The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

ChabonK&CAfter a fixation with the prose of Hilary Mantel (when she’s writing about Cromwell) I’ve turned back to an old favourite to dip into at leisure: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon.

I’ve become sensitive about mispronouncing things lately and I must have missed the book’s clues on how to say the name Kavalier when I first read this gigantic American novel. I’m now busy correcting my auto pronunciation after discovering it’s Kavalier as in Maurice. I’m not sure how old you have to be to get that, Maurice Chevalier died in 1972. But it’s that kind of book, best not to skim…

Via google today I found a Chabon quote which I rather like even though I have little hope of learning from it. Interesting to think about though if reading Chabon’s work:

Re Ray Bradbury’s The Rocket Man:

I think it was when I got to the butterflies — in that brief, beautiful image comprising life, death and technology — that the hair on the back of my neck began to stand on end. All at once, the pleasure I took in reading was altered irrevocably. Before then I had never noticed, somehow, that stories were made not of ideas or exciting twists of plot but of language. And not merely of pretty words and neat turns of phrase, but of systems of imagery, strategies of metaphor.  For the full statement see Washington Post archive

Here’s a summary

Here’s a review

Ils restent

MourningCardMcKinleyMcIntyreWW1 We were standing up the hill near the Premier Cruz and a Frenchman was overlooking the valley. In his school English and our school French we began a conversation. He described how his grandfather tilled the valley below with horse and furrow until he began to look like son cheval. We laughed and then he said, pointing “Il reste”. And that was when my French utterly failed me. How could I tell him that somewhere near Ypres my grandfather and his brother-in-law also rested in French soil, their names written on walls in France and in Canberra. I have never worried for their remains. Safe in French soil just like the vigneron who plied his horse.

The Music of Language (and the Romanian Connection)

Romanian speaking writers associated with New Writers Group inc (Parramatta) have kindly mentioned the support received from other Sydney creatives (who speak/read no Romanian) and the obvious fact to me is that the gratitude should flow as much if not more in the other direction. There is nothing quite like a keen bi-lingual or multi-lingual writer to freshen up some concepts of what is literature and in how many languages and continents it can be shared. How do writers who develop their “voices” in one language move the authenticity (a loaded word) of those voices  into another language? Well, on Friday evening, 27th March 2015, some answers were presented. Our gracious host, Mrs Oriana Acevedo, Multicultural Consultant, NSW State Library, opened the launch of two bi-lingual poetry anthologies, one by Mihaela Cristescu the other by Loredana Tudor Tomescu. The setting was the historic Dixson Room of the LIbrary’s Mitchell Wing. The Consul General of Romania in Sydney, Floricel Mocanu, attended; Mady Slabascu and Catalin Anastase performed readings brilliantly in both Romanian and English; and Sue Chamoun supplied Lebanese delicacies at supper. Above all, I’m reminded how close language is to music. Here are some visual highlights:


Dixson Room


Oriana Acevedo


Mihaela Cristescu


Loredana Tudor Tomescu


Sue Crawford


Thomas Thorpe


Mady Slabascu and Catalin Anastase



Parramatta Poets

Connected Stories


Poets’ progress! An old poet friend of mine, now passed, kind of bailed me up in a cafe in Parramatta mall eight years ago, to get support for a great proposition. It wasn’t as big as SWF, but it involved known names plus the never heard of, himself, a mic and Parramatta. I threatened to invite lots of literary poets, he said that was fine! It was insurance (lack of it) that killed the idea off. I wrote a poem about this disappointment and read it on 28th February, 2015 only steps away from the open-air theatre of my friend’s imagination.  His name was Jim Spain. He wrote  “bush” poetry which he performed well and loved to have published on outback radio. Award-winning Parramatta author, Felicity Castagna’s new project is in similar spirit: writers with varied experience sharing their work. The Connection Arcade event on the 28th Feb is to promote her monthly meetings coming soon to Parramatta’s heart. See Studio Stories for more information.


SE Crawford


Felicity Castagna


Todd Turner


The Question of the Ninth


extract of Mahler’s draft Tenth with personal notes

“It seems that the Ninth is a limit. He who wants to go beyond it must pass away. It seems as if something might be imparted to us in the Tenth which we ought not yet to know, for which we are not ready. Those who have written a Ninth stood too close to the hereafter.”

Just because Mahler died while writing his 10th symphony doesn’t mean anything to me, I try not to pick up more superstitions than the ones already grafted into my subconscious. And after all, counting/numbering musical works is a fraught business. Nonetheless I like Schoenberg’s famous line (Schoenberg declined to complete the work). I think writers (of books) often seem less than ready to write their topic or style and we can imagine we all have an invisible fence – but I figure Schoenberg included readers/listeners at that dangerous barrier. Provoking. Thanks to Classic FM for an illuminating session.

Tasmania bags a Booker

132.Richard Flanagan-The Narrow Road To The Deep North coverYou would think Tasmania’s great writer was front page news on my favourite daily, but barely, Haines decision to try out for NFL was  front and back cover on today’s Sydney Morning Herald. Sure, Richard Flanagan had a nice page 14/15 spread pointed to from the lowest ranked heading below Haines, but who makes these calls? Seriously. Flanagan’s gong is an internationally major achievement, not because he won the Booker but because the prize was an opportunity for a bunch of literati to call it a bloody masterpiece in a competition that is fiercer than ever. I’m a tepid footy fan and Parramatta is my team and  like so many others I’ve admired Haines. His achievements have rightly been celebrated. That’s the immediate past. By SMH putting him up ahead of Flanagan (and that’s how I see it) is to skip the present and say that ambition (future) is more important than actually scoring the goal now. New age nonsense to me. Besides, The Narrow Road to the Deep North is an Australian story the like of which no hero can match by playing footy.

Peter Carey, the Australian who lives in America

AmnesiaP.CareyI don’t subscribe to the on-line Australian and the article I wanted to post in FB  by Stephen Romei interviewing Carey (Oct 4-5, 2014)  is for “subscribers only”. So back to the dark ages for a few typed out quotes from a print broadsheet:

“Australia is my lens, I cannot see the world any other way..”

(Referring to his book Parrot and Olivier in America, 2010:
“That book is of course about America – but it’s seen from the outside, from looking in and wondering why it’s so weird. I know an American couldn’t have written it, and I don’t think a French person could have written it. It’s an Australian book.”

Regarding whether non-Australians will recognise the historical characters in his latest novel Amnesia about hacking and the relationship between America and Australia, which references Pine Gap and the Whitlam dismissal:
“.. if you’re reading 19th century fiction then it wasn’t written for you. Yet we read it happily enough. I think if a novel has some sort of integrity and has a story and characters, people will deal with all of that stuff. When I wrote the Kelly Gang my friends in Australia were staggered by the idea that anyone outside the country would be the tiniest bit interested…”

And my favourite quote about British or American authors  not making their texts easier for foreign readers:
“I mean, we didn’t know what a levee is, but we found out. They took the Chevy to the levee and they didn’t give us footnotes, and we didn’t want them; we were ok.”

The Penguin website can give you information about Amnesia.


Some people…

Kiewa ValleySheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, was answering one of 10 Questions, a regular feature of Time Magazine when she said this: “…when men make mistakes, they don’t internalize it as their fault, so it doesn’t hurt as much…” The theme of the questions was gender equality, but it struck me that swapping the word “men”  for “some people” would explain why relationships with anyone can come unstuck: only one person is apologizing! The view of Kiewa Valley has no relevance:)