Thursday, May 07, 2009

poets and thieves

yeah it's a good name for a book shop. but why wasn't it open on a tuesday around lunchtime?

tim winton's breath.

it's funny. in the writing course thingo on saturday, the woman sitting next to me had a physical reaction when it was suggested we read this book in the next 2 months. she kind of sat back in her chair and sighed quite loudly. the only novel i've finished of tim winton's was dirt music. from memory i didn't mind it. and i remember being inordinately pleased that i'd managed to finish it. the only other book i've finished of his was a collection of short stories, published reasonably recently, called the turning. i didn't mind that either, but i think it got distracting because i was trying to work out how each story connected to the other. it's a nice idea, having a series of short stories that are connected in some way, but again, it distracted me. actually, i've just remembered i also read the riders, and while that was unsatisfying, i finished it and didn't mind it either.

but i want more from my reading than not minding it.

cloudstreet i started reading, and while i quite liked the beginning bits, i let it go because it was hard work beyond a certain point*. i think around the same time i read murray bail's eucalyptus and adored it. bail is on my list, he's been short-listed for the miles franklin, and once i've read him and winton's breath, then i'll have read 3 of them.

one last thing, before my current reading list. i'm not disposed to envy of other people. i don't covet other people's houses, cars, husbands, looks, clothes or shoes. not much. of course i notice, i see my friend with the luscious lips and the way her lip gloss is just so attractive. i see the expensive clothes, and think how nice to be able to buy them. but it doesn't make me, ME, unhappy. it never has. but recently, i had a sharp stab of envy. let me tell you what it was about.

in our course there's a writer who has published a book. it came out last year, and was launched by helen garner. it was a sharp pang, and it hurt. i raced out, got the book and am now nearly finished. by about page 4 i was reassured that while this is a finely-written book, it's not a threat to me. it's not the sort of book i want to write. WOW. i could relax, and all was ok with the world again.

do other people feel this sort of thing?

to my list:

breath - tim winton.

the fable of arachne - sallie muirden. (poetry, even though i don't do poetry.)

landscape with animals - anonymous. (anyone read it? apparently it's very sexay.)

surrender - sonya hartnett.

the photograph - penelope lively.

the white tiger - aravind adiga.

what i loved - siri hustveldt (spelling!?)

the kindly ones - jonathan littell. (recommended by bookmoth, i bought it already and it sits, like a brick, on the floor beside my bed. a besa brick.)

the pages - murray bail.
ordinary people - judith guest.

sybil - flora rheta schreiber.

* * *

the last two are for research purposes for my story. what i have bought so far from this list: dissection, the kindly ones, the white tiger (2nd hand, yay), the photograph** (ditto, yay) and breath.

i'm still reading the time traveler's wife, about half-way through, it's good. but am sidestepping with another book, just a brief affair. a fling, if you will. then back to my main novel.

happy reading everyone. for is it not the most blissful of activities?

* 2012 note - I have read Cloudstreet now and adored it. Strange - and wonderful - how we can change either in our responses or some books just need to be read at the right time?

** 2012 note - I didn't read this. Couldn't get past the first few pages I think. Didn't want to spend the time.

17 comments:

Perseus said...

'Surrender' is awesome. I loved it. 'Thursday's Child' is another Hartnett I really liked. I can see why others may not like her stuff, but it works for me.

I read 'Cloudstreet' and thought it was 'good'. I started 'Dirt Music' and decided by page 4 it 'wasn't good', and gave up. I read one of his kids' books 'Blue-Bottle' or something, some kid with fish, and anyway, that filled an hour of my life.

That's the sum total of my Winton experience, though I do own 'The Turning'.

davy jones overlocker said...

I loved The Time Traveller's Wife - I read it over Easter. Light and lively but not saccharine.

You know who I can't come at? Ian McEwan. I may be a Palestine but I like a bit more plot to go with the flowery descriptions.

Next up for me is A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth.

Melba said...

Oh, I like McEwan. I've liked pretty much everything I've read of his, except maybe one didn't do it for me: The Child in Time. Can't remember why. I loved On Chesil Beach, and Atonement and whatever else I've read of his.

Mmmm, your endorsement of Surrender is helpful, Perseus.

squib said...

I loathed 'The Timetraveller's Wife', though to be fair I didn't get past page 18

I've never read anything by Winton but I really should because he gets mentioned a lot. But every time I read a blurb on one of his books I don't feel any desire to go any further


do other people feel this sort of thing? absolutely!

Melba said...

What was it that stopped you with Time Traveler's wife, squib? I'm interested because for me, it's proven fresh and different. While it's an ambitious book in terms of the plot, I think it's well managed, and well written.

How go the poems?

Perseus said...

After my disastrous experiences reading 'Perfume', 'The Lovely Bones', 'The Kite Runner' and Page 1 of 'Da Vinci Code' (I couldn't get past page 1 - I got to the bit about the albino and had to stop) I have put a blackban on all modern best-sellers. 'The Time Traveller's Wife' and 'Life of Pi' are the victims of my blackban, but I'm sticking to it.

I bet they're shit.

Melba said...

Life of Pi is good. Well, I liked it. it was different and I finished it, but that was a few years ago, before I got to my current fiction-saturation point. And I don't believe Time Traveler's is shit. Still waiting to hear back from squib on that.

Out of the last few books I've read in the last couple of months (Slap, Dressmaker, The Reader, The Gathering, and now TTW) I would say The Gathering and TTW have been the most enjoyable.

And how can you lump Lovely Bones and Perfume with Da Vinci Code? Admittedly it's years since I read Perfume, but Lovely Bones I thought was alright.

I've avoided the Kite Runner on the strength of your damning of it Perseus, and am not at all tempted.

squib said...

Melba, poem writing was going well until today. I tried this exercise where you write a poem/letter to a dead person. This upset me so much I had to stop

Time Traveller review I did a long time ago-


Okay, a lot of people love this book. The jacket is covered in plaudits from The Observer, The Times, and The Guardian… if that still doesn’t convince you of its brilliance, the inside of the jacket (front AND back) contain more rave reviews ’startlingly original’, ‘inspirational’, ‘a rare book’, ‘unmissable’… I got up to page 18 and stopped. I found the dialogue completely unconvincing and contrived. I found the whole chrono-impairment thing laughable and the descriptions of Clare, ‘the wife’, were somehow trashy and shallow.

‘-this astoundingly beautiful amber-haired tall slim girl turns around and looks at me as though I am her personal Jesus.’ (The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger)

The Big Issue wrote that this book ‘will break your heart’.

Yep, especially when I think about how it cost $23.95

If you like romances then this is probably for you. I’m just not sure why it’s being lauded as something extraordinary when its so clearly very very ordinary.

Melba said...

Wow, usually my radar picks up a description like the one you've just included, squib. How did I miss it? I'm not into romances, not much. The time travelling doesn't bother me, I guess I'm fascinated by it, and want to see what happens.

About all the dust jacket accolades etc, I never EVER read those. I find them very off putting, and I admit even seeing them there makes me a bit wary. But I'm enjoying the book, even though you've made me think more about it now.

Hadn't noticed the dialogue was bad - but then writing dialogue's not my strength...

Rowena said...

I just finished Breath. It is the first Tim Winton I have ever read – his other titles have just not appealed to me at all.

It was extremely readable, and bleak, and there was kinky sex in it. I think you'll like it. I did.

Even so, it has not inspired me to read any of Winton's other books. They just sound so dull. I kind of can't stand books set in Australian outposts. Cultural cringe!

squib said...

Melba, I think if the jacket had stated 'this book is nothing special', I might have liked it more. Great expectations and all that

Melba said...

squib we just have to disagree on this. i think the book is actually something quite special in that it's different and now i am coming to some truly moving parts. i don't think you can properly comment because you haven't read it. maybe it gets better after page 18? how will you ever know? does it really matter?

probably not. hope the poetry is going well. from memory deadline is tomorrow?

I'm not Craig said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
I'm not Craig said...

I read cloudstreet. every single unpunctuated word of it. I believe that my reason for doing this could best be described as sheer bloodymindedness.

That was 11 years ago and I have read nothing of his since.

I nearly got to meet Tim Winton a few years ago. I'll email you that story one day

Melba said...

Hey INC, how goes it??

I hate those almost met so-and-so stories. I almost met the Maori Queen, as well as the guys from Australian Crawl when they'd just started, ie small fame. I don't care about the Aussie Crawl boys; I would have loved to meet the Maori Queen though.

I'm not Craig said...

Okay, so apparently I shouldn't email that story to you.

I'll just tell you about it next time I see you.

Melba said...

No, no, email me! I want to hear yours! I just meant that they are good stories but they'd be better if they were "the time I met so-and-so stories" rather than the "time I almost met so-and-so."

God I've made so many mistakes this weekend. Car got towed from clearway, completely forgot about Princess' Turkish class.

Arrrgh. Should have stayed in bed last two days.