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.


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!


the rereadables

I have a small collection of books that I reread whenever the mood takes me. These books have become like old friends to me. Time and time again, I have turned to them for comfort, for reassurance – even for guidance.

I don’t feel this way about all of my favourite books. I adore Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure, just to name a random example, and I’ve read it many times…but it’s not one of the books I make a particular habit of re-reading.

These books – I’ll call them “the rereadables” to save time – all have a few things in common. The rereadables are all really short; the kind of books you can read in a sitting or two. And, like a literary first-aid kit, each book is there for a reason; the answer to an unspoken question.

I keep these books, my rereadables, in the tiny shelf on my bedside table. When I can’t get to sleep, for example, I pick up Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. I don’t even need to begin at the start – just open the book to a random city, and begin to explore.

I won’t give you a complete list of my rereadables. It seems too personal. And besides – the list is always changing. Some books have fallen out of my life over the years. We’ve grown apart. And I’m always finding new favourites. I read A Room With A View last New Year’s Eve and decided instantly that this would be the beginning of a New Year’s tradition.

This post is about one of the books from the shelf next to my bed. It’s about the book that I’ve reread so many times, I’ve lost count.

But – promise you won’t laugh at me when I tell you what it is, okay?

It’s The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

(Yes, it’s kids’ book. Shut up.)

I first read The Little Prince when I was seventeen and studying French. Actually, it was the first book I read entirely in French. (The second, if you’re interested, was Camus’ L’Étranger). My small class – there were five of us – read The Little Prince together, painstakingly slowly, with our heads awkwardly close to the photocopied pages and our dictionaries waiting beside our elbows.

That was a long time ago. I’ve forgotten most of the French I learned at high school – but this book has remained with me all this time. I have two copies, both in English. The images in this post are from an early edition American copy I was given for Christmas, many years ago.

Every year, I celebrate my birthday by re-reading The Little Prince. It’s become a ritual, a tradition. Between the pages, there are tickets, boarding passes, receipts, sticky notes – the memories of birthdays past.

Why do I love The Little Prince? It’s because it doesn’t blindly idealise childhood. That would be cloying and ridiculous. It’s much more profound than that.

The Little Prince has a lot to say about children, and, yes, adults – and “grown-ups” are frequently criticised…but, at the same time, Saint-Exupéry’s narrator is proof that one can become an adult and still retain something of what it means to be a child.

I adore Saint-Exupéry’s beautiful illustrations. Yet in every illustration of the little prince himself, he is different in some way, as if our narrator is struggling to recall what he looked like – a constant reminder that retrospection is essentially flawed. Saint-Exupéry dwells on the impossible, the unattainable, the invisible – and that’s what draws me, time after time, to this book.

The Little Prince portrays childhood as a country from which we, as adults, are forever exiled – but, at the same time, The Little Prince doesn’t wallow in the past – it gives us a new perspective on the future. It helps us conceptualise adulthood in an entirely new way.

Saint-Exupéry wrote The Little Prince in exile during the Second World War, and it’s often when I’m in a state of metaphorical war and exile that I long to re-read this book. When the adult world is all just a little too much, this book picks me back up, brushes the dust from my clothes and sends me on my way again, relaxed, revived and refreshed.

I’ve read The Little Prince so many times because every time I read it, it’s a completely different book. It speaks to me in an entirely new way. Yes, this is true of all books, but it’s especially true of the books I keep beside my bed – my rereadables. As I’ve changed over the years, these books have changed with me. They are, quite simply, my therapy.

I’d love to know if you have a particular book you reread all the time. Or maybe you have a little collection of rereadables, like me? Which books do you keep beside your bed? The books you love the most…or just the books you’re reading right now?