Busytown by Jolisa Gracewood

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Busytown: Holiday reading lust

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  • philipmatthews,

    So what are the books that you've read a zillion times?

    The blogger and, more recently, novelist Mark Sarvas says that he has read The Great Gatsby at least 20 times. I've read it maybe three or four times and can imagine another three at least and I know other people who regularly go back to it as well. Why is this? I think the closing paragraphs might be the greatest, and most moving, that I know of. These lines below give me goosebumps every time I read them or think about them and I'm not sure why:

    And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby's wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy's dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

    There aren't many sentences better than that last one. It's a small book that contains a huge amount and I think that's why we keep going back to it. Somehow there's always more in it. It's the Tardis.

    I used to have two unofficial policies. 1) Why re-read when there are so many books out there that you haven't read once? 2) If you start a book, finish it. Maybe it's a side effect of getting older that I've abandoned both rules. You know you will never read everything, and life's too short to persevere with a dud. Increasingly, I'm giving up on books after only 10 or 20 pages. And increasingly, I'm going back to favourites -- another author I re-read just for the sheer brilliance of the writing is DeLillo, that stretch of books from The Names through White Noise (which is a bit dated now), Libra, Mao II and Underworld. I think Libra might be his masterpiece.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2007 • 656 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    In which case, why not revisit Gerald Durrell ( My Family and Other Animals, Beasts in My Belfry, The Bafut Beagles, Three Singles to Adventure, A Zoo in My Luggage ...)?
    On second thoughts, 8 might be a little young ... but I started reading him at around 10 *shrug*.

    No, it's about perfect, at least for My Family and Other Animals; it's the same age as the protagonist, after all.

    While we're in the thirties, there's also Arthur Ransome (Swallows and Amazons etc.) Or what about Brian Jacques' Redwall books? Depends on the child's taste for anthropomorphism, of course, but if he likes Calvin and Hobbes you're probably OK on that front.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    My most oft re-read are all Italian books. I'm somewhat surprised. Achille Campanile is a particular favourite, and his two-line tragedies a favourite amongst its titles. Here's one:

    TAKING ADVANTAGE OF MODERN CONVENIENCES

    Characters:
    THE HUSBAND
    THE WIFE

    THE HUSBAND (Coming home with a large parcel)
    I brought the gas masks.

    THE WIFE
    Great. Tonight we can go to sleep with the gas on.

    (curtain)

    I'm certainly not as much of a rereader as my late father, who turned it into an art. There was the year when he read nothing but One Hundred Years of Solitude. Clavell, Uris and Livy also laid siege for a long time to his bedside table, which featured for as long as I knew him a manual on chess openings and a French book of jokes called Histoires drôles that I suspect he used to teach himself the language.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Ngaire BookieMonster,

    My re-reads are the entire Terry Pratchett oeuvre (each Discworld title has been read at least 3 times, some more), a Canadian book called Fall On Your Knees by Ann-Marie Macdonald, When We Were Orphans and The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro and, for some reason that probably should be left alone but really comes down to Nabokov being brilliant, Lolita.

    When I was younger I read The Neverending Story over and over and over - I may have taken the title a bit literally.

    For 8 year old - this may be an obvious suggestion from me but the Pterry YA titles? The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents is pretty damn cool.

    At the foot of Mt Te Aroh… • Since Nov 2009 • 174 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Hosking,

    I am currently doing a seasonal re-reading of Hogfather - prompted in this case by an earlier discussion on this site.

    South Roseneath • Since Nov 2006 • 830 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    "Hogfather" - the movie -is apparently on, on Thursday evening ( family person just emailed me but didnt include time or channel because I'll be over the hill then, and watching it with them.)

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • sallyr,

    Danielle, snap. Sadly I have read Rilla of Ingleside in the last two years.

    Re-reads = Austen.

    For Master 8, you got hold of The 10pm Question, right?

    Since Jun 2007 • 20 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    @ philipmatthews,

    In case you missed it, you were pegged, this morning, by Denis Welch as a "standout writer" in his yearly media wrap-up.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • philipmatthews,

    In case you missed it, you were pegged, this morning, by Denis Welch as a "standout writer" in his yearly media wrap-up.

    I heard that, thanks. Very nice of him.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2007 • 656 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    "Hogfather" - the movie -is apparently on, on Thursday evening ( family person just emailed me but didnt include time or channel because I'll be over the hill then, and watching it with them.)

    Really? Choice. I've done the re-read but a re-watch will be just the ticket for Christmas Eve.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • Ngaire BookieMonster,

    "Hogfather" - the movie -is apparently on, on Thursday evening

    Sadly I've not been impressed with any of the Pterry live action adaptations. Which makes me very very sads.

    But a Hogfather re-read could definitely be on the cards!

    At the foot of Mt Te Aroh… • Since Nov 2009 • 174 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Hosking,

    "Hogfather" - the movie -is apparently on, on Thursday evening

    EXCELLENT.

    I knew it was on at some point but my daughter has shredded the Listener in a protest action following a breakdown of talks relating to bedtime.

    Hogfather is brilliant. Not just because it features Death in a main role, and that one of the best ongoing jokes-which-is-more-than-just-a-joke in the Discworld novels is the way Death, with all his bewildered concern for humanity, is one of the most sympathetic characters in the entire series.

    More because it is a quite subtle and insightful examination of some of the themes around myth, atheism, belief, stories, and, well, humanity.

    In an essay dealing with the atheism of Richard Dawkins a few years ago British philosopher John Gray pointed out that calling oneself a humanist and then rubbishing one of the most unique things about humans - our religious instincts - seems a little off.

    The villains in Hogfather are the shadowy Auditors, who want to remove the Hogfather, and similar demi-Gods, from the world, because they are untidy and irrational.

    As a result, other figures start appearing - the Verucca Gnome, the Eater of Socks, the Oh God of Hangovers, and my personal favourite, the Cheerful Fairy (with shoes so sensible they could do their own tax returns). Surplus belief "sloshing around" creates them.

    The point being that "Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape," so they can believe the big lies we need to believe - " Justice. Mercy. Duty. That sort of thing."

    Someone in an earlier thread quoted the next bit -

    "Then take the universe and grind it down to the finest powder and sieve it through the finest sieve and then show me one atom of justice, one molecule of mercy. And yet" - Death waved a hand...."And yet you act as if there is some ideal order in the world, as if there is some rightness in the universe by which it may be judged.....You need to believe in things that aren't true. How else can they become?"

    And it is no coincidence, I'm sure, that it is the character of Death which delivers that lesson.

    South Roseneath • Since Nov 2006 • 830 posts Report Reply

  • philipmatthews,

    I think you've just convinced me to watch it, Rob.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2007 • 656 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    Bookiemonster - while I found "The Colour of Magic" (the only Pterry adaptation I've seen) a bit disappointing, I'm willing to give "Hogfather-the film" a go...because it's begat by the book"Hogfather."

    Which I seriously love.

    And right with you Rob Hosking - Death is a highly sympathetic character - and I also think, without any known justification, that he is Terry's take on life, the universe. etc.. I mean, the hairbrushes? Binky?

    And "Reaper Man" is another really fine Death-centred work...RIGHT?

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Scribbling down the brilliant recommendations and bookmarking the Book Depository. Thank you!!

    Swallows & Amazons was the soundtrack of two years ago, read aloud over a period of several months... I wanted to blog it at the time but didn't want to break the spell. We even acquired the 1970s BBC adaptations which were on such high rotate that the then one-year-old used to hum the theme tune and happily say to himself "Kids on boats."

    The thought that the young actors actually grew up and went on to other things was a hard notion to fathom at first, but the older lad was happy to hear that the boy who played Tom Dudgeon grew up to found a chain of non-crappy fast food restaurants. Even wackier was googling the actors from the Just William series, our current craze, and discovering that a) Violet Elizabeth Bott became one of the Doctor's companions, among many other things, and b) "William" himself is living happily ever after in Manhattan as an art critic and Lacanian. Excellent second acts all round.

    For some mysterious reason, he won't read the S & A books himself, now that he can read. But they were a huge feature of the imaginative world for a while there, right down to getting a captain's telescope for Christmas 07.

    Willard Price and Gerald Durrell noted! I have 2 copies of the 10 pm Question but might set it aside for a year or two on the grounds of emotional maturity. And yes to Pterry in any form, but starting with the YA. The Amazing Maurice and his etc was a big hit, and the Johnny books also.

    I'm with Philip on re-reading -- and un-reading. Life's too short, so I have no qualms these days about stopping a book if it stops working for me (unless I'm reviewing it of course, although sometimes I wish I could!). Which gives me time to re-read the ones that work. When I can tear myself away from web-browsing, that is...

    Islander: is James Tiptree, Jr. on your shelf?

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1471 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    glingle, glingle, glingle



    Did you hear that??

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1471 posts Report Reply

  • webweaver,

    Ah yes I agree that the Discworld books need to be read and re-read cos they're just so GREAT.

    I'm slowly collecting the full set via Wellington's second-hand book shops, which is fun because the order in which I find them is somewhat random. And once I get the full set I'll just have to re-re-read them all all over again in the right order :) It also just occurred to me that buying the books second-hand is not a good way to support Pterry financially. Damn!

    For those of us worried that Pterry is fast losing the plot and that Unseen Academicals could be his last, here's a somewhat reassuring bit of video of him answering a question at The Guardian Book Club. I'm hoping it's recent video.

    Terry Pratchett on religion: 'I'd rather be a rising ape than a fallen angel'

    Other books I regularly re-read:

    LOTR approximately once a year since I first read it at the age of 11.

    The Clan of the Cave Bear series by Jean Auel - the first three being infinitely more fun to read than the most recent two. And yes I'm aware that they are not exactly "great literature" but who cares! Mammoths! Ancient herbal-lore! Ice-age sex, passion and jealousy! w00t!

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 331 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Hosking,

    I also think, without any known justification, that he is Terry's take on life

    The same thought crossed my mind when writing that little effort, but I figured I'd gone on long enough.

    Mind you, Ridcully is my own personal hero.

    South Roseneath • Since Nov 2006 • 830 posts Report Reply

  • Fergus Barrowman,

    As well as all the new books (of which 2666 is the greatest), I found some good oldies which I recommend. I loved Cassandra at the wedding (1962), Dorothy Baker’s brilliant fourth and final novel about superglued twin sisters, which sent me back to her first, Young Man with a Horn (1938), which I’d neglected because of its reputation for getting Bix Beiderbecke wrong. But when Baker wrote in her note ‘The inspiration for the writing of this book has been the music, but not the life, of . . . Bix Beiderbecke’ she meant it; it wasn’t a legal nicety. And it’s a fine and tender novel. Nicola Beauman’s The Other Elizabeth Taylor is technically not a good biography. It suffers from over-identification with the subject, impertinent speculation and some bizarre literary judgements; but was nevertheless (or therefore?) fascinating reading, and reminded me to read A Game of Hide and Seek, The Wedding Party and A Wreath of Roses. All wonderful novels, but now sadly I’ve read them all.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2009 • 28 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Hosking,

    glingle, glingle, glingle


    Did you hear that??

    My bet is its the Oh God of Hangovers, about to pay a visit.

    South Roseneath • Since Nov 2006 • 830 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    In the midst of thinking about how not to write a historical novel over the last month and a bit, I picked up a Very Serious book of essays on the subject by the Very Serious A.S. Byatt. And was delighted to discover that, with an absolutely straight face, she quoted Terry Pratchett as one of her examples.

    What I love about his work is that it tells you almost everything you might want to know about the long 18th century, culturally speaking, as understood from the vantage point of the long 20th century, except on a completely different planet. With jokes. It's a brilliant act of translation, but above all, of creation.

    He came to the Yale Bookstore a year or so ago, and we went along and sat on the carpet in the front row like first-year fan-boy-and-girls while he told old jokes that sounded absolutely minty-fresh. Lovely guy.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1471 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    My bet is its the Oh God of Hangovers, about to pay a visit.

    Damn, Rob, you're right. It is G & T o'clock over here.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1471 posts Report Reply

  • webweaver,

    Awesome kids books (all English I'm afraid, as that was where I spent my childhood) - which I also re-read on a regular basis:

    Definitely Swallows and Amazons - they're just so atmospheric and the adventures are fabulous.

    The Borrowers series - magical indeed.

    The Secret Garden - which I still absolutely love with a passion. I want to marry Dickon.

    The Moomintroll books - charming and funny and very lovable.

    The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and subsequent books by Alan Garner - fantasy, quite scary, very exciting, well-written.

    The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula Le Guin (and other novels by her) - also fantasy, beautifully-written, wonderfully-realised other world.

    I also agree with the Gerald Durrell recommendation - I loved his books at that age - started with My Family and Other Animals and never looked back!

    And (of course!) Pooh, Paddington and everything ever written by Beatrix Potter. Goes without saying, really. And Dr Seuss!

    oh - and a wonderful book by Norton Juster called The Phantom Tollbooth which is clever and funny and punny and just plain brilliant and wildly imaginative. I still want to conduct the sunrise someday.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 331 posts Report Reply

  • recordari,

    While I write this the wind wafts gently through my recently obliterated study window. Having cleaned up the glass the would be burglar left all over the chair (Ouch!) and the room, I'm struck by the fact the gaping whole looks remarkably like the Bears from the Pullman Dark Material's trilogy. Maybe it's a sign.

    While I wait for the police and emergency glazier, I seriously can't think of anything better to do than carry on with this. No pity parties please, especially as they were interrupted before getting any of my books.

    Where were we? Oh yes, re-reads.
    Ursula Le Guin's Earth Sea Trilogy and The Dispossessed. These are both beautifully articulated imaginary world's, IMhO. Long overdue for another revisit. As this was a simulcast with webweaver, should have edited this, but oh well.

    Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, Player Piano et al. They came close on the heels of my F. Scott Fitzgerald period, and yes they were definite re-reads too.

    Thomas Pynchon The Crying of Lot 49. The muted post horn and entropy. He has a new one Inherent Vice, which looks promising.

    Actually, struggling for coherence. I think what I need is a beer, no pun intended. Bye for now...

    PS See, I had to correct the homophones, and the editorial committee might be watching, so best not do this in a mild state of shock.

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    glingle? *very faintly*

    Jolissa - *all*of James Tiptree Jnr. is on my shelves, and I'm hanging out for her biography (one of my whanau insists her mother had a copy of "Alice Among The Elephants" but has never produced same...)

    Another writer the 8yrold might enjoy is Rosemary Sutcliffe...I discovered her, Geoffrey Trease & Henry Treece one marvellous year when I was given the keys to my primary school library (I kid you not).
    I was 11, but had been reading everything historical I could lay hands on for 2 and a bit years previously.

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

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