Coming Soon!

When this popped up on my Facebook feed it was a pleasant surprise.  Regularly reviewed author Jess Harpley (AKA J.D. Astra) is part of a forthcoming anthology from Shadow Alley Press. Of which more details available soon. Check out the publishers if it takes your fancy!  At a later date will also see book two of the Earth’s Peril series, I reviewed book one, Sway’s Demise here if anybody needs a refresher.

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Local Reading

Wandering around Manila at Friday lunchtime, with the typhoon looming, it was exciting to head to the SMX Convention center to attend the 39th Manila International Book Fair, and after a few hours of perusing I came away with just two books. Po-on (renamed Dusk in western editions) which is the first of five books in the highly acclaimed Rosales saga, tracing the successive generations and struggles of a Filipino family.  The second of my choices, Motherless Tongues caught my eye when at the Ateneo de Manila University Press stand, here is the blurb which explains the book better than I can after too much coffee to kickstart my week:

In Motherless Tongues, Vicente L. Rafael examines the vexed relationship between language and history gleaned from the workings of translation in the Philippines, the United States, and beyond. Moving across a range of colonial and postcolonial settings, he demonstrates translation’s agency in the making and understanding of events. These include nationalist efforts to vernacularize politics, U.S. projects to weaponize languages in wartime, and autobiographical attempts by area studies scholars to translate the otherness of their lives amid the Cold War. In all cases, translation is at war with itself, generating divergent effects. It deploys as well as distorts American English in counterinsurgency and colonial education, for example, just as it re-articulates European notions of sovereignty among Filipino revolutionaries in the nineteenth century and spurs the circulation of text messages in a civilian-driven coup in the twenty-first. Along the way, Rafael delineates the untranslatable that inheres in every act of translation, asking about the politics and ethics of uneven linguistic and semiotic exchanges. Mapping those moments where translation and historical imagination give rise to one another, Motherless Tongues shows how translation, in unleashing the insurgency of language, simultaneously sustains and subverts regimes of knowledge and relations of power. 

Although I envisioned an afternoon of agonising which books to purchase from a whole heap spread over the many stands, it didn’t quite work out like that.  It was exciting to see people coming out loaded with books, there was an unrestrained enthusiasm from the masses, which was great to see and this was amped up when receiving a map of the many publishers, bookshops and other assorted stands that were in attendance. Continue reading “Local Reading”

Full Metal Cardigan: Adventures on the Front Line of Social Work – David Emery

Full Metal Cardigan is David Emery’s first book and chronicles his adventures in social care, from enthusiastic volunteer to feral frontline worker, taking in abusive popstars, chanting cults, drug runs and interviewing a corpse.

He recounts how he gained international notoriety for cheating in a pancake race, encounters with the supernatural, High Court appearances, accidentally booking someone into Dignitas, one-inch death punches in Woolworths, waterboarding, psychotic psychopaths, plunger-wielding pregnant women and suicide attempts with rhubarb along the way.

A dull profession, social care is not so on approaching a book like this my first thoughts were about the humour and how it would work in situations that deal with individuals who have so many sensitive problems.  It is safe to say Emery has achieved a fine mix of both the serious and the downright funny which I devoured in a couple of sittings.

A sense of the comical is definitely needed in such high pressure work, and with responsibility comes the never-ending paperwork, training sessions, and the unexpected.  The relentlessly humorous anecdotes are told with a light-hearted, amiable voice, which in itself is pretty impressive when the National Health Service is involved.  For those of you who don’t know what this institution is, it’s a chronically underfunded, overstretched service staffed by people working long hours doing the best they can for the nation’s health.

The comical recollections are a delight to read but these are blended with the sad and serious cases.  The emotional balance is spot on as the stories keep coming in rapid succession so the reader appreciates the sober nature of the work, whilst not feeling guilty for enjoying reading about it.  That is the beauty of the book, whilst the struggles of both the workers and those needing help are always centre stage – and handled respectfully – the counter balance of the quirky and therefore human aspects clearly shine through. Continue reading “Full Metal Cardigan: Adventures on the Front Line of Social Work – David Emery”

Man, Myth, Messiah – Rice Broocks

Did Jesus really exist? Is there real historical evidence that demonstrates that he lived and actually said and did the things the Gospels record? Is there any validity to the speculative claims that the Jesus story was a myth borrowed from a variety of pagan cultures of the ancient world?

In this follow-up to the book God’s Not Dead (which inspired the movie), Man, Myth, Messiah looks at the evidence for the historical Jesus and exposes the notions of skeptics that Jesus was a contrived figure of ancient mythology. It also looks at the reliability of the Gospel records as well as the evidence for the resurrection that validates his identity as the promised Messiah.

Recently I watched God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness, the third film in the franchise and surprisingly watchable compared to the cartoonish nature of the first two films, but they are a subject for another post, should anybody want it (comment below!).

I have a lot to say on this book.  I chose to read this as a neutral in order to be fair to the material and ideas shown.  Whatever debates the reader chooses to engage with in his or her short life, there should always be challenging questions asked and the sources for any position should be scrutinised for veracity.

For that reason I had a lot of problems with this book, which was also adapted for a film God’s Not Dead 2, and like its predecessor (which I watched twice) and accompanying book (God’s Not Dead), the art of misdirection in the text is as amusing as it is offensive.

In the introduction about a Newsweek article he read which said we knew little about Jesus historically, Broocks states:

It was predictably written from a skeptical perspective with little pretense to hide the bias. 

I hoped that this book would be an open look at both sides of the debate, weighing evidence against challenging argument, however the opposite was true and clear after not too many pages.  Page ten to be precise.  My problems with this work were numerous. Continue reading “Man, Myth, Messiah – Rice Broocks”

The Castle of Crossed Destinies – Italo Calvino

A group of travellers chance to meet, first in a castle, then a tavern. Their powers of speech are magically taken from them and instead they have only tarot cards with which to tell their stories. What follows is an exquisite interlinking of narratives, and a fantastic, surreal and chaotic history of all human consciousness.

When my friend Chris passed this book and 100 Years of Solitude to me at the pub years ago, it really opened my eyes to literature beyond the bestsellers, and books that publishers pay to go in the ‘featured’ section.  Thankfully it sent me on a trajectory to discovering some of the best written and most imaginative works of literature, and then beyond to other genres.

As always, Calvino styles this books differently to all his others, it really is impressive to read an author who can consistently change his approach and write such strong works, each of the six books of his that I have read so far have been challenging and ambitious.

The introduction is atmospherically written in the style of Le Morte d’Arthur, presenting us with a medieval castle, a dream like atmosphere and then we are into the story.  Silently telling tales invites interpretations of body language as the placing of cards invites widely differing and not always clearly (for he narrator) conveyed ideas.  Handily for the reader, there are reproductions of the cards in the margins of the book, as they are introduced, the detailed ones do suffer from the necessary smallness of the illustrations.

Interpreting Tarot cards in a direct fashion is not only a refreshing plot device but proves to be equally as subjective as their traditional use is. It is a clever medium in which to tell various stories but not in the original intended style as symbolic, of cabalistic, astrological, alchemical, etc, but of stories the reader will be familiar with in some way.

The structure of the book contains nods to the literary styles of both Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales and Boccaccio’s The Decameron. There are also plenty of references to a whole plethora of well-known stories based around such characters as Roland, Oedipus, King Lear, Mephistopheles, Parsifal, and Orlando Furioso to name a few.  It’s a delight to read and encompasses the need for humanity to understand both the world around them and our inner selves.
Continue reading “The Castle of Crossed Destinies – Italo Calvino”

Music to Write By #5 – Consideration

It’s been a while since the last post and in between various things – including a fever and cough that took ages to shake – there has been little in the way of movement with my reading and writing.  This musical choice popped into my head a few hours ago, having thought about the process to which I arrived at this forgotten 1997 piece of tuneage, I think it was something to do with the woman on the news singing an Aretha Franklin song very badly.  The thought of high-pitched voices brought this straight to mind, thanks to the end of this song.  It was a welcome blast from the past, as Reef were always an underrated band, anyway normal writing service will be resumed shortly.

Dream Stories – Merlinda Bobis

A village holding back the rising of the moon.  A White turtle ferrying dreams of the dead.  A queue of longings in Sydney.  A river sweet with lemon grass.  A working siesta in a five-star hotel.  An anomalous kiss in Iraya.  Or the secret of the tightening shoes.  These are among the twenty-three dream stories that Merlinda Bobis conjures between the Philippines and Australia.  The mythic weave with the wistful, the quirky with the visionary, and always in a storytelling that sings.

Confusingly this book has already been published in Australia as White Turtle, and in the U.S. as The Kissing, why it needs a different name in every country its published in is beyond me.  Looking at this in the local bookshop, it seemed like a very enticing read but thanks to the habit the shop has of wrapping them all in clear plastic I was unable to read any of the contents.

It is hard to write about short stories without big spoilers but I shall endeavour to give you a flavour of the work whilst avoiding any key points.  I may as well start with a note about two stories mentioned above as I have to begin somewhere.

White Turtle is a story about cultures, the meeting of old ways, of old story telling and modern, and how they can be understood in different more flexible ways. The Kissing, tells of a stolen kiss and the consequences it brings upon the lives of a house.  Both of these stories were the major highlights along with The Sadness Collector which talks about family bonds and the struggle of a long distance relationship, one involving a child.

Bobis is a strong writer and her feminist views are shown in full force.  Her anger at the stereotypes about Asian women are particularly vivid as are her portrayals of horrible foreign men, especially Australians.  Getting past all the vitriol, there are some interesting stories but I think less is more when it comes to making an impact when about such experiences. Continue reading “Dream Stories – Merlinda Bobis”