May 2023

Blog Archive - June 2023

1 June 2023

“My self-imposed interdiction”

I’ve written previously how I intend to stop buying so many books. I’ve mostly kept to my resolution this year, since until last month the only books I’ve bought (but haven’t read yet) are a book about Tove Jannson, Salman Rushdie’s new book, Victory City, and a new book by local author, Michael Duffy: Tall Stories. I’ve bought Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton and The Good Wife of Bath by Karen Brooks, but I’ve read and reviewed both now, leaving me only those three purchased books unread for the year . . .

. . . until last month.

Last month I went to Singapore with Jenny where I was encouraged (much like an alcoholic driven to a bar, made to sit at the bar and then told there were free drinks for the next few hours) to buy books at Singapore’s Kinokuniya. I’ve already written about the damage my resolution took on that trip in last month’s blog.

Then, a new Harry Hartog bookstore opened in Penrith last month, where I was again encouraged to buy more books, which I dutifully reported in this blog last month to atone for my sins.

Then . . .

Here’s where we’re at . . . Then Victoria wanted to check out the new Harry Hartog, also, and wanted me to come along. But this time, I had been given gift vouchers for my birthday, so there was a moral imperative to buy more books (!!!). It does not help that I was mocked when I raised the subject of the diminishing imperative of my resolution. Because last month I wrote in this blog that a visit to Harry Hartog with Victoria, “could be a real challenge to my self-imposed interdiction”.

“Who writes like that?” she asked, “and who would say ‘diminishing imperative’?” It seems I do! I’m sure I don’t speak like that . . . I hope not! Maybe I read too many books (???).

So, the following books, which I will say were bought as a concession to ameliorate the disparaging remarks about my bombastic verbiage (damn, there I go again), will serve as my latest confession – and I will say no more about it:

100 Poets: A Little Anthology by John Carey The Canterville Ghost, The Happy Prince and other Stories by Oscar Wilde Child of God by Cormac McCarthy King Kong
Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell Burmese Days Circe by Madeline Miller

Victoria was somewhat more restrained. She bought only three books, and the following shall serve as her confession:

 The McMasters Guide to Homicide Volume 1: Murder Your Employer by Rupert Holmes Death of Gokumon Island by Seishi Yokomizo The Collector by John Fowles

Finally, since this blog post has raised the issue, I decided to do a quick search to see if I could find help groups for people addicted to buying books, along the lines of Alcoholics Anonymous. My search term was “anonymous help group for bibliophiles”. I mostly found online groups celebrating their love of books and the new books they buy, and encouraging me (as a person who made the search) to come join them.

So I sat down and thought what to do? Then I came up with this:


I can use emojis! There is hope for me!

- bikerbuddy

8 June 2023

Updates and some mail

My last blog post was about new books I’ve bought recently. Over the last few days, I’ve had little time to read them. I’m about halfway through Nabokov’s Lolita now, which is proving to be an interesting read. But despite that, my time has been mostly taken up with a redesign of our Reviews page which houses a list of all the reviews on this website, and a trip into Sydney yesterday. (I bought few more books on that trip but I won’t talk about that. I still had gift cards from my birthday. It’s kind of embarrassing the number of books I’ve added to my pile.)

The new version of the Reviews page was overdue. The old version, which is still currently the active version on this site, is based upon a list, while the new version is based upon a table. Now that the design is complete, I will have to laboriously transfer all the information and links from one format to another. I’m going to try to get one letter of the alphabet done each day, so hopefully the new version will be available by the middle of July.

The new page features a search like the old page, but it also has an ‘advanced’ search, which allows you to search individual columns on the table, singly or in multiples. I’ve also incorporated table sorting, which I didn’t know how to do when I designed the current page. The new features will allow me to abandon the Categories pages, which I doubt anyone looks at, anyway.

The new webpage and Michael Duffy’s new book, Tall Stories

I’d just solved the last few technical features for the Reviews page this afternoon when I had a mail delivery. Michael Duffy, a local author who wrote The Problem with Murder and The Strange Death of Paul Ruel, had contacted me a few weeks ago, wanting to send a second edition of his book, Tall Stories, which I wrote about in this blog in April. Getting it felt like a reward for long hours of work.

Michael Duffy’s books are available from

Thanks to Michael. I need to get through Lolita first, but I’m looking forward to reading your book.

- bikerbuddy

14 June 2023

Cormac McCarthy dies

1933 - 2023

Cormac McCarthy’s first book, The Orchard Keeper was published in 1965. Blood Meridian, now one of his most acclaimed books, received little attention when it was published in 1985. For the first part of his career as a writer, McCarthy had little commercial success. He first came to prominence in 1992 with the publication of All the Pretty Horses, the first book in The Border Trilogy. The trilogy was followed by No Country for Old Men, a kind of modern Western, and The Road, a story of a father and son in a post-apocalyptic America. Both were made into movies. No Country for Old Men won the Oscar for Best Picture. Until last year, McCarthy hadn’t published any novels since The Road was released in 2006. Then came the surprise announcement that McCarthy would publish two books, The Passenger, and its companion novel, Stella Maris, which was released about a month later.

- bikerbuddy

15 June 2023

Women's Prize 2023 Announced

Yesterday, I awoke to hear sad news from the literary world, but today brought something more anticipated and positive. Barbara Kingsolver has won this year’s Women’s Prize for fiction, for her novel, Demon Copperhead. The judges say that the decision was unanimous.

I bought the novel recently when I was in Singapore. I’ve read two Kingsolver novels before, The Lacuna and The Poisonwood Bible. Both were excellent. And Demon Copperhead, I had heard, had some associstion with Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield, which I read when I was very young. I haven’t read Demon Copperhead yet, although I have read the first few pages and noted some obvious references to Dickens’s original novel.

I bought my copy in Singapore because it had a much nicer cover than the edition available in Australia at the time. I’ve since seen that the edition I bought is available on Australian book websites, but I still haven’t seen it in a bookshop. Below, left, is the cover available in Australia when I flew to Singapore, and right is a cover that has been released only in the last couple of weeks. I don’t mind the first cover, but the second is awful:

This is the edition I bought in Singapore:

I know you’re not meant to “judge a book by its cover” – I certainly don’t when I review them – but it is still nice to own a book that is aesthetically pleasing.

Like many of the books I’ve recently purchased, given my time constraints now, it may take some time before I get to Demon Copperhead. But I certainly look forward to reading it.

- bikerbuddy

20 June 2023

Updates and The Retro Reading Project

I wrote earlier this month that I was working on a new search page for all the reviews on this site. My prediction was that I would have it up by the middle of next month. However, I’ve really pushed it hard this last week to get the new table written and the search and sort functions worked out, and I now plan to have the new page up tomorrow. That means the old Reviews page, accessible from the menu at the top, is going. So, if you have fond memories of it (I doubt it) then you better give it a hug goodbye before tomorrow.

As a result of all this work I’ve done little reading over the last week, which is why there has been no new review from me for a while. I plan to finish Lolita today and produce a review before this weekend.

But before I started that, I decided to take a trip down memory lane. I was talking to Toriaz about how much the website has changed since January 2017. Unfortunately, I have no screenshots of the original landing page, but I still have some of its elements and I remember how it was laid out. So I took fifteen minutes this morning to roughly recreate it. When we first started, the only thing available to search for reviews was lists on category pages (which are defunct after tomorrow) and the book covers of our four latest reviews, stuck right at the bottom of the main page. I don’t know why I stuck them there.

If you want, check out the Retro Reading Project Page, my unloved and lost creation, torn from the dungeons of time for your amusement.

- bikerbuddy

21 June 2023

Website Update

I’ve put up a new version of our Reviews page today. It can be found by clicking ‘Reviews’ in the menu bar above. The Reviews page is essentially a list of all the book reviews you can read on this website, with search functions to help you find what you’re looking for.

If the new version doesn't appear for you, press CTRL and F5.

Since the first version of the Reading Project in 2017, I knew it would be important to provide a way for interested people to find reviews if the website continued to grow. At first the problem of finding reviews was left to lists on the category pages (which are now defunct). That was soon complemented by a complete list of all the reviews on one page in what would be the forerunner of the previous Reviews page, which has today been replaced. That early list had no search function and no carousel of latest reviews. It merely had cover images of books to the left of the list that were the first title of each letter of the alphabet, used merely for decoration.

Today’s latest version has a General Search bar, working the same as the last version, which will immediately locate text in any field of the table which matches the criteria. However, I have also included an Advanced Search Bar which allows you to query each field of the table individually. Using more than one search box will allow you to limit the table using several search criteria. There is also a Subject field which you can use to locate reviews by topic.

Apart from this, the table can be sorted multiple ways by clicking on the table headers. Given the size of the table, you should expect several seconds delay as the table is sorted. You may find it useful to sort the table according to your needs before limiting the list with a search.

I’ve been working on the table for over a week, and Toriaz and I have both been checking it. But there will inevitably be some mistakes remaining which I hope to catch and kill. I would welcome any feedback if you find mistakes. Also, if anyone has suggestions for search criteria for particular reviews you think should be entered in the Subject searches, I’d love to hear your suggestions.

Apart from that, I’m not sure how the page will display on other screens and browsers, so feedback on any problems concerning that would be good. But to start with, I suggest anyone interested just have a play with the page. Have fun!

- bikerbuddy

26 June 2023

Fire's On!

Toriaz suggested we go to Sydney yesterday. She wanted to purchase Ben Aaronovitch’s new book in the Rivers of London Series, Winter’s Gifts. I suggested we visit the Art Gallery while we were there. We had been talking about Michael Duffy’s latest book, Tall Stories, and its descriptions of the Blue Mountains where we live: its history and culture. Just before the pandemic, I’d helped Toriaz set up an Adventure Lab for Geocaching based around the Glenbrook Tunnel, which Duffy devotes a chapter to. The tunnel was built in the early 1890s to help put the railway across the mountains.

The reason I suggested a trip to the Art Gallery was to see the painting by Arthur Streeton based on the construction of the tunnel called Fire’s On. ‘Fire’s On’ was the warning call before dynamite was used for blasting rock. In Streeton’s painting a man has been killed and is taken from the tunnel on a stretcher. Here’s the detail I took of that yesterday:

Toriaz had seen reproductions of the painting – it’s quite famous, at least here in Australia – but she had never seen the original. I thought it was a good opportunity to take a picture of her next to the painting, along with Michael Duffy’s book:

People take photos all the time in the gallery, but one of the bored guards thought posing next to the painting holding a book was of enough interest that she came over and asked us about it. I explained the book and showed her the chapter Duffy devotes to the painting. She looked bored again and walked away.

(If you want to view the painting using Google Arts & Culture, click here.)

Here’s a historic photo of a train coming out of the tunnel at the eastern end where Streeton painted Fire’s On:

Due to technical problems with the way it was constructed, as outlined in Michael Duffy’s account, the tunnel became unfeasible and was closed in 1913. At the moment, the tunnel is still closed, but there are plans to reopen it to the public as part of a walking and cycling track. Below is a view of the tunnel entrance at the western end in January 2020 when we were there. The machine to the left before the tunnel entrance has now been removed:

The eastern end of the tunnel where Streeton’s painting is set is now overgrown and the ground is quite boggy, but a walking track takes you above the tunnel to the right and then over the top of it. This is what the location of the painting looks like now:

We ended out visit to the Art Gallery with a visit to the Art Gallery bookstore. The store sells art books, naturally, but it also has a reasonable range of fiction. To my surprise, right near the entrance, I found Georgi Gospodinov’s Time Shelter, which won the International Booker Prize this year. I was surprised because – as I wrote in this blog last month – the book wasn’t due for release in Australia until the 29 August. I guess the release date was fast-tracked because of the win. I figured that if the Art Gallery had the book, so would Dymocks, which was our next stop after lunch.

When we arrived we found the store in disarray. The fiction section has been crammed into a small place on the other side of the store where gift cards used to reside, and now gifts and cards take up about half the space of the former book store on the ground level. I checked this morning. It appears they’re just renovating. But I hope this is not their new emphasis.

I bought Time Shelter. I also picked up Yellowface by Rebecca F.Kuang. Toriaz not only bought Ben Aaronovitch’s Winter’s Gifts, but was also tempted into buying a nice hardback edition of Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet (she’s a fan of Sherlock Holmes), Our Hideous Progeny by C.E. McGill, as well as a new orange Penguin edition of Nineteen-Eighty Four with the title and author’s name blacked out, to replace her falling-to-pieces edition.

But before I get to any new books – and there are many – I hope to be putting up something more about Michael Duffy’s Tall Stories by the end of this week.

- bikerbuddy

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July 2023