Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year

As I write, a cool change has swept into Melbourne bringing relief from the sweltering heat (40°C) that has been oppressing the city for the last few days. Yesterday, New Years Eve, was the hottest day for the year.

The cats have been totally stunned by the heat, and have been lying around too hot to flick a tail or waggle a whisker, let alone take objection to each other.

To escape the heat for a few hours I went to see the new Dylan biopic, I'm Not There, at the Westgarth Theatre which is only a five minute walk from home. It was pleasant lounging around in a cool old theatre watching what turned out to be a terrific film. The premise of the film was to show different sides of Dylan, represented by different actors. None of the characters portrayed actually went by the name Bob Dylan, which was initially confusing, but somehow worked very well. Cate Blanchet's Dylan was a superb piece of acting. I found her to be the most convincing Dylan and she certainly deserves all the accolades accorded to her in the role. One is left at the end of the film with a series of impressions on Bob Dylan which ultimately leads one to the conclusion that the man is a mystery and his past has transcended truth and taken on mythical proportions in popular culture. The film was full of references to the songs and Dylan's image on record covers. It would be worth seeing the film again to pick them all up. The soundtrack was of course excellent.

We did not go out for any New Year's Eve celebrations and spent a sober evening watching music DVDs, then went to bed well before midnight. With the doors and windows open to catch any breeze during the hot night, I was aroused to wakefulness at 12.00 and heard the neighbours banging things to welcome the new year. I briefly considered a grumpy old woman response, but in the end figured I wouldn't spoil their fun.

Over the holiday period I have been doing a lot of reading. Fortunately I got several books for Christmas and I have been rattling through them at a great rate.

gardam Jane Gardam's new collection of short stories is wonderful. I tried to hold off and savour the pleasure of reading it, but found it impossible to do so. I devoured The People on Privilege Hill at one sitting. Jane Gardam has never written a bad piece of prose. I love her quirky writing style which is crisp, witty and yet compassionate and her eccentric,endearing and all too human characters.

My brother and sister in law gave me a book voucher for Christmas, so as soon as I could I went into the city to redeem it. The bookshop, Dymocks, was having a 20% off everything in the store so I was able to get three new books for the price of two.

The Underground Man by Mick Jackson was one of them. I read it over a couple of days.

It is a fictionalised account of the eccentric fifth Duke of Portland who built a network of tunnels under his estate. The novel takes the form of a diary, wherein the duke records his thoughts and idle speculations on the meaning of things. His diary entries are interspersed with observations from his staff of servants.

Altogether the book paints the portrait of the extremely eccentric duke and plots the course of his madness. The duke emerges as an endearingly lovable character and Mick Jackson's skilful writing brings him to life.

I was delighted to see this book on the shelves of an Australian bookseller, as I was very impressed with Mick Jackson's Ten Sorry Tales some years ago and did not think to see any of his other books made available locally.

mrpip I had heard good things about Mister Pip byLloyd Jones , and it was shortlisted for the 2007 Booker Prize, so figured I should read it.

A relatively short novel, it is also a very good one. The setting is unusual - Bougainville Island - and the story is highly original in concept. Set during the fight for independence of 1990, the story concentrates on one village and the story is told by Matilda a native daughter of the village.

Charles Dickens novel Great Expectations is central to the plot as a surprising and ultimately tragic deus ex machina. Dicken's novel is introduced to the village children by Mr Watts the lone white man in the village, when he takes over the role of teacher during the troubled times. He reads the book aloud to the class and it comes to mean a great deal to Matilda who finds a friend in the character of Pip. I will not reveal any more of the plot, but be assured it is a novel well worth seeking out and makes rewarding reading.

The third book acquired on the book voucher was the Booker winning novel The Gathering by Anne Enright which I started reading today. I still have to make up my mind as to whether I like it or not. It's a torrid read and makes me wonder again how the judges of the award go about choosing the Booker winner. Often I've found better reading in the runners up.

Back to Christmas, we had an enjoyable day at my brother's place and I did get to meet my new great niece, Zoe. She is going to be a strawberry blonde like her mother. (see photo).

xmas07 013

We got back on boxing day to be greeted by all three cats hanging out for a late breakfast. They milled around in close proximity with apparent unconcern. There was no blood on the carpet and all appeared to be sweetness and light.


Anonymous said...

Please help us at http://chiefseattle.blogspot.com. Anybody can help. Sorry for any inconvenience caused.

chiefbiscuit said...

Thanks for the reviews - I didn't enjoy Mr Pip as much as I thought I would .... Jane Gardam's stories sound worth looking out for.
Enjoy the heat - we could do with some here and less wind - altho wouldn't be so good for the albatrosses.

Anne S said...

Hi CB - thanks for dropping by.

I liked Mr Pip because of the setting on Bougainville Island as I have fond memories of a holiday in the Solomon Islands and I really fell in love with the people.

I'd highly recommend any of Jane Gardam's books. She is a wonderful writer.

As for the heat, even though I do like it warm and sunny it can get a bit too warm and sunny for comfort. We however don't escape the wind - vicious northerlys are horrible, but the south western breezes are bliss after them.

It seems, in Australia, in summer, you can't have one without the other.