It’s a new year, so it seems only fitting to try something new and – hopefully – interesting..
This is the first of a new series of fortnightly posts I’m calling Book to the Future Bookmarks. Every second Monday morning, I’ll post a list of things I’ve found around the internet that have attracted my attention, like shiny things to a magpie.
It’s also a chance for me to ramble a little about some of the things I’m reading that I’m enjoying. The books between books.
I think the best way to begin my inaugural Bookmarks post is with a whacking great big picture of Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes. Obviously….
I mentioned briefly in my previous post that I was planning to spend New Year’s Eve watching Sherlock for the first time. I did…and now, I’m really quite hooked. I confess, I have a bit of a crush on that Bumblebee Cuckooclock — err, Benedict Cumberbatch fellow. Despite the odd name.
Caitlin Moran once referred to
Benadryl Grannyflat Benedict Cumberbatch as ‘the first actor in history to play Sherlock Holmes who has a name more ridiculous than “Sherlock Holmes”‘. So even though it’s got next to nothing to do with books, I couldn’t resist including this article (originally tweeted by @Skiourophile) describing the rules of summoning Benedict Cumberbatch. Linguistically, at least.
In 1964, John Updike’s The Centaur won the National Book Award. Other books published in 1963 that would have been (in theory?) eligible for the award include Plath’s The Bell Jar, Pynchon’s V, Muriel Spark’s Girls of Slender Means, John le Carre’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and more. Bookslut founder, Jenna Crispin, is out to “right the wrongs” of the past, and is setting up the Daphne Awards to celebrate the best books of fifty years ago that didn’t win awards.
From the original post on the Bookslut blog:
“If you look back at the books that won the Pulitzer or the National Book Award, it is always the wrong book. Book awards, for the most part, celebrate mediocrity. It takes decades for the reader to catch up to a genius book, it takes years away from hype, publicity teams, and favoritism to see that some books just aren’t that good…”
But if literary awards are so flawed, what makes this one any different? After all, the books that we recognise as worthy of attention today are perhaps as influenced by hype and favouritism as the books that won awards fifty years ago. Every award has an agenda. Even the Daphnes. Time doesn’t equal truth, nor is longevity necessarily evidence of worth.
(This is a post for another occasion, but this is one of the reasons why deciding which books to read for this blog has become so difficult)
It sounds like I’m being negative, but really, I’m very interested in this project. I love the idea of hacking literary awards. Why should (so-called) classic literature rest on its laurels? Despite my reservations – or perhaps even because of them – I’ll be watching the Daphnes closely.
Ahem. While on the subject of nostalgia and looking back, over at Meanjin, Mel Campbell, author of Out of Shape wrote this brilliant, personal reflection on museum catalogues. And because I’m always a little slow to catch on to things, I’ve only just read her piece for Overland on The Writer as Performer.
My husband is an avid gamer, and I’ve become kind of entranced by Minecraft. This article in The New Yorker that was floating around Twitter about a man who decided to use YouTube to document his journey to the edge of a randomly-generated Minecraft world – a journey that could take as long as twenty-two years, if it’s even possible – is actually quite poetic.
This might be from last year, but its not to be missed. The Lists is a work of short fiction by Ryan O’Neill.
Also on the subject of short fiction, the Review of Australian Fiction published an absolutely cracking editorial the other week. This year, the RAF is celebrating its third birthday. I’ve just subscribed, and the latest edition, featuring Nigel Featherstone and Andrew Croome is waiting for me in my inbox right now. With a little luck, I’ll be able to find a few spare hours to spend some quality time with my ereader this week.
Regrets? J K Rowling has a few. Namely that Hermione ended up with Ron rather than Harry. Funny how she doesn’t regret that self-indulgent epilogue she tacked on to the end of the series. Fun fact: “Rowling” rhymes with “trolling”.
In other, rapid fire news, the cool cats over at Seizure have released their list of finalists for their second Viva la Novella competition and Hologram has announced they’ll be releasing two novellas written by authors under thirty later this year. The program for the first ever Digital Writers’ Festival is out and I’m daydreaming about a roadtrip to Western Australia for the Perth Writers’ Festival. The winners of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards have just been announced this week. And finally, the Australian Women Writers Challenge is going from strength to strength – huge congratulations to Elizabeth and the AWW team!
Other Things I’ve Been Reading…
Sometimes, it’s almost like books pick you up, and not the other way around. The deep blue spine of Tove Jansson’s The Summer Book jumped out at me from the shelves – and I’d pretty much fallen in love by the third page.
The Summer Book is set on an island in the gulf of Finland, inhabited only by a young girl, her father and her grandmother. Over a summer or a series of summers (it’s unclear, as Jansson’s characters often seem like exiles from time as well as from the mainland) young Sophia and her grandmother explore their island, and the space between each other.
A series of complete, self-contained scenes, The Summer Book is simple, yet every sentence gestures towards something else; some other truth that sits beneath the book’s surface. This isn’t a sentimental novel. It is, however, a thing of beauty.
I also really enjoyed Alan Hollinghurst’s The Swimming-Pool Library – another random
selection from my bookshelf. I’m now reading The Line of Beauty, which won the Booker Prize in 2004. I’m really quite besotted with Hollinghurst’s writing. It’s filled with a rich sensuality and humour that I find pretty much irresistible.
And finally, The Letters Page is a new literary journal from England, edited by Jon McGregor, who I’ve raved about here before. It’s something a little bit different – a literary journal made up entirely of letters, submitted by writers (emerging and otherwise) from all over the world. Published three times a year, The Letters Page is available as a downloadable pdf, an it’s now in its second edition. It’s also free!
Thanks for reading! I’ll have a new review online soon, as well as a more general update on what I’m up to – and my next edition of Book to the Future Bookmarks will be online in two weeks.