Monday, January 31, 2011


I took up the Haruki Murakami reading challenge this year and I am currently reading What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. So I was excited when I stumbled across some other Murakami related news; there is going to be a film adaptation of Murakami's Norwegian Wood! More here and here. The film has been released in Japan and is due to be released in the UK in March, not sure when (if?) it will turn up in Australia.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Remember in the film Donnie Darko, when his English teacher (played by Drew Barrymore) says that "cellar door" is the most beautiful combination of words in the English language? I had an English lecturer who swore it was actually Auden's phrase from his poem "The Fall of Rome", "altogether elsewhere" that was the most beautiful. Well today I discovered that the name for this lovely literary investigation is called "phonaesthetics". The beauty of the words or phrases in question doesn't rely on there actual meaning, but rather the sounds of the words. Therefore, even to a non-English speaker, these words should sound beautiful. 

According to wiki, the cellar door idea is attributed to Tolkien, and cellar door has its own Wikipedia entry. Research has of course been conducted into phonaesthetics, surveys have also been carried out to generate lists of words that people think are beautiful or elegant. Here are a few from Dr Beard's top one hundred:

Diffuse – disperse, spread, disseminate
Effervescent – fizzy, sparkling, bubbling; lively, vibrant, vivacious
Ephemeral – short-lived, transient, fleeting
Epiphany – sudden perception or intuitive grasp of meaning or essence; illuminated discovery or realization
Evanescent – vanishing like vapour
Gossamer – delicate, sheer, flimsy, filmy, transparent, diaphanous, gauzy
Halcyon – calm, peaceful, untroubled, quiet, still, heavenly
Languor – laziness, indolence, slowness, dreaminess, lethargy
Lassitude – tiredness, exhaustion, inertia, apathy
Lilt – cadence, inflection
Luxuriate – enjoy, savour, relish, delight in
Nebulous – vague, hazy, imprecise, ill-defined
Panacea – cure-all, universal remedy, magic potion
Penumbra – partial shade or shadow, obscurity, uncertainty
Plethora – overabundant, surfeit, excess, glut
Scintillate – to be brilliant, animated; to sparkle
Serendipity – chance, destiny, fate, luck, providence, fortune
Susurrus – rustling or whispering sound
Symbiosis – cooperative relationship between dissimilar entities

 Got a favourite beautiful sounding word or two? I like Ithaca and epistemological.  

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Literary/Political Graffiti...

I do not know what your feelings are regarding graffiti, but since Banksy's rise to notoriety, people have really begun to think about graffiti in different terms and graffiti artists have become more and more like social and political poets of the walls. I am not arguing that political graffiti is a relatively new thing, just that the approach has changed. Do a google image search of political or literary graffiti and you will be amazed by the variety, from scrawled messages of "Education for all" to Shepard Fairey's Obama poster, which is an example of graffiti style political propaganda. These images become shorthand for larger issues and ideologies and if they have any power at all, it is perhaps their ability to make us pause and think.

PS. Happy Australia / Invasion Day!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Morgan Library...

I love diaries and journals. Spaces dedicated to thought, reflection, dreams, concerns and ideas, books that hold memories or act as company or ways of passing time. It is rare to see a collection of them assembled together. So my thanks to my notes from the field blog for linking to the a wonderful dairy exhibition which is on currently at The Morgan Library, titled The Diary: Three Centuries of Private Lives. The exhibition includes diaries by Albert Einstein, Bob Dylan, Charlotte Bronte, John Steinback, Henry David Thoreau and Tennessee Williams, among others. There is an online exhibition for those of us who can not make it to New York and the New York Times has a slide show of some images from the exhibition.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Where books are burned...

I stumbled across this frightening image of book burning in Berlin and the memorial sculpture that in now in Bebelplatz Public Square (formerly Opernplatz) where the book burning took place. The prophetic quote by the German poet Heinrich Heine 100 years earlier, "Where books are burned, human beings are destined to be burned too", made me think about book burning and censorship and in a slightly related way, I wondered how many books had been censored in Australia.

I found the a selection of banned books in Australia listed on the Melbourne University website. And I was utterly shocked at the length of the list and the fact that it is merely a "selection". Most of the books on the list were banned or censored between the 1930s and the 70s. Which makes me wonder what happened after the 70s. But the list contains the usual suspects, Henry Miller, William S Burroughs and also some home grown favorites like Norman Lindsay and Christina Stead.

Another section of the website gives background information regarding the banning of specific books. The mini historical portraits are fascinating. For example, Joyce's Ulysses was banned twice in Australia. First in 1929, six years after it was banned in Britain, the bans were lifted in both countries in 1937. But in 1941 it was banned again, after Catholic organisations lobbied the Censorship Board and were successful. The ban wasn't lifted until 1953.

The Customs Minister, E. J. Harrison, said, ‘This book [Ulysses] holds up to ridicule the Creator and the Church … Such books might vitally affect the standard of Australian home life. It cannot be tolerated in Australia any longer.’

I have a book about banned books, but I naively always think of it occurring somewhere else at some other time. But as the website reminds me, in 2008 these debates were reignited in Australia over photographic images created by the preeminent Australian artist Bill Henson. These concerns and debates it seems are still alive and well, see also Banned Books Week and the Controversial and Banned Books site.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Bookish Flood Relief...

Looking for a creative, bookish way to get some money to the Flood Relief Appeal? Writers on Rafts is a Queensland Writers Center initiative where you can enter a competition to win literary prizes and all of the money raised goes to the Flood Relief Appeal. Prizes include author visits, writer support (meet with an editor, writer, published etc), getting your name in print as a character in a book, book packs and the Super Special Prize Draw which contains a whole literary bag of goodies!

It is only $5 a ticket to enter, and you can enter as many categories as many times as you like, and if you win, you get to pick the prize you want within that category. Any residual books that have been donated to the competition that are not won will be donated to flood affected libraries.

So put your Flood money where you have a chance of being rewarded for your generosity!


Over at ads without products blog I stumbled across this atypical board game which has been described as communist monopoly. Here more about it here. The game is called "Kolejka", which is Polish for line or queue and is meant to teach kids what life was like under communism. The game is being released on the 5th of February and will be able to be purchased online, but be quick they are only releasing 3000 of them. Some quotes from the article:

'Just like in the original Monopoly, acquisition is the name of the game. In this case, however, that means struggling to get basic necessities such as food, clothing and furniture. "In the game, you send your family out to get items on a shopping list and they find that the five shops are sold out or that there hasn't been a delivery that day," the IPN's Karol Madaj told SPIEGEL ONLINE Thursday, explaining that the game "highlights the tough realities of life under Communism."'

'Just like in the Communist era, players can leverage certain advantages to get what they need. The "colleague in the government" card is the equivalent of the famous "get out of jail free" card in Monopoly. Any player lucky enough to have one of these beauties can secretly find out when the next deliveries will arrive in the shops. Mothers with children are allowed to jump the line as well.'

Friday, January 21, 2011

Great Books Movement...

Do you, or anyone you know have a set of hardbound "classics"? My Father has some that he inherited from his Father, beautiful red cloth bound with gold letters, all nestled in the long read box they came in, still mint and probably unread. I have been given some pre-loved leather bound ones, and they are the kind of thing I ogle in secondhand bookstores, when I inevitably have cheap paperback copies of said books already on my dusty shelves.

When I was in Sydney for the "Republic of Letters" conference, the key note address was delivered by Professor Joan Shelley Rubin from the University of Rochester. She was a wonderful speaker and her paper "Literary Community, Cultural Hierarchy and Twentieth-Century American Readers" was both entertaining and enlightening. She spoke on various hotly debated topics like "what constitutes 'good reading'" and "reader response" theory, as well as providing an overview of the "Great Books Movement" in America.

The first thing that came to mind for me was my first literature course at uni, which was called invariably "Great Books", where we studied Homer, Beowulf, Montaigne, Shakespeare etc etc. Well that course was a legacy of a much greater movement that had its origins at Columbia University early last century. A list of 75 "great" books was complied, as to be essential undergraduate training, that included Dante, Plato, Virgil etc etc. According to Rubin, the classes were structured around lectures and tutorials, where tutors were told not to teach, but to facilitate learning through leading questions and discussions. Hmmm... sounds familiar.

However, this new reader autonomy became incredibly popular even outside of universities. Columbian graduates branched off and started their own adult education classes and a Great Books Foundation was established to cater for this growing field (it still exists). By the 1940s enrollment had reached 80 000 and publishers of course knew that this was a "great" thing (bad pun). They aided in the ideal of providing "culture for the non-expert", book clubs and book mail outs were soon established. You could buy (and still can actually) your Britannica Great Books Set (all 54 books) and join the conversation. Books were marketed at those who would feel the bite of social isolation if they found themselves the only one in a room of people who hadn't read "this months book".

Of course people argue that this Great Books movement diminished critical authority and laid waste to traditional canons, especially when publishers devised their own lists of "classics" and "contemporary classics". Rubin said that overall, these lists tended to reinforce a "Western Humanist tradition" of high art and avoid "Modernist experimentation". But anyone who was anyone had to have read their fair share of "great books" and as the market opened out into more contemporary authors, publishers argued in their advertising that for the first time, people were actively engaged with "the thought of the day" and seeing it "actually taking shape and participating". Sounds too good to be true.

But there was an overarching ideal behind all this, that reading good books would make you a better person. A better citizen, better armed to face the world with reflection, critical thinking and active participation. I have read a few books on the virtues of reading, some argue that it helps create well-rounded individuals (whatever they are), some argued that it (reading/culture) is the way forward for the lower classes (Matthew Arnold), others were worried about the working classes getting their grubby little hands on (books, culture, the middle classes etc). The biggest changes seemed to come about with the erosion of high and low culture boundaries and the idea that a football game was as valid a cultural artifact as an opera, and deserved to be studied accordingly. Hence why you can now study comics and The Simpsons at University, I am not saying it is wrong, just food for thought.

So what is the "purpose" of reading now? Is it to better oneself? Provide entertainment? Be able to pontificate at dinner parties? Did the Great Books Movement change lives? What remnants of that highly popular movement remain beyond first year classes and beautifully bound (expensive) boxed sets? Care to share your thoughts?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Back to School...

The University of Queensland (UQ) at St Lucia reopened today, 27 buildings were affected there by the recent floods. Fortunately the main historic buildings were not affected, and the water didn't reach any of the fifteen or so libraries on campus. I went to pick up some books and photocopy some articles, as I haven't been able to go there for over a week. I thought I'd take some photographs so you can see what it looks like. It is an old sandstone university, very different to some of the other universities where I have previously been a student (Griffith, University of Southern Queensland and James Cook University).

From our little house it is only a fifteen minute drive to get to UQ, but on the way you drive along Coronation Drive, which runs parallel to the Brisbane River. Sitting at the lights on Coro Drive I could see beached pieces of metal walkways and debris along the ravaged river banks and even a maroon suitcase sitting atop a ferry terminal shelter with an assorted detritus of leaves and twigs left from the water.

Driving through St Lucia, houses still show the lines from where the flood waters reached. It was a sad sight to see beautiful little Queenslanders with tide marks up to the windows. There were makeshift dumps as well too, piles of wet and muddy furniture and soft furnishings, households and households of discarded belongings. We looked for rental properties in that area when we were moving down here just before Christmas, and couldn't find one that was in our price range and would allow us to have our dog and cat, lucky us I guess. We didn't even factor the possibility of floods into the equation when we were searching. I guess we know better now.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What to do...

I think I need to join a club. The Quakers and Fabians, the anarchists and free-thinkers of The Chikdren's Book have a sense of community, shared goals, topics of interest and I assume, open discussions regarding their ideals, and perhaps even lively debates. As a PhD student, I have no classes to attend and little human contact. I spend my days reading, taking notes and typing, either at home alone or in a cubicle in a library.

I've had this feeling before, this need to be part of something, I guess that is why I have a blog and why I joined the university philosophy club, although I have never received so much as an email from them since, and I only have eight followers of my blog. This isolation is my own doing, I don't play sport, I am not in a book club, my hobbies all involve self-imposed isolation, like reading and drawing. Which isn't to say I can't be social, I love my friends and family, I am not sealed into my house with no escape. But they work of course and are busy with their own lives. I guess I had a sense of community while working in a large high school for the last five years and I don't have that now as an unemployed full time student on a scholarship.

So what club or organisation could I join? Its not that I am bored, I am occupied between my study, my reading for pleasure and drawing, watching films and seeing friends on the weekends. I just think maybe there is room for more. Something not too expensive, something that doesn't require an enormous time commitment as I still need to work on my PhD, and probably something that doesn't involve me taking on a religion or wearing Lycra. Any ideas? What do you do?

Edit. PS. What about some life drawing classes? I haven't done those since I studied visual art ten years ago. Found some here and here. Might be an idea... certainly no Lycra involved!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Fabians and Edwardians...

To answer part of my last question, about what Fabians looked like in the 1890s, above is a photograph of Irish playwright and Fabian, George Bernard Shaw. Shaw wrote speeches and pamphlets for the Fabian Society from 1884 until 1929, such as this socialist tract below from 1890. Brown University has a page devoted to Shaw's political writings, including his 1928 book The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism and Capitalism. Modern day English Fabians have been described as a "vanguard think-tank for the New Labor movement". There is also an Australian Fabian Society, which lists among its notable member three previous Australian Prime Ministers. Don't you love when reading a novel takes you on a research journey that you had never planned? Meanwhile, I am only a quarter of the way through The Children's Book.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Children's Book Fashions...

In keeping with The Children's Book, I was looking at images from The New York Public Library Picture Collection Online of fashions from the 1890s. I wonder what the well to do young Fabians and Quakers, Anarchists and free thinkers were wearing?

A Novel Distraction...

So the rain has stopped for the moment and today is supposed to be 30 degrees Celsius (86f), but it feels much hotter and very humid, probably due to all the water around still after the floods. At least this heat will help the water that is left evaporate, but I am sure it must be hindering those who are cleaning up after the damage caused by the waters. It's too hot to concentrate! I shouldn't complain, I am sitting in the lounge room of our two bedroom cottage with two fans on. This little place, due to its age (1873) is very cute and very hot, it has no insulation or ceiling fans and not all of the windows open (they have been painted shut). There is no heating either of course, of any description, so I am wondering if in winter it traps the cold like it traps the heat?

I have been working on ideas for my thesis and chasing down books, authors and papers that were mentioned at the conference in Sydney last week. But I wanted to share with you another distraction, besides the heat, I started reading last night A.S Byatt's The Children's Book. As I said, I had seen this book mentioned on a few blogs and read an excerpt that made me want to read more. I read up to that excerpt last night, and I want to share it with you, if you haven't read it already. Chapter three begins like this:

This was the Wellwoods' third Midsummer Party. Their guests were socialists, anarchists, Quakers, Fabians, artists, editors, freethinkers and writers, who lived, either all of the time, or at the weekends and on holidays in converted cottages and old farmhouses, Arts and Craft homes and working-men's terraces, in the villages, woods and meadows around the Kentish Weald and the North and South Downs.

I want to be at that party, or hold one like that. But I don't have any Fabian friends, would Labor Party members count? Then again, I don't know any Quakers either. The books is set in 1895 and whist the idealistic and attempted Utopian lifestyle of the Wellwoods and their friends is immediately apparent, there is something sinister underneath. The blurb on the cover tells me that the children, "grow up in the golden summers of Edwardian times, but as the sons rebel against their parents and the girls dream of independent futures, they are unaware that in the darkness ahead they will be betrayed unintentionally by the adults who love them".

How intriguing and compelling. I wonder what my midsummer party would look like? Probably teachers, poets, uni students, free thinkers and writers that live in cheap rentals without air conditioning and a few sympathetic corporate hacks who help fund our artistic endeavors, or at least feed us. Hmmm... then again, we don't celebrate midsummer in Australia and summer solstice has been and gone... maybe a winter solstice party, then it won't be so hot!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Back to Books...

Friday's mail bought A.S Byatt's The Children's Book, which I have been seeing a lot in blog land recently and reading some great reviews for, so I am looking forward to reading it. I got a beautifully brand new (looking) copy of it on ebay for $1.00 plus $5.00 postage. When looking for books online, I always look at ebay first to see if I can get a second hand copy, and then at the Book Depository, as they have free international postage. I love Amazon, but the postage to Australia can be prohibitive.

While in Sydney I went to a book launch for, and purchased a copy of, Reading Across the Pacific: Australia - United States Intellectual Histories. A book of papers presented last year at Sydney University and edited by Robert Dixon and Nicholas Birns. A fantastic collection of essays divided into five sections: National Literature and Transnationalism (of particular interest for me for my thesis), Poetry and Poetics (again, great for my thesis which is on Australian poetry), Literature and Popular Culture, The Cold War (I have an avid personal interest in this that I blame on Ginsberg and my Father) and the Publishing History and Transpacific Print Cultures.

In other related news, many of you may be aware of Jacket magazine, the online poetry magazine that was started by John Tranter; well Jacket is moving to Philadelphia to the University of Pennsylvania. The move is ensuring the future of the not for profit, free online magazine. More information will be posted soon on the Jacket website.

In further poetry news, the Australian Poetry Center (AP) is being launched in February this year. The Australian Poetry Center (APC) will see the merger of the existing Australian Poetry Center and the NSW Poets Union. And the online Australian Poetry Library (APRIL), by the University of Sydney was supposed to be launched in December, but it doesn't seem to be online yet, so I will keep an eye out for it. And if you haven't read about it yet, F Scott Fitzgerald joined 600 other authors on the 1st of January in the public domain, meaning the European copyright on his work has expired, so there are free ebooks available now. For more information check out this article. For free ebooks in general, go to Project Gutenberg.

Have a great week!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Safe in Brisbane...

Image credit

The water is receding and people are out in force helping clean up the damage and detritus of the flood. The supermarkets are still light on fresh food, it was strange even today seeing isles and isles with nothing in them, and apparently you cannot attain gumboots for love or money, but people are trying to get their lives and livelihoods back to "normal". We were lucky up here on the terrace in Brisbane, we avoided the flood waters, they isolated us for a few days, but never made it up our street. Friends of mine in Ipswich and Toowoomba were not so lucky and lost their houses and cars; but all of my friends and family are safe other than property loss or damage. For that I know we are incredibly lucky. The horror stories about the dead and the missing in the newspapers and on the television are beyond my comprehension. My thoughts go out to those families; this week has been full of tragedies, the gravity of which is still being discovered.

During this week of water, I flew down to Sydney to attend a conference at the Sydney University called, "The Republic of Letters: Literary Communities in Australia". Some of the Brisbane academics were unable to attend, as they couldn't cross the floodwaters, but I was lucky to be able to catch a train to the airport and bypass the flooded roads. It was strange being removed from the unfolding dramas back home and I sought out information via newspapers, as the college accommodation didn't have a working television and I couldn't get the internet to work either.

Some highlights from the conference included papers by Philip Mead and Peter Kirkpatrick. As well as getting the opportunity to see "The First Emperor: China's Entombed Warriors" exhibition at the NSW Art Gallery. But it is great to be home again and know that my friends and family are all safe.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Brisbane flooding...

Looks like we may lose power tomorrow, as Energex isolate electrical equipment for safety. We are up on a terrace in Brisbane, but there is flooding in the suburbs all around us, so we are fairly cut off and isolated. The online Brisbane flood maps are all down at the moment, so I can't share a picture of the extent of it right now, but the flooding is very wide spread and only getting worse. I'll catch up when I can.

Black and White play along 2...

Still playing along with A Little Bird Told Me's "Week of Black and White". Some photographs from the backyard this morning, pretty soggy after three weeks of rain. The photographs don't really show up how much water is on the ground, but I don't dare venture out as it is still raining heavily. We are lucky that we are up on a hill, but Dylan is coming home from work as his building next to the Brisbane River is being closed down.

Queensland Floods...

Toowoomba is where I spent the last five years working and teaching, before I moved to Brisbane. I can't believe the deadly floods they have had there. This news report covers what happened yesterday in Toowoomba and then goes onto look at the wider Darling Downs region. There are also flood warnings for Brisbane today.

The only thing that has surprised me more than the flash floods are the insensitive and ignorant comments posted under You Tube footage and news reports saying Queensland needs to be nuked, or asking why people bother to live in Toowoomba, attacking politicians and political parties, laying blame etc. etc. I do however like this comment from

Vic Conway of Australia Posted at 4:08 AM Today

The cause of worsening weather,etc. AND the dead birds dropping from the sky, plus many other mass animal deaths - is A BLIZZARD OF ELECTRONS coming up from The Sun AND VICINITY!! A deadly red dust is also falling. Both blizzard of electrons and red dust are deadly killers!! What has happened so far since late in November 10, is NOTHING compared to what is coming!! I fully expect Queensland(South East,etc.anyway)to become a COMPLETE WRITE-OFF!! Happening world wide, though!! PREPARE for the VERY worst!! LITERALLY!!!! Vic Conway.(Contact me! I know what is happening!! )

Edit: I seem to have struck a cord with the blizzard of electrons quote above. Vic has also put forward that idea here and here. The only other places I can track down the phrase "blizzard of electrons" is here and here, but both of these references are to the Crab Nebula, not dead birds or apocalyptic events .

Monday, January 10, 2011

Black and White play along...

"I killed her in St Kilda..."

I am playing along with A Little Bird Told Me's "A Week of Black and White". Above is a black and white photograph I took at St Kilda in Melbourne, Australia. I went to Melbourne for a friend's wedding, and having never been before I drew upon all my cultural collateral when deciding where to stay. I booked my accommodation in my lunch break one day at school with very little time to do research. I knew the Paul Kelly song "From St Kilda to Kings Cross" and the glam-punk song "I killed her in St Kilda" with the memorable chorus something like... "and I killed her in St Kilda and now I'll never be the same", I think it was by the Voodoo Lovecats. It was on a mixtape that was made for me in the 90s, which I have lost, but the chorus stayed in my head all these years. So when I was looking at lists of hotels, St Kilda seemed the first and only place to stay.

So yeah, I have four University degrees, I have traveled the globe, and the most I knew about Melbourne came from song lyrics. I am not proud, but Melbourne was great, even if I had the chorus to "I killed her in St Kilda" in my head for the whole time I was there. A similar thing happened when I was in Waterloo, but that is another story for another time.

PS. Anybody know the song that I am talking about? I have googled it rather unsuccessfully.

NoteMaker Envy...

I love having a diary to stay organised for uni and life in general. I keep a journal and a diary. The journal holds day to day activities, reflections, dreams etc etc. and the diary help me plan ahead, organise meetings and appointments etc etc. I deem both as necessities for my sanity. I like using A5 size Moleskines or Moleskine knock-offs, usually the later as they are much cheaper (full-time student after all)!

NoteMaker has wonderful new promotion images for 2011 diaries. If you are anything like me, then images like these make your heart beat a little faster. I already have a Moleskine Weekly Notebook Diary that I got for Christmas. It is great, soft covered A5 notebook, with a week to an opening and a page for notes and a Typo Moleskine knockoff for my journal. But if I didn't have these...

Sunday, January 9, 2011


Despite the torrential rain, Dylan and I went with my gorgeous nephew to the Science Center and State Museum today. We played with the interactive attractions at the Science Center, before admiring the vast collection of taxidermy animals and dinosaurs on display at the moment. My favorite was the Tree Kangaroo, they look so strange with their possum like kangaroo bodies and long thin tail. There was a lot to look at and keep us all occupied on this rainy Sunday afternoon.

Friday, January 7, 2011


In line with our intended travels to the Middle East this year I have been reading the Lonely Planet Guide to the Middle East and have learnt that when questioned about your religion, atheist is not the best answer. Apparently saying that you are a "seeker" is a better way of explaining why you don't go to church, but the writer warns to be prepared for follow on conversations about the merits of the questioners religion.

I have also read Ryszard Kapusinski's Travels with Herodotus. A wonderful book written by an esteemed Polish journalist about his travels from behind the iron curtain, with a copy of Herodotus in hand. He weaves his personal, extraordinary experiences, with tales from Herodotus and reflections upon the idea of "history" and about how historians and journalists gather information. The philosophical reflections continue throughout the book and Kapusinski draws parallels between Herodotus' time and our own. I enjoyed most his honest appraisal of his own innocence and ignorance when he "crossed the border" for the first time. From the shame of his communist bloc clothing to his astonishment at street lights and restaurants open after dark, Kapusinski offers us his story and Herodotus' in an entertaining, thought provoking manner.

I finished reading Hemingway's The Garden of Eden when we were at Dylan's Mother's house and she let me borrow Graham Greene's The Quiet American. I think I must be one of the only people I know that has read this intense little novella. It was wonderful and disturbing, as was The Garden of Eden come to think of it. Eden has been called Hemingway's most erotic novel for good reason, and even though it was unfinished when he died and there has been a lot of debate about the virtues of "finishing" his work for publication, it is masterfully written. Reading it and knowing that a film has been made of it, I could almost see the scenes. It seems almost written in order to become a film, it is a very visual book.

And finally, I read Charles Bukowski's Slouching Towards Nirvana: New Poems. I have read some of his poems online and flicked through his books in bookstores for so long, it was great to finally have a work of his to read from cover to cover. His poems can be as painfully beautiful as they are brutal. He writes about his life, and draws stories from almost every decade of it. He is a very popular American poet, post-Beat, reclusive and brittle. I love the poem about what it is like to wake up with a hangover in your seventies. He is like the sinister alter ego of Leonard Cohen, or William S Burroughs channeling the New York Poets. Gritty, but wonderful.

Oh and I have just started reading The Sailor from Gibraltar by Marguerite Duras, upon the recommendation of my sister. Thirty-eight pages in and the main character is striking to say the least...

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Sixteen pages, 13 182 words later and I have finished transcribing the Laurie Duggan interview! Laurie will be back in Australia in April for the opening of an exhibition at the Wollongong City Art Gallery called "Coalcliff Days". An exhibition from the 15th of April to the 12th of June, featuring the works of Australian poets and Artists associated with the Colacliff house that Ken Bolton and friends squatted in during the late 70s and early 80s.

A list of Australian poet luminaries will be at the opening, including: Ken Bolton, Sal Brereton, Pam Brown, Alan Jefferies and Laurie Duggan. The opening will include poetry readings by writers included in the exhibition, as well as joint readings by Coalcliff poets and young local poets. For more information, check out the Coalcliff Days Blog or the Wollongong Gallery page.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Oh O'Hara...


is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, Irún, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne
or being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona
partly because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier St. Sebastian
partly because of my love for you, partly because of your love for yoghurt
partly because of the fluorescent orange tulips around the birches
partly because of the secrecy our smiles take on before people and statuary
it is hard to believe when I'm with you that there can be anything as still
as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front of it
in the warm New York 4 o'clock light we are drifting back and forth
between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles

and the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint
you suddenly wonder why in the world anyone ever did them

I look
at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world
except possibly for the Polish Rider occasionally and anyway it's in the Frick
which thank heavens you haven't gone to yet so we can go together the first time
and the fact that you move so beautifully more or less takes care of Futurism
just as at home I never think of the Nude Descending a Staircase or
at a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo that used to wow me
and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them
when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when the sun sank
or for that matter Marino Marini when he didn't pick the rider as carefully
as the horse

it seems they were all cheated of some marvelous experience
which is not going to go wasted on me which is why I am telling you about it

Frank O'Hara

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge...

Thanks to Tony's Reading List, a blog I found via the wonderful Interpolations blog, I have discovered the Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge. Murakami is one of my all time favourite writers. I have never taken up a reading challenge before, so this seems like a great one to start with!

There are different levels of participation available, from one novel or everything Murakami has ever written (which has been translated into English). Below is the list of all of his works published in English, the ones underlined are the ones I have already read. Eleven out of a possible seventeen, so maybe I can aim to read them all the end of the year? I guess the challenge is being able to get hold of the final ones.


Hear the Wind Sing (風の歌を聴け Kaze no uta o kike)
Pinball, 1973 (1973年のピンボール 1973-nen no pinbōru)
A Wild Sheep Chase (羊をめぐる冒険 Hitsuji o meguru bōken)
Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (世界の終りとハードボイルド・ワンダーランド Sekai no owari to hādoboirudo wandārando)
Norwegian Wood (ノルウェイの森 Noruwei no mori)
Dance Dance Dance (ダンス・ダンス・ダンス Dansu dansu dansu)
South of the Border, West of the Sun (国境の南、太陽の西 Kokkyō no minami, taiyō no nishi)
The Wind-up Bird Chronicle (ねじまき鳥クロニクル Nejimaki-dori kuronikuru)
Sputnik Sweetheart (スプートニクの恋人 Supūtoniku no koibito)
Kafka on the Shore (海辺のカフカ Umibe no Kafuka)
After Dark (アフターダーク Afutā Dāku)
1Q84 (1Q84 Ichi-kyū-hachi-yon)

Short story collections

after the quake
The Elephant Vanishes

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman


Underground (アンダーグラウンド Andāguraundo)
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (走ることについて語るときに僕の語ること Hashiru koto ni tsuite kataru toki ni boku no kataru koto)

Online again...

We have the internet back again! How wonderful. Since we have been internet free, I've been playing in my visual art diary, drawing and making collages, as well as reading a lot and still transcribing the Duggan interview, so it wasn't all bad. Now I just need to catch up on what has been happening in blog land.