Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Extreme Reading Part 2

Someone recently asked me what the most extreme place I’ve ever read in was.  I immediately answered that it was at a David Lee Roth concert - where I, not a great fan, pulled out a copy of The Forsyte Saga and read it with a little torch, slinking slightly down my seat.  It didn’t add greatly to my popularity at the time, but I did get the paper I had due done, and an A in that class (and added the perfect frisson of subversiveness to what might otherwise have been a dull read).  I’ve read in all sorts of odd places--on top of a windy sand-dune (see Extreme Reading part 1), in the hospital while in labour (not past transition...in case you were wondering, though I remember each of those books with extra fondness), while cooking, on the back of a motorcycle, while walking my dog, and many times surreptitiously when I was supposed to be doing something else (working, sleeping, cleaning, putting things away, etc).  That probably accounts for my clumsiness as it’s hard to avoid bumping into things if you’re reading while walking.

It may well be just a naughty streak, but I quite like reading in odd and sometimes extreme circumstances.  That isn’t to say that I don’t also like reading in relaxed, comfortable positions.  A window nook or warm bed will do just fine, but I do find that what I read is coloured by the conditions under which I read, and an interesting situation can make for a very powerful addition to the experience, as the reading is impacted upon by hormones (as in the case of labour), bad music (as in the case of DLR),  good music (for example, I’m currently reading Philip Glass’ wonderful memoir Words Without Music and having his music on while reading is perfect).  So what about you?  Have you ever read a book while travelling on the back of an elephant?  Sneaked a peak during a rock concert?  Took your book out when you should have been doing something far more responsible like cleaning the bathroom?  Go on...tell all.  I’d like to know.  It will just be between us.

photo credit: A good read via photopin (license)

Monday, April 20, 2015

Poetry Monday: Judith Beveridge

I’ve just finished reading Devadatta’s Poems by Judith Beveridge.  The book reads like a verse novel, following a period of time in the life of of Devadatta, cousin of Siddhattha Gotama (the Buddha).  Devadatta was initially a devotee of his cousin, and joined his order of monks, but later began to hate him, even going so far as to attempt to kill him several times.  The book reads quickly and because it’s in Devadatta’s voice, it creates an alternative history in which a fictionalised Devadatta is revealed with all sorts of desires and longings.  The result is a compelling and very sensual reading that is rich with the sights, smells, sounds and  sensations of India around 500 BCE.  You can read three full poems from Devadatta’s Poems here: http://www.judithbeveridge.com/books-and-sample-poems/2-devadattas-poems-2014.  Here’s a tiny except from “New Day”, which really picks up the character of Beveridge’s Devadatta:
I will walk into town with my alms bowl. The wind
seems to chant: food, fodder fibre, flowers, fuel.As I walk, there’s the tang of caraway, the grassy
scent of sorrel, the subtle sweetness of thyme. 
Beveridge, who has published eight books of poetry (6 full and 2 chapbooks), is a judge in this year’s Newcastle Poetry Prize, and will be in conversation with Les Murray at the Sydney Writer’s Festival. She has won most major poetry prizes for her work, including the Christopher Brennan Award for lifetime achievement in poetry. She’s also the poetry editor of Meanjin - a very significant literary magazine that will be celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.  I’ll be writing a full review of Devadatta’s Poems shortly, but in the meantime, you can read more samples of Beveridge’s  exquisite poetry here: http://www.judithbeveridge.com/books-and-sample-poems/

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

CR Newsletter for March is out

The March issue of Compulsive Reader News is now out.  It should be in your in-box right now, but if for some reason your spam filters have blocked it :-( (something about the word compulsive seems to trigger it), you can get a copy right here: Compulsive Reader News March.  This month’s issue features the usual welter of literary news, 10 fresh reviews, including my take on Joanne Burns’ very challenging book brush, an interview with The Poser’s Jacob Rubin, Michael Faber’s The Book of Strange New Things, and plenty of others to tempt you to expand your TBR list.  We’ve also got a couple of very nice giveaways - including The Poser and Girl Underwater by Claire Kells, who is also interviewed this month.  Don’t miss it (and if you’re not getting it and should be, let me know...)