Barry Humphries, Books, etc, featured, Theatre

Look, possums, a few thoughts on Handling Edna

Now, I’ve never particularly been a fan of the most famous Australian woman, Dame Edna Everage, but ever since I borrowed My Life As Me from the Reservoir Library I have been a fan of Barry Humphries. So, during Borders’ going-out-of-business sale I picked up a copy of his unauthorised biography of Dame Edna. The conceit of this glorious satire is that Edna is a real person that Barry didn’t make up and hasn’t been pretending to be since the 1960s. The brilliance is that it’s mostly believable and, having read one of his autobiographies, it’s pretty difficult to know exactly where the truths and lies intersect.

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Books, Caitlin Kelly, etc, Retail, Review

Malled by Caitlin Kelly … a review

The best place to read this book is a shopping mall. To be more precise, read it in a coffee shop on a public holiday when they run out of the food you want, be pushy and try to con you into buying overpriced food you don’t want which you don’t end up buying, and serve your drink cold. As you feel your disappointment growing at the beverage that seems to have a 15 per cent charge thrown on it because it’s still the Easter weekend, turn to page 72 of Caitlin Kelly’s Malled and read about how those on the other side of the register “were all equally screwed”. “It creates its own sad solidarity.”

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Books, Criticism, etc, Terry Pratchett

A tale of two Discworld novels, part 1: Interesting Times

Seldom do I read a Terry Pratchett book and think it is not great. But it does happen occasionally. Reading Interesting Times, a Discworld novel from 1994 featuring that world’s most reluctant tourist (and tourist guide) Rincewind, was one of those occasions. (Fans who are more hardcore than I can start directing their hatred into the comments now, if they choose, but hopefully they will consider the following with an open mind.)

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Books, Covers, George Orwell, Nick Hornby

A quick comparison

A tale of two books


Nick Hornby


        George Orwell

High Fidelity


Keep the Aspidistra Flying



Gordon Comstock

Owns and manages a dead end record store in the 1990s


Works in two dead end book stores in the 1930s

Sex, lack of money, wanting to fulfill his dreams


Being a “writer,” lack of money, lack of sex


main love interest



the female figure who occasionally appears in the story too


Mopes around in the record store thinking about his lack of sex and the previous occasions when he had some

main action

Mopes around in the book store thinking about his lack of money and the previous occasions when he had some

Has wild affair while girlfriend is pregnant, she gets abortion then shacks up with the guy upstairs, then there’s a funeral

key plot points

Gets paid for some writing, gets wasted, loses money and job, gets his girl pregnant on the first attempt

Bands I’ve never heard from before the turn of the century

the book has too many references to …

Books I’ve never read from before the turn of the previous century

Returns to job that gave him a sense of fulfillment, accepts his life with the one woman who would put up with him


Returns to job that paid okay, accepts his life with the one woman who would put up with him, buys an aspidistra

Great use of the first person, which I’m usually wary of, plot bombshells dropped just when it threatened to be a bit too boring. Wimpy ending.


Not Orwell’s best, and he disowned it owing to publishers stuffing around, but an engaging read if occasionally repetitive. Wimpy ending.

Better than Jessica Rudd


Better than Jessica Rudd


Seriously, it was hard to read these two books within weeks of each other without noticing the similarities. They are quite different, in that Hornby wrote High Fidelity in the first person as Rob, while Orwell stuck to third-person reportage. They exist in different generations, and different economic and social structures. But they deal with money pressures, love, lust, art and the protagonists each claim to be following their dreams but are instead stuck in self-destructive and obsessive habits. Both books (something of a spoiler alert) end up with the men settling for what they have, or perhaps it should be seen as accepting what they have is not so bad after all and they should appreciate that. Hornby’s was the better read, one of the very few first-person books I could find myself being swept away with. Orwell was worth reading simply because it’s Orwell and even not at his best there is much to enjoy.

#mwf, Books, etc, Melbourne Writers Festival, Michael Robotham, Review, Val McDermid, Words are important

Things that make you go boom

Being a Monday, this should be a leftovers for lunch segment. But there are leftovers in the form of intentions to write some posts, and failing to find time.

Settling into a new country is fun, but instead of banging on about that here’s the first of the reviews I promised earlier in the month: Michael Robotham’s Bombproof.

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#ausvotes, apocalypse, Books, Covers, Election, etc, Jessica Rudd, Melbourne Writers Festival, Review, Words are important

What pisses me off most about Jessica Rudd’s book …

The book I don't hate.

What pisses me off most about Jessica Rudd’s book is that I don’t hate it. Not that I love it, either, mind you.

Campaign Ruby annoys me in many ways. Mostly because it’s not shit. Okay, bits of it are. (Not that I’m perfect.) But it’s a well-built, if slow to start, model that navigates familiar roads capably, and takes a few scenic detours without any sense of danger. It is to literature what Honda CR-Vs are to motoring. Not inspiring, not offensive, made for soccer mom.

This novel plays it so safe that Rudd, the daughter of former Labor PM Kevin, will not even name the real Australian political parties. The one her protagonist, Ruby Stanhope, works for is not even named. And its colour is purple – a safe mix of Labor red and Liberal blue. How weak is that?

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