Friday, December 31, 2010

A cooling PSF.

"Is Frosty playing in the fifth Test?"

Given it's stinking hot here in St Petersburg-on-the-Yarra, I thought I'd post a very cold Poetry Slam Friday.

You might want to skip over this one, EMS.

Next year, comrades!

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.


Kettle said...

Is that Frost? Very nice, whether or no.

It's stinking hot here too; very un-frost (or un-Frost, as the case may be). We're just back from the beach. Somehow I don't think Robert Frost ever went to the beach, do you?

Kettle said...

"Is Frosty playing in the fifth Test?"

Ha ha! Why I should always read the captions first.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Well spotted Kettle.

Glad you liked it.

Kettle said...

How are you dealing with the heat, Ramon, apart from reading snow-related poetry?

eat my shorts said...

That's one of my favourites. I couldn't skip over it if I tried.

Merry New Year to youse all - we're still a few hours away from 2011 in London, but hope you all had a good one.

Kettle said...

Hey Ramon, you see this about Rudd?

Melba said...

Interesting article Kettle.



wari lasi said...

We're just back from the Sunshine Coast after Christmas in Bowral with my Dad. When the plane landed at Maroochydore (only just, nearly a go round) Emma said, "If this is the Sunshine Coast, where's the sunshine?"

From the mouths of babes.

Happy 2011 TSFKAers!

wari lasi said...

And how come I can't see the recent comments on the main page any more?

Kettle said...

Yeah, the article was a bit of a surprise to me, Melba, because I haven't been letting myself be hopeful about Ruddy. I can't figure out, though, whether the crowd responded so enthusiastically to him because it's easy to cheer for the underdog/former Prime Minister, or whether there is genuine support for him.

Who knows? Maybe he'll be back in the top job.

And Wari, I had the same thing with the comments disappearing from the main page too. They're back now, though, so maybe they're just waiting for you back at home. Happy NY!

eat my shorts said...

Ooooh, guess what youse guys. I just booked my ticket back home.

No more London fog for me (in sixteen days, but who is counting?)!

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Kettle, I've been coping by reading books about very cold things and drinking lots of very cold beer.

wari lasi said...

I still can't see them on the main page!

Is it me?

Kettle said...

Wari they've gone again for me too. I can only guess they got back from visiting the relos in Dubbo then headed off to the South Coast, which is where they are now. If they're not back by the time school begins we should start to worry.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

The comments on the front page have gone for me as well.

If I knew how to fix it I would, but I don't so I can't.

And I haven't posted recently because I've been watching the cricket.

So there.

wari lasi said...

Kettle, what a great excuse. There's a career for you in software! Or least in making excuses for why it isn't working.

Ramon, the cricket is so bloody depressing. But I'll watch too, can't help it.

Kettle said...

Ha ha, Wari. Today software public relations, tomorrow ... real estate ads! By the end of the year I might even be able to make a Coalition MP sound reasonable.

You know, if you cricket lovers are getting depressed watching the cricket, you could always spend an hour or so putting a blog post together for us here. We'd definitely make an appreciative audience (since we're too depressed to watch the cricket too).

Kettle said...

Sorry to keep posting comments; I suspect I'm the only person not away on a luxurious holiday somewhere.

A question, then, to all those still here in blog land.

I'm putting together a list of good Australian novels, contemporary or ye olde worlde. Any suggestions, either to read or avoid?

Ramon Insertnamehere said...


So much for the cricket then.


Oh and Kettle - Oscar and Lucinda is best avoided.

Melba said...

I'm here, certainly not anywhere luxurious.

Good Australian novels? Hmm, sad I have to pause to think. Do you mean specifically set in Australia and written by Australian writers or can they be set elsewhere?

I'd second Ramon about Oscar and Lucinda. From memory, though, I liked Illywhacker. Wouldn't class it as great though.

And I would avoid the Slap like the plague. Unless you like characters who are incredibly unsympathetic and soap opera'ish, writing devoid of any beauty. But I LOVED Dead Europe, by Tsiolkas as well but not set here...

Melba said...

PS I remember loving Eucalyptus by Murray Bail. Very Orstralian.

Kettle said...

Thanks Melbs, Ramon. I will avoid Oscar and Luc like the plague. I remember reading about Eucalyptus when it was released but haven't actually read it yet; will do so.

I know what you mean about having to pause to think about good Australian novels, Melba, I've done that too (which is why I'm asking about them here). The lists I found on the internet included such crap titles as Seven Little Australians and A. B. Facey's A Fortunate Life (my grandparents gave me the abridged version of the latter for my 25th birthday; why?).

What about The Zookeeper's War by Steven Conte? Anyone read that? said...

Happy newish year all.

Much as I hesitate to do this in front of TSFKA's literary luminaries...

Steve Toltz, 'A Fraction of the Whole'
Elliott Perlman, 'Seven Types of Ambiguity' and 'Three Dollars'
Andrew Masterson's stuff is pretty old but not bad
Andrew McGahan writes some OK things but needs a much better proof-reader
You may scoff but Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts had me at 'each breath was an angry little victory' and just ignore the screenplay-ish crap
DBC Pierre, 'Vernon God Little' and his second one, Ludmila something
Richard Flanagan 'The Sound of One Hand Clapping' and 'The Unknown Terrorist'

And now I'm desperately trying to think of female Aussie writers but none are coming to mind right now except Kate Holden and I'm not sure if 'In My Skin' counts more as memoir more than novel, plus I haven't read her latest...

Avoid: Tim Winton (although I haven't read anything of his since school so maybe I should try again)

Ummmm may get back to you with more. And no, haven't read 'The Zookeeper's War'.

Lewd Bob said...

Well I like Peter Carey. Oscar and Lucinda I enjoyed immensely. And various others. Including the Kelly Gang one.

Patrick White is good, Voss I recommend. Malouf is ok. And I don't mind Winton but he says 'dunny' too often.

Melba said...

Tim Winton: I have never finished a novel of his UNTIL Breath. I would recommend it, it's good.

I remember not minding Vernon God Little, stalled 1/3 way through Shantaram, Three Dollars and Seven Types of Ambiguity - read both, both were ok but I thought we were talking about great novels here.

Kate Holden In My Skin DOES NOT COUNT and while it's readable, it's not great. It's just another one of those books...

I would have to say the two contemporary authors who are more than good are Peter Carey (the Kelly book IS excellent) and Tim Winton. I would also like to include Helen Garner, even though her recent stuff tends to the non-fiction (it's good), I have enjoyed every one of her novels and short stories.

[brace for anti-Garner rhetoric]

So Kettle, did you mean Aus writers and story with Aus setting or not? Because I would recommend Nam Le and Christos Tsiolkas as well. BUT NOT THE SLAP.

Recently I read Rocks in the Belly by Jon Bauer but he's a pom immigrant and I don't think it's set in Aus. but he writes well. Also I read Bereft by Chris Womersley - I liked that one. Bush setting, very Aus and nicely written.

Kettle said...

That's great, c.t.m, a stack of names I had completely forgotten about, especially Steve Toltz. And Richard Flanagan, he's actually one of my favourite Australian authors. I thoroughly enjoyed his Gould's Book of Fish (I have a thing about fish) but thought it could have benefited from a significant edit.

You know, I actually struggled with The Unknown Terrorist and have just given away my copy without finishing it. I mainly struggled with its Sydney setting; I just couldn't reconcile its portrayal of the city with my experience of it. I know that's dumb; I don't know what it's like to actually live in London or Paris, say, so I blindly love A Tale of Two Cities without whingeing about its portrayal of these places, but set a book in the city I live in and I'm all red pen and disbelief.

DBC Pierre: great suggestion, I didn't even realise he was Australian.

Tim Winton does inspire love and hate, doesn't he? I really enjoyed Dirt Music but hated The Riders. I think The Riders is the Very Worst Book (Australian or otherwise) of All Time. Would anyone agree (or disagree)?

I did like Breath very much too, Melba, but found the whole suffocation during sex thing strangely underwhelming? I generally like Winton's style, though, once you overlook all those dunnies.

Peter Carey seems to inspire the same love/hate divide as Winton. True History of the Kelly Gang is one of my top five books of all time. Each time I read it I underline more. Bloody good stuff. I've really struggled with Oscar and Lucinda, though, and not finished it despite starting at least three times. I also struggled with My Life as a Fake but flew through Parrot and Olivier; it could be me, this on again/off again thing, rather than Carey.

Melba your distinction between Australian novels being set in Australia and/or written by 'Australians' is a good one, and not one I'd thought of. I'd be interested to hear any recommendations people have for novels about/set in Australia written by people not born in Australia - cheers (thanks for Nam Le, Melba) .

Speaking of great women writers (like Garner), what about Kate Grenville? I'm ashamed to find how few books by Australian women writers I have on my bookshelves. I do have an illustrated edition of Jeannie Gunn's We of the Never-Never but I really don't think that counts (it's right there next to my abridged A Fortunate Life...).

So Melba, why are you bracing for Garner criticism? Has she been panned here before? And if so, for her writing or her position on things?

Kettle said...
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Kettle said...
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Kettle said...
This comment has been removed by the author. said...

Take it easy Melba - Kettle said good, not great, novels, plus I did state I was hesitant!

Anyway. Helen Garner came to mind after I logged off. It's kinda sad no (or so few) notable Australian female fiction writers pop easily into our heads, I think.

Oh, how about Janette Turner Hospital? Lily Brett? Wikipedia (I know, I know) recommends Colleen McCullough (not something I agree with, for the record). Nikki Gemmell? (although I hear everything she's written in her terrible speaking voice, learned from when she used to be a Triple J newsreader.) Sonya Hartnett? Elizabeth Jolley? Ruth Park (yeah I know she was born in NZ)?

And Kettle, don't worry about struggling with 'The Unknown Terrorist' - each to their own!

And, whatever you do, avoid Kathy Lette unless you'd like to feel you have to rip out your eyeballs and somehow cleanse your brain after being subjected to her appalling books...

Mad Cat Lady said...

Definately not a great australian novels - but fun

Kerry Greenwood's detective novels set in and around Melbourne. Was reviewed on First Tuesday Book Club and Marekie Hardy (sorry spelling - have forgotten how to spell her name) said it was very very silly and much like a famous five novel. She said she enjoyed reading it and would never read another one. I like her baker series better than the Phryne Fisher ones.

The Little Sisters' detective novels are thoroughly delightful - Constance and Gwenyth Little -

Kim Wilkins -
Actually I've only read one of hers - a horror-type-witchcraft kind of book set around Brisbane - it was good, but I only really like light, funny books.

Nick Earls Zig Zag Street

Melba said...

I second the motion to avoid Kathy Lette, she is a horrible horrible writer. Well, it's not the writing maybe, it's the yumour. Fucking awful and so very smart and smug. Hate her. BUT Puberty Blues is a must-read for any person living in this country.

Sorry CTM about my vehemence, I didn't mean anything personal. It's just me.

I love Lily Brett, but she's very autobiographical (not that there's anything wrong with that really.)

I have lots of Elizabeth Jolley books, she's a good one I believe, but I've never read her.

Gemmell? NO.

Sonya Hartnet? She's quite good, but there's something about her mixing genres that makes me suspect.

I think Eva Hornung (Dog Boy) is Australian. It's a ripping novel but I've never read anything else of hers. She also has published under Eva Salis??

And Kettle, to answer your question about Garner. I may have encountered anti-Garner stuff here but certainly in the wider world she is someone who polarises (it goes back to the First Stone, she will never shake off the humdinger of a response to that) and most people in the last ten years who I've mentioned her to have been negative. I don't accept it. I think she's a terrific writer, always have. She is pretty raw and honest and gutsy. I like that. She's not a show pony.

Mad Cat Lady said...

Puberty Blues was educational for me, but totally agree with Melba's description of her books.

Caiseal Mór is lovely if you like irish stories.

Anonymous said...

No luxurious holiday for me, Kettle. I've just been having trouble with my phone and internet provider for the last few weeks. There's probably a lesson there about having all your services tied up in a bundle, I suppose. I'm just hoping I get everything back in time to check out Bob's music mix thing. Still relying on the generosity of others at the moment.

Anyway, merry Christmas and New Year and whatnot, everybody.

It's kinda sad no (or so few) notable Australian female fiction writers pop easily into our heads,

It's a long way from a novel, I know, but I can't help but mention the comic series Platinum Grit*. It's one of my favourite works of fiction, has an Aussie setting and is written and illustrated by our own Trudy Cooper. Can't get much more dinky-die than that.

*Comics require Adobe's Shockwave browser extension to read.

Kettle said...

Thanks for all the suggestions, everyone; they make a fine list. I'm going to start with Nam Le's The Boat, then move onto some Sonya Hartnett books.

And thanks, Alex, for the link to Platinum Grit, and MCL your suggestion about Nick Earls.

Thanks, finally, for the heads up about Kathy Lette and Nikki Gemmell, they're definitely off the list (my GOD Nikki Gemmell has the most annoying speaking voice of all time; not that that's got anything to do with her writing, but you know).

squib said...

Kettle, I left a huge long comment here about books and about my non-luxurious holiday but it's gone

and it was really excellent too

Anonymous said...

Kettle, if you do check out Grit and find it isn't immediately to your liking, be aware that it gets way, way better in chapter six. And then again in chapter twelve. It's just the way the story's structured.

eat my shorts said...

Oooh, books. Now we're talking. Screw the bloody cricket.

Here's what I reckon (and I don't care if some of this stuff isn't very fancy or whatnot, you'll get what you're given).

Oscar and Lucinda: Had to study it 1st year uni. Know I read the thing, but can't remember a jot of it. Don't know if it's because it's a bad read or if it's because I was a fresher at uni and much of that year is hazy.

Andrew McGahan writes some OK things but needs a much better proof-reader. Amen to that (regarding the proof-reading bit, I don't remember enjoying his writing to be honest).

The Sound of One Hand Clapping: Loved it. Thought I'd hate it because of all the hype surrounding it, but loved it.

The only Tim Winton stuff I've read is when I've had to teach it to teenagers, and those would be the Lockie Leonard books. They're ok for kids books, quite funny. I started Cloudstreet but never finished it. I can't remember why. I think I was enjoying it at the time though, so I'll have to try again when I get home.

The True History of the Kelly Gang: I thought this was good, but like Oscar and Lucinda, I know I've read the thing, but nothing especially stands out about it to me.

Patrick White, A Fringe of Leaves: I remember finding this quite hard going at first for some reason, and then I got into it a bit more. Haven't read any more Patrick White though. I have a feeling he's a tough contender (or I'm just not smart enough).

I have read a few of Kate Grenville's novels (and I'm actually saving The Lieutenant for the plane trip home - 8 DAYS! - if you've read it and it's shit, don't tell me). I read Dreamhouse for uni and thought it was ok and I read The Secret River a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it.

No idea if you want to include junior/young adult fiction, but I've taught a book called The Silver Donkey by Sonya Hartnett, which again, although is aimed at children, is a very good read. I'm hoping I'll get to teach it again soon. Another book I've taught is Hitler's Daughter by Jackie French, and again, enjoyable even if it is a children's book. For young adult readers, Melina Marchetta is quite good (Looking for Alibrandi is the obvious choice, but Saving Francesca is ok as well, not as good as Alibrandi though).

I quite liked Thea Astley's It's Raining in Mango when I read it as a 2nd year uni student. I do remember having to read Barbara Baynton's Bush Studies when I was at uni as well, I don't know that I would classify it as great, but she had a pretty interesting life. As we were in Tasmania, we also read some of Nan Chauncey's work.

I remember first reading Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay and absolutely adoring it. I can't remember how many times I've re-read that one. Lots and lots.

I thought that The Morality of Gentlemen by Amanda Lohrey was interesting in the end, but it took me two attempts to actually finish it.

And I read my sister's copy of My Place by Sally Morgan after she finished studying it in Year 12 and pretty much cried throughout it.

Erm. That's all I've got for now. But I like very much the idea of a project of reading some decent Australian fiction - and especially hunting down some good Australian female writers to read. Any chance of sharing the list you came up with?

eat my shorts said...
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eat my shorts said...

Ooopsie. Sorry. Blogger told me my comment was too long, but posted it anyway.

Kettle said...

Thank you, thank you EMS and Alex for all your book/Platinum Grip chapter suggestions, and apologies for the tardiness of my reply.

Any chance of sharing the list you came up with?

Just whizzing off for a week at the coast but will collate all the suggestions from here and elsewhere on my return. Cheers, and thanks again for all your suggestions, EMS.

eat my shorts said...

Just whizzing off for a week at the coast but will collate all the suggestions from here and elsewhere on my return. Cheers, and thanks again for all your suggestions, EMS.

No probs, Kettle. I'll look forward to the list later on, it'll come in handy now that I'll be back living with my parents for a few months.

I plan on acting like a moody teenager and spending a lot of time in my room reading and listening to music too loudly.