Skip to content

Recent Articles


Winesburg, Ohio

Winesburg, Ohio




  1. The old writer lying in his bed, watches
  2. “a long procession of figures” pass through his mind.
  3. He decides to tell the stories of the people in Winesburg Ohio.
  4. Sherwood Anderson gives the reader poignant character sketches
  5. …through the narrative voice of
  6. …George Willard, the town reporter of Winesburg, Ohio


Strong point:  characterization

  1. All the characters held my attention!
  2. I really wanted to know what they were like as people
  3. ..and not just constructions created out of sentences.
  4. Anderson told  me about the character’s  flawed lives.
  5. Some people flee Winesburg (Elmer, Enoch, George W).
  6. Some people stay to “face bravely the fact that many people
  7. must live and die alone, even in Winesburg.” (Alice)
  8. Some characters experience a spiritual
  9. transformation…that feels almost as a mystical religion.
  10. Be prepared to read these stories
  11. …and remember this book was written in 1919.
  12. In early 20th C  religious issues/values were
  13. very important in small towns in America.



  1. Sometimes having lower back pain can be an good thing!
  2. I have to keep moving to free me from this nagging  pain.
  3. So I selected yet another audio “Classic” on my IPOD and
  4. …headed outside for another 30 km bike ride!
  5. I was impressed by all the stories…but especially about the women.
  6. Anderson Sherwood writes of the suffering of women in Winesburg.
  7. “…some young girls thought that marriage would change the face of life…”
  8. The women are “invisible” because their real identities are
  9. overshadowed by their social roles (mother, wife, daughter, teacher).
  10. The women were searching for something …just out of reach.


Last Thoughts:

  1. Well, I’ll be washed and ironed and starched!”  (chapter,  Queer)
  2. Finally a book on Modern Library List 100 Best Novels
  3. …that I enjoyed!
  4. #Classic – #MustRead



Title:  1984

  1. The book was written in 1948.
  2. Orwell interchanged the numerals 48 to 84.
  3. Orwell wanted his book to be set in the future,
  4. …but still be close enough to the present to be frightening.


Structure of society:

  1. Big Brother (leader of the party)
  2. Inner party (brain of state)
  3. Outer party (hands of the state)
  4. Proles (85% of the people)


Who is  Big  Brother?

  1. There are two theories:
  2. Big Brother represents Joseph Stalin.
  3. Another theory is that the inspiration for Big Brother
  4. …was Brendan Bracken, the Minister of Information until 1945.
  5. Orwell worked under Bracken on the BBC’s Indian Service.
  6. Bracken was customarily referred to by  his initials, B.B.
  7. Orwell resented the wartime censorship.
  8. Orwell felt the need to manipulate information came from the
  9. highest levels of the Ministry….
  10. from Bracken’s office in particular.



  1. It is about a political system of thought
  2. …that can change an individual.
  3. It is happening even in 2018.
  4. The difference is we can choose and rebel.
  5. Winston tried
  6. …but he could not fight against the party any longer.
  7. “Sanity was statistical
  8. Freedom is slavery.
  9. Two and two is five.” (Part 3, ch 4)


Strong point:

  1. George Orwell did have a sense of ironic humor!
  2. The party undermines the solidarity of the family …but it calls its
  3. leader by a name which is a direct appeal to the
  4. sentiment of family loyalty: Big Brother.


Orwell named the ministries with the reversal of the facts!

  1. Irony: continuous  war…carried out by Ministry of Peace.
  2. Irony: falsification of the past…carried out by the Ministry of Truth.
  3. Irony: torture, repression, espionage…carried out by the Ministry of Love.
  4. Irony: starvation …carried out by the Ministry of Plenty. (Part 2, ch 9)
  5. These are deliberate examples of
  6. ..Orwell’s concept of dubblethink.



  1. He changes from thoughts, to diary, to actions
  2. …then in the Ministry of love to be brainwashed.
  3. The end was contained in the beginning.
  4. Winston undergoes three stages of integration
  5. Learning – Winston reads Goldstein’s book
  6. Understanding – Winston’s torture with the ‘dial’
  7. Acceptance – Winston’s spirit is broken.
  8. He has accepted the Party entirely.
  9. He has learned to love Big Brother.
  10. “…nothing has changed…only your attitude
  11. Crime stop ( protective stupidity)
  12. …they called it in newsspeak.”
  13. (part 3, ch 4)



  1. My first impression of this book was not good.
  2. Bradbury’s book  Fahrenheit 451 was  more upbeat
  3. …despite the  repressive circumstances he described.
  4. Orwell is giving me page and page of depressing literature.
  5. Face crime, newspeak, doublethink.
  6. This was not uplifting during a bike ride. (Part 1)
  7. When returned home….Part 2 and Part 3 were mesmerizing!
  8. I highly recommend the audio book via
  9. Andrew Wincott is the narrator.
  10. His voice is hypnotic.
  11. Orwell saw privacy as one of the most necessary elements in a human’s life.
  12. I try to imagine what he would say about Facebook!
  13. People these days are very ‘casual’ about their privacy!
  14. Weak point: Winston’s affair with Julia was the least interesting.
  15. Strong point: Winston reads Goldstein’s book.
  16. Emmanuel Goldstein is the great enemy of Big Brother.
  17. Winston is more impressed than ever by
  18. …Goldstein’s ideas of the reality of the world situation
  19. Orwell leaves a lasting impression  in part 3.
  20. O’Brian (Inner Party) brainwashes and tortures Winston
  21. Note: torture is luckily not described in details!
  22. I was most impressed by the concept that the party can
  23. freeze history at a particular moment of time.
  24. History is just a tool for propaganda.
  25. The party simply edited the “records” of the past
  26. to “sync” the present.
  27. This gives the party the ability to control the future.
  28. #Classic   #MustRead
  29. …so that you can  recognize the dangers that still linger.


Last Thoughts:

  1. Past events only survive in written documents and human memories.
  2. The Past is whatever the party chooses to make it.
  3. Is this happening now?
  4. Will we ever learn the TRUTH about the assassination of
  5. J.F. Kennedy, his brother Robert and Martin Luther King


  1. I listened to this book and must admit I let my thoughts
  2. drift off to the present government administration in the USA.
  3. The ideas of the present administration are imposed
  4. most successfully on people incapable of understanding it.
  5. Voters could be made to believe the most flagrant notions of reality.
  6. How could the removal of climate regulations be good for Louisiana….
  7. where the death rate due to pollution is the worst in the country?
  8. But many  citizens of Louisiana (as many  did in other states…)
  9. elected the current president because
  10. they never fully grasp the enormity
  11. …that was demanded of them ( voting !)
  12. 1984….all over again!

Fahrenheit 451


What makes Ray Bradbury’s novel so important?

  1. Science fiction had graduated from pulp magazines
  2. …to novels in the 1950‘s.
  3. Science fiction was being taken more seriously.
  4. Bradbury’s novel was one on the first paperback originals.
  5. The reason Fahrenheit 451  is on classic book lists:
  6. …the book was a response to
  7. …what was happening in Americn society at the time.


What were the satirical targets in Fahrenheit 451?

  1. National:
  2. The rise of television as a mass media
  3. Rise of Senator McCarthy and his witch hunts
  4. Fears of censorship
  5. International:
  6. Cultural purge staged by Stalin
  7. Book burning of the Nazis
  8. Fear of nuclear war (see end of the book)



  1. The narrative in Fahrenheit 451 is well-know.
  2. Bradbury imagines a repressive future society in which
  3. …books are prohibited.
  4. Firemen instead of putting out fires
  5. ….seek out caches of book and burn them.
  6. Montag, main character, begins to have doubts about
  7. the fireman system.
  8. Books make people think.
  9. People  don’t ask what….they ask why?
  10. The government considers this is a dangerous trend.
  11. Plot point:  Montag is willing to read the books he’s stolen.
  12. He wants to understand why they burn books
  13. …why there is so much hate in the world.
  14. Conflict: Beatty (fire chief) and  Montag play a cat and mouse game
  15. …until Beatty finally has the evidence he needs to arrest Montag.



  1. Fahrenheit 451 is rather blunt and has an unmistakable message.
  2. It has become a popular classic and
  3. …has never been out of print.
  4. It is often read in schools.
  5. But ironically the book itself
  6. …has been under attack.
  7. Parents in Florida, Mississippi and Texas
  8. …tried to get the book removed from school libraries!
  9. I enjoyed the book because it is a classic and
  10.  it is important to know what it is about.
  11. I am not a SF-fan…
  12. …it is always a challenge for me to read this genre.
  13. The inclusion of a mechanical (killer) dog was a bit over the top.
  14. Bradbury was having some fun with this firehouse dog .
  15. I did not understand the fighter jets flying around.
  16. They seemed to just appear!
  17. At the end of the book….we know their mission.
  18. I listened to the audio book
  19. …because I needed a ‘nudge’ to keep
  20. …me  interested in the book.
  21. So I got out my bikeIPOD and cycled 45 km today
  22. …and finished the book!
  23. #Classic   #MustRead  …be it reluctantly!

Pulitzer Prize 2018: Locking Up Our Own


As a lawyer who started his career as a public defender in Washington D.C., Forman retains a pro-African American perspective for the entirety of the book.


His goal is an honest retelling of the struggles the black man is up against:
arrests for minor marijuana infractions, opiate crisis getting worse particularly among blacks, racial profiling and guns. “From Wyatt Earp to the Godfather…USA misleads their young people who think they can secure their manhood through the barrel of a gun.”

Strong point:

With a fact-based approach Forman effectively presents the story of the racial injustice and inequality that is unchecked in Forman’s area of Washington D.C. . The War on Drugs that started in 1970’s did more harm than good resulting in mass incarcerations of black men.

Tone:    Forman maintains a level-leaded and intellectual tone throughout the narrative.

Weak point:

The book begins slowly and the first 2 chapters (legislation drugs and guns) did not ‘grab’ my attention. But once I reached chapter 3 “1948-1978 – Rise of African American police” I was hooked.



  1. This book is a welcome addition to the
  2. …debate about racial issues in the USA.
  3. It cannot be compared to:
  4. Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy   or
  5. Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America
  6. Heather Thompson and Jill Levoy shift the tone in their books from
  7. fact, despair, to excitement, back to fact.
  8. They take the reader on a roller coaster of emotions.
  9. James Forman jr. as professor of law at Yale and legal scholar
  10. .. keeps emotions subdued but enlightens the reader
  11. …with facts only a lawyer can reveal through years of experience.
  12. Forman offers solutions that should be investigated.
  13. This book is a winner!
  14. Pulitzer Prize General Non-Fiction 2018.


Last  Thoughts:

  1. Sometimes it is best to read these books ‘hot off the presses’.
  2. If I wait too long the chances are
  3. …high the book disappears on my TRB.
  4. Pulitzer has a habit of selecting great books
  5. …but I have been disappointed at times.
  6. Never overlook the longlists
  7. …there hide many potential winners.
  8. Emotion is always a ‘cincher’ and
  9. …H. Thompson’s book was filled with
  10. emotion and much more ‘shock and awe’.
  11. J. Levoy’s book was a deep personal story
  12. ….one police officer was a leading example
  13. …and proved #BlackLives do matter!
  14. This was a very good book.
  15. J. Forman jr.’s book attests to the fact
  16. …there is still much to be corrected in USA.



  1. 1975 – Struggle to pass a bill to legalize marijuana
  2. 1975 – Struggle to pass gun regulation
  3. 1948-1978 – Rise of African American police
  4. 1981-82 – Forman’s personal experiences as a young public defender
  5. 1988-92 – Crack: the worst thing to hit African Americans since slavery
  6. 1995 – Racial profiling ( stop-and search)
  7. Epilogue:  2014-16 Our reach for mercy

Girl Reporter


Finished: 12.04.2018
Genre: Adult fiction (YA); Science Fiction
Rating: A+

  1. I just loved this novella
  2. ….perfect for commute in the train.
  3. I had to smile…
  4. while I looked around at all the millennials in the coupé.
  5. Tansy Roberts just nailed it with the ‘new vocabulary‘ for the
  6. networked, connected, vlogging, livestreaming, vid, twitter feed generation.
  7. Friday Valentina (#SuperheroSpill reporter) made me laugh:
  8. There’s something beautiful about the perfect hashtag.
  9. Truly, the hashtag is the epic poem of the 21st C.”
  10. Have  some fun and enjoy Tina (mother), Friday Valentina
  11. Solar, Astra, The Dark and many more characters.
  12. This book is full of snark and satire!
  13. Strong point:  snappy dialogue
  14. Tansy Roberts’ dialogue:
  15. develops the plot
  16. reveals characters’ motivation,
  17. creates an cyberspace experience for reader
  18. makes an average story extraordinary.
  19. #MustRead
  20. #MustLaugh




The Trauma Cleaner


Finished: 17.04.2018
Genre: non-fiction
Rating: A+++


Who is Sandra/Peter?
She is a transgender, a survivor of a dysfunctional childhood, a husband, wife,
father, svelte star of many brothels and a savvy businesswoman.


What did I learn from Sandra?
Keep you life uncluttered…keep only what makes you happy.
Sandra: “I’ve made an executive decision.
This is shit”… and we are tossing it out!

  1. I just was so inspired by the strength Sandra showed
  2. ..when life threw her a curve ball.
  3. She helps her clients throw the junk out of their lives.
  4. She comforts them and always
  5. ...feels warm (character), like a car engine that’s been driving for hours.


Who was my favorite client?
A 70-ish “iron-tongued warrior in silken finery and bold beads.
Marilyn puttering around the house filled with junk and debris that almost sweeps the ceiling… with the aid of a gliding walker while balancing a gin and tonic on it in the early-morning light. Marilyn is a Christmas junkie… 2 artificial trees, Christmas-themed rugs, strings of lights an lots of Santas.
Hoarding does not discriminate on the basis of income or intelligence.


Strong point: Sarah Krasnostein can write! I am so impressed and happy I discovered this new writer.If this is a first book…I hope to read may more by Sarah!
Strong point: The book moved me to tears.
…and I mean that in a good way.
The narratives of the hoarders are as messy as their houses.
But Sandra has managed to maintain harmony in
her home and life as a means of survival.


Last thoughts:

  1. Sandra’s personal life is a rollercoaster ride of emotion.
  2. Hold on to your hat!
  3. But the chapters alternated with her work as trauma cleaner
  4. …..showing a compassion that just took my breath away.
  5. Sandra runs a tight ship when it comes to her business
  6. …but takes time to sit on the side of the bed with
  7. …’Marilyn’ in her lavender bathrobe.
  8. She assure her client that nothing is
  9. …tossed out with out her permission.
  10. Nothing goes in the dishwasher.
  11. Her workers will hand wash every utensil in the kitchen.
  12. Marilyn sighs a deep breath of relief.

#MustRead !





Flann O’ Brian The Third Policeman



  1. The unnamed narrator of The Third Policeman is
  2. …obsessed with the bizarre philosopher De Selby.
  3. In in order to publish a book about De Selby
  4. …the narrator agrees to murder a man for his money.
  5. However, the narrator’s partner in turn murders the narrator.
  6. Then the narrator is thrust into a bizarre journey through the afterlife.
  7. It was a wild and at times  incomprehensible roller-coaster ride!


Ch 1-3:

  1. The novel begins with the narrator’s life.
  2. recounts the narrator’s whole life and
  3. the commission of a murder
  4. narrator dies… murdered by his partner in crime.
  5. Here’s the clue: neither he nor the reader knows this.
  6. Luckily I read a synopsis of the story before opening the book
  7. …so I tried to discover subltle clues
  8. …that would indicate the narrator is dead.
  9. I remained #Clueless.


Ch 4-7

  1. The fourth chapter marks the narrator’s full entry
  2. …into the afterlife.
  3. The narrator encounters a police barracks.
  4. Two policemen are obsessed with bicycles!
  5. O’Brian mentions bicycles 188x in the book
  6. …and for the life of me
  7. …I could not figure out what a bicycle
  8. was supposed to represent!
  9. #Frustrating.


Ch 8-12

  1. The narrator delves further and further into the strange world of the afterlife
  2. Down a hidden left-hand turn a short distance from the police station
  3. …there is an underground structure known as eternity.
  4. Now I really #NeedCoffee.
  5. The narrator follows the long road underground
  6. …only to reemerge into the world and
  7. find out that he’s been dead sixteen years.
  8. Shocked….the narrator returns to the afterlife to restart the cycle.



  1. I usually don’t explain the plot of a book
  2. …in this case I made an exception.
  3. If you decide to read this book….think twice.
  4. A piece of literature does have merit
  5. …even though it does not manage
  6. …to reach the common reader…like me.
  7. I did not enjoy the book,  although there are
  8. ..many people who believe O’ Brian’s  is an important
  9. …post modern Irish writer of the 20th C.
  10. O’ Brian wrote The Third Policeman in 1939-1940.
  11. O’ Brian was a morose drunk who led an
  12. …uneventful life as a civil servant in Dublin.
  13. He showed initial promise in that career
  14. …but the drink gradually sapped his enthusiasm.
  15. After reading  this book I wondered if O’ Brian wrote
  16. while in the throes of whiskey.
  17. His mind must have been  ‘expanded’ to develop many strange concepts.
  18. At times it is baffling
  19. ….and I tried so hard to appreciate it.
  20. Flann O’ Brian never found a publisher for this book
  21. always rejected.
  22. After plodding through the book
  23. …I can see why a literary agent decided
  24. …it  would not become a commercial success.
  25. Surprise, we are still reading it after 78 years!




Feel Free Essays by Zadie Smith



Fences: A Brexit Diary

  1. This essay is about a topical issue: Brexit.
  2. But was written in August 2016 and much has happened since.
  3. The facts: The UK will leave the EU by
  4. automatic operation of international law on 29 March 2019.
  5. The UK government does not know what it wants
  6. …and there is no UK Brexit policy worth the name.
  7. Working-class Brits voted without understanding the stakes
  8. …and fell back on their inherited  fear of England’s invasion by  foreigners.
  9. Despite the fact that many people in London there are
  10. multicultural and cross-class aspects in their lives
  11. …...that is actually represented by their staff —
  12. nannies, cleaners, people who pour their coffee and who drive the cabs.
  13. The painful truth is the fences are being raised all over London.
  14. Conclusion:
  15. Smith lambasts wealthy London.
  16. We walk past ‘them‘  very often in the street and get into their cabs
  17. …and eat their food in their ethnic restaurants
  18. …but the truth is that more often than not they are
  19. …NOT in  our schools, social circles, and very rarely enter our houses
  20. …– unless they’ve come to work on our endlessly remodeled kitchens.”
  21. Excellent essay



In the Audience  (very good!)

  1. Generation Why? – review of the movie “Social Network” (Zuckerberg and Facebook).
  2. Seems surreal to read this review by Zadie Smith while
  3. Facebook is in the midst of turmoil (Facebook vs Cambridge Analytics scandal).
  4. Zadie Smith quit Facebook 2 months after she started.
  5. She admits FB has been the greatest distraction from work she has ever had.
  6. In FB life is turned into a database and this is degradation.
  7. We use the FB software to behave in a certain, superficial way toward others.
  8. We know what we are doing ‘IN’ the software
  9. ….but we don’t know what the software is doing to us? 
  10. Zadie Smith quotes Lanier a software expert:
  11. ” be attentive to the software into which we are ‘locked in’.
  12. Is it really fulfilling our needs?
  13. When a human being becomes a set of data on a
  14. …website like Facebo0k, he or she is reduced
  15. …our networked selves don’t look more free
  16. they look more owned.
  17. It is scary reading this essay published in November 2010
  18. …8 years ago…and feeling it could have been written today!
  19. It does not matter who you are, as long as you make ‘choices’.
  20. Zadie Smith gets nostalgic at the end of the essay
  21. “I’m dreaming of a Web that caters to a kind of
  22. person who no longer exists” …a private person.
  23. NOTE:  I have DELETED  Facebook and TWITTER
  24. …a waste of my reading time!


The House that Hova Built

  1. Starting  The House That Hova Built. (2012, New York Times Magazine).
  2. Reading this in 2018 we already know Jay-Z
  3. will have an extra marital affair (2013 – 2015).
  4. His wife made the 6th best selling album
  5. …by a woman in all timeLemonade” in 2016.
  6. Beyoncé reveals explicitly her  progress through the discovery,
  7. detonation and aftermath of the affair.
  8. Album is divided into chapters:  Intuition, Denial, Anger, Forgiveness, Redemption.
  9. Rapper Jay-Z mentioned in an interview with Zadie Smith:
  10. And when it comes to talent,
  11. ‘You just never know– there is no guage.
  12. You don’t see when it’s empty.’
  13. IRONY: Speaking about his then 4 month old daughter, Ivy Blue,
  14. She doesn’t have to be tough […]
  15. …she has to be respectful and be a moral person“.
  16. Hmm…just like her daddy!


Brother from Another Mother 

  1. I had to look up who Key & Peele are.
  2. I needed to watch some Key & Peele on You Tube!
  3. The first two seasons of Key & Peele on Comedy Central 
  4. ..received positive reviews, maintaining a score 74 of 100.
  5. The third season of Key & Peele received
  6. …critical acclaim, receiving a score of 82 of 100!
  7. The series won a Peabody Award in 2013
  8. “for its stars and their creative team’s inspired
  9. …satirical riffs on our racially divided and racially conjoined culture.
  10. THANK YOU Zadie Smith…I finally discovered Key & Peele!


Some Notes on  Attunement –  very personal, touching

  1. I loved this essay.
  2. There was a quote that made me stop and think about
  3. …my determination to find out ‘What Makes Poetry Tick.
  4. I think Zadie Smith has given the key I was looking for.
  5. Quote:
  6. “Sometimes it is when you stop trying to understand
  7. …the new art  that you become more open to it.
  8. Put simply: You need to lower your defenses.


Flaming June

Zadie Smith starts her essayI’m trying to think of the first bits of art I ever saw.”  Now that is a good question.  My  Dad had some prints in his den of Revolutionary War 1776 soldiers hanging around a cannon. I don’t consider that art. But in my uncle’s house there was one painting (print) by Renoir I remember...I liked her hat.

But Zadie Smith  in this very short essay tells us which poster she choose to hang in her college apartment: Flaming June by Leighton. From now on she was not going to pinch pennies like her father or take up political commitments like her mother. No, Zadie was going to live for art!  “I’m going to spend three years on a sofa thinking about truth and  art…” “I was going to live for love and art and food[…]….and sleep, lots of sleep!”


Crazy They Call Me: On Looking at Jerry Dantzic’s Photos of Billie Holiday

  1. In this essay (New Yorker, 06.03.2017) you inhabit the world of Billie Holiday.
  2. Zadie Smith is writing the story from the singer’s perspective.
  3. “…after the clapping dies down,
  4. …there’s simply no one and nothing to be done.”
  5. “…you’re grateful for your little dog…”
  6. A dog don’t cheat, a dog don’t lie.”
  7. “This little dog and you? Soulmates. Where you been all my life?”
  8. “You never sing anything after….’Strange Fruit
  9. This song, written by Abel Meeropol and performed
  10. by many artists (but most notably, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone,)
  11. …is a dark and profound song about
  12. …the lynching of African Americans in the
  13. …Southern United States during the Jim Crow Era.
  14. In the lyrics, black victims are portrayed as “strange fruit,”
  15. …as they hang from trees, rotting in the sun, blowing in the wind,
  16. …and becoming food for crows upon being burned.
  17. It was a protest song that Billie Holiday
  18. ..very bravely performed under grave threats and at high personal cost.


  1. Essay: A Bird of Few Words  by Zadie Smith (The New Yorker, 19.06.2017)
  2. I thought this essay was going back and forth
  3. ..describing the art of  Lynette Yiadom Boakye (British- Ghanaian artist) and
  4. …then comparing it to the comments of the critics.
  5. But Smith went in another direction.
  6. Boakye creates compelling character studies of people who don’t exist.
  7. The paintings are of people with no name.
  8. Boakye  can finish a portrait in 1 day…
  9. …and Smith sighs from a novelist’s point of view both the
  10. ..speed and clarity of Boakye is humbling.
  11. This painting I found light as if the person was about to take flight!

  12. But this painting just was full of  ‘color politics’ and
  13. …shows Boakye’s talents and Smith’s insightful interpretation.
  14. Mercy over Matter”  a man holds a bird on this finger.
  15. Notice “…the underplumage: those jewel-like greens and
  16. …purples and reds you can spot
  17. beneath the oil-slick surface of certain bird-feathered birds.
  18. …the man’s jacket magically displays this same underplumage;
  19. …so does his skin; so does the bird.
  20. He is often thought of as a nothing, a cipher.
  21. But he has layers upon layers upon layers.






From the Wreck Aurealis Award 2018 Best SF Novel

  • Author: J. Rawson
  • Title: From the Wreck
  • Published: 2017
  • Trivia: Winner Aurealis Award  2018  Best SF-novel
  • Trivia: Aurealis Award recognises the achievements of
  • Australian science fiction, fantasy, horror writers.


Why is From the Wreck considered science fiction?

  1. SF is not always about space ships, aliens, monsters,
  2. ..robots or giant man-eating insects.
  3. The first requirement for SF is that it should be possible!
  4. Realistic fiction is what  could have happened,
  5. …fantasy is about events that could not have happened
  6. …SF is about events that have not happened, or have not happened yet!


  1. This book is based upon the shipwreck of the SS Admella in 1859.
  2. But what has Jane Rawson done in her story to
  3. …bring this narrative into the science fiction category
  4. …and not historical fiction?
  5. I’m determined to find out.


  1. Third-person, non-participant narrator
  2. There are six chapters narrated by the ‘being from another dimension”


  1. The Wreck –  2 chapters
  2. Life on Land – 4 chapters
  3. Henry – 9 chapters
  4. Cured –   4 chapters
  5. Some Journeys – 12 chapters


  1. Rosewater  (small town above Adelaide)
  2. Portland (George works in Seaman’s Home in this town)
  3. Adelaide (George travels to this city to meet some characters)



  1. From the Wreck  tells the remarkable story of George Hills.
  2. He survived the sinking of the SS Admella off the South Australian coast in 1859.
  1. George “..rolled into the waves…but they would not have him…”
  2. the waves …”instruments of the Lord
  3. People trying to help save George….he calls them
  4. “monstrous humans declaring death is near”
  5. “What do they know?
  6. George thinks
  7. Death was not for him.
  8. He lived now in another  world.”
  9.  “Why had the waves not taken him? Why was he here?
  1. He is haunted by his memories and the
  2. …disappearance of a fellow survivor.
  3. She is a  woman from another dimension
  4. ...and George must find her.
  5. She can…
  6. lure him
  7. destroy him
  8. return scraps of his health and sanity
  9. tell him what he had done was only a dream.


What was the hook that drew me into the book?

  1. Rawson begins her book with the description of the
  2. ship wreck by three different points of view.
  3. Rawson writes an amazing ‘cryptic’ second chapter
  4. …and I was hooked.
  5.  In chapter two Rawson switches constantly among
  6. four personal pronouns: WE  — I — THEY —   IT.
  7. If you read this chapter too quickly your eyes will glaze over.
  8. I read  line-for- line making a note as to what/who the
  9. …pronoun was referring.  It changes!
  10. This was the only chapter I had to read in this way
  11. …the rest was easy going.
  12. But it is important to understand who is talking in ch 2!
  13. Believe me..after you finish the book
  14. …you should re-read chapter 2.
  15. The pieces of the puzzle will now fall into place!


Theme:  abandonment, loneliness, and guilt.

  1. The George  suffers from all these feelings
  2. …which Rawson has translated into a story.


Tone: Gothic

  1. Part 1:
  2. whitened swollen ghosts had dragged themselves across the deck
  3. ghosts who wanted nothing more now but to be left alone
  4. looked at the ghosts about him…they were gone —
  5. He is  a creature of the devil.
  6. Ocean-fed devils
  7. Part 3:
  8. “You’ve seen these ghosts
  9. headless monsters walking the streets after dark wringing out
  10. …the bodies of cats and rats to drink their blood..”
  11. It is a sprawling birthmark.
  12. …was throbbing, rippling, pulsing. “Another brain in my brain…”
  13. seethes and stretches, the edges crawling across his back..”
  14. Part 4:
  15. “What do you know about haunting? he asked.
  16. Or spells. Potions. Do you know anything about
  17. …spells to stop a haunting?’


Strong point: inner dialogue

  1. Internal narrative is the life’s blood of any story.
  2. Readers don’t just want to see what’s happening to your character.
  3. they want to know what he thinks.
  4. For example: George has thoughts that he
  5. …would LIKE to tell his brother-in-law
  6. ....but cannot.


Strong point: tension

  1. Suspense drives the narrative.
  2. Good example is in ch1  part 2.
  3. Tension is building.
  4. Rawson  is withholding information.
  5. She keeps the reader
  6. waiting and waiting for a shocking revelation.
  7. The character is keeping his secret from his family.
  8. The reader will soon know the secret as well.
  9. Tension:
  10. Why does Henry…George’s son of 5 yr
  11. …use words like niche and reprobate?
  12. Uncle William is amazed  by small Henry.
  13. Does it mean he is ‘different’?  (big words for little kid!!)


Strong point:  pace

  1. I never really took notice of ‘pace’
  2. …until I started reading books more carefully.
  3. A writer uses her craft to equally balance action, drama, and plot elements
  4. …and I just miss it completely!
  5. Rawson mixes slow and quick pace chapters  part 3 “Henry” .
  6. Quick: Dialogue:  question – answer b/t characters (George – Alice Jarvis)
  7. Slow – reflections – inner dialogue, dream sequence – Henry dreams of ocean.
  8. Quick: wife about to give birth…George is rushing around get the doctor!
  9. Slow: introduction of new characters with long descriptions, back round
  10. Quick: …heart throbbing revelation for Henry!



  1. Question?
  2. Alien being  has its own philosophybut what is it?
  3. Why is  alien being implanting itself into  humans?
  4. Why does it insist on adapting to new shapes and forms?
  5. What has happened to push George or the edge?
  6. He is  so committed to finding the truth
  7. that he’s willing to physically die for it.
  8. These  questions and more, you will have to answer
  9. yourself  after reading this
  10.  Aurealis Award 2018 …winning SF  novel!
  11. #MustRead…..amazing!


Last thoughts:

  1. As a reader who  is not drawn to the science fiction genre
  2. …this book delighted, surprised and inspired me
  3. …to read more of Jane Rawson.
  4. I must give science fiction a chance!
  5. This book is original, so well-written
  6. ….clean, sharp and spooky.
  7. I’ll never look at my cat in the same way….!


Jo Chandler: Feeling the Heat


Who is Jo Chandler?

  1. Chandler is a freelance journalist and author.
  2. She won the Walkely Award 2017 Freelancer of the Year
  3. I discovered Jo Chandler  in  The Best Australian Essays 2016



  1. In a attempt to understand what is happening to our planet,
  2. Chandler travels to climate science frontiers
  3. Antarctica, the Great Barrier Reef, the Wimmera and
  4. North Queensland’s tropical rainforests.
  5. Jo Chandler puts together some of the
  6. …pieces in the climate puzzle
  7. …meets many passionate and eccentric characters
  8. …discovers what makes them tick, and
  9. …learns a thing or two about herself.


What is Chandler’s goal in this book?

  1. The purpose of the book is to tell the authentic,
  2. raw story of science at the real-world climate frontiers.
  3. Narrator:  Chandler  is of a non-scientist and journalist
  4. ….a questioning observer.
  5. Chandler presents scientist’s evidence as clear as
  6. possible and then takes a step back as all scientists do.
  7. “Our leaders must define the path which will get
  8. us to where we need to go.” (pg 228, epilogue)


What did Chandler find personally?

  1. Chandler uses the metaphor
  2. …the difference between bearing and heading.
  3. Explorers note physical markers to register
  4. …their drift and shift against satellites.
  5. Heading is not always the
  6. …direction you are moving towards.
  7. Heading is the direction you are pointing.
  8. If we fail to define the
  9. …coordinates of our objective (…in life)
  10. …drift out of  course due to crosswinds
  11. …we plough blindly forward
  12. …without heed for perils along the way.
  13. It is important  to find your bearing.
  14. …your position with reference to a known (land)mark.
  15. “” feels like a revelation. A strategy to better find my way
  16. …when I return to earth.” (pg  40, ch 3)


Storm Front

  • Jo Chandler’s  departure from Hobart to Casey Antarctica:

Flight of the Albaross –  Arriving at Casey Base:

  1. 5 hr flight from Hobart
  2. 70 km (4 hrs rough riding from Wilkins Airport)
  3. 4000 km south of Perth
  4. Flight attendant Airbus landing at  Wilkens Inter Airport:
  5. ” Welcome to Antarctica…it’s not bad out there today
  6. ..mild mid-summer -6 C.”

Buried Treasure

  1. Fact: Antarctica holds 70% of the fresh water on the planet.
  2. Irony: Antarctica is the driest place on earth.
  3. Personal: Chandler experiences Antarctica
  4. …as more than an scientific platform.
  5. She felt moments of connection with nature
  6. …which ache so powerfully
  7. it is like the instant of finding love.
  8. Antarctica  divines or future….and archives our past.
  9. Reasearch: Ice samples pulled from Law Dome
  10. contain bubbles of the atmosphere
  11. ….dating back 90.000 years!
  12. Expert:  scroll down to see beautiful
  13. …video (3 min) of Antarctica with
  14. Dr. Tas van Ommen


Revisiting Gondwana

  1. Chandler now moves to the Wet Tropics of Australia.
  2. …the subtropical Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area
  3. Despite its small size these tropics host the highest biodiversity in the country.
  4. The forest throbs with life.
  5. Just take the time to LISTEN to the sounds of the rainforest….so relaxing!
  6. I listened…while reading!

  1. Some of the wettest areas on Earth where forests are so
  2. …often shrouded in cloud they truly are “cloud forests”.
  3. Clouds condense on leaves and drip to saturate soils below
  4. But the rainforests are deeply vulnerable
  5. …to human induced climate-change.
  6. Cyclones are a part of the north
  7. …they have always come…and they always will.
  8. But what happens when warmer oceans
  9. …feed the frequency and fury of the storms?
  10. Will the rainforest have the opportunity to recover between blasts?
  11. Cyclone Yasi  30.01.2011  CAT 5 ..most furious storm to visit east coast
  12. …of Australia in a century!
  13. Personal: Chandler feels unsettled in this place with a high ‘ick’ factor.
  14. It takes some days to come to terms with
  15. …the tight grasp of this menacing environment.

The Sleeping Giant:

  1. Climatic change is everywhere in the news.
  2. If you want to get the most out of this book
  3. …I would suggest while you are  reading
  4. …to google for images that will help you see what chandler is discussing.
  5. The Sleeping Giant refers to the East Antarctica ice sheets.
  6. They are now relatively stable.
  7. But Chandler explains that the character of the ice is changing.
  8. (warm current sweeping under the ice sheet)
  9. Without this image for instance …I would not have
  10. ..understood what Chandler meant.
  11. Antarctica is difficult to imagine!
  12. Personal: Chandler feels in Antarctica “..very isolated, very small,
  13. …very lucky and a little afraid.” (pg 112, ch 6)


Strong point:

  1. Explanations are clear and in accessible language.
  2. It is not academic book  but very strongly supported
  3. citing numerous articles in science magazines and research papers.
  4. The main topics that are being investigated in Antarcitca are:
  5. Ice sheets – ice melt – atmosphere (ozone hole) – ice cores (drilled to study the past)


Strong point:

  1. This is the first book I ever read about climatic change.
  2. Chandler’s perspective as a non-scientist observer
  3. …made me feel at ease.
  4. I was learning….as she was.
  5. Chandler helped me  with her journalistic style ‘here are the facts’  and
  6. …clever analogies (bathtub = hidden underbelly of the  Totten Glacier, ch 6).


Strong point: 

  1. You can read  all the chapters one after another
  2. …but I found I was
  3. drowning in information overload.
  4. You can also read the book as a series of essays
  5. …put the book down and let the information settle.


Strong point:

  1. Chandler’s book made me more aware of the consequences
  2. of climate change that I experience myself: 
  3. frequent storms,  diluvian cloudbursts and sweltering heatwaves.


Weak point: no illustrations!



  1. This book is a great read emphasizing that
  2. …the clock is ticking and issues like
  3. …ice melt and sea-level rise are urgent.
  4. If there is even the smallish risk
  5. …of a very big adverse outcome
  6. ..due to sea rise and ice-melt (Antarctica and Greenland)
  7. it would be wise to do something about it.
  8. Once the thaw starts the risk is that the
  9. …tipping point is tripped...” (pg 122, ch 6)
  10. But as we know action is blocked by
  11. Big Oil and Big Coal.
  12. I think one of the things I or any other citizen of the world
  13. …can do is #VoteThemOut
  14. Vote  out the politicians
  15. …and leaders of countries who are on the
  16. ..fossil fuel industries…payroll!


Last thoughts:

  1. Chandler’s mission:
  2. Explore and explain the dynamics of
  3. …the forces at work in a changing world.
  4. Personally..
  5. …I was most fascinated by the Antarctica.
  6. Jo Chandler’s  storytelling is
  7. ….personal (ch 6-7 and especially the epiloge)
  8. … mixed with scientific: for example…
  9. man-made ocean acidification ch 8
  10. Great Barrier Reef and Heron Island  ch 9-10-11-12
  11. Penguins Antarctic Adélies, elephant seals 
  12. …and mosses, the most advanced plants
  13. …on continental Antarctica! ch 13

  1. It is an amazing feat to
  2. …digest all this scientific information
  3. clarify all the jargon for the  readers
  4. …who just dabble in science, like me.
  5. One thing I DID LEARN...
  6. What caused the biting cold Polar Vortex
  7. …24 February – 01 March 2018 that brought
  8. ..The Netherlands  back to ice skating on the canals?
  9. There is more heat coming off the relatively ice-free Arctic  waters
  10. increasing air pressure and
  11. …pushing the polar cold air south …in my direction!
  12. #MustRead