I squeezed in at the last moment! What, you ask, did I squeeze into? Well, the Humbook Christmas Gift exchange. This is a virtual gift exchange that Guy Savage (of His Futile Preoccupations) and Emma (of Book Around The Corner) did last year. They enjoyed it so much they decided to invite their blogging friends join in this year. And so, I did – with thanks to Lisa of ANZLitLovers who tweeted the suggestion that I pair with Stu of Winston’s Dad. I jumped at the chance – with the secret hope that Stu might “gift” me a couple of translated books. Fortunately for me, Stu was happy to be my copinaute …
… and so here I am, on Christmas Day, sending Stu my gift. But, shh … he’s probably still asleep over there on the other side of the world. Please don’t tell him what I’ve got him. I want it to be a surprise.
Is this making sense? No? Well, the idea is that I choose two books that I think Stu will like and post it here on my blog. Stu will do the same for me (when he gets up!*). My job then is to find copies of the books Stu has chosen for me, read them, and review them. But, as Emma and Guy reassure us, there’s no Humbook Police out there making us read the chosen books. It’s up to us … just like it is with any Christmas book we receive.
So, what did I choose for Stu? I didn’t of course want to select something he’d read so I checked his blog and it seems he’s read two Australian novels, since he started blogging anyhow, Christos Tsiolkas‘ The slap and Tim Winton‘s Breath. I thought it might be interesting to choose an older book and a recent one, and I wanted to choose one written by a woman and one by a man. Now, because I don’t want to keep poor Stu waiting any longer, here are my two “gifts” for him:
- Joan London‘s Gilgamesh: This book, published in 2001, won The Age Book of the Year Award and was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award. I’ve recommended it to a few non-Aussies and they’ve liked it. I love this book for its language and mesmerising tone. It starts – in England, in fact (hello Stu!) – near the end of the first world war, and then moves to Western Australia, and then to Europe. It’s about place, dislocation, and the old meeting the new. It’s a reflective sort of novel. I think Stu will like it. Of course, the challenge with books of a certain age is availability, but I’ve checked The Book Depository and they have it. Phew!
- Nam Le‘s The boat: I struggled about my second choice. I considered David Malouf, Murray Bail, Patrick White, Gerald Murnane, or the crime writer Peter Temple. I nearly chose Elliot Perlman’s The street sweeper, but I decided to go with something contemporary and have chosen the young Vietnamese-Australian author, Nam Le, and his book of short stories, The boat. Interestingly, like the novel I selected, it is not all set in Australia. In fact most of it is set elsewhere but I think Stu will be tickled by the fact that it’s been translated into many languages. The first story has autobiographical elements, and the last story draws on his father’s experience as a “boat person”.
Somehow I’ve chosen books I read before I started blogging, which is a shame in a way as I can’t share my reviews, but I think they make good introductions for Stu to the breadth of Australian writing. I hope he enjoys them.
Merry Christmas Stu from Down Under! Thanks for being happy to be my copinaute in this exchange. I look forward to seeing what you come up with for me … and will do my best to read them.
* Actually, when Stu gets up he’ll probably open his “real” presents and take Winston for a walk. Like me, he’s sure to have scheduled his post containing my “gifts” a while ago.
16 thoughts on “Humbook Christmas Gift to Stu of Winston’s Dad”
What a fun idea! I am sure Stu will like your suggestions. I just read a good article the New York Review of Books or maybe it was the London Review? About Murnane that made me interested in reading him.
I hope you are having a bright and sunny Christmas and a wonderful celebration with your family!
Was that the Coetzee article in the NYRB? There’s a long commentary on it at the Crepe Syuzhet blog, here — http://crepesyuzhet.wordpress.com/2012/12/10/coetzee-on-murnane — if you want to read more.
Thanks DKS … Will check this out, the blog to start with anyhow.
Yes, that’s it! Thanks for the additional link! Interesting to read an analysis by someone who knows both writers.
Yes, it was an interesting analysis wasn’t it. I enjoyed it.
Thanks Stefanie … We had a nice day but not a sunny one unfortunately. It was 33 deg C here on Xmas Day but a grey 19 yesterday. we had our son’s American girlfriend here – her first summer Xmas so it wasn’t quite the show we wanted to put on …. Hope you are having a lovely day … Few days, even! Will Check DKS’s link.
Well done, Sue, I’m off to Stu’s blog now to see what he’s got for you!
Thanks Lisa … I’ve got the first one on my kindle … Shopping on Xmas Day. Who’d’ve thought a decade ago?
Thanks Lisa … it was a real challenge, particularly for the second book. I knew I wanted Gilgamesh. I’d love to have chosen Fly away Peter as the second but didn’t want to do two World War 1 books! I see Tony has selected the area we thought … they look good, particularly of course the Japanese.
Your post is warm and lovely, very Christmassy. Thanks for joining us, I enjoyed preparing this little event with Guy.
I don’t know the books you chose for Stu, so I can’t comment on this. I’ll read his reviews.
I hope you’ll enjoy reading the ones he picked for you.
Thanks Emma for allowing our late entry! I have already got the first one of Stu’s on my kindle. Must finish a couple first but itching to get to it. and I’ve ordered the one from you and Guy. Guy knows my taste pretty well so I’m looking forward to something new that also unfamiliar to me.
I just finished reading Gilgamesh this morning! How odd. I think it has a strong Australian voice and yet the restlessness and displacement – plus the great waves of history – make it a big book with many levels of drama. Mesmerising language yes. The Boat is also such a tight and fascinating read. Great choices for Stu. And what will you be reading?
Hi Catherine … I like the way you describe Gilgamesh … Australian but with something overlaying it which increases its universality I think. I think there is a restlessness in Australians perhaps due to being an island at the bottom of the world. Globalisation has had some impact on that but it can’t remove completely the physical difference. I’ve downloaded Stu’s book for me … Faces in the crowd by Luiselli. And I’ve ordered the one Guy and Emma chose for me from ABE Books, Benatar’s Wish her safe at home. Both are intriguing sounding reads.
I m so sorry Sue I did think I comment christmas day just been on emma site and they are on there not sure how that happened was using the wordpress app to comment well two great choice do already have the boat but not read it has sat on shelf way to long I think ,Gilgamesh sounds great be ordering a copy to read ,loved taking part and sorry for the mess up feel awful as I not been on laptop since christmas day ,all the best stu
Oh don’t worry Stu … It’s the Silly Season after all and we are all coming and going a lot. So glad you have one of the books already. I have one of yours on my kindle now and hope to get to it in the next few weeks.
Btw I have’t fully mastered the WordPress App .. I should use it more I suppose!
And there I was thinking you’d picked The Epic of Gilgamesh