Friday, 24 August 2007

Edinburgh and books.

I've recently returned from Edinburgh where I went to holiday, and attend the Book Festival and catch up with friends. One of those lovely breaks from reality. I'll have more to say about some of the writers I saw speak, later. Meanwhile, I'm doing my bit for the book trade by reading as many of the Booker Prize longlisted titles as I can find/afford/muster any interest in, so I'll be putting some reviews on my book review pages. Here's a start (though I have to apologise for the jagged line the images make going down the page, I've spent as much of my life as I am willing to spend trying to get them into a straight line)...

Nicola Barker: Darkmans

Brilliant and exhausting and all but impossible to review, all the same I made an attempt here:

Peter Ho Davies: The Welsh Girl

A beautiful though flawed book, which I found very moving. Lengthy review here;

Ian McEwan: On Chesil Beach

I read this lovely book earlier this year and some of my thoughts are now here,

Catherine O'Flynn; What Was Lost.

An excellent first novel, reviewed here;

Mohsin Hamid: The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Not a bad book but far from brilliant. Mini-review here;

Friday, 3 August 2007

I think therefore I... something.

I've been reading Jonathan Letham's Vintage Book of Amnesia after Joyce Carol Oates' recent review, and today came upon a fascinating article by Oliver Sacks ('The Last Hippy') telling the tale of a young man indoctrinated into the Hare Krishnas in the early 70's. The man's massive, ultimately mind-destroying tumour was camouflaged by the group's belief that his symptoms, from failing eyesight to increasing passivity, were manifestations of enlightenment. By the time he was rescued by his parents, various neural pathways allowing the creation of new memories had been completely destroyed. He was no longer able to comprehend even his own blindness, and was bewildered at the suggestion that he try learning braille. From the remaining clues available to it, his mind must have been assembling something that passed for vision. What horrifying things cults are, and how amazing the capacities of the human mind.

It's interesting to read about amnesia because of the writing I'm doing at the moment, and because I had an odd encounter with my own memory while shopping today. Looking for a new perfume, a careless spray of Chloe Narcisse sent me into a timewarp (perhaps the scent of particles is more interesting than their acceleration?). I was glad to emerge back in 2007 (with a bottle of something quite different*) before facing the rest of my day. I would have wasted a lot more time without access to several incontrovertible facts I've learned in years since I used to wear it; that the only skirt length that will ever suit me is 22 inches; that flat shoes aren't as comfortable as they look; that items reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffanys -- however apparently desirable -- will really only suit small, skinny, graceful girls. Writing it like that, it doesn't seem a lot to have learned, not a long list of reasons to be glad my consciousness hasn't been eaten alive by a cult. I wish I knew more about life by now; maybe all I've really learned is that I'll never know much at all.

(I'd intended, here, to make some further connection to the amnesia article, but I've forgotten what it was.)

* speaking of cults, this is how the marketing people describe the fragrance I chose; a wondrous fairy tale, come true through the magical force of believing in your dreams. Sui Dreams is an emotional energy that breeds inner strength, transforming a single fantasy into a million realities. Awaken to Anna's powerful world of possibilities... a world rooted in her remarkable originality, creativity, and of course, her heart. A fragrance as haunting in its complexities as your dreams. Rich and sparkling, sweet and transparent. Keep your dreams with you all day.
But I bought it anyway, because it smells nice.

Fantasy Worlds at the Brisbane Writers Festival

This will be exciting! Appearance at the Brisbane Writers Festival  with Garth Nix, Amie Kaufman and Jay Ktistoff!