I don’t”, she said. Continue reading
MELBOURNE AND METROPOLITAN TRAMWAYS BOARD RULES AND REGULATIONS 1957 – Relating to Employees Concerned in any Aspect of Fare Collection, Ticket Issues, and Monies in Connection Therewith
Issued by Order of The Board, HA Warner, Secretary (No publishing information)
Back in 1994 I emerged fresh from uni, with an honours degree in science in my pocket, bright eyed and ready to take on my first real job. It wasn’t until 1996, due to a small thing you might have heard of called ‘The Recession’ – that I got my first job (after nearly two years of 40-job-applications a week unemployment) – as a tram conductor at Glen Huntley Tramways Depot.
They’d made all the connies redundant when the new ticket machines came in – two years later were still hiring part time contractor connies as the machines were not operational and the tickets did not yet sell themselves. I had a green uniform and a leather bag from probably 1957 and into the Melbourne winter I traveled on Z1s (all the heaters were broken).
DINNER AT THE HOMESICK RESTAURANT
Tyler, Anne (Random House, reprint July 2012, ISBN:1446426718, 9781446426715)
I don’t know if they still do it like this, but back in the 80s, year 12 English at high school seemed to consist almost entirely of reviewing books for a theme. I was lucky enough to get a theme back in 1989 of ‘The Family’ – lucky because it was in that class that I was introduced to Anne Tyler.
There was dissent in the classroom when we read this book. Out of the 20 odd people in my class, the dissent was pretty unevenly divided: 19 people hated this book with a passion, one person (me) loved it with equal passion. I don’t know why they all hated it – perhaps it’s because it was literature; and literature never rounds up things into a nice bundled happy ending, which is the sort of book most people would have been reading when they are 16 or 17. I recall the dragonlance books were a bit popular in my school at the time. You know who the goodies and the baddies are and you know it’s all going resolve well. However – I’m ok with bittersweet or unspecified endings, your brain fills in the gap and you work it out. I read “Rebecca” in about year seven and that one leaves so much undone that I learned pretty early that was ok in a book. I also like a good, slow, gentle progression of a story, where the change is in the people the story is about – or more tragically, there is very little change in the people the story is about. Continue reading
COLD COMFORT FARM
Gibbons, Stella (Important Books, reprint July 2013, ISBN 978-8087830628)
For some reason anything written in the era of the Jazz age kind of reads like a light hearted romp that could have been written in the 1980s. I suspect both eras were famously of unfettered youth getting their stockings off and dancing until dawn. Both eras had a bright, vibrant, selfish youth culture – when there was a lot, then suddenly, no, money around. Their books tend to be a bit similar, though there are more hard drugs in books from the 80s.
I was at both primary and high school in the 1980s and thus the only vaguely adult thing I did was drink a small bottle West Coast cooler at a birthday party. It made me feel roguish and all grown-up while the soles of my mesh shoes melted, pointed at the bonfire. Continue reading