all good things, april to july ’18

Hi. It’s been way too long.

I wrote a few words about what the hell I’ve been doing for the past six (and a bit) months, but deleted it all, because it sounded an awful lot like waaa waaaaa waaaa, and that’s not what I want to say at all.

Here’s the really short version, sans waaa: I have a great new copywriting job where I get to pat a lot of dogs. We had to move because our house was sold, but I’ve just got all my books back on the shelves in the new place, and I really like it here. And in the few weeks where I was flat broke while looking for work and moving, my local library saved my sanity. I visit pretty much every weekend now.

Also, in the middle of all that, I turned forty. I don’t know how this happened either.

My All Good Things posts are an opportunity for me to look back on all the good stuff that’s kept me going over the past month (or so). Because it’s been a while between posts, I’ve got quite a lot to ramble about, so I’d better get started…

Music

How to Solve Our Human Problems
Belle and Sebastian

I haven’t been particularly adventurous with my music choices this year. I’m a little ashamed to say I’ve spent most of my time listening to podcasts or Spotify playlists. But there is one new album I’ve had on repeat lately…

Belle and Sebastian is one of my favourite bands, but for some reason, I put off listening to their latest release. When I did finally give How to Solve Our Human Problems a listen, I wondered what had taken me so long.

I managed to get my hands on some last-minute tickets to see B&S perform at the Palais Theatre back in May and had the most amazing night.

Books

Our Tiny, Useless Hearts
Toni Jordan

Janice still loves her ex-husband, Alec. Her sister, Caroline is married to Henry, who’s just revealed that he’s having an affair with Martha, their children’s teacher. Janice is disgusted on her sister’s behalf – until she discovers that Caroline is herself having an affair with her neighbour, Craig. Alec catches Janice in bed with Craig – and Craig’s wife, Lesley wants everyone to know that she’s been having an affair with Alec.

Got all that? Good. Now – take all these characters, confine them to a suburban McMansion, add a generous helping of awkwardness, then stand back and watch the mayhem unfold. Our Tiny, Useless Hearts is a rare thing: the kind of book that will make you laugh and cry, then laugh all over again. It’s chaotic, touching and very, very clever.

I’m really looking forward to reading more Toni Jordan. Her next novel, The Fragments, is a “literary mystery” that’s due out later this year. Yes please!

The Hot Guy
Mel Campbell and Anthony Morris

Adam is hot. Like really, really hot. He doesn’t even know he’s hot. He has no idea, for instance, that there’s an entire Facebook group dedicated to sleeping with him.

When recently dumped Cate is set up with Adam by her boss, Cate isn’t aware that a night with the Hot Guy has a set of rules. The morning after, rather than making a hasty retreat, she decides to stick around.

The Hot Guy is oodles of fun. Not to mention screamingly funny. I particularly enjoyed the authors’ comments on online movie reviewing culture. And there’s a scene in Adam’s hometown, which has a statue that looks a lot like him….anyway, I don’t want to spoil all the jokes (and there are quite a lot of them) so you’ll just have to trust me on this one – if you’re feeling a little drab, read The Hot Guy.

The Fortress
S A Jones

After he’s implicated in a violent incident at his workplace, executive Jonathon Bridge voluntarily enters the Fortress. It’s an extreme step. His confinement will last a year, and his wife, Adalia, is due to give birth to their first child in a few months. If Jonathon’s to save what’s left of his marriage, The Fortress is his only option.

When I added The Fortress to Goodreads, I noticed how many people tagged it as “dystopian”. Jones’ world in The Fortress is only slightly removed from our own – it has PlayStations and football and the internet. But there’s also the Fortress, a mysterious compound ruled by a matriarchal society; a place where men go to seek redemption.

I read The Fortress a few weeks ago and it seems to have set up camp in my head. There’s something about this novel that doesn’t sit quite right with me, and I’m still turning it over and over in my thoughts. Still, I think it’s better to read a novel that makes you think – even if you disagree with it – than something you forget instantly.

Television

Nanette
Hannah Gadsby

While on the subject of things I can’t get out of my head: Nanette. It’s on Netflix. You’ve probably already seen it – I feel like I’m definitely the last person in the world to do so.

There are so many smart articles floating around Twitter that perfectly express what’s so special about Nanette (like this one in the New Yorker, for instance). All I can say is that you really need to watch it. Then tell someone else.

Podcasts

Obscure
Michael Ian Black

The very first episode of Obscure opens with the words “I’m telling you right now at the outset: this is probably not a good idea”.

Obscure is a pretty simple concept. It’s a comedy podcast in which Michael Ian Black reads Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure out loud, commenting as he goes. Yeah – that’s Jude the Obscure – without a doubt the most hilarious of Thomas Hardy’s novels.

It’s a bonkers idea for a podcast. But a bad idea? I’m not so sure. The second I heard the premise, I subscribed and I’ve been listening from the first episode.

At its best, Obscure is funny and fascinating. It’s more than just a reading of Jude the Obscure – it’s also a meditation on dreams and fame and what it means to be obscure. Black (who claims to have not read the book, though he clearly has) peppers each episode with interviews and observations taken from his own comedy career.

At its worst, Obscure is uneven and awkward. Some of the earlier episodes in particular have extended rants that stray a little too far away from the book, or interviews with people who have nothing to add. There are also moments when Black’s interruptions simply restate what’s already been said, like the Lyrics Genius version of Jude.

A few of the early episodes are rough, but I think Obscure is just starting to find its groove. I’m really interested to see how this podcast evolves and I look forward to every new episode.

Other Stuff

Mi Goals Planner

I have one more recommendation this month, and it’s for the Mi Goals Planner that’s pictured in the header image for this post. Just say you’re someone who is really, notoriously bad at planning things (like relaunching their blog, for instance). This journal encourages you to get your plans written down on paper and work through each step, one by one.

It seems stupid and basic, but it’s working for me, because apparently I really need stupid and basic to get me back on track. And it’s not too full of the kind of idiotic inspirational quotes (You are enough! Live, laugh, love!) that fill me with rage.

I got mine from Milligram and I’m finding it really useful so far (and no, this isn’t sponsored. I’m just really disorganised and love this journal).

Coming up next…

As I mentioned at the start of this post, I’ve kind of become a library addict. Where else can I experiment so wildly with what I read?

I’ve got a pile of books on my bedside table waiting to be read and I’m sure some of them will make appearances in next month’s All Good Things post. But before that, there’s a review I need to write. I’m also trying out a few bookish podcasts and working on a post about what I’m planning to do with this blog. More on that soon…

book to the future bookmarks #5

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Welcome to the fifth edition of Book to the Future Bookmarks, a series of fortnightly posts in which I bombard you with just a few of the many links I’ve bookmarked during the week.

Being edition number five, it seems only fitting to include five links this time around.

(This is also because I’m working on a huge, complicated review at the moment, and these days, it seems as though I’m only able to concentrate on one thing at a time. Thanks, brain!)

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Number five is aliiiive!

1. Shelf Denial

My lovely Ikea Expedit bookshelf looks fairly neat in this photo, taken last year for a guest post on Michelle5The Incredible Rambling Elimy’s blog (here’s the post, if you’re interested). But since then, more and more books have found their way into my home, and my once-organised shelves are now double-stacked. Triple-stacked in places. There are piles of books forming on the floor in my study again.

It’s chaos. Admittedly, chaos of the best kind, but chaos nonetheless.

Sadly, I’m lacking the space for another big bookshelf. Which is a problem, because, much to the dismay of bookish types and vinyl lovers, Ikea will soon be discontinuing their classic Expedit range.

According to Gizmodo, it’s an environmental move. I appreciate that. And the Expedit is being replaced with a range that’s very similar; available in the same range of colours. But, at the same time, this means I’ll never be able to find another bookshelf that’s quite the same as my much-loved, much overloaded Expedit bookcase.

Oh, Ikea. For the love of meatballs, nøøøøøø.

2. Far from the reading crowd: literature from a distance

This article in The New Yorker on Franco Moretti’s work on Distant Reading – for which he recently received America’s National Book Critics Circle award – makes for interesting reading.

Moretti argues that literary criticism should be considered as a science rather than an art. Using software, Moretti examines the changed in literary trends over time. Joshua Rothmann, author of the New Yorker article, is sceptical, but fascinated.

I’m not really sure that Moretti’s work can be construed as “literary criticism”, per se. Perhaps it’s something else entirely. I’m definitely intrigued….

3. Draw About Love

I (um) might have blogged about this before (in fact, I know I have) but I’m kind of obsessed with Belle and Sebastian – arguably the most bookish of bands. If you love B&S too, chances are you’ll want to bookmark Draw About Love. It’s the Tumblr of an artist dedicated to translating some of Belle and Sebastian’s best songs and lyrics into art. There are a few misses here and there, and updates are few and unfortunately far between, but I really like the fun, quirky aesthetic of these images.

4. Have you heard the one about the two existentialists at a shooting gallery?

It sounds like the setup to a joke, but it really happened.

Turns out that the very first photo taken of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre together shows the pair at a Paris shooting range; de Beauvoir, smiling, with her eyes closed and a gun in her hands, while Sartre, a pipe in his mouth, rests a hand on her shoulder.

I guess that’s one way to deal with that existential angst. This article over at Open Culture explains everything.

5. The new normal – Zadie Smith on climate change

I read Zadie Smith’s essay on climate change on the New York Review of Books website last night as a huge electrical storm overhead turned the night into oddly-lit day. It seemed appropriate. Thoughts clattered into place. Here’s a little extract:

[..] The climate was one of those facts. We did not think it could change. That is, we always knew we could do a great deal of damage to this planet, but even the most hubristic among us had not imagined we would ever be able to fundamentally change its rhythms and character, just as a child who has screamed all day at her father still does not expect to see him lie down on the kitchen floor and weep.

This is a staggering piece of writing. I won’t say another word about it – I’ll just leave the link right here and let you take a look for yourself. Totally worth it.

Bonus round…

Great news: the Stella Prize shortlist is out!

Bad news: Sydney institution, Shearer’s Books, will be closing down. They’ll still be around online, so it’s not all doom and gloom. Announced this morning, the news has left this Western Sydney reader with a heavy heart. It makes me sad to see good bookshops close.

Finally, the Australian Writers’ Centre’s Best Blogs competition is on again this year, and if you’re a blogger, you really should enter. You’ve got until this Thursday. Click here to take a look. Good luck!

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What I’m reading looking forward to reading… 

I’m skipping my usual What I’m Reading update this week because I haven’t had as much reading time over the past two weeks as I’d like. That, and I’m still reading pretty much the same stuff I was reading two weeks ago.

Instead, I thought I’d mention a book that I’m looking forward to reading.

A few weeks ago, I reviewed (and enjoyed) Jessie Cole’s 2012 novel, Darkness on the Edge of Town. Because I’m nosy, I couldn’t resist getting in touch with Jessie to find out what she’s up to next.

As it turns out, my timing was spot on – Jessie’s new novel, Deeper Water, will be out later this year. Here’s an early look at the blurb:

“The secret things I knew about my mum, and the things that everyone knew, had played in my mind for some time, since I was real little, I guess. When I was small, all around me seemed to flow, gentle and sweet like the quiet edge of the creek. Then my brothers grew too large to be hemmed in, and Sophie met a bloke, moved out and had babies, and things became harder. The older I got the louder those secret things inside me became, all those knowns and unknowns, until – apart from Anja – I’d rather talk to animals than people.”

 

Innocent and unworldly, Mema is still living at home with her mother on a remote, lush hinterland property. It is a small, confined, simple sort of life, and Mema is content with it. One day, during a heavy downpour, Mema saves a stranger from a flooded creek. She takes him into her family home, where, marooned by floods, he has to stay until the waters recede. And without even realising it, he opens the door to a new world of possibilities that threaten to sweep Mema into the deep.

I can’t wait to dip into Deeper Water. Is there a book coming out soon that’s got you excited? Let me know in the comments.

I’ll have another post online tomorrow night. Something special…!