What We're Reading 

Hidden gems, hot favourites, slow burners and the odd guest columnist.

May 2014

 - Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Harry: Blood Meridian  by Cormac McCarthy-Set in the US-Mexico borderlands in the mid-1800s, Blood Meridian follows 'the kid' and his experience with the scalp-hunting Glanton gang. I love this novel for many reasons: the prose, the extraordinary character of the judge, the depth of the narrative, the blending of fictional and factual. A true anti-western, McCarthy intertwines narratives in this novel in a seamless and beguiling way showing a world where justice doesn't exist and fate and suffering are reduced to the whim of scoundrels. 

Steve: Oscar Wilde by Richard Ellmann-'Better a dash of wholesome bigotry than over toleration'. No, not another remark from Attorney-General the Hon. George Brandis, QC. Rather, an editorial comment from the St James's Gazette praising the sentence of imprisonment with two years hard labour given to playwright and author Oscar Wilde. Proving that 1895 and 2014 are -in some ways-not as distantas may first appear. I discovered this (very) contemporary remark while re-reading Richard Ellmann's (1918-1987) magnificent life of the greatest playwright of his age. Originally published in 1987 and written in the shadow of an appalling mortal illness, it appeared mere weeks before his death from Lou Gehrig's Disease. A quarter of a century later it is still regarded as the definitive life of Wilde and completes Ellmann's unique biographical trilogy of Irish authors, having previously published equally authoritative lives of W. B. Yeats and James Joyce. We have two 2nd hand copies available at $30.

Andrew: Winnie-The-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner: Audio Dramatisation (2 CD sets, $32 each)-Having recently had cause to be ferrying a five year old around in a car a fair deal, I very quickly tired of the couple of Wiggles CDs that I was provided to assuage both passenger's and driver's travel nerves; so I decided a bit of subversive classic children's reading may be the way to go. Normally I would be reticent to tamper with a classic by enduring a 'dramatisation', but the cast of these two fabulous CDs intrigued me. I am so glad I discovered them as they are truly superlative. They have been only very lightly touched in the adaptation, being simply the original text narrated in a fine and understated elegance by Judi Dench, with the brilliant actors replacing the characters' speech. The fears of the purist in me were very quickly allayed. Stephen Fry is a very solid Pooh, and really it is not his fault that he is so ubiquitous on Australian television at the moment; he is a fine cornerstone to the production. Forthcoming Sydney Writers' Festival headliner Sandi Toksvig is a particularly effervescent Tigger, but in my ears the two standouts are a most truly deliciously lugubrious Geoffrey Palmer as Eeyore, and a deliciously perky yet timid bundle of Piglet nerves in the form of Jane Horrocks. Without wanting to sound like a shill for the British Arts Council, I can't state enough how much both this adult and the five year old enjoyed all the stories, and they stand up incredibly well to repeated listens. I had forgotten the comic and humane knowingness of Milne's style, and between you, me and the bucket seats, there were more than a couple of tears shed by this forty-something.