Fight like a lady

I admit that I had not heard about Clementine Ford until earlier this year. As the person who books the speakers at a public library, I came across her while searching for suitable people for our author events.

I was intrigued by the title of her book Fight Like a Girl and reserved the print and digital copies to prepare for a possible future introduction. I still had not come across her in any media because I must tailor my feeds to see other things.

Our event booked out quickly and unfortunately due to a ‘minor bingle’ in her car on the way to us, the event was abandoned with apologies to the keen audience. We rescheduled to a later date. This booked out immediately as well, so the eagerness to hear her message was solid.

I read the book! And hated it. My review on Goodreads:

“Clementine Ford obviously does not comprehend the evocative power of words because this toxic rant does nothing towards bettering equality for all human beings. Remove the meaningless and unintelligent profanities and the book’s actual content is reduced to a third. And most of what is left is tacky personal confession a wise person would leave in the scribbled complaints of a school girl’s diary; and not made public. In her epilogue she proudly states that “this book is a love letter to the girls.” There is no love in this book!”

The last book I recall hating with as much feeling was How It Feels by Brendan Cowell back in 2010 and here is that review.

Of course I am all for equality and women’s rights; indeed human rights. I know women are treated badly throughout the world. Clementine’s message is nothing new when it comes to feminism. Is she just getting attention because of her poor language? I love to be challenged by new thoughts, so it’s not about holding fast to quaint old views, but there seems to be a huge shortage of manners, respect, courtesy, and dare I say actual femininity.

I hand-balled the hosting task to a lovely quiet gentlemanly male colleague, who did his research then introduced her with warm thoughtful and well-considered words. What a guy! His introduction and the provocative talk by Clementine were appreciated by the crowd.

Profanities lack intelligence I think. They are aggressive blockers of conversation. Politics aside, I used to enjoy Paul Keating’s colourful and inventive sledging when he was in government. His wit and ingenious use of vocabulary left others mouths agape.

I must get on to my next read in preparation Music and Freedom – sounds promising.

Given my recent lack of regularity with posting to my blog, I’m sure I won’t succeed with the challenge to blog every week. The most I have posted was back in 2008, the first year of my blog, when I posted 33 times. But here goes … #glamblogweekly #libblogweekly

Review of 2014

As I sat at the beach on the first day of 2015 I felt real peace. As soon as I became aware of this unique feeling I tried to identify why. I had just been for a swim in the ocean followed by a walk with Archie the dog, and I was waiting for my husband to return from his run. The sea was calm but the sky was overcast and grey. No jet skis or boats were out yet. A slight breeze blew the sand dune grasses making the little cottontail grass heads flick back and forth happily. Archie sat quietly near me watching other people and their dogs. I felt happy but tired from dancing the night before until after midnight greeting the New Year at a local venue with some friends. 2014 had been a difficult year and many of the difficult hurdles were now behind me; completed with mixed results.

Last year I was inspired by the ladies on the Up For A Chat podcast to do some forward planning after listening to their episode #40 Manifesting Matisse. I followed their idea to write out a “wish-list” of 32 items on a single piece of paper that is divided into 32 squares (by folding the sheet of paper).

Here are my 32 items with the results at the end of the year – with only four actions that I did not start:

Activity Result
1 Get a new job Found a great job
2 Design a new house House design completed
3 Sell parent’s house Parent’s house sold and settled
4 Execute the Will Will execution finalised
5 Drink no alcohol Alcohol free period for 6 months
6 Paleo diet Consistently trying
7 Eat no wheat Ate less wheat
8 Photo archive Started
9 Exercise regularly Regularly but not enough
10 Write my blog 20 blog posts
11 Create a new blog Did not do
12 Build new house Still waiting for planning approval to begin
13 Learn digital SLR photography Started
14 Start writing a book Did not do
15 Do yoga Weekly sessions with gap mid-year
16 Meditate Regular but not daily
17 Walk Regular but not daily
18 Walk the Peninsula trails Walked many of the Peninsula trails
19 Visit Peninsula art galleries Visited some art galleries
20 Cycle every week Cycled most fortnightly Saturday mornings
21 Read 20 books Read 38 books
22 Garden new block Obtained formal landscape plan for block
23 Learn French Did not do
24 Paint Did a few water colour sketches
25 Start sketch book Started a sketch book
26 Whole 30 Did the Whole 30 eating program
27 Be positive Consistently moved towards positive thoughts
28 Be kind Consistently tried to be kind to everyone I met
29 Learn online Did not undertake an online learning course
30 Go to ALIA conference Yes
31 Write letters to friends Yes
32 Family dinners Yes

 Here is what didn’t go well:

  • We continue to jump through hoops trying to comply with the ridiculously convoluted and slow planning process of the local Council in order to obtain permission to begin to build a new house.
  • Our family relationships have deteriorated in the aftermath of my parent’s departure from this earthly plane; despite honourable intentions and repeated and prolonged efforts to make amends and be kind and positive.
  • Dealing with the possessions of my parents was a huge undertaking that took time, energy, help from my brother and husband, and a respectful attitude.

Here is what went well:

  • My parent’s house sold extremely quickly, making it easy to move on with our own lives.
  • We moved into a new townhouse near the beach in a place we love.
  • I have a perfect new job with great colleagues.
  • Being involved with reading lists for book clubs.
  • Our new house design is brilliant.
  • Regular yoga and cycling.
  • Time spent with some great friends – new and old.
  • I continue to enjoy listening to some great podcasts here, and elsewhere that provides me with some important information and inspires me to keep on track with my efforts.
  • My favourite movie of the year was Inter Stellar – a rare masterpiece in my opinion.
  • I read some interesting books (here are the two I rated 5-star):

So I have once again taken a sheet of paper and folded it into 32 squares, then listed my 32 things, and pasted it into the back of my journal. So come what may 2015…

Square astronaut round hole

Chris Hadfield is known for his rendition of A Space Oddity performed on the International Space Station. It is a beautiful, unique and poignant piece of poetry in motion.

“The purpose of the music video was to make the rare and beautiful experience of space flight more accessible.”

Square astronaut, round hole” is Chris’s final assessment of his career. As a 9 year old Canadian boy he was inspired when he saw the grainy black and white television broadcast of Neil Armstrong’s “small step” on to the Moon. He decided then to become an astronaut. His plan was firmly placed in his mind and from that day he applied himself to that purpose.

And as we can all appreciate, this is no small task, especially for someone who is not an American. His tenacity, humility, and intelligence provided him with the skills needed to endure this difficult quest.

Not only did he need all of the complex technical knowledge and be able to apply those with precision, but he also needed to learn to speak Russian, survive in the wilderness, be an underwater reconnaissance specialist, fly and test jet planes, and be patient. What a guy! Most mere mortals would only be able to fit one or two of those things into a single lifetime. As well as all of this he finds time for a family, and to play guitar.

an_astronauts_guide_to_life_on_earthChris Hadfield writes an interesting account of his career in An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth. I loved this book. Chris shows his humility and generosity that serves him well as he establishes himself as part of the large NASA team.

Not only does this book provide a great description about what is required to become an astronaut; he also provides an excellent blueprint that could be applied to any vision or goal. And he writes this all with humour and humility.

 

“…everything counts: the small moments, the medium ones, the successes that make the papers, and also the ones that no one knows about but me.”

In his TED Talk he tells us how to face our fears while also sharing his absolute love of our planet. He has played his part of the larger quest to take “giant leaps” into our Universe, and he has communicated that experience to us on the ground through the poetry of description and the art of photography from the ISS, distributed through social media channels.

“The windows of a spaceship casually frame miracles.”

You can follow Commander Chris Hadfield on Twitter @Cmdr_Hadfield

Reading fiction

Reading fiction is not my preference. I prefer true stories; epic adventures; personal quests; travel, and description of place. Fiction has to grab me in the first ten pages; otherwise I become bored and abandon the book. After all, life is too short and there are too many books to read.

For me, a good fiction story is a page-turner that makes me keen to know what happens next. I hate reverse chronology. Often I find a story has hooked me in the first chapter, and then the following chapter takes me back to some point in the past. And that’s where I usually abandon the book.

I like a good story, told from the beginning to end with some unobvious point of focus that gradually unfolds to a satisfactory close. It is disappointing to say, “ I liked the story, but I didn’t like the ending.” I loathe nihilistic tales of woe with hopeless and detestable characters that seems to be a current popular theme.

But is reading fiction a waste of time, as some people suggest? After all it is just someone’s imaginary tale. And why bother when our world is full of amazing and interesting real people, lives, places and situations?

Research provides interesting reasons that support reading fiction as a valuable activity. Not only does this pursuit provide insight into situations and ideas outside of our everyday life, but there is evidence to suggest that it has positive effects on our brains by making new neurological connections that remain activated long after the reading activity is over. This heightened activity called a ‘shadow activity’, similar to muscle memory, by scientists working on the Emory study.

We reiterate the idea that there are only seven basic plots:

  1. Overcoming the monster.
  2. Rags to riches.
  3. The quest.
  4. Voyage and return.
  5. Comedy.
  6. Tragedy.
  7. Rebirth

Typically though our bookstores and libraries arrange fiction into genres of:

  • Romance
  • Relationship
  • Humour
  • Horror
  • Mystery
  • Thriller
  • Adventure
  • Historical
  • Classic
  • Western
  • Chick Lit
  • Paranormal romance
  • General
  • And others.

My fiction reading sometimes follows a typical pattern of author trails. I discover an author I like, then I am keen to read more by that person; until I am satiated with their voice, style, and ideas. Elizabeth Gilbert and Joanne Harris are two authors I enjoy reading. I loved The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert. It is stunning with its unique story and intelligent prose. I like to follow a trail of reading that is unique to my interests at that time.

Many librarians use website tools such as Fantastic Fiction, Literature Map, LibraryThing, GoodReads, and others to find the next great read for ourselves and our customers.

But there is more to be said and understood about the activity of reading fiction and how it impacts and influences our community and society. Librarians get a very real sense of this phenomenon when working with library users. Some book titles seem to grab hold of the attention of the populace and there is a groundswell of interest that seems to defy understanding. The Slap by Christos Tsolkias is an example that comes to mind. It was an uncomfortable book to read. Not everyone liked it. One incident provides the focus for a masterful portrayal of multi-cultural suburban Melbourne in current times. The slap itself – right or wrong – receives attention and opinions from different generations and cultures, and ultimately judged in politically correct times. This resonates with a culture where this experience is known, shared, and debated. We all have an opinion and all are valid.

“Texts affect readers on many levels – emotional, ethical, intellectual, sensual, spiritual. Consequently, two readers can respond very differently to the same text.” ~ Robert Beardwood

But this book had its time and that groundswell of attention is past. Did we learn anything? How has the experience of reading this book of fiction influenced our society? You will still find this title in the bookstores, libraries, and on Book Club lists, but it has been read, discussed, made into a TV series. Why have we gone past that particular book when there would still be many people who haven’t read it? We could apply the analysis of this phenomenon to many new and popular fiction titles. It would be an interesting study.

Fiction of this type leads our collective conscience. We read, we think, we learn, we discuss, we grow, we evolve. I think that this is key to the function and popularity of Book Clubs in our communities. But we know that.

Now relieved of my requirement to read bureaucratic reports and academic articles, I have been trying to catch up with some fiction reading. I have just read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks. And now, like so many others at present, I am immersed in the book The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, and I am thoroughly enjoying the voice, the story, the situation, and the intelligence.

Review of 2013

Once again inspired by Chris Guillebeau of The Art of Non-Conformity I look back over my experience of 2013. It was a really difficult and challenging year for me.

Here is what didn’t go well:

  • On 23 January my mother passed away after a four year battle with cancer.
  • Dad was alone for the first time in his life and grieved and this sat heavily on my mind.
  • Dad was diagnosed with Mesothelioma at the end of July just prior to his 77 birthday.
  • With family members I shared care responsibilities for Dad which meant a lot of organisation and travel to and fro.
  • We sold our house and most of our possessions.
  • We resigned from great jobs.
  • We moved and left some great new-found friends.
  • I went from being a fully employed professional to being a full time carer with no wage.
  • Dad passed away on 16 December.
  • The funeral for Dad was held on 20 December.
  • Our annual family Christmas get-together was held on 22 December and was a horrible out-pouring of grief.

Here is what went well:

My 2012

Inspired by Chris Guillebeau of The Art of Non-Conformity I offer you a review of my 2012.

It was a fruitful year at work. After three years in a leadership role I feel the library team are functioning happily and effectively. This is positive and noticed and commented upon by our customers.

On a National level the National Year of Reading and love2read campaign provided a brand and focus to work around. Our locally organised and funded events were successful and included: an entertaining talk by David Astle of SBS’s program Letters and Numbers; a Dr Suess Olympic Reading Relay Challenge; a visit and talk by author Kathryn Fox; a short story competition with the NYR theme for November “What makes you cry?”; book reviews; and competitions. It must be said that for our small rural region the NYR offered nothing except a logo. We provided everything all the planning, funding, organisation, seeking and paying for authors, staffing. We should have used our own logo!

NYR12

On a State level Tomorrow’s Library and the Victorians Love Libraries campaign prompted passionate discussion. The Stage 1 Report has leapt to a ‘solution’ that needs quite a lot of detail IMHO. Hopefully Stage 2 will fill in the gaps, especially for small libraries on the remote fringes of the state.

The VALA Conference held in Melbourne in February was a professional highlight and I was particularly interested in the presentations by Jason Griffey, Eli Neiburger, Eric Miller, and Tim Sherratt.

The Local Government Rural Management Challenge was held in Renmark and I was part of the team. This experience was intense, challenging and worthwhile.

As a technology lover I enjoyed using my new devices to access information for work and play. I am adept at sourcing and reading eBooks, e-journals, and multimedia. I listen to a variety of podcasts from around the world on my iPod as I drive to and from work. I watch TV programs, podcasts and other videos on my iPad. I sync my devices to my work email and calendar to stay on track. Facebook is a horrid and deceitful form of communication that has lost its value since being infiltrated by advertisements, organisations, and payment for sharing. Twitter I ignore now that it has become too big and unwieldy. Free Apps are king. I read blogs via the Google Reader app and this is a very convenient way to spend down time. Pinterest and Goodreads are top of the tree in terms of social media I think.

I began a Master of Information Studies via distance education at Charles Sturt University. With just four subjects to complete, the first two subjects are Strategic Planning and Project Management. The reading of academic papers on these topics has been interesting and rewarding and I hope will assist me as I lead the library into the strategic planning process in 2013.

On a more personal level I have been meditating and practicing yoga and hope to increase my involvement in these.  Leadership for the disillusioned by Amanda Sinclair provided a useful model of mindful leadership that supports my own attitudes. I read her book then was lucky to attend a seminar at the SLV.

My eldest son was married earlier this year and my youngest son gets married early in 2013. My daughter was married some years ago now – can’t think how many! My mother continues to respond to all the cancer treatment they throw at her and my father does everything in his power to support her. My husband continues to cycle with the local cycling club, as well as working with the local Council.

How it feels

How it feels? I’ll tell you how it feels Brendan Cowell! It feels annoying, depressing, disappointing, shameful, hopeless, and puts me in a really bad mood, when I am trying to relax whilst on my precious annual leave. That’s how it feels to me. What are you trying to prove with this work of fiction Brendan? Attempting to be the modern version of J.D. Salinger perhaps? (OK I’ll stop talking directly to Brendan now.)

If you want to read a book with lots of sex, drugs, bad language and a life of wasted liberty, then this book may be for you, along with these others:

Indelible ink by Fiona McGregor

The Romantic by Kate Holden

How it feels by Brendan Cowell

These are not my usual choice for reading material that’s for sure, but as a Librarian in a public library I like to stay current with what is going around, and what is being mentioned and promoted in the media. I like to see what is new in contemporary Australian literature. I don’t choose fiction much and personally prefer travel writing and memoir, but not biography. I respect the diversity of choice by authors and readers, and it is with these things in mind I will share my opinion here – for what it’s worth.

Recently I read the three books in the order as listed above, and had read The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas a year or so ago. The three books above have similarities to The Slap, but the book by Tsiolkas stands apart in my view. Perhaps it is the forerunner to this genre of writing. 

My first thoughts are that with Melbourne and Sydney as the starting points for these stories, it makes me wonder at the culture. All of these books I found to be depressing, soul-less, crude, obscene, misguided, immoral, unintelligent and immature. The people in them are feral, egotistical, self-gratifying, immature, shallow, and without consideration to anyone but themselves. The behaviour and language by the people in the books (are they characters?) is appalling.

The “F” word appears as frequently as the necessary “the” and “and”. I read an article by Kate Holden where she bragged proudly about her frequent use of and love of the “F” word. Why? So?! What is intelligent about that? It is just a word and not an intelligent word at that. It is not helpful or descriptive. It is an arrogant and abusive word that halts honest and open communication. There are cleverer words to use in literature and everyday conversation.

Brendan Cowell uses the “F” word as well as the “C” word throughout his novel and really those two words are a good representation of the whole feel of his book. It is a base, soul-less, egotistical, troubled, feral, misguided, depressing portrait of a society I hope does not exist. 

These three books provide scenes of a culture in Australia that is low; unintelligent; lacking morality, class, substance, and beauty; immature; misguided; and without any social structure at all. Immediate self-gratification seems to be the only aim. Are these true representations of the society we live in? I would hope not. And why are these pieces of literature and authors applauded? I don’t understand that.

The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas was perhaps the successful forerunner to these three attempts to follow in his successful path. His book too was depressing and left me with a feeling of shame to even belong to the society he illustrated. But I found his book cleverly crafted. The way his story progressed through different characters in the aftermath of “the slap” gave a depth to the story that illustrated modern day multi-cultural Melbourne. 

The Romantic by Kate Holden holds no resemblance to anything romantic at all. She is a tragic immature lost soul with nothing to guide her aimless wanderings. She needs help. And unfortunately, if we are to believe the tales in these stories, modern Australian society is ill equipped to offer that help.

Neil Cronk, the main character in How it feels, is supposedly an actor, an artist, but the only glimpse we get of any “art” in the book is when Neil goes to the Tate gallery in London. His work in theatre is not evident except to create a veneer of an “artistic” type of character. He could be anything.

Indelible Ink is a book hardly worth reading at all, in my view. Empty of content, plot, character, emotion, and point, I do not recommend it. The title and the premise point towards a story about tattoos, which it is sort of, but it fails to reach any point to the tale.

If these three books are the best Australian contemporary work around then that is disappointing. If they represent the society in which we live then that is extremely worrying. Fortunately I don’t move in these tragic circles and I think these books misrepresent our culture in so many ways.

As far as literature goes, personally I prefer stories to be uplifting and with a point to the narrative. I look for beauty, spirituality, generosity and a gentle kindness that speaks of honesty, humility, openness, maturity and intelligence. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery is a perfect example of a great piece of contemporary literature. OK, so it is set in Paris and not Sydney for a start. But I can’t recall the “F” word being used at all. There was no need. The last scene stays with me as the author cleverly weaves some beautiful classical music by Satie into the scene, enriching the experience masterfully.

I implore contemporary Australian authors to get out of the gutter and for publishers to please find us some relevant Australian stories worth reading – something uplifting. Something that has the power to inspire a misguided culture to read, to be kind, and to lift itself out of this depressing, shameful culture portrayed in these dismal stories.

 “Because that’s what I see when I come home to Cronulla, a bunch of white people who believe what they want to believe and see only what they want to see – which is more white people who believe what they want to believe and see what they want to see.” ~ Neil Cronk in How it feels by Brendan Cowell

Perhaps there is some truth in this quote but when I read a book at my leisure I will not persist with it if I am not enjoying it. These three books I did persist with wondering if there was a point to the dismal story and hoping there would be some form of redemption or wisdom gained from the turmoil. I am disappointed to find none, and annoyed I wasted precious time reading to the end. More than that though, there is real power in the self creation of mood, environment, health, attitude, and ultimately lifestyle when individuals take responsibility for themselves. So perhaps I am guilty of only seeing what I want to see, but I understand the impact negative images, language, attitudes have on me personally but also to shaping the culture at large as we contribute to it.

Put that in your crack pipe and smoke it Neil (or Brendan)!