Saturday, September 27, 2008

Satisfying crime read - P.D. James

There is nothing as satisfying as a well written crime novel.

The new P.D. James novel The Private Patient certainly hits the mark.

I love returning to the sharp and intelligent mind of police commander and poet Adam Dalgliesh, or AD as he is known by his team.

Jame's novels are particularly satisfying because of their psychological depth - she probes with a scapel like incisiveness into the British psyche.

Her books are a fascinating study of the complexity and ambiguity of human emotions, such as anger, greed and jealousy.

In this particular book, there is also a focus on the love and compassion.

I was pleasantly surprised by the end of the novel. It is really one of the most beautifully written endings, with an elegantly done reference to Jane Austen.

James suggest that despite all the murder and mayhem, humans can, and will, continue to find the love in each other.

Monday, September 22, 2008

New crush: David Rakoff

Another author I have a crush on at the moment is David Rakoff.

Just about finished, Don't Get Too Comfortable in one reading.

He writes with a simple elegance and ease, but can also fillet in one short sharp sentence.

I love the entry titled 'What is the sound of one hand shopping?' which critiques the way it has become deriguer to glorify simple flavours such as sea salt:

"how better then to show a nobility of spirit than by broadcasting your capacity to discern the gustatory equivalent of a humminbird's cough as it beats its wings near a blossom that grows by a glassy pond on the other side of distant mountain?"

Speaking of crushes and elegance, Chandler Burr gives Jean-Claude Ellena's new Hermes fragrance, Un Jardin Apr├Ęs la Mousson a bit of dissing - one star.

Oh la, la.

But still oh so elegantly done, with Burr's rather cutting conclusion:

"I see here virtually total incoherence. I perceive no overriding vision from the artist, no clarity at all. I am baffled."

Monday, September 15, 2008

How embarassing - Mortification: Writers' stories of their public shame

I was reading this book while the Melbourne Writers Festival was on.

Mortification: Writers' stories of their public shame (ed Robin Robertson) provides a sort of alternate view of such events. It basically details in a funny and hilarious manner what authors have to go through in the name of publicity and promotion.

There are some stories from big name marque writers such as Margaret Atwood, Jonathan Coe, Julian Barnes, Rick Moody and Chuck Palahniuk.

There are some real laugh out moments here, with especially
mortifying stories from:
  • the humiliation of flying all the way over to do a book reading in front of one person....the event organiser
  • the dreaded media interview where the authors gets slotted in to fill the 'cultural' moment and immediately misnamed.
  • book signing at inappropriate venues.
This is definitely a book to enjoy on a lazy Sunday afternoon over coffee.

And my god, the poets really do drink - see for example David Harsent alcohol infused reading. Nearly every mortifying event told by a poet involved alcohol.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Disappointment – Dawn Evening or Night - I just don’t get it.

You know when you want to like a book but you just don’t?

In my previous post I was eagerly awaiting Yasmina Reza's Dawn Evening or Night - an account of her year with current French prez Nicholas Sarkozy.

Written as a sort of stream of consciousness/diary it was disjointed and unsatisfying.

Overall, I tried to like it and factor in Reza's approach, but in the end I really just didn’t get it. Reza describes her style in a NY Times article as ‘impressionistic sketch’ – but I just found it just too sketchy.

Perhaps a case of "it’s not you, it’s me"?

Maureen Orth’s article on Carla Bruni & Sarkozy relationship in Vanity Fair website is a much better read and a far more satisfying analysis.

The photos are fantastic (see example above) and needless to say very glamorous and very Vanity Fair style.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Watchmen - Alan Moore

Eagerly awaiting my copy of Alan Moore's The Watchmen graphic novel (ie. comic book).

As Wiki notes:

Watchmen remains the only graphic novel to win a Hugo Award, and is also the only graphic novel to appear on Time's 2005 list of "the 100 best English-language novels (Go to full Wiki entry)

Moore also wrote V for Vendetta - which was turned into a pretty good film with Hugo Weaving and Natalie Portman.

The Watchmen movie looks fantastic with a great cast featuring Patrick Wilson, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode & Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

Is that a hot group of superheroes or what?

So, so excited.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Eat Pray Love - Part 2 Rave

Just finished Eat Pray Love - a book written with such humility and humanity.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s account of her year of pilgrimage to Italy, India and Bali, engages the reader directly with her struggles with identity, spirituality and meaning.

These themes, while serious and weighty, are written about in a wonderfully funny and eloquent way.

There is a searching intelligence and also humour in this book which makes it not only engaging, but also deeply moving.

This is not a ‘self help book’. Gilbert does not attempt to provide answers instead Gilbert openly identifies the limits of her own understanding and search for meaning.

I like the fact that she places her own search for meaning within the context of research about the places, religions and people in her journey.

This book is about a person who also searches for meaning and understanding through reading.

Gilbert’s time in India was the part of the book that resonated with me. I liked the way she traced how her ideas and thoughts were constantly challenged.

She shows how we are far too accustomed to trying to find answers about ourselves easily and quickly. As if the any other way would be a failure.

In this section, the paths to enlightenment and illumination are not always the ‘big’ or ‘grand’ moment we envisage them to be.

Rather, as the book shows, they are in the small pockets of silence, generosity and friendship we often overlook.


Monday, September 1, 2008

Kimono - book and exhibition

It is great when your reading a book and then finding out an exhibition on the topic is on.

It's, using my word of the week. providential.

Am reading Kimono: Fashion and Culture by Liza Dalby. It is a fascinating cultural account of the kimono in Japanese culture. Dalby is one of these academics who writes in a scholarly but also interesting and engaging way.

Later this week, I'm going to take a 'cultural lunch break' and visit the Kimono: Osaka's Golden Age exhibition at the Immigration Museum (Melbourne).

Also thinking of enrolling in origami class too;-)