book to the future bookmarks #2

bookmarksiiiWelcome to edition number two of Book to the Future Bookmarks, a new series of fortnightly posts in which I share some of the many, many links I’ve saved to my bookmarks folder.

I started my first Bookmarks post with a huge picture of current crush, Benedingle Cumberwhatsit Benedict Cumberbatch. But in the grand scheme of things, what’s a mere crush compared to true literary lurve? Nothing! It seems only fitting that I begin the second edition of Bookmarks with…

Original image source here
Original image source here.

…Zadie Smith, of course. If you haven’t already read Zadie’s latest short story, Moonlit Landscape with Bridge, over on the New Yorker’s website, you’re missing out. Here’s a little sample:

“…But he remembered two young men bent over one battered paperback, under a tree in the cleared center of a village. Books had been important back then—they were always quoting from them. Long-haired boys, big ideas. These days, all the Prime Minister read was his bank statements.”

I enjoyed Smith’s novella, The Embassy of Cambodia, released late last year…but it left me feeling a little unsatisfied. I’m not sure whether this was because Smith left the story at a point where I desperately wanted to know what happened next, or whether I was just eager for something longer. Possibly both. Personally, I have my fingers crossed that Zadie (we’re on first name basis) is working on a collection of short fiction…

Anyway. Enough wishful thinking. You can read more about Moonlit Landscape here.

The 2014 Stella Prize longlist is out! The Stella is Australia’s most exciting literary award (and they got it so, so right last year, with Carrie Tiffany’s brilliant Mateship with Birds taking out the inaugural prize). Given the number of Big Novels released by Australian men towards the end of last year (think Alex Miller, Tim Winton, Christos Tsiolkas…), it’s great that the Stella Prize is on the case, making sure that writing by Australian women doesn’t go unrecognised.

…However, I’m yet to read any of the longlisted novels, so I’d better get a wriggle on! Luckily, there’s a review roundup over at the Australian Women Writers Challenge blog.

If you’ve ever wanted to flash Melbourne’s Federation Square, here’s your chance. The wonderful people at Spineless Wonders are looking for flash fiction to grace the big screen at Fed Square during the Melbourne Writers’ Festival this year…why, what did you think I meant? Writers can find out more about the project here.

Look, I know I mentioned Ryan O’Neill in my first Bookmarks post…and the post before that…and I’m beginning to sound like some kind of crazed stalker (sorry) but I’m really enjoying The Drover’s Wives project over at Seizure. O’Neill has taken Henry Lawson’s classic short story, The Drover’s Wife and is re-working it in sixty different ways. So far, The Drover’s Wife has become a self-published book cover, an absurdist play, a horoscope and more. Sadly, not all of the pieces are free to read, but here’s a link to the project so far.

underground

I’m kind of obsessed with these stunning 1920s posters advertising the London Underground. I love them almost as much as I love this collection of sarcastic, witty, puerile – and, ultimately fake Underground signs. Genius. Get me to London, pronto.

I’ve mentioned my longstanding adoration for Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince on this blog an embarrassing number of times. When I spotted this article at Brain Pickings about Saint-Exupéry’s manuscript for the book, including the author’s original watercolour illustrations, I was, naturally, all over it. Whether you’re a fan of The Little Prince or not, these illustrations are beautiful. And this, from the accompanying article:

“In April of 1943, shortly after the book came out, 43-year-old Saint-Exupéry shoved his Little Prince manuscripts and drawings in a brown paper bag, handing it to his friend Silvia Hamilton — “I’d like to give you something splendid,” he told her, “but this is all I have.” — and departed for Algiers as a military pilot with the Free French Air Force.”

Just reading this short piece on Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex made me feel like picking de Beauvoir’s masterwork up again.  I read The Second Sex for for the first time at around the same age as the author of this article, greedily devouring the entire thing over the course of a single weekend.

From France back to Melbourne: Readings has announced a duo of new literary awards. Can we ever have too many literary awards? Somehow, I don’t think so.

And finally, my favourite discovery of the past fortnight is Poet Deploriate.

Other Things I’ve Been Reading…

the-line-of-beautyI’ve been kind of wrapped up with work the past week or so, and haven’t had as much time for reading as I’d have liked…

In my first Bookmarks post, I mentioned I was reading Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty. I drew my reading out as long as I possibly could because I really didn’t want the book to be over. I think it’s kind of appropriate that I read this novel immediately after The Swimming-Pool Library. They work well together.

An odd coincidence: The Paris Review just happened to tweet their Art of Fiction interview with Alan Hollinghurst from 2011 the other day.

Unfortunately, I’ve got no time left to explore more of Hollinghurst’s writing. I’ve got a huge pile of books that has accumulated next to my keyboard, waiting to be read. Also, my ereader is full of unread things, all jostling for my attention.

But the good news? I’ve managed to get a heap of time off work, and I’ve got little else to do but catch up on my (many) unwritten reviews and work my way through the pile of books accumulating on my desk.

My next Bookmarks post is going to be huge. Meanwhile, thanks for reading!

bookmarksimagetwo

book to the future bookmarks #1

bookmarksiiibookmarksimageone

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….

helloooosherlock
Helloooo, Sherlock. Source here.

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.

Okay, wrong Daphne.
Perhaps not that Daphne…

(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…

summerbookSometimes, 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.

swimmingpool

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!

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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.