Sunday, June 28, 2009

Song for Sunday

Broken Records – Until the Earth Begins to Part (Live at the Bedlam Theatre)

Kind-of like a Scottish Sigur Rós. And that can only be a good thing. Hope the album is as good.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Slap

Melbourne needs more writers like Christos Tsiolkas.

It has taken me a few weeks to work out what I really think about The Slap. While I was reading it I felt mainly disgust and exasperation, but this had nothing to do with the writing.

I found the novel discomfiting and relentless in its depiction of people leading unhappy, trapped lives and for me the characters are without exception unattractive and awful. There are small episodes of joy and a few examples of people being nice to each other, but for the most part the tone is irredeemably depressing.

Much of my reaction may be due to the way he raises uncomfortable truths about Australian society in the context of a compelling and hugely readable narrative. Maybe I just recognise too much of what he is talking about. Maybe I should remember it is just a story ...

What is clear to me is that Tsiolkas is a great writer. The way he gets inside eight disparate characters, from teenage schoolgirl to immigrant Greek pensioner, creating wonderfully vivid and complete inner lives for them is brilliant. The other aspect of the narrative I loved is the way that Melbourne and it's sprawling suburbs are present as a vital and key element in the story, the perfectly observed details of location and inhabitants. He is also spot on with the cultural references and minutiae that suffuse most peoples lives, but which are usually bizarrely absent from novels.

The Slap is bound to provoke strong reactions (many stronger than mine), and it is only a matter of time before the self-appointed guardians of our morals are up in arms about all the shagging, but the more writers of this ability who are willing to raise and deal with difficult questions of race, identity and society the better. It might be an uncomfortable read, but it is great to have some intelligence and depth brought to the debate for once.

For more about The Slap, there is an interesting interview in Meanjin, discussion on Lateline and a great review by Literary Minded.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Song for Sunday

Arcade Fire – Wake Up

In anticipation of Glastonbury next weekend, a treat from 2007. Also take a look at the trailer for Where the Wild Things Are complete with a new version of the same song. Looks promising ...

Friday, June 19, 2009


My friend Norman gets married next month and this weekend he is having his stag-do at the British Grand Prix. Naturally I am sad that I can't make it (hope you all have a great time!), but if I did have unlimited resources and could fly to the UK twice in two months it would have been a tough call between whether I was more excited by that event or the opportunity to see Bruce Springsteen play the following Saturday night at Glastonbury.

Last Sunday The Observer had a story about the lengths Michael Eavis went to persuading Springsteen to play the festival, accompanied by the following fax from Joe Strummer.

The fax actually has nothing to do with the eight-page document Eavis put together, although apparently some key quotes from Strummer about the festival swung the deal, but I love Strummer's endorsement of Springsteen's talents. Especially the bit about him crawling under the chords and whacking the starter motor with a spanner ...

And while we are on the subject, The Guardian had an interview last Friday with Gaslight Anthem which goes into their Springsteen influences, but reveals that their true hero was Joe Strummer.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Talking about running

According to Haruki Murakami there are two types of people – runners and non-runners. As a runner (albeit at this point in time a lapsed one) I tend to agree.

He isn't talking about people who go jogging either. Murakami runs one marathon a year and supplements this by doing ultra-marathons and triathlons in-between.

It is a short book and he interweaves biography, travelogue and notes about his writing with the stuff about running, creating a work that is delightfully personal and surprisingly affecting in places.

'Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional', he is told early on in his running career and this aphorism will be familiar to any devotee of endurance sport. The book is full of little gems and insights like this and at the end you feel like you've been listening to a particularly entertaining old friend talk about their view of life.

I particularly enjoyed the chapter where he recounts running a 62 mile ultra-marathon at Lake Saroma.
I don't know what sort of general significance running sixty-two miles by yourself has, but as an action that deviates from the ordinary but doesn't violate basic values, you'd expect it to afford you a special sort of self-awareness. It should add a few new elements to your inventory in understanding who you are. And as a result, your view of your life, its colors and shape should be transformed. More or less, for better or for worse, this happened to me, and I was transformed.
He then goes on to describe what happens after he passes through the 47 mile mark:
I'm me, and at the same time not me. That's what it felt like. A very still, quiet feeling. The mind wasn't so important.
Usually when I approach the end of a marathon, all I want to do is get it over with, and finish the race as soon as possible. That's all I can think of. But as I drew near the end of this ultramarathon, I wasn't really thinking about this. The end of the race is just a temporary marker without much significance. It's the same with our lives. Just because there's an end doesn't mean existence has a meaning. An end point is simply set up as a temporary marker, or perhaps as an indirect metaphor for the fleeting nature of existence.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Song for Sunday

Wild Light – Red House

And thanks to the wonders of the interhoobly if you enjoy the clip you can actually download an mp3 of the whole song for free here! Marvelous.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

New Day Rising

Depending on what mood I am in when you ask me what my favourite band is, it is quite possible that I'll say Hüsker Dü. This photo from 1985 just reminds me of some of the many reasons why. Click here to see what I mean.

Giro d'Italia final reckoning

Zero jerseys out of three, but two of my predicted top five did make it into the top five and if you extend it to the top 6 then I managed to predict 50%. Even so, not a very impressive result – I promise to do better in July.

It was a fascinating race – with lots of very close racing – and both Menchov and di Luca have gone up in my estimation. Interesting to see if Menchov can carry the form over to the Tour. I doubt it, but we'll see ...

Great to see Cavendish take three stages and looking good for the green jersey in the Tour. Nice anecdote in The Observer recently about his win in Milan–San Remo:
Before the race he promised himself that if he won he would buy an Audi R8. After the race he started shopping around, but ultimately lost interest and decided to buy gifts for his team mates instead. 'I said to myself: "There's an 80 per cent chance that I will stay the same person, I will just have a nice car" but there was a small chance that it would change me,' he told the BBC's Inside Sport. 'I'm not willing to take that chance, so I don't have the car.'