Back in 2015, about a year and a half before we started this website, I had an eye infection which stopped me reading. It was pretty aggressive and I ended up at the Sydney Eye Hospital a few times, trying to get it under control. It was during this period that I tried audio books. We had a few on disc from when our children were younger, but I also purchased a few more for myself. But it was no good trying to listen to them at the eye hospital where I had to listen for my name to be called, so waiting, sometimes for hours, was pretty boring when I couldn’t read. But when I could listen to them, I found I wasn’t very good at following audio books. Without the words in front of me I found my mind kept wandering or I would fall asleep, meaning I had difficulty following.
I was reminded of this experience the other day when I was at Westfield in Penrith. There is a community notice board near the toilets and I found a flyer advertising ‘Shared Reading’ at Penrith Library each Wednesday. Apart from being a reading strategy to help children to read, shared reading is a thing for adults, I discovered, in which you could attend a session in the library, have a story read to you, and then discuss it with others if you wanted. I had hoped I might attend a session today, but I forgot to book myself in. So that’s something I might do in the weeks ahead. It would be interesting to see how I handle listening to a story, when I have already found my mind wandering in the past. If I make it to a session, I’ll write about how I did in another blog post.
Last week I was contacted by Badgermein from Web Weekly, asking to do an interview and profile on the Reading Project. Web Weekly is a new website on Neocities. Badgermein says the site’s intended purpose is, “to showcase other websites, as well as interview the webmaster(s) when possible.”
Reading Project will be the first website featured on Web Weekly. I just completed the interview this morning. I’m not sure when it will be posted to Badgermein’s site, but when it is I’ll provide a link to it in this blog. Meanwhile, if I haven’t provided enough links to Web Weekly already, here’s another!
The longlist for the 28th Women’s Prize for Fiction was announced in time for International Women’s Day. This is awarded annually to a female author of any nationality for the best original full-length novel written in English and published in the UK in the preceding year.
Sixteen books are on this year’s longlist:
The shortlist will be announced on 27 April and the winner announced on 14 June.
This year a sister prize, the Women’s Prize for Non-Fiction has also been launched. This new award was announced in February 2023 and will first be awarded in 2024, for books published in 2023.
I wrote at the beginning of the month about Shared Reading sessions held each week at Penrith Library. I missed last week also, but I have finally got myself organised this morning and have booked myself in for this week’s session on the 15th. I’ll make a report in this blog once I’ve been.
I wrote almost a week ago that Badgermein from a new Neocities website, Web Weekly, contacted me about doing an interview about the Reading Project. I appreciated the contact and thought it was great that we could contribute to this new website. I elected to write my answers to the interview questions, since I tend to ramble and follow irrelevant thoughts when I speak (some say I do that when I write!) I tried really really hard to keep my answers succinct, even though rambling is what I inevitably do. Anyway, I received an email from Badgermein this morning. The interview will be up today.
I understand that many will have learned as much about the Reading Project and the strange people who run it over the last few years as they want to know. But it would be nice to pop in and at least see what Badgermein is putting together, even if you just skim over my ramblings. This is a link to the interview, or you can go to Web Weekly’s main page by clicking here.
It’s cool here in the mountains this morning after a day of steady rain yesterday. Before that, summer seemed to have finally stirred during the first days of our autumn, giving us a few hot days and even a few warm nights. It’s supposed to begin to warm up again tomorrow, so I thought it would be a good morning to get out for a walk while the clouds are only threatening and the temperatures are low.
A typical morning walk for me takes me further up the road towards Faulconbridge before I turn into the backstreets to begin a loop that takes me back to the Springwood shops, where I turn (or I may go a little further as I did today to a place I call ‘The Amazon’: a vacant block overrun with trees and weeds) and then return home. The shorter route is approximately five thousand steps. It takes me past a house I refer to as the ‘back-to-front house’, as well as two street libraries. The back-to-front house is strange because its front isn’t visible from the street. It faces back into the property while the electricity box and hot water service face the street. It’s quite weird to look at.
(I have many other colourfully named landmarks on my walks. For instance, there is the ‘walls of Troy’ (a house with high garden walls constructed with rock) , the ‘crash test house’ (a car once ploughed into it at speed and it had to be rebuilt) as well as ‘the abomination’, a recently built house that poked its tongue out at the style police and settled on almost the entire area of its small block, as though architecture had been weaponised.)
The first street library is in the street at the back of our block. It currently features as one of the pictures that change on our About/Blog page. I don’t normally look at it because it’s so close to home. But I didn’t have Lucy, the Reading Project dog with me today, so I stopped to take a look and found two Brontë sister books, Jane Eyre and Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. I’ve never read the second book, so I decided to take it, despite not being a fan of the first book or Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. I found myself in the same camp as Jasper Fforde’s characters in his Thursday Next series, who didn’t like the ending of Jane Eyre, and I just couldn’t stand the characters in Wuthering Heights, even though I know that shouldn’t be the measure of the novel. But I’ve had this idea that I might read a bit more 19th century fiction over the next few years, so I took Anne Brontë’s novel. It may take a few years to get to it, but I am nothing if not full of hopeful intentions.
The International Booker Longlist was announced today. We have an ongoing Special Reading Project on this website to read and review all the Booker winners, including books we have read in the past. The details for that project can be found here.
Of course, each year sees two new titles added to that project as the International Booker and Booker Prizes are announced. I’m hoping to get a few more read from the list this year besides this year’s winners. My plan is that I will read them alphabetically by author. Which means Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger will be the next I read. After that I have Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin and A.S. Byatt’s Possession, and then onwards. I’ve actually read these first three books before, but I can hardly review them based upon my memory of years ago. In fact, the two after that – Peter Carey’s The True History of the Kelly Gang and Oscar and Lucinda – will also be rereads. Oscar and Lucinda is one of my favourite Booker winners.
You can find full details of the International Booker Prize here.
Here is this year’s Longlist:
The shortlist of six books will be announced on Tuesday, April 18. The winning title will be announced on May 23.
I attended the Shared Reading session at Penrith Library yesterday afternoon. I wrote about this at the beginning of this month in this blog. The library holds a session each week between one to one and a half hours and the sessions are free. A story is read out and people are invited to discuss it.
I was the last to arrive a few minutes before the published starting time. I was greeted with the comment, “Our first man!” I looked about the room and acknowledged that indeed, I was. Of course, what was really meant was that men haven’t attended these sessions so far. Samantha the librarian (I think I have her name right – I’m terrible at quickly remembering names) explained that the sessions started late last year. Yesterday, there was only three of us, not including the librarian. Apparently there had been a large turnout last week – a fact that one of the ladies affirmed – when Henry Lawson’s ‘The Drover’s Wife’ was read. Lawson is famous in Australia as one of our early colonial writers.
Yesterday, Samantha introduced us to a writer none of us had heard of: Adam Thompson, an Aboriginal writer from Launceston, Tasmania. The short story was ‘Honey’ which appears in Thompson’s book of collected short stories, Born into This, which largely deals with Aboriginal experience in the modern world, according to the blurb I found on the internet. ‘Honey’ details the relationship between Nathan, a man of Aboriginal lineage, and Sharkey, who has some beehives to transport in his ute, and who has some decidedly off-colour attitudes to Aboriginal heritage. Without going into detail, the story could be described as nature exacting a good dollop of karma on the predatory Sharkey.
We also read Margaret Atwood’s poem ‘Salt’, which I haven’t read before. It’s about enjoying the now as well as appreciating the life you have lived, to simplify it.
And I wasn’t limited to only listening to the reading. Samantha supplied us with photocopies of the story and the poem which we were able to keep. So I was able to read along, which is more natural for me.
The session lasted an hour yesterday. Samantha said the sessions tend to last the full hour and a half with larger groups, because they generate more discussion. And that’s fair, because I didn’t contribute much to the discussion yesterday. I must have looked like a dummy. But I didn't feel what I had to say fitted well with what was being discussed, and I didn't want to be the only bloke in the room dominating the conversation.
The early finish turned out well. My son had a day off and he’d caught a lift into Penrith with me. As we finished he sent me a text saying he was about to catch a train home. I told him I was available. I discovered him waiting for me with several purchases, the largest of which was LEGO’s Rivendell set with over 6000 pieces! I think the back of the car dropped when we put it in. But I reflected that that was better than thousands of angry bees!
It wasn’t so long ago that I wrote I was intending to not buy books, since I have such a backlog along with specific reading goals for the next few years. Toriaz often sends me jokes she’s found in her travels through social media space that espouse a philosophy that you can never have too many books, or that just because you have a huge TBR pile doesn’t mean you don’t buy more. She’s not having a go at me, since her messages are really an acknowledgement that she has the same issue.
Nevertheless, despite my recent resolution, I bought three new books this week. I thought I’d write about my three new purchases, not justifying them with broad principles along the lines of “You can never have too many books”: rather, with a consideration about why each of these books spoke to me (I am not delusional: this is merely a metaphor):
As for buying more books when I have so many to read, the fact is that I never really know what I will be in the mood for next. Having books on hand is therefore not only practical, for me, but allows me to consider them, sometimes a good while before I actually read them. It’s an expression of my interests. Also, I just prefer rooms with books in them. But when I do buy another book, there’s usually something that interests me about a book specifically.