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Six degrees of separation, FROM Stasiland TO …

April 4, 2020

It’s April and finally the first starting book for 2020’s Six Degrees of Separation that I’ve read. If you are new to blogging and don’t know this meme and how it works, please check out meme host Kate’s blog – booksaremyfavouriteandbest.

Anna Funder's Stasiland bookcoverNow to April’s starting book, the critically acclaimed, multi-translated, award-winning nonfiction book by Australia’s Anna Funder Stasiland (my review). Have you read it? If you haven’t do consider it because it’s not the sort of book to go out of date.

Janette Turner Hospital, Orpheus lostStasiland tells the stories of Stasi officers and collaborators and of those who suffered at the hands of the Stasi in the then East Germany. Largely because of this book, Mr Gums and I made a point of going to Leipzig in 2013 and visiting the Stasi’s Runde Ecke headquarters there. Anyhow, in announcing this book, Kate described it as a “classic on tyranny and resistance”. There are so many books that can link from that, so I’ll be interested to see what my co-meme-players do. I’ve decided to choose a related aspect, surveillance, which was fundamental to the Stasi’s tyrannical practices, and link to Janette Turner Hospital’s Orpheus lost (my review).Book cover

From here, I could take a cheery turn and link on, music, say, or the classics, but I’m going to stick with serious themes. Orpheus lost is partly about how terrorism leads to fear, surveillance and the loss of freedoms. Hospital was interested, she said, in the trading of civil liberties for safety in the post-9/11 world. However, I don’t want to spend all this post on this issue, so I’m making a cheeky jump to David Brooks’ The grass library (my review). It’s an animal rights focused memoir in which one of the main “characters” is Orpheus the lamb!

Bidda Jones and Julian Davies, BacklashFrom here it’s a very simple jump to another animal rights book, this one about the live export business, Bidda Jones and Julian Davies’ Backlash: Australia’s conflict of values over live exports (my review). I remember that when he sent the book to me, co-author and publisher Julian Davies described it as the most important book they’d published.

Book coverSo, I’m going to stick now with Julian Davies, or, at least, with his publishing company Finlay Lloyd, and link to the latest book of theirs published, John Clanchy’s In whom we trust (my review). One of the commenters on my post – someone who knows the author – described it as “an origin story” for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. It is about child abuse, but is also about, as commenter David wrote, “the institutional tension between the Brother’s and Clergy power structure within the Church”. It’s a powerful, but deeply human read.

Rebecca Skloot, The immortal life of Henrietta LacksTrust, as Clanchy shows, is in short supply between powerful institutions and those who have no power and who, by rights, should be able to trust those who are not only able to but who morally should protect and support them. Rebecca Skloot had to work very hard to gain the trust of African-American Henrietta Lacks’ poverty-stricken family to write her scientific biography The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks (my review). This book is both a fascinating story of scientific discovery and a horrifying story of the abuse of people’s trust and, in fact, their rights.

Elliot Perlman, The street sweeperI am going to stay in America for last book, albeit the author is Australian, Elliot Perlman. The street sweeper (my review) is about many things, but the titular character is street sweeper Lamont Williams, an African-American, who has just started work as a janitor at a cancer hospital in a pilot program for ex-convicts. He is innocent of the crime that put him in jail but his colour and poverty meant he didn’t have a chance. This book which links the Holocaust to Civil Rights in America is fundamentally about moral responsibility – which, of course, is not what the Stasi practised at all!

I have stuck with politically charged books this month – and why not given the important role writers play in keeping us honest. So, I am going to conclude with Orwell from his essay, “Why I write”:

What I have most wanted to do throughout the past ten years is to make political writing into an art. My starting point is always a feeling of partisanship, a sense of injustice. When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art’. I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing. But I could not do the work of writing a book, or even a long magazine article, if it were not also an aesthetic experience.

PS I wrote and scheduled this before COVID-19 restrictions took hold internationally. I decided not to rethink my post in the light of that but to leave you with what initially inspired me! However, I’ll add that I wonder what writers will make of COVID-19. When will the first COVID-19 novel appear? From where and from whom will it come, and what will be the take?

Anyhow, now the usual: Have you read Stasiland? And, regardless, what would you link to? 

Rick Morton, One hundred years of dirt (#BookReview)

April 1, 2020

Book coverWay back in the early 1970s when I was an undergraduate university student, I did some sociology, and one of our set books was The myth of equality by Tom Roper. It, and the courses around it, have informed ever since my understanding of how our society operates. Morton’s book One hundred years of dirt would have been perfect recommended reading for these studies. At the end of his first chapter he says this:

the single experience of my sister’s road to this point detonates the argument that equality of opportunity is stitched into our nationhood.

One hundred years of dirt, in other words, is not a simple memoir, as it might initially appear, but is, rather, a cry to Australians to see that the ideas, the myths we hold dear, are just that, myths.

But now, back to the beginning. Rick Morton, a thirty-something journalist, grew up tough. Born on a remote outback cattle station to a family of violent men, he experienced more than his share of trauma. Besides the intergenerational violence, he saw, when he was 7 years old, his older brother nearly burn to death and then, while his mother was away with that brother in hospital, saw his father carry on an affair with the governess. Not surprisingly, this caused a family breakdown, resulting in his mother leaving with her three children and no financial support. Poverty was theirs from then on. Morton speaks eloquently of the struggle to make ends meet, making it clear that families like theirs have no time to consider issues of the day, like climate change, when even a mooted $7 Medicare co-payment “could be the difference between eating or not for a person on the poverty line.”

Time, in fact, is an interesting issue – and one that resonated with me, too, as a feminist. Time is a commodity and how we choose to spend it – or are able to spend it – is political. Like hours at the hairdresser for example. (I know I am treading on sensitive toes here, but so be it.) Anyhow, as Morton says, “only some people have the time” to be “woke”. Just “living for so many people in Australia is exhausting“.

So, on the surface, One hundred years of dirt could be seen as your standard misery memoir: Boy from poor and violent background struggles against the odds to make it good as a journalist and successful author, with the help of a loving mother. It is that, superficially, but it’s much more too.

There is a general chronological movement to the story. It starts in the present, when that point quoted above about “equality of opportunity” is made. It then flashes back to the family’s origins on huge cattle properties in southwest Queensland, focusing particularly on grandfather George Morton and his hard, violent ways. From here, Morton moves more or less chronologically through his life, but each chapter is framed around a theme, so the chronology is not exact. The chapters, in fact, could be read as individual essays on their specific topic, such as drug (ice) addiction, mental health, being gay, class, and otherness or outsiderness. For some readers – as some in my bookgroup found I think – this departure from a more typical narrative flow may make the book feel disjointed. However, for me, the clear heralding in the first chapter that One hundred years of dirt was about more than one life had me engaged and ready, perhaps, for anything!

That anything turned out to be a personal exploration of how inequality plays out in contemporary Australia, supported by smatterings of socioeconomic data. Morton is, after all, a journalist, and so he brings his journalistic nose for facts to bear on his and his family’s personal experiences. In doing so, he provides example after example of how out of touch the knowledge class or “commentariat” is with the lives of those at the bottom end of the income stream. He discusses, for example, unpaid internships and the incomprehension that there are people who just can’t afford to take advantage of them. Journalism, which is rife with unpaid internships as a pathway in, has become one of “the most exclusive middle-class professions of the 21st century”. Morton describes the complete ignorance many in the middle-class have about their privilege:

There are those who have had the good fortune to never have felt other than the silkiness of privilege, their bubbles so perfect they cannot feel the gravel underneath.

He also writes:

As a nation, we have convinced ourselves that all of us has the same standing start, but this is neither true for the working class whites from broken families nor for those with black or brown skin. It’s not true for those without a proper education nor for those who were abused.

However, this book is not just bitter medicine. It has a spoonful of sugar. There are some genuinely funny moments – some of them black of course – and there are Morton’s wonderful turns of phrase which illustrate his meaning beautifully. He talks, for example, about working in a workplace surrounded by colleagues from “moderately wealthy and upper class families”:

… my colleagues [whom he did see as “dear friends”] could not fathom the life I had led. There were frequent attempts at empathy but it sounded a lot like people who were reading pre-prepared lines. Imagine a fish turning up to discover her psychologist is a Very Concerned sea eagle.

Love the fish analogy, but ouch, really, ouch! I feel I have a good understanding of inequality of opportunity and the ways in which it underpins disadvantage in Australia, but finding the right language in face-to-face encounters is not easy.

I have probably made this book sound like a sociological thesis or polemic. There is that, but it is still, at heart, a memoir. It’s simply that I have focused on what I see as the book’s main message. However, this message is wrapped up in a story about human beings, and particularly about Rick and his dearly loved mother Deb. He describes her as “the hero of this piece”, the mother who

sees boy as special, tells him he was sent here from that big night sky by beings unknown to report back on what he sees. She invented the aliens because she couldn’t see herself as the protagonist. She outsourced the explanation for her own success as a mother to the aliens out there.

Lovely Deb; thoughtful, provocative Rick. This is a powerful read.

Rick Morton
One hundred years of dirt
Carlton: Melbourne University Press, 2018
191pp.
ISBN: 9780522873153

Monday musings on Australian literature: Authors respond to COVID-19

March 30, 2020
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In last week’s Monday Musings I wrote more generally about COVID-19 and its impact on the Arts. Like that post, this one is not aiming to be a formal comprehensive one either; news and ideas are coming far too quickly. And, anyhow, as I also said last week, most if not all of you are well enough connected to be receiving news and notifications yourselves. You just need to be social-media-connected in some way to your favourite arts organisation, bookshops, publishers, and so on, to see a whole range of ideas and initiatives popping up to keep authors in our field of view.

To give just one example of what formal or organised culture is doing, the National Library of Australia held its first Digital Book Launch on 27 March, featuring our lovely local author Karen Viggers in conversation with Felicity Volk to launch Volk’s new book Desire lines.

The NLA is not, of course, the only organisation finding ways of keeping culture alive. From social media, I see that digital launches, in particular, using a variety of platforms, are quickly becoming popular.

However, what I want to do today is something a bit different, which is share three recent social media posts by individual authors, in which they respond – in their own way – to COVID-19. They are different authors at different stages in their lives and careers, so their response and/or needs are also different. Oh, and it’s coincidental that they are all women writers.

Sara Dowse has appeared in my blog several times, including a reference to her memoir piece about the time she spent as a child with Ava Gardner, which was included in The invisible thread anthology. Since 15 March, she has been daily posting on Facebook an excerpt from her unpublished memoir. She figures she’s never going to bring it to publication, so why not share it for people to read now, when so many of us are at home. Dowse is a thoughtful and intelligent writer, so having access to this is quite a treat for us, I’d say. At the end of the first except, the American-born Dowse introduces her memoir by pondering her complicated family background and falling in love with an Australian:

Was my infatuation an escape from this? It’s frightening to admit that it might have been so, just as it is to contemplate that escaping from difficult situations I hadn’t the sense not to get into in the first place was to become an indelible facet of my nature. An admirable capacity for survival, or a shameful weakness? Perhaps it’s the Hollywood influence that makes me think that you can shift the meaning of almost any story simply by changing the angle of the lens.”

Sulari Gentill, A fete right thinking men

Those who know me will know that I love this idea that you can shift the meaning of stories by changing the perspective.

Sulari Gentill, the historical crime fiction writer who lives in a rural area only a couple of hours from where I live, made me laugh with her homeschooling Instagram post. There was picture of her 14-year-old son reading her novel A few right thinking men. Her caption starts with:

Homeschooling … I’ve decided to cover English and History by making Atticus read my books. It may be the only time I have this power … And it means I can actually discuss both the literary and historical aspects of the novel with him sensibly, as well as be assured that his critiques will be robust (though perhaps a little blunt). It’s not exactly on the curriculum but we can deal with that later …

I loved this so much. You go Sulari! (I have written about a Canberra Writers Festival panel including Gentill, here.)

Debut crime author Karina Kilmore wrote (and tweeted) a blog post on the Sisters in Crime site. Her post is titled “Writing in the times of corona”. She talks about having her book tour and promotion activities cancelled. She talks of why she writes, which is to share her stories, but then ponders

But the reality for me as a writer has never seemed more stark. Those dystopian novels, those science fiction scenarios, those terrible crimes by people in desperate situations are no longer pure works of fiction. We have all seen the footage of people fighting each other in supermarkets, hoarders taking more than their fair share and people risking other peoples’ lives by not following the restrictions. This type of realistic crime makes writing my second novel harder.

She also says that while cancelling her book tour was the right decision, the impact is to “somehow” make her doubt herself. You can feel her uncertainty and pain.

(Kilmore’s book, Where the truth lies, is published by Simon and Schuster. It was shortlisted for the Unpublished Manuscript Award in the 2017 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards.)

I hope you’ve enjoyed these little snippets.

Meanwhile, as I wrote last week, take care and be safe my blog friends.

Do you have any interesting author stories to share?

Living under COVID-19 (1)

March 28, 2020
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This may be the first of a regular, irregular or occasional series of posts about living under COVID-19 , probably occasional because I suspect that, once we settle in for however long it’s going to be, life will become same-same.

Like many bloggers – see Nancy in the Netherlands’ post, and Stargazer in London who said so on my blog – I am finding it hard to settle to reading and reviewing. I have one review half-written and another book read and not reviewed. They will be done, though – and next week, I hope.

Meanwhile, I thought I’d report on what the Gums have been doing.

People Stuff

Coincidentally with, but unrelated to, the start of the COVID-19 problem here in Australia, it became apparent that we would need to rejig my parents’ at-home care package to support their being able to continue to stay in their retirement village home. Using a division-of-labour approach Brother Gums took on negotiation of that care with Mr Gums and I doing the logistics needed to make that care work – all of course in close consultation with our nonagenarian parents who, while needing physical help, are perfectly able to discuss and articulate their needs. Indeed they will probably read this post, Father Gums having noted that my posts have been few lately! Anyhow, all this has made staying-at-home nigh impossible, but we’ve done our best to obey the spirit of the law. Things should be in place next week enabling us all to settle into more normal isolated living!

I just need to add here that Brother Gums has been an absolute Trojan, and we couldn’t have done it without him. Thanks Ian.

Otherwise, we have been keeping in touch with family, friends, neighbours and groups – including setting up new social messaging groups with neighbours and my reading group, and using existing ones with family.

Political stuff

I don’t like to engage much with politics here, as I am not keen to attract trolling or disrespectful commentary. I would just like to put on record that I am disappointed by our political leaders’ (on both sides) inability to be clear in their messaging. It’s impossible, I believe, to be completely consistent – unless, perhaps, you live in an autocratic, black-and-white world – but it is possible to be clear about your vision and priorities. This is exactly what, for example, I understand the Germans are being. Mr Gums, who watches the German news, translated for me that government’s very clear statement of priorities, and it is essentially this: 1. Get health care working well; 2. Look after the well-being of the people; 3. Consider the economy. Whether or not they achieve it, I like the aspiration!

Here is our Australian comedian Sammy J (who also appeared in my last Monday Musings) on the messaging we recently received in Oz:

Exercise Stuff

Social distance walking

We all know that exercise is important to our physical and mental health, but achieving that under these restrictions is difficult. My lovely little yoga class has had to suspend, and our Tai Chi venue was closed. However, Tai Chi can be done outside. So, on the understanding that the government’s rules allow outdoor physical training for groups of 10, with the proper spacing maintained, we have attended three outdoor Tai Chi classes in a public space (to the interest and amusement of occasional passers-by.) I’m not sure how long that can, or should, continue.

Otherwise, I, with Brother Gums and/or Mr Gums, have done a couple of walks in the section of the Canberra Nature Park across the road from our place, and I have continued my almost-daily at-home yoga practice.

Books and other cultural stuff

As I said, there’s not been much happening in this sphere, but what I have read will appear on the blog hopefully soon. Most of my TV watching has been news and current affairs to keep track of COVID-19 and what we need to know and do, with some light entertainment like Hard Quiz and Doc Martin thrown in.

However, with Ma Gums staying with us for the last week or so while the new care package is put in place, there have also been some Scrabble games, which I’d call cultural, wouldn’t you?

Next

As for how we plan to spend our social-isolation time from now on, well, we have tasks galore, including gardening, digital photo cataloguing, decluttering – as well as, of course, virtual socialising, more reading and listening to/watching favourite and back-logged shows, and doing what we can to support and loved businesses which are still operating (such as bookstores and cafes doing online orders and takeaway food.)

Monday musings on Australian literature (and the arts): COVID-19

March 23, 2020
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I don’t know about you, but I’m finding it hard to settle to read, let alone write thoughtful reviews right now. (I’m sitting on one at the moment that I really want to do justice to, but my brain is all over the place.) Consequently, I’m going to just write a COVID-19 Monday Musings – and try to keep it simple, and focused on the things most important to us, that is, books and the arts.

A couple of days ago, The Saturday Paper (paywalled except for one free article a month) published an article by award-winning essayist Alison Croggon on “COVID-19 and the arts“. In it she discusses the impact on the arts, particularly on small companies and independent artists in the greatest jeopardy, of COVID-19 containment measures. These measures have certainly affected me with various cancellations, including our beloved National Folk Festival. Mr Gums and I count ourselves lucky to have managed to see the Australian Ballet’s last performance of the season of “Volt”, before Melbourne Arts Centre was closed down.

Anyhow, Croggon writes that:

As always, the brunt is being borne by thousands of small companies and independent artists and ancillary workers – publicists, stage managers, technical staff, ushers, caterers and others. Many are in desperate situations, exacerbated by the fact that their major sources of alternative income – teaching, casual work in the hospitality industry and so on – have also dried up.

She shares the experiences of a musician and a theatre designer to put flesh on the facts. And it’s pretty withered looking flesh. One talks of having all those jobs carefully cobbled together to create a living income disappear in one go. It’s important, therefore, that governmental assistance package/s include support for freelancers and independent arts workers, because they are critical to the survival of the industry as a whole.

Meanwhile, “freelancers are calling for institutions to pay out cancelled commissions” but not much of that is apparently happening. I certainly think that those of us who can should do this, and/or not ask for refunds for cancelled events. I figure that I’ve spent the money anyhow. However, I appreciate that life will become more tenuous for some people and that money recouped (or not spent) will make a difference to their surviving this period. All I can say is that each of us needs to do what we can but to not judge what others do – unless we’ve walked the proverbial month in their moccasins!

For up-to-date information on COVID-19 and the arts, the Australia Council for the Arts has a web-page and the Australian Government’s Office of the Arts also has a COVID-19 Update page.

Bookish stuff, in particular

I can’t even begin, really, to offer suggestions about this because ideas and opportunities to maintain our literary culture are coming thick and fast, ranging from ways to keep buying books and supporting our bookstores to potential livestreaming of literary events (like the Yarra Valley Writers Festival). It’s impossible to keep up and, anyhow, I suspect that those of you reading this blog are well enough connected to be receiving news and notifications yourselves. We can’t catch it all, but we can catch enough to keep us well engaged.

My reading group, which was to have met at my place next week, is setting up a WhatsApp group to try out virtual book discussion. There may be better apps, but as this one is known to many of the group already, it’s where we are starting. Within minutes of the group being set up, 8 of the 12 of us had joined, which is a measure, I think, of how much we value each other and our book discussion.

Many bloggers have written COVID-19 posts, including Lisa (ANZLitLovers) with three posts to date, Bill’s (The Australian Legend) more personal one, and Welsh blogger Paula’s “Coronatome” version of her Winding up the Week posts in which she provides a bumper crop of reading, including one of Lisa’s posts and a Books + Publishing article about the expansion of Australian Reading Hour.

Albert Camus, The plagueBooks have been written over the years about epidemics/pandemics/contagions, including our own Geraldine Brooks’ Year of wonders. This is historical fiction inspired by the Derbyshire village of Eyam which, when struck by the plague in 1666, quarantined itself to prevent the spread of disease. An interesting read in the light of what’s happening now. But, my favourite of them all is Albert Camus’ The plague (which I’ve read a few times, including since blogging, so here’s my review!) Camus explores the three main responses to plague – rebel, escape and accept – through the actions of his various characters. Rebelling, of the right sort, is his preferred approach. Read it if you haven’t already! In the end though, whatever happens, I’m hoping that what the lovely Dr Rieux says proves true with our COVID-19 experience:

… what we learn in a time of pestilence: that there are more things to admire in men than to despise.

Finally, if you are finding it difficult to cope with the stresses of the current situation, there’s always Up Lit (check my post from 2018 to get you started.) Seriously, though, many jurisdictions have their helplines, including, in Australia, Lifeline (13 11 14). Do call the one most appropriate to you if you find the impact of isolation or just overall worry about COVID-19 starting to seriously affect your mental health. It’s not easy right now, and we all want to come out healthy and ready to go on the other side.

Take care and be safe my blog friends.

World Poetry Day 2020

March 21, 2020

I have written two World Poetry Day posts before, in 2016 and 2018, so why not again in 2020, particularly given, more than any year, we are probably in need of hearing what poets have to say – of being soothed, inspired, entertained, or yes, even admonished by them.

Awarnessdays.com says of World Poetry Day:

Poetry reaffirms our common humanity by revealing to us that individuals, everywhere in the world, share the same questions and feelings. Poetry is the mainstay of oral tradition and, over centuries, can communicate the innermost values of diverse cultures.

In celebrating World Poetry Day, March 21, UNESCO recognizes the unique ability of poetry to capture the creative spirit of the human mind.

They explain that the day was adopted by UNESCO in 1999, and that one of its main objectives is “To support linguistic diversity through poetic expression and to offer endangered languages the opportunity to be heard within their communities.” Observing the day is, they say, also “meant to encourage a return to the oral tradition of poetry recitals, to promote the teaching of poetry, to restore a dialogue between poetry and the other arts such as theatre, dance, music and painting, and to support small publishers and create an attractive image of poetry in the media”. Wonderful goals, all.

UK’s Global Dimension website provides ideas for recognising the day, including, of course, “organising readings of poems from different cultures, including from pupils’ own cultures.” Well, that’s not going to happen now, in the UK or anywhere, is it, with COVID-19 and the cancellation of public events. However, the page points us to the Wikipedia Poetry page as a good starting point for investigating different forms of poetry. They also, and this is just what we need, provide a link to a site called Poetry Station which offers “poems to view on video”. It was established after the English & Media Centre (EMC) was awarded in 2009 a small Arts Council of England grant for a pilot project to create “a freely accessible web-based video channel and portal for poetry”.

What a lovely aspirational site it is – and, it is also available as an app, simply called Poetry Station. For each poem, as well as the videoed performance, there is a link to information about the poet (often from Wikipedia), to suggested activities (for educators) and also a list of related poems which, of course, are linked to performance of this poems. The site also lists the poets, titles and topics for the poems on the site.

And in Australia?

A Google search brings up various cancelled events in Australia, run by organisations like the Geelong Library and Heritage Centre and Gosford Library. As in previous years there are also non-poetry reading activities being promoted or run. Golden Carers has a page of activities on their website (as I also noted in my 2018 post), and Reading Australia, which regularly support the day, is running a World Poetry Day competition for primary and secondary students and teachers, with the support of Red Room Poetry. (I’ve mentioned both organisations here before).

For those interested in Australian poetry, there are many sites and sources of information – many that I’ve mentioned here over the years – but for today, I’m sharing a list of Australian poetry books from the National Library of Australia bookshop.

Finally, not specifically created for World Poetry Day, but unfortunately applicable, is Australian comedian Sammy J’s recent offering, “The ballad of the dunny roll”, which riffs off the classic Australian balladeer Banjo Paterson. I think both Aussies and non-Aussies will appreciate this:

Leonard Cohen, 2009

Leonard Cohen, Bowral, January 2009

I’d love to hear about any poetry you like, or your favourite poets.

Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with what seems a very appropriate line, from Leonard Cohen’s “Dance me to the end of love” (available at the Poetry Station.)

Dance me through the panic till I’m gathered safely in.

Keep safe everyone.

Monday musings on Australian literature: Autumn Book Binge 2020

March 16, 2020

A big thanks to Lisa (ANZLitLovers) whose post on the Autumn Book Binge brought it to my attention. I knew immediately that I had to post on it – albeit with a little change, as you will see.

The Autumn Book Binge (love the wordplay on “bingo”) is being run by the State Library of Victoria. It involves reading (or listening to) a book of your choice for each of the categories on the bingo (oops, binge) card. What a great idea for this autumn (or, northern spring) given COVID-19 and the consequent encouragement for us all to social distance – no punishment for readers!

The Binge is explained here. Victorians can pick up a Challenge Card from participating libraries, while anyone can download it here. The formal “game” runs over our downunder autumn, that is, from 1 March to 31 May 2020.

As Lisa has done in her post (linked in my opening sentence), I am going to list the categories with suggestions from books I have read (with links to my reviews on the titles). I’m limiting myself to five options for each. Here goes …

Set in the ACT

This is where I’ve made my change. This Book Binge is a Victorian challenge, so its category is “set in Victoria”. To play the game to win the prizes, you need to choose a Victorian-set book, but you must be Victorian-based to win. If you’re not, I suggest you make this box your own jurisdiction. (Sorry Victoria!)

Recent releases (published in the last 12 months, more or less!)

I’m nominating only Australian writers because they need all the airing they can get:

Other lives (biography about someone who inspires you)

In translation

Fact to fiction (fiction based on true stories)

Sawako Ariyoshi, The doctor's wifeAs with translation above, I have aimed here to traverse the globe.

Book to screen

  • Jane Austen, Emma, PenguinJane Austen’s Emma (my posts, one, two and three): this category could be filled with Austens but I’ve just chosen Emma because it’s the most recent adaptation I’ve seen.
  • Alan Bennett’s The lady in the van: adapted beautifully with Maggie Smith in the title role
  • EM Forster’s Howard’s End: adapted to film in 1992 and a more recent television miniseries in 2017
  • Pierre Lemaitre’s The great swindle: English film title, See you up there
  • Madeleine St John’s The women in black: filmed as The ladies in black

Beastly titles (with animals in the title)

Other worlds (set in an alternate world to your own)

Jamil Ahmad Wandering falcon coverI think I can interpreted this to mean anything not my contemporary Australia, so I’ve chosen a wide variety of worlds, from the mythical past to dystopian futures.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers

Ali Cobby Eckermann, Ruby Moonlight

I’ve focused on fiction for this list, but click here for all my posts on Indigenous Australian literature.

And there you have the nine categories, with selected recommendations from me. (Not all are Australian, but this is an Australian library’s initiative, qualifying it for Monday Musings!) You can take part in the discussion, whether or not you are Victorian, but if you do, please use the hashtag #AutumnBookBinge.

Will you take part in any way?