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I’ve just been wandering aimlessly around Book Depository after ordering War and Peace and then waiting to see if my purchase would appear on ‘Watch people shop’ which it didn’t but I still enjoyed watching other people buy books (someone in Cyprus just bought Agents of Innocence). And then I stumbled upon a sub-genre of which I was, until five minutes ago, unaware: the royal wedding craft book.

Knit Your Own Royal Wedding  Royal Wedding: William and Kate Dress-up Dolly Book

Now, I’m not exactly what you would call a wedding kinda gal but a knitted royal wedding sounds like a fabulous idea to me.

After reading Resurrection a couple of years back I found myself suffering a serious case of Tolstoy lust. Now I’ve read Anna Karenina and I’m head over heels in love with the man. Well, okay, given that he’s been dead for a century and I never had the opportunity to meet him perhaps I should clarify by saying that I just really, really … really love his work. Really love.

And it’s so incredible to me that a novel about a bunch of pretty well off Russians in the nineteenth century is not only still relevant but adored. (Which novels written today will be loved a hundred years from now? I wonder.)

Tolstoy writes about the human condition which really hasn’t changed much since mid-19th century Russia.

Love. Relationships. Work. Sacrifice. Social pressure. Expectations. Disappointment. It’s all the same old stuff. He just gets it. And he writes about it so eloquently and with such incredible insight and compassion for his characters.

If you haven’t read Tolstoy and feel a little intimidated by the idea do not be.

Think James (Even I don’t know what the hell this book is about) Joyce. Tolstoy is his polar opposite. His writing is accessible and a joy to read. You won’t need a dictionary or a literature PhD by your side. He treats his readers as intellectual equals and doesn’t write down to them.

Drop what you’re reading and get your hands on the nearest copy of Anna Karenina. (You can borrow mine.)

Next is War and Peace. Can’t wait.

What’s your favourite Tolstoy novel?


(Oh, and if anyone can recommend a good Tolstoy biography, please let me know.)

With a visit from Santa and Ethan’s birthday our house has recently been flooded with new children’s books so I thought I’d share with you what we’re enjoying at the moment.

The big winners at the moment are:

I am too absolutely small for school feauring Charlie and Lola by Lauren Child.
Love, Splat by Rob Scotton. 

Very cute story about Splat the cat on Valentines Day.

Both are incredible writers and illustrators. They obviously have ready access to the imaginative child inside them. Their work is so original and whimsical. A pleasure to read … again and again.
Grug, a series of books by Ted Prior – eg Grug plays cricket; Grug and the rainbow. They’ve been around for thirty years but I’ve only just discovered them.They’re perfect for pre-schoolers as they can relate to a lot of what Grug is experiencing. Very simple language that pre-schoolers can understand. 

Inexpensive, just AUD$5 each. A great little gift.

Stick man by Julia Donaldson

My four-year-old Finn and I are off to see a production of Charlie and Lola at the Opera House on Sunday. Can’t wait. And we’ll be paying a visit to Kinokuniya bookstore afterwards to perhaps stock up on some more Lauren Child books.

Do you spend more time reading children’s books than your own books? What’s popular in your house?

It appears that I’ve been living under a mushroom for the past year because I’ve only just found out that Stephen King’s the ‘Dark Tower’ series is going to be made into three films and a TV series. The first of the films is due in 2013. I can’t wait. (And that gives me enough time to reread the series.)

There’s already rumours about who will play the role of Roland.

My vote is for Javier Bardem. Please don’t let it be Hugh Jackman. I love Hugh (who doesn’t really?) but he’s not what you would call edgy and mysterious which an actor definitely needs to be if he’s to be convincing as Roland.

Plus King has announced that he has an idea for a new book, which would fit in between books four and five. The working title is The Wind Through the Keyhole. Interesting.

Find about the ‘Dark Tower’ series.

In other news:

A production of The Gruffalo’s Child will be on in Sydney in April. My family enjoyed The Gruffalo so much when we saw it last year. We’ll be there with bells on for The Gruffalo’s Child.

Annie Proulx is coming to Sydney, promoting her new work of non-fiction, Bird Cloud.

She’s speaking as part of the Sydney Writers’ Festival (an out of season event) in March . Find out all about it. I’ll be there for sure.

And I’m keen to read Bird Cloud. A good review by Mike Ettner.

He also discusses an emerging, and unfortunate, trend in books reviews with reference to Bird Cloud and Freedom. Worth a read.

Speaking of Freedom (noting the seamless segue, she smiles) I received a lovely hard copy edition for my birthday. I’m looking forward to reading it. Have you read it? What did you think?

Thanks for reading.

I’m a NANOWRIMO winner! After a month of writing an average of 1,667 words a day and going to bed after midnight every night I completed my goal of writing 50,000 words. I still can’t believe that I did it. I’m quite pleased with the result: an almost-complete first draft of a young adult novel.

It’s taken me a while to recover from NANOWRIMO, catch up on my life and pay all the overdue bills but now I’m back on pagesetc.

A couple of things have taken my interest lately:

Jonathan Safran Foer’s Tree of Codes. He took his favourite book, Bruno Schulz’s Street of Crocodiles, and removed words from it to create a new story, Tree of Codes. Interview here.

And this is from the New York Times a couple of months back.
Picture Books No Longer a Staple for Children

It looks at the drop in sales and publication of picture books in recent years. One of the reasons cited is that parents are pushing their young children away from picture books and onto chapter books earlier and earlier.

It’s so sad to see this happening. I really don’t understand why some parents are prepared to press the fast forward button on their kid’s childhood all in the name of being brighter/stronger/faster than the next kid and in pursuit of the perceived holy grail of parenting: academic success.

For those parents for whom academic success is the most important thing then pushing their child to read chapter books before they’re ready is completely counter productive. It’s likely to put the child off reading forever. And you’d be hard pressed to find a straight A student who doesn’t enjoy reading.

The article has inspired a lot of discussion in the blogosphere.

Here’s a good piece on the issue, includes 10 reasons why picture books are important:
How Picture Books Play a Role in a Child’s Development

And this is great too:
The Reason We Should Read Picture Books to Older Kids

In other news: I have a new blog: eunoia-.tumblr.com. (‘Eunoia’ means ‘well mind’ or ‘beautiful thinking’.) I blog about whatever takes my fancy and this week’s topic is picture books. Come on over and take a look. I hope you like it.

Hodge podge

This week’s post is a bit of a hodge podge.

If you’re a Salinger fan you’ll be interested to read this article published in New York Magazine a few months back: Betraying Salinger. It’s written by Roger Lathbury who had the opportunity of a lifetime, to publish JD Salinger’s final book and then ‘blew it’. You’ve got to feel for him.

(And I was chuffed to discover that Salinger and I share the same birthday, January 1.)

If you’re a first-time mum or know of any perhaps you’d be interested in First-Time Mum, an anthology of personal essays from women about their experiences of becoming a mother. It also happens to include an essay by yours truly about my son’s illness as a baby.

This will be my last post until December. Blogging, reading, knitting, sleeping and everything else I usually do in my spare time is being put on hold as I take part in National Novel Writing Month. The mission: Write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November.

It’s taken me four years to get my current novel to 50,000 words so it makes total sense that I would attempt to write 50,000 words of a new novel in just 30 days … yes 30 days! Kinda crazy but I just couldn’t resist the challenge. I’m busy planning the novel, clearing the decks on the homefront and stocking the freezer in readiness for a month of writing dangerously. Wish me luck.

If you’re also participating in NANOWRIMO I’d love to hear from you.

Completely off topic but I just had to share this hilarious performance from Flight of the Conchords: The Humans are Dead.

Being obsessed with books I am also just a little interested in writers and the how, the why, the what and the where of what they do. It’s the ‘where’ that brings me to write this post because I love the writer’s rooms section on The Guardian site.

People’s workspaces provide such an insight into their personality. Cluttered or sparse. Clean or covered in crumbs and tea stains. Comfortable chair or uncomfortable chair.

Below are the rooms of a couple of my favourite writers:

Alain de Botton has fantastic taste in chairs.

Photograph: Eamonn McCabe

And JG Ballard’s desk was so small. Talk about being focused. There was nothing else to do there but write.

Photograph: Eamonn McCabe

More rooms from The Guardian here

And here’s the room of a wannabe-published novelist …

It’s my temporary workspace whilst we’re renovating. Sandwiched between the front door and the living room but I love it just the same.