Monday, 18 September 2017

The Park Bench

I saw a few people talking about The Park Bench on booktube recently (although now I can't remember who) and was suitably intrigued. I was very happy to find The Park Bench on my first bookshop visit in Melbourne recently. 

Chabouté sounded like a French name which added to the appeal, and indeed it is. Christophe Chabouté is a French author and artist who seems to have had at least three of his books published in English this year. Not that The Park Bench requires all that much in the way of translation. An essentially wordless graphic novel (or rather more excitingly a Bande Dessinée, and it's my first Bande Dessinée), there is very little English- some graffiti, a few newspaper headlines. 

It would be fascinating to find and compare the original French version Un peu de bois et d'acier (oh dear, I actually think the English title is better). Actually there is no translator credited and the words appear in the actual images so perhaps Chabouté himself needed to redraw the particular drawings that contained words. It would be fascinating to know, but I suspect he did. I do wonder what the sad old Barbara Cartland reading lady reads in the French version.

The Park Bench uses an ordinary looking park bench in an unnamed  park to share the lives of the many people who use the park- those who quickly walk past on their way to work, those who have the time to sit and read or sit and share a patisserie, those who skateboard over the bench, the dog who likes to raise a leg on it. There is a homeless man who wants to sleep on the bench and a gendarme who chases him away each night, and as someone who has inadvertently transgressed the rules in a French park it is very true that justice is swift. I love that the park maintenance man is never seen without a cigarette dangling from his lips. 

The French use their parks in many different ways, Parisians leave their apartments and enjoy the extra space, the beauty and atmosphere in the parks as an extension of their home (see my glorious Sunday afternoon in the Luxembourg Gardens). I remembered all of this and more as I read The Park Bench. It's a beautiful celebration of community and life in all its forms, and a contemplation on the passage of time and progress. In a beautiful example of art imitating life The Park Bench was given away on some park benches in London. 

Completely drawn in black and white The Park Bench is a very eye catching book. While I was reading I was aware that while it was a super quick read, it must have taken Chabouté quite a time to create the book. There's a French film (and a concert)! This guy has made an animated film of the book it seems, and taken liberties by adding red. 

I'm very pleased to have discovered Chabouté and will be avidly searching out more of his books, in English and in French. 

Dreaming of France is a wonderful Monday meme
from Paulita at An Accidental Blog  

Friday, 8 September 2017


There are many month long healthy activities now. Movember. Dry July. Sugar Free September. Obviously I can't grow a Mo (well not yet anyway), but I contribute money each year. This year a friend did Dry July- I don't drink enough as a rule, I actually need to make an effort and drink more I think.

This September I'm doing Steptember. I've done a similar spring work based step challenge a few years ago, but it didn't have the catchy Steptember name. This year I'm doing it again.

I was thinking about combining it with Sugar Free September again, but I'm starting my September off in Melbourne, where I could hardly claim my activities as Sugar Free. So I think maybe I won't, but I don't know. (Spoiler, I didn't)

In Steptember the challenge is to walk 10, 000 steps every day from September 4 to October 1. I got a Garmin vivosmart HR a few months ago, and I've been using it daily but my daily average has been languishing more around the 9, 000 range, so I do need to step it up a bit (oh I've amused myself now) to get to the 10, 000 average. 

Five days in and I've made my target every day. It's taken some doing- I've had to walk laps of the building after work, walk laps of the street in the cold while waiting to pick up takeaway for dinner, walk in the cold with a cold. I stalk the aisles of Bunnings and my local supermarkets more than I need to. Sometimes I even get to take the dogs out. Still, I haven't dropped the ball yet and it all raises money for the Cerebral Palsy Alliance

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Melbourne Writers Festival 2017 - The Books

Whenever readers go away the first thing we always do is pick our holiday TBR. We do this long before thinking about what clothes or other sundry items we might need to pack. Even if we're going to a readers festival, where we absolutely know that we will buy more books, we pack books to take with us. 

And so I did. 

A mere five books. I'm getting better though. Last year I took six. And this year it was all MWF themed reads, books for authors I hoped to see. I managed to read 2.5 of them, and had 4 signed.

This year I decided to share my book buying love around Melbourne. I was also on a bit of a quest to visit some new bookshops. My recent fondness for certain corners of book tube has obviously had quite an effect on my book buying habits. 

My first visit was to Hill of Content, obviously not a new destination for me. I bought two books, but one is a present, and still a surprise so not included here. 

Next it was The Paperback Bookshop, a small gem near Hill of Content. For some inexplicable reason I'd never managed to darken the door. This time I did and came aware with a positively restrained three books. 

Then my first visit to the Readings Festival Bookshop was similarly restrained, just two books added to my smallish stack. I had been planning to by The Hate U Give as part of my MWF purchases, and so it was this day. I wasn't expecting to buy Dark Roots, but I have a burgeoning interest in short story (especially Australian short story) and remembered that this was very well thought of. 

One day I popped into Bourke St Book Grocer, a discount chain where books are $10 or less (or 6 for $50, but look how good I was- I stopped at 3!)

Soon after the downfall really started. I stumbled down the stairs of City Basement Books on Flinders St, a great second hand bookstore. I found some long sought after books for my 1001 quest. 

Then the next day I went back to get another six books that I had rather sensibly checked if I already owned. 

At this stage I knew that I needed an intervention. So I mailed 4 kilos of books home knowing that I still had some festival buying to go. I'd planned to buy the top three of these books, but the bottom two were a little surprise. There are of course more festival books that I will buy over time, I just won't be able to get them signed.

All was then going extremely well (I think over 24 hours had passed without me buying any books whatsoever!) and then I had two hours to wait at Central Station in Sydney. I tried going to White Rabbit Gallery in nearby Chippendale, but it was a Monday, and so they were shut. Nothing for it then and I was off like the proverbial white rabbit down the hole to Basement Books. And oh my- I did some damage...

And wouldn't you know it? I got home and two books had arrived while I was away!

Now if you'll excuse me I've got some reading to do. 

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Melbourne Writers Festival 2017 #MWF2017

I've long been a fan of Melbourne Writers Festival. I attended my first MWF back in 2007, but my second wasn't until 2012. Happily since then I've been able to attend most of these annual delights of bookdom.

It's a bookish city when the taxi boots have book ads!

Melbourne is definitely my favourite Australian big city festival (well of the two that I've been to so far). It's so accessible. Mostly all held around Fed Square, the transport is easy (even if you don't get to stay across the road like I do...), it's so compact, you can easily do back to back sessions.

Joyce Carol Oates Keynote

Plus you're in Melbourne. Lots of opportunities for yum cha, cafes, dinner. Eat Melbourne 2017 is in the pipeline, in the meantime we can revisit 2016. And the art galleries are fab too, I caught a few amazing exhibitions this year. More to come on that. And I caught the start of Melbourne Fashion Week which was much more fun than expected. 

This year I saw an astonishing range of Australian and International writers. 

Alice Pung (twice)
Amie Kaufman
Angie Thomas
Anni Hine Moana
AS Patrić
Bruce Pascoe
Charles G Gross
Danielle Binks
Ellie Marney
Hannah Kent
Jennifer Ackerman
Jennifer Down
Jenny Valentish (twice)
Joyce Carol Oates (twice)
Kyo Maclear (twice)
Laurie Penny
Maxine Beneba Clarke (twice)
Megan Abbott
Melanie Cheng
Melissa Keil
Omar Musa
Randa Abdel-Fattah
Reni Eddo-Lodge
Rutger Bregman
Ryan O'Neill
Sarah Schmidt
Shaun Tan
Tracey Chevalier
Zana Fraillon
Zoë Morrison

Sadly, of course I missed many writers that I would have loved to have seen, including

Brian Castro
Jane Caro
Julia Baird
John Safran
Tim Flannery
Tony Birch
Tracey Spicer

But you just can't be everywhere at once. 

Angie Thomas YA Keynote

I am particularly keen to read many (most) of the authors that I saw. Some of them were completely unknown to me before. I was particularly blown away by Angie Thomas' YA Keynote Address. I do hope to do a blog about her session soon(ish), and a number of others, but I tend to be bad at that. I've already started reading The Hate U Give. I also particular keen to read Kyo Maclear, Melissa Keil and Hannah Kent. 

I love festival stacks of books

even more than regular bookshops

so pretty, so much potential. 
The Top 20 MWF Bestsellers at the Readings Festival Bookshop. Writers festivals always give me hope that maybe the world isn't really going to hell in a hand basket, lots of clever, involved people are buying and reading those books.