Tag Archives: Annabel Smith

What I’ve been reading

Well, theories of memory, mostly, along with narrative inquiry mixed with a dash of ethnographic self reflexive research. This ‘essential’ reading has been for the essay I’m writing as part of my PhD. When I look at the piles of books on the floor of my study, I realise I’ve also been reading other ‘essential’ books – books that keep me sane, although my husband may have another point of view – it’s all about the definition of sanity, apparently. I read Kunal Basu’s 2007 book Racists, a chilling story about a pair of scientists who decide on the ultimate experiment – to raise a pair of children, one black, one white, on an uninhabited island off the coast of Africa. Set in 1855, it raises disturbing questions on the assumptions of racial superiority and left me with a sense of unease and anger. Just after this I picked up Hari Kunzru’s debut novel, The Impressionist, a hefty 500 page door stopper. This is also about race, set in British India. The main character is an Anglo Indian child dashing through imperial India, England and Africa, alternately searching for and escaping from his true identity. Overly long, with dense descriptions I flicked through, this is still funny and tragic and atmospheric, a book that requires some persistence. I also read the fabulous Joan London’s luminous book, The Good Parents. It taps into every parent’s insecurity over their children while meditating on the nature of choices and relationships that bind and separate. The book follows young Maya from country WA to Melbourne where she inexplicably disappears. Her parents look for her and struggle with their own past among Buddhist nuns, enigmatic Chinese girls and East European gangland bosses. This is a beautiful book, full of loss and poetry. Another book about parents and the choices, often disastrous, they make about their children, is M.L. Stedman’s The Light Between Oceans. Set on a remote island off the coast of WA, a young lighthouse keeper and his wife decide to keep something that is not theirs. What follows is a beautifully crafted story about the consequences of that act. Local writer Yvette Walker’s book, Letters To The End Of Love left me wandering around lost for a few days, so powerful were the worlds she creates and so beautiful the writing that it spoke directly to me. Three couples in three places in three different times, write letters to each other. The Perth letters are like the city itself, sharp and clear and resonant with foreboding. The Cork letters also reflect the landscape, soft and grey and reflective. The Bournemouth letters are energetic despite the background of war and the difficulties of love. I loved this book. And finally, Annabel Smith’s latest book, The Ark. It is unlike any book I’ve read before and I couldn’t put it down. I read it in two days. I didn’t do anything else, I might add. I tried to feel guilty about the neglected essay I’m supposed to be writing. Then I persuaded myself research is reading, surely. The Ark is set in a dystopian future where a group of people responsible for 5 billion plant seeds bunker down in the facility known as The Ark, while Chaos rules the rapidly diminishing world outside. It’s a clever, funny and disturbingly prophetic sounding book and I will need to go back and read it again, along with the app that invites me to tour the bunker. And now, I really need to go back to the decolonised, subcontinental, post- structuralist methodology I was working on. I’m already traumatised. Feel free to send me some book recommendations.

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Versatile Blogger?

My friend Louise Allan mentioned me on her blog as one of the versatile bloggers she knows; and she is an accomplished blogger/writer, so here I am – doing something different. I am supposed to reveal seven things about me that I may not have revealed in my writing already, and nominate other bloggers I consider versatile. Here are my seven secrets 🙂

1) I have no sense of direction. Sharon, my GPS lady hates me. She’s always telling me to ‘perform a U-turn where possible’ or ‘turn around and drive 26 kilometres on Roe Highway’ when I think I’m on Wanneroo Road. Once, when we were in Adelaide, SHE told me to drive 400 kilometres to Iron Knob. Evil GPS Lady.
2) I read the complete works of George Bernard Shaw in both volumes the year I turned eighteen. I also read The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough and wept over the fate of Meggie whose eyes were like jewels and who certainly didn’t deserve Richard Chamberlain in the mini series.
3) I can’t swim. I know. I live in a state with the best beaches on earth and I walk along those beaches when the temperature reaches about 40 in summer, but I don’t swim. I’ve tried. I waddle and wade, flop and flutter and sink. Ah well.
4) I knit when I want to think. Knitting keeps my fingers busy and my mind still. By the time this novel I’m writing is finished, I will have knitted a blanket for a very large baby or a smallish adult.
5) I sold my first short story when I was sixteen. It was titled, A Matter of Destiny and published by a magazine called Eve’s Weekly in India. They paid me 300 Rupees, which was a big deal for someone on 5 Rupees a week as pocket money.
6) I grew up on the music of Abba and Boney M. In my head I can belt out ‘Fernando’ with as much verve as Agnetha and Freida but my children tell me they’d rather listen to the Gregorian monks chanting ‘In the air tonight.’
7) I have cold hands and feet. My husband says the only reason I married him was to keep my feet warm in winter. He could have a point.

The bloggers already mentioned by Louise Allan on her blog are also the ones I love to visit. Here are a few more:

Amanda Curtin’s blog, ‘Looking up/looking down’ offers book reviews, author and artist interviews, tips for writers and advice on punctuation with generosity, charm and humour. Amanda Curtin is genetically incapable of writing a bad sentence 🙂
Christina Houen blogs at ‘Writing Lives.’ She is a reviewer, writer and artist and I find her comments on books and life, thoughtful and meditative.
Kim Coull is another writer/poet/artist whose lovely blog provides glimpses into her projects, her concerns with issues most people would find hard to articulate as compassionately as she does.
Karen from ‘Karen has things to say’ blogs mostly about books she’s read and loved. Her book reviews are amazing and original and infused with a particular generosity and insightful observation that makes each review a literary essay.
Lauren at ‘Lady Squirrelogist’ has just started blogging about her novel-in-progress and I look forward to seeing more of her feisty story-telling as the year progresses.
Frances Macaulay-Forde at ‘Exploring Possibilities’ is another writer/poet/blogger whose blog offers links to writers and poets as well as her own poems and snippets of a life lived in several countries.
And of course, Annabel Smith and Natasha Lester’s blogs on writing and books are, for me anyway, an essential toolkit for writers because of the practical tips and lessons-they’ve-learned advice they provide.