October 2023

Blog Archive - November 2023

1 November 2023

The sun always rises

My blog post for the 11 October suggests I wasn’t in a good frame of mind, and things remained pretty terrible for the rest of last month. Thanks to Mike of No Happy Nonsense who reminded me “life sucks a lot but it's the cool shit that makes it rad”. He’s right. Also about the sun coming up. It’s a scientific fact. So I’m hoping today will be a kind of reboot as I do edits to the Reading Project for the first time in over two weeks.

I was planning on only writing this new blog today, just to say we’re back, but as things turned out I had two pieces of good news yesterday. One piece involves Michael Duffy, a local author who has made contributions to this website. I’ll leave that for a second blog post tomorrow.

The other piece of news concerns Josh, otherwise known as Skep from the Neocities website, Skep’s Place. Josh contacted me early in September, offering to write a review for Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales which he was summarising, tale by tale, on his own website. Reading his summaries is not only entertaining (even if you’re not interested in reading Chaucer), but if you are interested in Chaucer but have never been able to get a start, they’re also a good overview of this classic. Follow this link if you want to check out Skep’s summaries.

As promised, Josh finished Chaucer and has written a review for this site. It’s mid-morning as I sit and write this post, so I’m yet to get that review published. I’m hoping to have it done by this afternoon. Thanks to Josh/Skep. I hope we do your work some justice.

- bikerbuddy

2 November 2023

The Man in Black

I walked up the street on Monday to visit our local bookstore where I bought Michael Duffy’s latest book in the Bella Greaves series, The Man in Black. Michael Duffy is a local author and contributor to the Reading Project. Michael’s Bella Greaves novels are only available in Blue Mountains bookstores, but they can also be purchased online at orphanrock.com. If this sounds a bit like an advertisement, it is. But Michael doesn’t pay us to advertise or even ask us to. I choose to do it because I like to support local authors if I can and the book industry in general. Besides, there’s a cool little interview with me on Michael’s website if you haven’t already read it.

Given some issues surrounding last month there was no update in the Great Writers project which Michael Duffy contributes to this website. Michael has committed to a next instalment which will be made available on the Reading Project at the beginning of December. He’s sending me the text next week, so I haven’t read it yet, but this time it appears it will somehow involve an interview with two authors: Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Like the first three instalments (Nabokov, Stein and Orwell) I expect it will be quite interesting!

- bikerbuddy

13 November 2023

‘The End is Nigh!’

Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald had an article by Malcom Knox titled ‘Grown-ups are giving up books. Should we pay them to read.’ If you subscribe to this newspaper you can go read the article yourself. Otherwise, there’s a paywall.

Knox provided some interesting statistics about reading in Australia. Apparently, adult Australians, particularly those in their retirement years – the very ones who traditionally read more and help support the book industry – are reading less or giving up reading entirely. In the last five years the percentage of Australians in this demographic who read at least one book a year has fallen from 77 to 68 per cent: hence, a worrying impact on the book industry. But the trend also has flow-on effects. Australian Government research has found that 44% of adults in this same demographic read at the level of a sixteen year old or lower, while 82% of the entire adult population reads at a level of an 18 year old or lower.

Malcom Knox speculates that less sophisticated reading ages will further degrade the level of political discourse as time goes on. Whether this is fearful and reactionary or prophetic is hard to say. The research shows that access to tablets and phones and the lure of content provided by those platforms is proving too alluring for us oldies. I wonder what impact it might have on a generation of people who never properly develop a culture of reading extended narratives or sophisticated writing, let alone us oldies who appear to be abandoning it.

Here’s the upside. I’m also aware that new technologies are introducing new ways of thinking, reading and processing information. Slow and thoughtful is not necessarily what is needed in a modern world, and modes of thought and entertainment which evolved largely in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are not necessarily superior.

However, it would be sad if the cultural value of reading slipped further. I think reading provides intellectual and emotional growth, is good exercise for the brain, and a satisfying pastime. I think society benefits, also, from thoughtful people. And besides, there is the consideration of critical mass. If enough people continue to consign reading to the waste bin of history it will increasingly become an economically unviable proposition for a range of interconnected industries, and the range and quality of publications can only suffer in that scenario.

Thanks if you’ve read this far. Now you need to go and read a book, too. Your effort may save the world. Even so, I have a nice placard I’m going to take outside, just in case, and march up and down in front of my house: “The End is Nigh!”

(I really should stop reading articles like this!)

- bikerbuddy

27 November 2023

A ‘La La’ of a Booker Prize (for me)

It’s Booker Prize time again! I was mindful that the winner was being announced around nine o’clock Sydney time this morning. I came in from the yard to look up the winner. I typed ‘Booker Prize Winner 2023’ into Google and Paul Murray’s The Bee Sting was prominently displayed by Google, complete with its cover. I was quite happy. I’d reviewed the book in September and I thought it was about as worthy of the prize as any winner I’ve read. Besides, it would have meant I’d already reviewed the winner this year.

The Prophet Song by Paul Lynch

I decided to check the Booker site as well and discovered that my search result was misleading. Prophet Song by Paul Lynch had won, instead. I haven’t read that one. It felt like that moment at the Oscars a few years ago when for a minute everyone thought La La Land had won. When I checked back a few minutes later on Google the result had been changed.

So, I’ll have to acquire a copy of the winner sometime. My experience in past years has been that if I don’t already have the winner, it sells out everywhere the same morning as the announcement, and there can be up to a month’s wait as publishers scramble to meet demands.

In the meantime, I’m working this week to produce a review for Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep (once I finish reading it) to coincide with Michael Duffy’s next instalment in The Great Writers series on this site.

- bikerbuddy

December 2023