Sunday, April 24, 2016

Mary Beard and SPQR

I'm still barely mid-way through Mary Beard's SPQR. It's definitely a door-stopper, and an absorbing read that does not compromise on its scholarship. Life however, made it difficult to sit down with a good door every day. Okay, I also have to admit that my habit of reading several books at a time makes it hard to focus on big books like SPQR.

Saw the feature on Mary Beard yesterday, on The Guardian. She seems to me the sort of professor that would intimidate me back in the university - outspoken and takes no bullshit. She's something of a celebrity academic now, although she didn't ease into the position. Rather, the story of how she came to be on TV is quite interesting:

“It was [then BBC executive] Janice Hadlow who convinced me, basically on a feminist ticket. I thought it would be a waste of time, and she said: ‘You’re one of the people who says that television documentaries are presented by craggy old men, and now I’m offering you a documentary and you don’t want to do it? Money where mouth is, dear.’”

I respect a woman who has enough self-awareness to realize she has to stand by her words. Also, a good reminder to all women who complain that media is dominated by the male voice - all the more reason we have to step up and speak up. Loudly. Mary Beard isn't your typical glamour queen in front of the TV, but this makes her all the more endearing to me. She's intelligent, and she knows her worth, and really, getting dressed up to impress people in front of the camera is just not something she's interested in. She gets her fair share of trolls - seems like the era of social media just means we get more nasty along the way. Yet, she stands up to them. Mary Beard is the kind of woman you dream your daughters grow up to be, if they are intelligent and hardworking enough.

I love that she calls out the bullshit. She's spent her life among the classics, and she knows the hypocrisy of it - that it's useful as a rhetoric for many, but the same people who decry the destruction of art and culture wouldn't pay two cents worth to preserve it:

“I think the other thing that has bothered me about Palmyra: in some ways, everybody’s got a right to speak, but there’s an awful lot of commentating about its importance and wonder by people who, until Isis took over, had no clue what it was and would probably, if asked to provide some government money to do archeological research, have said that it was a complete waste of money.”

Fan girl moment is over. Time to continue reading SPQR. The paperback is out, which makes me wonder if I should continue with my hardcover from the library, or just get a copy of the paperback to highlight and flag with Post Its.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Story about a Don Quixote of Literacy to Remind me of Good in the World

Sometimes the evil things people do in the world gets me down. I try not to be too affected by negativity, but it does get to me eventually. There was this quote I read once from Mister Rogers, about what his mother said to him when bad things happen. She told him to, "Look for the helpers. You'll always find someone helping."

This is partly why I try to collect tales of people just spreading goodness in the world, because they want to. Like this story I saw recently while I was sick: This man in Indonesia, Ridwan Sururi has been providing a modest library for children at a remote village called Serang in central Java. He brings them library books on horseback. A "Don Quixote of Literacy".

I like to imagine the smiles and laughters on the children 's faces when the horse library comes into the village, and as they pick out the book they get to borrow for three days. We who are more affluent have forgotten the simple joys of having just a book in hand, and is it any surprise when parents complain their children don't read anymore?

I would like to see more of this kind of goodness in the world.

Monday, April 11, 2016

BOOKS | 100 Books To Read 2016

I'm still working on my reading list for this year. I was thinking of streamlining it down to just 40 books, but what the hell - why break tradition? So, list in progress for my readings in 2016.
  1. Their Eyes Were Watching God • Zora Neale Hurston
    [ 28/04/2016 ~
  2. The Folded Clock: A Diary • Heidi Julavits
    [ 05/03/2016 ~
  3. At the Existentialist Cafe: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails • Sarah Bakewell
    [ 07/03/2016 ~
  4. The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals • Michael Pollan
    [ 12/03/2016 ~
  5. In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto • Michael Pollan
  6. Dune • Frank Herbertli>
  7. SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome • Mary Beard
    [ 04/01/2016 ~
  8. If the Oceans Were Ink • Carla Power
    [ 15/08/2015 ~
  9. Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese • Patrick Leigh Fermor
  10. Go Tell It On the Mountain • James Baldwin
    [ 11/12/2015 ~
  11. Baghdad Sketches (1932) • Freya Stark
  12. The Valleys of the Assassins and Other Persian Travels (1934) [On Mazandaran, Iran]• Freya Stark
  13. The Southern Gates of Arabia: A Journey in the Hadhramaut (1936)• 
  14. A Winter in Arabia (1940) [On Hadhramaut] • 
  15. Perseus in the Wind (1948). [Essays on philosophy and literature] • 
  16. Ionia, A Quest (1954) • Freya Stark
  17. The Lycian Shore (1956) [On Turkey] • Freya Stark
  18. Alexander's Path: From Caria to Cilicia (1958) [On Turkey] • Freya Stark
  19. The Zodiac Arch (1968) [Miscellaneous essays] • Freya Stark
  20. The Minaret of Djam: An Excursion into Afghanistan (1970) • Freya Stark
  21. Where the Stress Falls • Susan Sontag
  22. On Photography • Susan Sontag
  23. Reborn: Journals and Notebooks, 1947-1963 • Susan Sontag
  24. Against Interpretation: And Other Essays • Susan Sontag
  25. As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964-1980 • Susan Sontag
  26. The Book of Disquiet • Fernando Pessoa
  27. Jane Eyre • Charlotte Bronte
  28. Venice • Jan Morris
  29. Bleak House • Charles Dickens
  30. The Age of Innocence • Edith Wharton
  31. A Time of Gifts (1977) • Patrick Leigh Fermor
  32. Between the Woods and the Water • Patrick Leigh Fermor
  33. The Broken Road • Patrick Leigh Fermor
  34. The Magician • W. Somerset Maugham
  35. River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West • Rebecca Solnit
  36. A Writer's Diary • Virginia Woolf
  37. The Violet Hour • Katie Roiphe
  38. The Handmaid's Tale • Margaret Atwood
  39. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek • Annie Dillard
  40. The Abundance • Annie Dillard
  41. Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books • Azar Nafisi
    [ 27/09/2015 ~
  42. I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen • Sylvie Simmons
    [ 25/04/2015 ~
  43. The Design of Everyday Things • Donald A. Norman
  44. Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World • Adam Grant and Sheryl Sandberg
  45. Orlando • Virginia Woolf
  46. The Heart of the Matter • Graham Greene
  47. The Power and the Glory • Graham Greene
  48. Of Human Bondage • W. Somerset Maugham
  49. No Time to Lose: A Timely Guide to the Way of the Bodhisattva •  Pema Chodron
  50. Quiet: The Power of Introverts • Susan Cain
  51. The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot • Robert MacFarlane
  52. Passionate Nomad: The Life of Freya Stark • Janet Fletcher Geniesse
  53. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks • Rebecca Skloot
  54. Felicity: Poems • Mary Oliver
  55. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience • Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
  56. Real Happiness: The Power of • Sharon Salzberg
  57. The Seven Storey Mountain • Thomas Merton
  58. Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind • Shunryu Suzuki
  59. Collection of Sand • Italo Calvino
  60. Landmarks • Robert Macfarlane
  61. A Book of Silence • Sara Maitland
  62. Acedia & me • Kathleen Norris
  63. The Pirate King • Laurie R. King
    [ 23/12/2015 ~ 09/01/2016 ]
  64. Garment of Shadows • Laurie R. King
    [ 09/01/2016 ~ 10/01/2016 ]
  65. My Life on the Road • Gloria Steinem
    [ 09/01/2016 ~ 23/01/2016 ]
  66. Dreaming Spies • Laurie R. King
    [ 11/01/1016 ~ 26/01/2016 ]
  67. The Argonauts • Maggie Nelson
    [ 28/05/2015 ~ 29/01/2016 ]
  68. When Breath Becomes Air • Paul Kalanithi
    [ 23/01/2016 ~ 30/01/2016 ]
  69. H is for Hawk • Helen Macdonald
    [ 18/05/2015 ~ 08/02/2016 ]
  70. Girl Waits with Gun • Amy Stewart
    [ 01/02/2016 ~ 14/02/2016 ]
  71. In Other Words • Jhumpa Lahiri
    translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein
    [ 27/02/2016 ~ 05/03/2016 ]
  72. Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation • Michael Pollan
    [ 28/02/2016 ~ 12/03/2016 ]
  73. The Murder of Mary Russell • Laurie R. King
    [ 09/04/2016 ~ 10/04/2016 ]
  74. To the River: A Journey Beneath the Surface • Olivia Laing
    [ 08/02/2016 ~ 14/04/2016 ]
  75. The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone • Olivia Laing
    [ 14/04/2016 ~ 26/04/2016 ]

Saturday, April 09, 2016

The One Big Advantage of Kindle Today

I worked in a bookstore for a good nine years. As far as things go, I am still a supporter of the traditional brick and mortar bookstore, and of the physical book. It took me a while to try reading a book off the iPad, then the Kindle . For travels, the Kindle does offer some advantages.

But today I have to admit there's something very convincing about having ebooks - the speed of getting your favourite books. The library and bookstores over here have not acquired the latest titles in the Mary Russell series - The Murder of Mary Russell. I decided not to wait anymore. The suspense is too much. So I went the kindle-way for a copy.

Will be spending my weekend with a good ebook this weekend. Cheers to technology.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Releasing Books Into the Wild!

A friend posted this story about how a guy has been leaving stacks of books around New York City, with an email, and asking people to email him when they pick it up. In Bookcrossing term, it's apparently called a "wild release". This sets me wondering - I'm trying to declutter, and this seems like a great idea. Might be fun.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Carrie Brownstein at Wheeler Centre

I was in Melbourne early March for the Sleater-Kinney concerts at The Croxton, and for Madonna. I regret however that I did not learn of Carrie Brownstein's appearance at the Wheeler Centre when I was there. I would have loved to hear her speak. She is a good writer, very articulate, and definitely a writer with a powerful and distinctive voice. Thankfully, they made the talk available on youtube finally.