28 November 2008

‘Leave It Alone’

If there's one thing we Onions like (apart from cake), it's singing.
No wait, it's books.

Clearly, it's singing about books. Take it away FOCL:

In what the Geelong Advertiser calls a 'a last-ditch bid' to save the town's public library, the good folk of FOCL (Friends of the Colac Library) are rocking the intertubes with the power of their message. 'Every city, every town deserves a public library.'

Colac, along with the rest of Victoria, will be voting in council elections tomorrow. We don't know much about the issue at hand, but the Onions will be watching the election results as if Colac were the 'bellwether seat' of Eden-Monaro. Will FOCL's wonderful YouTubery swing the tide and save their public library?

26 November 2008

In which an Onion travels north

Oh, holidays – aren’t they wonderful (especially when the rains seemed to have set in on poor Piglet back at the House).

And one of the best things about them is choosing books to take. Of course this is often a difficult business because, well frankly, I always want to take them all.

So the real pre-holiday question was, if I packed the new Phryne Fisher adventure, Murder on a Midsummer Night (Kerry Greenwood), and The Slap (Christos Tsiolkas) and Joel & Cat Set the Story Straight (Nick Earls & Rebecca Sparrow) and Finnikin of the Rock (Melina Marchetta) and Looking for Alaska (John Green) and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian (Sherman Alexie), would I be able to breeze through airport check-in in a manner that suggested I was not weighed down by book-laden carry-on luggage? Hmm, I think not.

But never fear, there was a solution. Audio books to the rescue! Once transferred to an iPod, those audio books became very light indeed, and as the second leg of the journey was a very long road trip in the northerly direction, well, audio books rock.

Of course, they are not all audio books, and my reading eyes are bigger than my reading stomach, so I will not be able to finish all the books I packed, especially when there are distractions: But it’s lovely to have a choice.

So here's to lazy days of reading amid the swish of lush green leaves, and swimming in cool waterfall-fed waterholes, and dining with the scent of a sea-breeze, and afternoons that end with shadows cast long on a sweep of beach…and cartwheels at sunset; yes, let there be cartwheels.

Wish you were here.

23 November 2008

In which Piglet is entirely surrounded by water

It rained and it rained and it rained. Piglet told himself that never in all his life, and he was goodness knows how old - three, was it, or four? - never had he seen so much rain. Days and days and days... It was rather exciting. The little dry ditches in which Piglet had nosed about so often had become streams, the little streams across which he had splashed were rivers, and the rivers, between whose steep banks they had played so happily, had sprawled out of its own bed and was taking up so much room everywhere, that Piglet was beginning to wonder if it would be coming into his bed soon.
'It's a little Anxious,' he said to himself, 'to be a Very Small Animal Entirely Surrounded by Water.'
- AA Milne
Map from BoM

17 November 2008

Getting our Yuletide on (or rule-breaking 101)

This Onion FIRMLY believes that Christmas should not be mentioned until December. No carols. No decorations. No merriness. No nothing until December 1st. Only then may you start to open your advent calender (which should NOT have chocolate! Is opening little cardboard doors not enough for you people??!!) and get fully festive.

This hard (but fair) rule is partly because my birthday is at the very end of November and CLEARLY birthdays should not be polluted with Christmas, and vice versa. They are Separate. It's also partly to do with the potential for overload. I love The Christmas Feeling - and if it's spread too thin it tends to disappear.
And (speaking of rules) there are some books that I ONLY read on Christmas Eve. Never at any other time during the year.

But I am going to break my cardinal rule and talk about them in NOVEMBER. Why? Because rules are made to be broken and if anyone suggests any awesome Christmas books of which I am unaware, I need plenty of time to acquire them by Christmas Eve.

So here is my Christmas Eve reading list:
  • Two chapters from The Good Master by Kate Seredy 'Mikulas, Bearer of Gifts' and 'Christmas'. The shepherds are in from the fields, the farmhouse is snug and warm and full of food. Jancsi and Kate, snuggled down in robes in the back of the sleigh, pick up Mikulas from the train station! But the eyes twinkling above the beard look strangely familiar to Kate... (Oh wholesome joy.)
  • Tasha Tudor's A Doll's Christmas. Dolls in a dollhouse having their friends over for Christmas. Tasha Tudor illustrations. (Enough said.)
  • The Gift of the Magi by O Henry Sob. Hair combs. Sob. Watch chain. Sob. Selfless love. Sob.
  • The chapter in Little House on the Praire where Mr Edwards walks 40 miles to (and from) Independence, Kansas, and then swims the flooded Verdigris river to bring Mary and Laura their presents. (A brief aside. Reading the 'Little House' books again as a grown up I've been struck by just how appealing Pa is: twinkling blue eyes; strong and tall; able to build anything; far less worried about making Laura stick to the traditional "girl" roles than Ma is; plays the fiddle and sings; respects the Indians; brave and adventurous but kind and gentle too. *swoons* Who's with me?)

Christmas stories that are NOT on my Christmas Eve list:
  • The Little Fir Tree by Hans Christan Andersen. (Moral. Moral. Boo. Sad. Moral.)
  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (UNLESS there are Muppets involved)
We would love to know if you have any Christmas reading traditions. (Because we want to steal them and make them our own.) Any fabulous Christmas books or stories that we must get hold of? Any Christmas stories you WILL NOT ALLOW into your house?

If anyone is on the lookout for some cheesy Christmas music I can HIGHLY recommend the Ultra Lounge Christmas Cocktails CDs. Best. Purchase. Ever. Even though they are culturally inappropriate because, baby, it's really not cold outside.

13 November 2008

Joanne Horniman - author guest post #1

Joanne Horniman has been a kitchen hand, a waitress, an editor, a teacher and a screen printer. She now writes full-time in a shed overlooking Hanging Rock Creek near Lismore, northern New South Wales (perfectly positioned 'between the rainforest and the sea'). Oh, envy...

Her novels include Mahalia, Little Wing and A Charm of Powerful Trouble, and most recently, My Candlelight Novel - a "quietly breathtaking" story told by Sophie O'Farrell.
It's the follow up to the wonderful novel Secret Scribbled Notebooks as told by Sophie's sister Kate.

Here in the House, we are endlessly fascinated by where and how authors work. And how their surroundings infiltrate their writing. So we asked Jo (who once, to our extreme gratification, included a little glimpse of what we claim as the Onion office in one of her novels) to tell us something about where she writes - take it away, Jo:

You don't need to go there

I don’t seem to be able to stop writing about Lismore. I’ve been living outside it for about 30 years, and my favourite house is this one, down on the riverbank.

It probably has a real name, it certainly has a history, but I know none of it. It’s the house I call ‘Samarkand’ in Candlelight Novel and Secret Scribbled Notebooks, and a glimpse of the exterior is all I know.

I know that I could ask someone if I could go inside (I think it’s been divided up into flats – it’s not a boarding-house), but I don’t want to. I don’t want the actuality of it to spoil what I imagine.

It’s better that the real place remains unknown to me, apart from a few tantalising glimpses as I go past. That way I can make it whatever I want it to be, inhabit it with the people of my imagination. In fiction, I think you can do too much ‘research’. There’s a point where the imagination needs to take over. You don’t really need to go there.

Thanks Jo

(NB you can find out more about Joanne and her novels here - if you haven't had the pleasure of reading any of them yet - well, you're in for a treat.)

06 November 2008

Public Displays of Reading

Does anyone else read while walking? I do. All the time. Especially during that really boring 800 metres between tram stop and home. (Actually, come to think of it, I never read on the way to the tram stop in the morning, only on the way home in the evening.) People look at me strangely sometimes. But I know that if I bumped (probably literally) into a fellow Onion, they would understand.

Because we are a company full of book nerds. Passionate, passionate book nerds. (Although, now that ‘book’ means ‘cool’ that might be a contradiction in terms.)

Here is a list of PDsR (public displays of reading) that other Onions have confessed to…
  • On a plane. Crying over the ms of Judith Clarke’s new book, Winds of Heaven. And not Hollywood-style glamorous tears, but swollen-red-face-shiny-nose-wet-Tshirt-person-sitting-next-to-you-thinks-you're-completely-weird tears.
  • In a café. A bunch of Onions in gales of laughter, followed by an embarrassingly loud and lengthy coughing/choking fit. (That was your fault, Justine - the luge-ing scene in How to Ditch Your Fairy.)
  • On the way to work. Looking up to see the train pulling out of Melbourne Central Station, letting out a huge sigh of realisation that it's a long way back - and a change of train - to Parliament Station. Stephanie Meyer, Bella, Jacob, Edward - curses to you all.
  • In church, as a child. Caught reading about the boarding school antics of Enid Blyton's hockey-playing heroines through the crochet holes in a beige poncho. Got in all sorts of trouble. But did it again, and again.
  • In the pub while the rugby's on. For some reason, this seems to inspire a high degree of disgust (and occasional amusement) from surrounding rugby fans, be you in Ireland, Melbourne or New Zealand at the time. But this Onion doesn't like rugby!
  • Reading at the dinner table. Always guaranteed to irritate one's parents.
  • Huddled behind a little hidden-away wall near an alley. Finishing a chapter of Philip Pullman ... even though she was already late... and it seemed to be raining.
  • Stopped dead under a street light at the tram stop. Looking totally demented while juggling the A4 pages of the first manuscript of Maureen McCarthy’s new (awesome!) book Somebody's Crying – because of being totally unable to walk home without knowing how the book ends.

Ever been caught reading somewhere inappropriate?

03 November 2008

Fictions on the Field

Horses you would bet on if the 2008 Melbourne Cup were a romance novel:
  • Mad Rush
  • Profound Beauty
  • Red Lord
  • Prize Lady
  • Master O'Reilly
  • Boundless
If it were an Anne Rice novel:
  • Barbaricus

If it were a kids fantasy:
  • Septimus

If it were a fairy tale:
  • Ice Chariot
If it were a World War II novel:
  • Honolulu
  • C'est la Guerre
If it were a website:
  • Viewed
If it were a Lolcat:
  • Nom de Jeu