Thursday 28 April 2011

Wondrous Words Wednesday 27/4/11

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Bermuda Onion, where we share new (to us) words that we’ve encountered in our weekly reading.  

Recently I read Laurie Viera Rigler's Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict. While I didn't love the book, it did introduce some new words for me. 

1. Libertine. Noun

"I fear that my brother is not a man to be trusted. In short, it has come to my attention that he is..."
She won't meet my eyes. "a libertine."

1. One who acts without moral restraint; a dissolute person.
2. One who defies established religious precepts; a freethinker.

2. Pattens. Noun.

And I'm pretty much determined that only desperation will make me wear pattens, hideous contraptions meant to elevate shoes from the wet ground. 

So the text really explains it, but still a great word, and a google image search is intriguing. And not just because most of the images it brings up relate to that kid in Britain who had a baby when he was 13- it appears his surname was Patten.
3. Mylar. Noun

"Someone should really clean that up," he whispered to me as we stood in a crowd trying to make sense of an installation that consisted of what looked like a couple of horse turds and a broomstick on a sheet of Mylar.

Mylar appears to be some sort of flooring from the context. Which is close. Mylar is often used to generically refer to polyester film or plastic sheet.

4 Skeevy. Adjective.

What's worse is that I practically brush shoulders with the skeevy waiter from the night before.

gross, creepy; ICKY, etc. Term was common in Brooklyn, NY, USA in the 1950s and 1960s.
(Online Slang Dictionary)

5. Caro Sposa. Term

There is comfort in the familiarity of it all, in the knowledge that all will turn out well, that Elizabeth and Darcy will end up together in Pemberley, that Anne Eliot will pierce Captain Wentworth's soul, and that Mr. Elton will be stuck with his caro sposa for the rest of his life. 

I can only google up the term caro sposo, which appears to be referenced in Emma reasonably frequently. Caro Sposo is said to mean dear husband. Presumably caro sposa is the female equivalent of dear wife. 

Saturday 23 April 2011

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict

Sometimes you walk into the library and there is a book prominently displayed that you would never have sought out, you actually had never heard of, but suddenly you want to read it, you MUST read it. Even though it really isn't the sort of book that you normally read. You can't explain this fascination, but there it is.

I would certainly not describe myself as a Jane Austen Addict. I have come to enjoy her work. I've read 5 of the 6 major novels, and some of her other writings. I've even reread Pride and Prejudice three times over the past 10 years or so, and enjoy it more each time. I watch all the new movies and mini-series as they come out, and enjoy them. I've read a number of Pride and Prejudice sequels and even the spoof Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. But I still am nowhere near Addict level.

Still I had to borrow this book immediately, and read it quite soon, although I did actually renew it twice before even starting. Then comes the difficulty- should I renew it again? Can I return it after three months unread when I just had to borrow it? It won't take all that long to churn through, especially as this is a Large Print version. Even though I don't need a Large Print version, whenever I read one accidentally I wonder why I don't borrow non-Large Print editions more often, you get such a bigger sense of achievement as a slow reader as you whizz right through them.

This 2007 book probably suffers that whilst I have never heard of it until found displayed on the Large Print end table at my library I have watched Lost in Austen on the tele, and they really are pretty similar. Here, a modern day, sassy Californian called Courtney suddenly wakes to find herself inhabiting Jane Mansfield in 1813 England. Very much the Lost in Austen plot, and I didn't really like that either.

There would seem to be plenty of room for interest and even humor in a modern girl flung backwards nearly 200 years. Courtney is understandably obsessed in the lack of modern conveniences- no indoor plumbing, no feminine hygiene products, no makeup and no vodka. The plot is based on any Austen book- Courtney/Jane is single and so in want of a husband, especially in the eyes of her mother, although the more modern Courtney rebels against this somewhat- "And I resent it being a truth universally acknowledged, no matter what era I find myself in, that a single woman of thirty must be in want of a husband." Overall I found the blurring of feelings about men between the 19th and 21st centuries confusing, although predictable, and it was often hard to keep track of who Courtney/Jane was thinking about. The ending was rushed (as a lot of Austen's are actually) and especially confusing.

I see that there is now a sequel Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, recently released in Australia, which is apparently where Jane hurtles forth to Courtney's modern world. Clearly there is a huge audience with an unquenchable hunger for these books, of which I am but a modest part.

I found the most alarming summary sentence buried on page 97: I'm stuck inside a romance novel with pretensions to Jane Austen. Indeed.

Thursday 21 April 2011

When Your Phone Becomes a Book

I'm not usually an early adopter with things. I think this was a hard learnt lesson from the 80s when video first came out. Beta or VHS? I had no idea, took the wrong advice and got a Beta machine that was next to useless very quickly.

As such I haven't got an e-reader despite the obvious pull and my increasing curiosity. Recently I wanted to read Carlo Collodi's original version of Pinocchio. My local library didn't have it. None of the local shops. Sure I could have ordered it either at a shop, or from Book Depository or Amazon. I could download it and read it for free on the laptop, but I've never done that either for a whole book, and am still not keen to do that for some reason. So I decided to check out itunes (not a frequent destination for me either). There it was for $1.19. Tempting. Too tempting to resist. And within minutes it was on my iphone.

So I started reading. It wasn't as bad an experience as I thought it would be, but there were some annoyances not encountered in books along the way. Page turning may not necessarily be as precise a science as you are used to.

Pressing the little page forward button doesn't line up with what might be construed as a page start or end
And because the reception in our house is so awful every few minutes I would get that annoying notification that my network is lost. And despite how frequently this happened and how long that annoying little popup was there blocking my reading- do you think it would stay long enough to take a photo? Oh no.

Lying in bed (a traditional posture for readers) if you were careless for a second the phone would flip the page sideways. Books don't do that.

And it's really annoying
But I did sort of like the contrast of reading what is such a classic, old story in such a modern way.

And what of the story? Well, everyone knows the basics. Pinocchio is indeed a marionette who longs to be a real boy. In the book Pinocchio isn't all that likeable a main character actually- he sends his father Gepetto to gaol early on, and kills the Talking Cricket (not ever called Jiminy BTW) by throwing a hammer at him.

Pinocchio is very much a product of it's time and place. Written to instruct children on proper behaviours, it is essentially a primer on the proper behaviour of children, particularly boys. It does all get hammered home a bit:

Laziness is a serious illness.

Lying is the worst habit a boy can have.

No-one can find happiness without work.

Dreadful things happen due to disobedience.

Boys who don't listen to their elders come to grief.

Pinocchio actually struck me as much more pious and sanctimonious than Heidi, which whilst it had a more overt religious presence, there was much more an empathic caring than a strictly defined set of rigid behavioural rules.

There were some great imaginative touches and descriptive passages though- it wasn't all completely dry. A crab is described as having a voice that sounded like a trombone with a cold, which whilst a preposterous descriptor at one level, it also makes an intuitive sense, and I can totally hear what that voice would sound like.

I also like the glimpse into the past, and Pinocchio has lessons to teach us about poverty as well as piety. Clearly a lot of Collodi's child readers would have been used to meagre meals and hunger. Pinocchio is foolish with money, and doesn't usually have enough to eat. Gepetto tells him that hunger makes the best sauce. When Pinocchio is preparing for his party in anticipation of becoming a real boy- he plans 200 cups of coffe and milk, to be served with toast buttered on both sides. The fairy bread of the day?

Tuesday 19 April 2011

Autumn Colour

One of the advantages of living in a place where we have an awful winter, is that you get the benefits of spring and autumn glory. It doesn't last all that long, and hasn't been all that spectacular this year actually, but there are still highlights.

I love this tree in my street

Monday 18 April 2011

Aussie Author Month

In the Better Late than Never section I have just realised that this month is Aussie Author Month. And that by a happy coincidence that the two book posts I have managed to finish this month have both been about books by Aussie authors! YAY. So I'm going to throw my hat in the back of the ute with them. Let's all support Aussie authors this month.

Saturday 16 April 2011

The Lost Thing

Shaun Tan is certainly having an extraordinary year. First he won an Oscar for the animated adaptation of The Lost Thing. And now he has just been awarded this years Astrid Lindgren prize!

I'd seen the book around for a while of course (it was originally released way back in 1999!), but for some reason hadn't read it.  I haven't read all of his work yet but have been following his work for some time, and love it, I think he's one of the best illustrators working in Australia, and that he is somewhat of an illustrative genius. His illustrations are so complex and multi-faceted that I have just noticed a subtitle of sorts on the front cover- A tale for those who have more important things to pay attention to.

I had known for some time that the cover reminded me of something. When I got the book out of the library, I stared at it, and suddenly realised what it was. A rather D'Oh moment, a few years too late. I was rather concerned that the cover illustration was either a remarkable homage to, or indeed a direct desecendant of Jeffrey Smart's very famous Cahill Expressway (from even further back in 1962).

Reading the book I also had echoes of other  images nudging me. I'm not the greatest art historian, but it was disquieting. The tonings looked like the ads for the John Brack's exhibition in Melbourne in 2009. And then I found it went a little beyond the tonings, and I wasn't the only one to notice.

John Brack Collins St 5pm (1955)

as it appears in The Lost Thing

I was relieved when I got to the last page of the book to find an acknowledgement of sorts- APOLOGIES to Jeffrey Smart, Edward Hopper and John Brack. I was thrilled actually. I got two artistic references! But who is Edward Hopper? Again feelings of artistic knowledge inadequacy. Turns out he's an American artist. I didn't think that I knew any of his work, but this one is pretty famous I think.

Edward Hopper Nighthawks 1942

I'm just not sure that I can see it in The Lost Thing. I suspect perhaps it's this? 

Although it's altogether possible that Shaun Tan is paying homage to a completely different Edward Hopper work, and I just don't get it. I did a Google image search of Hopper, and didn't turn up anything obvious. 

So what is The Lost Thing about apart from artistic references of varying degrees of obscurity? A teenage boy, our unnamed narrator is whiling away an ordinary day, "working tirelessly" on his bottle top collection, when he notices the thing sitting on the beach. He watches it, where noone else seems to. He befriends the thing, and takes it home. I suspect it's about paying attention to the small things, being generous and helping friends. The Lost Thing also has a Western Australian feel to it according to it's author, and offers a sense of isolated reflection

It's an enchantingly simple book, that rewards frequent rereading, like so many of Shaun Tan's books. 

2016 UPDATE. Recently I went along to the fabulous ACMI exhibition about the transition from book to movie- Shaun Tan's The Lost Thing: From Book to Film. See my experience of that exhibition here

And I can't believe it's taken me 3 years to notice the very helpful comment from Susan Pursell. Susan is all over the Hopper reference.

Edward Hopper Early Sunday Morning, 1930
It's even on the same page as the reference to John Bracks Collins St 5pm. But if you don't know the art then you can't get the reference. 

as it appears in The Lost Thing
I wonder if there's more that I've missed? I suspect so, The Lost Thing rewards every rereading with something new. 

Read my review of The Arrival.

Saturday 9 April 2011

A Perfect Afternoon to Forage

Sometimes living in a small town pays off, especially when that town is in a lovely food producing area. Today I was lucky enough to be a volunteer at one of the key events of FOOD Week, an afternoon ramble called Forage. This was the first time that this even has been held, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. What did I have to do? Walk along with the first group and eat. Ok. I can do that!

Our kick off point Phillip Shaw's Koomooloo vineyard

A gentle stroll to the first of 6 stations

Pork Rillette's from Michael Manners
The weather was absolutely perfect, delightfully autumnal

Grape picking technology seems to have changed since I was thrust into the Tyrell's vineyard in the early 80s armed only with a bucket

French Onion Soup

From the second station we could see the rest of our amble

Lamb Pie from Tonic

Oh so cute. He charmed everyone, and we all wanted to take him home

Perhaps the most amazing thing I ate- the new premium brand apples- a Red Delicious that actually was Delicious! I haven't eaten a Red Delicious in decades. I'll definitely eat more if they're like this. 

Bucolic. There are apparently old Cobb and Co track marks nearby, but I didn't find any

Mount Canobolas

Stew never photographs all that well, even if it is called Daube and made by Racine

The linger spot by the dam with lovely musical accompaniment

Very delicious apple and pear sorbet from Edwena Mitchell

There were quite a few empties by the end of the day. Sadly I was "working" and not drinking

Vanilla pannacotta with quince from Lolli Redini

The sun setting on a perfect afternoon
As I was writing about my lovely afternoon, and waiting for photos to upload, I read Margot's post on an American movement called Outstanding in the Field, and thought there was a wonderful synchronicity to  our posts. So I will throw my outdoor eating hat in the Weekend Cooking pot- it was the best sort of Weekend Cooking- done by someone else, eaten outdoors and washed down with plentiful wine!

Sunday 3 April 2011

What Body Part is That?

Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton appear to be forging a long lasting partnership in the tradition of Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake. My now 10 year old son has been rather keen on their books for the past few years, and they are written exactly for this prepubertal (largely boy, fart joke obsessed) demographic. Their latest book is an exploration of human anatomy. Well, in their own inimitable style it is. Set out in two simple sections- The Parts You Can See and The Parts You Can't See. Makes sense to me.

And I did learn some stuff. I learnt about gut barging.

I learnt that humans are the only mammals that can sleep on their back (without looking completely stupid). Which seems obvious when you think about it. And led me to more fully appreciate why there is a specific website completely devoted to Upside Down Dogs.

I learnt that the velocity at which saliva leaves the mouth changes the nomenclature. Thus we have spit, drool and slobber.

I learnt that Jack Daniel (of Tennessee whisky fame) died from sepsis arising from an infected toe (apparently from kicking his safe, to which he could never remember the combination). Actually I think any kids book in which the J section of the index comprises Jack Daniel and Jimi Hendrix is pretty cool.

I also learnt valuable tips on how to  make myself look smarter (in #12 Chin)

If you want to make yourself look smarter than you actually are, try gently stroking your chin with your thumb and forefinger.

Do not stroke your chin too quickly or it will simply look like your chin is itchy.

It is also important to use the finger and thumb of the same hand, otherwise you will just end up looking like an idiot.

Thanks boys. Sage advice.

This counts as brushing up on Anatomy right?