August 2023

Blog Archive - September 2023

1 September 2023

Michael Duffy Interviews Gertrude Stein

It’s the first day of spring here in the Southern Hemisphere, although the weather has been Spring-like in Australia for a few weeks. Today heralds our publication of the second instalment of Michael Duffy’s interviews with great writers. This time it’s Gertrude Stein, an American writer who immigrated to Paris in 1903 with her brother and became an influential figure in the Parisian art scene, with connections to artists like Matisse and Picasso, as well as writers like Fitzgerald and Hemingway. Click on the image or click here to check out Gertrude Stein.

- bikerbuddy

4 September 2023

How I won a copy of Search History by Amy Taylor

Last week our local bookshop, The Turning Page, advertised a one day competition on Facebook called ‘Search History.’ It was to promote a newly released book, Search History by Australian writer Amy Taylor, published by Allen and Unwin. The publisher had sent Turning Page five copies for a giveaway.

To win a copy you had to describe the strangest thing that has been turned up in your internet search history.

I related a story from many years ago when our kids were young. We looked up ‘wiggles’, expecting to find information about the children’s band. The search returned the band’s website, but second in the search results was a link to a website that allowed men to upload pictures of their genitalia. The website might have even been called ‘Wiggles’. I don’t remember for sure. If you do the same search now you no longer see it.

My entry won a copy of Search History which I happily picked up during the local yearly Springwood festival on Saturday.

This is me receiving the book, pictured with a staff member from the Turning Page.

Thanks so much and obviously I will read and review it sometime soon.


- WaywardWoman

6 September 2023

My new (old) set of Junior Classics

I’ve been trying to keep to a running schedule for a while now and my route often takes me through the shops at Springwood. At the far end of the shops is Vinnies, as we call it in Australia – St Vincent’s de Paul’s – which has second hand clothes and household items for sale at cheap prices. It also has a few shelves of books at the back of the store. Their range of books is pretty good. Everything from Booker prize winners to the most popular of popular fiction.

I found this out the other day when my eye was caught by a set of books in the front window of the store. I was interested more for their aesthetic appeal to begin with. I went back to check out the books when I had time. It was a set of nine hardback books in a series called The New Junior Classics and they include everything from sporting stories to legendary stories like the Trojan War, written for children. They’re illustrated throughout, but I also love the way they look on a shelf, because the spine of each book has an illustration, and their varied colours look great together.

Needless to say, when I found out that Vinnies were selling the entire set of nine books for only $30, I bought them. They look wonderful at the top of my bookshelf in the lounge room. So far, both my daughters have noticed them, but my son seems to be blind to their presence. The important thing is, I love them, and I love browsing through them.

- Toriaz

21 September 2023

The Diary of Samuel Pepys

I could be accused of trying to compete but it really isn’t that simple. Toriaz bought a set of nine New Children’s Classics earlier this month which look rather nice (see the blog entry for the sixth of this month) and now I’m writing about my own set of nine ‘new’ second-hand books. Actually, I bought them last Friday but today is the first day I’ve had the luxury of time to write a post about them.

Some time ago we wrote about a trip to Berkelouw’s Book Barn in Berrima. We bought books then but naturally didn’t bring home everything we were interested in. While we were there we found a nine volume set of the diaries of Samuel Pepys. Pepys was a naval administrator who is now famous for his diary written between 1660 and 1669. The diary covers the Restoration of the English monarchy after the interregnum, a period of eleven years in which no English monarch ruled England after the beheading of Charles I at the end of the English Civil War. After Oliver Cromwell’s death there was a movement to bring back the monarchy. Charles II was instated as the new monarch and many of the Puritan social strictures, including the closure of theatres, were relaxed or reversed. The diary also covers famous events like the Great Fire of London in 1666 as well as the Second Anglo-Dutch War of 1665–7. It also contains details about Pepys’ private life, including an affair. He probably felt comfortable committing this to paper because the diary was written in a shorthand which has to be deciphered.

The edition we saw at the book barn was something like six or seven hundred dollars. A bit pricey, especially since this 1970 edition of the diary by William Latham and William Matthews was actually an eleven book set. The tenth volume was a companion volume with a lot of materials to help study the diary, and the eleventh was an index. Parts of the diary were first published in 1825, and there were other editions in 1875 and 1893. However, Latham and Matthews’ edition was the first that included the diary in its entirety, unbowdlerised.

My Edition of the Diary from Harry Hartog’s

I recently spotted the diary in Harry Hartog’s bookstore in Penrith in their antiquarian section. Again, it was only nine volumes, but it was selling for only $125. I did a check online. There seemed to be no copies of the same edition being sold online in Australia, but I did find sets in America, complete, for anything up to $850 and in some instances, charging as much as US$125 for shipping. Despite the two missing volumes, I decided to buy the set in Penrith. I’ve discovered that it is easy to buy cheap paperback volumes of the companion and index online, so if I should ever feel the need to consult them I’ll be able to do that.

I’m hoping that in the next few years my time frees up enough that I can concurrently read a little bit each day of works like Pepys’ diaries and other large works which I hope to turn into long term reading projects for this site.

- bikerbuddy

22 September 2023

The Booker Shortlist 2023

When I awoke this morning the first thing I did was check to see which books had made it to the Shortlist for this year’s Booker Prize. The Bee Sting was the only book I managed to read from the Longlist before this morning’s announcement. I reviewed it last week. I was really impressed with the book and my review can be found by clicking here. I usually try to make a guess at the winner each year, and despite the fact that I often don’t have time to read the shortlist, I’ve had a good success rate. And since The Bee Sting has been shortlisted, I’m going to make that my pretty uninformed guess for this year, although I reserve the right to change my mind if I read any other books on the list I think are better.

In fact, I should read at least one more shortlisted novel before the winner is announced on November 26 this year. I wrote in a previous blog post that I also bought Paul Harding’s This Other Eden when I bought The Bee Sting. I would have been finished it already, except I was distracted by Zadie Smith’s The Fraud which I felt compelled to purchase last Friday, along with my set of Pepys’ diaries which I wrote about yesterday.

For those interested in reading more about the Booker Prize you can visit the Booker site by clicking here. If you just want to read about the shortlisted books, you can read the descriptions below, which I have lifted from the Booker site.

The Bee StingPaul Murray

Dickie’s once-lucrative car business is going under - but rather than face the music, he’s spending his days in the woods, building an apocalypse-proof bunker. His exasperated wife Imelda is selling off her jewellery on eBay while half-heartedly dodging the attentions of fast-talking cattle farmer Big Mike.

Meanwhile, teenage daughter Cass, formerly top of her class, seems determined to binge-drink her way to her final exams. And 12-year-old PJ, in debt to local sociopath ‘Ears’ Moran, is putting the final touches to his grand plan to run away.

Yes, in Paul Murray’s brilliant tragicomic saga, the Barnes family is definitely in trouble. So where did it all go wrong? And if the story has already been written – is there still time to find a happy ending?

This Other EdenPaul Harding

Inspired by historical events, This Other Eden tells the story of Apple Island: an enclave off the coast of the United States where castaways - in flight from society and its judgment - have landed and built a home.

In 1792, formerly enslaved Benjamin Honey arrives on the island with his Irish wife, Patience, to make a life together there. More than a century later, the Honeys’ descendants remain, alongside an eccentric, diverse band of neighbours.

Then comes the intrusion of ‘civilization’: officials determine to ‘cleanse’ the island. A missionary schoolteacher selects one light-skinned boy to save. The rest will succumb to the authorities’ institutions - or cast themselves on the waters in a new Noah’s Ark…

Western LaneChetna Maroo

Eleven-year-old Gopi has been playing squash since she was old enough to hold a racket. When her mother dies, her father enlists her in a quietly brutal training regimen, and the game becomes her world.

Slowly, she grows apart from her sisters. Her life is reduced to the sport, guided by its rhythms: the serve, the volley, the drive, the shot and its echo. But on the court, she is not alone. She is with her pa. She is with Ged, a 13-year-old boy with his own formidable talent. She is with the players who have come before her. She is in awe.

Study for ObedienceSarah Bernstein

A woman moves from the place of her birth to a ‘remote northern country’ to be housekeeper to her brother, whose wife has just left him. Soon after she arrives, a series of unfortunate events occurs: collective bovine hysteria; the death of a ewe and her nearly-born lamb; a local dog’s phantom pregnancy; a potato blight.

She notices that the community’s suspicion about incomers in general seems to be directed particularly in her case. She feels their hostility growing, pressing at the edges of her brother’s property. Inside the house, although she tends to her brother and his home with the utmost care and attention, he too begins to fall ill…

If I Survive YouJonathan Escoffrey

In 1979, as political violence consumes their native Kingston, Topper and Sanya flee to Miami. But they soon learn that the welcome in America will be far from warm.

Trelawny, their youngest son, comes of age in a society that regards him with suspicion and confusion. Their eldest son Delano’s longing for a better future for his own children is equalled only by his recklessness in trying to secure it.

As both brothers navigate the obstacles littered in their path – an unreliable father, racism, a financial crisis and Hurricane Andrew – they find themselves pitted against one another. Will their rivalry be the thing that finally tears their family apart?

Prophet SongPaul Lynch

On a dark, wet evening in Dublin, scientist and mother-of-four Eilish Stack answers her front door to find the GNSB on her doorstep. Two officers from Ireland’s newly formed secret police want to speak with her husband.

Things are falling apart. Ireland is in the grip of a government that is taking a turn towards tyranny. And as the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, Eilish finds herself caught within the nightmare logic of a collapsing society – assailed by unpredictable forces beyond her control and forced to do whatever it takes to keep her family together.

We have a long-term goal to eventually read (or re-read) all the Booker Prize winners since 1969 and review them for this website. You can check out our Booker Project by clicking here.

- bikerbuddy

October 2023