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22-Apr-2017 Out Of Time by Miranda Sawyer

Saturday 22 April 2017 Leave a comment

I still read quite a lot – blogs, online articles, my massive feedly feed of articles. And still a few books, but not as many as I’d like.

I’d hate to think that it’s part of the dumbing down of the world, short attention spans and what not. I am into getting lots of sleep, cooking from scratch, lots of exercise, trying to balance work with play so it is just hard to fit in the time.

Anyway, virtually all of my book-reading is on my phone with the kindle app (I am into reducing devices and don’t “even” have a tablet).

I bought this book Out Of Time by Miranda Sawyer. It was about :

“a very modern look at the midlife crisis – delving into the truth, and lies, of the experience and how to survive it, with thoughtfulness, insight and humour.”

I don’t think I am going through a midlife crisis or anything but am conscious of the constant drip drip drip of time ticking by. Kids getting older, now into late teens and early adulthood, and the gradual ageing of parents ie I am getting older and you just can’t ignore that. Anyway I didn’t really like her style much and didn’t particularly enjoy the book, and very nearly discarded it a few times, although I did persevere and finish it. I found that the following paragraph really did resonate with me :

‘You’re at the life stage you’re at. Accept it. If you have children, then all things have their season, and this is the season for staying in and looking after your children. Acknowledge where you are, accept where you are, move through it and enjoy it. Because the other option is to actively not enjoy your life.’

We do go through life stages and people should just be patient and accept it rather than just fight fight fight all the time. People can do many things but they can’t do everything all at once. If you are always pushing against the grain it makes it a lot harder and a lot less enjoyable. I could go off into a rant about “mindfulness” although there is too much rubbish written about the concept, but in general there is a lot of merit to it all.

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3-Jan-2016 Still on holiday!

Sunday 3 January 2016 Leave a comment

razors-edgeI am still on holiday and hanging out at home, doing lots of sport, running, swimming, gym, possibly too much as my arms and legs are very tired and I have trouble getting out of bed before about 10am!

I finished reading The Razor’s Edge book by Somerset Maugham. I really enjoyed it … this review is better than I could give it:

In the evening, gone 1030pm, me and Dawn walked thru Bonnie Vale campsite to Maianbar and as it was low tide crossed the beach to the spit and walked back on the beach. I gave her a piggy back across the stream! We got back home approx 11.30pm, it was warm and we worked up a sweat.

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29-Oct-2014 A Fine Balance Book

Wednesday 29 October 2014 Leave a comment

afinebalanceThis month’s book for Book Club was “A Fine Balance” by Rohinton Mistry. I have read it before and loved it and I have read of bunch of his other ones also.

I loved the book again, I love the slow-paced build-up. I love the snippets into Indian life and different religions and customs but it’s not rammed hard at you. It’s good.

Obviously, it’s set in India which always puts it firmly in my radar, I love books about India. The 2 tailors, from a lower caste are definitely underdogs, I am always a fan of under dogs. Dinah and Maneck complete the key four characters, are an interesting mix of people and backgrounds but the story goes well together and I felt like I really cared for them, which is quite rare in a book. It follows that successes and failures.

Here were some cool quotes I’d bookmarked:

The proofreader nodded, ‘You see, you cannot draw lines and compartments, and refuse to budge beyond them. Sometimes you have to use your failures as stepping-stones to success. You have to maintain a fine balance between hope and despair.’ He paused, considering what he had just said. ‘Yes,’ he repeated. ‘In the end, it’s all a question of balance.’

Which is obviously where he got the name of the book from. Very true.

But how firm to stand, how much to bend? Where was the line between compassion and foolishness, kindness and weakness? And that was from her position. From theirs, it might be a line between mercy and cruelty, consideration and callousness.

 This is one of the great truths, most people and society in general likes order, but you can’t be impassionate about choices, there has to be some give – it’s not a black and white world.

‘The rules should always allow someone to win,’ Om insisted. The logical breakdown troubled him. ‘Sometimes, no one wins,’ said Maneck. ‘You were right, it is a stupid game,’ said Om.

 I think this is a wry comment on life – no one wins, everyone dies, rich, poor, sick, well. Even if you lead a long and healthy and fruitful life you still get to see everyone you hold dear die in front of you.

‘So that’s the rule to remember, the whole quilt is much more important than any single square.’

 An uplifting comment … the meaning is obvious. Don’t worry about one setback – put it in to perspective with your whole life.

People forget how vulnerable they are despite their shirts and shoes and briefcases, how this hungry and cruel world could strip them, put them in the same position as my beggars.’

 yes, you may have it all now, but fortune, luck or karma have a way of changing everything, even in the blink of an eye.

‘After all, our lives are but a sequence of accidents – a clanking chain of chance events. A string of choices, casual or deliberate, which add up to that one big calamity we call life.’

So true, I often remark to Dawn that life is like one big random accidental series of occurrences!

Some additional links:

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25-Sep-2014 Love in time of cholera

Thursday 25 September 2014 Leave a comment

loveinthetimeofcholeraI finished this month’s book club book a little bit early : Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez [wikipedia link].

Previously I had only read his famous Hundred Years of Solitude that I hated so wasn’t looking forward to this but I actually quite enjoyed it.

Here is part of the New York /times review:

As we grow older it gets stranger, until at some point mortality has come well within the frame of our attention, and there we are, suddenly caught between terminal dates while still talking a game of eternity. It’s about then that we may begin to regard love songs, romance novels, soap operas and any live teen-age pronouncements at all on the subject of love with an increasingly impatient, not to mention intolerant, ear.

At the same time, where would any of us be without all that romantic infrastructure, without, in fact, just that degree of adolescent, premortal hope? Pretty far out on life’s limb, at least. Suppose, then, it were possible, not only to swear love ”forever,” but actually to follow through on it – to live a long, full and authentic life based on such a vow, to put one’s alloted stake of precious time where one’s heart is? This is the extraordinary premise of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s new novel ”Love in the Time of Cholera,” one on which he delivers, and triumphantly.

The main guy falls in love as a teenager and writes many many love letters (reminds me of myself as a teen …) but the girl turns him down and he waits 50 years for her husband to die and be in with a nother chance. He has some affairs but never marries and is always focussed on getting her the right house and is just thinking about her. They do (amazingly) get another chance but by then they are old people in their 70’s. It really makes you think about love as you get older, something I am facing !! gadzooks!

Yeah, a great book… much better than the the solitude one.

Some links:

  • Buy it on Amazon [link]
  • New York Times review [link]
  • Review and comments on good reads [link]
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13-Sep-2014 City Day Out

Saturday 13 September 2014 Leave a comment

It’s pretty obvious, to me at least, that a day out in the city is a weird thing for me to do, given I am there Monday to Friday and that I hate shopping, but it was a family thing. Chelsea was going to work and Kody was with friends at the Cronulla Spring Festival.

It was Dawn’s birthday on Monday and she wanted to get some clothes and things and Jazmin wanted to go also, so I tagged along. yawn. I really don’t like shopping. especially clothes shopping and even more especially when none of it is for me! However it was nice to be out with family, so that was good. They both got quite a few things so it was semi-worthwhile…

After we got back I went for a short run to Jibbon and along the beach and had a swim. The water is not quite as icy, but not really warm in any known description. Lots of bluebottles also but I went along the beach to the tucked on corner so missed them, thankfully.

imurderedmylibraryOn the train I started and finished reading a Kindle Singles book (ie very short, cost $3) : I Murdered My Library by Linda Grant. I found it from this article in the Guardian.

What happens when you begin to build a library in childhood and then find you have too many books? From a small collection held together by a pair of plaster of Paris horse-head bookends to books piled on stairs, and in front of each other on shelves, books cease to furnish a room and begin to overwhelm it. At the end of 2013, novelist Linda Grant moved from a rambling maisonette over four floors to a two bedroom flat with a tiny corridor-shaped study. The trauma of getting rid of thousands of books raises the question of what purpose personal libraries serve in contemporary life and the seductive lure of the Kindle. Both a memoir of a lifetime of reading and an insight into how interior décor has banished the bookcase, her account of the emotional struggle of her relationship with books asks questions about the way we live today.

I really enjoyed it and it resonated with me … I have been reading since I was about 5 years old and have had many many books, and am finally trying to part with them. I too use my Kindle a lot more now (actually the kindle app on my phone).

12-Sep-2014 Update from Bangladesh

Friday 12 September 2014 Leave a comment

This week I got an email from Shahed :

Second Term exam is started in Subornogram Foundation’s School for the Cobbler Community Children at Bagmucha, Sonargaon on 6 September. 102 students are attending the exam. The exam will continue till 13 September.

The teaching in the school is going on very well despite several challenges and limitation of resources. This year 4 of our students of class five will appear in the Government exam in coming November.

This was great news but I felt like I wanted to know more ie it raises more questions than it answers.

He also sent a couple of photos:

Mandir Pathshala 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rishipara Mandir Pathshala 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As an aside, I also read a free ebook called “The Flinch” – you can download it from Amazon here for free. This was basically about pushing you to do stuff that scares yourself, moving outside your comfort zone where you’d normally “Flinch”.

Anyway, after I had went to Bangladesh last year and met Shahed and Chris, I had thoughts of getting more involved with the school .. not really sure how but raising some money to help them and stuff. I think I still want to do this although am nervous about jumping in with both feet as it’s then hard to extract myself some years later. Still I would like to get more involved, just need to think how. It seems to me that even raising $1000 a year is a big deal for that school and really that’s only finding 50 people willing to donate $20 per year .. surely that’s pretty easy.

I guess I will think about it some more.

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19-Aug-2014 Half of a Yellow Sun

Tuesday 19 August 2014 Leave a comment

book-halfyellow

As I was away for a while in England I got behind on the latest book club book “Half of a Yellow Sun” by by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I finished it today.

At first it started off like an end-of-empire book about privileged whites and Africans but it quickly dived into the history surrounding the emergence of Biafra and the war for independence in the 1960s when it broke away from Nigeria.

I don’t much about Africa really (never been to Africa) but it was a great read and I really enjoyed it. I feel quite inspired to want to go there now. One of the people at book club, Michael, lived in the area in the 1960s and really rated the book. Quite fascinating.

You can check out the book at Amazon, and a review in the Guardian – and extract here:

Her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, takes its title from the emblem for Biafra, the breakaway state in eastern Nigeria that survived for only three years, and whose name became a global byword for war by starvation. Adichie’s powerful focus on war’s impact on civilian life, and the trauma beyond the trenches, earns this novel a place alongside such works as Pat Barker’s Regeneration trilogy and Helen Dunmore’s depiction of the Leningrad blockade, The Siege.

Adichie takes her time in reaching the privations of war. Covering the decade to the end of the Nigeria-Biafra war of 1967-70, the novel first develops its characters in a period of peace and – for some – plenty after Nigerian independence in 1960. Among the protagonists are Odenigbo, or “the Master”, a radical maths lecturer at the University of Nsukka – in what became the secessionist Igbo land – and Ugwu, the village teenager who becomes his houseboy, but whom he enrolls at the university staff school. A novel that descends into dire hunger begins with Ugwu’s devoted creativity in the kitchen, confecting pepper soup, spicy jollof rice and chicken boiled in herbs. Beer and brandy flow as he serves the Master’s friends while absorbing snippets of intellectual debate in the era of Sharpeville, de Gaulle in Algeria and the struggle for US civil rights.

Ugwu’s domain is encroached upon by Odenigbo’s lover, Olanna, the London-educated daughter of a “nouveau riche” businessman in Lagos, and the household is later disrupted by its links with Olanna’s periodically estranged twin sister Kainene and her English boyfriend, Richard.

Ethnic differences are signalled between the mainly Igbo protagonists – whose persistent switching between English and Igbo languages is wonderfully conveyed – and those such as Odenigbo’s Yoruba colleague, Miss Adebayo, and Olanna’s ex-boyfriend from the north, the Hausa prince Mohammed. These differences assume lethal significance after the ostensibly Igbo-led 1966 military coup, which becomes a pretext for anti-Igbo pogroms after the counter-coup six months later. As Olanna and others become caught up in the violence, the novel captures horror in the details of “vaguely familar clothes on headless bodies”, or corpses’ “odd skin tone – a flat, sallow grey, like a poorly wiped blackboard”.

As Biafran secession “for security” brings a refugee crisis, a retaliatory Nigerian blockade and all-out war, and the world (bar Tanzania) refuses to recognise the fledgling state, the focus is on the characters’ grief, resilience and fragmenting relationships. Tending her adopted daughter, Olanna endures the descent into one-room squalor, food-aid queues and air raids without self-pity. But there is anger at the “bleakness of bombing hungry people”, and the deadly kwashiorkor, malnutrition that afflicts children, dubbed “Harold Wilson syndrome” for the former colonial power’s complicity. While Ugwu’s forced conscription involves him in an atrocity whose legacy is lasting shame, the issue of forgiveness between the twin sisters subtly echoes that of warring political groups.

A history of colonisation is alluded to, not least in the tragicomic figure of Richard’s anglophile servant Harrison, who prides himself on serving roast beef and rhubarb crumble, but adapts in wartime to roasting lizards and bush rats “as though they were rack of lamb”. While Richard identifies with Biafra and intends to write the history of the war, it is Ugwu who takes up the pen and the mantle. As Richard concedes, “The war isn’t my story to tell really,” and Ugwu nods. “He had never thought that it was.”

There are other quiet revolutions in the novel. Odenigbo, the “revolutionary freedom fighter” with endless certainty and self-belief, succumbs to drink and despair, while the seemingly compliant Olanna draws on profound strengths. The master-servant relationship is upended, as the “houseboy” returns with fondness and irony the Master’s way of addressing him as “my good man”.

The novel’s structure, moving in chunks between the late and early 60s, is not without blips. At times I wondered how far Ugwu’s omnivorous reading was reflected in his development. But these are quibbles in a landmark novel, whose clear, undemonstrative prose can so precisely delineate nuance. There is a rare emotional truth in the sexual scenes, from Ugwu’s adolescent forays and the mature couples’ passions, to the ugliness of rape.

Literary reflections on the Biafra war have a long and distinguished history, from the most famous poet to have died in the war, Christopher Okigbo, to Chinua Achebe, Cyprian Ekwensi and Flora Nwapa. Born in 1977, Adichie is part of a new generation revisiting the history that her parents survived. She brings to it a lucid intelligence and compassion, and a heartfelt plea for memory.

The author’s own website is here.

23-Apr-2014 Not a bad day considering

Wednesday 23 April 2014 Leave a comment

In some respects today started just perfectly : I woke up before my alarm went off, which was impressive, and I even felt fit, alive and energetic !! We had a cold snap but it was still approx 15C at 6.30am. I went to the beach for a quick swim, dodgy arm and all. The water was heaps warm, and I was even treading water watching steam come off the surface. The sun was coming up and it was truly beautiful, and evenother people were on the beach taking photos.

Back home I put the gas fire on and got changed in warm clothes, first time for house socks (we just have a woodenfloor which gets cold in our brief winter/cold season, it’s not actually winter until june). I made some “quarter” porridge – a cup of oats, a cup of water, a cup of soymilk and a cup of fruit – today was frozen raspberries. Just a small teacup. It was great. Washed down with a big class of my current favourite dandelion chai whilst reading the (virtual) newspaper infront of a roaring (gas) fire.

Anyway all good things must come to an end, as I had to go to work. Although it’s a quiet week at work. I took off to see a chiropractor about my shoulder/arm. He did some adjustments which may have helped a little. He also got me to stand on 2 scales, one on the left foot and one on the right which indicated a discrepancy of about 10kg – assume it should be the same on either wide. He also used some lines to show that my hips were wonky and my shoulders. Dawn pretty much agees with the diagnosis, although I am wondering if its just a smart business trick to get me in the door for more teatment. He took some x-rays also. I get the results of these next Tuesday. It will be interesting.

I finished work at 5pm as I was going to a book club social function at Ellie’s house in Bundeena. I took a plate of small sushi and 3 books that I have loved to give away (am slowly trying to divest myself of massive piles of books):

I walked home approx 9.30pm but had to go out again approx 10.30pm to pick up Chelsea from Sutherland as she was coming back from the Easter show. Back home at 11.30pm and straight to bed fairly quickly as was tired.

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11-Nov-2013 Book Club – Year of Wonders

Monday 11 November 2013 Leave a comment

year_wondersToday was my monthly book club meeting. There were 8 of us – an average number of people … thankfully I know most if the names now!

The book we were reading this month was “Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks”. This one was selected by me, even though I hadn’t read it before. I quite like “historical fiction” and have been to the village the book was about Eyam in Derbyshire when I was a kind – once with school and once with our scout troop.

However I was not overly happy with the book – I liked reading for sure, and there was nothing wrong with it at all, but I felt a bit wanting – the characters were quite flat and she seemed to rush the story from scene to scene where she could have gone into more detail. Anyway most of the other liked it and some also felt she could have fleshed it out a bit more. It reads a bit like a movie script – scene 1, scene 2 etc.

There are 2 reviews:

It begins with the scent of rotting apples and a flush that looks like rose petals blooming beneath the skin. Then the yellow-purple pustule appears, swelling to the size of a newly born piglet. Eventually it bursts, like a pea-pod splitting open, spewing pestilential pus flecked with spots of rotten skin.

This is what the villagers of Eyam, Derbyshire, condemned themselves to in 1666 when they took the heroic decision to quarantine their plague-infested village and prevent the contagion from spreading further. In 1842, William Wood, a descendent of one of the few surviving families, observed in his history of the village that: “The immortal victors of Thermopylae and Marathon have no stronger claim to the admiration of succeeding generations than the villagers of Eyam; who in a sub lime, unparalleled resolution gave up their lives – yea: doomed themselves to pestilential death to save the surrounding country”.

Some 260 villagers, an estimated four-fifths of the population, succumbed to this final and most virulent outbreak of the black death in Britain; but as most of the evidence perished with the population, established facts are hard to come by. With the popular belief that the contagion arrived in a bolt of cloth delivered from London, the situation is tailor-made for fictional adaptation: the self-sacrifice of the villagers of Eyam has appeared in novels, plays and even an opera. In her first essay into historical fiction, Geraldine Brooks approaches the situation not as a novelist, but as a war correspondent whose experience of reporting from Gaza, Somalia and Bosnia is keenly felt on every page of this chilling, forensically detailed dispatch from the frontline of the 17th century.

Most historical novelists would have difficulty imagining the near-extermination of an entire community. Brooks doesn’t have to. She is acutely aware that a litany of grisly deaths loses its impact after a while, and uses her experience as a chronicler of contemporary disasters to tell the story of those lucky – or unlucky – enough to survive. Year of Wonders is a tale of fragile hope pitted against overwhelming disaster. Like the flaring rosettes of the bubonic rash, it gets under the skin of what it means to be human.

Brooks recounts her story through the eyes of Anna Frith, a shepherdess who aided the village rector in his mission to contain the disease. Anna is a spirited, Hardy-esque heroine, uneducated but resourceful, who is taken under the wing of the rector’s wife Elinor and quickly becomes a devoted, fast-learning protégée. The relationship between Anna, Elinor and her husband forms the novel’s precarious emotional core. History remembers the real rector of Eyam, William Mompesson, as a saintly, inspirational figure who persuaded the village to accept its quarantine. Brooks’s imagined counterpart, Michael Mompellion, is a much more ambiguous and sinister character, cloaked with a charismatic power that occasionally lifts to reveal flashes of a demonic underside. Brooks develops an unsparing analysis of the mixed motives that lurk behind over-developed religious faith, and brings an unflinching eye to her depiction of Mompellion’s perverse, personal war against God.

21-Oct-2013 Poor little rich slum book

Monday 21 October 2013 1 comment

poor little rich slum book  coverI bought this book in Kolkata when I was there earlier this year just a few days after I’d done a tour of the Dharavi slum in Mumbai.

I read this week in just a few days as it was short quick book. It was a good read mainly about the slum via snippets of interviews with people who live and work there. Obviously if you have been there you have a better understanding of the whole situation, the fact it’s been there so long it has some semi-official recognition and how they are trying to re-locate people out but it’s got this great community spirit so people prefer staying there. It’s poor for sure with few facilities but it’s a very vibrant plane, and feels very communal. If you are ever in Mumbai then it is so well worth going on a tour there. An awesome experience indeed.

See following links:

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14-Oct-2013 October book club : The Tiger’s Wife

Monday 14 October 2013 Leave a comment

 For book club this month the selection was The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht. To save telling the story you can read the reviews below. We had 8 people show up (only about 15 on our list in total), and we think our limit is about 10 as we only meet for an hour and that way we can each have our own say for 5 mins or so. /amazingly this was about the first book that had a range of opinions – generally like it but a few people who didn”t. All the other books were a clear “like” or “don’t like” fairly unanimous. It’s actually a really good range of people discussing and its a good evening.

For myself, I really struggled to get into it, it felt like an East European dirge but then I got going and quite enjoyed it and didn’t really want it to end. It wasn’t that hard a read and the way it entwined almost like 3 or 4 parallel stories that didn’t quite join up, did make it interesting.

From The New York Times:

A Mythic Novel of the Balkan Wars

Think back to the wars of the 1990s in the former Yugoslavia, with their profusion of names that are difficult to pronounce and acts that are painful to recall: the massacres at Brcko and Srebrenica, the bombing of bread lines in Sarajevo, the destruction of Mostar’s 400-year-old bridge.

None of these appear in Téa Obreht’s first novel, “The Tiger’s Wife,” yet in its pages she brings their historic and human context to luminous life. With fables and allegories, as well as events borrowed from the headlines, she illustrates the complexities of Balkan history, unearthing patterns of suspicion, superstition and everyday violence that pervade the region even in times of peace. Reaching back to World War II, and then to wars that came before, she reveals the continuity beneath the clangor.

A metaphor for the author’s achievement can be found in her tale of Luka, a dreamy, brooding butcher’s son from a mountain village called Galina. A decade after World War I, Luka leaves Galina and walks 300 miles to the river port of Sarobor, where he hopes to master the gusla, a single-stringed Balkan folk instrument. Arriving there, he finds that gusla music is nearly forgotten, overtaken by rollicking modern tunes played by lusty, boisterous bands. Still, he seeks out old men who know the traditional songs, falls under the spell of the “throbbing wail of their voices winding through tales remembered or invented” and acquires their art. Although his gift is for lyrics rather than music, “there are those who say that any man who heard Luka play the gusla, even in wordless melody, was immediately moved to tears.” When a woman asks why he doesn’t prefer an instrument with a greater number of strings, he responds, “Fifty strings sing one song, but this single string knows a thousand stories.”

From The Guardian:

In the surreal and yet all-too-real opening scene of Emir Kusturica’s 1995 film Underground, the Nazis bomb Belgrade zoo, causing the panicked animals to run for their lives. And it is during this same raid that the tiger of Téa Obreht’s debut novel escapes to the hills above the fictional village of Galina.

This was 60 years ago, the narrator Natalia tells us, but the complicated story of what happened to the tiger and the people of Galina lives on. It’s now rekindled by the death of Natalia’s beloved grandfather. He was a native of Galina and just a boy when the tiger appeared. The key to her grandfather’s life and death “lies between two stories: the story of the tiger’s wife, and the story of the deathless man”.

Natalia has followed in her grandfather’s steps and become a doctor in “the City”. On hearing of his death, she takes us on a labyrinthine journey to investigate. He has been her constant companion – their weekly visit to the city zoo was a ritual. A humanist schooled in the old tradition, he remained loyal to his patients even after he was expelled from the university for political reasons. He never parted with his copy of The Jungle Book, not even when a mysterious stranger dubbed “the deathless man” won it in a bet to prove his immortality to the rational doctor.

The deathless man is presented as a key piece in the puzzle, along with the bear-man, the tormented butcher-musician, his long-suffering and deaf Muslim wife who becomes the tiger’s wife for reasons too complicated to explain here, and a whole menagerie of other rural Balkan curiosities whose stories are embroidered by a collective genius of superstition. The brilliant black comedy and matryoshka-style narrative are among the novel’s great joys. But they are also one of the problems: after meeting innumerable exotic characters, it dawned on me that the back-stories stand in for a story, and style stands in for emotion.

Obreht’s imagination is seductively extravagant and prone to folkloric hyperbole, and this makes parts of the novel read like a picaresque romp through some enchanted Balkan kingdom, rife with magic, murder and mayhem. Who cares, it’s all a fable about a war – no, several wars – in some unnamed land. No real places or persons are named: Tito is “the Marshall”, Belgrade is “the City”, and we are in “a Balkan country still scarred by war”.

26-Sept-2013 The Tao of Pooh

Thursday 26 September 2013 Leave a comment

poohs-favourite-day

I love this cartoon. It reminds me of the book “The Tao of Pooh” that I read years ago. I don’t have a favourite day of the week, and it says to me that ANY DAY is a great day to do stuff, start stuff and enjoy things. Like live everyday as though it’s your last.

I got the idea for this post from this great article in the Elephant Journal.

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10-Sept-2013 Book club – Casual vacancy

Tuesday 10 September 2013 Leave a comment

As I had today off work, and was a little sore after the weekend’s Coastal Classic 29km run, it was good to have run and swim in a more casual manner ie not getting up early and rushing! and still have time to go to the monthly book club meeting.

This month was The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling who wrote the Harry Potter books, although I haven’t read them and probably won’t as I am not really a fan of sci-fi or fantasy. No real reason other than I like more realistic books, non-fiction, biographies, historical fiction etc.

Unsurprisingly the other people at the book club were not overly impressed with the book, and neither was I.

Although it was quite an easy read, it felt like the author was just spinning a yarn and padding it out with lots of characters, maybe a modern version of what she did with the Harry Potter books, and the end result was a feeling of “so what?”. The storyline wasn’t bad in itself, but with so many characters it felt that not a lot of time was spent padding them out and so they felt a bit wooden, in my opinion.

Book club meetings are quite good, I like the diversity of people and opinions. They all take books pretty seriously. We get about 10 each time which is a good number.

There is also a review from the Guardian here:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/sep/28/casual-vacancy-jk-rowling-review

1-Sept-2013 Two years In Calcutta Book

Sunday 1 September 2013 Leave a comment

I read this book – Two years in Calcutta by Amit Chaudhuri. It was a library book and a no-brainer ie no cost to buy the book and it was about Calcutta – a subject that I would read almost anything about.

I didn’t particularly like it at the start, it was fiction about a native Calcuttan who moved to the UK then went back and forth then finally moved back to Calcutta for a couple of years to look after elderly parents.

I wasn’t that sure what I wanted to get out of the book, but ultimately it was about Caclutta, the society and people there, not rich people just ordinary folk, so really it was what I was looking for. I actually quite enjoyed the book by the end, although it was quite dry and read like an old dusty library reference book.

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12-Aug-2013 Book club – Eucalyptus

Monday 12 August 2013 Leave a comment

After work, which today was part in the city and partly in Kogarah, I went to Bundeena library for the monthly book club meeting at 7pm. There were 10 people there which was a good turnout (I only have 14 names on the list). Most people liked the book – Eucalyptus by Murray Bail – quite a few detailed thoughts from the art-inspired folk. I really like the Australian nature of the book and the sparse writing & storyline leaving plenty of space for your own thoughts.

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19-Jul-2013 The Food Police

Friday 19 July 2013 Leave a comment

I have been reading this book for the past few days – The Food Police by Jayson Lusk. Publisher article here. I didn’t like it much so skipped thru it – it’s a library book that looked interesting, so it’s no great loss.

I think the main reason I didn’t like it, was because he presented a very Black/White view of the world, when its really all so much more complicated. I don’t actually disagree with a lot of what he said, but I just found the tone very annoying.

A rollicking indictment of the liberal elite’s hypocrisy when it comes to food.

Ban trans-fats? Outlaw Happy Meals? Tax Twinkies? What’s next? Affirmative action for cows?
A catastrophe is looming. Farmers are raping the land and torturing animals. Food is riddled with deadly pesticides, hormones and foreign DNA. Corporate farms are wallowing in government subsidies. Meat packers and fast food restaurants are exploiting workers and tainting the food supply. And Paula Deen has diabetes!
Something must be done. So says an emerging elite in this country who think they know exactly what we should grow, cook and eat. They are the food police.
Taking on the commandments and condescension the likes of Michael Pollan, Alice Waters, and Mark Bittman, The Food Police casts long overdue skepticism on fascist food snobbery, debunking the myths propagated by the food elite.  You’ll learn:
–   Organic food is not necessarily healthier or tastier (and is certainly more expensive).
–   Genetically modified foods haven’t sickened a single person but they have made farmers more profitable  and they do hold the promise of feeding impoverished Africans.
–   Farm policies aren’t making us fat.
–   Voguish locavorism is not greener or better for the economy.
–   Fat taxes won’t slim our waists and “fixing” school lunch programs won’t make our kids any smarter.
–   Why the food police hypocritically believe an iPad is a technological marvel but food technology is an industrial evil

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16-Jul-2013 Daddy Long Legs

Tuesday 16 July 2013 Leave a comment

Today, I finished reading a book I got from the library “Daddy Long Legs , The natural education of a father by John Price” (article here)

In his quest to become a better father, Price faces many unexpected challenges—like understanding his grandmother’s decision to die, and supporting his nature-loving sons’ decision to make their home a “no-kill zone” for all living creatures. Still he finds the second chance he was looking for—to save himself and, perhaps, his small corner of an imperfect yet still beautiful world.

It wasn’t a bad book, but quite a quick read. Did I learn much ? nah not really.

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8-Jul-2013 A Busy Monday

Monday 8 July 2013 Leave a comment

Today was a busy day for sure. I had a new guy start in my team today (doesn’t happen every day) and I was based in Kogarah. Although I work there a lot (one day a week or so) it’s not my normal location so feel like a fish out of water. Then i had to go to the Dentist as it’s been more than 6 months since I last went. In fact I will try to go even more regularly as its less painful I think (and want to keep what teeth I do have!). Amazingly I don’t need any extra work and that is probably the first time since I was about 7 years old that’s happened!!

After work I dashed to the Bundeena Book club (7pm-8pm). There were only 6 of us there – maybe reduced numbers due to school holidays, being mid-winter and bad weather and/or an awful book to read! The book club is run by the library but I have become the “reader representative” and have taken to emailing the others etc. Anyway the book we discussed tonight was quite a short one “Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen” which I read in a few days. It was pretty much panned by everyone, savaged might be a better word! Very fluffy and shallow with no substance. Not much more to be said really, although we did then spend quite a while discussing other books. They are quite a smart bunch of people all different ages & sexes but with an overriding love of books.

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5-Jul-2013 Guardian Reading Group

Friday 5 July 2013 Leave a comment

Because I quite like the Bundeena Book Club, it struck me as weird that I had never thought of joining a book club before even though I really love reading. I thought I would look for like an online book club and then saw that the Guardian newspaper has a reading group.

You don’t actually need to sign up – you just look at the website for that month’s book, and then read it (or not) and add your own comments (or not).

June 2013 was D.H. Lawrence’s Sons & Lovers which I finished today (I had an e-copy of and read on my phone via the Kindle app for Android). I liked the book although it got quite a bad wrap on the book group comments. I liked the depiction of old English family life and the psychology of the key players.

July 2013 is To Kill A Mocking bird by Harper Lee which I have an e-copy of to read on my phone. I first read it at high school, and to be honest would not in a thousand years, pick it to resf again. I will start it next week or so. I guess that is why I like the idea of these working groups: to challenge myself to read stuff I would not nornally read.

21-May-2013 Recent books read

Tuesday 21 May 2013 Leave a comment

This year has been a weird year for reading books – I haven’t read as many as I was away for 4 weeks, and since January I have been getting the Guardian Weekly which takes a while to read, and I have also been reading the guardian app offline on the train each day.

Anyway the books I have been reading, and finished are as follows :

The Life & Times of Bhakta Jim [link]

Amazon says : “In the last years of the 1970’s I was involved with the Hare Krishna movement. If for some reason you weren’t, this is the book that will tell you what you missed. After leaving the movement I wrote a memoir about it which I put in a box in my closet and mostly forgot. The Life And Times Of Bhakta Jim is based on that old manuscript, with new commentary that tries to look back on those days with understanding and humour. If you ever wondered what Eat, Pray, Love would be like if it was written by a man be advised that this is NOT THAT BOOK.

I loved this book. I am not involved with the Hare Krishnas but have an element where I am very interested in them. I mainly bought it for the picture on the covers!

What the most successful people do before breakfast [link]

I was a bit disappointed by this book, one of the first that I had bought from the Kindle store (for about $2). It was quite short and to be honest – a bit obvious. Mornings, if you get up before the family, are a great time to do sport, reading or writing etc. mmm obvious. However it was a good wake up call.

Running Beyond the Marathon by Grahak Cunningham [link]

It’s called running beyond the marathon but it’s really about Grahak’s 3 or 4 attempts at the 3100 mile race in New York. A great book by a great (West Australian) bloke. It really makes me want to do that run!!

Mother Teresa by Navin Chawla [link]

I bought this book in Calcutta. I am not a Christian and so doubted if I’d be interested but it’s really a great read. There is a lot of bad press about Mother Teresa but in context she has done the world a massive favour. She is (or was) what she was and I truly believe she is the best she could be.

The Progressive Patriot by Billy Bragg [link]

Amazon says “What does it mean to be English? What does it mean to be British? Does the rise in popularity of the St. George’s flag represent a new beginning or symbolize the return of the far right? Is the Union Jack too soaked in the blood of empire to be the emblem of a modern multicultural state? In a country in which everyone is born under two flags, what does it mean to be a patriot? In 2006, Billy Bragg saw his home town become the front line in the debate over who does and does not belong in 21st century Britain—an apparent reaction to the July 2005 terror attacks on London, when four British citizens from the immigrant community killed 52 innocent people and injured many more. This book is an urgent, eloquent and passionate response to these events. Reflecting on his family history and revisiting the music that inspired him, Billy Bragg pits his own values against those of traditional Britishness in a search for a sense of belonging that is accessible to all and in so doing, offers positive hope to a nation no longer sure of its own identity.

I think that Billy Bragg is a diamond geezer, and have an interest in immigrant communities (I myself am a first generation immigrant!!) so I thought it would be a good book, Halfway through I felt it was just twaddle, meandering around all over the place – a bit of history, a bit of Billy’s politics and a bit auto-biographical, however by the finish I had changed my mind and think it was well-written and it all linked up to make a good read. OK I am probably biased.