Saturday, 23 August 2014

How Many Literary References Do You Hear In A Day? Ever Notice?

I know we book bloggers are always talking about books during the day but quite often when I am out and about I hear references to books read or authors from all walks of life and from many sources.

Last night was the start of the two day Literary Fest held in Hobart each August. It is held at the Playhouse Theatre, an old theatre in Hobart that features mainly amateur plays and actors.  The literary fest is a short film festival though short plays are performed.  They produce six short plays varying in length from 5 minutes to 30 minutes in three separate sessions. Friday night, Saturday afternoon and Saturday evening.  After each session an experienced theatre adjudicator talks about the plays and at the end of the Saturday night session all actors and audience members are invited to a supper, drinks and awards.
Franz Kafka

I went last night and sat by myself because I can never get people to go with me to these things.  Mainly because I decide to go to them at the last minute.  I did meet people in the audience I knew and we all shared some conversations about the experience.

As the night went on the young people, mainly students from college and university presented plays they wrote, produced and acted in.  I was surprised at the reference to books and literature just in passing of everyday tasks.  Literary terms that are in our vocabulary that we may use when talking to friends or doing mundane jobs such as washing the dishes in a group of people at a party.  I began to pay attention and in an hour I heard four references to stories or authors.

Kafkaesque, Quixotic and Zombie books were mentioned. Then up popped a reference to Mary Shelly and Frankenstein. 
I thought "What a diversity and how would the conversations have changed if people had not read these books by Kafka, Cerventes and Shelly."  Not to mention all of the books and films about zombies.

I know all of us hear literary references in daily living but do we ever pay attention to it to see just how prevalent it is?   I think I'll listen more often and let you know what conversational literary references I may come across as I shop for groceries, meet friends for coffee or just hang out in the city doing errands.  How many are there?  Would love to know what you hear whether it be classic or popular. What books and references do people work into their conversations without actually talking about the contents of the book?

I often attend events or go to cafes on my own and it is great fun to listen in on conversations.  Last night I overheard three young men discussing how they eat a chocolate crunchie bar. One man said he chews all the chocolate off the whole things then eats the middle crunchie part. It really is quite interesting what you learn when sitting quietly listening to people talking around you.
The things I hear from thetheatre audience.

Friday, 22 August 2014

The Betrayers by Robert Morrison (Australia)

The Betrayers by Robert D. Morrison is a short novel published by Indra Press in Australia.  It is the story of a young Aussie woman, Candace who has fled to Thailand after the sudden suicide of her father. The story of Candace begins with her in a Thai jail after being caught with a kilo of heroin.  Each chapter tells the story from a different person's point of view. The dead man's brother (her uncle) Travis has organised to visit Candace from Australia also bringing her brother Vern, a pro footballer with him. They stay with a friend who works at the Aus. Embassy and his Thai mistresses' place. We hear first from Vern, then the next chapter is from the mistress, the Mia Noi. There is a further chapter from the friend who works in the embassy then the sexy reporter who Vern meets his first day in Thailand. She wants the story of Candace to benefit her own career. Then the two remaining chapters are from Uncle Travis and finally Candace herself.

What are they going to do about Candace's situation with a possible death sentence hanging overhead.  While the concept of the story is very interesting, the delivery of it through the eyes of the main players is quite an uneven tale. The story jumped from event to event with a couple of almost bad sex scenes and even a rape tossed in.  The dialogue I can only describe as clunky.  There are several pathways that could have been developed that don't seem to be.

The author does not seem to have a lot of experience writing novels. His experience from my online reseach turned up short stories and he had a couple of plays produced in Sydney.

After I read that about him I could see that this could have made an interesting play script. There were also several misspelled words in the book which always bothers me. I would have either extended this story into a proper longer novel or seriously edited it into a short story or play.

I did like the characters but didn't get to know them as I would have liked to. Candace is such a nasty person I didn't care if they got her out of jail or not. I would have left her there. The ending arrives very quickly and I have to say I just went "What?"

There is a lot of potential with this author but he needs to get his technique down a bit more and
prioritise some of the story lines. I thought there were too many and he couldn't properly develop all of them in such a short novel. Has anyone else read anything or know anything more about this Australian author? I wouldn't mind reading something else  by this a
uthor as he gains more experience with novels to see if he develops more as a writer.

An excerpt from beginning of book:

We are hardly off the bus that brought us to the terminal building from the plane parked out on the runway before they grab me: half a dozen little bozos in chocolate-coloured uniforms and carrying them stubby little semi-automatics. We hadn't got as far as customs, even. As a front rower in the Bondi Seagulls I could a' took them all on with no trouble except they had guns and me standing there with bags under each arm--mine and Uncle Travis'. Even then I would a' had a go but Uncle Travis looks at me frowning and shakes his head so I let them put the handcuffs on me and go with them into this little room off the main corridor. Uncle Travis comes too but he is stopped at the door.


Thursday, 21 August 2014

Library Loot-- Well Sort Of

Yesterday was my Play Reading class and afterwards I generally go to the State Library either to pick up something I ordered or to return things. I seldom pull books off the shelf to bring home. For one, they are generally by people I have never heard of. If I want something really good or current I need to place a hold on it and then pick it up when the library staff notifies me.  Secondly I have so many books at home that I shouldn't go anywhere near a library.

I have been in a reading slump. That's not to say I haven't been reading. I have, but I seem to get about 1/3 to 1/2 into a book and then lose interest. Nothing is really grabbing me. No idea why but we all do this from time to time.

I was walking into the library to pick up the DVD of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. I really want to see this as the short story by James Thurber has always been a favourite. I can't believe it is anywhere near as good as the short story.

I had a brain wave so to speak. My brain waves are rather innocuous so I don't get too excited about them. They can occur anywhere and usually don't amount to a lot but the idea did involve the library and I was there so why not.

I decided I would walk the stacks and pick the five slimmest volumes I could find. I knew I could finish them, I knew I'd have no idea about any of the books chosen and I knew they would vary by degree in how good, well written, interesting they are.

This is what I found as I walked up and down the aisles of fiction.

1.  The Betrayers by Robert Morrison. An uncle and nephew go to Bangkok to visit the sister who has been arrested for drug trafficking. They see her and she looks emaciated with circles under eyes and dark as bruises and the skin of her face stretch tight over her cheekbones.(from back cover.) Their father was an Australian artist who committed suicide not long before and the experience in Bangkok draws them all together. (Inside front cover of DJ) We'll see. 139 pages.

2.  Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli. In the heart of Mexico City a woman, trapped in a house and a marriage she can neither fully inhabit nor abandon, thinks about her past. She has decided to write a novel about her days at a publishing house in New York about the strangers who became lovers and the poets and ghosts who once lived in her neighbourhood.  In particular, one of the obsessions of her youth-Gilberto Owen- an obscure Mexican poet of the 1920's, a marginal figure of the Harlem Renaissance, a busker on Manhattan's subway platforms, a friend and an enemy of Federico Garcia Lorca. Somehow as she writes the two lives connect across the decades. 148 pages.

3. The Embassy of Cambodia by Sadie Smith. Now I have certainly heard of this author but not this book. Inside cover of DJ states "A rare and brilliant story from Zadie Smith taking us deep into the life of a young woman, Fatou, domestic servant to the Derawals and escapee from one set of hardships to another." Beginning and ending outside the Embassy of Cambodia which happens to be located in London. It is a story of how small things in an ordinary life always raise larger more extraordinary questions. Hmmm. 69 pages

4. Quantum of Tweed by Conn Iggulden. (From back cover) Albert Rossi has many talents. He can spot a cheap polyester at a 100 paces. He knows the value of a good pair of brogues. He is in fact the person you would have on speed dial for any tailoring crisis. When Albert accidentally runs over a pedestrian, he is launched into the murky world of murder for hire. Instead of a knock on the door from the police, he receives a phone call from a man who sounds surprisingly like Stephen Hawking. At that moment Albert Rossi decides to change careers. His life is about to get a whole lot more interesting.  This is a Quick Reads book which makes me think it must be one of those high interest low reading books. It is from England and at only 74 pages I am bound to finish it.

5.  Secrets by Patricia Scanlan. Published by New Island Public Door Ireland. It states- Kate is finding it hard to come to terms with her husband's unemployment. She and Bill are struggling to pay the bills. They don't have enough money for the children's Christmas presents. And having a boastful next door neighbour isn't helping either.  Then Kate's old friend Carmel phones to say that she'll be visiting soon. Carmel is glamorous and rich- she seems to have it all. What will Kate do? She hasn't told Carmel about Bill's job loss and she's too proud to admit that they're in trouble. But Carmel has a secret of her own.  76 pages

There you have it. I have 3 weeks to finish these five little books before they are due and then I plan to review all of them. I'm hoping to kickstart my reading habit again, gain more enthusiasm in what is still a chilly winter and at the end of those three weeks begin on my enormous TBR pile. Wish me luck.