Archive for November, 2011

Romulus My Father

November 30, 2011

Romulus, My Father / Raimond Gaita
Melbourne : Text Publishing, 1998

A very thoughtful and moving account by philosopher Raimond Gaita of his father’s struggles with poverty, migration and mental illness (both his own and his first wife’s). The narrative style is very simple and matter-of-fact, but the depth of thought shines through. Not quite a conventional biography, this book is more an account of a moral life, a son’s homage to his father’s great compassion and integrity of character in the face of adversity.

Gaita writes of how the idea of tragedy “with its calm pity for the affliction it depicts” was deeply impressed upon him by the events surrounding his family, such that he sought to depict them “as the victims of misfortune, in their different ways broken by it, but never thereby diminished.”  This rings true throughout the book. Romulus, My Father deserves to sit alongside other Australian classics of biography like A. B. Facey’s A Fortunate Life.

This a perfect book to read for Movember, being both a fine account of the male friendship between Romulus and Hora (and between Hora and the author), as well as a loving and keenly observed rendering of a father-son relationship in the absence of a stable mother figure.



Moreads from Denmark

November 29, 2011

Reading in Movember doesn´t have to all dark and scary but it could be an opportunity to read a man with a moustache that wrote scary Gothic tales in a way that inspired lot´s of mystery and detective fiction writers after him. The goth-father of scary stuff – Edgar Allan Poe…

I recommend the short story the Tell Tale Heart in which the narrator tells us he is perfectly sane and shares his story… And when you are done.. Read the black cat for more Gothic scariness by Edgar Allan MO (Poe)

Another world class writer with a very tiny moustache that has been mentioned several times as a possible receiver of the Nobel prize in literature is Bob Dylan. Lot´s of his texts can stand alone (but why should they?). His autobiography is amazing too – but I recommend that you read (and listen to) two texts from my favorite Dylan album – Time out of mind.

Standing in the doorway 

Not dark yet

A Movember read from the other side of the planet (If you are reading in Australia) – could be Danish author Jakob Ejersbo great novel Nordkraft. The award winning novel is about life with drugs in one of the bigger cities in Denmark: Aalborg. It is a well written story and you get to know the characters fights to get to the top of the drug environment, work their way to the bottom or follow their fight to escape the spell. Unfortunately Jakob Ejersbo died from Cancer at the age of 40 – so this is a real moread highlighting the importance of focus on men’s health.

Jan Holmquist

#moreads discussion tonight at 8.00pm

November 29, 2011

Have you been having fun with your #moreads this month?

Shearers with bales to be stripped to Junee railhead. George Howard (the selector) is seated against bale - Ariah Park, NSW, c. 1896

Come online  tonight at 8.00pm (AEST) to share your top #moreads, and to discuss what other people have been reading too.

#PictureBookMonth meets #moreads

November 28, 2011

November is a busy month. You know about Movember and #moreads, but do you also know it is Picture Book Month? Naturally, there’s an official blog and you can follow the hashtag #PictureBookMonth on twitter. As a Children’s and Youth Librarian, I’m especially interested in combining these reading themes. Given Movember raises awareness of male depression, I’m intrigued how picture books can contribute to conversations about depression, and offer help. So, in my opinion, the brilliant I had a black dog: his name was depression is a must-read this month. Written and illustrated by Matthew Johnstone, this book triumphantly discusses depression plainly and honestly, with a necessary gentle humour. This book is for anyone of upper primary age and above who lives with or has suffered depression, and for anyone who cares for or knows anyone with depression – i.e. everybody.

Most of the success of the book is because it is not condescending, preachy, or instructional. Based on his own life, Johnstone shares his journey with ‘the black dog’ through simple text and beautifully descriptive illustrations. The reader becomes a privileged confidant into this usually ferociously private condition. We follow the protagonist’s battle with depression as the black dog alters his mood, affects his thinking and disrupts his professional and personal life. Readers’ empathise as he experiments with coping methods (both successful and not), and struggles to keep his dog invisible, his relationship intact and his sense of self-worth positive. Finally, a successful “living arrangement” is arrived at, where the Black Dog and the protagonist respect each other, but it is a realistically hard journey with few guarantees. It is this raw authenticity displayed by the author/illustrator’s willingness to share all the elements of living with depression that encourages readers to share their feelings. As Johnstone writes:
“Black Dog had me believe that if I ever told anyone about him, I would be judged. The truth is, being emotionally genuine with close friends and family can be an absolute life saver. Letting the Dog out is far better than keeping him in.”
Mo Willems

For the younger kids, I highly recommend My friend is sad by the wonderfully talented Mo Willems. Not only is the author/illustrator named Mo (!), but this work is all about an elephant named Gerald who is sad. Gerald’s best friend Piggy discovers him sad and alone and vows to make him happy. To cheer up his friend, Piggy pretends to be “a cool, cool robot,” “a funny, funny clown” and other things Gerald loves. However, with each surprise visitor, the joy is only ever short-lived and Piggy does not know why. Finally Piggy discovers that, like all of us, Gerald misses his friend and wants to share his sadness and his joy with him. As the adage goes: “shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow.”

By David Green AKA @dpgreen.

clean shaven moreads

November 25, 2011

This month we have been discussing lots of hairier writers and characters, but the clean shaven, or slightly stubbled male authors and characters also deserve a mention.  Writers like Matthew Reilly, Neal Stephenson, Ian Rankin, Neil Gaiman and Jamie Oliver are well worth exploring.  As well as writing books, Neil Gaiman, Jamie Oliver and Ian Rankin are very active on twitter, so you may enjoy following along here as well.  Wil Wheaton also active on twitter writes an engaging blog drawing readers in to the story of his life and ideas.
Wil Wheaton attempts to destroy the space/time continuum.

I am not sure where to fit in World of Warcraft to #moreads as some of the male toons are clean shaven, and some are quite hairy, but playing this games (as well as lots of other games) is a comfortable fit with #moreads.


Congratulations to #readit2011

November 22, 2011

Last night at the NSW Public Library Marketing Awards the NSW Readers Advisory Working Group was named the winner of the Social Media Category for their work on #readit2011.  Congratulations.  The NSW Readers Advisory Working Group makes #readit2011 happen.

Thank you for participating in #readit2011 as without your tweets and discussions it would not be a success.

Mo Disgusting – Mr Twit for Moreads

November 16, 2011

OK, so what about something for you gents to read to your children during Movember?  What better way to spend some time with them than over a story.

The Twits by Roald Dahl is a perennial favourite in our house. There’s plenty of books I’ve read to my kids over & over again, most of which I would gladly never pick up again. But the Twits is one of the few books I’m happy to keep re-reading to them.

Added to that, it has arguably the finest description of facial hair ever…

We can also, if we are careful, eat our meals without spreading food all over our faces. But not so the hairy man. Watch carefully next time you see a hairy man eating his lunch and you will notice that even if he opens his mouth very wide, it is impossible for him to get a spoonful of beef-stew or ice-cream and chocolate sauce into it without leaving some of it on the hairs.

Mr Twit didn’t even bother to open his mouth wide when he ate. As a result (and because he never washed) there were always hundreds of bits of old breakfasts and lunches and suppers sticking to the hairs around his face. They weren’t big bits, mind you, because he used to wipe those off with the back of his hand or on his sleeve while he was eating. But if you looked closely (not that you’d ever want to) you would see tiny little specks of dried-up scrambled eggs stuck to the hairs, and spinach and tomato ketchup and fish fingers and minced chicken livers and all the other disgusting things Mr Twit liked to eat.

If you looked closer still (hold your noses, ladies and gentlemen), if you peered deep into the moustachy bristles sticking out over his upper lip, you would probably see much larger objects that had escaped the wipe of his hand, things that had been there for months and months, like a piece of maggoty green cheese or a mouldy old cornflake or even the slimy tail of a tinned sardine. Because of all this, Mr Twit never went really hungry. By sticking out his tongue and curling it sideways to explore the hairy jungle around his mouth, he was always able to find a tasty morsel here and there to nibble on.
Roald Dahl, The Twits.

The Twits is one of Dahl’s shorter stories, recounting the disgusting Mr Twit, his old hag of a wife, Mrs Twit and the awful (but cleverly funny) things they do to each other, the local birds and children and poor Mugglewump the Monkey and his family.  Fear not though, for in the end Mr & Mrs Twit reap what they sow in a gloriously ironic demise.

Martin Boyce

(Originally posted at Martin Boyce’s blog Ramblibrarian)

moreads and modern military history

November 14, 2011

This post is loosely related to the Movember theme, dealing with soldiers who do sport mo’s on occasion. But I also wanted to share the fascinating and confronting integration of reading modern military history and YouTube.

Recently I read House to House by David Bellavia, based on the savage close quarters fighting in the city of Fallujah in November 2004. Bellavia was a US Army platoon sergeant, and he writes about his experiences leading up to the assault on Fallujah and his actions which resulted in being awarded a Silver Star and nominated for the US Medal of Honour. More on this can be read in Wikipedia. The book is a good read, free of the incessant use of army lingo that is prevalent in a lot of military history books, and paints a tough, tiring, dirty, stinky, adrenalin pumping, deadly, scary and hot picture of a soldiers life in Iraq.

But what added another dimension to reading this book was YouTube.

Just after penetrating the city of Fallujah, Bellavia’s unit occupied a roof top where they faced a determined attack by insurgents. What impressed Bellavia were the actions of an Australian journalist (Michael Ware) who continued to film the action during the fight. Bellavia mentions that Ware later used this material for a news report. Then I thought – “I wonder if he uploaded the video to YouTube?”

So I searched YouTube and found this actual footage of that scene in the book, matching what Bellavia wrote. I was amazed.

Since then I’ve done the same with a book called Sniper One by Sgt Dan Mills, and I’m about to read a book on Australian SAS soldiers in Afghanistan.

It’s not a new phenomenon. Soldiers have been uploading their mobile phone and handy-cam footage over the last 10 years. I would imagine that the US and UK military and government are watching this activity carefully and are quick to erase any sensitive footage before being public accessible. But it struck me as an amazing way to read these genre of books which hadn’t occurred to me before (duh!). Amazing, but also a confronting and scary integration of multimedia, providing in 3 minutes and 16 seconds a glimpse of modern warfare.

Sean Finlay

Mo than somewhat

November 11, 2011

H.G. Nelson doesn’t have a mo but he is mo friendly if not mo mad. And when his childhood memoir My life in shorts lobbed up on the covering desk, I knew I’d found my Movember moment.

I still have cassette tapes buried at the bottom of cardboard boxes with recordings of This sporting life from Saturday afternoons c.1988. I think I even have a VHS video of Roy & H.G. calling a surf comp out of Newcastle for JJJ with vision supplied by the unsuspecting moguls at Channel 9 or Ten. Their State of Origin broadcasts are now folklore (and sorely missed) while The Dream – “hello boys” – was only pipped by Cathy Freeman in a photo for best thing about the Sydney Olympics.

Bookies at the Sports: Christmas Sports Palestine 1916

Bookies at the Sports: Christmas Sports Palestine 1916 | Flickr user DavidLKel

The Jesuits said ‘give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man’ but you can cut out the middleman with H.G.’s pants-around-the-ankle tell-all tales of ‘thumps, bumps and dumps.’

As a second summer pick I recommend you reach for the Damon Runyon stories, collected in various editions (even this ebook omnibus), all told with a similarly invigorating verve for the vernacular.


Funny Men writing Funny Books for Funny Kids

November 7, 2011

As a kid, it was the male authors that had me laughing out loud. And when I look through my current favourites, it still seems to be that it is predominately the male authors that make me laugh the most.

I used to devour Edward Lear’s Book of Nonsense. It was silly. It was improbable. And it rhymed. I can still chant my favourite poem:

I eat my peas with honey

I’ve done it all my life

It makes the peas taste funny

But it keeps them on my knife

From Lear, we can go to modern day picture book legend Mo Willems, whose Pigeon, Piggie and Elephant, and Knuffle Bunny books are delightfully funny to Tedd Arnold with his Fly Guy funnies and his Parts books with literal angst for kids and the idiosyncrasies of their bodies. And when it comes to funny poetry,  I have to list my son’s favourite Australian poet Steven Herrick.

From these picture book funnies, my mind leaps to laughing with Roald Dahl who still amuses children with his quirky, twisted characters, to Andrew Daddo who ranges from gentle humour in his picture books to school boy antics in his chapter books (just using the jargon the kids throw at me). Andy “pulling a bandaid off story makes for the biggest laughs” Griffiths can get the most reluctant readers searching for his books as does Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. I enjoy reading out aloud Eoin Colfer, John Larkin, Philip Ardagh and Dave Hackett (of cartoon Dave fame – his books snuck up on me with their unexpected guffaws) for often, they will have my whole family laughing together.

My favourite male author/illustrators to this day  are the wonderful bunch of idiots over at Mad Magazine. For Dave Berg, Duck Edwing, Spy vs Spy, Don Martin and Sergio Aragones amused me constantly. I also have to give a hats off to fabulous Terry Deary who, by using toilet humour, has given us history we can laugh at and want to search out for more and more books to read.

I love discovering funny men writing funny books for funny kids. And their comedic twists seem to cross all genre interest as humour proves to be the biggest draw card for all children from voracious readers to the reluctant readers.

Do you have any favourites?