Archive for July 2011
I just had to pop across to search for Tom Holt somewhere and try to find his height. I just seemed to fit the title of the book, I couldn’t find it and am now really curious to find out how tall he is. If I meet him I can say “I was expecting someone taller”, doesn’t matter what height he is, it’ll still be funny…bet you someone’s already done this. On to the book!!
This seems to be Holt’s first novel and what a novel it is. Malcolm Fisher runs over a badger who seems to be Ingolf, the last of the Giants, and with his dying breath reluctantly hands two Gifts of Power to Malcolm. These are the Tarnhelm and the Ring, not the One Ring to Rule Them All from Tolkein, but the Ring from Wagner’s Ring Cycle. From here on in it’s just a fabulous read. Malcolm is given the ability to understand birds and they help him understand his role as “God” so he starts being an even tempered man and “looking after” the world.
Of course that’s not the end of the story, but really just the beginning. I won’t go through the rest of it but we do get to see the Valkyries and the Rhinedaughters. I really enjoy Holt’s writing. In many ways he reminds me of Terry Pratchett in the way he takes seemingly innocent stories and brings them into the modern world, but they are in the modern world and not in Discworld. The only magic is that created by the characters and the story not by the world itself. I’m not familiar with the Ring Cycle, but Holt casually puts in a brief synopsis for our education, if you’re more familiar with it then I’d suggest you’ll get more out of the story than I did.
I can’t recommend this book enough. I had such fun with it and it help brighten a few dull days.
There is a moral to this story and that is: don’t run over badgers, you never know who they really are.
Census time is almost here. If you’re involved in the Census in any way you’ll know that delivery starts tomorrow. The actual date it happens is not till Tuesday 9th August. From tomorrow us Census Collectors are going to be very busy. I do aim to continue writing my blog but won’t guarantee to do this five days a week throughout August. Should you wish to write me a guest post I will be very happy to negotiate a date with you.
The Census is an important event and in Australia happens every five years. It is a mammoth undertaking and planning for the next one starts as soon as the current one is finished which means the planning for this one must have started almost five years ago. It is run by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
I applied for the position a couple of months ago, it was a simple online application followed some weeks later by a phone call and then an interview. I was accepted and had the personal forms to fill in. They wanted to run a Police Check on me, I don’t know if they found anything dodgy as they didn’t bother to share it with me, they wanted my bank account, my signature on a piece of paper which discussed confidentiality as well as some information on my superannuation. For me, the signature assuring confidentiality of people’s details was not needed as I signed one when I started work for the ABS in 1985 and although I left there in 1987 I’ve always acted as if that agreement still bound me, I signed it anyway to make them happy. Thank goodness they didn’t ask for my shoe size.
The next phase was meant to be a three hour training session at which we were meant to collect our packs and our collector books and in fact everything we’d need except a torch. My supervisor had other ideas and along with a supervisor from another area delivered all the materials along with minimal training a couple of weeks prior. This meant I was able to read all the materials, watch the training DVD and also put my own personal Collector Number on every single piece of paper, a little task which only took me four and a half hours while watching DVDs. Finally, we had our training and were taught how to block out our maps and advised to drive or walk around our areas and check out anything out of the ordinary.
From tomorrow we get to start the task of walking around our areas handing out the Census Forms. We have to hand them out to every single household endeavouring to make sure we talk to an adult and get initial details such as address, we can also advise them when we’re likely to be back. We’ve been asked to have 50% of the forms delivered by Monday 1st August. That’s going to be really interesting for me as I’ve signed up for Blogopolis on Saturday which means I’ll have most of Friday and Sunday in which to deliver, I’ll be out again on Monday delivering and then I’ll know how much more I have to do.
What has this post got to do with books? Absolutely nothing, just occasionally I write about things I’m doing which are out of the ordinary and I think might interest people.
I’m not sure I have an answer to that question but it’s one that wandered through my mind when looking at ABEBooks Weird Books page. Some of the books seem weird to me but won’t be weird to others. A little example is How To Be Happy Though Married by Tim LaHaye. LaHaye is the co-author of the Left Behind series of post-apocalyptic novels which have a very Christian bent to them. As LaHaye is an American evangelical Christian Minister it would be important to him for people to be happy while married as he’d be encouraging people to remain married till death. I’m thinking this would be a very normal book to him and to people in his congregation, it might even be required reading for couples having marriage issues.
101 More Uses For a Dead Cat by Simon Bond is one that gives me pause for thought. I can’t decide whether it was written with his tongue firmly in his cheek or if he just hates cats. Someone who hates cats or who has a bizarre sense of humour would laugh uproariously at this book, I have looked at this book but the smile barely made it to my face.
The Strange Story of False Teeth by John Woodward really gave me pause for thought. It sounds as if it’s the history of false teeth and that could prove really interesting. My Dad was a dentist and I worked with him during the holidays for several years so it could actually be interesting to me. I know that other people would be looking at this book and saying “gross”!
All I’m saying is it just depends on your background, your sense of humour and what you are actually interested in. Some of these books don’t look at all weird to me and if I found them at the right price would find their way to my To Be Read Pile for later perusing.
What do you think of these books?
I think this book is very pertinent to last night’s Q and A. I didn’t watch the programme myself but the hashtag, #qanda, on Twitter got a real workout and it seemed as if they were talking about conservation. The synopsis goes a little like this:
Peter Foxglove is sent to Zenkali, a little island “on the imaginary line where the waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans meet”, charged with the task of assisting the King’s advisor and assuring the smooth handover to self-rule from the British. This is truly an island paradise with the one remaining example of the Ombu tree. The Mockery Bird is held sacred by the Fangoua tribe even after extinction so when some are found in a remote area of the island the political situation changes dramatically. Plans for a military airstrip are held in abeyance until discussed fully.
This book is incredibly thinly disguised as a plea for us to stop eradicating the wildlife on the planet. Durrell admits to this quite freely in his last couple of pages and tells us the Mockery bird is based on the Takahē, a bird from New Zealand thought to be extinct until some were found in 1948.
It is a cute book but everything is too perfect, the bad guys are all bad even to their looks, the good guys are all good, the slightly strange guys are more than slightly strange and there’s nothing in between, there’s no shades of grey and nothing goes wrong that can’t be righted at some point in the book.
If you’re as enamoured of Gerald Durrell as I am then it’s a must read, if you’re at all interested in the issues of conservation of the animal kingdom then it’s a fairly important read. It’s fairly light on language and I’d say people of all ages would be able to cope with it, there are some lovely descriptions of the reef surrounding the island and of the island itself. The characters are total characters and have to be read to be believed. I suspect Durrell has taken all the most humorous parts of the people he’s met and put them all into a very small number of people. He seems to have a very high opinion of the natives and feels that given some very gentle nudging they will do the right thing.
It’s been an interesting weekend with a juxtaposition of events. On Saturday we went to see the latest Harry Potter movie and on Sunday we went to a funeral. Why am I mentioning the funeral? You’ll have to get through a few words about Harry Potter before I get to that.
Here be spoilers…
It was a good movie, there were some unforgettable moments and most of them were in the special effects. There was the death of Voldemort and the fight scenes some of which were really good and others were not so good and then there was Neville. In the earlier books/movies you’ll remember him as the one who stood up to Harry, Hermione and Ron and received enough points to give Gryffindor the winning margin. He was chubby and a wimp, in this movie he’s all grown up and turning into a hero. He led the team when Harry wasn’t there and then dealt with one of Voldemort’s horcruxes in a spectacular way. He looked far more like a hero than Harry does. The actor, Matthew Lewis, had been in a few things before Harry Potter and has only managed to fit in one role in between the movies. It will be interesting to see what roles he’s offered now, but I see him as an action hero, he really did look good with a sword.
With every beginning there is an ending. I see this movie as the beginning of Matthew Lewis’ acting career and yesterday we attended an ending, a funeral. She was my very distant cousin and I hadn’t met her too many times, she seems to have touched many lives as there were around 300 people there. The room we use for funerals is not very big and there was standing room only, very little standing room. Normally the eulogy will be spoken by the rabbi and maybe one or more family members. In this case we listened to the rabbi, the brother, a poem read by a couple and also a eulogy by Mark Baker, an eminent local historian who was a good friend of hers. It was a long service so it was good we were inside as it often rains at Springvale and yesterday was no exception, lots of rain and lots of mud. Baker referred to my cousin as a prophet and compared her to Miriam, Moses’ sister. This is not a term people use lightly and looking around at the numbers of people and speaking to someone afterwards I could begin to see why this might be. The rabbi introduced the deceased’s favourite music and asked everyone to start it off and they did. Standing at the back I didn’t see any indication of anyone leading and it was beautiful to hear 50 odd voices start in unison without any lead in or counting, she would have been happy to hear such a beautiful sound. The rain was good in one way, a stranger offered to share her umbrella to walk from the building to the graveside, she was Christian, so I filled her in on some of our practices and asked her how she knew my cousin. It’s funny how I never got this lady’s name but we discussed how she knew my cousin through Torah classes. It was an interesting experience as I got to see my cousin through so many different eyes, the rabbi, the brother, the poem, Mark Baker and this anonymous Indian Christian. Listening to them talk I wished I could have known her more.
The two events made an interesting (there goes that word again) weekend. Harry Potter was revered as the saviour and my cousin was revered as a real person and a prophet. I don’t think I’ll have many weekends like this.
Writers often have trouble getting started with their writing, I’ve read about it so many times and Wednesday night we learnt one method of getting started for the day. It’s all about getting the brain in gear, getting it in the right gear and getting started; in the wrong gear and you’ll do nothing. This exercise is all about viewing objects.
My teacher called it The Object as Thing, or at least, that’s what she wrote on the board. Anyway, there were three parts to this exercise and they were:
- Write a detailed literal description of something plain such as a pen or a piece of paper. If writing about a pencil you should be able to pick your pencil out from a bundle of pencils.
- Bring a person into contact with your object.
- Describe a person in terms of the object.
I hate typos, they are one of the things I hate the most. Typographical Errors really annoy me and if I say it again you might even believe me. If you’re really unlucky you’ve been on the receiving end of an email from me when I’ve found a typo on your website. I do try to be gentle and tone it down a bit as the poor person on the other end generally doesn’t have my phobia. Sometimes they’re happy to hear from me and I receive an effusive reply, others are not so happy and I don’t hear back. I rarely check to see if it’s been fixed, and only do so if I’m planning on using their services in the future or referring other people to them and want to know how good they are. If they don’t fix it and don’t reply then I won’t be using them, if they fix it and reply really effusively then they’re on the list.
I’m not the only person who has problems with typos. I agree they have a vested interest in the topic as the Proofreaders Association in the UK but this article talks about the decline in proofreading and in the incline in typos. Many people won’t think it matters but I’m always glad to find others who do. Books are important and teach people many things, typos only teach people they don’t need to worry about their spelling or grammar and it leads to the decline in good spelling and good grammar. Typos on websites shouldn’t happen for other reasons such as Search Engine Optimisation.
Some people like typos as it gives them an insight into the writer. Virginia Heffernan is one of those, she waxes lyrical in this article. I can see what she’s saying, but I can’t agree with her. I see it as sloppy, not necessarily sloppy by the author as it is sometimes challenging to spot a typo in something you’ve written but sloppy proofreading. I’m speaking as someone who is a fairly good proofreader and has been asked to proofread books on occasion. I don’t think I should read the book again after it’s been published as that’s the time I find more errors I should have picked up the first time. It’s very embarrassing and I take a lot of care nowadays when proofreading for people as I don’t like to let errors through.
Typos in books or on websites can be quite embarrassing and cost people money. I won’t embarrass the author any more by linking to her but there is one author whose book was reviewed on a website and many typos, both spelling and grammatical, were mentioned, the author came onto the blog and became quite defensive. She did herself a great deal of damage. I know the damage was not the typos, although reading about them would have caused myself and people like me to not want the book, but her aggressiveness in replying to the reviewer. If you saw it then you know who I’m talking about and I hope you won’t put any details in your comments.
Typos on websites can turn people off and make them unwilling to use the service or buy the products. I know some people don’t even notice typos but for those of us who do notice and do care it can be a bit turn off. If the keywords are misspelled then that can have great effect on their search engine optimisation as they won’t appear in search engines for those words or terms.
Here is another gem from Anne who provided us with a glimpse into her bookshelves last week. This week she shares her thoughts on Thomas Hardy.
Thomas Hardy was the writer that sent me off into the world of literature. I discovered him while reading The Mayor of Casterbridge at school and when I searched the shelves of the library I found more of his works. I ended up collecting all that I could find.
Within his novels I found a Victorian England of the late 1800’s that was dark and gloomy and a small county called Wessex that was rural and full of class divisions. I found people full of passions that led them to ultimate tragedy.
That makes it sound like his novels are heavy reading they aren’t. In fact, many were published as serials in magazines so the chapters are in ‘bite sized’ pieces. His books have a way of putting me right inside the skin of his characters so I can feel their desires and their desperation.
His novels are all tragic, which appeal to the drama queen in me. He shook the accepted conventions of church, social status and morality and outraged everyone. It’s funny, really, because all he was doing was lifting the covers and showing how society was behaving. Can you imagine waking up one morning, turning to read the new serial published in your favourite magazine only to recognise a version of yourself in there? No wonder people were outraged!
Later I found out that he was a poet, too. In fact, I think he was more poet than writer. While some of his poetry is more involved than others, it’s the simple ones that capture me. It’s poems like this one that keep me coming back to read and reread my favourites. I hope you enjoy the poem and if you haven’t read any of his books, go and find one in your library now.
A Thunderstorm in Town
She wore a ‘terra-cotta’ dress,
And we stayed, because of the pelting storm,
Within the hansom’s dry recess,
Though the horse had stopped; yea, motionless
We sat on, snug and warm.
Then the downpour ceased, to my sharp sad pain,
And the glass that had screened our forms before
Flew up, and out she sprang to her door:
I should have kissed her if the rain
Had lasted a minute more.
Anne Maybus of Clever Streak is a writer who specialises in writing for small businesses. She also loves creative writing and often lets her pen take control of the words just so she can see what might end up on the page.
As you probably know I’m studying Year 12 English Lit this year. It’s driving me totally batty, there’s so much work and I have several other major projects with deadlines all finishing at roughly the same time so I’m finding there’s little time for other things. Today is no exception, it’s meant to be my housework day but I made the mistake of sitting down to do some of the reading for my next SAC (School Assessed Coursework) and I’m finding it really challenging.
Challenging in more ways that just time. The book we’re studying at the moment is This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff and it’s a memoir of part of his childhood. He didn’t have an easy childhood and grew up without a father for several years and then with an abusive father figure. Our assignment is to write a creative response to the book, we have to take a character or an incident and write about it in relation to the book and then write a reflective commentary to discuss why we decided to write that and how it relates to the original story. The actual writing will be fairly easy once I finally get started and I already have a page of notes which include some of the ideas I need for the reflective commentary. What I’m finding challenging and time consuming is my thoughts.
Tobias Wolff was not the easiest of children, especially as seen through his eyes and I’m finding it’s constantly taking me back to my childhood and making me reflect on that. My current reading is a question and answer session with Wolff himself and that’s really hard as I’m finding I digress into my thoughts every few lines. I also didn’t have any easy childhood and maybe that’s why I’m finding my thoughts wandering. Anyway, I’ll going to take a break from it and do the housework so I’ll have a clear conscience about something at least. I’m hoping that having written about my difficulties I’ll be able to concentrate better, it sometimes works.
Reading back through this article is interesting. I’ve found I’ve used the word ‘easy’ too many times. I’m not changing it, just pondering on it. I could write a little sentence on it but that would be too punny.
It’s been a while since I updated people on Nullus Anxietas 4, the fourth Australian Discworld Convention. I think the last update included me having delusions of grandeur and totally forgetting the fact that we needed to have elections before we could have a new committee. Me and my memory, I was so excited by the prospect of bringing Nullus back to Melbourne I just forgot the elections. Anyway, I didn’t get into the Executive and there’s good reason for that which I’ll leave to another occasion. I’ve been elected as Co-Chair of the PR sub-committee. I can’t reveal any plans for the convention as yet but they will come. I will say we have an awesome committee, lots of new talent and lots of enthusiasm
There’s lots happening besides the Committee. We’re starting up one or more groups in Melbourne, which for want of a better name we’re calling Klatches. All we need is to find a time and place to get everyone together. There’s already one in Sydney called The Broken Drummers Downunder, one in Adelaide called City of Small Gods Terry Pratchett Fan Club, one in Brisbane Brisbane Broken Drummers and one in Perth which is still unnamed. Basically, we’re taking over Australia and making it Discworld!