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My literary week (10), Non-fiction November and Lady Chatterley

November 12, 2017

I had hoped to finish my current book by this weekend, but it’s been a busy week with a two-day trip away, an exhibition launch, and a Friends’ of the NFSA event, on top of usual commitments. However, I do have some “literary” bits and pieces to share. I’ll start with the one that isn’t hinted at in the post title!

Starstruck: Australian Movie Portraits Exhibition

Stupidly, I didn’t take any pics of the two events I attended – a special members preview and the gala opening – for this exciting new exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery (NPG). Created collaboratively by the NPG and the National Film and Sound Archive (which provides most of the images), this exhibition contains 275 images from Australia’s film industry. I’m including it here – besides wanting to promote it – because the curators, Jennifer Coombes and Penny Grist, have organised the collection to convey a narrative, from set-up to resolution. This results in images from different eras and genres being placed side by side, forcing us to think about them from different perspectives. I’ll be back to spend more time. (Meanwhile, you might like to check out the interactive exhibition of the Cinesound movie company’s gorgeous Casting Books.)

Cover Story (or, Vinyl Covers with David Kilby)

Still with the NFSA, on Friday I went to an event organised by our Friends’ group at which record collector David Kilby presented a selection of record covers. David often collects records for their covers, rather than their contents, and at this presentation we could see why. But, how to present them? There are various possibilities, but the one David chose was to display examples from the “categories” he collects – and my, does he have some fascinating categories. Some relate to audio content – such as Religious songs, Instructional records, or Co-star with me – and some to the cover art. There are, for example, covers which use “stars” who have nothing to do with the content. Jayne Mansfield was a popular choice here! Wonder why! Then there are those which depict actions, such as smoking, or types of people, such as plumbers. You really had to be there!

Music to read lady Chatterley's lover by, album coverBut, the group I’m sharing here is the “Music to [insert action] by”, and particularly, “Music to read by”. To represent this group, David displayed the cover for Music to read Lady Chatterley’s lover by. The music comes from Richard Shores and his Orchestra, and there are ten tracks: Love, Hate, Sorrow, Gay, Blues, Surprise, Frustration Nostalgia, Fear, Hysteria! The cover notes briefly refer to the novel’s controversial history – the censorship, and so on – and then continues:

Richard Shores [apostrophe?] initial venture into musical “no-man’s-land” may trip the same kind of alarm. Nature in the raw is seldom mild as can be seen when Shore utilizes his melodic pallet to characterize the spectrum of human emotions.

While music has always reflected the composer’s attempt to picture human emotions through the symmetry of naturals, sharps and flats, Shores flamboyantly exposes man’s innermost feelings relentlessly.

Gotta hear this one day!

Non-fiction November meme

Having seen some of my favourite bloggers – such as Lisa (ANZLitLovers) and Kate (booksaremyfavouriteandbest) – take part in the Non-fiction November meme sponsored by julzreads, among others, I considered joining in, but this week got the better of me. Consequently, I’m just going to respond briefly here:

Week 1, Oct 30-Nov 3: Your year in non-fiction

Two of the questions for this week were:

  • What was your favourite non-fiction read of the year? Without doing the count, I seem to have read more non-fiction this year than in recent years, so it’s tricky to answer this. In fact it’s so tricky that I’m going to give three: Kim Mahood’s Position doubtful (my review); Ali Cobby Eckermann’s Too afraid to cry (my review); and Stan Grant’s Talking to my country (my review). All three explore Australia, and what it means to be Australian, particularly in relation to indigenous people. (For more, see Week 3 below)
  • Bernadette Brennan, A writing life Helen Garner and her workWhat is one topic of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet? This would have to be literary biographies and memoirs. Two, in particular, have come out this year that I’ve not managed to read (yet), Bernadette Brennan’s biography of Helen Garner, A writing life: Helen Garner and her work, and Georgia Blain’s memoir, The museum of words. I did though retrieve (and read) from my TBR pile, Gabrielle Carey’s Moving among strangers (my review) so it hasn’t been completely hopeless.

Week 2, Nov 6-10: Book pairing

For Week 2 participants were asked to pair a non-fiction book with a fiction one, using your own criteria, but essentially meaning books that seem to go well together. Many bloggers have posted multiple pairings, but as I’m not devoting a whole post to this, I’m going with just one, the one that popped into my head the minute I realised the subject of my reading group’s August book, Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko (my review). It’s about Koreans in Japan, and their struggle to survive. My paired book is Richard Lloyd Parry’s People who eat darkness (my review). Parry’s analysis of the murder of a young English woman in Japan by a serial killer includes a discussion of the poor treatment of Koreans by the Japanese. It prepared me well for Min Jin Lee.



Week 3, Nov 13-17: Be the expert/Ask the export/Become the expert

From this group – which officially starts tomorrow, so I’m jumping the gun somewhat – I’m choosing the “be an expert option”. This asks me to share the title of three books on a single topic that I’ve read and recommend (thus making me an expert!). Well, I don’t claim to be an expert on this topic – it would be insensitive of me to do so in fact – but I would (and have) recommended these three memoirs on the experience of racism in Australia. Two of the books are by indigenous Australians, Ali Cobby Eckermann’s Too afraid to cry and Stan Grant’s Talking to my country, and one by an Australian-born writer of West Indian background, Maxine Beneba Clarke’s The hate race (my review). These books paint a picture of Australia that is depressing and distressing. When I first became aware of racism in my teens in the late 1960s, I’d have been horrified to think that half a century later so little progress would have been made in how we treat each other. What is wrong with us?



And here I will end. It would be cheeky answering Weeks 4 and 5 this far in advance.

However, I’d love to know your answers to these non-fiction questions.

23 Comments leave one →
  1. November 12, 2017 19:11

    I’m stuck on the pairings thread, I can’t think of anything!

    • November 12, 2017 20:17

      Hmmm, you’ve now set me a challenge to go though your books and work one out! What about pairing Stan Grant with Jeanine Leane’s Purple threads? (I think you’ve read Purple threads?) Or, do you think they all have to be books you’ve read this year? I don’t think that’s what everyone else has done?

      Admittedly though, the one I did was easy because it’s one I had already thought of months ago! That’s probably cheating.

      • November 12, 2017 20:34

        Yes, I have read both of those, but it’s cheating to have you think of them for me:)

        • November 12, 2017 20:37

          Sorry! They just came to me! But there are probably others of a similar ilk?

        • November 12, 2017 21:25

          I’ll think about it tomorrow…

  2. Deepika Ramesh permalink
    November 12, 2017 19:17

    This is a fascinating post, Sue. Thank you. You introduced me to Ali Cobby’s books. Although I haven’t read any yet, your reviews have made me keep the books in my radar. As soon as I make some money, I will buy the books. Thank you.

    My answers are here:
    My favourite non-fiction reads of the year — Matt Haig’s ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’, Malaravan’s ‘War Journey: Diary of A Tamil Tiger’, ‘EB White on Dogs’, ‘Man’s Search For Meaning’ by Viktor E Frankl, and ‘The 5 Love Languages’ by Gary Chapman.

    I intend to read more non-fiction on animals and animal welfare, Sue. Maybe, when I land myself in a job, I can resume buying such books. 🙂

    • November 12, 2017 20:32

      Thanks for joining is Deepika. I love your choices though I don’t know all those writers. “EB White on dogs” reminds me of a book you might like to look out for – I should have mentioned it earlier – and that’s Elizabeth von Arnim’s All the dogs of my life. You’d love it. I wonder if you could find it in a library? It’s an old book now but one loved by dog lovers. Von Arnim wrote Enchanted April (which you may have heard of?).

      Good luck with the job hunt. It must be tough not having a job.

      • Deepika Ramesh permalink
        November 12, 2017 23:55

        Thank you VERY much for the recommendation, Sue. I have added it to my list. It IS the sort of book that I see myself revisiting. Many, many thanks for everything. 🙂 ❤

        • November 13, 2017 00:48

          I know you’ll like it, Deepika … but, oh dear, how long our lists are getting!

  3. Sara Dowse permalink
    November 12, 2017 19:49

    Endorse your list, WG, although I haven’t read the Beneba Clarke book yet. But I would add Tom Griffiths’ wonderful The Art of Time Travel.

  4. November 13, 2017 00:50

    I’m not home to peruse my shelves but for this week’s question I could be an ‘expert’ on Henry Lawson – Brian Mathews, Louisa, Bertha Lawson, My Henry Lawson and (I forget) City Bushman.

  5. Meg permalink
    November 13, 2017 16:11

    Hi Sue, My favourite Non Fiction read this year is The Art of Time Travel by Tom Griffiths. My favourite non fiction books are memoirs, always open to discussion! Looking forward to reading The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in Death, Decay & Disaster I did do “book pairings” at Kate’s and they were Mataeship with Birds by Carrie Tiffany and The Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. I am an expert on the ‘media and reporting’. I have read this year The Media and the Massacre: Port Arthur by Sonya Vourmard, Invisible Women by Kylie Fox – How the media report on the murder of Sex Workers and Finding Eliza by Larissa Behrendt.Power and Colonial Storytelling.

    • November 13, 2017 23:20

      Thanks Meg, I hoped you’d join in. I love your expert topic. Excellent one. I like your pairing, too. Doesn’t need an explanation at all, does it. As for the Tom Griffiths, as I’ve already said to Sara Dowse I still need to read this.

  6. November 13, 2017 21:15

    I’m with you, Sue, Kim Mahood’s Position Doubtful was a standout for me this year. Still thinking about the other questions…

    • November 13, 2017 23:21

      Haha, Michelle, one answer is good. I’m not handing out prizes! Mahood’s book is such a great read isn’t it.

  7. buriedinprint permalink
    November 14, 2017 01:10

    It sounds like you’ve had a very satisfying week, even if it did interfere with your reading plans! i’m glad to see you playing in the non-fiction November sandbox; I’m sure there are loads of great Australian and New Zealand offerings which I don’t know a thing about! (I’m adding the Helen Garner to my TBR for sure!)

    • November 14, 2017 08:12

      Oh good, re Helen Garner, Buried. Now I come to think of it! I suspect we know even less about other countries’ non-fiction than we do their fiction.

  8. November 14, 2017 07:00

    I have just read The House of Grief and I thought it was amazing! I’m very keen to read more of Garner’s work.

    • November 14, 2017 08:27

      Oh that’s wonderful to hear Cathy. It’s particularly special to hear our authors reaching overseas readers. She’s one of our best and has had such longevity in her career.

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