Tuesday Trivia

snip20161225_16Today I read a bit about Kafka from Prospect magazine. I have had an interest in Franz Kafka since Mr. P. and I visited his house next to the river flowing through Prague.  If you are ever in Prague I highly recommend this experience. It is an interesting residence and although sad around the war years as he lost so many of his friends in the concentration camps it taught me a great deal about the man I knew so little about.

Reading this brief article I learned that :

In the summer of 1911, on holiday in Switzerland, Franz Kafka was working on a string of bestsellers. With his friend Max Brod, the 28-year-old writer devised the plan for a quintessentially modern set of books, which could be “translated into every language,” would “energise the whole person” and would provide their creators with “a business venture worth millions.” None of them would contain the man-sized insects, opaque legal machinations, ghastly bureaucratic punishments or anything else for which the name Kafka later became famous. Instead, they were to be a series of stripped-down travel guides for tourists on a budget, which Kafka and Brod intended to call Billig, or On the Cheap.

 

Armed with a volume of Billig, frugal travellers would enjoy straight talk from Kafka and Brod about decent hotels, fast trains and clean brothels as they travelled “On the Cheap Through Italy,” “On the Cheap Through Switzerland,” “On the Cheap in Paris” or “On the Cheap in the Bohemian Spas and Prague.” “NB the candour of our guide,” wrote Brod in his business plan, next to excited notes on buying “pineapples and madeleines” in the French capital and blagging free exhibition tickets “like a local.” Kafka, meanwhile, promised in his cautious, spidery handwriting that “exact tipping amounts” would be noted throughout.   ( Prospect Magazine online)

Sadly this venture never got off the ground as other activities in life took over and the idea faded away.

Can you imagine had it happened how interesting these books would be to read more than 100 years later. I have a hard time imagining travelling around Europe in the years around 1911. WWI started several years later and I suppose that would have probably stopped a great deal of European travel. It was a wonderful idea but it just didn’t seem to be the right time.

For a moment picture yourself …

…sitting in a large armchair. A rainy day where the light is fading. You have a hot mug of coffee or hot chocolate, the dog lies by the fire or the cat in your lap. There is no work in the morning as it is a day off. You turn the pages on travelling through Europe in your favourite city reading a 1911 travel book. The people, the rivers, the food. It hooked me in.

snip20161225_17
Kafka on holiday.

Merry Christmas 2016

 

It is hard to believe another Christmas is upon us. The food is packed for a picnic. The weather forecast has been checked.

The dogs are in their harnesses and we’re ready for a family day at the beach. Mr. P, myself, Odie and Molly.

It was quite a year around the world. Much tragedy in the world. We will think of more peaceful days ahead. May our world leaders make considered decisions.

May more people find shelter in the world. May people find that simplicity brings as many riches as wealth. Let 2017 be the year we look for kindness and simplicity.  The wagging tail and smiling eyes of our dogs. The softness of a child’s hair or the happiness of a purring cat.   Going out for coffee or a movie with a friend.

Package up the greed for what you want but cannot afford. Put it on a top shelf and take a walk. Smile at people you meet. Enter a coffee shop or a food court and sit next to the elderly person who sits alone and chat to them. (one of my favourite things). Don’t be shy. Hold a door for someone. Give up your seat on the bus. Have patience with a family member even when they do something that drives you nuts. Don’t yell unless you’re at a sporting event. Get out of your comfort zone once in awhile.

If someone around you gets grumpy start to laugh and tell them it isn’t so bad. Shake your head. Defuse. Walk away. Check in on troubled friends. Ask “Are you  okay”.

Spend time with books if the weather is bad or you don’t have the cash for a movie or a trip. Make that second cup of tea and coffee. Wrap that fuzzy polar fleece around you. Bring your pets in from outside if it is cold. A bit of fur on the floor won’t hurt anything.

Enjoy nature if it is only a dandelion with an ant on it on the nature strip. Look up when you walk. Notice what is around you. Don’t avert your eyes as you encounter others on the street.

snip20161217_4Remember, we never really know another’s story. Everyone has one. Coax it from them if you can. Pay for another’s cup of coffee. Let someone cut in front of you  in the grocery line if they have fewer items than you do.Help someone with their bags.
I think the main resolution for 2017 isn’t to read more books, lose weight or keep the house tidy (though that is nice). I will carry two words with me next year and hopefully for every year after that.

Be Kind.

(even if you have to go out of your way or wait a few minutes to do so. Look for opportunities)

Pollyanna Penguin? snip20161217_5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thoughts of trivia for 2017

I snip20161218_1was soaking in a bubble bath on a rainy, windy Sunday afternoon in Hobart (as you do). I should have been out with our Ulysses motorbike group following our motto of ‘Growing Old Disgracefully’. The wind was strong and I don’t like being around gum trees in the wind. They don’t call them widow makers for nothing. Instead I was going through a backlog of Good Reading magazines (Australia) and Bookmarks (USA). I had my cup of decaf and my green marker pen and I kept coming across a lot of Trivia. Pieces about authors, funny quotes, literary tours; you get the idea.

I thought of those bookish bloggers I follow and how much I know they would enjoy the information I was reading.I started thinking about how much I enjoy Simon’s Stuckinabook Sunday posts of Weekend Miscellany. Each Sunday (quite often) he features a link, a book and a blog post. Short snippets that give one something to look up on a Sunday afternoon.

I thought as I have been revamping my own blog to give it a bit of life I would start something similar. I thought, “hmmm” quite  a bit as I sipped my coffee.

Now, book bloggers seem to love alliteration and without thinking another moment, the decaf must have kicked in, I thought, “That’s it. Tuesday Trivia”

No doubt someone else probably does something like this out in the blogosphere but I am not familiar with it so the name stays.

My trivia or wealth of UBI’s (Useless Bit of Information) needs to be showcased a bit. I know I don’t have the blog following of a Trump rally but the few good friends I have made through cyberspace might like it.

I would also like to invite readers to add their own bits of trivia in the comments at the end of each post. I will probably put up something each Tuesday. I am sure I can find enough, as I originally thought I’d do it fortnightly but I’ll start weekly and see how I go.

To name a few, information will be garnered from the various magazines, book reviews and information related to those awful publications in hairdressers and doctor’s offices. I will search online. I will listen to people as I traverse various Op, Tip, Secondhand and Independent book shops.

I am looking forward to it. As always a new year always presents itself as a big, blank white paged diary waiting to be touched with a sharp fountain pen full of ink. (Don’t you love that image).

Let me know if this idea appeals and if you would be willing to add additional information either on your own blog (put your link in comments) or add to my post in the comments. I think it would be great fun.Think how popular you will be at the next dinner party when you casually drop in a bit of information you may have learned from a James Joyce tour in Dublin or on our blogs.

snip20161218_2

 

 

 

 

 

Travellin’ through the Year with Eden Rock today

screen-shot-2013-05-22-at-16-40-48 Eden Rock has posted up an interesting game. See it here.  You go back over 2016 and take the first sentence from the first blog you did each month. You should have 12 sentences that form a bit of an overview of your year if you did a post each month.I just went back and copied each of my first sentences and it has been quite fun. I did so many interesting things during the year that I had actually almost forgotten. All I can say is “Wow, what a year!”

See what I mean? Starting with January-

January:  This was the story I picked at random through the Deal Me In Short Story Card Challenge.
February:  This past week was busy but all I said would happen did, plus more. I did do the 900 km (540 mile) bike ride last weekend.
March:  Loss of my little dog really knocked us around. People who don’t love dogs won’t understand that, others will.
April:  I have done some interesting Penguin things over the past couple of weeks. Our book group is reading A Little Life.
May:  I have just returned from the Opening Address with Kate Tempest at the Sydney Writer’s Festival.

June:  Who would have thought I would find vintage Penguin books from Alice Springs?

July:  I am going to have a bit of a rant here.
August:  I am writing this to you from the local laundromat on my 45th wedding anniversay.
September:   Two days ago we finally got to Hay on Wye again. It has changed since I last saw it.
October:  Goodbye Blogspot- Hello WordPress
November:  This evening I was looking through the 1001 Children’s Books….and the first book recommended is The Little Engine Who Could.
December:  I can’t believe we are so close to Christmas. This year has passed incredibly quickly. However I am ready for 2017. I always enjoy a new year. It is like a clean slate.

screen-shot-2013-08-04-at-15-49-21

 

RIP- Shirley Hazzard Australian

I am passing on this article from the Australian online publication of Online Plus. snip20161218_1

“Shirley Hazzard passed away on Monday night, in New York, at the age of 85. Like most of her admirers, I came to know her through her sentences. Reading her novels, I was enchanted and compelled by her characters; I delighted in their astonishing reversals and revelations, and I revelled in the narrative lines of good and evil, justice and devastation and confusion and error.

But it was her sentences and phrases that hooked me in. With their leaps of sound and sense they forced me to read with unfamiliar attentiveness, a thrilling sense of narrative trust, and a demand that I take the work of reading seriously.

Many of her readers who have been similarly beguiled by her style. As novelist Gail Jones put it in 2012, in a panel discussion of Hazzard’s style, Hazzard’s readers admire “the imagistic exorbitance” of her writing, “its quality of audacity, of ingenuity, of bold excursiveness”.

Jones’s own striking phrases here pay tribute to the vibrancy of Hazzard’s language, echoing something of its linguistic facility and richness. Hazzard’s great novel from 1980, The Transit of Venus, opens with this extraordinary paragraph:

By nightfall the headlines would be reporting devastation. It was simply that the sky, on a shadeless day, lowered itself like an awning. Purple silence petrified the limbs of trees and stood crops upright in the fields like hair on end. Whatever there was of fresh white paint sprang out from downs or dunes, or lacerated a roadside with a streak of fencing. This occurred shortly after midday on a summer Monday in the south of England.
The calm authority of the opening sentence is broken apart by the startling comparison of the sky and awning, which leads us, in some trepidation, into a surreal landscape full of menace. The full significance of the scene will be revealed much later in the novel, and only to the careful reader.

snip20161218_2
The Transit of Venus, Shirley Hazzard, 1980. Virago
This week, in the wake of Hazzard’s death, Michelle de Kretser observed: “Reading her has always made me long to be a better writer. In some irrational yet profound sense, I wrote for her. Few writers can match the lucid beauty and import of her sentences.”

There is a lovely sense of writers as readers hovering in the space between these three highly literate novelists. It speaks to the experience other readers have of a strangeness in Hazzard’s style, with its linguistic felicity, densely packed metaphorics and tone of high seriousness.

In part this strangeness is the experience of reading prose that has been built, meticulously, from poetry remembered across a life devoted to reading. Interviews with Hazzard are full of references to her extraordinary recollection of poetry, as well as to the breadth of her reading. In a very specific way, her style speaks to her own history and biography, and to her project of self-creation as artist and intellectual.

Born in Australia, Shirley Hazzard lived most of her life as an expatriate with no strong ties to her country of origin, moving nonetheless with authority in elevated cultural circles in New York, Naples and Capri. Although she left school at 16 without further formal study, she was a skilled linguist and autodidact deeply versed in Western art and literature, and familiar also with major works of other traditions.

snip20161218_3Alongside her commitment to art, she was a meticulously informed observer of local and international politics, intent on holding public figures to the highest ideals. She worked at the United Nations through the 1950s and remained a fierce critic of what she saw as its inept and compromised failure to be a truly international organisation.

The Great Fire, Shirley Hazzard, 2003. Picador
Hazzard thus moved, as her fiction also moves, with ease across the worlds of politics and aesthetics. Her novels and stories have their action firmly grounded in the world of public and political life, as well as in the interior worlds, sensibilities and sympathies of their protagonists.

Although the narratives centre around romantic and sexual love, there is also a sustained concern with the recollections and consequences of world war. We see the administration of peace with all its brutal militarism in The Great Fire (2003), which won the National Book Award; ongoing agitations around the globe in relation to dissidents and refugees in The Transit of Venus (1980); the pernicious endurance and ineptitude of bureaucracies in People in Glass Houses (1967), as well as the expressly political dimensions of the domestic and international policies of diverse governments.

These worlds meet most pointedly in the moral and ethical choices presented to her protagonists in their personal and professional lives as artists, scientists, activists, lovers, or friends.

The bond between writers and readers

snip20161218_4
Shirley Hazzard’s Gauss lectures were published in 2016 in We Need Silence To Find Out What We Think. Columbia University Press
Hazzard was committed throughout her life to articulating and defending the public role of writers and artists. In 1982, shortly after the acclaimed publication of The Transit of Venus, she presented the prestigious Gauss lectures at Princeton University. In these lectures titled “The Lonely Word”, which were published for the first time this year, Hazzard insisted on the closeness of bonds between writers and readers as part of the announcement of her own ethical proof; her right to speak as an author, through the practices of literary emulation and apprenticeship.

These close bonds also ground poetic posterity: she wrote that “art is the only afterlife of which we have evidence – the transmission of human experience and thought”.

She found the value of literature in its capacity to compensate for loss: “Through art we can feel, as well as know, what we have lost; in art, as in dreams, we can occasionally retrieve and re-experience it.” Literature also has a capacity for immediacy, an ability “to transmit sensations and sentiments”. Its “directness to life” draws from a commitment to the rightful labour of writing, and to its veracity, what she called “a responsibility to the accurate word”.

The only authentic response to literature is through pleasure. Reading is, she argued,

in part an act of submission, akin to generosity or love; and confession to it, through praise, is a commitment to a private, ‘unauthorised’ response.
With these resonant claims, Hazzard presented a kind of apologia for amateur reading, one which spoke directly to her own role as a writer working outside the circuits of professional literary criticism. Amateurism was central to her constitution as an intellectual, drawing on a tradition of literary devotion and nourished by a privately gleaned intellectual rigour.

snip20161218_5
Defeat of an Ideal (1973) was the first book Shirley Hazzard wrote criticising the UN’s failings. Little Brown and Company
These same qualities have always informed her fiction and are the bedrock of her writing style. They bear witness to the writer’s knowledge of and respect for other writers, and draw all readers into the circle of labour and responsibility. These are important principles, which might inform the discussions taking place today around the value and significance of the arts and humanities, and of scholarly and intellectual work more broadly.

In 2011, as I neared the final stages of my study of her work, I sent Shirley Hazzard the chapter I had written about her writing on the United Nations, for her approval. I asked her if she could let me know if I had made any errors in my account of historical events.

She returned the typescript, marked up with corrections not to the content but to the style, expression and phrasing. Some were slight tweaks, but there were also points where she had clearly been irritated by some particularly infelicitous or injudicious expression or repetition.

I was meeting Shirley Hazzard once again at the level of the sentence, but this time the sentences were my own, and some were found wanting. Of course I followed her suggestions. I have kept that document, treasuring it as a testament to the professional generosity but also to the sharp scrutiny of one of the great prose stylists of the last half-century.

snip20161218_6It recalls to me her abiding conviction that the arrangement of words on the page matters enormously, not just in relation to literature, but all writing, and that writing itself is a point where our private worlds become public. In teaching us to approach literature with an ear to poetry, she reminds us of the endless and important labour of art.”

New Penguins Stomping around Hobart

img_0009
Schubert and Haydn

The other day I took the bus into the city and decided I would do some Christmas shopping. I tend to categorise my Christmas shopping i.e. My friend’s family, Mr. Penguin, people who work in the service industry such as the postman who walks up my steep driveway with cartons of wine or books, our veterinarians, hairdresser.

I picked up a couple of things and decided I needed to walk. I try to do two miles a day. That at least gets me started. Well it was sunny, the temperatures were in the high 20’s C (that’s 80s to you guys who don’t do metric) and there were several book shops I had not been in lately. I thought that I would stick with the second hand bookshops today.  I had gotten a call from Richard at Cracked and Spineless book shop to get in there to see all the early Penguin books he brought in. Well that’s a good way to get me out of the house. I rocked up and sure enough there was a box of them. Sadly there was only one I didn’t have and one first published to replace a reprint I had.

img_0011
Beethoven and Mozart

I snatched them up, much to Richard’s dismay I hadn’t taken more. I saw a stack of Viragos lying on the floor and much to my dismay they were all sold to a woman I hope moves to an island in the South Pacific and forgets to pick them up in the excitement of it all.

Never mind, I walked the three blocks up to the Red Cross book shop. This is truly one of the best and cheapest book shops in the Southern Hemisphere. Volunteers run the place, they have clear instructions to never throw Penguin books into the recycle bins and I went to see what was lined up on their shelf.

All at once Kevein appeared. Kevin is a very skinny bookish character in a hat, walks everywhere, has a beard and hoards books. (Think Dickens) Every time he sees me he comes running up and starts talking about books in his collection. Fiction follows this man. A lot of what he says it is made up. Though I don’t doubt he knows his stuff. He spends a great deal of time telling me about all the Penguins he has. You would think he had more Penguins than what Bristol University has in the archives. I know he hoards books. People who have been in his house say you cannot walk through it. One little path, like something one might see walking through the woods in Walden.

img_0013
Beethoven and Brahams

There could even be small animals living in his forest of books but I try not to think of it.

He tells me about series of Penguins I have never heard of. They do not exist.  One day I decided to start talking about a made up series of Penguin books. Time to get creative.  I described the covers,( a kind of retro stripe with the colours used in the poetry series). I  told him what the series number is- the R series through to 63 when they stopped publishing them due to changes in the company. 1950’s was the year- and waited for his response.

Sure enough he has a back room full of them. See what I mean?  What is the saying? You can’t bullshit a bullshitter?

So I am walking around the shop and he told me to not bother with the “Collectable shelves”. I ignored him. He followed me to them and showed me a couple of Boys Adventure day books he found from the late 1800’s (I see those all the time at the tip shop).  As he is jabbering at me I looked across the top shelf and lo and behold I see 6 old Penguin musical scores shoved into a corner. You can’t really see their spines. Penguin collectors can actually smell old penguins. There is a sixth sense of sorts.

img_0015
Beethoven

When Karen (apenguinaweek) and I went to England several years ago she found a pile of these music scores and quickly preserved them in her collection.  It was a funny experience as the two of us would wander around a shop, find things to collect and coyly pay for the items and then share them when we were again outdoors. But as I was crashing her trip I had a rule in my head if we both saw something we loved she had first crack at it. After all books are only books. I knew I would find some later on and I did.  Yesterday I found seven of them. As I pulled them off the shelf with their beautiful covers (think early Penguin Poet’s series) all of a sudden Kevin’s mouth just went all quiet.  There really are divine moments when one collects something.  Smirk is not the word I would use to rub it in but oh boy, it was difficult.

img_0016

Besides the music scores I also found an old Penguin Special and a Thomas Hardy poetry book (D53).  I happily took my books to the counter where  I was charged 50 cents per book.  Bargain.  So today I am showing them to you.  Know these books are now safe and sound and won’t be going into landfill anytime soon.

 

Celebrations were in order.penguin-1904

 

 

 

RIP author E. R. Braithwaite

I was sorry to hear on the news last night that the author of the wonderful book To Sir With Love had died. I have the old Penguin book of this memsnip20161216_2oir that came out in 1959. I remember when the movie came out I was in high school or just out of it. Sidney Poitier had broken onto the film scene and everyone loved him. I have not read the book but this has reminded me of it and of how much I loved the story. I should find it on  my shelf and have a read. (So many books jumping out at me lately.)

I lifted this short bio below from Voice of America news so the credit goes to them.  I didn’t want this to pass without recognising how much I appreciated his story especially at the time it was written.
WASHINGTON —

Guyanese author, teacher and diplomat E.R. Braithwaite, whose 1959 book To Sir, With Love told the story of a black teacher struggling in a classroom in a white London slum, has died in surburban Washington at age 104.

Braithwaite moved into teaching after a career as an oil worker and serving in Britain’s Royal Air Force during World War II.

He chose the profession after being denied an engineering job because he was black and found himself facing a schoolroom of antisocial, violent and occasionally racist poor whites in a London slum.

But he soon discovered that by showing the unruly students simple respect, he got the same from them and wrote about his experiences in his memoir To Sir With Love.

The book was made into a highly successful 1967 film starring Sidney Portier and British pop star Lulu.snip20161112_6