The Fall of Arthur

THE FALL OF ARTHURfallarth
J. R. R. and Christopher Tolkien
HarperCollins, May 2013

Guinevere will always remain the Yoko Ono of Arthurian romance. For men of a certain bent, she summons to mind the new wife or girlfriend of their old friend, who now threatens to intrude upon the Round Table of their male camaraderie. What if she doesn’t just stay at home and darn his socks? What if she wants us to see her as a person, not just our friend’s possession? Already, she’s changed him. Remember the good old days when he slapped you on the back and denounced all women as whores?

Tolkien’s The Fall of Arthur continues the ungenerous tradition of presenting Guinevere as a figure of treacherousness, not just discord. On those occasions where she rises from the role of disputed possession, she becomes a manipulative temptress towing men to their deaths. From her first entrance, we hear of her remorselessness, Continue reading

Closing Statement in the Court Martial of Sergent Kist

CLOSING STATEMENT IN THE COURT MARTIAL OF SERGENT KIST
mrblo

Beware,
If you from here must damn what I did there,
You too would’ve faltered on that tower,
Beneath the wreath of that thousand-yard stare.
Will you measure the sins of one hour
Against ten years of duty served with care?
A day’s courage to a second’s error
One minute foul against four fortnights fair

Have care
Then, my judges, when you pass your sentence,
If you would light the truth ‘neath this affair,
That you judge the crimes not their repentance.
Do you think fear drove me away from there?
Rendered still a loyalty whose currents
Carried my soul through ten years of warfare?
Then you condense my disobedience. Continue reading

A Novel of Contrasts

Tape
Steven Camden
HarperCollinsChildren’sBooks
Jan 2015, RRP $16.99 (paperback)

tapeQuintessentially, Tape is a novel of contrasts. It contrasts the past world of Ryan with the present world of Ameliah, the world of the male with the world of the female, the world of 1993 tape technology with the 2013 world of texts and twitter, and the world of the adult (from the teenager’s perspective) with the world of the teenager.

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Alternative history: Ilia Tare

ILIA TARE
mrblo

Born in Golem, Albania in 1961, Tare studied astrophysics under the tutelage of Adam Kola at the University of Tirana.

In 1981, using the pseudonym ‘Orion Mala’, he began writing articles for the underground periodical Lëndë e Djegshme in which he argued that Leninism had debased the original aims of socialism. Continue reading

Writers Aren’t People Exactly

WEST OF SUNSET
Stewart O'Nan
Allen and Unwin, RRP$29.99
June 2015

West of SunsetEver find that you read one book about an era, event or group of people, and are then bombarded with a multitude of other books centred on the same theme. For me, I am never sure whether my book trends are actual publishing trends or mere coincidences. I suspect my current trend of books about the Jazz Age—more specifically the leading couple of that age, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald—is an actual publishing trend. It definitely feels like one, right?

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The Face of Jesus in my Soup

The Book of Memory
Petina Gappah
Faber & Faber
September 2015

the_book_of_memoryThe Book of Memory is Petina Gappah’s first novel, a tightly woven tale of privilege and prison, of Zimbabwe, and of course memory.  It is the fictional memoir of the convicted murderer, Memory.  She has been asked to write in service of a potential appeal against her death sentence.

Memory is an albino woman.  Sent away as a child from her home in one of Harare’s townships to live with a white man, Lloyd, she struggles to find a sense of belonging and of self.  She feels neither black nor white; her birth family has rejected her; and with her Cambridge education she is at great odds with her fellows in the Chikurubi Prison.  We see as she pieces together clues from her life, trying to work out how it arrived at this ugly point.  Of course she professes her innocence of the murder. Continue reading

Auguria et Cancri

The Book of Speculation
Erika Swyler
Allen & Unwin, RRP $29.99
July 2015

TheBookSpeculationMany, many years ago I enrolled in a fiction writing class at the CAE. It was the very first writing class I’d ever been to and I can’t recall if I learnt anything useful but I did learn that some people are just not very nice.

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Close Your Eyes, Pay the Price for Your Paradise

The Heart Goes Last
Margaret Atwood
Bloomsbury
24 September 2015
hardcover

the_heart_goes_lastMargaret Atwood’s latest novel is an incisive critique of our current society.  Neoliberalism and the prison industrial complex, as well as nostalgia for a non-existent, rosy mid-20th century, all cop a wry humoured nudging.  Not a bashing; Atwood would never be so unsubtle.

Charmaine and Stan are at their wits’ end.  Struggling to get by in the depths of an economic depression and a society barely holding itself together, they live in their car and can see no way out of their deepening poverty.  Fortunately, they are eligible to participate in a well funded social experiment, the Positron Project.  They will be provided with a house, with employment, and with the safety of a gated community, in return for spending every second month as prisoners in the Positron Prison. Continue reading

Alternative history: Strangelove, 1962

Strangelove, 1962mrblo

1945: During post-war efforts to bring scientists who worked for the Third Reich into the United States, the US War Department obeys President Truman’s order to exclude scientists who supported Nazism, rather than rewriting candidates’ files to conceal the evidence. The United States and the Soviet Union divide the German scientists with more equality. In particular, the Soviet Union acquires Arthur Rudolf, former operations director of the Mittelwerk factory at the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camps.

 

January, 1946: Rather than anticipating a post-war crisis of overproduction in the USA, Soviet economists predict that the United States will try to avoid the crisis by maintaining its wartime military industry and trying to open the new Europe and Asia to free trade. Based on their advice, Stalin now views the United States as the chief threat to the Soviet Union, instead of the reemergence of Germany or Japan. Continue reading

Ethnographic exercise

mrbThe Brotherhood of Trustees owes its present influence to an archaic custom barring the aristocracy from direct involvement in commerce. The custom holds that commerce can never furnish the form of unassailable security it sees as the precondition for noble disinterestedness. Moreover, by their nature, commercial transactions would often compel the nobleman to deal with commoners as equals. The noble must regard such concourse as demeaning, both to himself in person and to the institution of nobility as a whole[1]. Continue reading

Truth and Truthability

Newt's Emerald
Garth Nix
Allen & Unwin
September 2015, RRP $18.99

Newts EmeraldMy dearest reader

How much I have to tell you. Oh, but how are you? I trust you have been well?
I have the misfortune to suffer constantly from my nerves and have confined myself, of late, to my chambers. However, this has not prevented me hearing the most scandalous news.

I trust you have heard of Lady Truthful Newington who has come to London for the season. She has been staying with her aunt, Lady Badgery—that notorious virago—and is quite the heiress, and handsome too if the reports are true. No doubt she will attract those young gentlemen in need of a lady of fortune to bolster their own, or lack thereof.
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The Best Botanist on Mars

THE MARTIAN
Andy Weir, narrated by RC Bray
First Published 2011 (Self Published), Audio Version: Podium Publishing March 2013

The MartianI had a google fail recently and thought that The Martian the movie was being released in Australian cinemas in November—and so with this review would be giving you all a good lead time to read the book The Martian before watching the movie. Turns out the Australian release date is actually October 1st, so there goes that plan.

Well, you still have two days to cram in listening (or reading) Andy Weir’s novel The Martian before the movie based on Weir’s book, and starring Matt Damon, comes out on Thursday. The audiobook is a little under 11 hours, so it will be a bit of a push, but doable—especially once you get sucked into the life or death struggle of our Astronaut hero, Mark Watney, stranded alone on Mars. Continue reading

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