Friday, April 17, 2009

Have you read Eat, Pray, Love?

Tell me what you thought.

Magic powers?

If you could have a magical power, what would it be? Invisible? Flying ability? Mind reading?

I must admit, ashamedly, to only recently becoming a convert of Harry Potter. Prior to this, I had been a sceptic. Yes, I was one of those people who screwed up their nose at anything that required any kind of thinking outside the square of reality. Aliens? No thanks. Space machines and time travel? I don't think so. Boy-child with broom and magic wand? I don't think so, that doesn't happen in the real world.

Basically, if it didn't happen in reality, it wasn't to be read. Moreso, I wasn't going to spend money on supporting J K Rowlings "childrens' books for adults", aka Harry Potter. I don't watch Star Wars, Star Trek, or Star Anything. I don't like the idea of small, slimey goblins chasing rings, even if it is in the green bliss of New Zealand. No. Science fiction, fantasy, speculative fiction - not for me.


A dear friend of mine couldn't believe that I could be so narrow minded. So, for my birthday, I received a box containing a blissful set of Harry Potter books.

I have recently dived in - held my breath, put aside my bias and scepticism, and tried to open my mind.

I now want my own Owl.

Ah, the bliss of the open mind. May it hit us all. I am only sorry it has taken me this long.

Who knows, maybe J R Tolkien is next...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Are book characters your friends?

Try this. Find yourself some time (easy if you're a freelancer like me), but find it somehow - on a holiday, a weekend, a night when the TV doesn't go on. Find the time, and then spend AT LEAST an hour with your book. This will ensure that you're immersed in it. Totally. And it has to be a fiction book - non-fiction simply doesn't do it, sorry boys!

You will find, I guarantee it, that you start to find that the characters in these books become your friends.

Trust me.

Monday, April 13, 2009

When characters become family

In the space of the last seven days I have read many books. Quite the lavish pastime to be considered "work", I know. I've gone from reading Bettina Arndt's intimate book The Sex Diaries, that has left me wanting to call my girlfriends over for a bottle of wine and a good chat, to Arndt's friend Kate Legge's The Marriage Club that has me terrified at the prospect that there is SO much that goes on behind the closed doors of other people's relationships that you can never be sure you know people at all. I find myself angry at George and frustrated at Leith - experiencing the tightness in my chest and awkward feeling in my stomach as if these people were really in my life, and not just constructed out of words on a page.
Then I dived into Anne Summers' The Lost Mother and found myself wanting to sit Anne and her mother Tuni down for a cup of tea and sympathy. This is then melded into Kirsten Reed's The Ice Age, where the adolescent in me is awakened by the awkward interactions by the vending machine and the infatuation with Gunther. When's Gunther going to pull up outside MY front door, cigarette slouching, to beckon to the open road? Craig Silvey's Jasper Jones has taken the cake though. I burst into tears when little Eliza bares her fourteen year old soul to Charlie Bucktin. Who wouldn't? The perfect gentlement, a mini Atticus Finch in the making, is that young man, despite hoarding his secret. And Jeffrey Lu - what a hysterical character, so vivid it was as if Silvey had produced a film instead of a novel.

I forget that the characters aren't real. I feel as if they were my family, or people that I know well. Their actions affect me physically and emotionally and I want to dive into the pages and be involved in their lives. Or, phone up the author and demand an alternative ending, more information, further clarification.

It's the sign of brilliant writing when your mind forgets where it is. When you forget that these people aren't really your friends, your family, your neighbours (thankfully, or not).

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Smell of Books

One of the first things I do when I buy a book, be it a new or second hand purchase, is take a long, hard smell. I stick my nose in between the pages and take several short sniffs, followed by a long, hard inhalation. It's as if I want to brand it, source it, sniff it out like a beagle.

'Are we going to like each other?', my sniff asks. 'What if we don't get along, but feel compelled, due to the extreme price tag of this piece of literature, to finish to the last page? Will our relationship be fast and furious, where the pace of reading is intense, so as to find the ending as soon as possible, or will we savour the words, linger over the chapters, and contemplate the next step in the plot?'.

This act is going to be sorely missed by myself and others if the world continues its disappointing path towards the e-book. Anything read on a screen doesn't smell. If you tried to smell your screen, you'd end up with spots dancing before your eyes, and a stunned nose that was rudely thwacked against the monitor.

Newspapers on a screen don't smell. Who doesn't like the musty scent of a black and white paper? And what about the smudged imprinted mark that it leaves on your sleeve as you rest your elbow on the broadsheet, craning your neck to read the text on the top of page 3?

Books on a screen definitely don't smell. There's nothing romantic about flipping a page by scrolling your mouse. You can't lend a friend an e-book. You can't fall asleep with your e-book on your lap; you'll probably short circuit something, run out of batteries, and accidentally delete it as you nod off and let go of the grip on your e-book reading device (note: refuse to use the word for the Amazon-promoted e-book reading device. EBRD). You can't fold down the pages to mark the passage that touches you on an e-book, and then put it in your bag to show your girlfriend. You can't savour the last page in a chapter on an e-book; you'll accidentally 'flip' the page and unwittingly keep reading, undoubtedly revealing the twist in the plot...

No. E-books don't smell. Real books do.

But society, as we know, continues to amaze with its inventions and mechanisms to constant placate our tendency towards complete consumer satisfaction. This company, it seems, has solved it all.

I weep as I sniff the musty pages of my pre-loved copy of Lunch with Mussolini. Nothing beats the real thing.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Like spilt ink into cracks in old wood...

[Jennifer Mills]

Or beetroot on a hamburger.
Or one anchovy on a pizza.
Or the sound of someone singing. Or screaming.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Snippets of wisdom

I stop everyday right at the point where I feel I can do more. Do that and the next day's work goes surprisingly smoothly. To keep on going, you have to keep up the rhythm. This is the important thing for long term projects. Once you set the pace, the rest will follow.

[Haruki Murakami What I Talk About When I Talk About Running]

Book Shelf Book Club

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