Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Mrs Whitlam



Who can resist the lure of a book about a Clydesdale horse named after the wife of a former prime minister? Certainly not me. As soon as I saw this on the CBCA Shortlist this year I knew that it would be one of the books that I would search out. I'm so glad that I did.


Mrs Whitlam is a lovely slip of a book, a mere 77 pages. Local Aboriginal girl Marnie Clark is horse crazy and dreams of having a horse of her own, but her father is out of work and her family can't afford it. When a girl from her school dies her grieving mother finds that her daughter's horse and riding things are too painful to see, too powerful a memory to keep, so she gives Mrs Margaret Whitlam to Marnie. Marnie and the horse form an immediate bond. 
I pressed my face into Mrs Whitlma's neck, tears rolled down my cheeks. I was hoping they were for Vicki but really, I knew most of them were for me. 
Set in western Victoria Mrs Whitlam is a simple story, well written. Bruce Pascoe writes beautiful descriptive prose. 
The track was firm but damp and Maggie's hooves made a rhythmic sound like someone whacking a hot water bootle with a stack wrapped in lamb's wool. I could hear it echo faintly off the trees on the other side of the river. It sounded like a hostly rider was keeping stride for stride with me on the other bank. 
This little book fits in a lot, it deals with small town racism both towards Marnie and her family, and also the local immigrant families. It also deals with notions of family, class and bitchy pony club girls. There is a gentle warmth to the book, and a lovely humour in the dialogue. 

Bruce Pascoe was a new author to me. I'd seen his previous book Fog a Dox around a bit the past few years, but don't really know anything about it and haven't read it, and indeed I didn't actually put two and two together for a while. Bruce Pascoe was born in Melbourne and has Bunurong and Tasmanian heritage, he writes fiction and nonfiction, and has been a publisher and editor. I look forward to reading more of his work. 

Teacher Notes

Monday, 24 July 2017

The Outsiders



The Outsiders is a seminal YA novel, indeed its publication in 1967 is credited with creating realistic YA as a genre.

S.E. Hinton was only 15 years old when she wrote a 40 page short story that would evolve into The Outsiders. She rewrote her story when she was 16, it was accepted for publication when she was 17, and published when she was just 18 years old. It has now sold more than 15 million copies and been translated into more than 30 languages. S.E. Hinton grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma and this is where The Outsiders is set.

Somehow I didn't really know that much about The Outsiders before I read it this month. The Outsiders tells a tale of two rival groups of teenage boys, The Greasers and The Socs (Socials). The Greasers are poor and are named for their fondness for hair oil, while The Socs are kids from the richer families in town. The story is a first person tale told by Ponyboy Curtis, and yes that's his real name. Sadly S.E. Hinton can't remember why she gave her characters names like Ponyboy, Sodapop and Two-Bit, but she has said that she's glad that she did as they are much more memorable than the common 1960s boy names. Although the Socs do  have more traditional names like Bob and David.
We're poorer than the Socs and the middle class. I reckon we're wilder, too. Not like the Socs, who jump greasers and wreck houses and throw beer blasts for kicks, and get editorials in the paper for being a public disgrace one day and an asset to society the next. Greasers are almost like hoods: we steal things and drive old souped-up cars and hold up gas stations and have a gang fight once in a while. 
A lot is made of the different temperament of the two groups too. 
'That's why we're separated,' I said. 'It's not money, it's feeling-you don't feel anything and we feel too violently.'
So all the Socs are supposed to be sociopaths? But everyone can recognise and relate to teenage tribes and cliques. We all experienced them at high school.

Ponyboy is fourteen and lives with his two older brothers as their parents have been killed in a car accident eight months earlier. His brothers Darry and Sodapop work, while Ponyboy is still a school. Darry is strict with Ponyboy and keeps a watchful eye on him. Ponyboy doesn't appreciate his strict rules and misinterprets his methods. 

The book gets off to a bit of a slow start but things really pick up 45 pages in when there is a rather sudden, dramatic event. The rest of the book is really the fall out from this one night. While I did enjoy the story arc of the book, I found Ponyboy's voice contradictory and inconsistent. He does well at school, is reading Great Expectations and relating to Pip, and "nobody in our gang digs books and movies the way I do" (it was the sixties after all), and yet he can't spell Socs. "I'm not sure how you spell it, but it's the  abbreviation for the Socials". I wondered at the beginning if it would take me a while to settle into Ponyboy's voice - but I never was able to settle in and enjoy it. 

I'm very glad to have read The Outsiders given its fame and influence. I just wish that I had liked it more.

312/1001

Saturday, 22 July 2017

A Frosty Start

It's winter in Australia, and sometimes getting to your day shift takes a little longer. The frost has been quite heavy of late. Some days it looks more pretty than others. 






Saturday Snapshot is a wonderful weekly memenow hosted by WestMetroMommy

Friday, 21 July 2017

Gilmore Girls



I was particularly excited last year when news broke that there would be a new series of the Gilmore Girls. I'd always loved Lorelei and Rory's super fast talking banter. But I'd never watched all of it. I knew I'd seen most of the first few series but was pretty sure I hadn't seen all seven series. I have a DVD set of Series 1, and had started that a few times but never really got to the end of it.

Enter Netflix and the era of binge watching. Not that I have a lot of time for binge watching. Two maybe three episodes is a binge for me. But late last year Master Wicker and I started on the quest of watching all seven series of the original Gilmore Girls so that we could watch the four new episodes.

I'm so glad we did. Yes, it's taken quite a while. But there are 22 episodes every series. 22. For seven series. 154 episodes. Those Girls did a lot of machine gun talking. It's funny. It shows a mother and daughter can get along (generally). And it's kind at it's core.

I realise now that I was most familiar with series 1-4. Which is not surprising. I'm not a great series fan. I don't generally like endless series of the same show as generally they will run out of ideas rather soon. The Simpsons is a rather obvious exception to this rule. I don't like reading book series either.

I thought it all lost a bit of direction in series five when there were quite a number of story lines that I found annoying. Look away right now if you don't want to know - the whole Emily and Richard situation, Lane and Zach- really?? Really? Although there was a whole episode devoted to Pippi Longstocking and that's just great.

But there were some particularly excellent lines in Series 6.

Episode 1 Emily to Rory:
There's plenty of time for sleeping in when you've gone up a few dress sizes.

And Episode 21 of Series 6 was a cracker episode- perhaps one of my favourites!
Liz: I'm going to do all the things I didn't do last time I was pregnant, like not binge drink.

Richard - I'm sitting in one of South Dakota's finest hotels. It smells like a foot.

I did find some of the toing and froing of the last few seasons a bit tedious. Will they? Won't they? It all flip flopped a few too many times. 

And the four new episodes? Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. Most of it was good, and it was nice to see the characters again. I thought Summer was totally bonkers, and was worried it had all lost it's way. It didn't get tied up in the way I expected, but I'm glad to have watched them, and glad to know what the long anticipated final four words were (but no spoilers here, but I'm not about to spill). 



Thursday, 20 July 2017

101 Books To Read Before You Grow Up



Back in 2009 I became obsessed with 1001 Children's Books You Should Read Before You Grow Up, so much so that I decided to read the 1001 books. That turned out to be quite the undertaking. I'm nearly a third of the way through. I do now realise that my life would have been much simpler if I had managed to find 101 Books To Read Before You Grow Up instead, although it was only released last year.


I was a bit surprised to find five Australian books in this list, including one of Mem Fox's lesser known titles at #4 (although the order is reading age, not numerical), but it makes sense when you learn that author Bianca Schulze is an Australian who grew up in Sydney, before living in Colorado and founding The Children's Book Review.

I came across 101 Books to Read Before You Grow Up quite accidentally when I made a spelling mistake on a search in my library catalogue. Naturally, I couldn't help myself and requested it immediately. I'm now ordering my own copy. 



1. Where The Wild Things Are - Maurice Sendak

2. Oh, the Places You'll Go - Dr. Seuss
3. The Giving Tree - Shel Silverstein
4. Whoever You Are - Mem Fox, Leslie Staub (illustrator)
5. The Seven Silly Eaters - Mary Ann Hoberman, Marla Frazee (illustrator)
6. The Story of Ferdinand - Munro Leaf, Robert Lawson (illustrator)
7. The Little House - Virginia Lee Burton
8. The Polar Express - Chris Van Allsburg
9. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs - Judi Barrett, Ronald Barrett (illustrator)
10. Last Stop on Market Street - Matt de la Peña, Christian Robinson (illustrator)
11. Tikki Tikki Tembo - Arlene Mosel, Blair Lent (illustrator)
12. The Snail and the Whale - Julia Donaldson, Axel Scheffler (illustrator)
13. Journey - Aaron Becker
14. Bread and Jam for Frances - Russell Hoban, Lillion Hoban (illustrator)
15. Rosie Revere, Engineer - Andrea Beaty, David Roberts (illustrator)
16. Mango, Abuela and Me - Meg Medina, Angela Dominguez




17. The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh - A.A. Milne, Ernest H. Shepherd (illustrator)
18. The Paper Bag Princess - Robert Munsch, Michael Martchenko (illustrator)
19. Lon Po Po - Ed Young
20. The Hundred Dresses - Eleanor Estes, Louis Slobodkin (illustrator)
21. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day - Judith Viorst, Ray Cruz (illustrator)
22. Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad - Ellen Levine, Kadir Nelson (illustrator)
23. The Invisible Boy - Trudy Ludwig, Patrice Barton (illustrator)
24. Matilda - Roald Dahl, Quentin Blake (illustrator)
25. Fantastic Mr Fox - Roald Dahl, Quentin Blake (illustrator)
26. Anna Hibiscus - Atinuke, Lauren Tobia (illustrator)
27. The 13-Story Treehouse - Andy Griffiths, Terry Denton (illustrator) (see my review)
28. Charlotte's Web - E.B. White, Garth Williams (illustrator)
29. The Boxcar Children - Gertrude Chandler Warner
30. Beezus and Ramona - Beverly Cleary, Jacqueline Rogers (illustrator)
31. The Borrowers - Mary Norton, Beth and Joe Krush (illustrator) (see my review)
32. Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship and Freedom - Tim Tingle, Jeanne Rorex Bridges (illustrator)
33. Rickshaw Girl - Mitali Perkins, Jamie Hogan (illustrator)
34. Pippi Longstocking - Astrid Lindgren, Michael Chesworth (illustrator)
35. The Phantom Tollbooth - Norton Juster, Jules Feiffer (illustrator)
36. The Invention of Hugo Cabret - Brian Selznick (see my review)
37. The One and Only Ivan - Katherine Applegate, Patricia Castelao (illustrator)
38. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz - L. Frank Baum, W.W. Denslow (illustrator)
39. El Deafo - Cece Bell (see my review)
40. The Year of the Dog - Grace Lin
41. All-of-a-Kind Family - Sydney Taylor
42. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's/Philosopher's Stone - J.K. Rowling
43. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe -  C.S. Lewis 
44. D'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths - Ingri d'Aulaire and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire
45. A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle (see my review)
46. The Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963 - Christopher Paul Curtis
47. Harriet the Spy - Louise Fitzhugh (see my review)
48. George - Alex Gino
49. Number the Stars - Lois Lowry
50. Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes - Eleanor Coerr, Ronald Himler




51. The Crossover - Kwame Alexander
52. The Secret of the Old Clock - Carolyn Keene
53. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle - Avi
54. The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales - Jon Scieszka, Lane Smith (illustrator)
55. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing - Judy Blume
56. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH - Robert C. O'Brien
57. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler - E.L. Konigsburg (see my review)
58. Bridge to Terabithia - Katherine Paterson
59. Because of Winn-Dixie - Kate DiCamillo 
60. Tuck Everlasting - Natalie Babbit (see my review)
61. A Little Princess - Frances Hodgson Burnett
62. Where the Red Fern Grows - Wilson Rawls 
63. The Bad Beginning - Lemony Snicket, Brett Hellquist (illustrator)
64. The Lightning Thief - Rick Riordan
65. Diary of a Wimpy Kid - Jeff Kinney
66. Frindle - Andrew Clements, Brian Selznick
67. The Magic Pudding - Norman Lindsay (see my review)
68. The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman (see my review)
69. The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien (see my review)
70. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
71. Ballet Shoes - Noel Streatfeild (see my review)
72. Peter Pan - J.M. Barrie, Michael Hague (illustrator) 
73. Anne of Green Gables - L.M. Montgomery 
74. The Birchbark House - Louise Erdrich
75. Stargirl - Jerry Spinelli
76. Out of My Mind - Sharon M. Draper




77. Better Nate Than Never - Tim Federle
78. Mockingbird - Kathryn Erskine
79. Hating Alison Ashley - Robin Klein (see my review)
80. Esperanza Rising - Pam Muñoz Ryan
81. My Side of the Mountain - Jean Craighead George (see my review)
82. Blubber - Judy Blume
83. Mary Poppins - P.L. Travers, Mary Shepherd (illustrator)
84. Holes - Louis Sachar (see my review)
85. Smile - Raina Telgemeier
86. Inside Out and Back Again - Thanhha Lai (see my review)
87. The Golden Compass - Philip Pullman
88. Black Beauty - Anna Sewell
89. The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
90. The Evolution of Calpurina Tate - Jacqueline Kelly
91. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea - Jules Verne (see my review)
92. Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson
93. One Crazy Summer - Rita Williams-Garcia
94. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry - Mildred D. Taylor (see my review)
95. The Arrival - Shaun Tan (see my review)
96. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl - Anne Frank (see my review)
97. The Dreamer - Pam Muñoz Ryan, Peter Sis (illustrator)
98. Hatchet - Gary Paulsen (see my review)
99. A Long Walk to Water - Linda Sue Park
100. The Secret Garden - Franes Hodgson Burnett (see my review)
101. Wonder - R.J. Palacio (see my review)

A respectable 53/101. Of course there is considerable crossover with my 1001 list. But there are still quite a few books here that I've never heard of. I think I'll make reading this list a quiet little side project.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

The Harper Collins 200

The Harper Collins 200 was created earlier this year to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Harper Collins PublishersThis is such an interesting, and seemingly random, list. Indeed, each time you open the link the books are in a different and seemingly random order.

I don't know that any list needs four bibles really, and there are many, many books in here that I'll never read- books by Margaret Thatcher or Billy Graham for instance, but there are lots of other books that I should read in here, books I'd like to read in here. And there's always something new to learn. For instance, I had no idea that JFK was an author, let alone a Pulitzer Prize winning author.

Be sure to check out the Why I Read page as well.

No Logo - Naomi Klein
The God of Small Things - Arundhati Roy
A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
The Stone Diaries - Carol Shields
The Thorn Birds - Colleen McCullough
The Beginner's Bible
The Book of Negroes - Lawrence Hill
The Boy in the Dress - David Walliams (see my review)
Perestroika - Mikhail Gorbachev
A Bear Called Paddington - Michael Bond (see my review)
The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith - Thomas Keneally
American Gods - Neil Gaiman
Dodger - Terry Pratchett
A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens (see my review)
Kitten's First Full Moon - Kevin Henkes
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - Robert M. Pirsig
The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath



Essays of E.B. White - E.B. White
The Hunt for Red October - Tom Clancy
Seabiscuit - Laura Hillenbrand
Virgin River - Robyn Carr
What Do People Do All Day? - Richard Scarry
Room - Emma Donoghue
If You Give A Mouse A Cookie - Laura Numeroff, Felicia Bond (illustrator)
Flat Stanley - Jeff Brown
The Year of Magical Thinking - Joan Didion
New International Version Bible
The Man From Snowy River - A.B. Paterson, Annette Macarthur-Onslow (illustrator)
Bel Canto - Ann Patchett
Down and Out in Paris and London - George Orwell
I'm OK, You're OK - Thomas A. Harris
Amelia Bedevil - Peggy Parish, Fritz Siebel (illustrator)
Bleak House - Charles Dickens (well I've half read it twice, that's got to count right?)
I, Robot - Isaac Asimov
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd - Agatha Christie
Moby Dick - Herman Melville
Flashman - George MacDonald Fraser
Fermat's Last Theorem - Simon Singh
The Boys of Summer - Roger Kahn
The Other Boleyn Girl - Philippa Gregory
Riders of the Purple Sage - Zane Grey
The Years of Extermination - Saul Friedländer
The Once and Future King - T.H. White
People of the Book - Geraldine Brooks
The Odyssey of Homer
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
A Game of Thrones - George R.R. Martin
Sounder - William H. Armstrong (see my review)
Beezus and Ramona - Beverly Cleary
Stride Toward Freedom - Martin Luther King Jr
Little Bear - Else Holmelund Minarik
The Weirdstone of Brisingamen - Alan Garner
The Other Side of Midnight - Sidney Sheldon
A Light in the Attic - Shel Silverstein
The Tiger Who Came to Tea - Judith Kerr
Grace - Max Lucado
Freaky Friday - Mary Rodgers
The Dispossessed - Ursula K. Le Guin
A Soldier's Tale - M.K. Joseph
Doctor Zhivago - Boris Pasternak
Little House on the Prairie - Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Muddleheaded Wombat - Ruth Park
Summer of '49 - David Halberstam
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - Hunter S. Thompson
The Hospital in Buwambo - Anne Vinton



Wuthering Heights - Emily Brontë
The Shipping News - Annie Proulx
The Monkey Wrench Gang - Edward Abbey
V. - Thomas Pynchon
Barbarians at the Gate - Bryan Burroughs & John Helyar
The Hours - Michael Cunningham
The Guns of Navarone - Alistair Maclean
Diary of a Wombat - Jackie French, Bruce Whatley (illustrator)
Stuart Little - E.B. White
Ben-Hur - Lew Wallace
Gorky Park - Martin Cruz Smith
Alive - Piers Paul Read
The Crying of Lot 49 - Thomas Pynchon
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - Betty Smith
And Then There Were None - Agatha Christie
Bringing Up the Bodies - Hilary Mantel
Middlemarch - George Eliot
Bridge to Terabithia - Katherine Paterson
A Canticle for Leibowitz - Walter M. Miller Jr
A Woman of Substance - Barbara Taylor Bradford
The Bridge of San Luis Rey - Thornton Wilder
16 Lighthouse Road - Debbie Macomber
Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly - Jean-Domingue Bauby
All The Light We Cannot See - Anthony Doerr
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit - Judith Kerr
The Ipcress File - Len Deighton
Wild Swans - Jung Chang
Girl With a Pearl Earring - Tracey Chevalier
The Complete Works of Mark Twain - Mark Twain
Ariel - Sylvia Plath
The Kon-Tiki Expedition - Thor Heyerdahl
Blonde - Joyce Carol Oates
The Corrections - Jonathan Franzen
The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith - Thomas Keneally
A People's History of the United States - Howard Zinn
Our Town - Thornton Wilder
Longitude - Dava Sobel
Papillon - Henri Charrière
Red Scarf Girl - Ji Li Jiang
The Sheltering Sky - Paul Bowles
Monster - Walter Dean Myers
Kitchen Confidential - Anthony Bourdain
The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook
The Wapshot Chronicle - John Cheever



Good To Great - Jim Collins
Their Eyes Were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston
The Cat in the Hat - Dr. Seuss
The Kitchen Diaries - Nigel Salter
Half of a Yellow Sun - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World
The Devil Wears Prada - Lauren Weisberger
Native Son - Richard Wright
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis
What on Earth Am I Here For? - Rick Warren
Harold and the Purple Crayon - Crockett Johnson
Bread and Jam for Frances - Russell Hoban, Lillian Hoban (illustrator)
Nostromo - Joseph Conrad
Life on Earth - David Attenborough
Old Yeller - Fred Gipson (see my review)
Black Boy - Richard Wright
Angela's Ashes - Frank McCourt
Under The Volcano - Malcolm Lowry
Freakonomics - Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubier
Journey to Jo'Burg - Beverley Naidoo
Coming of Age in Samoa - Margaret Mead
Etiquette - Emily Post
Seven Years in Tibet - Heinrich Harrer
The Perfect Neighbor - Nora Roberts
The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman (see my review)
Heaven is for Real - Todd Burpo
The War of the Worlds - H.G. Wells
Sabriel - Garth Nix
The Butterfly Lion - Michael Morpurgo
The 42nd Parallel - John Dos Passos
The Exorcist - William Peter Blatty
Henry Huggins - Beverly Cleary
Love and War in the Apennines - Eric Newby
Love Story - Erich Segal
The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho
The Carrot Seed - Ruth Krauss, Crockett Johnson (illustrator)
Tales of the City - Armistead Maupin
The Gulag Archipelago - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Go Set A Watchman - Harper Lee
Holy Bible King James Version
Flow - Mihaly Csiksentmihalyi
The White Tiger - Aravind Adiga
At The Mountains of Madness - H.P. Lovecraft
The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
Yates Garden Guide
Peace with God - Billy Graham
The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien (see my review)
Jesus Calling - Sarah Young
Barometer Rising - Hugh MacLennan
The Dangerous Book for Boys - Gonn Iggulden
Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury



Born Free - Joy Adamson
Charlotte's Web - E.B. White
Sharpe's Eagle - Bernard Cornwell
The New Kid on the Block - Jack Prelutsky
Sarah, Plain and Tall - Patricia MacLachlan
New King James Version Super Giant Print Bible
Howl's Moving Castle - Diana Wynne Jones
Goodnight Moon - Margaret Wise Brown, Clement Hurd (illustrator)
The Intelligent Investor - Benjamin Graham
The Known World - Edward P. Jones
Collected Poems 1947-1997 - Allen Ginsberg
Where The Wild Things Are - Maurice Sendak
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek - Annie Dillard
Pilgrim - Timothy Findley
Harry the Dirty Dog - Gene Zion, Margaret Bloy Graham (illustrator)
Mere Christianity - C.S. Lewis
Just Kids - Patti Smith
Danny and the Dinosaur - Syd Hoff
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
Wicked - Gregory Maguire
The Giving Tree - Shel Silverstein
The Unbearable Lightness of Being - Milan Kundera
Empire of the Sun - J.G. Ballard
Julie of the Wolves - Jean Craighead George
The Downing Street Years - Margaret Thatcher
The Poisonwood Bible - Barbara Kingsolver
Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
Wolf Hall - Hilary Mantel
Divergent - Veronica Roth
Caps for Sale - Esphyr Slobodkina
The Golden Notebook - Doris Lessing
Two Years Before the Mast - Richard Henry Dand Jr
Being and Time - Martin Heidegger
Master & Commander - Patrick O'Brian
In Search of Excellence - Thomas J. Peter and Robert H. Waterman, Jr
Profiles in Courage - John F. Kennedy
One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gariel García Márquez
Magician - Raymond E. Feist
The Making of the President 1960 - Theodore H. White

47/200

Well I've certainly had much worse results.

So what are the biggest gaps of my reading from this list? I would say Fahrenheit 451 and Middlemarch, and I do want to read The Bell Jar sometime. Also, Monster pops up on many a list and I'm becoming quite intrigued.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Wasted



Elspeth Muir's Wasted was long listed for the Stella Award 2017. For some reason it really called to me to read it. I really like the double entendre title, although not the cover particularly, and didn't really know much more about the book than the subtitle: A story of alcohol, grief and a death in Brisbane.  I almost got to see Elspeth talk at Newcastle Writer's Festival this year, but sadly didn't manage it.

Wasted is part-memoir, part-nonfiction and grew from Elspeth's grief, despair and anger at the death of her youngest brother, Alexander. 
My brother died because he was drunk, and because the drink made him stupid. 
Alexander had quite the proclivity for drinking, he started sneaking out of home to drink from the age of 13. A year before he was to drown in the Brisbane River at 21, Alexander woke up one morning passed out under the mangroves of the river bank. 
I thought this was hilarious. 
Elspeth documents her own hazardous drinking in much the same way. 
I drank more than ever. On rare nights I could remember getting home but usually I had no idea what had happened past midnight. I shed personal objects- cards, wallets and phones. I spent Saturdays and Sundays vomiting bile into a saucepan. I started to feel darkness when I drank: a grasping, anxious slide from euphoria into deep nervous anger. It started with small tendrils of anxiety, then my breath became shallow and I started kicking as hard as I could to stay afloat. I drank more to stave off the fall but it was inevitable, and drinking more just made me black out. 
Alexander drank heavily, he had frequent blackouts and would often disappear for days at a time. He was arrested for the first time at just fifteen, and had some minor skirmishes with the police. Of course many young Australians drink this way, most will survive it, some don't, and her brother was one of the unlucky ones.  Each week one young Australian between 16 and 25 will die, and more than 60 will be hospitalised from alcohol related incidents. 
Drugs were expensive, and tricky to get because their procurement needed to be planned in advance, but alcohol was cheap- five dollars for a cleanskin, ten for a cask- and there were bottle shops all around us, including a twenty-four-hour one a fifteen minute walk away.
The second half of the book is more nonfiction than memoir, where Elspeth looks at the role of alcohol in our culture. There are interesting discussions about white versus Aboriginal drinking, and Elspeth spends an eyeopening night with Red Frogs volunteers at Schoolies on the Gold Coast. 
Yet there is something unsettling and unsettled about the place of alcohol in Australian society. At its best the drinking culture is characterised by egalitarianism, a laid-back attitude and a spirit of creativity. Australians invented the goon bag and the stubby, while the first tubs of Vegemite were by-products of discarded Carlton and United Brewery yeast. At its worst the nation's drinking can be characterised by violent and recklessness, exclusion and a pattern of boozing to extremes. 
Overall I enjoyed Wasted, especially the memoir sections, at times it was like Elspeth and I lived in the same share households... Wasted casts an interesting light on Australian drinking culture, a culture that I both participate in from time to time (although no longer as enthusiastically as in the past), and see as an observer.


http://australianwomenwriters.com