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.