This latest work by Australian writer SD Thorpe, Getting Up, is a coming of age story with real roots. It’s connected, beautifully written, nicely cha...moreThis latest work by Australian writer SD Thorpe, Getting Up, is a coming of age story with real roots. It’s connected, beautifully written, nicely characterised, and aside from some music timing faux pas, is an excellent book.
It’s Melbourne in 1989; summer time. Hapless and lost graffiti-artist-wannabe Roket has hooked up with a crew that he wants to impress; a crew that’s in the middle of a tagging war with another crew. He’s horny (seriously, the parties in this dude’s pants! Wow!), virginal, from a broken home, and fatherless. Roket is a sixteen-year-old dole bludger – back when you could get on the dole at 16. His mum is a bit of a hopeless pot-smoker.
This story isn’t about Roket trying to fit in with the right people at school; it’s about being a young person who could or should know better, trying to find his feet in the world. Fitting in is still a ‘thing’ in this new coming-of-age work, but it’s less about becoming one of the many, and more about becoming who you are, and navigating the world’s expectations at the same time.
This book was pretty good, I have to say; high praise indeed. I read it in a few hours. I read the Kindle version, and I don’t understand the pointless scraps of pictures in it, but maybe that’s just me. I think including pictures for the sake of it – which is what this seems like – is a bit silly. They didn’t add anything; they just made me wonder who the hell decided to include them.
Unlike the other coming of age book I have recently read, this one felt real to me. It felt like it had roots: the place was so much a part of the characters; the characters were so much a part of each other. I felt like SD Thorpe had run with crews and punks for years, and if she hasn’t, then by fuck she’s got some fantastic observation skills.
The way that Getting Up is written makes the language invisible. It could’ve done with more swearing. But maybe that’s the publisher’s intervention? Perhaps the author can enlighten me. Roket was too clean, or something. He felt more like a 14-year-old than a 16-year-old.
The nature of punks was perfect; the time it was set in was marked by really silly obvious things, which annoyed me – but which got that whole ‘timing’ thing out of the way fairly quickly. Things like, the Berlin Wall coming down. I remember that, really well. I was nine. It was 1989. I watched it on the telly, lying on the loungeroom floor in shorts and t-shirt, and watching these ecstatic Germans breaking the wall apart, in the snow. All of the detail was perfect.
The timing pointers did, however, make me go back and fact-check the author, too, on the timing of some albums of which I was doubtful. For example: the book is 1989, and the author references Green Day’s debut album 39/Smooth… the chances of a shy, not particularly well connected 16-year-old in Melbourne having this in its release year are slim, at best.
But it’s ok, the timing was out. That debut album didn’t hit the world until April 1990.
Roket’s story is all the better for how tightly it’s presented (music faux pas aside). It’s not just a friendship battle. It’s that, plus dealing with potentially being branded a killer by accident and fate, plus other elements of criminal activity. And then there are all of those bigger questions: is it worthwhile going back to school? If you are talented, why do you need training, and isn’t talent good enough? Why be a grown-up at all, when every grownup around you is a fuckup, a fuckwit, or just goddamned hopeless.
This is an excellent work, and I encourage you to get your hands on it, and spend a lazy Sunday indulging yourself, as I did. It’s well worth your time. (less)
I love Raffles and his offsider Bunny. These guys are to crime what Sherlock Holmes is to solving crime! Interesting that the author, E.W. Hornung, wa...moreI love Raffles and his offsider Bunny. These guys are to crime what Sherlock Holmes is to solving crime! Interesting that the author, E.W. Hornung, was also Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's son-in-law; so it makes it extra-special in those stories where Raffles and Holmes come face-to-face. When you know this, the entire thing seems like a family joke.
I'm not going to go into detail; suffice to say, that if you haven't read Raffles, you must. Your life is incomplete if you haven't.(less)
I had been told about the excellence of this book, with great gusto, by a friend. As usual, it took me forever to get around to reading it.
And I adore...moreI had been told about the excellence of this book, with great gusto, by a friend. As usual, it took me forever to get around to reading it.
And I adored it. For those who have seen the film, it is quite different (better) to the film.
As a great lover of Russian literature, and the certain turn of phrase that comes from the Russians to my eyes via superb and seamless translation, this book really did it for me. The very moment that I finished it, I began on the second novel in the series - which I have only just completed.
I have long known the story of the West Memphis Three. One of my friends was deeply into the cause, and, some years ago, ran a film night at Adelaide'...moreI have long known the story of the West Memphis Three. One of my friends was deeply into the cause, and, some years ago, ran a film night at Adelaide's Mercury Cinemas, to raise money to help their legal battles. She did a fantastic job; but more to the point, that was the first time I had ever seen anything much about the story.
This book is a simple, passionate, peaceful autobiography by Damien Echols, writing about his version of events. It details his life up to the point where he was arrested, and after that only covers the aspects of his life that he wished to bring to the world. As he pointed out in the book, the story of the WM3 had already been more than ably covered by other books and documentaries.
The beauty of this novel lies in its simplicity. It reads like a letter, which in many ways is how it was written. You come to know Damien very personally, and as far as much autobiography goes, is devoid of ego. It is rare to read a text like this, and I suspect it has something to do with his perspective on the world after devoting himself to studies such as Buddhism, Zen, and many other philosophies. I won't go into the detail, but it was this section of the work in which much of the story really drew me in. I'm a sucker for that stuff.
Downside? As always, the errors, man, the textual, unnecessary errors!! Fuuck me drunk, I fear I will never read another beautifully edited book in my life. I hope I'm wrong.(less)
I'm closing the chapter on this book. I started reading it faithfully, and came to (re)learn so much more about my dance. All of the things that apply...moreI'm closing the chapter on this book. I started reading it faithfully, and came to (re)learn so much more about my dance. All of the things that apply to me as a writer also apply to me as a dancer. Except the observation is less about the whole picture, and more about certain parts: movement, texture, shape, space, mood, time. All about texture in movement, and texture in movement, and how the two are related.
As a bellydancer, it was extremely useful to me, in theory and philosophy. In practise, it's a bit more abstract, written as it is for the ballet dancer. That is, at the *moment* it is a bit more abstract. I know with certainty that as I grow into my choreography, different parts of this book will apply more closely, and that I will derive more and more from its pages. In general, this text is valuable to dancers of ALL creeds.
Even though this text is written with dance teachers in mind, as a student of the art of choreography, I have benefited enormously from it. Most especially from the chapter on not letting music dictate the dance to you. It's a really tough notion to get past, that one.
I have yet to try many of the suggested exercises in the book, but that will happen when I have more time to choreograph, and am not pushing myself towards performance choreography at short notice.
Highly recommend this work to all dancers. Best twenty-something-dollars I've spent in a long while.
This is an absolute must-read book. You may have noticed that I've only given it three stars; that's for a whole bunch of reasons, the most striking...more
This is an absolute must-read book. You may have noticed that I've only given it three stars; that's for a whole bunch of reasons, the most striking of which is an editing failure. This book is wonderful for its content, and leaves a lot desired in terms of its technical execution: a good editor would have resolved most of them.
While this book examines time, it is itself a beautiful depiction of the limitations of time. Written before the turn of the century, the content is time-bound, even though its content rails against the notion of being time-locked.
In terms of the research and argumentation behind most of the claims of this text, it's hard to fault Pip Pip. I'm certainly not going to; I learned a vast amount about the nature of the time that restricts our daily lives, and how it came into being. I wish Griffiths had taken it further, looked more deeply into this element of time; however, deducing it myself it makes it rather easy to see where so much dissatisfaction and stress comes from. The manipulation of time.
Given the book was published before smartphones, there is another element to this too: the notion that your time can be altered without you even knowing. This gives a rather new slant on the wristwatch timepiece that Griffiths discusses in relation to other issues.
Further, Pip Pip is a textual work that captures and frames all sorts of times: woman's time, pagan time, wild time. It made me yearn for the timelessness of hills in the bush; for the quiet slowness of time in rural Australia.
Every person needs to read this book. And the fact that it is itself time-locked is simply another paradox of time, and one that should not dissuade anybody from reading it.(less)
In the beginning of this book, having been so used to the primary protagonist of the previous novel, Anton Gorodetsky, it took me a little while to wo...moreIn the beginning of this book, having been so used to the primary protagonist of the previous novel, Anton Gorodetsky, it took me a little while to work out what was going on. I had no idea who this Alisa Donnikova was or why she was important. Or why this second book in the series was focusing so clearly on her. For a while I wondered if the novel was going to be a series of character-based short stories.
But it turned out that it was all just me being impatient. Gradually, one discerns why Alisa's circumstances are so important; but interestingly, one does not really discover this until much, much later in the book.
It was not, in fact, until I was on the home-run of this book - the last twenty pages or so - that I properly understood the statements from each Watch in the in the front-matter of the book proper:
- This text has been banned for distribution as injurious to the cause of the light. - Night Watch - This text has been banned for distribution as injurious to the cause of the darkness. - Day Watch
Day Watch is a far more interesting story than Night Watch. It proposes some interesting concepts to challenge your own notions of lightness and darkness, too. After taking so long to read Night Watch, I devoured Day Watch in a matter of weeks, and will hopefully finish the third book rather sooner than that.
Lukyanenko is an extremely talented writer. As an editor, and former publisher myself, I am a really tough audience. Yet I fall deeply into the spell of his fiction quite easily, and am happy to stay and wallow there. For me, there is no fight between enjoying the story and being aware of the text; this is really rare, and is probably why I enjoy the works so very much.(less)
Sometimes, avoiding celebrated books is not always a clever thing to do. Memoirs of a Geisha was a pleasant, engaging, lovely read.
Like many discernin...moreSometimes, avoiding celebrated books is not always a clever thing to do. Memoirs of a Geisha was a pleasant, engaging, lovely read.
Like many discerning readers, I avoid celebrated books like the plague, until they're $0.50 in an op shop. Then I'll buy it out of curiosity. Sometimes it doesn't work and friends buy me ghastly books as gifts (ahem, Da Vinci Code). But Memoirs of a Geisha was an op-shop purchase, and it's the best fifty cents I've spent in a long time.
There are two key things that immediately engaged my appreciation for this work's existence. The first is the unfailing honesty of the author who, in forewords and acknowledgements, is very clear about the process of gaining the story, and of his own failings. The second is the way in which the voice of Sayuri herself has been rendered.
It is difficult sometimes, in assessing the value of a memoir, to determine whether or not it has been appropriately developed. This particular story has so much about it of the original telling, that its value for me is very high. Reading the book, deeply immersed in a personal story that feels like it's being whispered in your ear, I found myself startled when the narrator pulled out of the story to explain things.
It's very much like a spoken word experience. The story is highly visual, and the occasional narrator intervention breaks the spell very slightly. Is it perhaps a measure of the subject's ability to hold a conversation and entertain?
Having only just concluded the reading of Memoirs of a Geisha, I feel enriched for having spent the time with Sayuri, and learning about her life. Her struggles may have appeared petty at times - like all human struggles - but that is hardly a criticism. I find myself now yearning for someone to write the story of another Geisha in Gion at the time, one who might have known Sayuri and could give us another perspective. That would be terribly interesting.
But, as I say, a beautiful, pleasant read - made all the more so by the honesty and forthrightness of the man who penned it. Very much recommended.(less)
I read several comments about this book before I bought it, and those were mainly in the context of dance and movement science.
You could easily go two...moreI read several comments about this book before I bought it, and those were mainly in the context of dance and movement science.
You could easily go two ways with a neuroscience book like this. You could read it purely for the information and interest factor, which would be fine. It would be a nice, joyous, easy read, and you'd learn a whole lot of things that you would soon forget. You would probably also not talk to many people about it because it's a weird sort of topic.
Or, if you're like me, you can read and devour every little nuance of the text, with a deep understanding of creative visualisation, using the book to learn to control your neurology and your physical function.
I have been gabbing about this book to everyone that will listen. The simple fact that my physicality - neurologically - is not my physical being, but also everything connected to it (hats, long dresses, vehicles), is mind-blowing, but also unsurprising. The fact that I can use this knowledge in a creative visualisation sense to improve my dance skills, reduce pain, recover easily from all types of maladies, and generally enhance my physical existence, is tremendously exciting.
There is a whole lot of stuff in this book that I accepted would be written into a text like this, but which I did not take on board. Mainstream science is very much all about certain theories being definite, when in fact they are only theory. But it's such a minor point that one can easily move past it.
The book is written in a highly conversational, accessible manner. I would have liked a bit more technicality in it - but any higher level language would easily have scared your average reader off. There is a lovely epilogue apologising to the scientific community for the simplicity of the works, and for the dumbing down of the science. Proferred explanations were as good as it was going to get.
It was outstanding. I had my nose glued to this book every minute that I had spare, and was devastated when I left it at work by accident. I have also promised at least six people that I will lend it to them.
Maybe I'll need to buy more copies.
Now that I've gotten this far, I'm tempted to start hunting down some serious neuroscience texts, and work myself progressively further up the scientific tree.
I also want to sit in a virtual reality environment and control tentacles with my belly button. This will make sense to you when you read the book.
I highly recommend this work for everyone interested in movement, dance, physical arts, science, neuroscience, and for those whose family members have had strokes. (less)
It took me three goes to get into this book. The character that Tucker Max displays is quite simply horrific: he's offensive, nasty, pure arsehole. If...moreIt took me three goes to get into this book. The character that Tucker Max displays is quite simply horrific: he's offensive, nasty, pure arsehole. If you're going to read this book, you absolutely must get past your reaction to him - which in my case was very strong. It took me nearly two years to pick this book up again and give it the go that it deserves.
And I'm glad I did. This book contains stories from Tucker's torrid drunken sex life. Some of them - particularly once you are nearly halfway through the book - are absolutely hilarious. Like, laugh-out-loud hilarious. Which I did. Repeatedly. On a plane from Adelaide to Sydney. I was engrossed with the book, couldn't stop reading sections of its dirtiest and funniest passages out to my other half and to my friends. It was so funny I was nearly in tears.
What happens to you as you read this book is that you go from despising Tucker's attitude towards women, to laughing at the shitty, and so often funny-as-hell situations that he gets into. The way he treats women is laughable to start with. And then when he gets his come-uppances - and there are many of them, brilliantly turned on him - it's enormously satisfying.
In the end, Tucker comes across as a pathetic, sex-addicted, empathy-less knob. His apparent knowledge of women turns into total horror when he realises that, as much as he is a player, many women trump him time and again. And that this has probably happened several times without him knowing it.
I have to admit, as much as I hate to do so, that this book got me. Once I started reading it, I devoured it. For all of Tucker's flaws, he tells a story so, so well. The story of him shitting himself across the lobby of a motel was particularly nicely written. I was in hysterics. The drama and suspense of it was damn near perfect.
If you are going to attempt to read this book, here's a warning: you MUST be able to appreciate a book without aligning the quality of the book with its characters. The book is great, the main character - which is the author himself - is so easy to hate.
Tucker Max is a total cunt. He is sexist, racist, discriminatory. He is blunt, revels in bastardry, drinks like a fucking idiot, exhibits himself like a spastic. He treats women - actually, he treats everyone - like shit. He is arrogant, supercilious, and completely shallow. He exhibits behaviours that are totally, utterly reprehensible.
But he does have an ability to learn, which you pick up gradually throughout the book. Thank fuck.
I Hope They Serve Beers in Hell is a good, trashy, filthy read. Once you get past the main character, you'll have a blast. Getting past him in the first place is the hard part. And, I suppose, that's kind of the point. (less)
How am I going to describe this book? For starters, I'm a porn fan, but not of Jenna Jameson. In porn, she is plastic, superficial and pathetic. This...moreHow am I going to describe this book? For starters, I'm a porn fan, but not of Jenna Jameson. In porn, she is plastic, superficial and pathetic. This did not dampen my curiosity, however. I am an avid reader of the writings of the porn star Stoya; the difference is that Stoya has an extremely sharp intellect.
Jenna Jameson's autobiography is well-written. It is also frustratingly laid out, much like her life. It is filled with photographs; broken up with interviews; punctuated with comic strips; scattered with sketches. She must have had an outstanding editor, because it hangs together very, very well.
Essentially, Jenna Jameson = porn because: revenge. Which, while being possibility the most un-self-reflective thing someone could write into an autobiography (perhaps the point), is also predictable as fuck. The story of Jenna's life is also what you would expect: total white trash, lots of drugs and bad decisions.
She gives sex work a really bad name. I was hoping to see "I got into porn because I love to fuck". But really she has very little self-respect, and a confidence borne only of an arrogance resulting from diva-dom.
The most interesting parts of this book were those in which Jameson attempts to make sense of her life through writing; the poignant parts of her life are exactly that: poignant. And while I am well aware that abused women tend not to make a lot of sense of their lives and the choices that they make, the fact that she made the SAME mistake, over and over and over again, made me wonder what the hell was wrong with her.
In any case, I pushed through this book to the end. The writing was good, the structure was good, the story was meh, and I skipped a huge amount (really, who reads a split-column biography that interrupts a story for god's sake?), but I still finished it.
And I finished it because of curiosity. So, regardless of all of the utter failings of Jenna Jameson personally (which, let's be honest, is the only reason I couldn't put up with more of her life), this book was pretty good. I'm sure that if I had far lower standards, I would have really enjoyed this book.
Essentially, though, Jameson's personality is as superficial and plastic as her body. That in itself should be an allegory. (less)
The question that arises, upon reading this book, is: How can I take this woman seriously? Or even, can I take this woman seriously?
The problem that...moreThe question that arises, upon reading this book, is: How can I take this woman seriously? Or even, can I take this woman seriously?
The problem that I have with the story is that I am a born-and-bred Australian. And I have a really, really big problem with patronising Americans. I have a problem with their condescension of the way we speak, how we see the world, things about our society, her insistance on calling Australia "down under", and so on and so forth. I also have a big problem with the way they see our interior land, as this woman did: as wasteland.
She sees the Aboriginal people as having been relegated to the interior wasteland, that the rest of us pushed them into the shitty parts of the country. Well, sorry love, but while whitefella was a c*nt to the Aboriginals, that's one thing we never did.
It's a bad way to build a relationship with your readers. The result is that I took her story with a bucket of salt, appreciated some of the meaning in it, and viewed her self-reflection as the superficial "I want to be enlightened" story that it is.
It is the same Noble Native story that has been told the world over. I agree that Indigenous Australians have incredible healing, tracking, navigation, and other abilities. But I wouldn't consider them over and above any other philosophical timeless culture that exists in any other part of the world.
The other element that I struggled with was the notion that she was apparently missing for three or more months, and nobody cared. Well, I'm sorry: Australians are laid-back, but we aren't *that* laid-back. I struggle to believe that nobody called the cops, nobody was interested in her disappearance, nothing was made of it. Very strange, very unlike anyone in Australia, and it relies a little too much on her audience's credulity.
Mutant Message Down Under could have been a book with some integrity, but like much Americanisms, it falls flat and feels dishonest. Perhaps if the author hadn't believed she was a notch above everyone else, things may have changed.(less)