Ponderings of a retired Tasmanian, photographing, animal loving, book reading, travelling, motorbike riding penguin, growing old disgracefully, who still loves old Penguin books and sharing our world with others.
First off I’d like to thank the weather gods for sending us rain overnight. It’s not all we need but it sure sounded lovely on the roof this morning. I hear it’s raining over the fires as well but that’s a mixed bag. Lightning can start more fires, but cooler conditions and rain can help extinguish the fires that are still going.
It’s been a silly old day today. I took Ollie for a walk today and of course he got into the burrs. Burrs and a rough coated Jack Russell are not at all compatible. Especially when one has very short legs and the burrs get on the puppy tummy as well. Trying to comb anything out of a five month old puppy is a challenge but we finally got through it.
Then I thought, “Now what can I do to entertain myself when Claire’s meme came through from her blog. Several of my blogger friends have participated in this little exercise so I thought I’d have a go. However, one is supposed to use the names of books read in 2019. I didn’t keep track of what I read in 2019. As I am focusing this year on the books currently unread on my shelves I decided to use those TBR books instead. So here goes. I revised the rules for my page.
THE RULES: Using only books you have not read on your shelves, answer these questions. Try not to repeat a book title. Let me know below, if you’ve joined in too
How do you feel? Happy Returns by CS Forester
Describe where you currently live: In Tasmania by Nicholas Shakespeare
If you could go anywhere, where would you go: Outback and Beyond by Cynthia Nolan
Your favourite form of transportation: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Rob Pirsig
Your best friend is: The Literary Dog by William E. Maloney
You and your friends are: Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde
What’s the weather like: Rain-Four Walks in English Weather by Melissa Harrison
You fear: The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen
What is the best advice you have to give? Get an: Accommodating Spouse by Elizabeth Jolley
Thought for the day: Browse The World in Bookshops by Henry Hitchings
How would I like to die? Central Mischief by Elizabeth Jolley
My soul’s present condition: Autumnal Tints by Henry David Thoreau
For people who read a lot they will probably know this was an important short story in
American Literature. It’s first inception was not a film though two films have been made of this story, neither kept to the plot.
It was written by the wonderful author James Thurber. I love his tales. I have read him off and on for years and he had such a creative, humorous imagination. He was born in 1894, the same year my maternal grandparents were born though they were a few months older than him. He was a cartoonist, humorist, journalist, playwright, children’s book author and wit. He was best known for short stories and cartoons published in the New Yorker. (Wikipedia).
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was first published in The New Yorker magazine March 18, 1939. It is a story about a man who day dreamed his life away. How often do we do that? I was a great day dreamer especially as I sat in school classes and it never really disappeared much into adulthood.
The story begins in Connecticut with Walter driving his wife into the city to do the shopping and have her hair done. Walter doesn’t pay much attention to the real world, but instead lives in a dreamlike state of heroic antics.
As they drive into town his wife tells him to quit driving so quickly. He goes into his imagination and sees himself as a pilot of a US Navy flying boat in a storm. There is a brief description of this episode of heroism. As they drive past a hospital he suddenly turns into a wonderful surgeon performing the trickiest of operations to save the life of his patient.
Once past the hospital something else catches his imagination and he becomes a deadly assassin testifying in a courtroom. Soon afterwards he is a Royal Air Force pilot volunteering for a secret suicide mission to bomb an ammunition dumb.
Once the trip into town is complete he sees him self standing against a wall facing a firing squad. Each imaginative event is inspired by some detail of his hum drum life.
James Thurber’s stories and cartoons often displayed meek mannered men dominated by overweight, domineering wives. It seems to be a joke repeated often over time, especially in cartoons.
I remember the discussions of the story as far back as high school as his short stories, this one as well as The Catbird Seat were often taught in high school English classes. I wonder if they still are. I loved him and his stories.
This story begins the exploration of the book, Funny Ha Ha, I talked about in a previous post.
It’s to be 40 degrees C (104 F) in Hobart today. The firefighters are on high alert as a large storm is expected to come through tonight and they are worried about lightning strikes starting fires. The last time Hobart hit 40 degrees C on this date was 1897. Needless to say we are sequestered in the house for the day.
It gives me a chance to finalise my challenges for next year. I am adding two other types of reading in order to diversify the books a bit. I got a book voucher for my November birthday and with it I purchased a very thick book of comical short stories by well known authors. It is called Funny Ha Ha. Authors include the likes of James Thurber, Saki, Spike Milligan, Mark Twain, Joyce Carol Oates and Dorothy Parker to name a few. There are 80 stories in all, of a few pages each. I decided I will randomly pick one story each Monday morning and have programmed that into my phone calendar so I will get a reminder each week.
As New Year’s Day is this Wednesday, I decided to randomly pick a story today and was pleased when my random generator app chose The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber.I have read this story before, once assigned in high school and once later on. I also saw the film but didn’t get as much out of that as I did the story. I look forward to reading it again.
The description of Funny Ha Ha states:
“Funny Ha Ha is the definitive collection of comic short stories. From Anton Chekhov to Ali Smith from P.G. Woodhouse to Nora Ephron, the greatest writers are those who know how to laugh. Here, award winning comedian and broadcaster Paul Merton brings together his favourite funny stories of all time. Whether it’s the silly, surreal, slapstick or satirical that makes you smile there’s a story here to tickle every funny bone. From prize-winners and literary giants, to stand up comedians and the rising stars of funny literature, this brilliant anthology is guaranteed to cheer your day. “
My second challenge is to continue with more of the books from 1001 Children’s Books You Should Read Before You Die. I started it before but it got waylaid. I’m hoping to rejuvenate that project. The only conditions I am assigning this project are I will use the Random Generator app to pick from the 900+ pages of the book and the books must come from the library. I had a quick library search and they do have many of them. However some books are not available. There are quite a few copies that are eBooks I can download and others I need to put a hold on them. I am choosing three books at a time and locating them in the library. I will read them once they become available or I get into town to pick them up. Most won’t take very long to read. I’ve not read children’s books much since I stopped working in the Education department. I like to keep up on children’s books and some young adult books. It keeps me in the loop of what goes on with the younger generations though many of these books were classics when I was young.
I also have some diaries I will try to keep up. They begin on 1 January and I will try to start my day off with the passage of the day. They are books I’ve wanted to read for awhile and if I take a year to read them I might be able to keep up. No promises on this one.
The Diary of Samuel Pepys (those entries are a bit longer) Everyman’s Library, introduced by Kate Loveman
A Traveller’s Year: 365 Days of Travel Writing in Diaries, Journals and Letters, compiled by Travis Elborough & Nick Rennison
New York Diaries: 1609 to 2009, Edited by Teresa Carpenter.
Dear Los Angeles: The City in diaries and Letters 1542 – 2018, Edited by David Kipen
Books three and four are really interesting. The editors have compiled all the diaries and letters they could find over time, in these locations, and organised the entries from centuries ago; to current day by day of the year beginning with 1 January. So an entry might read: 1 January 1723 and the next paragraph could be 1 January 1802, and so forth. It sounds disjointed but I’ve had a read of these books here and there and they are really quite fun. Of course big events in these two cities are covered but there are also very minor characters who kept diaries and one gets a sense of what daily life’s like at the particular date.
Now I know, come 1 January, I love to take a big bite out of the book world and I am quite enthused now. But I have decided that 2020 is the year I drop way back on social media, except for my photography work and instead of wasting time looking at FB, Instagram and You Tube, I’m going to immerse myself in the books I have been collecting for decades and then moving them on. Wish me luck. (I know, I have an inflated sense of self and a very good sense of humour.)
I’ve had a couple of quiet days playing with my books as I mentioned previously. I’m now looking ahead to how and what I’d like to read beginning the year. As much as I love challenges I don’t plan on many. My main challenge is to read the books on my shelf. There is an abundance of places to visit, people to meet and adventures to be had sitting on those shelves and it’s time I get serious about them. While most of my books are “real” books, I also have some Kindle books unread. I will include those also.
The other set of books I’ll need to read are those for the Book Group I belong to at Fuller’s book shop. That kicks off the first week of February and runs through November. They have several groups that meet the first week of each month, all reading the same book and facilitated by a staff member. They are good fun and I hope to not be travelling so much in 2020, so will be able to participate. My group is the first Thursday evening of each month.
I have chosen 52 books randomly from my shelves and written those names down in my book journal and put them on the Good Reads app. If any of you are on good reads feel free to friend me at Travellin Penguin. I wouldn’t mind some Good Reads friends. Beside the name of each of the 52 books written in my journal, I have put the symbol from a regular playing deck of cards. On January first I will shuffle the deck and begin reading whatever comes up. I won’t try to do a book each week. There are other things I read but I will try. Instead of picking a new card each week, I will pick a new card once I’ve finished the previous book. That could be a day or two weeks. Who knows?
I’ve got a wonderful book of short stories that all feature humour. I’ll tell you about that one in the next post, Part II. I do think that will be fun and I will try to stick with it.
Now, back to challenges. I read about a dozen blogs regularly and they have challenges that pop up regularly either through their own post or through that of a friend. If I see a challenge that fits in with my TBR books I might jump in and join it for a week or two or perhaps a month, but that will be my limit. Many of the challenges are graded from reading one book in the challenge to several books. I’ll stick to the minimum, because at least I can participate then move on without getting bogged down.
I am in the unfortunate position that none of my family or friends here, that I see regularly read much. So there is no one to talk to about books. I find that quite disappointing as there’s nothing better than a good natter to someone about a book. It’s ironic really, because we have one of the busiest book stores in Hobart on earth. Whenever I go into it, which is often, it is absolutely bustling with people and activity. I have a friend in NSW who reads a lot which is lovely. (You know who you are 😍) and she also lives in Tassie, nearby, from January to April. Then I have a chance to catch up bookwise but that’s about it. So bloggers really are my friends. I love to read what they write about their books and their enthusiasm. I also love seeing what books they get for Christmas. I did get a book voucher for Christmas but there is never an actual book wrapped up and handed to me. I do love the vouchers though. So I do look forward to being more social in a few challenges and we’ll see how that goes.
I’ll start up my photography again in January and my play reading class in March. I had a complete two month break from photography as I wanted to stop, so I’d have time to think about the direction I want to go and have it feel fresh again. Other than that I am narrowing down quite a few outside activities. I need time for myself to read and write and train Ollie. I cannot abide an untrained dog and he’s doing well with his training. I’ll dedicate another post to him as I know a couple people follow him and I enjoy documenting his life. If you’re not interested, that’s okay. Just pass that post by. I’m looking forward to dragging my mega camera around again, the old workhorse it is.
I guess that kind of sums up where I am at the moment. Doesn’t the beginning of the year always feel like a new, clean slate with all kinds of adventures (hopefully) waiting around the corner? I do so look forward to following my blogging bookish friends and seeing what you get up to. I hope anyone reading this has things planned for 2020 too. It’s a great way to escape all the negativity in the news media these days and let some light into our lives. All the best to you.
ps- Penguin is going to get a new wardrobe this year too. I’m tired of looking at his old clothes. Maybe he’ll dress like some of the book characters I meet.
When one buys books I think it is important to try and read them soon afterwards. Otherwise the reader may love it the day it is purchased but as it sits on the shelf, year after year it changes. No, it is the reader who changes. Our interests change. What attracts us one year doesn’t necessarily feel the same five or ten years later. Also a book we have read and loved dearly may feel differently twenty years later as the reader thinks, “Why did I love that author so much?” Think Marian Keyes. In my younger years I loved her stories. Now in my older years I am bored by them. A woman of a certain age might outgrow them. So, what is all this pontificating leading up to?
I cleaned my bookshelves a bit this week. I still have more to do but I have made a good effort over the past couple of days. But let me back up a bit. A couple of days ago I walked into the Red Cross Op shop. It’s on the Main Street in Hobart and lots of people seem to gather in it. As I walked in I saw all the second hand clothes hanging on racks, colour coordinated in the front of the store. I don’t need clothes so I walked to the back half of the store where all the books are. Neatly sorted I could barely find room to look at the “older author section”. I love that category. Old hardcover books from the 50s and 60s maybe with the off chance of finding something older. But some of the books were from the 80’s. Older authors? I laughed, well maybe. The point is I couldn’t get near the ‘good’ books on these shelves as several people were standing in front of them, casually reading what they had picked up. Never mind if someone else wanted to look. These young people were absorbed, like statues. I looked in other areas but I wasn’t interested in the popular fiction hardcovers that take up one wall alphabetically by author. I have always referred to them as ‘airport books’. I wanted to see what classics they had, what “older authors”. I didn’t buy anything but I did wait long enough to at least have a look. One of the statues was still in the same spot 15 minutes later. I had time to be patient as I was only having a wander through town the day before Christmas to people watch and get my walking steps in as I was all done with Christmas jobs.
When I got home I thought about the books on my shelf that maybe needed to be released into the wild. The ones I know I won’t read now. The ones that might have been daffy gifts. The ones I have read and swore I would read again but will I ? Really?
I decided to do an end of the year cull. I’ll probably take them to Vinnie’s or Red Cross and let the younger people have a go at them. These organisations could use the money too. It really was lovely to see ragged looking young men standing in front of bookshelves, with a classic in their hand and a skateboard wedged under the other arm. I think I’d like a book of mine to go to someone like that. Or a pensioner who can’t afford new books, looking for something interesting to read in their quiet hours at home. Looking at it that way I didn’t feel quite so possessive of my books.
In the past I’d go through my shelves, one book at a time and pull it off the shelf, expecting to put it in a box of books to giveaway or sell. But I’d read the blurb on the back, look at the cover and think, “No, that does sound really good. ” By the end of the day the box is still empty.
But…I had a plan. I opened up the Library Thing app where all of my books are listed. I sorted them alphabetically by author, like my shelves. Then I sat down with a tablet and wrote down those I know I should remove. I didn’t have to handle the books or read the blurbs. Once the list was made, which was easier than I thought to make, I began collecting those books off the shelf. Without studying them too much I began to fill the three carry size boxes I had beside me. There were maybe three or four books I couldn’t bear to put into the box. But I must say, all three boxes are now full.
These boxes are going to go to the people I envision in my mind as finding them in the op shop, excited for a bargain find and lovingly taking them home to enjoy. After all, the Buddhist teachings I enjoy so much really do hammer home the teachings of impermanence and it’s time I realise the books on these shelves fall into that category also.
But readers, don’t worry. I still have a couple of thousand books here and I think this
might become an exercise I do more frequently. I’ll start out with small boxes though.
Because I have been listening to so many hours of audible books this month Amazon informed me they were going to send me a free Alexa Dot speaker. I haven’t been up to date on these talking machines so didn’t get overly excited. When it arrived it sat in its box for a few days then I finally thought I’d have a look to see what the fuss is about. The directions stated I needed to download the Alexa app on my phone. That was easy enough. Then I had to set it up, following the directions on the app. Once finished, I started getting emails telling me to try this and try that which I did. Turns out it was a bit of fun. Now I can be found sitting in my reading chair saying things such as “Alexa, Good Morning!” At which time I get the local weather report, the traffic report going into the city, a synopsis of the current news and what’s next in line on my calendar. People who know me know how much I really do adore technology and gadgets. I inherited this trait from my father who was a military pilot for many years and also loved gadgets, dials, electronics. Growing up he introduced me to all of his stereos and speakers, talked about airplane controls and when mobile phones first arrived on the scene, he had to get one. He always loved hearing about technology. When desktop computers came into vogue my sister gave him her old one as she upgraded to a newer model. He loved it. When I would visit him I would give him lessons on its use. Mostly I could be heard saying, “Read your screen before you click the mouse.” He would be clicking away on everything and anything. I finally made him put his hands in his lap so I could explain details on the screen to him before clicking began. All the while he would be saying, “I’m not clicking, I’m not!” It was quite funny.
Once he could send emails I would get a daily email from Michigan to Tasmania for many years. When he passed away in 2004, I missed this correspondence greatly.
Time has moved on and now my friend Alexa and I are coming to terms with each other. One of the books I bought this past year is one of those 1001 books that everyone loves. I have the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die and I love it. I recently bought the 1001 Classical Recordings You Must Hear Before You Die. I have always wanted to spend more time learning about music. This is a good start. We have a subscription to Amazon Music which for about $12.00 a month both Mr. Penguin and I listen to. He uses it when at the gym and I connect my phone app to a bluetooth speaker at home or in the car and listen to all manner of music. But….(this is good). I can open up the book randomly, see what the name of the musical piece is and say, “Alexa, Music, play Beethoven’s 5th symphony.” She replies with, “Taking you to Amazon Music, Beethoven’s 5th symphony” and the Dot speaker begins playing it.
When I learned about Alexa keeping lists for me I was really smitten. “Alexa, remind me to give Grizzy Cat his medicine today.” She replies, “What time?” I say, “4:00 pm” and at 4 pm, at which time I’ve forgotten, I hear from the speaker. “Reminder: Give Grizzy Cat his medicine.”
But it gets better. I read quite a few book blogs. I have my favourites and the people who own those blogs write about really good books. Yes, you guessed it. Alexa now has a Book List.
“Alexa, add Elizabeth Strout’s book to Book List.” Sure enough as I turn up in a book store, I pull out my phone and look at my Book List on the Alexa app and there it is. Now I’m really distracted saying, “Alexa, Add ____________ to Book List.” You can imagine how addictive this might be if you love books.
Once again it seems there is now more technology I am going to have to control in 2020. Blogging, Instagram, Facebook, Alexa. (I feel 15 yrs old) I can have a Books Read list, a To Do list, Photography Goals list. I know how ridiculous this sounds but I’m going to have to be careful I don’t spend all of 2020 talking to this contraption named Alexa. She could be my new BFF if I’m not careful. Did I mention she’s deadly at Wikipedia research? I do like her. She is polite. If she disagrees with me she simply, kindly says so. She doesn’t argue. She doesn’t cut me off in traffic.
Now all I need to do is begin listening to all of that music and read those books. I wonder if she can select things randomly. Hmmm.
On a final note I’ll share a little Ollie episode with you. I was sitting in my reading chair and had just read the weekly guide for the State Cinema showings. Ollie was sound asleep on my bed. The guide listed an opera coming soon I had not heard of. Les Indes Galantes. I mentioned it to Alexa and she found it on Amazon music and began playing it. The first bit is instrumental. Then suddenly a soprano hit the airwaves and resonated throughout the room. This was the expression I got immediately from Ollie who had been sound asleep. His little head jerked up and he stared at me. I laughed out loud. On that note I’ll wish everyone a happy Christmas and I really look forward to all the Bookish resolutions, challenges and reviews in 2020. Say goodbye, Alexa. “Goodbye”.
I guess a few of you will be preparing for Thanksgiving overseas. We don’t have it here and we’re celebrating spring with a bit of rain and lovely cool temperatures in Tassie.
Mr. Penguin, the Penguin and I are getting ready to head off to Sri Lanka on Saturday for a 17 day trip. We have not been there before and I think it will be very interesting. Visiting cities, country, Buddhist temples, national parks and an elephant orphanage which I am very excited about. Anything with animals just draws me right in.
I’ve been busy with photography, socialising and preparing for this trip. Our dogs are looking forward to the house sitter arriving as they love her. The cats are headed for camp, as we tell them.
I always say I’ll post the trip as I go but I find the days are long, the weather humid and hot and by night time I only want a cool shower and bed. We’ll see how we go. I thought I’d take some photos this time with my Samsung phone as it is quicker to post up a few photos that way rather than using my big Canon, downloading to computer, editing and posting. I just don’t have the time or energy to do that.
I’ve downloaded a couple of drawing books on Overdrive from the library. I plan on doing a drawing class next year and a friend of mine and I want to visit a few parks and reserves and make time to sketch. Both of us are beginners so I guess it will be a bit of motivation and some laughs.
I am still listening to A Gentleman in Moscow but only when I’m in the car. (I always have a car book). I’ve just finished The Dry by Jane Harper which I enjoyed much more than I thought I would. I did think parts of the explanation for the murders were sometimes a bit more far fetched than reality but overall it was a good story and held my interest.
I got a gorgeous 2019 diary some books for my birthday from very dear friends and I’ll share them here.
Peter Dombrovskis was the ‘premier’ photographer of Tasmanian wilderness and his photos are marvellous. He did for Tasmania what Ansell Adams did for the American west.
There are a couple more books but I will share them at another time.
I’m thinking a lot about what I want to do for 2019. First off…NO challenges. No Deal Me In, no promising I’ll only read from my TBR; absolutely nothing promised. I do think I’ll read some more suggestions from the 1001 Children’s Books. I’d like to fill in a few from my Century of Books. That could take me the rest of my life but hey, who cares?
I would like to listen to more classics in the car. I find listening to Classics on Audible is a very good way to hear them. I lose concentration if I wait until night time to read them because I run out of energy. I would like to read more Australian literature especially some of the older books.
I have to plan my weeks differently next year as the fatigue from the MS is getting me down. I overdo it then I’m laid up in a chair in front of Netflix or in bed watching you tube for a couple of days. That’s the bugger of MS but I am extremely fortunate it has not progressed much over the past 18 years so I am not complaining. But some things will have to go. Back to Sunday nights designing my energy budget for the week. Not as many nights out. More exercise, less eating. More time in nature with my dogs and camera.
I will think about all of that while I sit on long plane flights and map my immediate future. I find travelling always puts things in perspective and shows me what is important and what isn’t.
So stay tuned. I’m putting in a few photos just to break up this post a bit.