Floating Life 4/06 ~ 11/07

an archive

Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

2007 in review: #1 — Best reads of 2007: fiction

There’s a tag for that so if you hit it you’ll find them all duly noted. Just as well, as I would never have remembered them all.

However, cutting out a couple of eccentric entries, I have pared the list down to a First Fifteen.


Author Title Post
Janette Turner Hospital Orpheus Lost

Welcome to our nightmare

Elmore Leonard La Brava

Contrasts in my recent reading and viewing

Andrew McGahan Underground

The novel Andrew Bolt hates and Zadie Smith’s 21st century classic

Zadie Smith On Beauty

Easily the best novel I have read so far this year*

Dai Sijie 戴思杰 Mr Muo’s Travelling Couch

Sino-Gallic firecrackers

Kate Grenville The Secret River

May have been, very possibly…

Anne Holt What Is Mine

Promised review catch-up

Reginald Hill The Death of Dalziel

More reviews of good stuff from Surry Hills Library

Alexander McCall Smith Blue Shoes and Happiness

Two very different works of crime fiction

Robert Drewe Grace

Robert Drewe Grace (2005)

Michael Nava Rag and Bone

Book and DVD backlog

Andrew O’Hagan Be Near Me

Negotiating dangerous ground

Salman Rushdie Shalimar the Clown as above
Milan Kundera Ignorance

Milan Kundera Ignorance (2002)

Karin Fossum When the Devil Holds the Candle

Two crime fiction novels

The top five? Ignorance, The Secret River, On Beauty, Orpheus Lost, The Death of Dalziel.

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Written by Neil

December 9, 2007 at 10:48 pm

Posted in 2007 in review, Reading

Tagged with

Welcome to our nightmare

 Orpheus Lost by Janette Turner Hospital (Australia May 2007; USA Canada October 2007):   orpheus_covers

I’ve always been intensely interested in examining ordinary human beings, people without political agendas, who are suddenly caught up in the fist of history and crisis. If someone happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, what happens to their lives from that point onwards? How do they negotiate life, history, politics thereafter?

I suppose I can trace the birth of this intense interest to something that happened to me when we were living in a village in South India in 1977. I was with my two young children in an exceedingly ramshackle taxi heading from the village to the city market in Trivandrum. It was a time of political upheaval in India. Riots broke out, and suddenly our taxi was surrounded by a mob waving the banners of the Communist Party of South India. The taxi could not move forward. Our taxi driver was very frightened and was trembling violently. The rioters were drumming on the taxi roof and windows. The children and I were in the back seat and I felt that weird and absolute calm which is actually shock. I had an arm around each child and can still vividly remember the two dominant thoughts in my head: 1) I must make the children feel safe with me and 2) No one will ever know what happened to us. In fact, the tense situation only lasted a few minutes and then the crowd let the taxi move slowly forward. Since then, I’ve been aware of how suddenly and how randomly political events of which one is only dimly aware can disrupt a life.

This has to be in my top three best reads of 2007! Read the rest of this entry »

Beth Yahp

I greatly admired Beth Yahp’s The Crocodile Fury (1992). I was interested to see Beth Yahp: Open letter to Abdullah Badawi is a top WordPress post today.

Dear Prime Minister Abdullah,

26 September 2007 saw two thousand lawyers “Walk for Justice” to defend the good name and protest the sliding standards of their profession. “When lawyers march,” said Ambiga Sreenevasan, President of the Bar Council, “something must be wrong.”
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Written by Neil

November 13, 2007 at 11:53 am

Against certainty

Julie Galambush interview. (If that doesn’t work… or here.)

Allow me to recommend a book as a Top Read of 2007 even if only three people in Australia have read it. 😉 The Reluctant Parting by Julie Galambush (Harper Collins 2006) is one of the clearer and more authoritative accounts of the context and origins of the New Testament that I have read. It does not venture too much into the speculative and fanciful, as some in this area do. Galambush has good judgement as an historian. An even greater blessing is that she is readable!

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Written by Neil

November 1, 2007 at 12:20 pm

Contrasts in my recent reading and viewing

I’m a sucker for film noir. Play “spot the movie” with this.

So I have enjoyed Elmore Leonard’s La Brava: wickedly good. The novel is a riff on the idea of film and celluloid, what is and what isn’t simulacrum… Makes it sound quite pomo, doesn’t it?

“He’s been taking pictures three years, look at the work,” Maurice said. “Here, this guy. Look at the pose, the expression. Who’s he remind you of?”

“He looks like a hustler,” the woman said.

“He is a hustler, the guy’s a pimp. But that’s not what I’m talking about. Here, this one. Exotic dancer backstage. Remind you of anyone?”

“The girl?”

“Come on, Evelyn, the shot. The feeling he gets. The girl trying to look lovely, showing you her treasures, and they’re not bad. But look at the dressing room, all the glitzy crap, the tinfoil cheapness.”

“You want me to say Diane Arbus?”

“I want you to say Diane Arbus, that would be nice. I want you to say Duane Michaels, Danny Lyon. I want you to say Winogrand, Lee Friedlander. You want to go back a few years? I’d like very much for you to say Walker Evans, too.”

“Your old pal.”

“Long, long time ago. Even before your time.”

A best read of 2007, even if the book is almost 25 years old!
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Written by Neil

October 30, 2007 at 12:26 pm

How Downer, Howard, Nelson and company are out of the debate…

I wonder if the gentlemen above ever read the magazine on the right, or if they have taken note of such recent books as After the Neocons: America at the Crossroadsv3n2thumb (Profile Books 2006 — $6.95 at your friendly remainder shop!) It appears a substantial portion of the Right have been embracing reality while we were looking the other way. Just what the implications of this are for the American elections remains to be seen; there are implications for our elections, because there is no doubt that what I am reading in After the Neocons and in the magazine on the right is far more Kevin Rudd friendly than the current Australian government’s ongoing love affair with the failing but horribly dangerous policies of the current US regime. This is not to say all these people are born-again liberals now: far from it. But there is more of reason in what they say and publish.

Fukuyama, for his sins, had been one of the signatories of the Project for a New American Century back in the Clinton era, and we know what that led to. There is a profile of Fukuyama here, and I commend the entire IRC Right Web Program from which that comes.

From the current American Interest: After Bush leads with an article by Barry R Posen.

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Meet a blog

In this case I stumbled upon the blog in question via Perry Middlemiss’s Matilda which I had consulted when putting up the last Friday Australian poem. I soon found that The Happy Antipodean and I had much in common, except that he is younger and probably brighter. Further investigation confirms this and more, as we in fact had known each other in the past. The Antipodean was one of the helpers on Neos Magazine, my one-time venture into the world of publishing. (We didn’t do too badly: Judith Wright and Patrick White were regular readers.) Even more investigation — not difficult in this case — revealed The Antipodean’s real name and a biographical site that confirms the Neos connection:

From 1982 to 1986, I help edit and distribute little lit mag Neos: Young Writers after meeting Neil Whitfield in Cornstalk Bookshop, Glebe. Production, in an office near St Johns Road, Glebe, uses set type pasted onto a grid. Published biannually from Gleebooks, the mag receives assistance from the Literature Board of the Australia Council and other bodies.

I don’t remember the office, I have to say, unless he’s thinking of the typesetter’s office near the old Gleebooks. There is some fascinating family history on the autobiographical site; I enjoy such things, as you will know from the pages here.

And it turns out he really is Julie Bishop’s cousin. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Neil

October 21, 2007 at 8:48 am