Good Read

riverguideAward winning Aussie author Richard Flanagan wrote Death of a River Guide back in 1994. I went to the library to get out his latest book, “Wanting,” in the shortlist  in last week’s Mile Franklin Award (Winton won). But it was not available, so I grabbed this one and just finished it today.

It was a good read, especially me being a Tassie freak, the whole book was centered around Tasmania. In fact it was all around one guy Aljaz, who is underwater drowing and having visions and memories of his life and his whole family flash before his eyes as he drowns, his visions of his life include his immediate past that brought him to his current underwater circumstances.

eucalyptusNow I plan to devour his latest book –  Wanting as well as another Miles Franklin short list from this year – The Pages by Murray Bail. He wrote Eucalyptus, which was such an odd concept for a book, but it captivated me! I love Aussie authors and being lost in their stories of our great country. The Pages is an intricate story about an enigmatic philospher who dies and leaves his work in-progress in a shed on his family’s property in New South Wales.

Books I’ve Read

I have read or at least tried to read a few books of late and not had much luck. I just havn’t been able to get into books since January.

I took 2 books with me to Cambodia;

1) Not sure what it was or where I got it but it is in a bin in Phnom Phen now.

story2) Ghostwritten, David Mitchell. Not bad enough to throw into a bin, but not good enough to grab me long enough to finish.

gathering3) The Gathering, Anne Enright. A depressingly good read.

41swums-vl_bo2204203200_pisitb-sticker-arrow-clicktopright35-76_aa240_sh20_ou01_4) The Alchemist, Paul Coelho – I loved it! Brazilian storyteller Paulo Coehlo introduces Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who one night dreams of a distant treasure in the Egyptian pyramids. And so he’s off: leaving Spain to literally follow his dream.

Along the way he meets many spiritual messengers, who come in unassuming forms such as a camel driver and a well-read Englishman. In one of the Englishman’s books, Santiago first learns about the alchemists–men who believed that if a metal were heated for many years, it would free itself of all its individual properties, and what was left would be the “Soul of the World.” Of course he does eventually meet an alchemist, and the ensuing student-teacher relationship clarifies much of the boy’s misguided agenda, while also emboldening him to stay true to his dreams. “My heart is afraid that it will have to suffer,” the boy confides to the alchemist one night as they look up at a moonless night.

“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself,” the alchemist replies. “And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.” Gail Hudson

Great Interview

This interview is filled with wonderful wisdom!

Author Magnus Linklater interviews Author and commentator on life George Steiner. He has run out of  years (he is 80) to write more books so ‘in summary’ he writes a book about the books he wishes he had written.

The interview skips accross the chapters of this book with Steiner commenting on some great topics!

Like God tells Ezeikiel to “Eat [ingest] this scroll” Steiner argues that we should be ingesting words, memorizing important poems, writings, scripture etc. That with the internet we have learnt to skim. he says

“If you know something by heart the bastards can’t take it from you…

…If you have inside you the things that you love passionately you have them and ‘they’ can’t take them from you if disaster strikes and you are in great trouble, political, humanly, illness, solitude, the companionship is fantastic!”

Another great quote from the interview –

“We need to lean to be one anothers guests in this world

The Tall Man

The Tall Man by Chloe Hooper was my best read of the summer holidays, a book I could not put down. If you love court room type investigative dramas you will love this true story.

0241015375On the 19th November 2004, Cameron Doomadgee swore at a police officer. The 36-year-old aboriginal resident of Palm Island off the coast of Queensland near Townsville was arrested by Christopher Hurley and 40 minutes later was found dead in a cell of the local police station.

In January 2007 Hurley was charged with manslaughter, the first Australian police officer to be charged over a death in custody. He was acquitted in June 2007.

With such a controversial subject, it is a pleasant surprise to discover that Chloe Hooper’s The Tall Man Penguin, 2008 handles the matter with such restrained sensitivity and intelligence. (source)

I wept as I read the last chapter of this brilliant book. I know a country copper, a tall , big guy, who I know ‘roughs up’ people a bit, could he do something like this when his temper is pushed to the limit? Would you? Would I? But more than all these questions about our temper and what it can produce, I was challenged by white Australia’s attitude to our indigenous people, the first Australians. Sadly the verdict was handed down just 24 hours before Howard marched the army into the Northern Territory as part of that government’s intervention and ‘answer’ to The Little Children are Sacred report, so most of the drama of it all was lost, but I do remember the news about the riots in 2004 and subsequent reports.

Can I again recommend, for all those who think I may be a bit biased towards Australian Aboriginals, the SBS series The First Australians. You can watch online at http://www.sbs.com.au/firstaustralians/

Oh and – Read The Tall Man

Christmas Thoughts

Well, my bowels are running active! My stomach churns, my brain is fuzzy…it is boxing day.

I ate too much, I drank a bit, I am not a big drinker but 5 beers and a glass of wine over a day exceeds my normal limit by a long shot. And stuff… we seemed to bring more stuff home than we took!

Gifts, now I love stuff. For as much as I protest the consumer ways of our society I am the first one to put up my hand and say “I love stuff”. I have my weaknesses – Books, Outdoor Gear, Hardwear stuff, Comupter Stuff and so on…

Yes, I did manage to receive and give away a few goats, wells and mosquito nets to those with less than me in the third world, but it did feel token. I sometimes wonder what I would feel like if I asked for nothing. Just whatever I was to gain at Christmas defer it all…all elsewhere! My brother played a trick on me last night. We always get a stocking from Mum and Dad, to this day we have gotten ourselves a stocking filled with funny, useful, playful or just plain silly stuff every year. (Deodorant, blue-tack, a bouncy ball, a Tupperware bottle top opener, a stick of sunscreen and so on. Every year my bro and I wait for the other to open everything first and then proceed to open our stocking stash and pretend that there is an extra gift for me, a more expensive one. But it is never the case as Mum makes sure the stockings are identical, this is the case for Scotty our brother in law also. This year something backfired. Clint and Scotty set me up. They had gotten into the stockings and loaded their with extra wrapped gifts. Old watch boxes with some old watches in them and so on. And for me, they had a ‘fake’ stocking filled with crap like a lemon, a wrapped potato and so on. I wasn’t sure what was going on. Even after I guessed they had placed into my bag the lemon etc, I still couldn’t quite work out how they ended up with a watch each and I had a stick of roll-on. They were both playing it up… “Ohhh look at this lovely Seiko under water watch I got in my stocking”. I said,  “Well I did get a nice sleeping bag for my birthday last week, I shouldn’t get a watch too” They were in hysterics watching me squirm and pretend I had not been dealt a dud stocking! Very funny boys! The watches were fake and we all had a laugh.

I got some nice gifts. This nice Apple MAc bluetooth keyboard and matching Mighty Mouse!

wireless_1_20070813

I got more books than you can poke a stick at. In fact Youth Vision gave me a voucher as a bye bye gift for $100 which I hated having in my wallet so I zipped straight down to the Bookshop Cafe in Como – THE best cafe Bookshop in Perth and spent it.

– Daughters and Their Dads, Bruce Robinson (A great local Perth guy)

– Man In The Dark, Paul Auster

– The Tall Man, Chloe Hooper

Then Kathy bought me 2 trashy kinds of novels for Christmas, and these are added to the list I made in the post or 2 below, that is sitting waiting to be read and Gillead which is being enjoyed right now. But I visited my cousin, Renee, just before Christmas, she is a Noongar Aboriginal. And we got to talking about books and movies one should read on indigenous issues, here is what she gave me to read;

– Two Men Dreaming, James Cowan

– An Aboriginal Mother Tells of the Old and The New, Labumore:Else Roughsey

– Voices of Aboriginal Australia, Irene Moores

– The World of the First Australians, R.M. & C.H. Berndt

There should be enough reading here for the next few years!

This year more than ever I heard adults say when asked the questions, :What do you want for Christmas?” – “Nothing really, I have everything I want. I I wanted anything during the year I just went out and bought it, so now it’s Christmas there is nothing I can think of that I need to tell people to get me”

What is behind this statement? This is not a judgement, just a question. What does that statement say about our prosperous times and culture? If I want a kayak, I just either wait for my tax and go and get it, or just put it on the card. No or little delayed gratification, just go and get it. If I want a new x-box, or a new TV and surround sound set up, a new woodwork tool – I just go and buy it.

So Christmas comes around and I want for nothing! Is this a good thing? Should I save up all my wants get them at Christmas? Or should I not? Is that not what Christmas should be about anyway? Should I just ask for socks and jocks and spend my time worrying about other people gifts? I think I would appreciate a gift more if I have thought about getting it all year. Hmm not sure.

Hey. Have yourselves a great post Christmas, have fun playing on the new totem tennis set, riding the new bikes, watching the kids stack it on the rip stick, surfing the new body board, straightening your hair with the new heat thingy, laying on the floor for hours playing with littlest pet shop toys or just curled up in the corner reading the new book.

Books Books And More Books

You can watch The First Tuesday Book Club online if you like.  I enjoyed watching it on ABC2 on Sunday night. I enjoy a bit of a read from time to time and of late I have slowed down. When I slow down I begin to meander, mainly through magazines. I read anything…I take a week to read the Weekend Australian, I read my Wild Magazine (subscription) from cover to cover and I weep through the latest Compassion magazine about the world food crisis…compulsory reading!

At the same time my pile of ‘I want to read this’ or ‘I am trying to read this’ books gets bigger and bigger. This is what it looks like right now;

How to Get Things Done. David Allen – The definitive ‘GTD‘ book, I am reading it slowly and changing my habits as I go!

An Army of Ordinary People. Felicity Dale – Short stories of starting differnt kinds of churches all over the world.

Confessions of a Reformission Rev. MArk Driscoll, Hard lessons from an Emerging Missional Church.

Sea Kayaking. John Dowd – A manual for long distance touring.

Leadership and Self Deception. The Arbinger Institute … getting out of the box

Yesterday I went to my favorite Bookshop cafe in Como.  Sadly an old lady had a stroke at the table next to me and hit the deck hard and threw up lunch…and breakfast…and yesterdays meals – many of us made for a quick exit! Poor thing, she was being looked after by a nurse, she didn’t  just up and leave her laying on the floor!!

But whilst I was there I thought I would check out some of the recommended reading from The First Tuesday Bookclub from ABC2 the night before. So many good recommends, including the very good Breath by Winton! If you are looking for a good book to read and don’t know where to start, the website for this show is a great place to start. At least it narrows it down from a billion books to just a few hundred!

I have been wanting to read Sweet, after Hamo recommended it. But when I saw it there at the Cafe Bookshop I noticed next to it one that had caught my attention from the show the night before on a similar theme.

gileadGilead. Marilynne Robinson. A story about life in church, relationships, pastors, disfunction, and so on. It came highly recomended from numerous people on the show and is also the winner of the 2005 Pulitzer prize for fiction – This is now my summer read! I can borrow Sweet off Hamo 🙂

I got a $100 voucher for Koorong Books from Churches of Christ as a farewell gift as I leave Youth Vision this week to start 3 weeks leave before starting up as Forge state director, taking over from Hamo who has plans to take on new challenges.

I went to Koorong on my way to a meeting yesterday… I think I must be out of touch, I just didn’t know where to start. There was very little that jumped out at me to buy. For a guy who likes books…I did not buy ONE book for myself, unless you count a new bible (A nice fake leather The Message). What I did buy (you will laugh) was a Hillsong Kids CD (Super Strong God), a $5 Celtic CD, the latest CD from Sons of Korah (Rain), listening to it now – brilliant! And Mikaela wanted a Point of Grace CD, so I got what might be their latest, no idea. So it was a music day!

End of a Saga

I have mixed feelings when I get to the end of a big novel, well any novel for that matter. I feel excited as I love to complete something and I feel depressed, if it has been good. Depressed because I have been involved in all the charaters and their relationships and I feel like they are all coming to a close!

I have just finished a 1200 page novel (a sequel). It was World Without End, Ken Follett. I loved the first one, Pillars of The Earth, so I couldn’t wait to get hold of this one. I was even better!

Here’s part of what the Sydney Morning Herld said:

In 1327, in a forest outside the cathedral city of Kingsbridge, two men are killed and a potentially devastating letter is hidden. Its contents would turn England upside down.

In World Without End, Ken Follett makes us wait for more than 1000 pages before the letter’s secret is confided. This is historical fiction-making in the grand manner, although the novel is composed in an essentially conventional mode. Follett’s book begins two centuries after The Pillars of the Earth (in which the building of the cathedral was related). Since this chronicle of the later Middle Ages encompasses the most terrible European century before the 20th – with strife, dearth, pestilence, the Hundred Years War and the Black Death – a very large cast of characters is assembled, for their attrition rate is bound to be high.

Most historical fiction of the past few decades is revisionist in this particular issue: the formative agency of women is emphasised. They are written back into the record, whether real actors such as Queen Isabella, who deposed her husband, Edward II, or Follett’s characters – Caris, Gwenda and the Lady Philippa, forced to marry Ralph but who through suffering will outwit and defeat him.

Follett’s invention of incident-packed misadventures never flags.

We are also treated to medieval accounting, agriculture, architecture (especially), economics, law and medicine. Conveying so much information, committed to an action-driven narrative, Follett wisely chooses a very plain idiom, neither pseudo-medieval, nor slangishly modern. His command of the design of his book is as impressive as Merthin’s construction of the tallest building in England.

It’s been a long, self-renewing journey for Follett from the lean World War II espionage thriller, Eye of the Needle, to historical pageant on his present extravagant scale. No doubt some readers will think of this door-stopper as a “Book Without End”. Others will remember the word that concludes the prayer that furnishes World Without End with its title: “Amen”.

Nonetheless, many will rejoice in the prodigal, sustained creative drive that makes reading this book an experience of pleasant, if not intellectually bracing immersion. Big as it is, World Without End is physically not too hard to manage. It is a tax on time mainly well worthwhile.

A Subversion of the Empire

Walsh’s Colossians Remixed is brilliant. I took a long long time to get through it, I did not want to waste any of it by skimming. So finally last Friday on the train coming home from Mandurah after some work down there I completed the satisfying task!

I wanted to quote endlessly from it over time but thought I would get in trouble for putting all of his book on my blog! Here are some of his thoughts about slaves/masters from Col 3:18 – 4:1.

There is nothing innocent about economic oppression. There is no room for Christians to be “balanced” and “careful” when we are talking about an economic idolatry that will sacrifice children in its service. Slavery is sinister no matter how it gets packaged.

“Then, ” we may ask, “what are we to do? How do we proclaim Colossians’ liberating word to slaves when they are half way around the world? It’s not as if we have any power over their working conditions. It’s not as if they are our slaves whom we need to release”

But that’s just the point. They are our slaves. Every time we step into [K}Mart or Niketown or Gap or […] and exclaim over the great deal we can get on the article of clothing, or how trendy we now look, we’ve made sweatshop workers our slaves. Every time we buy coffee that isn’t shade grown and fairly traded, we’ve made those coffee producers and their children into our slaves. Every time we have purchased a product – any product – that says Made in China, or Indonesia, or the Philippines, or Sri Lanka, it is pretty likely that we have made someone our slave.

Some big statements here, but enough to make you sit up and listen!

There is a great section toward the end on education of our kids. He makes some comments about protecting our kids from some of the world, then asks himself, “But is this not creating social misfits?” and answers –

We hope so… Yes social misfits, that’s what we long for. May it be that we raise up a generation of social misfits, because to “fit into” this culture, to find your place of comfort in it, is to be accommodated to the empire. We have argued that this is precisely what this subversive little tract called Colossians is arguing against.

We want our kids to see through the targeted advertising of McDonald’s toys, games and playlands and recognize them as the manipulative come-ons they are. We want them to see through the packaging and grease in order to see that the stuff being served is not food. We want our little girls to be offended, not enamored, by Barbie’s figure. We want them to know that while the news of war that they are constantly hearing on the radio and on the street makes them worry, there are other little girls in places like Palestine, Israel, Iraq, Columbia, Guatemala, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe who have to live with the daily fear of war in their very neighborhoods. We want them to think about the little girls who work the fields producing cash crops or who slave in the sweatshops producing cute clothes for little girls in [Australia].