30 August 2014

Books about Time

I have been fascinated by the concept of time for a long time, long before I wrote Room Nineteen, and I find it unbelievable that, although it is something that controls our every action, it always manages to remain just beyond our grasp, flickering on the edge of what is known (and understood) and what is unknown (and not understood). Is it cyclic or is it linear? Is there a long line (not necessarily straight) made up of a past, a present and a future, or are there simply a lot of 'nows' moving around each other in no particular order? Is there one 'universe' or are there many, parallel, universes? As part of my research for the book, I read a number of books on time, among them: From Eternity to Here by Sean Carroll, and The Death of Forever by Darryl Reanney - both of them extremely interesting. Other authors, among many worth looking at, are Julian Barbour ("People are sure time is there, but they can't get hold of it. My feeling is that they can't get hold of it because it isn't there at all."), Stephen Hawking, Paul Davies (who, unfortunately, died recently) and even Meister Eckhart ("There exists only the present instant... There is no yesterday nor any tomorrow, but only Now... ")

27 August 2014

The King's Speech by Mark Logue and Peter Conradi

This book, based on letters and diaries, is a good complement to the film, The King's Speech, filling in a lot of the background to the film; however, Lionel's tendency to fawn over his 'betters', especially the Queen Mother, does at times become both irritating and even embarrassing. The book was written and published after the film was made, and, while the film concentrates on a very short period in the lives of Lionel Logue (speech therapist) and King George VI, the book attempts to give a reasonably detailed picture of the lives of both men. At times, the reliance on diary entries, can become a trifle stilted and, in places, the book reads very much as a diary or a journal; nevertheless, as a source of information, not only about the two main characters but also about the times themselves, it is an interesting and, in many ways, a valuable book.

Photo of Mark Logue and Peter Conradi from

If you live on the Central Coast of NSW, Australia, you may be interested to know that I will be talking about Room Nineteen at the Kariong Book Club (Kariong Library) this coming Friday, 29th August, 11.00 a.m. The book will also be on sale at a generously discounted price. 

23 August 2014

Buying Books

The other day, I went online and bought a couple of books. I occasionally buy (physical) books online simply because there is no book shop near where I live, and, of course, it is so easy. However, on those occasions when I travel to Sydney, I actually do visit book shops, because, in spite of the convenience and the ease of online book shopping, there is nothing quite like the physicality of books in a book shop. The concrete reality of the book - its weight, the texture of the paper and even its smell - is simply part of the overall experience where pages can be turned and re-turned at will, without the need for some electronic prompt. 

Although we may occasionally wonder if physical books will eventually cease to exist, and although we may ask ourselves whether such a demise might take a form similar to that described by Ray Bradbury in Fahrenheit 451 or that of a skillful battle plan put into action by a plethora of electronic devices, we do not have any answers. So, for the time being at least, find a good book, a comfortable chair, a favourite drink and enjoy!

20 August 2014

Al Capone had a lovely mother: A Memoir by Cathy Fiorello

I read Al Capone had a lovely mother on the first leg of a long-distance flight from Sydney to Europe in 2012. I initially bought the book mainly because of the title, which I found quite delightful, and was pleased to discover that the book itself is well written and easy to read. Cathy Fiorello's writing exudes a self-confidence which gives a certain authority and security to the book as a whole. That said, I enjoyed the first part of the book most, in spite of the fact that the descriptions of holidays in France (Paris) - third part of the book - are sensually delightful and most readers will, no doubt, appreciate the trauma of having to begin again in a new place.

I would imagine that many people who experienced the Depression and the 1930s would have had similar experiences to Cathy Fiorello; her life, in other words, was not so different to the lives of many others who lived through the same period. However, the fact that she is able to describe the ordinariness in a manner that keeps the reader wanting to know more is a tribute to her skill with words. 
 Photo from Cathy Fiorello's FaceBook page

16 August 2014


As I have mentioned several times, Room Nineteen has a lot to do with how we view time: does time look like like a long straight piece of string stretching from the beginning to the end, or is it more like a complicated ball without any obvious ends? It is a difficult concept, and whether or not we feel confident explaining what it is, it is so much part of our lives that we would probably feel completely lost without it. Everything we do - work, eat, sleep, socialize - is governed by the way we, and others, look at time. At the moment, I am reading a book about a woman who crossed the Australian desert on her own with four camels. A third of the way into her trek, she threw away her clock as she had reached a point where time was no longer of any importance. I can imagine what a liberating moment this must have been for her, and perhaps this is a point we all need to reach at some time, if only to experience the freedom of being 'beyond time'.
The Persistence of Memory Salvador Dali

13 August 2014

A Life Fractured by Susan Hollingworth

In Susan Hollingworth's novel A Life Fractured, we first meet the main character, Eleanor Gregory, as a child in Colonial India where an imposed, almost inflexible, social structure often jars against the wild beauty of the surrounding countryside and the simple life philosophy of the native people. When Eleanor is five years old, an unexpected tragedy transforms her life, forcing her to leave India to begin a new life in England. During the ensuing years, she copes with a multitude of changes, including the war, and she crosses paths with a mixture of people, many of them famous. After the war, Eleanor spends a period of time in USA, and, when we leave her at the end of the book, she is on her way to Australia, full of new hopes and expectations. The thing that strikes me most about this book is its wealth of imagery: page after page of vibrant word pictures that are, at times, almost overwhelming. This is a book that paints a vivid, living picture of a time past - both in India and elsewhere - and it is, therefore, a book well worth reading. It is available on Amazon, both as a paperback and an e-Book. It is also available from other online retailers such as Powell's, the Book Depository and Tower Books.

09 August 2014

August 2014

We recently commemorated one hundred years since the beginning of World War I. It is a sobering thought, and it is difficult not to ask oneself: Have we learnt anything? Have we moved any closer towards global understanding and peace? Have things changed? 

Below, a passage from The Space in Between:
... When the war broke out in August 1914, the Imperial Army became like a huge whale, sucking into itself thousands upon thousands of plankton-like conscripts. (He) was one of these conscripts. He was already twenty, but men were being conscripted from the age of eighteen. He did not believe in fighting, nor did he believe in a war that was focused on turning men into plankton to keep Imperial interests alive. He thought of Russia and Germany and Britain, thinking how similar they all were; each with an own agenda that had nothing to do with all the men being issued with uniforms and rifles. The men killed on the battlefields were no longer men, they were not even plankton; they were numbers and statistics, and, once they were de-personalized, they could be subtracted so much more easily. The faceless people moving the pieces across the chessboard were completely focused on winning; they were not interested in men who now were only numbers...

Information about The Space in Between

Information about Room Nineteen

03 August 2014

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

Written in 1905, this is a delightful, yet, on some level, tragic story about the vacuousness of American high society at the turn of the nineteenth century. Comedy abounds in the subtle descriptions of people and situations where money, social reputation and material possessions are the gauge by which everything is measured. Against this background, Lily - orphaned and disinherited - attempts to do everything in her power to be perceived as 'belonging' while Lawrence Seldon (already part of the circle to which she wants to belong) attempts, without over-straining himself, to make her realize that she should be focusing on higher goals even if such a focus may be equated with a less grand lifestyle. Lily has no father to support her financially and no mother to give her advice; she is at the mercy of so-called friends, many of whom - particularly the males - have no scruples in using her innocence and naivety to further their own ends. The women, all climbing the social ladder, are also prepared to use her in whatever way that might propel them further in the direction of social acceptance. Lily makes many mistakes as she stumbles from one difficult situation to the next, and, it becomes evident that those who are sincerely concerned for her are her impoverished friend Gerty and a couple of women from the working class; the upper class that she so strives to be part of, is really not interested.