Friday, December 15, 2006

Princess Safia, our beautiful youngest grandaughter at 2 months !

and at 3 months !!

And our eldest gandaughter Kaya celebrating her 2nd birthday

November 2006 - Kaya and Safia the two grand daughters in Nanna's bed.

I have had a feast of good reads over the past few months, which have occupied the early hours of morning when all is still.

I discovered Ian McEwan's Atonement and his latest, Saturday, both engrossing, lyrical and they stay with you for days. I won't go into the story line - you can check reviews on his web site or Amazon but suffice to say if you enjoy finely written characters, prose with great imaginative flights and a good strong story check them out. Atonement was a Booker prize finalist.

I read my first Stephen King - old mate Len put me onto his book on writing called coincidentally On Writing, part bio and the rest about his writing methods. I was so impressed that he could make a potentially dry subject so interesting that I thought that I'd sample the proof of his prose pudding. Incidentally the chap at Cantys, Fyshwick where I bought the book informed me that it is used as a textbook at University of Canberra. The proof I used? Hearts In Atlantis. The book consists of five interconnected short stories spanning 1950 to present day. The first story is riveting and swiftly hooks you and reels you in, his skill as a story teller is compelling and as a writer he's no literary slouch. I followed it with his The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon which coincidentally, like parts of Ian McEwan's Atonement is written through the eyes of a pre pubescent girl. In King's novel the girl is lost in National Park and like Hearts it's a quick quality read.

Tim Winton's latest book of short stories, also interconnected, The Turning, is rich and a joy to read, suprising you with literary crackers. His characters are usually earthy working class, with little of the middle class demeanor, the layers of 'civilisation', which for instance an Ian McEwan character might have. Consequently the language has a street sensibility, it is rough, direct but also poetic.

"Biggie truly is a funny bugger. He can do Elvis with his belly button - thank you very much - a toothless King sprouting manky black hairs in a face of fat. He can fart whole sentences, a skill St Augustine admired in others."

The stories are gritty, humorous and tragic, you are amazed and blown over by his boldness.
He and Carey are such wonderful writers - Robert Drewe, Richard Flanagan et al - more qualityAussie word shufflers than you can poke a stick at - and we have two Booker (female) finalists this year !! Check out the fabulous SMH Winton interview, "just an ordinary bloke who wears tracky daks".

I was fascinated to read that Tim Winton, like Stephen King, does not start a book with a plot in mind, just a few "little flickers and just wait and see what they end up being." Stephen King uses the metaphor of discovering a fossil and gently unearthing it, part of an undiscovered pre existing world. Start with a character or two, put them in a situation and see how they get out of it. He's the first reader, and sometimes reaches the outcome he expected, but mostly it surprises him. What? Fascinating.

What else? Ah yes, being interested in the creation of music, the Eric Burdon autobiography "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" was on sale at a price you couldn't walk past, with an accompanying CD. My review is at Amazon.

Listening to:

Michael Franti and Spearhead's Yell Fire ! He appeared at the ANU here in Canberra recently and son Brendan and partner Shaz enjoyed it, and my good friend Kirsten enjoyed it while checking out the talent but was crippled in high heels.....that's Kirst! The album is excellent and was made following his visit to Iraq where he made the documentary "I Know I'm not Alone". He displays an empthy with the soldiers there, hey more so than the sorry lot of politicians who sent them, his lyrics bold and his music interesting with flair and attack, never passive.

Dylan and Paul Simon show that old Yid songsmiths can still do it - and Chuckling Len Cohen did it again last year - what was that hilarious song called about Len on his deathbed suurounded by beautiful women saying "Speak to me Leonard"? Well, Simon has some assistance from soundscaper Brian Eno and I'd give it four stars.

UK world mag Songlines provides me with updates in the world scene, and I usually buy the annual BBC awards and Charlie Gillett's world choices for the year. Daughter Cara is buying me the late Ali Farka Toure's Savane for Christmas - currently top of the world music charts. I'm looking forward to that one. Recent purchases include BBC Cream which I enjoyed and reviewed in Amazon, the Delux editions of Bob Marley's Burnin' and Rastaman Vibration - both with fascinating additional concerts, Bill Wyman's Blues Odyssey - 2 Cds of Bill's favourite early blues recordings with a quality booklet, all good stuff as you'd expect - some standards and rarities. Some impressive world releases I have heard this year have been Mercan Dede's Su, Camille's Le Fil, the best of Manu Chao, and the award winning and world chart No 1 Amadou et Miriam's Dimanche a Bamako, produced by Manu Chao.

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