My literary week (14), lists and a celebrity

I don’t really need to write a post today having written two in the last two days, but there are a couple of things I’d love to share with you, so here I am for the third day in a row.

Reading group schedule

Trent Dalton, Boy swallows universeFirst up is my reading group schedule for the first half of the next year, which we decided by consensus – with a bit of the usual argy-bargy – a few days ago. Here’s the list in the order we’ll read them:
  • Trent Dalton, Boy swallows universe : strongly recommended by an ex-member (“ex” because she moved away) whose recommendations are usually spot on – and with supporting recommendation by Brother Gums whose taste is also impeccable.
  • Anita Heiss (ed), Growing up Aboriginal in Australia : for obvious reasons, and because if the University of Melbourne believes its staff should read it, then so should we!
  • Marilynne Robinson, Gilead : because many of us have been wanting to “do” Marilynne Robison for some time.
  • Amor Towles, A gentleman in Moscow : because many of us have heard good things about it.
  • Sayaka Murata, Convenience store woman : because we’d like to include more translated fiction in our reading diet and this sounded interesting.
  • Mary McCarthy, The group : our “classic”, which some have never read and others are interested to read again in our current climate.
You will of course hear more about these as 2019 progresses …

Eric Idle in conversation with Alex Sloan

Eric Idle, Always look on the bright side of lifeAs most Aussie readers will know, Monty Python member Eric Idle is currently doing the rounds in Australia promoting his book Always look on the bright side of life: A sortabiography. I’m intrigued by that subtitle given the various discussions we’ve had here recently about memoirs and biography – but I haven’t read it yet so I can’t tell you what angle, if any, Idle has taken on the biography form.

Anyhow, the event I attended was part of the ANU/Canberra Times Meet the Author series, this one a paid event, with the ticket price including a signed copy of the book. I went with friends so didn’t take my usual copious notes. Indeed, I took no notes, so this will be a brief report.

I suspect most of the events ran pretty similarly, with a few variations depending on who “conversed” with Idle. Anne of Cat Politics, who occasionally comments here, went to the Melbourne event where the conversation was conducted by Michael Williams of The Wheeler Centre. She has written about it on her blog. We had a similar discussion, led beautifully by Alex Sloan, about Idle’s life and, career and his friendships with people like George Harrison. We also had a couple of songs, including the “Selfies” one (for which Anne provides a Youtube link.) Our event, like hers, ended up with Idle singing “Always look on the bright side of life”, except we had a small backing group, The Idlers, drawn from the Canberra Choral Society. That was fun – and I think they enjoyed themselves, too.

But, I think we may have had something else unique to us – a discussion about physics. Our event commenced with a YouTube video of Idle doing his “Galaxy Song”, after which ANU Vice-chancellor and Nobel Laureate in Physics, Brian Schmidt, came to the stage to introduce Idle. In doing so shared with us some – let us say – disagreements between Eric Idle and physicist Brian Cox about certain facts in the song. Schmidt suggested that, on one fact at least – to do with the power of the sun – he’s decided to agree with Idle. There was some lovely banter about all this, with Idle, who has performed the Galaxy Song with Cox, telling us that he’d told Cox that the facts were correct when he wrote the song: it was Science that had changed (due to that darned Hubble Telescope). You can Google Brian Cox and Eric Idle to find out more – if you haven’t seen them already.

Kate’s list of lists

As a service to us all, Kate (booksaremyfavouriteandbest) has published a post titled Best Books of 2018 – A List of Lists. In it she has listed the Best of 2018 lists already published by magazines and newspapers around the world – with annotations explaining what they cover. For example, of Esquire’s list she says “excellent mix of 50 fiction and nonfiction titles” and for NPR’s Best Books of 2018 she writes “use the filters to wade through this 300-strong list”.
Kate will be adding to this post as more lists are published. If you love book lists, bookmark her post!

Quote of the week

Clare Wright, You daughters of freedomHopefully, by the end of next week I’ll have written my post on Clare Wright’s You daughters of freedom, but I can’t resist sharing just one of many wonderful quotes from the book. This one is not Clare Wright’s own words, but a description of England’s “suffragette agitators” by the UK’s attorney-general at the time. He called them “those unsexed hyenas in petticoats”. Really!? You have to laugh!


22 thoughts on “My literary week (14), lists and a celebrity

  1. Thanks for the link 🙂 I’ll be collating all those lists sometime during the next week and will publish the list of books that appear most often on the lists. It’s already shaping up to be an interesting year, with quite a few books leading the race (unlike last year when it was all about Lincoln in the Bardo).

    I love your book group’s list – have heard great things about Boy Swallows Universe; The Group has been on my TBR list for years…; my book group is doing Gentleman in Moscow next (I’ll be away but will try to read it anyway).

    • A pleasure Kate. I look forward to seeing your collation. Funny how some years do concentrate more than others. Our Aussie awards this yet have been more mixed I think than some years.

  2. Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton – one of my top books for the year! Outstanding! And built around more than a bit of autobiography adds its own extra tantalising element.

  3. Glad to see you’re reading Gilead next year. Marilynne Robinson has long been a favourite of mine, though when I tried to introduce her to reading groups years ago in Canberra, it was without much success.

    • Oh thanks, Dorothy. I started reading Gilead some years ago for a group but it got lost (I was tidying up for visitors and it got hidden under a pile – haha!). By the time I found it, the discussion was over and so I didn’t go back to it, but I was liking it. It has that sort of tone I rather like. You (and I) will have to watch out to see what my group makes of it!

  4. What an interesting post, Sue – and a wonderful reading line-up for your book group.

    But of all the things I could comment on, I want to say I love the term “argy-bargy”. I don’t think I’ve ever heard that before. Is it a Gums original or is it used by Australians ‘at-large’ or is it an international phenomenon that I’ve missed, living under my rock? It’s so perfect!

  5. Great line-up for your group! I’ve stalled in both The Group and Gilead, the former just once (and it was my fault, not the book’s) and the latter twice (not sure on that one, perhaps it’s really just not a good match, but I do know that many adore it). Surely you’ll have better luck than I did!

    • Haha Buried. The group wouldn’t have been my pick, because I’ve read it before and don’t feel driven to read it again, but it’s not all about me – strangely! – and I’m interested to see how it stacks up.

      I think Gilead is a good fit for me, because I have read some of it and only stalled because I lost it for months (under a pile!). I can’t wait wait to read it.

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