On Saturday's I toddle down to the newsagents on the corner of High Street and get a copy of The Herald Sun (which I almost never read, but is good for the movies) and The Australian. Once I have my Oz, I throw out the business and sports and employment and health and whatever special report it is they have going almost immediately, and get down to business with their Review section. Within minutes my feet is up and the coffee is out and I begin skipping and sorting through each article, reading at my will, and the result is almost exactly like a conversation. I won't say that I shout or grumble or start talking to the newspaper - but I certainly think up responses. They're generally of the form of an argument, though vociferous agreement also takes place.
This week as usual I started with the back-page column. 'Earlier this year somebody took a scene from the film Downfall (set in Hitler's bunker as the Russians approached Berlin) and subtitled it with a script that had then NSW premier Morris Iemma blaming everybody for the failure of his power privatisation plan.'
'Mmm,' I thought, 'Must have seen a different one to that thing Tony ran on his blog a while ago.' (Ironically, the article was about how newspapers were still more important than blogs, though for some reason I couldn't be bothered arguing with this - maybe Steven Matchett looks too nice.)
I noodled on then to the interview with Tilda Swinton, which contained the ominous quote 'The bitch witch franchise is now closed....' To which I could only reply, 'What???? Who's going to play the White Witch in upcoming Narnia films then?' The article also quoted Swinton, 'My face was like a mirror ball because I hadn't discovered powder yet and I was shining like the back of a spoon.' 'What a weird way to describe yourself', I thought.
There was little ground for argument here, so I leafed through until I got to the reviews. There was a review by Michael Ignatieff of a political book, which should have been good for an argument, but I turned over to the Overflow column by Rosemary Sorenson, where I read,
'Thirteen: that's how many unauthorised biographies have been written about Shane Warne. And now there's to be a Keating! - style musical.... the show is aiming to portray the cricketer's human side...'
I snorted. (Inwardly. (Trying doing THAT with your brain when you're at home!)) 'The songs are written by Eddie Prefect! I doubt that he'll be able to pull that one off.'
Over the page, I got into a brief altercation with the review of Kate Grenville's latest novel. The book is about the earliest attempts to write down an Australian Aboriginal language, and contained two passages from the novel: 'Not just the words were opaque, even the cadence was unlike any language he had heard. Trying to hear its form was like trying to take hold of running water.' ('Nice metaphor!' I cried.) And this: 'Learning a language was not a matter of joining any two points with a line. It was a leap into the other.' I snorted again - possibly outwardly, this time - and said to myself, 'Preposterous, there's no way an eighteenth century character is going to use such a pretentious turn of phrase as this.'
I got into a brief gossip with the article on page 13 about literary magazine. Turning over the page again, I looked down and saw the title of Robert Adamson's new book of poems
The Golden Bird: New and Selected Poems.
I screwed my eyes up quizzically and muttered, 'The Golden Bird? Isn't that the title of a George Mackay Brown book? Is that a reference?' The review didn't say. Up above, there was a longer review of the latest Granta edition, with a 'nature writing' theme. Gosh, that got me cranky:
'Probably most readers these days, if they thought about nature writing at all, would picture some idiot - as Jason Cowley in his introduction confesses he once did - "badly dressed, ascetic, misanthropic", standing alone... seeking communion with nature via a notebook and a pair of binoculars. But this was never nature writing...'
Me: 'Ridiculous! Sounds like a perfectly charming way to write about nature to me. Hasn't this idiot ever read Thoreau's chapter in Walden about his measuring of the Walden ponds?'
'Nature writing, if it's any good, isn't merely writing about nature. It's writing from nature's point of view.'
Me: 'Ludicrous! Nature is an abstract concept, and doesn't have a point of view! This is just misguided theology!'
There was a bit of waffling about '... the earth': '... the nature writer recalls the earth, the biotic reality of every human life.'
Me: 'What's so special about 'the earth'? What's it got to do with nature in the abstract? You're just looking for a good metaphor. This isn't it.'
Over the page there weren't any more book reviews, so I folded up the paper and went and had my lunch.
Tim, your links stink, you fink!
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