Thursday, July 24, 2014

Man Booker 2014: The longlist challenge is ON

Well, well, well, it's an interesting old longlist this year (nothing at all like my ideas - oh what a surprise :-)

There's 13 books longlisted. They are:

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, Joshua Ferris (Viking)
The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Richard Flanagan (Chatto & Windus)
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler (Serpent's Tail)
The Blazing World, Siri Hustvedt (Sceptre)
J,  Howard Jacobson (Jonathan Cape)
The Wake, Paul Kingsnorth (Unbound)
The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell (Sceptre)
The Lives of Others, Neel Mukherjee (Chatto & Windus)
Us, David Nicholls (Hodder & Stoughton)
The Dog, Joseph O'Neill (Fourth Estate)
Orfeo, Richard Powers (Atlantic Books)
How to be Both, Ali Smith (Hamish Hamilton)
History of the Rain, Niall Williams (Bloomsbury)

It's a dude-heavy list, with Fowler and Hustvedt the only women on it, but not an American-heavy list (there are only 4 Americans - Fowler, Hustvedt, Ferris and Powers).

I won't say any more about it now, as I am going to do a longlist survey article for Global Comment shortly and you can read it all there! I will say this, though:

- Longlisting FIVE books that won't even be released until September is dirty pool for all the longlist tragics like me who are trying to beat the shortlist clock. Grrrrrrr.

- No Tim Winton yayyyyyyyyy

I have already read the lovely We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (review here) and am kicking off the rest of the list with Siri Hustvedt's The Blazing World. My intention is to get a review of that one up by early next week, then onwards and upwards to the Flanagan, which I put off when it appeared on the Miles Franklin longlist and really feel I should read now.

After that, we'll see. I think I'd like to read the Ferris - it sounds very interesting. I really want to read The Bone Clocks and The Dog, but neither is even out yet. I'll get as far as I can before 11 September shortlist announcement, and clean up the stragglers, hopefully, before the prize is announced.

This is going to be fun!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

How to make me happy

Send me this picture at work when I am having a busy, frenetic day ...

which promises THIS when I get home - a delicious Pear Mule, our new favourite cocktail (discovered in Port Douglas!) 

Well played, husband. Well played :-)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Man Booker 2014: Longlist predictions

Tomorrow is longlist day for the Man Booker Prize, and I AM VERY EXCITE! If that makes me tragic, then I don't want to be normal :-P

Once again, I am going to attempt to read and review the longlist before the shortlist announcement on 9 September. It is quite likely that I will not succeed, but it's important to have goals in life, and this is a perennial one of mine.

The Booker could be a very different beast this year, as, for the first time, American authors will be eligible (the rules have changed to include all novels written originally in English and published in the UK). This relaxing of the criteria from the previous "resident of or born in a Commonwealth country, Ireland or Zimbabwe" could cause lots of ructions, and is widely tipped to shift the balance heavily toward the better-promoted, better-known, usually-USian authors.

I haven't ever had a go at predicting a longlist before (I always stab at the shortlist), and the field is super wide - Goodreads has most helpfully compiled a list of the eligible titles and it's 154 books long. Naturally I have not read most of the 154, but I have been doing some very bookish-nerdy research and chatting on the subject on book forums, and I'm ready to thoroughly embarrass myself in public (well, here) by listing The 20 Titles Most Likely as I see it. The longlist is usually 12 and occasionally 13 books long, but these are the 20 books that I reckon it will be pulled from. The ones by Americans are starred.

*1. The Goldfinch (Donna Tartt): Which has already won the Pulitzer and is magnificent to boot.

2. The Good Children (Roopa Farooki): Which I am told is a well written family saga set in India, and Booker judges historically LOVE those.

3. The Bone Clocks (David Mitchell): Which is by David Mitchell, and therefore bound to be brilliant and odd. (I have already bought this one to read!)

*4. All the Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doerr): Which is a story about a blind girl set in WWII France, by an American, which is theme-ticked all over the place. Also, it's apparently really good.

*5. The Good Lord Bird (James McBride): Which actually sounds awesomely my cup of tea, being a historical faction involving anti-slavery campaigner John Brown and the raid at Harper's Ferry. (I've bought this one too).

6. The Temporary Gentleman (Sebastian Barry): Which has been highly praised critically and is by an Irish playwright, which screams PICKME PICKME in Booker judge lexicon.

7. Frog Music (Emma Donoghue): Which is a historical crime novel by the author of Room, so highly likely.

8. A God in Every Stone (Kamila Shamsie): Which is set in World War I, which is popular, and in the fading British Empire, and India (even more popular), and is also apparently very good indeed.

*9. Hyde (Daniel Levine): Which could be awful - a Jekyll and Hyde pastiche, hmmmmm - but this debut has been highly praised, and Booker judges love to have at least ONE debut in there.

10. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August (Claire North): Which sounds a great deal like a rip off of Kate Atkinson's Life After Life ... but as that was unaccountably left off the Booker list last year, I'll have this one instead, I think.

11. The Incarnations (Susan Barker): Which is meant to be a fiercely weird blend of fantasy, history and twists, and has been compared with David Mitchell's work, which probably means it'll be this one OR The Bone Clocks but not both.

*12. The Snow Queen (Michael Cunningham): Which is about transcendence, and also is set in New York, so there's that.

*13. 10:04: A Novel (Ben Lerner): Which I have heard is terrific, and is about the crises most relevant to our times. (Have bought this one too :-)

*14. The Ghost of the Mary Celeste (Valerie Martin): Which is apparently a crackingly good historical fiction, and judges like that, a la yon double-Booker-winner Hilary Mantel. (This one's on my TBR pile too...)

15. Eyrie (Tim Winton): Which I truly hope doesn't get on, but I think is probably the Australian Title Most Likely *grumble grumble*

*16. Dept of Speculation (Jenny Offill): Which is meant to be about life, meaning and love through the lens of a failed marriage - aka catnip to prize judges.

17. Mrs Hemingway (Naomi Wood): Which sounds kind of interesting as a bio-faction about Hemingway's four wives, and has been very well received.

18. All That is Solid Melts Into Air (Darragh McKeon): Which is set in and around the Chernobyl disaster, and is by an Irish writer.

19. Glow (Ned Beaumann): Which will get a guernsey because Beaumann has been the bridesmaid too often already.

*20. Carthage (Joyce Carol Oates): Which may or may not be any good (but probably is good, going by the reviews), and is by the author I have long felt to be the Most Booker-Likely American.

So let's see how hilariously offbase I am tomorrow!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

What The Kids Are Reading: July 2014

I used to do this snapshot of kids / family reading material posts from time to time, and looking back, they're quite a good record of the shifting sands of our reading lives. So I thought, why not.

July has been a reading-heavy month in my family - well, even more than usual, I mean - with school holidays / work leave and our trip to Queensland, which provided many an opportunity for lolling about with books.

My about-to-be-11-year-old, A, is very deeply entranced with Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus books at present.

She's read all the Percy ones at least three times each, and is now working her way avidly through the Olympus books. She read at cafes, walking on the street, lying in bed, on the beach, by the pool ... from when she acquired the book pictured (on day 5 of our holiday) until she had read it cover to cover TWICE, she was not super interested in doing anything else! Thankfully, that only took her about 48 hours all told.

She's also gotten into a new series called The Luck Uglies (the book is, apparently, going to be the first of a trilogy). Her taste for fantasy, especially dark, tricksy fantasy, is very pronounced at the moment, and it's provoking some interesting discussions.

Next down is the 9 year old, E, whose obsession and delight right now is the Harry Potter books. She's rounding the corner towards the finish-line on book 6 and takes great delight in reading lengthy passages aloud to demonstrate to me (I am, granted, not a Potter fan myself) how incredible they are. We had a few reservations about her reading the later Potter books - she is, after all, only 9 - but she is coping with the darker themes well and after all, it would've felt rather mean to let her get engaged in the story and then make her wait years to see it end.

In a perhaps not unrelated development, E is also greatly enjoying Enid Blyton's school stories at the moment - particularly the St Clares books and the Malory Towers books.  She herself not infrequently notes similarity in underlying themes or treatments between Blyton's old-skool schools and Hogwarts; it's interesting to see her make these connections and enjoy the resonances that Rowling uses to enhance the Potter stories. I've hunted up my old Chalet School books for her to try; I think she's probably ready to enjoy them too.

Even though both A and E are extremely competent readers, we still do read-alouds of chapter books. I enjoy reading to them, the time together and the conversations it starts. They like the cuddly together time and the feeling that we are all sharing in a journey together. At the moment, I am reading them Susan Cooper's inimitable Dark is Rising series; we are in the fifth and final book, Silver on the Tree. Next up we are going to do Diana Wynne Jones's Power of Three because I loved it sincerely when I was 12 and I want to read it again :-)

My 5 year old, C, is just starting to crack the code of reading herself, and is very, very interested in having books read to her that either use pattern and rhyme, or contain lots of words she can recognise or clear visual cues for words. However, she doesn't like really "babyish" (her word) or reader-style books - she wants plot! She wants entertainment!

To that end, we've been revisiting lots of Dr Seuss at bedtime - she is especially fond of The Sneetches and Other Stories, The Lorax, The Cat in the Hat and Daisy-Head Mayzie. She is also super keen on her Charlie and Lola books again - I have only realised now, watching her interact with them, just how well Lauren Childs wrote those books to be not just funny and appealing, but accessible to new readers. There is a preponderence of word choices that support reading development and promote success, and I love that about them.

One thing that isn't so much in this category, but that C is adoring (and I am adoring reading to her), is Elisabeth Beresford's classic The Wombles. I myself first became acquainted with The Wombles in childhood via the BBC TV show, but the book itself as an untrammeled pleasure, and reading it to C is lovely.

We're back into school and work now, which can mean that reading slows a little, but I expect we'll still find lots of corners of time that a book is the best way to fill!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Holiday in Port Douglas Day 11-12: Cairns, Kuranda, Butterflies and Going Home

Big girl was thrilled with the butterflies. Top photo - from the Skyrail, headed to Kuranda.

 Arrrrrr me hearties! I'm a Butterfly Pirate!

Goodbye Far North Queensland. It was wonderful; we'll be back!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Holiday in Port Douglas: Days 10 - Into the Daintree and Cape Tribulation

The locals get bored on a Saturday night. A LOT.

The cool, clear river.

Cape Tribulation, where the rainforest meets the Reef.

So beautiful, so strange.

Daintree Ice Cream Company makes ice cream from fruits grown on the property.

Don't you ever smile at a crocodile...

The Swan Book

I'm over at Global Comment today, talking about Alexis Wright's incredible The Swan Book. Please come by and add your thoughts!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Holiday in Port Douglas: Days 6-9

Moonlight Cinema to see Rio 2

Fancy dinner for husband and I at the Nautilus restaurant

Underwater camera play in the pool

And again, with intense husband :-)

Horse riding on Mossman Beach with Bana Bama trail rides

Holiday in Port Douglas: Days 1-5

 Four-mile beach

Frogmouths at the Wildlife Habitat

The foreshore

Hand feeding wallabies - see the joey in the pouch!

Out on the incomparable, magnificent Barrier Reef.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

For D (Poem)

Below deck on the diving boat, in amongst the hanging wetsuits
drip drip drip on the woven floor
the murmur and snatched song of the dive instructors buzzing around me as I sat
quiet as a cat, eyes fixed to the horizon line
the impossible beauty of the graded blues, the tenderness of the clear greens
flickering jeweled fish on the edge of vision
a wonder most truly, this
a church of the sea, built in brain coral and angelfish
in small sharks and turtles

so sitting there, resolutely watching it recede from me
I thought of you, and where you might be
I thought of things you will never see
taste and smell and touch beyond your compass, now,
wherever you are

I thought of holding my child in the rough water and I
thought how you cannot, and never will

and I added my tears to the vast indifferent saline ocean
salt from my body to disappear into the greater brine
and I whispered to the bright sky memories of you

leaving a tiny piece of you there, in that cathedral
leaving a tiny piece of me where the sun warms the reef
and the silver fish play.

- Kathy, 8/7/14

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Beauty all around

Port Douglas, ladies and gentlemen, is very, very fine. Hope things are as lovely where you are!