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Classic: Thea Astley



  1. I love a good short story.
  2. Usually I review just one story to post on this blog.
  3. W. Trevor  and John Updike are favorites of mine,
  4. ..but a collection is the hardest thing to review.
  5. I want to give Thea Astley the attention she deserves and
  6. …have spent 4 days reading eight short stories!


Weak point:

  1. I felt only a few of the selections were real short stories.
  2. Instead Astely uses each ‘story’ as a continuation of
  3. Keith’s thoughts and adventures in Queensland.
  4. A short story must come to the point!
  5. A short story must reveal in 1st or 2nd
  6. paragraph the mood, theme and conflict.
  7. Astley fails on this point.
  8. In The Curate Breaker  there was a clear  conflict
  9. between the Catholic priest and Anglican minister.
  10. The resolution was believable and touching.
  11. This story made this reader pause and think.
  12. #Bravo



  1. I read these eight stories and have reviewed four.
  2. The first story was a disappointment and
  3. …I had to push myself to read the rest of the book.
  4. I was expecting a short story and got  what sounded
  5. …like the exposition of a novel!
  6. So you’ve been warned: the first story is a dud.
  7. But I kept  reading…giving Astely a chance to improve!


4 REVIEWS     I’ll let you discover the rest yourself!


North: Some Compass Readings: Eden

  1. Setting: Carins
  2. Title: refers to the first two sentences:
  3. “Let me draw you a map…put it just north of 20 and 146 east…
  4. sea bitten rind of coast…limbo for those who’ve lost direction.”
  5. Parents: Iris and Bernard are exact opposites:
  6. Iris: gorges on horoscopes, sports a lucky color and
  7. it always seems to be the Ides of March.
  8. Bernard: jocular, jaunty and tips his son an unsmiling
  9. wink as he he rattles his newspaper busily.
  10. Narrator:  Keith Leverson
  11. Note: Iris, Bernard and Keith are
  12. characters are from Astley’s book The Slow Natives.
  13. A suburban couple, Iris and Bernard, 
  14. …have drifted into the shallows of middle-aged boredom.
  15. Their fourteen-year-old son, Keith  is a stranger.


  1. Fourteen-year-old son, Keith is now
  2. middle-aged, thinning blond hair and
  3. ..has lost one leg in a car accident
  4. …that was central in the book The Slow Natives.
  5. Keith sets out on a journey  from Carins
  6. to Falls Gorge on the Kuranda railway.
  7. Keith/Astley  rants about the influx of lean, arrogantly young
  8. Balmain and South Yarra drop-outs, 
  9. the new urban trendies and
  10. the  middle-aged straights trying to adopt the patois and local dress.
  11. Theme: landscape is beautiful in Queensland
  12. ….but you get more magic from strangers (the misfits).


Weak point: allusions

  1. The use of allusions in Astley’s novels is
  2. one of the elements of her style  that I enjoy reading.
  3. But in her short stories I think she has
  4. overreached herself and lost much of her focus


Weak point:  Tone

  1. The tone achieved by the use of allusions
  2. shifted from imaginative in her novels...
  3. to pedantic in the short stories.



  1. This was NOT an easy read.
  2. Astley starts her story in the present but
  3. flashbacks to a month ago, then yesterday,
  4. …then the present again.
  5. It was hard to follow. 
  6. The author makes it even more complex….
  7. by filling the story with too many allusions.
  8. Brilliant writing….but not a well-balanced story.
  9. Thea Astely’s novels?   TOP! 
  10. Thea Astely’s short stories?   Not her strong point!
  • Allusion: poem Trade Winds by J. Masefield
  • Allusion:  Shakespeare’s Hamlet
  • Allusion: to Virgil  “Sera comans, Iris” (the late blooming…)
  • Allusion: D.H. Lawrence poem Green:
  • “…the gorge is evaporating in green light,
  • green into greeness as Lawrence might have said…”
  • ... Astely assumes we all know who Lawrence is.



The Curate Breaker


  1. This was a normal short story….a pleasure to read
  2. …with a beginning, middle and end.
  3. The story centers around an insanely bitter conflict
  4. between the Roman Catholic priest and the Anglican canon.
  5. Father Rassini and Canon Morrow  are at odds
  6. …but their lives are heartbreakingly parallel.
  7. The tragedy is….neither the priest nor the canon
  8. see their uncharitable behavior.
  9. Canon Morrow flatters and shields his ego from blame
  10. when we make mistakes (berating his wife…severely, angrily)
  11. because he is doing God’s work.
  12. Father Rassini observes this behavior and is appalled.
  13. But this suave man of God realizes he is no better than Canon Morrow.
  14. Father Rassini has callously ill-treated his father
  15. snapping and shouting at him when the elderly parent falters.
  16. Father Rassini suddenly leaves the house after seeing
  17. his frail, grey parent shelling peas for the evening meal.
  18. Father Rassini must spend some quiet time with God,
  19. asking Him to show him where he needs to change.


Hunting the Wild Pineapple


  1. I was hoping to have a great time enjoying
  2. Astley’s humor and  finding out what
  3. in heaven’s name the wild pineapple meant.
  4. My enthusiasm waned.
  5. Why do bad souffles happen to good cooks?
  6. Why do dull stories….happen to good writers?
  7. This story started out with Astley’s keen observation of bored
  8. people  at a tropical Bed and Breakfast
  9. …where the pink gin, vodkas on ice
  10. …and stingers kept the guests
  11. in a permanent ‘happy-hour’.
  12. There was some sexual tension arising  among
  13. B&B owner, guests and two plantation workers (gay and bi).
  14. But nothing that made the story shine.
  15. Hunting the Wild Pineapple was a hoax to
  16. …take bored and slightly tipse guests
  17. …on a wild goose chase.
  18. This story had so much potential
  19. ..and I hoped it would entertain me as much as
  20. Boat Load of Home Folk,
  21. but this short story sadly #Collapsed.


A Northern Belle


  1. Astley uses no alcohol, no allusions  only Clarice’s tears and embedded fears:
  2. Fear black men instilled by her mother
  3. Fear of sins of the flesh instilled by the nuns, Mother Suplice.
  4. Irony: her mother was determined her daughter Clarice would marry well
  5. ….but her only true love was Bixer, her dog.
  6. Weak point: 
  7. There is no real epiphany, no redemptive moment.
  8. Just a sad life that ends with a traumatized unmarried
  9. …50 yr old woman….screaming.
  10. #Disappointing, lacking imagination.





Flowers for Algernon


Finished: 25.06.2018
Genre: novel
Rating: C-


The only word that best describes this book is gray.

pg 156 – gray and drizzly and that may account for the depression that grips me.
pg 162 – feeling of cold grayness was everywhere around me…sense of resignation.
pg 204 – I was floating…not clear and sharp but with a gray film over everything.
pg 206 – the gray murk lifted from my mind.


Strong point: Keyes plunges the reader into Charly’s inner struggle with first person point of view.  Charly faces a long and grueling process (mentally challenged –> high IQ) in which he was constantly being treated like a lab experiment. Keyes also deals with Charly’s feeling on loneliness and lack or respect.


IMO: The praise given to this book could be 70% due to this heart wrenching journal of a mentally challenged man Charly Gordon that captivates readers.

Weak point: I found the writing dishwater gray.


Why Horror Seduces


Why does horror work?

  1. Horror engages with psychological mechanisms
  2. …that have evolved over millions of years.
  3. We need fear to stay alert and alive.
  4. As long as we are fearful imaginative creatures
  5. ….there will be a central place for horror in our culture.


Does Clasen tell me anything new and interesting about  ‘horror’?

  1. I learned to be alert for…
  2. alpha predators…man-eating shark  in Spielberg’s Jaws
  3. clowns who hide their evil intentions with face paint or masks…in King’s IT
  4. shape-shifting creatures…vampires…in Stoker’s Dracula
  5. inanimate objects infused  with malicious intent to kill… the car in King’s Christine
  6. supernatural agents who act like ordinary neighbors…in Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby
  7. …and there is no way to have a fair fight with a ghost!



  1. Since I read a few horror books this year:
  2. Soon, Who’s Afraid and Aletheia
  3. I wanted to learn
  4. why horror seduces?
  5. We enjoy make believe
  6. ….want to experience negative emotions
  7. …but only in a safe context!
  8. There are many types of horror: disgust, fear, shock, loathing and dread.
  9. Some books are better than the movie: The Shining by S. King
  10. Some movies are better than the book: Jaws by R. Benchley
  11. Our appetite for horror will not go away anytime soon.
  12. Horror will stay with us and M. Clasen wants to explain why.
  13. Horror is not a genre like a western or crime fiction
  14. ….it is pure emotion!


Last thoughts:

  1. After reading this book I have learned  that horror literature
  2. is more than furious poltergeists or chain-saw wielding rednecks!
  3. M Clasen explains why we are drawn to the dark side,
  4. …with sweaty palms, a racing pulse and
  5. …a sinking feeling in the pit of our stomach.
  6. Remember the iconic opening scene in Jaws (1978)?
  7. Remember the music?
  8. Da-DumDa-DumDa-Dum-Da-Dum-Da-Dum
  9. I want to read more Horror and Dark Fantasy books
  10. …but don’t know where to find them!
  11. Here is the link for This Is Horror  website.
  12. This website specializes in horror fiction and the craft of writing,
  13. Here are a few notes about
  14. Part 1. ...human fear system. (ch 1-4).
  15. Part 2 is an overview of post WW-II American horror.
  16. Edgar Allan Poe was America’s first horror writer.
  17. “…vision of terror that stalks within us.”
  18. Stephen King is the most successful horror writer
  19. ….selling more than 350 million books since 1974.
  20. Part 3 M. Clasen looks to the future moving from
  21. literature –> film –> interactive horror dimensions (niche market).
  22. Despite a sluggish begin (ch 1-4) the book picks up steam
  23. …and becomes stronger, faster and more insightful with each page!



Chapter  1  – The tone is very academic ..what horror is and how it is studied. This was nice to know but was not a great ‘hook’ that would keep me reading.  I plodded hoping to find some real interesting remarks.

Chapter 2 – This discusses why fear is our oldest and strongest emotion. Clasen describes the human fear system.  The horror genre targets our fears…still I have not read anything….new!

GOOD – A well constructed  horror story has us anxiously scanning the fictional environment for threats. That is very true! While reading Aletheia I was looking for  foreshadowing or objects that appear in the story that would link  to the ‘lake monster’  that awaits the characters!

Chapter 3  –  This was an interesting chapter about monsters, scary scenes and terrified characters. Included is Stephen King’s personal top 10 terrors! The first one is what we all feel…fear of the dark! I had to laugh when Clasen mentions “…we should be terrified of cars and worry much less about snakes and spiders.” (pg 40).

Chapter 4 – People manipulate fear to produce pleasure. “…being absorbed in a fictional universe and made to feel afraid as a result…” It is the pleasure of feeling strong emotions in a safe context.


My top horror movies:

The Tingler (1959) –  shock
An obsessed pathologist discovers and captures a parasitic creature
that grows when fear grips its host.
Can you imagine me….9 years old and watching this?
I’m still traumatized!


Psycho (1960)- shock
A Phoenix secretary embezzles $40,000 from her employer’s client, goes on the run, and checks into a remote motel run by a young man under the domination of his mother.
My mother learned her lesson and forbad me to see this movie!


Rosemary’s Baby (1968) – fear
A young couple moves in to an apartment only to be surrounded by peculiar neighbors and occurrences. When the wife becomes mysteriously pregnant, paranoia over the safety of her unborn child begins to control her life.
My sister and I went to see this movie…a flawless horror masterpiece,
at an afternoon showing…at night was too spooky.


The Exorcist (1973) – disgust
When a teenage girl is possessed by a mysterious entity, her mother seeks the help of two priests to save her daughter.
I was just married and felt so grown up
…but this movie brought me to my ‘horror limit’!


Jaws (1975) – anxiety, dread …something dangerous is out there but you don’t know where it is or when it will strike!
A local sheriff, a marine biologist and an old seafarer team up to hunt down a great white shark wrecking havoc in a beach resort.
I loved this one. The opening scene is iconic…the music!! 

LISTEN to the film trailer narrated by Orson wells…. link
See the movie….before you go swimming.


A Very Expensive Poison


Finished: 20.06.2018
Genre: non-fiction (true crime)
Rating: B



This book reads like a Le Carré espionage thriller!
Major theme is the death of Alex Litvineko 2006
and the final results of murder inquiry in London 2016.
Many names of Russian dissidents, double spies and ousted Russian oligarchs are mentioned. Victims were killed in drab suburbia (Alexander Litvinenko), often out in the open, on pavements (Boris Nemtsov), sometimes as the target was out walking their dog, or going shopping, with passers-by watching on in abject horror. (Sergei Skripal)
There seems to be a trend

…but who is the one giving the orders to kill?


Alexander Litvinenko – British naturalised Russian defector and former officer of the Russian FSB secret service who specialised in tackling organised crime in Russia.
(dead 2006, poisoning with radionuclide polonium-210)


“Badri” Patarkatsishvili – behind some of the most successful companies in today’s Russia (oligarch)
(dead 2008, collapse at his home, compounds known to be used by the former KGB can induce heart failure, but leave virtually no trace)


Boris Berezovsky – oligarch, agitator in Russian politics. He and Putin were sworn enemies.
(dead 2013, found in bathroom – death as “unexplained”)


Boris Nemtsov – outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin and his authoritarian, undemocratic regime.
(dead 2015, assassinated on a bridge near the Kremlin in Moscow, with four shots fired from the back.


Sergei Skripal – former Russian military intelligence officer who acted as a double agent for the UK’s intelligence services
(March 2018, poisoned with a nerve agent…survived)





Deep South: Shortlist Stanford Travel Book 2017


Finished: 16.06.2018
Genre: non-fiction travel writing
Rating: A+++


  1. Flyspecks on a map….
  2. …forgotten towns with a creek or running stream
  3. …they were all backwaters literally and figuratively.
  4. Deep South by P. Theroux surprises me with every page.
  5. From North Carolina through Georgia,
  6. Tennessee and Alabama to Mississippi and Arkansas….
  7. in his first book to focus on his homeland,
  8. the veteran travel writer and novelist finds segregation
  9. still thrives in the old Confederate states.


Strong point:

  1. Paul Theroux is more interested in
  2. conversationthan sightseeing
  3. …the heart an soul of family narratives…the human wealth.


Strong point:

  1. Theroux captures the essence of the Deep South.
  2. At the moment in The Netherlands ( where this ex-pat lives) the news is
  3. all about the elderly who are becoming  very lonely.
  4. People are living longer and must cope with a
  5. type of isolation due to physical health and mobility.
  6. NOT once in Theroux’s book is the word loneliness mentioned.
  7. Why?
  8. Because it is ‘the Southern way‘ to always be of
  9. assistance regardless of class, color or creed.
  10. …or  if you aree a stranger from the North taking notes (Paul Theroux)
  11. ” Kin Ah h’ep you….in inny way?  is the motto of the Deep South.



Last thoughts:

  1. Sometimes I don’t want a book to end….this is that kind of book!
  2. Theroux is a traveler but also a lover of literature.
  3. He explores Southern Fiction (especially Faulkner) to give the reader
  4. access to the reflective interior of southern states
  5. …so passive….so mute.
  6. #ExcellentRead



Victorian Premier’s Literary Award Drama 2018

Nisha and Yvette



Understanding characters in plays allows the reader to relate to
different situations, backgrounds, and cultures.
Asian-Australian office cleaner Yvette clashes with
ambitious Australian-Indian Nisha corporate executive officer in multinational.
A lasting friendship begins.….


What is the play about?

  1. Michele Lee writes plays about women of colour.
  2. Rice is about an ambitious, self-obsessed Indian executive
  3. Nisha Gupta (28 yr) working for Golden Fields Company.
  4. She is the granddaughter of a West Bengal immigrant.
  5. She is ‘second in charge’ of an agricultural company.
  6. Yvette Tang (61 yr) is a Chinese immigrant.
  7. She is a single-mother, one daughter.
  8. She is an office cleaner.
  9. Yvette and Nisha.… multicultural women
  10. …making their way in modern Australia.



  1. Metaphor:  Nisha is on the top floor of the building
  2. ….successful.
  3. Metaphor:  Yvette  is in the basement of the building
  4. .…struggling with a menial job.


Strong point:

  1. Michele Lee uses parallels throughout the play to show
  2. us the connection between Yvette and Nisha.
  3. It took me 2 readings to discover them all!


Yvette and Nisha:  similarities

  1. both work in Golden Fields building
  2. both have emotional ties to family – yvette/daughter; Nisha/grandmother
  3. both are  ‘putting on an act’
  4. Yvette = “little old cleaner victim” – Nisha = “Your corporate act”
  5. both are businesswomen
  6. Yvette: Import.”You think I import plastics? (imports Prada knock-offs)
  7. Nisha: I’m E.O. of Golden Fields. I’m strategic!
  8. both live in suburbs of  Melbourne
  9. ….but at opposite sides. Yvette: Eltham – Nisha: Werribee


Strong point:

  1. The ‘tit-for-tat’  dialogue between Nisha and Yvette…
  2. It snaps, crackles and pops off the page.
  3. Nisha:  You’re the one with the vacuum cleaner. End of story
  4. Yvette: Not the end
  5. Nisha:  Chinese cleaner
  6. Yvette: Indian princess
  7. Nisha:  You’re a cleaner
  8. Yvette: You’re a baby
  9. Yvette: I empty. (complained that Nisha left her rubbish on desk an not in bin)
  10. Nisha:  Both my bins are full. Nothing on the table. Happy?



  1. They’re from different cultures, different generations
  2. …but  a bond develops between Yvette and Nisha
  3. Yvette: Act 1  Very fussy. Very big bitch. Hope she get fired
  4. Yvette: Act 3   (…she mumurs)  “I will miss you little shadow.
  5. Nisha:  Act 1 I stay. I eat. I make a mountain of rubbish for you.
  6. Nisha:  Act 3 You tell me what to do…Well I pretty much did, ok?
  7. Yvette: Act 3  “All you want is me to say you are right.”
  8. Nisha:  Act 3 “Say something about me. Tell me. Judge me


Echoes:  of friendship

  1. Act 1:
  2. Nisha “This is the part of the story where we first meet.”
  3. Yvette: “This the part where we eat.” (rice together….)
  4. Rice is an ancient symbol of wealth,
  5. success, fertility and good health.
  6. It is powerful.
  7. Act 3:
  8. Yvette “This is the part where we leave together.
  9. This is the part where we go.”


Yvette changes:

  1. Plays the victim …(act 2)
  2. …groveling at the feet of David Egan, son of CEO of Coles company.
  3. Does not express her opinion…”But not everything I think I have to say.”
  4. Change:
  5. Act 3 we see a ‘re-born’ Yvette with a voice!
  6. A voice in sync with the new generation….her daughter Sheree!
  7. “Mr. David Egan. Fuck you.
  8. “Coles is evil and the system is broken.
  9. And that is all I have to say to you. Mr. David Egan.”


Nisha changes:

  1. In the first two acts Nisha is a corporate ‘high-roller.”
  2. She has a better grasp of the world.
  3. She is is a little brighter than the next person.
  4. She is a high stakes player who is willing
  5. to place large bets and take risks.
  6. She is brokering a rice deal with biggest retainer in the world.
  7. Plot:  Nisha’s fatal overseas
  8. business trip to sell rice to the Indians.
  9. “Any day now this phone is going to sing.”
  10. …this is game-changing, history-breaking.”
  11. Change:
  12. Act 3 “I don’t do anything special. (E.O) It’s a bullshit title.
  13. Nisha once demanded Yvette clean….end of story.
  14. Now Nisha helps Yvette empty bins,
  15. …squashes the rubbish down and adds in new bin liners.
  16. She’s about to be fired….the rise and fall of Nisha.


Strong point: 

  1. Michele Lee allows Yvette a
  2. heightened level of knowledge about Nisha.
  3. The older generation may not have
  4. a Masters degree from University of Sydney
  5. but Yvette can teach Nisha.
  6. Yvette  shows her that she should not be afraid of
  7. shame…of failing…not being perfect.
  8. Yvette has learned that the hard way.


Nisha and Yvette help each other:

  1. Courage is the feeling we need to bring to the surface
  2. if we want to change things.
  3. Nisha helps Yvette find her voice and the courage to quit.
  4. The courage to be closer to her daughter.
  5. Yvette helps Nisha to see the world from ‘street level’
  6. and realize how lucky she is.
  7. “You need help? Huh? Why? You are young,
  8. you have a job. Look at you.


Strong point:  coded words, foreign languages…multicultural

  1. Echoes: Wo hui xiang nie de, xiao yingzi”
  2. This is the thread that connects Yvette to Nisha
  3. I will miss you little shadow”.
  4. Echoes:  “Tini bijoyer sathei aasen.”
  5. This is the thread that connects Nisha to Yvette
  6. and her grandmother.
  7. “She moves with victory.”


Valerie:  voice that makes you stop and think…comic relief.

  1. Valerie is a  60+ Russian who
  2. …is the cleaning service supervisor of Yvette.
  3. She is only in the first act…but has something to say!
  4. Valerie and Yvette represent the older generation.
  5. How is that fussy bitch? (Nisha)
  6. Fuck you time sheet! (cleaners trained for 2 minute only office clean)
  7. Why is this world worse than when we came into it?
  8. Don’t look so tragic. Life is shit. Company training say so.


Theme:  mother vs daughter

  1. Yvette Chinese cleaner  vs  Sheree political activist/law student.
  2. These are the emotional scenes
  3. a mother and a  daughter.
  4. Yvette and Sheree are from different generations.
  5. Act 1:
  6. “In this world you bring me shame, but I only have you…
  7. …you only have me.”
  8. They are exact opposites.
  9. Act 2:
  10. Sheree wants trouble,
  11. to step on corporate toes, be  a modern-day martyr.
  12. Yvette wants to keep a low profile… nose to the grindstone.
  13. Yvette has learned it does not pay ‘to make waves.’
  14. Act 2:
  15. Mother and daughter clash.
  16. Sheree speaks her mind: “You only do things for yourself” ….
  17. Yvette: “Your Ma, always, always, everything to help you, keep you….”
  18. In Act 3 I found the most poignant remarks by Yvette:
  19. “Thank you for being mine.”


What is different in this play?

  1. Characters: There are 11 characters in the play.
  2. but just two actresses on the stage.
  3. The women can change their voices, accents
  4. and stage lighting (according to the stage directions)
  5. helps differentiate the characters.
  6. TWO protagonists:  Nisha and Yvette
  7. story lines are   closely intertwined,
  8. …both in the plot and the theme.
  9. Structure: NOT  the classic 3 act play
  10. focus on 1 character – conflict-driven –
  11. cause and effect….progressively raising the stakes.
  12. This is OPEN MODEL:
  13. uses  parallel action, echoes
  14. events linked by coincidence
  15. ending, instead of resolution


Conclusion:  my thoughts

Note:  I have learned that when I read a play I know I will absorb only the basics during the first reading: characters, setting, structure of the play. The best way to read a play is just before bedtime. Then I try to retell mysef what the play is about. In the morning I have new thoughts about conflicts, parallels, repetition of phrases (echoes). Reading a play is more difficult than reading a novel!

Note: This play is a brilliant piece or writing that you will not realize if you just read it once. The subplots are good (Graeme, Tom, Johnny Song) but concentrate on the  main character’s dialogues of Nisha and Yvette.  Try to hear….what is NOT being said!  Michele Lee has deservedly won  prestigious prizes: Victorian Premier’s Award Drama 2018 and Queensland Premier’s Award Drama 2016-2017.

Note: Reading a play on Kindle…is not as much fun.  In the book I can make notes, highlight dialogue. Yes, I can do that on Kindle…..but I love having the script in front of me. It is an intimate reading of a playwrights hard work!  It is so much fun to dissect a play.


Australian ‘new to me’ or slang:

  1. ASOS:  – global fashion place for 20-somethings
  2. The Iconic: Australian/New Zealand   fashion place for 20-somethings
  3. bogan  – One of minimal intelligence, standards and fasion sense. Located in Australia, found in caravan parks, housing commission, the pub or Centrelink queues. (Urban dictionary)





#20BooksOfSummer 2018

  • I must stop buying books…and start reading them!
  • What to do?  Make a list for…
  • #20BooksOfSummer hosted yearly by Cathy  746 Books
  • I selected books that
  • …I REALLY REALLY want to read.
  • List of Challenges 2018
  • Monthly reading plan
  • #20BooksOfSummer


  1. Deep South Paul Theroux – (NF) – READ
  2. A Very Expensive Poison – Luke Harding (NF) – READ
  3. Just Enough Libeling – A.J. Libeling (NF) – READING
  4. Why Horror Seduces – M. Clasen (NF) – READ
  5. Islander: Journey Around Our Archipelago – P. Barkham (NF) – READ
  6. From the Edge: Australia’s Lost Histories – M. McKenna (NF) – READ
  7. Nation – Terry Pratchett (novel) – READING
  8. Flowers For Algernon – Daniel Keyes (novel) – READ
  9. The Redemption of Galen Pike – C. Davies (short stories) – READ
  10. The Serious Game – H. Söderberg READ
  11. The Judge and His Hangman – F. Dürrenmatt  (CF)READ
  12. Rice – Michele Lee (play) – READ
  13. Down These Green Streets – Declan Burke (CF) – READ
  14. Hunting the Wild Pineapple – T. Astley (8 short stories) – READ
  15. The Dispossessed – U. Le Guin – READ
  16. Et Soudain, La Liberté  –  É. Laurent winner Prix Marguerite Duras 2017
  17. Like A House on Fire – C. Kennedy – READ  (15 short stories)
  18. Berthe Morisot  –  D. Bona winner Prix Goncourt de la biographie 2000 – READING
  19. The Deerslayer – James Fenimore Cooper – RE-READ – classic
  20. View From the Cheap Seats – N. Gaiman – READ

Play: Pipeline

Karen Pittman as Nya


Title:   Pipeline

The title is inspired by Morisseau’s reading of the book The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander (….on my TBR). She was struck by the school-to-prision pipeline. It refers to people who go straight from school right into prison…systematically creating a kind of social structure.



The play centers on Nya Joseph (Pittman), a dedicated inner-city high school teacher who sends her only son Omari to a private boarding school; a controversial incident causes Nya to rally to save her son from expulsion.


Single mom: struggling parent doing her damnedest – strong but burning out – smoker…sometimes drinker…holding on by a thread.
Public school teacher: inspiring students in a stressed environment. (character is modeled after playwright’s mother)

Black man, late teens: who is wrestling with identity- Nys’a son with a …private school education being from urban community.
Smart and astute – rage without release – tender…but honest to the core.

Latina teen: sharp bite….soft smile
profoundly aware of herself…and her environment

Ex-husband: mid-late 30’s – wounded relationship with Nya – financially stable – emotionally impoverished.

White woman in her 50’s:  pistol of a woman – can hold her own against tough students – doesn’t bite her tongue – a ‘don’t-fuck-with-me’ chick

Black security school guard: early mid-30’s – fit and optimistic – charismatic with women – genuine and thoughtful – trying to be a gentleman in a stressed environment. It’s not easy.

The cast:



  1. Morisseau grew up in Detroit, Michigan.
  2. Her mother’s family is from Mississippi.
  3. Her father’s family is from Haiti
  4. This is a deeply moving story of a mother’s fight to give her son a future
  5. without turning her back on the community that made him who he is.
  6. The quote that stopped me in my tracks:
  7. “What kinda nigga just sends checks and calls that fatherhood?”
  8. #Powerful
  9. Morisseau is on the list of Top 20 Most Produced Playwrights
  10. in America 2015–16, with 10 productions of her plays being produced.
  11. If you see one of her plays in the library….tuck it under you arm for
  12. …a great night at the theatre
  13. …..right in your own reading chair!


Playwright: Dominique Morisseau




Mackellar: How to Get There



  1. I read an essay by Maggie Mackellar last year in
  2. The Best Australian Essays 2016
  3. …and was very impressed.
  4. Mackellar has had a tough life
  5. …death of young husband, single mother… but she is resilient.
  6. I want to read how she sets out her new life in Tasmania.



  1. I had my reservations about the book in the first few chapters.
  2. Mackellar was describing her new relationship with Jim and
  3. the move to Tasmania in micro-details.
  4. But soon after reading the “inner thoughts’ pages between chapters
  5. …I was drawn into Mackellar’s world.
  6. “I promised  myself I would never trust again.
  7. How does anyone ever learn to love again.”
  8. Through every small opening in life
  9. …through rips and tears and tatters….life pours.
  10. Mackellar: “I’ve raised these kids,
  11. I deserve some companionship, some love.
  12. I’ve done this on my own for 10 years.”
  13. Mackeller struggles to set down roots in Tasmania:
  14. a new love….compromise chips away at identity
  15. writer’s block
  16. homesickness..the acid rain that leaches into happiness.
  17. “Home, I must learn to say home.” (ch 6)
  18. This was a great read in which
  19. …Mackellar pours her heart out
  20. …and I mean that in a good way.
  21. “Sitting in the quiet I also fear my own inadequacy
  22. …to be the woman all these people need me to be.”
  23. #Insightful


Last thoughts:

  1. I dare you to read this book
  2. …especially the last 3 chapters + epilogue without
  3. feeling emotional, a welling up in your eyes
  4. … you try to reach out to Maggie Mackellar.
  5. I wanted to tell her
  6. …your book? your life?
  7. …..Job well done!


Wineglass Bay, Tasmania 

  1. This is the view Mackellar had during
  2. …her few days of solitude writing.
  3. This is one  of the most beautiful beaches in the world!


Essays: The Australian Face (editor Catriona Menzies)

  • Title: The Australian Face: Essays from The Sydney Review of Books
  • Published: 2017
  • Editor: Catriona Menzies PikeEditor Sydney Review of Books.
  • She holds a PhD in English literature from the University of Sydney.
  • Editor: James Ley –  Professional literary critic. 
  • He holds a PhD in English literature from the University of Western Sydney.


What is the Sydney Review of Books?

The Sydney Review of Books was launched in 2013 out of frustration at the diminishing public space for Australian criticism on literature.


What is this book about?

To celebrate the Sydney Review of Books first five years online Ms Menzies and J. Ley have selected the ‘cream of the crop‘ out of more than 500 published essays over the years. This anthology contains  essays on Australian fiction, poetry and non-fiction.


What are essays for?

They are for thinking about things that need to be thought about. This book highlights several popular Australian authors ( H. Garner, A. Wright, M.B. Clarke and Les Murray (…could win Nobel Prize!). But I enjoyed discovering a forgotten Australian poet, Lesbia Harford, the literature scholar John Frow (impressive credentials!) and Moya Costello.

This book not only reveals the mainstream writers….but also  extremely talented essayists like Jeff Sparrow, Julieanne Lamond and Ben Etherington.


Here are some of my notes:


#ExcellentEssay: Gut Instinct by James Ley

  1. James Ley is not only editor but has contributed a
  2. brilliant essay about H. Garner’s House of Grief.
  3. He examines Garner’s style in this book about a slow
  4. grinding process of two court cases the
  5. provide the narrative spine of the book.


#ExcellentEssay: The Brain Feign by Ben Etherington

  1. Ben Etherington’s essay was a refreshing critical look at a number of
  2. Australian book reviewers
  3. ….offering a ‘chorus of weak cheers’ about recent publications.
  4. Etherson’s complaint in his essay is that critics
  5. summarise the content, recapitulate the blurb,
  6. describe the author’s reputation but none of the critics work
  7. to demonstrate WHY the novel deserves a prize or not!


#NotAFan: Sings for the Soul by Anthony Ullmann

  1. Unfortunately I gave up on Anthony Uhlmann’s essay.
  2. This my be very well MY problem…and not reflection on the writer.
  3. But read the essay yourself…and let me know what YOU think!


#ExcellentEssay: Render It Barely – Jeff Sparrow

  1. Impressive essay by Jeff Sparrow about a forgotten Australian poet
  2. Lesbia Harford.
  3. I knew nothing about Jeff Sparrow or Lesbia Harford.
  4. Ms Harford’s poems are worth reading
  5. …especially her love poems and factory poems
  6. …but Sparrow emphasizes
  7. that they should be read with the
  8. …knowledge of what was happening in
  9. Australian society (rise of Marxism and the Communist Party,
  10. the working class demanding rights, the world WWI and
  11. in the poet’s own life (lovers Guido Baracchi and Katie Lush).
  12. I am eager to read more articles written by Jeff Sparrow!
  13. Jeff Sparrow is a writer, editor, and broadcaster.
  14. He writes a fortnightly column for The Guardian and was the contributes
  15. regularly to many other Australian and international publications.
  16. He was the immediate past editor of literary journal Overland.
  17. I enjoy is style:
  18. …he does not want to preach…. he wants to teach.


#ExcellentEssay: The Australian Face by Julieanne Lamond

  1. Ms Lamond discusses The Barracuda by Christos Tsjolkas.
  2. She compares it to the author’s popular novel The Slap.
  3. Australia in The Slap: why hatred can hold communities together.
  4. Australia in The Barracuda: shows the absurdity of
  5. …the idea that Australia is a classless society.
  6. Sounds like these books are filled with some ‘fireworks’!


Last thoughts:

  1. This is one of the best anthologies of essays I’ve ever read
  2. Another  collection of eassys I enjoyed
  3. …was Zadie Smith’s  Feel Free.
  4. I’m including The Australian Face review on the
  5. Australian Women Writers Challenge. #AWW2018
  6. I feel Ms Catriona Menzies-Pike should enjoy some praise for
  7. guiding The Sydney Review of Books and together with J. Ley
  8. …selecting some great pieces of writing.
  9. Discover the rest of the essays  yourself!
  10. #GreatRead