Skip to content

My literary week (6), this and that

January 26, 2017

Life is a bit busy at present, but I am still reading – this and that, here and there, as you do!

First, there’s politics

I’m not a political blogger so I don’t want to focus too much on politics, but I did enjoy some of the signs carried by people attending the various women’s marches held around the world last weekend. Librarian-trained me, for example, loved “Librarians for Facts”. And “We shall overcomb” appealed to baby-boomer, not to mention wordplay-lover, me. But my favourite of all was “I know signs/I make the best signs/They’re terrific/Everyone agrees”. That one’s so clever it made me laugh … or would have if it weren’t so serious.

And, talking about clever commentary, here’s one I found in the latest issue of the Jane Austen Society of Australia’s members’ magazine, Chronicle. Scattered through the magazine are what they call “Austen citings”. I loved this one from a letter in the Sydney Morning Herald back on 29 June 2016:

To explain Brexit in literary terms: 48 per cent of Britons voted for Sense and sensibility while 52% voted for Pride and prejudice. (John Bailey, Canterbury)

And that’s all I’ll say about politics because I reckon you either have to say a lot or not much … so let’s leave it at the latter.

Except, there is one issue closer to home I should mention given today is Australia Day, now also known as Invasion Day or Survival Day. It’s becoming increasingly uncomfortable for many of us to celebrate a day that is the anniversary of the beginning of our dispossession of Australia’s original peoples. Calls are being made for it to be celebrated on a different day. Would that be so hard I wonder, particularly if it would help heal wounds? There are other meaningful days that could be chosen. Daughter Gums shared a link on Facebook promoting one idea – and here again you’ll see my enjoyment of wordplay – because the date is “May 8”, as in “maaaate”! Hmmm, only trouble is that this one could be seen to disenfranchise women, but it still made me laugh. For a useful broad history of “the day” you can read historian Kate Darian-Smith at The Conversation.

Online connections

Help Books

(Courtesy OCAL, via

The Australian Womens Writers (AWW) Challenge has a new Facebook Page titled Love Reading Books by Aussie Women, and I visited it a few times last week. All sorts of discussions were happening, from people announcing their latest AWW read to convenor Elizabeth posing questions like what we’d like to ask authors of a new book coming out. She is preparing to interview, for our website, a new bunch of authors. Quite coincidentally, American blogger Stefanie (So Many Books) made a comment about this on a recent post titled “Where do you get your ideas?” She believes that authors don’t like to be asked this question, but I’m not so sure. So, while we’re here, let me ask you what you’d like to ask authors.

Many moons ago, before we were married, Canberra-based Mr Gums and I went to the wedding in Adelaide of a good friend of his. Later, that friend (and his wife) moved even further away – to Perth on other side of the continent, in fact. We have stayed in contact through our Christmas letters, and now, with improved technology, Mr Gums and his friend occasionally Skype. Somewhere along the way, this friend also discovered my blog and has started commenting on it because, like all of us here, he’s a keen reader. Unfortunately, he has been coping for some years with a chronic health condition which will require him to go under the knife again tomorrow. So, this is a big shout-out to NeilAtKallaroo, who, commenting the other day from his hospital bed, wrote “thank heavens for wifi and tablets”. Hallelujah to that. As I say to my less technologically-keen peers, do try to keep up with communications technology. It is likely to be a godsend one of these days. Meanwhile, all the best, Neil, for tomorrow.

And of course there have been books

Rebellious daughtersIt’s very unlike me, because I don’t like having my attention split too many ways, but I’m currently reading three books – my next reading group book, which is a biography of Freya Stark, and two review books from publishers, one of which is the anthology Rebellious daughters and the other a cheeky offering from local independent publisher, Finlay Lloyd. One day, in the not too distant future, you’ll see reviews for these!

So, you see, while I haven’t completed a book/book review for several days, my life hasn’t been devoid of literary content. A life without literary content would not be a life worth living, nest-ce pas?

How has your week gone, literarily (ha!) speaking?

38 Comments leave one →
  1. Jim KABLE permalink
    January 27, 2017 00:06

    Yes – indeed – January 26 – Invasion/Survival Day! I have heard various male friends (of professional background) use the word “Mate!” to female colleagues/wives – so I’m inclined to think M8 – for May 8 is just the ticket as an alternative/more appropriate OZ-Day!

    I have just finished reading Stefan HERTSMAN’s War & Turpentine – a Belgian companion to Remarque’s Great War reflections. Powerful – moving!

    • January 27, 2017 00:25

      Ah yes, I know women are sometimes called “mate” Jim, but I think that its background is masculine and therefore could be fraught. I haven’t heard of Hertsman’s book but it sounds worthwhile. So many books!

      • January 27, 2017 09:26

        #NeverAgain For reasons much too complicated to explain except that I was there out of loyalty to a friend, I attended an Australia Day breakfast yesterday, eating an Australian Legend breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausages and TipTop white sliced and being addressed as ‘cobber’ and ‘mate’ by the MC. Even the old ladies enthusiastically waving that sad outdated flag were heard to say, he thinks he’s being funny but no one’s laughing.
        If this ghastly exercise was being replicated all over the country, we have a long, long way to go…

        • January 27, 2017 09:45

          Oh you don’t have to feel guilty about loyalty, Lisa… And anyhow sometimes it’s useful to experience what you don’t agree with, though it can be hard to decide whether you smile politely or look glum. I tend to do the polite thing but it feels terrible.

          A way to go yet, but the fact that more and more are feeling uncomfortable is progress.

        • January 27, 2017 10:03

          Oh, we were both so conflicted, she wanted to go to an Invasion Day BBQ, and I #ChangeTheDate just wanted to ignore it, the whole thing was an assault on our values. But having said that, it didn’t have to be so awful. They could have had an Aboriginal Flag; they could have acknowledged that there was no Welcome to Country because of what the day means to our indigenous people. They could have asked someone whose native language wasn’t English to represent the ‘new Australians’ with a story of their journey. They could have had culinary symbols of multiculturalism. They could have had an MC who wasn’t an old fossil. And they could have realised that a recurring procession of suits across the stage is symbolic of a past era!

        • January 27, 2017 10:41

          Yes, good points Lisa. Those are all things that are not too hard to do. We just went out to our favourite Malaysian restaurant for lunch, sat in their outdoor area while it was still only mid-20°sC, and enjoyed a lovely meal, avoiding the whole thing. We avoided the big Australia Day areas in town.

  2. January 27, 2017 02:40

    It might be an age thing, Gummie–your change in reading habits. I only used to read one at a time but now I usually have three going at once.
    Just watched a programme with a depiction of Australia Day in it.

    • January 27, 2017 07:53

      Ha ha Guy… I think I’m a bit the opposite. I used when young to have more books on the go but have done that rarely in recent years. I think it’s partly blogging that’s done it. I find it easier to review books if my head isn’t full of multiple stories and writing styles.

      Was it an interesting program?

  3. buriedinprint permalink
    January 27, 2017 02:56

    Completely agree on the matter of why couldn’t that celebration be reconsidered in the light of new understanding; Canada is preparing to “celebrate” 150 years of bad behaviour towards native peoples too. These matters are also under the umbrella of literary matters in my view, because the matter of language and perspective is essential to storytelling. One person’s celebration is another person’s invasion. Enjoyed reading your still-literary thoughts today! (And best to your friend, Neil, who is in hospital. Be well!)

    • January 27, 2017 07:56

      Ah, thanks Buried. Good point re relevance because of stories and perspectives. Is it a live issue in Canada too then?

      And thanks on behalf of Neil. Hopefully he’ll see your wishes.

  4. January 27, 2017 04:44

    Here is a sign your librarian self will appreciate:

    It sounds like your Australia Day is going the way our Columbus Day. Though it is a federal holiday, many cities have moved to celebrating the counter holiday (on the same day) Indigenous People’s Day.

    Best wishes to Neil!

    • January 27, 2017 08:03

      I hadn’t heard that Stefanie re Columbus Day. That’s an interesting compromise. One city here tried to change the day to January 28 this year but the Federal government gave them schtick!

    • January 27, 2017 08:05

      Oh, and I’ll check out that link, Stefanie.

      And thank you on behalf of Neil for your wishes, though hopefully he’ll see them himself before or after the surgery.

    • January 27, 2017 08:23

      And, love the sign Stefanie…I’ve seen a similar library Trump one re moving books to fiction. So clever as you say.

  5. January 27, 2017 06:49

    Best wishes to your friend Neil. I completely agree about people keeping up with technology. I could not cope without mine. I have a friend who is waiting for people to realise all of it is a nuisance and she is waiting for it to reverse. Makes me laugh. Loved your May8 presentation. Had not heard of it. Also not familiar AWW Facebook page, just joined. The signs from demos have been fun to read. It is hard to keep politics at bay as they are all so ridiculous. Hard to cope with what is happening. I always turn radio on first thing in morning to head 15 min news blurb from ABC and it has dawned on me if I continue to do this I will hear Trump’s name every morning now for at least four years? Unless somebody impeaches him or something…?
    Australia day saw me listening more to Songs of a War Boy. I only hear it when in the car. I also said farewell to 1000 Penguins that were loaded up in two car trips and went down the road. I was a bit melancholy but feeling very relieved today. Happy 27th January .

    • January 27, 2017 08:13

      Thanks Pam on behalf of Neil… I’m sure he’ll appreciate all these wishes.

      I think your friend will be waiting a LONG time!

      Re news, you may have to change your news practices for the next 4 years?! (Or 8!)

    • January 27, 2017 08:15

      Oh, and Pam, I’m glad your main feeling is relief. It would be surprising if you weren’t a little melancholy, but I’m glad that’s not the main emotion. 👍

    • January 27, 2017 08:07

      Thanks Anna. These links aren’t working in this iPad WordPress comment app, so I’ll check yours and Stefanie when I’ve finished here.

    • January 27, 2017 08:25

      Haha Anna… Good one, though I’d say some librarians would not subscribe to the implication they/we are usually meek and mild!

  6. January 27, 2017 08:03

    Thanks for the link to the fb group. Great idea, 100 years of Aust women’s writing online.
    I get the impression we have reached peak-bogan on Australia day and that from now on acceptance of Invasion day will become more common.

    • January 27, 2017 08:18

      That’s a good point Bill re the day. It would be good if you were right. It would be good in a way if we could keep the day but remember/recognise and perhaps eventually celebrate it in a more meaningful, inclusive and diverse way.

  7. January 27, 2017 08:03

    peak bogan!

  8. January 27, 2017 08:47

    LOVED that letter to the editor you found in SMH – so true about Brexit and Jane Austen! We live in sad times and I still cannot fathom how this latest totalitarian managed to get into the White House. Quite depressed about it and would stop watching the news, if it didn’t mean I might miss news about his impeachment…
    That Australia still continues to celebrate Australia Day on 26 January is quite unbelievable – it’s like a continual smack in the face for Aboriginal people. I don’t care which other day they pick as long as they change the date!

    • January 27, 2017 09:37

      It’s a great letter isn’t it Annette. As for the rest what to say… I wanted to write this but I know it doesn’t achieve much because most Of us here are probably of a similar ilk. It’s really scary though.

      • January 27, 2017 16:13

        It’s great that you wrote this because I’m very dispirited about both Trump and the celebrations on the ‘slap in the face’ day, and it makes me feel better when I read stuff that shows others are like-minded – though not necessarily dispirited

        • January 27, 2017 16:31

          I’m glad Annette – it doesn’t help to be dispirited is my view, but it is scary. I think that’s a slightly different emotion?! Anyhow, that’s how I feel.

  9. Meg permalink
    January 27, 2017 09:47

    Hi Sue, I have had a very varied week of reading. Popping in and out of two books. The Lonely Planet book on Portugal, and The Best Australian Science Writing 2016. I finished 3 books about war. First being, The Australian Women War Reporters which I finished yesterday. The second one Persepolis, about the Iran/Iraq war – a ‘graphic’ memoir by the Iranian author Marjane Satrapi. The third one about WW11, a young adult novel, the Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier. All good reads. And, now I am reading Shirley Jackson’s Let Me Tell You: New Stories, Essays and Other Writings. It is so entertaining. I have mixed feelings on changing Australia Day’s date of celebration.

    • January 27, 2017 10:46

      A wonderful literary smorgasbord there Meg. I’m guessing you are going to Portugal this year? My husband was given the Science writing book for Christmas (as you might recollect from my post) and he’s enjoying it, but just popping into it when time permits.

      I understand the mixed feelings but I do think we have to do something.

  10. NeilAtKallaroo permalink
    January 27, 2017 11:15

    Folks, thanks for the best wishes. I am scrubbed and gowned, and ready to be taken to surgery. And while I am waiting, reading, of course.

    • January 27, 2017 11:36

      Oh, nice to hear from you Neil … all the best … and as soon as you are up reading again, please send us a hello!

      • NeilAtKallaroo permalink
        January 27, 2017 20:49

        Surgery was short and sweet. Back in a ward, and ate a hearty tea. Soon be back to scurrilous postings on literary blogs. 😀

        • January 27, 2017 21:44

          Oh no – just when I thought I was safe …

          Seriously though that’s good to hear. Hope the recovery is similarly short and sweet.

  11. ian darling permalink
    January 28, 2017 21:48

    There has been quite a bit of press about the controversy over Australia Day/Survival Day. Another example of the backlash against inclusivism and/or acknowledgement of historical reality? I do find the stoking up of these culture wars rather alarming and I think the stoking up is mostly from the right but then they wouldn’t agree….and society becomes yet more polarised.

    • January 28, 2017 21:56

      Interesting, Ian. By that I mean it’s always interesting, particularly for us smaller nations I think, to hear when we make the news elsewhere. What is it that causes that to happen. It’s rather significant, perhaps, that this piece of news did. It suggests that the momentum is growing BUT it’s not without pain. I’m not sure so much that the right stokes it up so much as they react, and sometimes violently. They don’t like change, don’t want to think about change. But, I’m probably being simplistic.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: