Posts Tagged ‘Melbourne’
This past weekend was the Queen’s Birthday long weekend. Australian’s are fond of public holidays, we have enough of them, and most of them are set on a Monday or Friday with the odd one being on a Tuesday (but I’m not mentioning Phar Lap or the Melbourne Cup) to enable us to have a long weekend. Some fortunate people are able to take an extra day or two off and make it an even longer weekend.
I’m sure you’re aware of the myriad of possibilities of things to do on a long weekend, one favourite would be to sleep in but that wasn’t possible for us as the OH had bought us both tickets for LimmudOz. I’m sure you’re all exclaiming about the nonsense I’ve gotten myself involved in this time, but this is different, it’s not a conference, not a convention but a learning festival. Limmud is Hebrew and means to learn, so this was a whole weekend of learning about Jewish stuff.
I’m not going to detail the programme, if you’re interested you can look at it here, suffice to say it was massive. It started on Saturday night as it caters to all sorts of Jews and so they have to allow the Orthodox time to finish all they things they need to do after Sabbath and then to get there. Saturday was straightforward, there were only four choices prior to the play. The play was very challenging, it was a one-man play about a boy who recorded conversations and his relationship with his father, I won’t reveal any more but I did have tears in my eyes at the end, it was well attended but the acoustics weren’t crash hot.
Sunday and Monday were very full-on as there were 11 streams to choose from on Sunday and 12 on Monday, the reason for one fewer on Sunday is due to Little Limmud, aimed at the younger end of the market but you still had to have a parent there supervising you, I didn’t try to get in despite claiming to be 18 although they did look fun.
So hard to choose only one stream to attend in each hour. There was a 15 minute break between sessions in case the presenter ran over and to allow people to get to their next session on time. Many presenters ran over and some finished exactly on time. It was an excellent weekend and I have one article in mind to write as I attended the session about Jewish books for children and young adults, I hope I didn’t talk too much during this session. I took a break on Sunday as I ran into a friend and sat to talk with her for most of one session, and similarly on Monday when I absolutely had to write up my thoughts about a particular session. I don’t plan on publishing those here, it’s for a different market.
This week is back to whatever passes for normal. I do hope everyone has a good rest of the week. I’ve got Discworld stuff next weekend so we’re back to silliness.
Saturday night, almost five hours after the play finished and my eyes were still sore from crying. I started within moments of the actors coming onstage and stopped while they were handing out cake. It was an awesome play, totally hit the tenor of the book, with seriously good music by some fabulous players and so many phrases came directly from the book.
I was slightly on the back foot as I only started reading the book the previous weekend and had about 30 odd pages to go when we went into fortyfivedownstairs. Took it with me and read some of it on the train which made things rather disconcerting when the exact same words came back to me on the stage only a short time later.
Café Scheherazade by Arnold Zable is one of the best books. It is a retelling of the stories of some of the people who used to sit around talking and eating in Café Scheherazade in Acland Street, St Kilda until it closed in 2008. The characters are talking to a journalist who originally went into get some details for Café Scheherazade’s 35th anniversary and ended up hooked by the stories. They are challenging stories as they encompass existence in Siberia, Kobe, Vilna, Paris and Shanghai in the years surrounding and during World War II.
There are so many good things about this book I really don’t know where to start or finish so I’ll just include a paragraph and tell you why I think it’s so good.
This is a tale of many cities: each one consumed by the momentum of history. Each one recalled at a table in a cafe called Scheherazade, in a seaside suburb that sprawls upon the very ends of the earth, within a city that contains the traces of many cities.
This paragraph is a bridge between two stories. It finishes off the previous story without diminishing it, reminds us where we are, not just in the cafe, but on the seaside in a suburb in a fairly remote location. It doesn’t seem remote to the people who live there but it is remote from the places these people have come from, not just in distance but also in the food, the culture, so many other things including the weather. It then reminds us that this city has so many other cultures from so many other cities in the world and seems to lead us directly into another story. The writing is just perfect it’s succinct without leaving anything out. This paragraph is just an illustration of the whole book.
The play is exactly what I expected, it is just a reduction of the book and although it leaves out so much doesn’t lack anything. To get the mood of the play all the actors and the two musicians walk out slowly backwards in time with the Klezmer music. It was very evocative of the book and as soon as I saw them I instantly thought of how hard it would be to keep their arms up like that, but that reminded me of Yossel, one of the characters in the book, who was nearing ninety:
…age does not matter. Willpower can defeat it. I can still lift fifty kilos. I have already walked fifteen kilometres today…
That is when the tears started. Already they had evoked the book from within me and all they’d done was walk backwards on stage to the sound of the music.
Fortyfivedownstairs is a fairly small area. There were around 100 seats with only a couple empty and to get to the seats you had to walk on the stage, there was no delineation between the stage and the first row of seats. They had kept one seat aside in the front row, next to a table with a sign not to sit there and not to use the table, I managed to sit behind this seat. Martin, the journalist, sat there a couple of times and the light was focussed on him, it highlighted my lap with my copy of the book and my tissue.
Some scenes were rather fragmented with the actors giving a couple of words each in turn. I felt this highlighted the fragments of stories that have managed to be told and the fragments of families that have survived that era. They were very powerful.
I cannot tell you the best part of the book or the play as they were both so excellent all the way through. I could highlight the writing style, the characterisation, the stories themselves or so many other points but that would take up a whole book. I could highlight the acting, the music, the stage direction but again, that would take a whole book. Much better to just tell you to read the book and see the play. If you can’t do both then as they are both as good as the other you have a choice if you’re in Melbourne until the 11th of September when the play has it’s final performance, but elsewhere there is no choice but to read the book. I have one copy to sell, if I can think of a good competition before it sells I might offer it as a prize. If you miss out you can buy this book and others by Zable at his publishers, it seems to be unavailable everywhere else I’ve tried.
I hope to finish the book in the next day or so, I’d like to move onto something a little easier on the emotions.
This is another Murray Whelan Thriller. This is book five out of six. In this book Murray Whelan is a Minister in the Victorian Government and his lover shows him a significant ultrasound photo, minutes later she’s dead. This is the story of Whelan and his travails a couple of years later. His son, Red, is 15 and starting to date, Whelan sees his lover’s killer and from there the journey begins.
I have a distinct liking for Maloney’s writing. He has a free and easy style, describing situations and scenes with just enough words so you understand what’s going on without being overwhelmed. He situates the action in recognisable parts of Melbourne and makes it possible for me to place the location when I’ve been there. At one stage, Whelan is sitting eating in Lorne and it is so easy to figure out where he’s eating and that he probably bought his new shoes at the same place I bought shoes about 10 years prior to the time the book is set.
Just a little digression. There’s a reason I bought shoes in Lorne. Many years ago we were in a bushwalking group and we were doing the walk down from the falls. I’d been very careful to put my walking shoes ready as I’d wanted to wear my sandals during the drive. We get up to the falls and are all ready to walk when I discover I’ve left my shoes next to the front door. It’s a long drive home so I just head out in my sandals; this is such a stupid idea. The walk is not easy and they fall apart; thank goodness for the head of our group who had duct tape in his pack. He taped my sandals to my feet and I finished the walk. When we got to Lorne I bought some shoes, cutting my sandals off my feet and threw them in the bin.
Anyway, back to the book. Actually, now I think about it I don’t have anything more to tell you. It’s a great book, in a great series, written by a great author; who I suspect also signed the Wikileaks petition.
This book is set in 1997 during the lead up to the Y2K changeover and during the opening of the Crown Casino. These are both mentioned, in part due to Murray needing a plus one to take to the opening ceremony. The Premier of Victoria is called Kenneth Geoffries, a very thinly disguised pseudonym for our Premier of those times, Jeff Kennett.
In the previous books I’ve read, Murray Whelan is a rather naive man who does as he’s told and investigates things and just happens to find himself in a better job at the end of the book. In this book he’s matured a lot (he’d better, he’s now 50 and his son, Red, is having driving lessons) and he’s able to work the situations to his advantage. Yes, he ends up with a better job at the end of the book but this time it feels like he’s actually done the manipulating himself rather than having someone do it for him. It’s still got the flavour of the previous books, it’s just that Murray is older and, we hope, wiser. He’s starting to be more serious about taking care of his health and is running more often, the house is no longer falling down and he seems to have his life together.
This is Shane Maloney at his best. I’m sure I’ve spoken before about how politically naive I am so it’s really interesting to get a good insider’s view of the whole political machinations and to get a good understanding of the shenanegins. Maloney has a knack for writing in the vernacular while making it understandable by people outside the system. He’s taken a situation, shown how it could have happened and then shown us the politics behind the situation and then the wrap up so we can see one possible ending. I really could have done without the sex scenes but that’s just me and I think I understand how it could be a part of an unattached politician’s life.
I’ve used this book for Teaser Tuesday twice as I’ve found it a challenge to get through. I know I’ve promised more blogs about AussieCon 4 but I figured you’ve been waiting for this for longer so it was well past time for this book
From the back of the book:
Jewels and Ashes is the result of a journey of discovery. Moving effortlessly between centuries and continents, and across inner and outer landscapes, it is an astonishing achievement. In one stroke, the Jewish historical experience has become mainstream literature.
I really can’t describe the book any better than that, the writing is another matter entirely. This novel was so challenging for several reasons. Arnold Zable takes us on a journey through time between Melbourne, Australia and history-torn Europe. He takes us through the pogroms in Russia in the 1900s, through the Holocaust and also through various other parts of history. Zable looks at one member or branch of his family and follows their journey through life in whatever part of the world he/she was in, looking at the people currently living there, the buildings where his family lived and also at the history of the area. His writing is very rich with words without providing us with a terribly big book – it only has 210 pages while feeling like there is 1,000 pages. There is so much in each paragraph I regularly and frequently found myself going back and reading paragraphs multiple times to ensure I’d got everything from it. Zable has written a book that begins and ends with his parents and his relationship with them, and while it feels like a poem as there’s so much imagery and so many poetic phrases it is presented as a novel. He spends a lot of time travelling through the areas he’s writing about and tells about his travels there. On so many occasions I felt as if I was there with him and could see the people and houses as well as the surrounding countryside.
I can’t say enough nice things about this book, but I did find myself in tears on so many occasions. It does deal with challenging issues, the pogroms in Russia and the Holocaust are a good part of that. It was wonderful to be able to see the parts of the world where some of my family came from without actually going there, not that it negates the need for a trip but it does help. I was also able to understand some of the feelings that would have been going through any community which had managed to get themselves out of Europe and into the safety of Australia or New Zealand, the vast majority of my family were living in Australia before the troubles in Germany and WWII.
I can’t say enough nice things about this book. If I was in the habit of giving stars I’d have to say eight out of five, it’s that good that wouldn’t have enough stars for it.
Tonight I’m going to break with tradition and give you three-in-one book review.
I’m shamelessly pinching some stuff from Shane Maloney’s website as his summary is nice and concise.
“There are currently six Murray Whelan novels.
Each is a stand-alone story. Sequentially, they follow Murray’s journey through the ranks of a well-known but entirely fictional Australian political party. The action takes place mainly in Melbourne, a city on the way to nowhere.”
I’m currently reading the first Murray Whelan trilogy containing: Stiff, The Brush Off & Nice Try. Actually, I’ve read Stiff and The Brush Off and am partway through Nice Try. Stiff and The Brush Off were made into movies with David Wenham as Murray Whelan with John Clarke directing Stiff and Sam Neill directing The Brush Off. In the books our hero looks like he actually knows what he’s doing but in the movies it looks far more haphazard. I saw Stiff some time ago as David Wenham is a drawcard in my books and with John Clarke directing I knew it had to be good so when I saw this trilogy in the op shop I just had to buy it. It’s been sitting on my shelf for quite a while and I’ve been saving it for a rainy day.
I think you could class them as political thrillers and they give a very nice insight into the way politics works. They are based in Melbourne so it’s lovely for Melburnites as we get to see our landmarks and we can actually picture the streets and walk in Murray’s shoes, so to speak. Stiff is partly set in the trade unions in Brunswick with all the colourful sights and sounds around there, The Brush Off is set in the world of the Arts so you get to see more of the city with the Arts Centre and the Botanic Gardens right in the centre of the action. In Nice Try he’s moved to the Olympic Bid and Fitzroy Street so we see that area and also Heidelberg. The descriptions are fitting and I love reading the descriptions of buildings that are no longer there and just picturing them. I’m thinking most specifically of a building that used to be next to the Arts Centre.
One of the colourful aspects of the books is the totally Australian phrases the author has thrown in. And wouldn’t you know it but it’d take me a month of Sundays to find one of them now. I have just spent a few minutes trying and come up with nothing so I might edit this with one or two next time they come up.
Warnings: Violence, death, sex and swearing.
I’m sure you want to know what Doctor Who and me being blogged have to do with each other. Actually, to be honest, nothing at all. I only have a few words to say about both things and I’m going to talk about both of them today to make a longer blog.
A few days ago I mentioned a Doctor Who meeting my eldest was organising. It was great fun. For the initiated we watched An Unearthly Child episodes 1-4 (with jelly babies in hand) which just happen to be the first four episodes of Doctor Who. It was fabulous seeing William Hartnell again. I don’t think I’ve seen him for a very long time. Lovely to go back and see what it used to be like and to compare William Hartnell with David Tennant. Anyway, she is planning more meetings so if you’re in the south eastern suburbs of Melbourne and you don’t mind being threatened by miniature Daleks you might want to watch this space. You could also join the Doctor Who Club of Victoria.
I really don’t like bragging and I admit to being really uncomfortable about writing this and about the blog, but I put my hand up to be interviewed a few weeks ago in a fit of confidence and today I received notification that my entry had been published. Melissa Norfolk is a lovely lady who gave a presentation at the recent Business Mums Conference. Her presentation was on websites and she gave me such confidence about my own website I finally felt able to add the extra pages I’d been considering. She’s written a book called Starting an Online Business for Dummies and I really recommend it for anyone just starting out. I also recommend you visit her blog in a few days after my entry has hidden itself a bit, might make me feel a little less self conscious about it.
As you might know from a previous post I have a lot of Agatha Christie books, I’m really only missing three titles of short stories and The Mousetrap. So it’s a very exciting time when I find a book I don’t have.
My other half took me away for a long weekend, we drove down to Lorne on Thursday afternoon and drove back to Melbourne on Sunday. On our way back he stopped at a tiny little town called Dean’s Marsh so I could take some photos of some fabulous sculptures. The sculptures were ingeniously carved from stumps of very large trees. While there I couldn’t resist visiting the local shop to see if there was any local produce or handicrafts. I’m a sucker for locally made goods. They had some really good looking produce; some lovely looking jams, chutneys and mustard – although I couldn’t buy any of it as everything had ingredients I couldn’t eat. They happened to have a very small number of pre-loved books and in this little collection was an Agatha Christie. It was The Mousetrap & Other Plays. This is The Mousetrap that has been playing in London for many years and will not be printed in England until the play stops running. I had to buy it, not just for my collection, not just because we saw it when we were in London in 2001, but also as it segues very nicely into an introduction to my first guest blogger.
Val is also an avid Agatha Christie fan. She is collecting all the Agatha Christie books which have cover art by Tom Adams. She’s put together a nice article for me to celebrate the 62nd anniversary of the short radio play of The Mousetrap and this will be published here later this week.