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The Solid Mandala

A plug for the new Patrick White Readers Group book: The Solid Mandala. Read it now.

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Not resolutions

Well, now all that Christmas business has died down and my parent’s house is now empty but for the four of us who have been here for the last couple of months, I can think about writing something for my blogs again.

Yesterday was the first day when I felt like the season was winding down. Or maybe that was just the last Test finishing. Whatever. It’s a little quieter now, we’re not hosting dinners for 16 every second night and the tourists around town are not as thick on the ground. This year I smugly counted myself as a local even though that assumption was not completely true. Very annoyed when I had to wait for a park at the beach. Life has obviously been hard.

I hate new year’s resolutions but I came across Conversational Reading’s reading resolutions and thought it might be a nice exercise to go through: make a list of stuff I would like to get through this year. No doubt I will look back on this post in December and wonder what planet I was on but here goes:

More Australian stuff
During my trip away from Sydney I have been trying to read more Australia lit and I have been reasonably successful in this. I want to start with White’s The Solid Mandala, if that is what the PWRG is indeed reading. I also have David Malouf‘s latest sitting here waiting to be read. Aside from those two I have no real plans. I thought I would fly by the seat of my pants after visiting the Sars underrated writers’ project for suggestions…

What I got for Christmas
I’m halfway through Shirin Ebadi’s Iran Awakening so I should have that kocked off soon enough. Mum gave me the Nobel Lectures from the Lit laureates so I imagine I will be dipping in and out of that one. I will also look forward every month to The Monthly tunring up in the mailbox courtesy of my sister’s gift of a subscription.

Been meaning to read for ages
Since reading Jonathan Franzen’s How to be alone a couple of years ago I have been trying to get my hands on a copy of Paula Fox’s Desperate Characters with no luck. I read Borrowed Finery last year.

I have been lusting over the Lee Miller biog by Carolyn Burke and dammit, this year I will have it.

Also, two I want to read more of: Gunter Grass and Philip Roth. Don’t ask me why because I don’t know.

And that other thing
There’s also the small matter of an unfinished Masters

Happy reading to all.

All White

So, I finally mananged to find a copy. I looked in the local library, a number of bookshops and ended up paying way over the odds for a 1982 paperback copy. The one with the Tucker painting on the cover. (Admittedly I didn’t try the largest library in the southern hemisphere – I was looking for a challenge. Fisher is too easy. And I wanted my own copy).

Went out the back tonight for the usual cigarette break (I know, it will kill me) and starting reading. The print is very small. The pages of poor quality. And I was interrupted by a car in the lane behind our house emitting Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Want to Have Fun from tinny speakers. Whatever. I feel I’m part of something larger and worthwhile. Which reminds me: I have been recruiting readers from work. One question that was asked was: is it ok to read the book before September? Are we supposed to read it simultaneously? I figured we could read it whenever we wanted and told the new recruit that. Discussion is what happens in September yes?

Top of the bookclub pops

Having watched the reading list of my mother’s bookclub with interest, I was keen on this article at Reuters: “The Poisonwood Bible” voted top read by UK book groups. And I do believe that Mum’s group has read that.

Via Bookslut.

A summer of Faulkner? Oh, Oprah.

Jonathon Franzen may have been a little “sheepish” about being included in Oprah’s bookclub, claiming he was from a “high art” tradition, but Oprah has pulled a swifty this northern summer and proclaimed it the Summer of Faulkner. Yes, that’s right, William Faulkner.

By proposing to read not one but three works by a dead white male whose prose laid siege to the conventions of narrative fiction, and whose furiously lyrical exploration of race and the American South still manages to unsettle readers, Oprah is taking a major gamble on her audience’s attention span and political sensitivities. Once again, she has proved she is a more serious reader than many people–that is, anybody besides her millions of fans–reckoned.

Guest post from the Bookclub

Ellen from my Mum’s bookclub has written a review of the book they read last month. A big thank you to Ellen. Take it away:

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
by Dai Sijie

During Mao’s Cultural Revolution, two barely educated boys discover the forbidden pleasure of books.  Living a life deprived of most creature comforts, as well little intellectual stimulation, a banned novel opens up for them another world, one of "awakening desire, passion, impulsive action, love and all the subjects that had until then, been hidden."  Along with their awakening, the boys endeavor to carry out some re-education of their own, in trying to change a beautiful little seamstress into sophisticated Western style woman. 

Of course their plan is bound to have its set backs, which provides the story line. 

The characters are beautifully crafted and the story is simply told with no overstatement of the hardships to play on the reader’s sympathies and to get in the way of the story.  The author draws on his own experiences of "re-education" which provides for realism.

The many vignettes within the book provided for ample discussion in our book group: the realism of the boys lives:  the ideal and the lived versions of Communism;  the humour in the boys exploits; women and clothes; dental horrors;  and the meanings of the seamstresses last words "that a woman’s beauty is a treasure beyond price".

A good read.

Jane Austen quiz

Fancy yourself as a Jane Austen buff? Test your knowledge at the Guardian’s Jane Austen quiz.

And, the Guardian talks to Alexander McCall Smith.