Sunday, August 20, 2017


July started with a dash into Cooks Hill Books to secure a rare copy of Nirvana's Nevermind with blue vinyl!

The following weekend, C and I had a girlie day at Olive Tree markets, brunch on Darby, Art Gallery exhibit, a little shop, then drive around the beaches whale watching. We saw some, but too far away to photograph.

Work was busy with school holidays, staff on leave, many extra projects, and a special staff planning day.

We celebrated Bastille day with French Cuisine, and a screening of Contempt at the Towers.

Our Annual Kate Bush Wuthering Heights Day came around again, and with a new red dress and very tight red tights, I tried my very best to dance like Kate with many others at King Edward Park.

Game of Thrones returned mid month, so along with Twin Peaks, Mondays have become mind bending days, thank goodness I get every second Monday off!

I did something rotten to my neck at the beginning of the month and have been seemingly living at the Osteo and Remedial Massage. Getting there, but not a quick fix, getting old sucks!

At Bookclub we discussed Stan Grant's amazing, Talking to my Country.

J and I had a lovely meal at The Clarendon before seeing the play, The Age of Consent. This was a wonderful production, two characters doing 10ish minute monologues, about 4 or 5 each. The woman, a stage mother who may or may not be inadvertedly putting her child at harms way. The man, in jail since 12 for murder and about to be released as an adult. Both gave upbeat stories but sinister and murky lay beneath the surface. Compelling and chilling.

I ended the month with a long weekend - between my anemia and neck/knee issues - I needed rest. I started by heading up to Lochinvar for a Kinesiology session, had a drive through the vineyards and finished with a massage. In between I napped, read, daydreamed, caught up with friends for lunch at Awaba House and visited the amazing Diane Arbus exhibit at Lake Macquarie Art Gallery. Hence I started August feeling rather zen!

Here are my usual reviews.

And some pics:


What I’ve Been Reading
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doeer –  I listened to this on spoken word and loved it. Ultimately a holocaust story, but more in the vein of The Book Thief. It follows two youngsters at the edge and during World War II in France. Marie-Laure is the blind daughter of the locksmith at the Natural History Museum in Paris. Her father is widowed and makes small to scale models of the town to assist Marie-Laure move around outside without getting lost. Werner is an orphan in Germany and has an amazing mind and ability with electronics. The third storyline is the fable of an important stone that brings great luck to it’s owner but awful happenings to anyone the owner cares about. Locked away in the Natural History Museum, when the war breaks the original and three replicas are given to key people at the museum to look after. Marie-Laure’s father gets one. No one knows who has which stone. Marie-Laure and her father escape Paris to the coast to stay with her great-uncle and hopefully wait out the war. Things do not go according to plan. Meanwhile Werner is a youngster in the Nazi Military Elite training school. Add in a Nazi Gemmologist tracking the rare stone – because he has to and because he is very sick and thinks it might heal him. And of course, at some point, all of these story lines meet...spoilers...

All The Light We Cannot See is a beautifully written and interwoven story about war, love, mythology, and being brave. I was absolutely transfixed the entire time. It was never heavy handed or too brutal, and yet you fully understood the awfulness and despair of war. I loved the teeny details, the braille books Marie-Laure read and how they almost followed her real life adventures. The house by the sea she was staying in, I can see this clearly in my mind. The training of poor Werner and his cleverness never really seen to his potential. The mythology of the gem and the stories that followed it. Anthony Doeer has written a modern classic that will stand the test of time and enchant readers continually.

Hunger by Roxane Gay -  See my full review here

Cheech is not my real name...but don’t call me Chong by Cheech Marin – this is another spoken word, read by the man himself. I came across it at work and it was like an old friend stopping by to say hello. As a teen I loved Cheech and Chong, so I decided to listen to Cheech cheekily read about his life. And what a life he’s had. Highly intelligent, musical, and simply a nice guy. He really isn’t Cheech. His life prior to fame is fascinating. He was a smart kid, and grew to love pottery. As a young adult he dodged the draft and escaped to Canada to make pots. This is where he met Chong, a musician writing songs for Diana Ross. He goes through the rise and fall of Cheech and Chong with good grace, humour, and honesty. So much of it was a blast from the past, it was fun. Then his post career in film and television has been remarkable. The book covers politics, war, and race quite seriously too. It’s an outstanding read.

Foreign Soil by Maxine Beneba Clarke – I read this great book of short stories when it first came out, but couldn’t pass up Maxine reading it herself. Foreign Soil is short stories about indigenous women in various situations in different countries. Sad, funny, terrifying, uplifting, and simply amazing.

If I understood you, would I have this look on my face? My adventures in the art and science of relating and communicating  by Alan Alda – This was interesting, but not as funny as his other books. It focuses on his interest in Science and his science shows.
What  I’ve Been Watching
House of Cards S4 – and the drama escalates, Spacey is getting nastier and with his wife ‘missing in action’, one wonders where he will go next. Oh my, you won’t believe it! This show is something else!

A Place to Call Home S1-3 – I ‘discovered’ this great Australian series recently. I never really give Aussie dramas much thought, but this is really quite good. It has a Downton Abbey feel, set in the early 50s with the war very much still on every ones minds. This is probably just a step up from soapie, but the stunning set design, costumes, and intriguing storyline for the main character (played wonderfully by Marta Dusseldorp) give it a little edge. There is romance, intrigue, humour, and many themes that make you think. Noni Hazelhurst is also excellent as the sour mother of the dashing George Bligh (the gorgeous Brett Climo). I watch a lot of darker shows, so this has been a nice palate cleanser. One of the best Australian shows in a long time, if you haven’t watched it, give it a go.

Bojack Horseman – what a crack up this is. Starring the great Will Arnett at the horse and Amy Sedaris (a pink persian cat) as his ex lover and agent. Bojack starred in a popular sitcom in the 90s and is now trying to get back those heady days to no avail. It’s pretty funny and subversive as all good animation should be!

Mirage – This was a very odd classic film I hadn’t seen before. Gregory Peck wakes up one day and has no real idea what is going on in his life, except it appear some people are after him and he may have murdered someone. He is vague about his life and may have lost his memory, as things come back to him he sees they make no sense. He hires a private detective (Walter Matthau) to assist him find the truth.

The Sea of Trees – this was a Gus Van Sant film...say no more. A very haunting yet odd film about a man (Matthew McConaughey) who has lost everything and reads of a mystical forest in Japan where people go to commit suicide. With that in mind, he heads off but meets up with a very lost man (Ken Watanabe) and is torn by his own needs and helping the man.

Keeping Up With The Joneses – this was a fun film with Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot as the strange new neighbours of Isla Fisher and Zack Galifianakis. I’m not normally a fan of this type of movie but Jon Hamm!!! ANd you know it was ok!

Up For Love -  this was a sweet French film about a beautiful woman who falls in love with a very short man...eventually. It is an odd premise, that only the French can pull off, Jean Dujardin is the man.

Joe Cinques Consolation – this was only ok. The actual story and Helen Garner’s book were stunningly horrific. I can see why a film would have been appealing, but it lacked the weight of the book and came off just plain silly.

I Smile Back – this is the get Sarah SIlverman an Oscar nom didn’t work. Look, this film really shows she can act, but it was so self aware I could not stop thinking this is Sarah Silverman. It is about a woman, married with children, with mental health issues. It is very dark, humourless, and disturbing. She IS amazing, but it just came across too try hard and a little clunky because of that.

I Daniel Blake – I am not a fan Ken Loach, never have. I find his style of documentary/film (in that it is not a documentary but not really a film as he often uses non actors) heavy handed and annoying. ANd way way way too depressing to watch. This is not so bad, and definitely one of his better films, but I still didn’t love it.

Sing – what a joy this kid’s animation was. Great music, funny characters, and a good story. Highly recommend to all, young and old!

Le Tour – loving Le Tour as always, Gabriel Gate, those mountains, the castles, the countryside, France, France, France, oh yeah, and the boys!

What I Have Been Listening To
Songs Of The Latin Skies by Katie Noonan and Karin Schaupp – this was a very classy and sharp album. Thoroughly enjoyed.

Heartworms by The Shins – a few months late, I finally got to listen to the new The Shins. It is a great album, much as you would expect. Easy to listen to pop.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

HUNGER: an extremely important book by Roxane Gay

It's been a month since I finished Hunger by Roxane Gay.

It has stuck with me the entire time, not a day has gone by where I haven't thought about something within it.

I do not normally do book reviews here on my blog, I do potted reviews of books (and music and tele and film) in my monthly review. It's funny, as a Librarian you'd think I would do more lengthy reviews...

I discovered the author, Roxane Gay, a couple of years ago and immediately loved her honesty and humour. The book was Bad Feminist, a collection of essays about all sorts of things. This is one of my favourite genres of books: the essay. What struck me about Roxane was her incredible intelligence and her amazing gift with words. She just strung a sentence in such a way you knew exactly what she meant, could see what she meant, smell it, feel it. Not many writers do this well. They was no flowery carry on, no pomp, just brisk truth. 

And she was funny.

It's rare to find true comedic writers, and I just soak them in when I do.

But she could turn on a dime, one moment you have tears running down your cheeks from laughing, the next the tears are from crying.

I loved that too.

I spruiked Bad Feminist to everyone I knew.

Not long after, Roxane toured the country promoting that book and I got to see her intellect in full form, writing is one thing, but she spoke as well as she wrote, if not better.

I just loved her, and not least, she was no super model. She was an overweight Haitian, and her attitude was a little bit punk.

I followed her on Twitter, read her other works, and finally got to see her in person this year at the Sydney Writer's Festival.

I was second in line, I waited over half an hour, even though I had purchased a ticket. I managed a seat in the front row of the large area set aside for the talk.

A couple sat next to me, he started, oh my god, she is soooo fat, I mean, she is huge and on it went, not once but on and on. His wife just nodded in agreement. What cunts! We were very close to Roxane, surely she heard it. I was pissed off for her and for myself, being overweight myself. I felt like saying to him, you know we can lose the weight, you will never not be a cunt! Instead I gave him my very best fuck off and die look.

They moved.

Another couple, easily in their 70s, scrambled into their spots, they turned to me beaming, we just got in from seeing her in Melbourne, she's a fucking rock star. I wanted to hug them, these were my people!

Roxane was amazing, she spoke so coherently, with extreme intelligence and super humour. I was mesmerised by such beauty. 

And yet, her face told a whole other story, it was the face of a woman, continually harassed, it looked cranky, tired, done.

I do not blame her.

I knew her 'memoir' was coming out soon and it had huge buzz. I knew it was devastating and would deal with her being gang raped at 12.

So I got to read this amazing book. It defies categorisation. It is part memoir (but only part), it is self help (sort of), it is about health, it is about loving yourself, it is about the world, it is about everyone.

And it broke my heart.

She wrote so many truths within, there were moments like she had dipped into my head and heart and soul and pulled out the very words that have been sitting there unsaid, but most definitely thought.

Whilst her story is not mine, hers is far worse, there were elements of similarity that brought me to my knees.

Her story is she was gang raped at 12 by a group of boys, led by the boy she loved. She told no one and continued (against her better judgement) to spend time with this boy.

She turned to food for comfort and to turn her body into a fort that could not be taken like that again. And so beginning a love/hate relationship with food that has broken her body so badly...but yet not!

Her story is one of the intellectual versus the emotional, she knows intellectually what the deal is, but emotionally cannot reconcile. Or at least that is my interpretation.

And I guess I interpret her words that way from my own experience.

Without making this about me and going into too much detail. As a much thinner and younger girl I received a lot of inappropriate attention from men, mostly via words and touch. And whilst nothing horrid happened to me, I knew it was sexual, and as a young, shy, introspective girl I just didn't know how to handle it. So I slowly put on a bit of weight, but of course that took me from being skinny to curvaceous. This made matters worse.

I had a long term relationship in my 20s, it started wonderfully, but ended quite badly. He was not a nice person, and treated me quite badly. Physically but moreso mentally. I left that relationship a broken person who was so broken they didn't even know they were broken. It took me a good year to realise this, and close to a decade to work through the hurt. 

I was hibernating from life, and unintentionally rebuilding my body into a fort.

I didn't realise this until some years later and well before Roxane articulated it similarly. Although hers was intentional, I had no idea what I was doing, I was just in a big big fog.

In time I pulled myself out of the hole and rebuilt my life and it is divine.

To turn my mind and heart around from that experience was huge, it is my past and 
I have well and truly come to terms with it. But in the meantime, I am still wearing my armour of fat. I no longer need it, but just cannot shake it. 

Like Roxane I try and like Roxane, it is two steps forward and five steps back.

I have not suffered as she has, but I have had my fair share of embarrassment for not being a size 10.

She writes about doctors appointments, going to the gym, buying clothes, having people think they are helping you by offering you advice as if you had no brain in you body at all. Just navigating the world at her size when the world in made for those much smaller is devastating.

People can be arseholes.

It is an important book that everyone should read. To realise those of us who do not have the body of a supermodel are human too, we have needs and thoughts and hearts. The weird looks, the rude comments, and so on and on do not help but only push us back into ourselves.

And what I loved most about her book was she had no solutions, I do not think there are any. Just try and be the best you can, be kind(er) to yourself and to others.

My theory on people is to get to know them, find out their inner workings, love them for who they really are rather than how they look. Cause regardless of size, all our looks are going to fade, or drop or whatever...and then what are we left with?

She writes similarly, about good friends and family and lovers who have helped her in a positive way.

It might be an early call, but I am putting this up there with the books that shaped my life. The Diary of Anne Frank  and I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. (The other two are Just Kids by Patti Smith and A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway - but for more artistic reasons).

Roxane's writing has never been finer, just when things are getting too much, she turns things around, sprinkles some humour or adds a lighter touch. There are passages that hurt and make you weep, and passages that make you soar and smile. It is remarkable, and yet, I feel at times she was holding back a little. That there is more to her story. This is not a definitive memoir, so I guess maybe in time we will find out more.

I cannot recommend this amazing book highly enough. Yes, it is rough going at times, but you know what life is rough, we all need to embrace that. But you will learn from this book, and you will be lifted by this book, and you'll fall in love with Roxane a little.