29 November 2012

Another Birthday! MOAR cake!

So. From early this morning our hatches have been battened against the extreme heat. Which is GOOD NEWS because...

Because... well let us turn to our good friends at the McCoy Building School of Earth Sciences to illustrate our point.

So. Yes. It's HOT. That high temp is 38.3 degrees. And despite the battening, we are perhaps a little wilted. But happily for us there is another Onion birthday in the (hot) House today. And another birthday means: MOAR CAKE!

And what a cake it was. Perfect for a child of the 1970s.


Complete with the added deliciousness of butternut snaps

Oh so stripy. Like a tiger.* In the House.**

And kiwi fruit! So green. So cool and crisp and refreshing. So many wonderful items for the eating.

So here's cheers to EM for most excellent cake-making - and a thousand hip hip hoorays for SC - the birthday Onion.

* Trust us. It was beautifully stripy. In our eagerness to eat, we may not have paused long enough to take a photo that actually showcased its perfect stripes.
** Which is far less alarming than a (Bengal) tiger in a small boat. 

27 November 2012

Happy Birthday, SF!

There was love all around
But I never heard it singing
No I never heard it at all
Till there was cake

We can't claim credit for making this beautiful flourless orange and almond creation.*

But we can claim credit for eating it.

It is helping us recover from the cold November rain** that drenched basically all parts of everyone this morning.

And it is giving us fuel for writing our Very Onion Christmas gift guide. So stay tuned; that's coming up.***

* Thank you, Babka.
** Go on, you know you want to. All nine minutes of it.
*** But not until December; nothing Christmassy happens until December. It's the law.

19 November 2012

Breaking the drought

There's been a distinct amount of no-cake in the House of Onion lately.
There's has been a dearth, a deficit, a deficiency of cake.
It's true that the Tall Designer made excellent steamed pork buns, which helped keep the editors from revolt, but still there has been a shortfall, a scarcity, a wantage of cake.
To sum up, the cake around here has been scanty.
Bring on November. Three birthdays in two weeks. A glut! An abundance! A nimiety!
We begin with a Queen of Sheba chocolate cake from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, via Our Favourite Alien.

Oh cake, never leave again!

09 November 2012

The very first time

Readings children's & YA book specialist, Emily Gale has written an interesting post about the rise of New Adult as a genre - and the reasons they have devoted a new shelf to it in the store.

Herewith their New Adult titles. We are much enamoured of their selection, and would be EXTREMELY interested to hear what other novels you would select to be on your New Adult shelf.

And it set me to thinking about what I was reading as a 19-year-old and as a 20-something. It was such a wonderful time for discovery - of the world, of new friends, of books, of possibility... I read so many, many books. Explored so much of the world through them, discovered so much of myself in their pages. I filled up my bookshelves (made of bricks and planks of wood) with books that I read for the very first time.

It was during these years that I first read Kate Grenville's Lilian's Story, an experience that stayed with me.

And I read The Life and Crimes of Harry Lavender by Marele Day, which changed my life, but that is a story for another day, except to say it led me to read every book of crime fiction by women that I could find.* And every book of contemporary Australian fiction by women that I could lay my hands on.**

And I read The Women's Room, The Golden Notebook, The Bone People, The Kitchen God's Wife, The Children's Bach, A Room of One's Own and The Princess Bride - all for the very first time. And I read - all the way to the end for the very first time - Pride & Prejudice, and finally found the joy in it after such long resentful struggles with it in secondary school. And I read the Narnia books for the very first time, and To Kill A Mockingbird for the very first time, and The Catcher in the Rye for the only time. And I read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas while I posed (for hours) for this photo taken by an RMIT photography student.

And I wilfully refused to read Hemingway and Bukowski and Kerouac (despite, or perhaps because of, insistent recommendations from my 20-something male friends).***

And, for the very first time, I read John Irving.

I started with The World According to Garp. I was living in Sydney at the time, on my very first great adventure, far far far away from my family and the small farm I'd grown up on, far far from the regional boarding school I'd attended for five years, and far even from the Melbourne Uni residential college where I had lived for a year, surrounded by school friends who had cushioned the brand new experience of university.

I had moved to Sydney on a whim - a decision made at 2 am at my older brother's 21st party: 'Yes,' I said that night 'Yes, I will move to Sydney.' Two weeks later, I hoisted my suitcase onto the luggage rack of the Daylight Express and settled in for the 12-hour train trip to the Emerald City.

In Sydney I felt...untethered...in a good way. I felt very grown up - I had secured my first full-time job, my first lease, my first Vegemite glass collection - for the drinking of cask wine - my first true taste of freedom, from family, from teachers, from homework, from exams, from authority figures, and from everyone who thought they already knew who I was.

The long-distance phonecalls to my best friend in Melbourne were prohibitively expensive, so they were infrequent, and treasured. I would sit on the floor of the hallway, housemates stepping over the long curly cord of the phone on the opposite wall, and my friend and I would exchange as much information as possible as quickly as we could. 'Read John Irving,' she urged. 'Read him.'

So I read The World According to Garp, which I gobbled up - after wading painfully though the first few chapters - and then wept and wept and wept at the end. Which was an epilogue. Who knew an epilogue could actually be so effective? In tears, I rang my friend and we consoled each other about Garp and his family and Ellen James and the Undertoad and EVERYTHING that happened. And then I read The Hotel New Hampshire - and begged Lilly to keep passing the open windows - and I read The Cider House Rules - and sat on the pier with Homer Wells, waiting and seeing, waiting and seeing - and I read A Prayer for Owen Meany - and met, for the very first time, weird little Owen who, despite his CAPITAL LETTERS DIALOGUE, completely won over my heart and mind.

I have read other Irvings in the years since, but these are the four that I read and re-read in my twenties. Like the crime fiction, and the contemporary Australian fiction, and the feminist fiction, something in them spoke to me - and when I read them, I had that peculiar feeling you have when you read something that feels like 'home'.

There is now a generation of readers who will fondly remember reading Harry Potter and Twilight and The Hunger Games as 20-somethings. I wonder what other books they will remember. I wonder what other books will linger, will evoke that thrill of discovery, of finding the books that speak as if directly only to them. I wonder what other books they will recall reading for the very first time.

* I found the books, not the women.
** Similarly, I layed my hands on the books, not the women.
*** Of these, I have still only read Hemingway, and that was under duress - thanks, Chaps.

07 November 2012

Very good news. We have it.

Yes. We have it. We have it in truckloads.

1) In local awards news: The NSW Premier's Literary Awards & NSW Premier's History Awards  Shortlists have been announced. And look. LOOK!

The Patricia Wrightson Prize
Kate Constable, Crow Country 

The Ethel Turner Prize
Ursula Dubosarsky, The Golden Day 
Scot Gardner, The Dead I Know 
Penni Russon, Only Ever Always 

HISTORY AWARDS  Young People's History Prize 
Anh Do and Suzanne Do, illustrated by Bruce Whatley, The Little Refugee 
Nadia Wheatley, illustrated by Ken Searle, Playground

Very good news indeed. Many HURRAHS to Kate, Bill, Ursula, Scot, Penni, Anh, Suzanne, Bruce, Nadia & Ken. Many, many HURRAHS!

And congratulations to everyone on the shortlists.

2) And in UK awards news: The longlist for the CLIP Carnegie Medal has been announced. And look. LOOK!

Such good news. So many HOORAYS for Margo!

3) But wait, there's more. In news from the USA. Libba Bray & Margo Lanagan both have books on the Publishers Weekly Best Books for 2012 list. LOOOOOOOK!
Lanagan brings dark, wonderful depth to the legend of the selkies, creatures whose limitations pale beside the weaknesses of men. While other writers revel in the novelty of supernatural romance, Lanagan exposes the true costs of such arrangements - financial, emotional, and otherwise - in stories that span generations.

The Diviners (aka The Diviners) by Libba Bray
It's generally impossible to know what Bray has up her sleeve - few writers are as daring and varied in their output. One thing's for sure, though: it's always a blast. That definitely describes this electric combination of Jazz Age New York City, the occult and the psychic, and some truly gruesome murders.

Brilliant news! A thousand cheers for Libba & Margo!

05 November 2012

Fictions on the Field V

Is anybody out there? I hope so, because there are not very many people here in the House - which might just be Ideal Editing Conditions.
Speaking of conditions, we know that the MOST IMPORTANT contender on Cup Day is not a horse or a jockey or a trainer or a stable hand or a bookie or a punter or Bart's eyebrows or even anyone in the Waterhouse family. The MOST IMPORTANT contender on Cup Day is our long time friend-and-foe: Melbourne Weather.
Let us slip on over to BOM to see what it has in store.
Min 20    Max 26
Cloudy. Patchy rain and isolated thunderstorms clearing during the afternoon.
Oh. Dear. Moving right along...
In other news, if you fancy a little flutter we are, as ever, here to help.
Horses you would bet on in the 2012 Melbourne Cup if it were...
The Hunger Games
  • Jakkalberry
A Dr Seuss spin-off
  • Green Moon
  • Niwot
A US Civil War novel
  • Winchester
  • Cavalryman
  • Americain
Three Musketeers fan fiction
  • Mount Athos
50 Shades of Grey
  • Zabeelionaire
  • Maluckyday
A Patricia Highsmith novel
  • Unusual Suspect
A romance series set in Italy in the late 1500s
  • Galileo's Choice
  • Lights of Heaven
  • Fiorente
An editor choosing to work on the Monday before Cup Day
  • My Quest For Peace
So, racegoers you have been warned. Prepare for a wet track and off-field rain-related incidents. And remember, at the very first sign of rain - hands over champagne glasses. At the very first sign of a puddle - slippery shoes off! And at the very first sign of lightning - umbrellas away! 
No doubt it will all be quite a sight...
Enjoy all the things.

02 November 2012

'As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.'*

Tomorrow was her birthday. She would be sixteen years old and full grown - and finally able to do whatever she liked. Susan's impatience ignited again. All day it had been growing in her, like an ache. She'd hurried carelessly through her chores - the washing of the sheets and the scrubbing of the floors - until at last, while her mother's back was turned, she'd slipped off without permission before fault could be found, or more work assigned. She'd felt so hot and flushed by then that it was almost as if she was coming down with a fever. That was why she'd come climbing up to the top of East Head on such a bleak and rain-threatened evening. She needed fresh air. And yet it hadn't really helped. The salt wind had cleared her head a little, but there was still a strange and unsettling quiver that pulsed in her limbs...
This is an excerpt from a short story.

An excerpt from a rattling good short story by Andrew McGahan.

A short story by Andrew McGahan that you can read, in it's entirety, entirely for free.

And the title of the short story is...

We'll lay good money that the title alone will send chills down the spine of anyone who has read Ship Kings book 1: The Coming of the Whirlpool. And the story will intrigue and delight everyone else.

Read 'The Blinding of Mother Gale' if you loved The Coming of the Whirlpool.
Read it if you've never heard of The Coming of the Whirlpool.
Read it if you're a fan of Andrew McGahan, or a fan of short stories, or you're casting about for something to transport you from your Friday afternoon.

But do read it, because it's wonderful and intense and heartbreaking and fierce.

The Ship Kings website  is full of other exciting bits and pieces, too, like Andrew's Author's Log , and a sneak preview of the gorgeous maps from Ship Kings Book 2: The Voyage of the Unquiet Ice.

And you know where else you can get a look at those maps? IN THE BOOK! Which is in shops TODAY! 

Look at it! Is it not beautiful beyond measure? And inside?

Well... inside...

  • What happens after the Chloe sails out of the Claw, taking Dow far from everything he has ever known?
  • What secrets will Dow discover at the top of the world, in the realms of the Unquiet Ice?
  • How will he deal in the treacherous world of the Ship Kings?
  • And what of Nell, the strange and magnetic scapegoat girl?  Will fate bring her and Dow together or pull them apart?

Oh good lord - it's just so good. READ ALL THE THINGS. READ THEM NOW.

And then have a lovely Melbourne Cup weekend.** 

* -- Seneca
** If you're in Melbourne, that is. If you're not in Melbourne, well, sorry about that; carry on as best you can.