Wednesday, December 29, 2010

To Melbourne!

I'm back in Melbourne unpacking the Christmas loot.

I didn't receive a single audio book and I'm happy about that. Story tapes are expensive (unless you get them from a library chuck-out sale) and I usually only listen to them once. So I'm not really interested in owning them. Although I guess the same could be said for books and I own heaps of those. Never mind, I'm happy to pop that in my big hat-box of inconsistencies and move on.

I was EXTREMELY HAPPY to get these hand-crafted presents from my puff-paint whizz sister. She would start a market stall but is reluctant to invest in a tarpaulin.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

To Central Victoria!

Drove back from Adelaide yesterday, stopping to visit more family in central Victoria.

We had almost four hours of Summer Lightening by PG Wodehouse to go, which should have seen us well across the border and into the Mallee district. Unfortunately the cassettes were old and the sound quality was terrible - sounded like the narrator was underwater with a mouth full of yummy cheese. It wasn't worth the effort and we gave up at Murray Bridge.

So we reluctantly went back to The Map that Changed the Word. This book has lots of really interesting information about 18th century fossil collecting, the growth of coal and canal mania (shut up, is so too interesting). The frustrating thing is that the author, Simon Winchester, labours his points and repeats himself. As a result with both ended up screaming, "We already fucking know!"

Not to worry. At least we heard many descriptions of the lovely lovliness of the lovely patchworked English countryside.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Cleaving is Cloven

I did finish listening to Cleaving by Julie Powell. For those who don't know - Cleaving is a memoir in which Julie Powell ruminates on her destructive extra-marital affair while conducting a butchering apprenticeship and random world tour to meat-loving locations.

As I've said I was enjoyably scandalized by Cleaving. I do agree with criticsim that the book is a bit rambling and incoherent though. This might be a result of the publication timeline. The memoir's events end in February 2008 and Julie Powell's blog says she submitted a first draft to her publisher in July 2008. So she must have started writing as the events were happening or had a five minute tea break before jumping on the lap top.

As a result, I think Julie was still a bit confused and emotional about it all.

After all, if I'd written about Year 10 International Nerd Camp in Year 10 I probably would have said: "I am suffering through a tremendous loss, aching over the chasm of continents and seas separating me from my soul-mate in South Africa. My life is halted, and pointless until we meet again."

Writing about it now I would say: "Nerd camp was fun. I had a crush on a South African boy. I never saw him again. He's probably an accountant now."

That's not very grippng is it? Julie Powell's willingness to put it all out there made for an entertaining read.

At the end of the tape there was an interview with Julie who also narrated the book. She said she found narrating Julie and Julia more emotionally difficult than narrating Cleaving. On the other hand, while she was writing Cleaving she would shake uncontrollably at the end of every day. Having heard the whole thing I can understand why.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

To Adelaide!

Drove to Adelaide yesterday.

We started listening to The Map that Changed the World. It's an historical novel about some dude who makes a geological map of England in 1815. My partner likes maps, and I like the history of science so I expected high-fives for top story tape selection. Unfortunately, there were a few issues.

The narrator had a lisp. I was surprised. Then I realised - read by the author. Actually, it was pretty easy to ignore his slight speech eccentricity. What annoyed me more was the book's wordiness. The author writes very long sentences, described a pair of velvet curtains for five minutes (blue, crushed velvet, with gold tassels - I could go on), and used words like stippled. It grated on me.

We only got through one tape. We may try again on the return journey if we are feeling stronger.

Fortunately I also borrowed a back up story tape by an author famously economical with this words - PG Wodehouse. Well, maybe not, but when he does it it's funny.

My favorite PG quote - "I have only two things to say to you, Lord Tilbury. One is that you have ruined a man's life. The other is Pip-pip."

Monday, December 20, 2010

Bra and Briefs update

The bra and brief set decoration has been completed and sent to my sister in the UK. Her birthday is just before Christmas so we were keen for this gift to be special.

Let's talk about what we're looking at here.

Following my work with sequins and fabrics my sister in Sydney has added the blue puff paint detailing.

What's harder to see in this photo, is the utility pouch in the briefs. This is discrete but still large enough to hold handy items such as keys and lip gloss, or in this case, a condom.

Happy Birthday/Christmas indeed.

Please note that orders received now will not be delivered before 25 December.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

We all make mistakes

Today I started Last Orders at Harrods: an African tale by Michael Holman while I wrapped my Christmas presents. I found the narrator's voice very familiar. Then I realised who it was - Tony Robinson. He narrated (and co-wrote with Richard Curtis) the very funny Odysseus story tapes, which I loved and which launched my tween Greek mythology phase. This phase was strangely entwined with a passion for celestial motifs.

I would have frickin loved this. You say too much? I say how about a suns and moons rug.

I was excited to hear Tony Robinson narrating, until I realised that it wasn't Tony. It was Jerome Pride. At first I was convinced they sounded freakishly similar. Until I compared a sample of Jerome here to Tony Robinson here. I now don't know what I was on. Nothing alike. Nothing.

Friday, December 17, 2010


Big decisions ahead. We are driving to Adelaide from Melbourne for Christmas. Obviously having a story tape to listen to is vital. Our car doesn't have a CD player, but there's NO NEED TO PANIC - the Richmond Library still has cassettes. Tomorrow I will be heading there to consider the options. I could be gone some time.

My partner makes things tricky as he sometimes acts like story tapes are annoying. He will have to suck it up though, because there's no way I'm driving for eight hours with no narrative.

In order to be sensitive to his feelings I will try to avoid anything with:
a) A narrator with an American accent (despite having lived in America he acts like he's being stabbed in the ear)
b) Stories about plucky young women making the best of being thrust into unfamiliar surroundings - most commonly a palace, cattle station or bonnet making factory.
c) Stories about English village life.

My partner's pickiness along with the fact that I have to get cassettes not CDs severely limits my options, but no-one said listening to story tapes would be easy. These are the challenges that make it great.

In other news, I'm still going with Cleaving. Julie is now travelling the world, visiting random places to sample their meat while she fantasises about being reunited with her skanky lover who has completely lost interest in her. Her husband is waiting for her at home, which is yet another burden for Julie, why is her life so hard?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What not to listen to

A friend of mine told me that she tried her first story tape recently. Unfortunately she chose Push by Saphire. She only made it halfway through. She decided to stop because the aim of listening to an audiobook was to make the train commute go faster not nastier.

I saw the film of the book, Precious and I was harrowed to the marrow, but I wouldn't rule out reading the book one day. However I would never choose to listen to the audiobook. Even if it was the last story tape in the library.

I can't handle dark story tapes. I think this might be because I can't control the pace. I can't take a break for a few seconds if there's a horrible bit, and I can't skim difficult passages. In that way it's like a film except that it lasts a lot longer. Most unabridged story tapes play for at least seven hours. That means seven hours of hearing a voice murmur horrible yuckiness in my ear.

Fortunately my friend realised that Push was not an ideal starting point and is going to try again. Maybe a safe Marian Keyes, or Alexander McCall Smith.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Omg I'm listening to Cleaving

Last month I listened to Julie and Julia read by the author, Julie Powell. I saw the film earlier this year and really enjoyed it mainly for Meryl Streep hamming it up as Julia Childs.

When I listened to Julie and Julia I became curious about what Julie Powell did next. Typing Julie Powell into Google one of Google's clever guesses was "Julie Powell affair". I was intrigued.

I discovered that after Julie and Julia was published, which presents her marriage as an almost perfect union of two twin peas in the pod, Julia Powell had a scandalous affair and then wrote about it.

Combing the topic of her adultery with butchery she wrote her next memoir Cleaving: A story of marriage meat and obsession. This book has inspired much vitriol, and I became a little obsessed with seeking out this juicy and sometimes hilarious criticism. I read so much about it that I felt like I didn't need to read the book, but I knew I would.

I am now being enjoyably and predictably outraged by the rampant over-sharing in the audiobook of Cleaving, once again read by the author.
(Julie Powell has a good reading voice, perhaps because she was an aspiring actor.)

I'm now two disks in and I think I can identify a number of reasons why this book provokes such a strong (and sometimes ugly) response from readers/listeners.

1. It is fully disgusting. I guess you could say that it is explicit and lusty but I say it is gross. (Which I enjoy.)

2. Julie has some very messy, self destructive and hurtful relationships, but she doesn't seem to feel guilty about them. And any guilt she does feel she just seems to resent.

3. It's all true. The mind boggles about how Julie's aged relatives would respond to this book.

4. Julie is not very nice to her husband. But her adulterous actions pale in comparison to the fact that she has published the details of her hot affair, which make her husband seem like a complete sap for not giving her the boot.

5. The butchering bits are long and detailed and the metaphors are labored and once again, gross. Sausages are shaped like penises. I get it.

I am loving being horrified by this book. I can't wait to do the dishes so I can listen to more.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Via a conversation about Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, I ended up discussing English history on Friday night. Well, I say discussing, but actually it was more like receiving an uninvited 15 minutes lecture on the English line of accession to the throne. The person I was with loves nothing more than a monologue.

I'm not generally very good at remembering historical facts but when our self-appointed lecturer got up to the "And after Elizabeth" bit I jumped in confidently and said, "Then it was King James. The gay one."

I know King James was gay because I once listened to a highly-charged historical novel about King James' gardener who has an affair with one of James' courtiers. It's called Earthly Joys by Philippa Gregory and was read by Steven Crossley.

Anyway, our self-appointed lecturer didn't like being interrupted and also didn't believe me. He said, "But James had a son Charles", bizarrely assuming that producing heirs to the throne is always an act of love. When I tried to explain that I had my information from an extremely reliable source, an historical fiction story tape, he remained unconvinced.

Because I'm not very confident of my ability to remember facts, I let it go. And he moved on to the Charleses. I weakly attempted to turn the monologue back into a dialogue by chipping in with, "He had a wig" but it was basically pointless.

When I got home I looked it up. Although it's not uncontroversial, Wikipedia confirmed that some of King James' biographers have concluded that James had homosexual relationships with his courtiers. I feel vindicated not only in this specific instance, but also more generally. Listening to historical romances is an improving activity.

Friday, December 10, 2010


So I'm listening to Addition by Toni Jordan read by Caroline Lee at the moment. I'm finding it a bit hard to get into (even after starting on the right disk). I think it's probably a good book, I'm just not sure how well it works as a story tape.

There are lots of descriptive passages where the obsessive compulsive character, Grace, counts everything. If I was reading Addition as a book I would probably read these sections faster, but on tape I have to take what I'm given. Which in this case is a five minute description of cutting up and eating a piece of lemon tart.

It's not all bad news though - I've just listened to a steamy sex scene where Grace is so transported that she is rendered unable to count. Golly.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

2011 Audiobook Challenge

So I've signed up for the 2011 Audiobook challenged hosted by Teresa's Reading Corner.

Arguably it is completely unnecessary for me to "challenge" myself to listen to more audiobooks, given that I sometimes get through one a week, and using Teresa's rating system 20 audiobooks a year is ranked as "obsessed".

I don't think I'm obsessed. Just because I spend up to 20 hours a week listening to audiobooks and I write about audiobooks and I try to engage strangers in conversations about audiobooks...


Monday, December 6, 2010

Let's start at the very beginning

I'm listening to Addition by Toni Jordan read by Caroline Lee. It's about a woman called Grace who is obsessed with numbers (well, counting really).

I was struggling with it yesterday while I scanned some very boring documents. I found the story very difficult to follow. I couldn't tell when Grace was thinking or talking. I don't usually have this problem with story tapes. I can usually tell the difference from the reader's voice. The other problem was that Grace made lots of random unexplained references. I was not enjoying it at all.

Ten minutes ago I realised I started on disk two instead of disk one. It is all making a lot more sense now...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Story tapes

I have listened to story tapes since I was in Grade Four. Of course they're often not tapes anymore, but audio books will always be story tapes for me.

Story tapes aren't a replacement for reading, I listen to them when I'm doing other things. Like cooking, or folding the washing.
Mary Poppins was on the money: in every job there is to be done there is an element of fun, and for me that fun is often story tapes. Nothing fires me up for a domestic task like knowing I have an entertaining tape to listen to while I work.

At the moment I am listening to Alexander McCall Smith's Love over Scotland read by Hilary Neville. It's the third book in the 44 Scotland Street series. This is ideal material for an audio book. First published as a serial in the Scotsman, the story is episodic by nature and therefore designed to be dipped in and out of.

Yesterday I dipped in for a substantially longer period than usual as I was working on a craft project. I am not craftily talented but I enjoy the odd project. My sister and I are making a Christmas present for our other sister who is overseas.

It's a decorated bra and brief set.

As you can see I have done fabrics, nipple adornments and a snazzle crotch. I will now send this on to my sister in Sydney who will complete the puff paint work.

I probably spent two hours on this yesterday. I would have been completely bored were it not for Love over Scotland, which kept me glued to my craft-gluing seat with its delightful stories of everyday dramatic tensions and thoughtful ruminations on human behavior and psychology. I also think the Edinburgh aspect may have pushed me towards a tartan theme.