Saturday, 22 October 2016

At Least You Can Laugh at Yourself

Some of you may be fans of the Ladybird 'HOW IT WORKS' books - spoofs really, of the ones you used to read in your childhood. Including Mindfulness, the Wife, the Hipster, the Shed and Dating, they hit the spot of 'Hahahahahahahahaha that's so funny! Oh wait, that's me...'

Well now they've brought out a new selection to add to your collection! Okay, Blogger is hating me right now and not allowing photos to load so you'll just have to envision the covers. But they have released the Student, the Cat, the Dog, the Sickie and the People Next Door. Which will be the funniest? Come in and see for yourself! Apparently forthcoming for Autumn will be The Grandparent, the Meeting, Red Tape,and  Zombie Apocalypse. It's good to be prepared!

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Music or Literature?

I'm sure we've heard it so many times already this week but Bob Dylan is the recipient for the Nobel Prize in Literature for 2016. 

If you need some context, here's an article from the Rolling Stones Magazine. An excerpt follows "According to the Swedish Academy, Dylan won "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition."

Since its announcement a few days ago it has ignited debate about what is literature? What is art? Where does music fit in? What is poetry? Regardless of your opinion on what fits where it is doubtless that Dylan has contributed to the music, storytelling and lyrical scene more than a regular person could ever hope to in their lifetime! It's been interesting to consider also what can be considered as 'high' and 'popular' culture. I suppose working in a bookshop we have to keep pretty up to date with all the prize winners and latest awards results. It's funny though because 

  [Is this a good time to slip in that we stock music books and biographies??] 

But that also got me thinking when I saw this mammoth book 'HIP HOP RAISED ME', what other categories of music can fit into the literature category? Who can deny that some influences are pretty formative experiences in one's life (if not by even judging from the title of this book)?
I'm not a particularly huge listener of hip hop although there's both some stuff that I really like and also dislike. It's more the context and history of it as a means of expression that I'm interested in. From the Thames and Hudson website:

Hip Hop Raised Me is the definitive volume on the essence, experience, and energy that is hip hop, and its massive and enduring impact over the last forty years. It’s packed with contact sheets, outtakes, and glory shots of artists, collectives, and fans from iconic photographers including Martha Cooper, Henry Chalfant, Eddie Otchere, Normski, Janette Beckman, Chi Modu, Nabil Elderkin, and Mark Humphrey, as well as photographs of hip-hop ephemera and vinyl courtesy of specialist collectors. With the help of his definitive catalogue of interviews with hip-hop artists from the 1990s to today, conducted at key moments in their careers and including Jay-Z, Kanye West, Eminem, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Drake, Nicki Minaj, J Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Nas, and the Wu-Tang Clan, DJ Semtex examines the crucial role of hip hop in society. He reflects on the huge influence it has had on his own life and the lives of many others, providing inspiration to generation after generation of young people. Taking a thematic approach, Semtex traces the characteristics and influence of hip hop from its origins in the early 1970s with DJ Kool Herc’s block parties in the South Bronx, through its breakthrough to the mainstream and advent of gangsta rap in the late 1980s, with artists such as Run DMC, Public Enemy, and Ice T, to the impact of contemporary artists and the global industry that is hip hop today. 

The recent release of Solange's album 'A Place at the Table' among many other releases is indicative of this as she comments on her experiences as an African American woman in America. (That's just a side note because I've had some of them on repeat!)

It's definitely a massive book and even though I couldn't open it thanks to shrink wrap it looks like it's full of photographs, interviews and other insightful information although that makes it sound drier than I'm sure it is. Personally, I think it doesn't seem right to exclude music from the grouping of literature, not to say that all music and lyrics can be considered literature and obviously not all literature is music, but in the way that words have been used to convey a message, idea or emotion. Obviously winning a Grammy in itself is a pretty big awesome deal but to say  why couldn't they just give Bob Dylan a Grammy instead seems a little demeaning and dismissive of the role that music has in people's lives and as a form of communication. I could definitely go my whole life without TV if I really had to but I doubt that the same could be said for music let alone books! Lyrics aren't necessarily 'just part of music' or 'just trivial entertainment' but can be incredibly profound. In the least pretentious way possible, give it the credit it deserves! Furthermore, it seems a little difficult to create such strong divisions between the different written arts. This can be seen when plays may be seen literature but not necessarily scripts or films. It's an interesting thought as to why.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Cats are Weird (and other books)

I feel like I may have done this before but perhaps it needs to be said again, what is with all those bizarre cat books we have? Let's take a little voyage through the new ones shall we?

Tiny Cat  is as you would expect, about very small cats. I do not know why these are a thing but apparently they are. I was wondering why it was so easy to get published but apparently the author has been a photographer for 20 years so whatever! It is pretty cute I will admit, but how many times can one read it? A lot apparently!

The second one is Cats are Capable of Mind Control which is actually only momentarily about cats. The rest is filled with inane trivia that I am to be honest, skeptical of its truth. Any story that starts with 'A woman/man who' with nothing else doesn't seem so fact checked...  But if they are indeed true they are interesting facts indeed. Well, read more to see for yourself!

Finally, Cats are Weird and more Observations by one of our favourite cartoonists Jeffrey Brown! He also penned the Darth Vader and Son/Daughter and you can bet this will be full of wry humour too! 

Happy reading!

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Not Such a Gray World

As promised, here is my post about a talk that I went to last week. I know you've all been holding your breath to find out more. 

So last Monday I attended a talk at Deakin Edge (formerly BMW Edge) in Federation Square that was run by the Wheeler Centre. An excellent organisation dedicated to all things discussion. So I digress! The keynote for the night was Jon Gray - also known as Gray318, an American based designer and oh my goodness some people have the best jobs. Imagine reading new manuscripts and then creating covers for them! I mean it wouldn't be easy of course, the sheer number of covers that he has to do (approximately 100 per year) and the number that he actually likes (approximately 4 maximum out of those) does have you scratching your head about how he can come up with so much content. I suppose it's like most creative things though - I cannot recall who told me about writing, people think they will only write when they have a burst of inspiration but often it's actually about practice and just honing your skills even on the days that you don't feel like it. It was refreshing and comforting to hear that he of all people had designer block! You may be thinking, who is this guy and why should I care but if you frequent our shop you may see some of his titles. It's also sort of funny but I don't know if you remember that scene in the Devil Wears Prada where Miranda talks about how the haute couture styles filter down, it's the same with book design as well! 


But back to what I was actually talking about, the interviewer facilitator for the event was Australian designer called W.H Chong and you will ddefinitely know his covers! Someone else cool who I think found out about was Jamie Keenan. If you're interested in Aussie book covers (you know I always love Allison Colpoys) then check out Australian Book Designers Association ABDA here!

Some of Jon Gray's most famous covers (among many) 

W.H Chong covers

And just because here's a little Jamie Keenan for you


Saturday, 10 September 2016

Have a Fanning Moment

Recently, and by recently I mean yesterday, I went to a local gig by one of my favourite bands (Oh Pep! if you're wondering and if you've been in store on a day that I'm working you're likely to have heard them too!) who are from Melbourne. It must be pretty cool to play to your hometown after months of touring. But anyway, I digress. Before they began I saw some of the merchandise including a vinyl of their beautiful record, of course I could just buy the CD not to mention having it already on iTunes, a vinyl copy just seemed a bit unnecessary. So I thought that I'd mull over it during the performance to see if I really wanted it. Well the answer was yes. Not to flood you with my love for them but sometimes it is worth it to buy a piece of something you really love! For one their lyrics are simply sublime and having the album cover open up to two leaves with all the lyric inside is really lovely. And secondly, we met them and they signed it for me! Having a chat too with someone whose work you like is quite cool.

But how does this relate to books I hear you ask? Well, much like music (it is often lyrical thus word related) books can elicit that same feeling of fangirling. I'm not really a fan (haha) of that phrase but I'm yet to find a suitable alternative. I'll let you know when I do... There's just a very excitable feeling I have whenever I meet an author that I enjoy. If you must know I was probably a little too enthusiastic when I got to meet Maureen McCarthy when I was back in school but that was probably okay because it made up for the lack of large attendance from other students (how could they?!). You listening to them speak, unraveling their train of thought in creating the story, the characters and scenery and then you saunter up to them at the child sized desk ready with a pen in hand. I felt a bit embarrassed because some of my books (five of them) were in pretty messy condition not to mention, one was an uncorrected reading copy proof (bookshop perks!). But I realised that I had no shame regarding this and took a photo anyway ;) 

That was only half an hour for me but it's nice to look back on my book and see my name written in it by the same hand that wrote my favourite stories! I definitely want to start going to more author events and have more fangirling moments. And I encourage you to do the same! Were they what you expected? In a good or bad way? Do they have ugly hand writing in real life? So many questions!

The City of Literature Website (click the image) is a great place to start looking for events as is the Wheeler Centre here

In other news, I'm going to a talk this week about book cover design but you'll have to wait until next week to hear about that...

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Spring to These Great Reading Locations

Spring has sprung! That is incredibly cliched and for that I am sorry. But not that sorry because the change in the calendar officially marks the start of warmer weather (I hope anyway). Not that I don't like winter, I am a winter baby after all, but I will be honest and say that I think I'm running out of outfits... 

Hmm what does spring change for you?  For one it does mean that you can SIT OUTSIDE and read! Although you have to contend with bees and other grotesque insects, sorry if you're a bug lover. I just worry that a swarm will attack me. So, for this post I'll list some of my picks where you can have a good public peruse of a book.  

1. Library Lawns
State Library, University of Melbourne's (many I'm sure) libraries and my absolute new favourite Library at the Dock in Docklands. It is absolutely stunning. I have a weird thing about wood and concrete and metal and books of course. It's alovely communal sort of area away from the buzz of the main CBD. The water is calming too but don't drop your book in! 

2. Art Galleries
Of course how could you talk about places to read without mentioning my favourite NGV - either the Great Hall or Sculpture Gardens out the back. Convivial and comforting what's not to love? Similarly and in close proximity are the grassy areas between the Arts Centre and Hamer Hall (think where the Sunday Market is usually held). And if you're looking for somewhere slightly more secluded, just take a wander to the back of Hamer Hall - it's sort of like a little hill but quiet and a sunny spot (when it's sunny of course).If you want to feel like you're reading on the set of a dystopian wasteland (kind of) then the ACCC forecourt is pretty cool. Maybe to complement an angsty book?

3. Cafes
There is no shame in eating alone especially when you have a good book with you! I have just been alerted to the existence of a cafe in Heidelberg West that sells only scones. ONLY SCONES! Um yes please! It's called Jam and Cream and I have never been but it is definitely on my list. East Ivy in East Ivanhoe also has a nice vibe for chilling out and reading whatever you please. 

 4. The Museum
 I may be a bit of a nerd (that was never in dispute I don't think) but I love just hanging out at the museum. Exhibition building is stunning and the museum itself is surrounded by a number of gardens - from the rainforest part at the back to the Indigenous section that I'm pretty sure has eels in it... Carlton Gardens is conveniently nearby.Beautiful! And you can always go and stuff your face with Italian food when you're done in Lygon Street :) Although my favourite ice-cream place has since closed down. *quietly crying*

5. Federation Square
 Is this a cliche again? Maybe, but I love it or the banks of the Yarra when you only have a few moments to wait or read. What else can I say? They do have some pretty cool installations at times. 

Where do you like to read? I'd love to know!

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Miles to Go

Woohoo! The Miles Franklin Winner for 2016 has been announced! Imagine the drum roll for...

Black Rock White City
by A.S. Patrić

During a hot Melbourne summer Jovan’s cleaning work at a bayside hospital is disrupted by acts of graffiti and violence becoming increasingly malevolent. For Jovan the mysterious words that must be cleaned away dislodge the poetry of the past. He and his wife Suzana were forced to flee Sarajevo and the death of their children.
Intensely human, yet majestic in its moral vision, Black Rock White City is an essential story of Australia’s suburbs now, of displacement and immediate threat, and the unexpected responses of two refugees as they try to reclaim their dreams. It is a breathtaking roar of energy that explores the immigrant experience with ferocity, beauty and humour. 

And just because I can here are the judges' comments about the book from the Miles Franklin Award website

A fresh and powerful exploration of the immigrant experience and Australian life, Black Rock White City explores the damages of war, the constraints of choice, the possibility of redemptive love and social isolation amid suburbia.
Traumatised by the carnage and personal tragedies of war-torn Yugoslavia, Jovan and Suzana wash up in mid-90s Melbourne where, a former poet and an academic, they find themselves limited by language and cultural stereotype into roles as cleaners. 
A menacing sense of anarchy inhabits the hospital where Jovan works after an anonymous ‘Dr Graffito’ begins defacing the wards with cryptic, distressing messages. It is Jovan’s job to erase the evidence, all the while negotiating the blandness of a society that doesn’t see him, or the flashbacks of his former life and his dysfunctional marriage to Suzana.
In language as crisp and pungent as the chemicals Jovan uses to erase the graffiti, Black Rock White City submerges the reader in its unapologetic intimacy.  It is at times brutal, and frequently challenging, yet a deft poetry underlies its cinematic reach. Patric’s idiosyncratic awareness and sometimes disconcerting vision inhabits the margins between realism and fable as the novel’s invigorating vitality, astute wit and adroit observations on the links between language and identity gives us a roller-coaster read that pins the immigrant – and the wider Australian  - experience with an eye that is unflinchingly, and unforgettably, honest.

But what is the Miles Franklin Award? 
Established in 1957 to help foster Australian literature and talent, the award has seen some of the best writing that Australia has to offer. Alongside the Stella Prize, it isn't hard to see why Melbourne is a City of Literature!

Miles Franklin was a pretty cool lass but I'll let you do some detective work yourself...