29 October 2009

This is beginning to get ridiculous

You know how this happened?

Well, now THIS has happened...

27 October 2009

Open Letters: Episode 6

Greetings Gerund,

Performing is such a tough job. I admire how you throw yourself into it. Your acting is truly method. Though you do have a tendency to make those around you possessive.

PP (aka Present Participle)


Dear Dangling Modifier,

Please keep this on the QT. I am secretly envious of you. You're such a carefree spirit, a reckless prince. After causing mayhem, the kingdom awaits your next crazy dance-step.

Yours covertly,


Mr Stress Ball

If I throw you at the window, will my colleague know it's a summons? Or will the window break?

Ms Identity Crisis


This is a public announcement for all in-trays,

It has come to our attention that many of you are overflowing in a most haphazard and unappealing manner. As part of our new management strategy we request that you take some initiative and archive yourself.

Senior Streamliner


Attention i, t, s & apostrophe,

Please stop misbehaving. I understand that you are all extremely close and want to be together on every occasion, but you KNOW that is not always appropriate and you can't be possessive. I'm very sorry apostrophe, but sometimes you just have to let the letters play by themselves.

With stern regards,
Coach Crackdown


Dear Spring Winds,

It's true that you help dry the washing, but you are frazzling our nerves. Also, we have it on good authority that you're planning to disappear for a while before returning disguised as the baking-hot North wind. Please reconsider.

Autumnal Sympathiser

23 October 2009

Everybody likes you.

Over at Spike, Jess has mounted a spirited defence of the second person point of view. It's a POV that does tend to divide opinion, and if maintained for a whole novel can drive the reader to throw the book across the room, but used sparingly it can be a very powerful device.

I was definitely disconcerted the first time I opened a novel written in the second person. It was a male character and as a female reader I was confronted, and simultaneously drawn in. The book was Snake by Kate Jennings.

Snake is not written entirely in second person, but that's how it begins (and ends) and consequently it insists we inhabit the role of the character, Rex. We are bound to him. So we are immediately thrust into a major theme of the novel: disappointment - the failure to fulfil desires or expectations.

The first chapter opens:
"Everybody likes you. A good man. Decent. But disappointed. Who wouldn't be? That wife. Those children."
And Snake prepares us early. You know what you are in for.
The first chapter ends:
"Every reason to be disappointed, although that word implies expectations, and you never had many of them."
This is not simply disappointment. This is an absence of hope. This is despair. And the second person narration drenches us in disenchantment.

And when it hits the mark for a reader, second person hits hard. The second chapter begins:
"You grew up on a farm, a thousand acres of chalky soil, a rainfall to break the strongest spirit. The days always began with your father, shoulders hunched against the half-light of dawn, trekking across the yard, past the clothesline, to the rainfall gauge."
I grew up on a farm. The days began with my father at dawn. The rain gauge was an object of worship.

Jennings captured a part my life here. Her use of second-person connected me to the book in a way I had never been connected before, and in response I found myself whispering: "Yes".

The second-person parts (One and Four) are short, and this judicious use is extremely effective. It is such a relief to shrug off Rex's despair and settle in to a more conventional narrative.

Not that the despair is ever entirely shrugged off. Snake is a small-town book. It traces the lives of Rex, a farmer seeking the simple pleasures of farming life, and Irene, a woman plagued by discontent and dreams of escape. It is not a good match. It is an anxious, despairing tale, but beautifully written and enhanced by being book-ended by a second-person narrator.

It remains on my list of all-time favourite novels.

22 October 2009

The spring has sprung, The grass is riz... or is it?

For all of my life - for my whole, entire life up until a week ago - I thought that 'riz' was an adjective that meant something along the lines of 'awesome'. You know, like 'It's springtime and the grass is so totally riz right now.'

Although, to say I thought that is perhaps a bit of an overstatement. I'd never actually stopped to consider it; I'd never defined it to myself. I just sort of felt it. It was the vibe of the thing.

Then, just the other day, I was walking around the back streets of North Fitzroy hoping to find a lemon tree hanging over a fence so I could nick a lemon or two, when it came to me in a blinding white flash. I had an epiphany: Riz actually means 'has risen'. The grass has risen. Oh, it makes such sense. It's in theme. It's a real word (sort of).

And yet, it's also disappointing. I feel robbed that 'riz' is just a comic version of a mildly pedestrian word.

I want MY riz back. But, alas, the magic's gone. It's not as if I ever used riz anywhere else ('You should definitely buy that dress, it's really riz on you.'*), but it was just there in that specific context, being riz. And now it's not.

We've explored words that sound as though they ought to mean something else, and words and phrases that often get mixed up, but have you ever been a little bit heartbroken to discover that a word wasn't what you thought it was? Do you ever intentionally misuse words because you like them better the way you thought they were? In short, have you ever been betrayed by a word?

*Although, with its real meaning, riz in a dress could be rather fetching on a lady with the right kind of legs.

21 October 2009

In the spirit of spring racing

This is the winners post!

Wooh! Wooh! Wooh! for Kate Constable whose book Winter of Grace (part of the Girlfriend Fiction series) is in a photo-finish with Christine Harris's Audrey Goes to Town in the biennial Children's Peace Literature Award.*

And Wooh! Wooh! Wooh! for Shaun Tan whose Tales From Outer Suburbia was first past the post for the Deutsche Jugendliteraturpreis for Best Picture Book, at the Frankfurt Book Fair.**

*Congratulations to all short-listed authors (which includes Kate's co-rider-in-a-forthcoming-Girlfriend-Fiction Penni Russon and Girlfriend Fiction stablemate Barry Jonsberg).

** The Deutsche Jugendliteraturpreis had a distinctly Australian flavour to it this year with Marcus Zusak getting his nose in front for the Youth Jury prize.

16 October 2009

Mischief of one kind and another, aka Friday Stuff and Items

It's only 49 sleeps until the Spike Jonze/Dave Eggers Where the Wild Things Are is released in Oz.*

1) Speaking of Dave Eggers (and we could for days...), McSweeney's as a daily broadsheet? Where do we subscribe?

2) Speaking of McSweeney's, here is a list for your enjoyment.

3) Speaking of lists, the Guardian is compiling an awesome one about fairytales.

4) Speaking of the Guardian, David Barnett is lovely on sewing a wolf suit**

5) Speaking of wolf suits, it may be a month and a bit until WTWTA is released here - but it's 'tonight' in the US.

Let the wild rumpus start!

Where the Wild Things Are Movie Still
See More Where the Wild Things Are Movie Still at IGN.com

*Almost better than Christmas!
**Warning: this article links to images of a range of full-sized costumes inspired by the story. Yes, dear reader, full-sized wolf suits. That is all.

15 October 2009

Maralinga - The Aṉangu Story on Our ABC

We're having a quietly proud moment, because this Sunday at 1 pm* the first of two documentaries based on Maralinga -The Aangu Story will be shown on ABC Message Stick.

The documentaries were filmed in August at Oak Valley and Yalata communities and at Maralinga. And they should be really worth watching.

'I was worried about my country. I grieved. I was upset about what the bombs would do to the land... The people who have done the damage should take it away. They should please clean up the place properly. My birthplace got bombed down. The bomb ruined my country, they spoiled all my country. People died north side and west side. Fell down and died. I am sad.' -- Myra Watson

Sad man by Yvonne Edwards

Do tune in if you get a chance.

Go here for more about Message Stick
And here for more about Maralinga - The Aṉangu Story

* 1st film
SUNDAY 18 OCTOBER 1.30 pm, Channel 2
(repeated Friday 23 October, 6pm)

2nd film
SUNDAY 25 OCTOBER 1.30 pm, Channel 2
(repeated Friday 30 OCTOBER 6pm)

13 October 2009

Further Anne

Much to the disgust of She Who Will Remain Nameless (Actually, since the shameful confessions in the last post, I like to call her Josie Pye), I want to talk about Anne some more.
Really, it's Josie's fault - she planted the seed.

So anyway... The books are my first and abiding love, but I did enjoy the miniseries too. At least, I enjoyed the first two. I didn't know until today that THERE IS A THIRD!

Anne of Green Gables: the Continuing Story

Judging by the story synopsis here, it is a total departure from the books. (TOTAL, UTTER, COMPLETE DEPARTURE)

But, let's face it, AofGG: The Sequel is a very odd mishmash of books, and I still enjoyed it.

Which brings me to my questions:
  1. Has anyone seen Anne of Green Gables: the Continuing Story?
  2. If so, is it any good?
  3. Why is Cameron Daddo in it??

12 October 2009

The view from my tent

Some time ago we confessed to some of the literary lies that litter our lives. And readers, we recommend you prepare yourselves - it's confession time again.

In circles such as these it is often wiser to keep some things quiet. But I am casting caution out into the wind, no, the sun, no, the hail, no, the passing shower - oh, no, it's the sun again.*

Okay. Here we go, ready or not: Anne of Green Gables is not my friend.

There. I said it. And it's true. In fact, I might even go as far as to say that at one stage Anne Shirley was my arch enemy.

I know. It sounds extreme, but they were desperate times.

Here's the thing: my best friend was introduced to little orphan Anne, and her literary ambitions and her quaint misadventures and her charming chatterbox manner and her winning red hair - and immediately adored her (of course, who didn't?). And then she talked about her incessantly, as you do when you make a new friend.

I tolerated the initial round of "Anne says this" and "Anne says that" with mild flutterings of newly-awakened jealousy. But then it segued into: "Anne would do it. She would come to my aid at once, without the slightest hesitation." And: "Anne would be unafraid to embark on this adventure." And: "I wish Anne were here, she would understand."

Well, clearly it was a competition and I had no choice but to take an anti-Anne stance. So I did. I refused to read about her; I refused to watch her; I refused to engage with her in any way. (Of course later I realised that, KNOW YOUR ENEMY would have been a far better strategy to employ, but at the time I chose DENIAL.) And everybody knew it. And so the Anne-baiting began in earnest. Alas.

The piece-de-resistance of the Anne Wars occurred many years after the initial outbreak of hostilities. While in Canada my friend's sister went to Prince Edward Island to visit Anne's house. She sent me an official Anne of Green Gables House postcard. It read:

This is the view from my tent!

(ps: I signed your name in the visitor's book.)

So, as it happens, not so much kindred spirit over here.**

*Melbourne weather - you do like to show your range - a bit like Toni Collette.
** Over here! Over here! There's a kindred spirit stuck over here in the footnotes! This Onion is a proud, card-carrying member of the race that knows Joseph. This Onion turns to Anne for comfort, wisdom, amusement and scope for the imagination. But ... this Onion has always been a bit sceptical about that Diana Barry - is she really worthy of being Anne's bosom friend?

09 October 2009

Many happy Graveyards...

What do Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book and The New York Times bestseller list have in common?

Good question. And we don't have an answer, but they must surely have discovered some common interests as they have spent the last 52 weeks in each others company. That's a whole year, my friends.*

Mr Gaiman himself blogs very charmingly about his 52 week triumph over here.

Unfortunately we do not have a special pie to celebrate this wonderful achievement - but never fear, here are some cupcakes we prepared earlier. Congratulations Neil!


*We know that you know there are 52 weeks in a year. It was for dramatic effect. Forgive us.

08 October 2009

Red Alert

Everyone knows red cars go faster.

And by the look of the covers on the Banned Books Week's site, it seems red books are racier...

Or maybe they are red rags to a bull?

Or perhaps there is fear they will become reds under the bed?

Whatever the case, we'd just like to take a moment to express our solidarity with all the writers around the world who've had their books banned, or burned, or restricted or censored.
And all the people - especially the kids - who've had books removed from their libraries and schools.

And all the librarians and teachers who work so hard to stand up for books and readers in their communities.

* Last week was Banned Books Week in the USA. You can find out more here or here or, you know, by using your internets searching skills.

05 October 2009

Daylight saving is bad for the brain

Who has taken our precious morning hour? And where have they put it?

Nothing is functioning around here: computer clocks, phone clocks, brains.

But we* have a motto for just such times as this:

When in doubt, LOLcat

Herewith, for your delectation on this mind-affected Monday:

*Meanjin, it seems, live by the same creed.

02 October 2009

Friday item

Is it a font?
Is it a cheese?
Is it a foneese? (Actually we made that up. Can you tell?)

Cheese or font?
An inexplicably compelling option for whiling away a Friday afternoon.**

*With regard to results we are instituting a don't ask, don't tell policy.
** Not that we are whiling away our Friday afternoon, of course. Oh no, Ma'am, we are all atoil, with our designing, our editing, our publishing, our wrangling, and there's not even cake...