Monthly Archives: January 2012

Read about Australian cities

I’ve just finished reading Kerryn Goldsworthy’s book about Adelaide, the fifth title in NewSouth Publishing’s series on Australian cities. Like most Adelaideans, I rarely get the chance to read about our lovely city: it’s not New York, or Paris, or London, not one of the great cities of the world. So it’s an unaccustomed pleasure to read about North Terrace ‘with its patches of elegance and swathes of shade’ and the Torrens Lake enlivened by ‘the spray of the river fountains as they catch and atomise the light.’

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The Secret in their Eyes (Book Review)

This novel by Eduardo Sacheri was orignally published in Spanish in 2005; the English translation appeared in 2011.  In between these dates, the book was made into a highly successful film, winning an Academy Award for ‘Best Foreign Language Film’;  I suspect that this is the main reason we are lucky enough to have the translation.  The Secret in their Eyes has been described as ‘a startling psychological mystery’ and a ‘haunting crime thriller’, but it is a much better novel than these generic labels suggest. Set in Buenos Aires in the 1970s, during the terrible years of Argentina’s ‘Dirty War’,  Continue reading

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The ABC of Reading (What to Read Next)

Go back to a different kind of  beginning: your own ABC. What kind of books were you given as a child? What was the first book that you read in primary school, and then at high school? How has that influenced what you read now? Continue reading



Handwritten: ten centuries of manuscript treasures

The National Library in Canberra is hosting the exhibition Handwritten: ten centuries of manuscript treasures.  Drawn from material held in the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, ‘Handwritten’ includes manuscripts by famous authors, composers, statesmen, philosophers… people like Mozart, Beethoven, Galileo, Goethe, Kafka, Michelangelo and Napoleon. The display covers illuminated manuscripts, letters, sketches, documents and musical scores. If you can’t get to Canberra before the middle of March, have a look at some of the lovely images on the library’s blog.  And the British Library has some fascinating manuscripts by literary authors (Blake, Austen, Eliot … ) on their website, too.

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First Stories (What to Read Next)

This week, try reading a ‘first story’, one of the early stories that our ancestors would have known.  Maybe something from Greek mythology like Theseus and the Minotaur  or Euripedes’  Medea, a truly frightening story of female passion and revenge.  There’s a new translation of Homer’s The Iliad available this year, or you could read an Old English story like Beowulf (try the fantastic Seamus Heaney translation.) These kinds of stories are fascinating to read: rich in drama and emotion, and told in beautiful language.

An alternative would be to read a modern work  based on an ancient story. This is the premise behind ‘Old Texts Made New: Literary Imitation and Allusion’, a new English course offered here at the University of Adelaide.  Join our students and read David Malouf’s prize-winning novel Ransom ( based on the Achilles’ story at the heart of The Iliad) or Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad.

I’d really like to hear from anyone who has read one of the founding myths of another culture, such as the Mahabharata or some of the Chinese legends, or stories of The Dreaming: any thoughts on these? How have these been reworked in contemporary fiction?

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The Waste Land (eBook of the Month)

I’ve chosen this Faber &Touch Press publication as the  ‘eBook of the Month’ for two reasons. Firstly, it’s a wonderful app for anyone who enjoys reading poetry, providing a rich experience of T.S. Eliot’s most famous poem, The Waste Land. Secondly, it’s one of iTunes best-selling apps, and to find that poetry is still being widely read in a tweet-driven world is  as rewarding as it is surprising. Continue reading

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First Lines (What to Read Next)

First lines can make or break a novel when you are trying to decide whether or not to read it. Here are a few of the first lines that convinced me to read the book that I was holding in my hands. Let me know if you have any unforgettable ‘firsts’.

‘It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen.’
1984 / George Orwell

‘Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.’ — One Hundred Years of Solitude / Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

‘This is the saddest story I have ever heard.’
The Good Soldier / Ford  Madox Ford

‘After killing the red-haired man, I took myself off to Quinn’s for an oyster supper.’ — The Meaning of Night: a confession / Michael Cox (2006)

‘The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.’
The Go-Between / L. P. Hartley (1953)

‘I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story .’
Ethan Frome / Edith Wharton (1911)

‘The corpse without hands lay in the bottom of a small sailing dinghy drifting just within sight of the Suffolk coast.’
Unnatural Causes / P. D.  James (1967)