Sunday, 30 January 2011

More on Page 99 Test

Following on from my previous post about the Page 99 Test, Lance Jones, one of the co-founders of Page99Test.com dropped by to leave a comment about improvements to the site, and also pointed out (what I hadn't noticed before) that it's possible to sign in using Facebook login details (scroll to the bottom of the Login page).  So I've given it a shot and posted up The Snowing and Greening of Thomas Passmore and The Grease Monkey's Tale.

The forthcoming improvements involve:
1. Writers will be able to point readers/followers directly to their own page 99;
2. Writers will be able to upload an accompanying back cover blurb to help set context for the readers who'd prefer that.

So there you go.  Have fun!

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Page 99 - The Snowing and Greening of Thomas Passmore

I don't think I'd ever heard of the 'page 99' test until very recently, when I got an email from the good folks at Legend Press/PaperBooks about a new website called Page 99 Test.  The first thing I look for in a book is a decent cover, then I briefly flick through the blurb (accepting that most blurbs don't do justice to the book); after that, things get serious and I might have a butchers at what other novels the author has written before reading the first page of the one in hand.  If all's good, I might browse a couple of random passages from further in the book, before deciding to buy it... but I've never headed to page 99.

This new website, which my friend and fellow author Gary Davison has already had a crack at, is about providing an opportunity for published and unpublished authors to post their own page 99.  And good on 'em.  All the details are on the site, so I don't need to go on about it here, although I've decided not to upload anything simply because it's yet another site that requires registration, password, email address, etc, just to read the page 99s, and at the moment I'm feeling over-registered and over-passworded as it is.

However, having Googled the history of the page 99 biz all the way back to Ford Madox Ford (1873-1939), I thought I'd give it a go and would post my pages here.  And then I opened The Snowing and Greening of Thomas Passmore (paperback edition) and discovered that page 99 is just six lines at the end of Chapter Five:
She hands back, unread, the letter she wrote eighteen or nineteen years ago and continues massaging her back. “I’ve done the lunches,” she says, and heads down the hallway.
I pick out the corn dolly and put it with the flight bag and money belt, then shove everything else from the suitcase onto the topmost shelf of the wardrobe.
 Hmm.  Not much to go on.  So, thinking creatively, I take down the large print, hard back edition of The Snowing and Greening of Thomas Passmore, and open up to that page 99... and it's all about sex.  Not many lines because it is in large print, but, anyway, here you go - now you'll have had both of them:
reminded of a crimson pæony unfurling at my fingertips; a moist, expectant darkness of pollen, charged and trembling at each touch.
“My clitoris,” she says, catching her breath. An overdue introduction.
She can give the names of things, summoning words and placing them where they belong. I’m in awe of that, know I have a library to learn, will have to browse the encyclopædia tomorrow.
“We’ve met,” I say.
“Careful,” she winces. “It’s sensitive there. Not so rough.”
“One clear It or Is of life,” I murmur, stroking. A rainbow in the making.
“I like that,” she sighs. “And you. You too.”
Stumped for words and blushing, I whisper, “John Thomas,” and would shrug my shoulders if I could. “Say hello to John Thomas.”
She grins and greets me continental-style. “Bonjour, monsieur.”
Later, we share a bath and soap one another down, giggling over spilt suds. I place a dollop of bath foam on each of her loganberry nipples; she places the raspberry welt of a love bite on my shoulder – tutti-frutti nakedness. We play those games people play when one says, “If you could be absolutely anything you wanted, what would 
Now go and buy the book!

Monday, 24 January 2011

Art Fix

Travelled to Melbourne for a much-needed fix of exhibitions last week.  Managed to visit four in twenty-four hours.  All at the National Gallery of Victoria.  My favourite was an exhibition of contemporary New Zealand art called Unnerved and, of the pieces in this exhibition, I was gob-smacked by Michael Parekowhai's sculpture The Horn of Africa, which depicted a life-size seal balancing a grand piano on its nose.

Also enjoyed The Naked Face ("how self-portraits have shaped our perceptions of art and the artist’s life") and the photographic collection Luminous Cities.  (There was another exhibition I visited, but that left me cold so I won't go into that.)  Left the city feeling enervated, stimulated, satiated... well, just generally 'ated'.  Arrived back in western Victoria to find the highway cut off by floodwater at Panmure and it being sand-bagged against the rising Hopkins at Allansford.  Quite a trip.  Well worth it.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Re-reading The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham

The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham is the final book I needed to read for my 2011 booklist - essential preparation for the job that pays the bills! Subtitled an Australian gothic novel of love, hate & haute couture and published by the now-defunct Duffy & Snellgrove, it's a light-hearted and quirky romp through country Australia in the 1950s.  It still reminds me of Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood, in terms of the characterisation and some of the descriptive detail, but these deliberate eccentricities are enjoyable and add contrast to the tale of long-suffering Tilly Dunnage and her 'mad' mother, both of whom are treated as witches by the parochial and despicable locals.  It's a story with tragic elements, but vengeance is served up comic and sweet.

Monday, 17 January 2011

On T-shirts

If T-shirts are called T-Shirts because of the short cut of the sleeves, then surely a "long-sleeved T-shirt" is an oxymoron?  Shouldn't this be called an "M-shirt" instead, or simply a "shirt"?

Friday, 14 January 2011

More on Carson McCullers

Following on from my last post about Carson McCullers' wonderful The Member of the Wedding, I received a comment from Cathy Fussell, director of the Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians in Columbus, Georgia (USA).  Cathy thought visitors to my blog might like to know about the forthcoming Carson McCullers conference that takes place 17-19th February on what would be the great lady's 94th birthday.  There are plenty of details at the website: www.mccullerscenter.org 

What I thought might also be of interest to other writers is the opportunity to apply for a Fellowship (the chance to live and work in Carson McCullers' house in Columbus for a semester) and for musicians to apply for a Composer Residency.  *I'm not sure whether applications are limited to American residents or nationals, but it sounds like a tremendous opportunity and is supported by Columbus State University.

*Have since learned  that the invitation to apply is extended to non-U.S. citizens, so good news for all on that score - see Cathy's  note under Comments.

If this is the sort of thing you might be interested in - or you'd simply like more information about Carson McCullers herself - the website is well worth a visit.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers

Heard mixed responses about Carson McCullers' The Member of the Wedding, but the negative views suggested it was too slow, introspective and the key character wasn't engaging.  So I approached it with some anxiety, especially as I was a fan of McCullers' superbly titled The Ballad of the Sad Cafe when I read it at uni many years ago (although I can't remember much about it). 

Anyway, I have to say not only did I enjoy every page (despite it being inward-looking in many respects), but her use of language is so rich I was hanging on every sentence  - it's stunning.  Although it's a little pointless to take phrases out of context, without the rhythm of preceding lines, voices, insights, there are startlingly visual sentences like:
"At last the summer was like a green sick dream, or like a silent crazy jungle under glass" and "the minutes of the afternoon were like bright mirrors."
Not only that, but I did engage with Frankie, the central character, and couldn't help but get caught up in the flow of words and ideas so that the pages turned very well indeed.   So much so, that I've dug out my copy of The Ballad of the Sad Cafe (dusty and page-darkened) and placed it on my pile of books waiting to be read.


Saturday, 8 January 2011

Murphy's Law or... Shit Happens

A few weeks ago, we decided to remove our fairly large pond and find new homes for the seventy-odd fish who lived there (we started off with three, but they got pretty friendly with one another).  Then we shipped in a few cubic metres of top soil and I spent a couple of hard-graft weekends wheel-barrowing it from the nature strip to the back yard, spreading it, levelling it, replacing bandaids on blisters - the whole deal.  Re-mortared the veggie garden wall, set up a bird bath (because the pond was nothing if not a fancy bird bath), fought off three million mosquitoes and planted three silver birches, which I've been watering every day this summer...

And then got a call from the Water Authority the other day.

There's a sewerage pipe that runs across that section of our property, it seems, which is in a state of collapse and has been causing the neighbours a blockage of poo or two, and so now the workmen need to come in with a bobcat and dig up everything I've just put down.  Out come the silver birches, my rock wall, the veggie garden, a lime tree - the lot.

Ho hum.  Oh well, might as well laugh as cry.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Lisa Mitchell: Wonder

Listening to Lisa Mitchell's wonderful album Wonder a lot at the moment.  Had an iTunes voucher to spend a couple of weeks back and wasn't sure what to buy until I heard Oh! Hark playing on Triple J.  Listened to a few more tracks on YouTube and loved every one of them, so knew this was an album for me.  Delightful stuff.

Enjoy - I hope you do.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Recent reads: Accidental Death of an Anarchist by Dario Fo

Love these lazy summer days (and how, as a migrant from the northern to the southern hemisphere, Christmas heralds the onset of them), and especially love the opportunity to kick back, cook, eat, paint, swim ... and catch up with loads of reading.  It becomes a guilt-free pleasure during the holiday.

Read a couple of plays last week, in preparation for 2011 (and Happy New Year to you, by the way), which I always enjoy as quick reads. The first was Cosi by the Australian playwright Louis Nowra and I was particularly looking forward to this because I'm a big fan of one of his other plays: RadianceCosi is set in a mental institution in 1970 against the backdrop of protests against the Vietnam war, and tells the story of Lewis, who is employed as a director to stage a production of Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte... with the "help" of the patients.

The other play was an old favourite by the Italian playwright Dario Fo: Accidental Death of an Anarchist. As the blurb to my edition notes, this "is a sharp and hilarious satire on police corruption in Italy ... [and] concerns the case of an anarchist railway worker who, it was claimed , 'fell' to his death from a police headquarters window in 1969."  I don't usually enjoy farce, but this is a major exception.  As plays go, it made such an impact on me that I gave a nod to it in my first novel, The Snowing and Greening of Thomas Passmore.  It's the play Kate Hainley is reading (in Italian) when she meets up with Tom one time in Northampton, but her mood is muddy and so is the river and the sky.

There's nothing muddy about today, and so it's almost time to pour a glass of wine, grab a book and swing in the hammock a while.  Happy reading!