i’m five!

Earlier this evening, I realised today is Book to the Future’s fifth anniversary. I’ve got nothing prepared. Not a cake, not a competition, or even a special post. Apart from this one, which I’m making up on the spot. I completely forgot.

Worst blogger ever? Quite possibly.

I’m still settling into my new life, still trying to balance freelance work and job-hunting and everything else. I’m getting there; slowly working out where I’m going (and where I want to go) one step at a time. Is that a cliché? I don’t care – it’s true.

I’m grateful to everyone who’s taken the time to read one of my reviews over the past five years. Thanks to everyone who’s commented, emailed, Twittered – you’re all ace. Plus, super-special thanks to Linda and Jean from Newtown Review of Books and Thuy On from the Big Issue for being kind enough to publish my words in their respective publications.

Five years…that’s half a decade. Better get on with it – I’ve been doing this too long to stop now!

Michelle

 

Read More

book to the future bookmarks #12

bookmarks1

 

After a bit of a delay in transmission, it’s about time I got back to business.

Welcome to Book to the Future Bookmarks, a series of posts in which I share five literary links, straight from my bookmarks folder to your screen. Sometimes I have a bit of a chat about what I’ve been reading and what’s happening at large in the literary community, too.

1918-2

If I were to write a list of everything I know about fashion and fashion designers, that list would be incredibly short. So, this might be really old news to anyone who’s into fashion, but I recently discovered Sydney-based label, Romance Was Born created a 2015 collection inspired by May Gibbs’ Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. You can take a peek at the Bush Magic collection right here.

While on the subject of childhood memories, here’s Tintin, naked (the link’s old, and in French, but worthwhile). “It’s the same Tintin au Congo” says the article, “but naked”.

Tintin in the Congo is arguably the most controversial of the Tintin series, created by Belgian cartoonist, Hergé. It was published in the thirties and, despite various later revisions and alterations, still remains horrendously racist. And that’s not to mention the casual attitude to killing native African animals. Charming.

An unknown artist is republishing Tintin au Congo on Tumblr – but with Tintin (and only Tintin) pictured in the buff. It’s a clever project that questions the things we find offensive – or at least, that’s how I see it. Because if you find Tintin’s nudity the most offensive thing in Tintin au Congo À Poil, you’re not paying attention.

Ferrante or Knausgaard? It’s a difficult decision. As I mentioned in my last post, I recently read the first book of Knausgaard’s My Struggle series and I’m seriously considering committing a jail-worthy crime or joining a religious order so I have time to read the rest of the series. Learning Norwegian is also an option that’s crossed my mind. However, the appeal of reading Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels is also strong – and after reading this New Yorker article, it’s even more so. Bring me books and get me to a nunnery…

My solution to the Knausgaard/Ferrante dilemma
The Knausgaard/Ferrante dilemma, solved

From multi-book epics to the very short – take a look at Electric Lit’s list of 17 Short Novels You Can Read in a Single Sitting. It’s an interesting list, but there’s a lot missing…like, for example, Helen Garner’s The Children’s Bach. Or Georges Bataille’s The Story of the Eye, which is one of my favourite read-in-an-afternoon books – I’ve read it so many times I’ve lost count (and often wonder what this says about me). I’m not going to start listing all my favourite novellas because I’ll be here all day…but I will leave a bonus link here. If you’re into novellas, Daniel Young (of Tincture Journal fame) has just started a new blog called All the Novellas, in which he plans to read and post his thoughts on – you guessed it – all the novellas. It’s an amazing project – I’ll be cheering him on.

Finally, if you haven’t already, make sure you add your name to this petition, kicked off by Emily Paull (emerging writer, bookseller and the blogger behind The Incredible Rambling Elimy) protesting the change of the Western Australian Premier’s Book Award to a biannual prize. With just under 500 signatures already, you should make sure yours is one of them.

Emily and Yvette Walker, author of Letters to the End of Love (and winner of the 2014 Western Australian Premier’s Emerging Author award) spoke with RTR FM about what these cuts mean for the Western Australian writing scene on the radio this morning. Fast forward to the 47 minute mark for the first part of the discussion and through to 1h 29m for the second.

banner-home1One more thing – I might have just moved to Melbourne, but there’s something that’s already got me browsing the web for cheap hotels back in Sydney. The lineup for this year’s Sydney Writers’ Festival was announced just the other day and it’s stonkingly good. This year’s theme is How to Live – advice I think I could definitely use right about now.

That’s all I have for this edition of Book to the Future Bookmarks. Actually, it’s not really – I’ve still got over 900 links I’ve added to my bookmarks folder in the past few months to sort through. They’ll have to wait for the next time around.

Edited to add: Of course, only a matter of hours after I click the “publish” button on this post, the Miles Franklin longlist is announced. Thoughts? Omissions? I’ve only read two longlisted books and neither really impressed me. It’s not the riskiest list ever – but has the Miles Franklin ever been risky?

Read More

six tales of two cities

A lot has changed over the past few weeks, so I thought I’d try to explain it all with six short pieces…

moving

New house

pink flowers
The flowering tree in our little courtyard

We’ve been living here for less than two weeks and everything still feels giddy. There’s a small tree in our courtyard that has burst into pink blossoms in the past week as if in enthusiastic welcome. We’re right in the middle of a group of attached townhouses, and we’re slowly getting used to the sounds of our neighbours moving about their homes – the way their muted voices drift through our open windows on warm evenings.

Everything might be new, but the top stair still creaks reassuringly when we come upstairs at night, just like the last place we lived.

I’m slowly cataloguing the thousands of little noises that come along with this new place; still finding places for all my Sydney things and my Sydney memories.

Soon, when we both get new jobs and begin to forge new routines, this will stop feeling like a holiday – but I’m secretly hoping that this transitory moment lingers as long as possible.

train window
Sunset, as seen through the door of a Sydney train

Train announcement, Upfield line, 9.30pm, 11/3/2015

“Our next stop is Melbourne Zoo. The zookeeper’s just radioed through to let me know that a few of the lions have just escaped. They’re all out looking for them, but if you’re in the area, please take care…”

It was a practical joke intended for a group of primary school kids on a nocturnal excursion to the zoo. Someone in my carriage audibly groaned, but it amused me.

 

No place like (nearly) home

It’s not such a big deal, moving to Melbourne. I’m originally from Melbourne.

Our temporary dinner table. One diner at a time, please.
Our temporary dinner table. One diner at a time, please.

(Actually, that’s technically not true. I grew up in a small country town an hour out of the city. But Melbourne has always felt like home to me.)

Moving back wasn’t a snap decision, although the way everything came together so quickly makes me feel like it was. It was something we’d been talking about for years. In the last months of 2014, the decision was made – and now, here I am, a thousand kilometres south of the city in which I spent the past eleven years, feeling a little like what Dorothy must have felt when she landed in Oz.

At least Dorothy got to take her house with her.

We sold a lot of our furniture to make the move cheaper. Including my giant bookshelf. Now all my books are piled up against the walls again, the way they were when I started this blog. It feels like things have come full circle.

Piles of books against the walls, again
Piles of books against the walls, again

My struggle (with nostalgia)

We spent a week and a bit in my hometown, staying with my parents while we were looking for somewhere to live. I packed a ridiculous number of books for the time we spent away, but I only ended up reading one – A Death in the Family, the first book in Knausgaard’s My Struggle series.

Sunset in Blacktown, just down the road from our old place
Sunset in Blacktown, just down the road from our old place

I’ve been thinking about nostalgia (in literature, but also in myself) a lot lately. Knausgaard’s relentlessly introspective look at his childhood and impossibly awkward teenage years brought back floods of memories of my own.

There’s really no better place to read Knausgaard than in the home in which you grew up. The combination of words and place set my memory whirring.

To tell the truth, I’m a little bit in love. If I didn’t have an embarrassingly large pile of books on my desk waiting to be reviewed, I’d have already started the next book in the series. Maybe soon.

#thanksdad

While staying with my parents, my Dad asked me about hashtags, so I tried to explain and ended up handing over my phone and showing him Twitter.

“But what’s Twitter actually for?” he asked me.

“Well, you send out a message using fewer than 140 characters and people who follow you on Twitter can read it and respond” I responded.

“Why would you want to do that?”

“Um – because you want to tell people about something you’ve done, or a thought you’ve had – or talk about a book you’ve enjoyed. Other people follow your tweets and see all the things you talk about”

“How many people follow your tweets?”

I told him.

“What? Why?

My phone is full of pictures of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. I lived in Sydney for eleven years and I had to take a picture every time I went past.
My phone is full of pictures of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. I lived in Sydney for eleven years and I had to take a picture every time I went past.

Things I’m sad to leave behind (or: yes, even more nostalgia)

The Blue Mountains in the distance through my study window

Flowering Jacaranda trees (or perhaps specifically the one outside my former workplace?)

The jacaranda tree outside my old workplace
Jacarandas in bloom

Reading on the train to work

Dressing up to go to the Opera House

Our favourite Chinese restaurant

Going to Gleebooks after a long day at work

Wednesday night expeditions to the Art Gallery of New South Wales

Glen, my Big Issue guy

A burger with the lot from the milk bar near my work for lunch on Fridays

My glasses fogging up instantly as I walked down the stairs into Town Hall station into a wall of humidity

People-watching in Newtown

Predictable weather

Saying hello to Christina Stead every time I’d walk past her plaque at Circular Quay

The 343 through Redfern, even though it never ran on time

Getting to know my fellow commuters over the years without ever exchanging a word

Old wallpaper preserved behind clear perspex on the walls of the New South Wales Writers’ Centre

Lewisham, the home of Sydney’s friendliest cats (and people)

(Talking of people, there are far too many of you to name individually, but you know who you are)

Driving to our favourite beach for the day

Getting lost in The Rocks (and thinking of Playing Beattie Bow every single time)

Hot chocolate from Central station on the way to work in winter

The many places I never managed to find time to explore

greenclocksmaller

It’s sad to be gone. It’s good to be back. Things are happening all at once. I’m unpacking boxes. I’m looking for a new job for the first time in nine years. I’m making plans. I’m writing.

I’m still working out what happens next.

Read More

past, present and future with lauren sams

Reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated. Yes, I’m still here, yes I’m still reading and yes, I most certainly am working on a big post to describe exactly what I’ve been up to in my absence.

But in the meantime, who’s in the mood for a little time travelling…?

 

ppandf1
Lauren Sams

 

Welcome to Past, Present and Future – the fortnightly-ish series of posts in which I invite someone bookish over to tell me a little about the book they’ve just finished reading, the book they’re reading at the moment and the book they’re planning to read next.

My guest for today? It’s Lauren Sams, Associate Editor of Cosmopolitan and author of She’s Having Her Baby – which is out right now. Today, in fact!

Here’s what’s on Lauren’s bedside table at the moment…

Past

My New Year’s resolution was to read more non-fiction. My husband reads non-fiction almost exclusively, but I’m a fiction gal. I love exploring characters and worlds that don’t really exist, but better-than-beforeare so close to reality that it seems like they do (Station Eleven, by Emily St John Mandel, is the latest book I’ve read that totally lives up to this).

With my non-fiction resolution in mind, I was so excited to be sent an advance copy of Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of our Everyday Lives, by Gretchen Rubin (sidenote: I got an advance copy because I review books for Cosmopolitan). I’d been told that Rubin’s bestseller, The Happiness Project, was awesome, but I hadn’t read it. And since it was the new year and I wanted to change approximately eleventy billion things about myself, it seemed like I was meant to read this book.

While a whole book about habits sounds totally dry, I promise you, it is not. Rubin is a sterling writer whose every word is backed up by years of exhaustive research. She looks at the science of how we make habits, how we can do that better, and ultimately, how we can stick to them. Anyone who wants to actually use their gym for exercise, and not just the sauna, needs to read this book. I loved it!

Present

Right now, I’m reading A Reunion of Ghosts, by Judith Claire Mitchell. Three sisters with a-reunion-of-ghostsseemingly little left to live for make a pact to commit suicide. Their “note” is the book itself – a history of their sprawling family, from Europe to the Americas, and their own biography. It’s gorgeously written and I’m really enjoying it so far.

Future

Next, I am gearing myself up for Helen Garner’s This House of Grief. Phew. It’s going to be a doozy, I just know it (for unfamiliar readers, it’s a true account of the murder trial of Robert Farquharson, who was accused of intentionally drowning his two sons). It’s been on my shelf for almost a year but I haven’t yet summoned the courage to read it; I just know it’ll be harrowing and awful. I also know it’ll be amazing because Helen Garner is such a uniquely gifted writer, and I think (hope) that this will outweigh the awfulness of the subject matter.

Thanks for having me, Book to the Future! Obviously the book you’re all going to be reading next is She’s Having her Baby. Right??

greenclocksmaller

Thanks, Lauren! Here’s the cover of She’s Having Her Baby – keep an eye out for it in your local bookshop. You can find out more about Lauren and She’s Having Her Baby right here – or, if you’re the tweeting type, you can follow Lauren on Twitter here.SHHB (online)

Read More