Monday, October 15, 2007


John Honey's novel 'Paint' was my choice for the October review for a number of reasons. The most outstanding reason was that it resonated so closely with me on many levels. The setting of the novel being round Hobart (where I live) is obvious, but this didn't really come into it though it did add to the overall feeling of familiarity about the book.

The fact that Boris, the main character, is an artist who is totally devoted to his craft to the exclusion of all else; the fact that author John Honey went into quite detailed accounts about Boris' dedication to and extreme love of food and its preparation, and wine and the fact that the repercussions of the Vietnam War fallout formed a reasonable part of the plot.

All four levels mentioned, plus the fact that I found it quite an easy read made my enjoyment of it total.

To briefly explain the logic used above: the artists world of total immersion in what they are currently working on has formed me as a human, my father being a sculptor. The circumstances of Boris' life as detailed by John Honey mirror (pretty accurately) my childhood with my father. Also the fact that I feel Honey has loosely fashioned some of his characters round real people in the art world here in Hobart whom I recognise reinforces this.

The food details logic is obvious if you've visited my blog site, named 'Hobart Food for thought'.

My late teenage years were spent in anger and frustration at our governments participation at that time in the Vietnam War - so that era comprised part of my formative years.

So - to the book itself. The main character, Boris, is a Vietnam vet who makes his living as an artist selling artwork to his Hobart dealer in order to support his lifestyle of good food, wine, music and of course painting.

Boris has a loving and caring relationship with his mother, Fairy, who lives, now widowed, alone in the seaside country town of Orford, which is an hours drive from Hobart, on the East Coast of Tasmania. His regular visits to check on his mum illustrate to Boris Fairy's slow downwards spiral into dementia.

The novel follows two separate routes: one of Boris' relationship with Fairy and the other involving his art and his discovery that his agent has ripped him off.

As with all books of this genre, it ends well, with Fairy dying on her own terms, and Boris' art dealership sorted out.

Being an avid and interested observer of my fellow man, my taste in reading matter tends to automatically veer towards books which graphically and realistically illustrate this. I found 'Paint' answered my criteria extremely well.

It wasn't 'Little Women' or 'TheThorn Birds' but I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope those that read it did too, though my bias may well have swayed my judgement.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Cool girls in print: a blatantly stolen blog idea

Following a Google link for dreary work reasons, I happened upon this post from April last year:

Last week, I started a list of Cool Girls from Kid Lit. Here is what I specified for "cool" criteria: "they should be smart and strong and independent, people who would make good role-models for girls today."

I love the idea, so I'm starting my own:

1. Jo March, Little Women
My absolute heroine. Feisty, independent, stubborn, romantic and indefagitably loyal and honorable. Cutting off her hair ('your one beauty!') to save her family was such a marvellous gesture. And I liked that she had big fat flaws to balance her virtues. And, of course, she was a writer and loved books.

2. Anne Shirley, Anne of Green Gables series
All of the above qualities (second sentence). I liked Gilbert a lot more than Jo March's beaux (as they called them in those days).

3. Ramona Quimby, The Ramona series
A spunky little tomboy with a naughty streak who always made her parents and sister laugh with her malpropisms and misadventures. Her heart was in the right place, though.

4. Josie Alibrandi, Looking for Alibrandi
Hmmm ... spunky, smart, feisty (a pattern emerging?) and incredibly likeable.

5. Alice, Alice in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass
As may be obvious from my own blog title, I just love Alice to death. Of course, I also love Lewis Carroll's writing and the alternative universes he has created. The way he plays with language! Humpty Dumpty! ('A word means just what I intend it to. No more, no less.') The Red Queen! Richard E. Grant said recently that he read the book as a newcomer to England and immediately saw it as a delightful way of understanding the culture: they all play quite precisely by a set of rigid social rules or conventions, but the rules often don't make sense and the people are actually quite eccentric. But, okay, Alice ... she's adventurous, smart, stubborn and fiercely independent.

6. Judy, Seven Little Australians
It's a VERY long time ago that I read this, but I remember her being a Jo March-ish character, full of rebellion but actually incredibly decent. Pity about that father of hers ...

7. Dicey, Homecoming
Her flaky mother abandoned her and her brothers and sisters in a parking lot and 12 year-old Dicey kept them together and organised them to walk halfway across the country to find the grandmother they'd never met. With no money, no transport, no protection.

BAD role models

1. The Sweet Valley High twins, Jessica and Elizabeth
Every novel started with a description of their blue eyes, blonde hair and perfect bodies and by explaining that Elizabeth was the Good One and Jessica was the Bad One. Talk about madonna/whore syndrome all in one family ... Yes, I read these novels as a kid anyway. I had Barbies, too.

2. Veruca Salt, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
What a revolting little spoilt brat! But in such a melodramatic, pantomime villainess kind of way that I just loved her. Especially in the movie (the old one, that Roald Dahl apparently hated). What a brilliantly bratty song and dance routine she had ('I want it NOW!'). Sigh.

Feel free to add to this or argue ...

cross-posted at Jabberwocky

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas


I have very little to say about this very short novel by the Irish writer, John Boyne. In fact, I can't say very much at all without giving a lot of the plot away, and that would spoil it. It is supposedly a book for children. 'Bollocks', I say. It is a beautifully written, stylish composition that throws a harsh light on human ignominy.
This Saturday Afternoon Read will involve you in two childhoods, neither of which any of us would want to experience. But, nonetheless, we will all recognise the view of An Innocent that takes in a moral landscape shaped by perverse adult bigotry. It's not an easy journey.
I recommend that you read it. It's short, but not at all sweet.

Monday, October 1, 2007

It's the end of the world as we know it.

But no, I don't feel fine, thanks for asking. In fact, I'm wishing that Mark Twain would ride in on a big white horse, six guns blazing, and save us all from the horror that is ghosted pulp*.

Just look at this. Jordan's latest 'book' (and I use the term advisedly) has outsold all the Booker shortlist put together.

There is no hope for humanity. Marketing and celebrity has taken over the world.

*I have nothing against ghost writers. It's just another way of prostituting one's pen and we've all been there. And many ghosts write worthy things under their own names. It's more a self-righteous, almost religious rage that the crap they produce is sucked up because of the name on the front. Try putting Jane Smith, nobody, on those bits of shit and see how well they sell!