Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Book club members caught in heat wave

Please do not think that the bookclub is doomed. I do my work at home from my sunroom - it's 40 million degrees - I cannot be in the sunroom. Miss L-P has made some comments on Brideshead bless her. Mrs J is at teacher training and her daughter starts prep on Monday. Mrs R's little treasure, my own goddaughter, does the same. We'll get there though people. Please don't dispair and please DO put forward some book titles we can vote on for round two.
Ms L-P's comments: 1. Even he comes back to the Church on his deathbed. Julia can't deny her faith any longer - leaves Charles. 2. B1 – carefree, partic. Oxford days. B2 - sense of foreboding, era coming to an end. 3. Bridey, Charles father is a hoot and Anthony Blanche - he reminds me of a friend of mine!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Do I look good in this blazer?

Man the shed has been busy. I think I have been the most industrious I've been in months. See what a week of sleeping and overeating can do.

Besides powering through paid work, I am 2122 words into my Australian Women’s Weekly Penguin Short Story Comp entry piece. I know this is dangerous to say out loud; akin to telling people you’ve gone on a diet then having to face them six weeks later when you've actually gained wait but, what the hell! I seriously have no intention of winning this thing. I am just really pleased to have got cracking on something. It makes such a difference. I do believe I will finish this thing.

I have been listening on MP3 to Marisha Pessl’s book, Special Topics in Calamity Physics. Holy Moly. This woman has more literary references than I’ve had glasses of chardonnay. (See /

The Washington Post described the book thus: ‘Constructing the novel as if it were the core curriculum for a literature survey course, complete with a final exam, Pessl gives each chapter the title of a classic literary work to which the episode's events have a sly connection: Chapter 6, "Brave New World," describes the first day of a new school year, while in Chapter 11, "Moby-Dick," a large man drowns in a swimming pool … Along the way, there are thousands of references to books and movies both real and imagined, as well as an assortment of pen-and-ink drawings. The book's young narrator, Blue van Meer, has a cross-referencing mania … Pessl is a vivacious writer who's figured out how to be brainy without being pedantic.’ The Post goes on to say: ‘But hunkering down for 514 pages of frantic literary exhibitionism turns into a weary business for the reader, who after much patient effort deserves to feel something stronger than appreciation for a lot of clever name-dropping and a rush of metaphors.’

Now you see this might be why this particular book makes a good audio example. Sure I don’t get the visual aids but, as I was watering Uncle Ian's garden in the north wind today for AN HOUR it made a wonderful distraction. This is not a book I could tackle under the doona covers. I would give up by page 20 most likely. But, walking the local oval? Bring it on.

God I love books. I am also fascinated by new writers. Recently, while pulling apart an old newspaper for the kitty litter tray I was distracted by a photo of Katharine Hepburn in an education section of The Age (bad journo, should have kept date and page reference). It was by a lass called Alexandra Patrikios and was about the modern teenage girl’s (desperate) search for role models. Do you know this chick is in year 11 in Ballarat???? How does one get the opp the write for ‘the paper’? Apparently, doing a quick google, she did work experience at the Green Guide last year. What a ripper.

I too held Ms Hepburn up as an icon when a youngster. In fact, living in my first share flat in East St Kilda I had a number of books and images of the legend around my room. And, dare I say, I might have fashioned a bit of a hairstyle in her honour.

Alexandra debates the problem facing modern girlies – to be Carrie Bradshaw versus (wait for this one, my favourite fear ridden topic) ‘myspace/facebook/ - or not to be.

It was a reasoned, nice written piece. Who cares! I am just so joyful that the girl in the street gets the chance to do this kind of writing in a public forum. I don’t think anyone even mentioned The Age when I was at secondary school but, then again, I persist that I was away the day that geography was taught. Hence I could not point out Sweden or Seddon on a map to you. I am just awed at the opps some kids have these days. Maybe I will go back to school – high school – and start my career all over. I wouldn’t even bitch about wearing a blazer now.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Mrs Underhilll Book Club meeting # 1

Well Book Club members, it's time for me to put out a plate of Melting Moments and offer you a hot cuppa. Of course, I have already heard from a few members that the Christmas holidays were a little crazy and they have not yet finished the book, hell one has not yet even come home. So, to stave off the inevitable for a moment and give us all time to catch up, after all this is meant to be an enjoyable pursuit, I will begin discussions about the book online and in earnest next week and hope that suits better. In the meantime, please consider the next book we will tackle.

Brideshead Revisited (1945), is an evocation of a vanished pre-war England. It is an extraordinary work which in many ways has come to define Waugh and his view of his world. It not only painted a rich picture of life in England and at Oxford University at a time (before World War II), which Waugh himself loved and embellished in the novel, but it allowed him to share his feelings about his Catholic faith, principally through the actions of his characters. Amazingly, he was granted leave from the war to write it. The book was applauded by his friends, not just for an evocation of a time now — and then — long gone, but also for its examination of the manifold pressures within a traditional Catholic family. It was a huge success in Britain and in the United States. Decades later a television adaptation (1981) achieved popularity and acclaim in both countries, and around the world. Another a film adaptation was made in 2008. Waugh revised the novel in the late 1950s because he found parts of it "distasteful on a full stomach" by which he meant that he wrote the novel during the gray privations of the latter war years.

Questions to mull over:

1. A plot structure question: why is Lord Marchmain's death the novel's finale? Isn't he a minor character? Who cares if he dies?

2. What shifts do you see - in theme, tone, style, plot structure, or anything else - between Book One and Book Two of Brideshead Revisited?
3. Besides Charles, whose side are you on as a reader, and which characters just aren't likeable? What do you think of Lady Marchmain, for example? Julia? Brideshead? Lord Marchmain?
(Qs adapted from

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Current goings on in the shed

Every shed is affected by the seasons. For me, as summer makes herself known, I am mulling over a lack of ready funds in the post-overseas trip and Christmas holiday period and thinking about new ways to make and/or save a buck.

Even in my magazine job I am tackling the topic of creativity on a budget, looking at 'frugal crafting' and interviewing folk both here and in the USA on the topic.

This month brings news again of the short story comp that the Women's Weekly does with Penguin. Deadline is in April. Is there motivation in the shed for writing and entering something for this?

Also in the shed this week some clearing up is going on as I make mental space for the RMIT creative fiction class I commence in Feb and for the new computer I hope to invest in when the money Gods again shine their benevolent light on us.

As well as the scent of the neighbours' freshly cut lawns there is a hint of new business with a meeting next week about a very exciting 'multi media' opportunity. Interestingly I have been thinking of late about my skills, trying to stocktake what they really are and wondering how one makes a living from being a good 'connector'; someone who sees opportunities to hook like minded people up and also often imagines new ways of communicating between groups but has no outlet for such a talent if you can call it that. (I confess I had even ordered a book from Amazon called Authentic: How to Make a Living by Being Yourself - Ding Ding, a chat over lunch yesterday with the always intriguing Mr C hinted that there may be a job in the offing requiring just such skills. Who knows?

On the lighthearted side of things: The BBQ has been getting an airing as Mr U and I kick back into some entertaining with little people coming in to the house over the weekend and a trip into the city galleries with them on the cards. There's a wedding coming up in Tassie which has just been diarised so accommodation must be found. Tips for cool Hobart hotels most welcome!