Here's a list that gladdens. What Youth and "7 books you will psyche on and should totally read."
I often bemoan the fact that good writing is a dying art. It ain't necessarily true but it sometimes feels that way. The yoof, it always seemed to me, could buy a Canikon for a couple hunge, flood the 'net with images, and call 'emselves artists - easy! But unlike photography there's no shortcut to good writing: no autofocus, no colour correcting software - it's hard fucken work. And the first step toward it is to read lots and lots of great writers. So yeah, glad to see the yoof - What Yoof! - spruiking seven good books. Bit limited in scope and style but a good list nonetheless.
Cheers for the thread I just discovered it. A rich vein to mine. Not so into the classical canon. Books of around 100 pages seem to dominate my list so here's my bit although it changes I can vouch theyre worthy reads:
Willy Vlautin Northline Gritty Realism about a runaway American alcoholic waitress
Craig Silvey Jasper Jones Gothic SW Aussie take on Mockingbird. Great dialogue. Awesome cricket match.
Martin Amis Night Train Novella. Psychological whodunnit with cosmic overtones.
Gabriela Garcia Marquez My Melancholy Whores (I think thats the title) - another Novella. He has a style like no other. Its got a warmth.
For your kids aged say, 8-15 Winton's Blueback - really enjoyed reading it aloud driving back from Gnaraloo. Ocean based epic yet simple story of a noble life.
Michael Ondaatje The Collected Works of Billy the Kid OR Coming through Slaughter. I go back to these. Nutty and poetic prose. Again they're short books for a short span of attention.
The Road Cormac McCarthy Hope in darkness. Messed up world. Good in man. Carry it like a flame.
Another surf novel not sure if anyone mentioned it . The Life by Malcom Knox. Felt a bit weird reading it. Thought it too derivative. Like blending fact and fiction too close to home. Published before the man died I think too. Still read the thing. Some good moments.
Also with DBC Pierre his Lights Out in Wonderland was good - I thought. I Was reading the first page of this thread and there was talk (whaaat, stunet) he was a one book wonder.
Books do crazy things. I think you're exposing yourself to a writers world view and sometimes it aint pretty. Houllebeqc's Atomised was so messed up I had to lose my board in a rip and swim in after reading it just to get my lust for life back!
I' m still on Lyndon Johnson. Volume 4 of Robert Caro's biography. That's about 3000 pages and it is still engrossing. Volume 5 hasn't been published yet so I will have to take a break!
Heres my fav books,
Bravo two zero
Dont tell my mum i work on oil rigs
This is not a drill
Sleeping with your ears open
Race to dakar
The food of spain
Phantoms of the jungle
New zealand surfing guide
Been reading the thread for a while and loving the posts.....
1. A recent good read Tim Flannery ~ throwim way leg;
2. reread Hell's Angels & Fear and Loathing recently Hell's Angels stands the test of time. (As did On the Road)
3 Irvine Welsh's collection: love that all the dialogue is Scottish & that immerses you in the plot.
4. Anything by James Ellroy. I love his style.
5. Any of the Cliff Hardy books by Peter Corris
6. John LeCarre The Honorable Schoolboy. for description of SEAsia when I was travelling around those parts.(SEAsia on a shoestring was my bible)
7. the only Peter Carey book I could read, The Kelly Gang.
8. More Crime fiction Shane Moloney's books.
9. A Scanner Darkly/ Johnny Nmenonic/
10. MP the life of was a great bio...
A seminal work.
Roger's Profanisauras? I've got the real thing, plus Top Tips, the Big Pink Stiff One, The Big Hard Number Two, and the Dog's Bollocks. All sit comfortably in this thread.
Extract from Tim Winton's 'The boy behind the curtain' (anyone read it?):
On the beach one day, as I was sliding my board back onto the tray of the ute and trying to clear my sinuses of salty water, an old neighbour who was passing by with his dog told me he didn’t know what people like me saw in surfing. He said, ‘I see youse blokes out there day and night. Any time I go past you’re just sittin there, bobbin around like moorin buoys. Tell me, Timmy, what’s the point?’ And I didn’t know how to answer. Almost every day of my life is shaped according to the weather, most acutely to swell, tide and wind direction. After surfing for fifty years, you’d think I’d be able to give a better account of myself. But there wasn’t much to tell him, because there is no point. Surfing is a completely pointless exercise. Perhaps that’s why I’m addicted to it. But he was right, my neighbour, God rest him. We go to the water every day and every hour we can. And most of what we do is wait.
I grew up near Scarborough Beach in the sixties where surfing was the local culture. At the age of five, when my teenaged cousins, both girls, pushed me out on a big old longboard, I was more scared than excited. The physical details and sensations are still vivid and fresh in my mind. Like the greeny tint in the board’s resin and the weave of the Volan cloth beneath it. The deck was bumpy with paraffin wax. I remember the stolid symmetry of the three wooden stringers under all that fibreglass. Everything about the trek out to the break was overwhelming: the light and noise, the sheer heft of the board, the nervous anticipation. I wasn’t paddling, I was being ferried out there in my Speedos. Then, without warning, I was spun around. The air roared all about me. Suddenly I was rushing shoreward, flat out. And that was it. I was gone from that moment on. I wanted more. I wanted to be a surfer.
I began riding Coolites, the way you did as a beginner in those days. They were stubby styrofoam demons without fins and I skated about on one for a year until someone showed me how to cut a hole in the hull and wax in a bit of plywood for a skeg. The rashes we got from those foam boards were horrendous; it’s a wonder I’ve still got nipples. The best thing you could say about the Coolite is that you could surf it between the flags and keep your mum and those pesky lifesavers happy all at once. They were pigs to ride but you couldn’t kill anybody with one when you fell off and it went bouncing and fluttering beachward through the wading throng. I did a lot of falling off; it was my specialty.
These were the primary school years. I surfed for hours at a time, until my face and back were roasted and my little chest was a grated, weeping mess. I’d spend the final hour studiously avoiding eye contact with my poor mum who’d be madly waving me in from the shore.
My first glass board was a 7-foot egg with a radical raked fin. This was 1973. By then the shortboard era had well and truly arrived and this thing was already a relic. It rode like a longboard, and though along with everyone else I soon progressed to shorter and shorter craft, I never forgot the pure, gliding feel of those old-school boards and the graceful way good surfers rode them. These were the guys I watched most, the blokes who’d quickly become uncool in the seventies.
The most obvious attraction of surfing is the sheer momentum, the experience of rushing toward the beach. It’s a buzz. And though you might repeat the experience millions of times in thirty or forty or fifty years, the prime thrill never fades. It looks repetitive but no ride is ever the same; it feels like a miracle every time you do it and I’d hate to lose that sense of wonder.
Surfing has its origins in Polynesian ritual and play. At one level it was a display of power and caste: kings and princes standing proud and insouciant on their olos, commoners bellying in on alaias. But it was also about grace and beauty. Early illustrations and accounts depict scenes of boisterous celebration and physical prowess. Surfing was fun; it was liberating. It was this spirit of freedom and grace that haoles witnessed in Hawaii, from Cook onwards. They marvelled at it and they wanted to emulate it. Jack London was hardly the first, but he’s a notable convert. You might say that in this instance the missionary impulse was reciprocal. With their aloha spirit, the Hawaiians let the rest of the world in on one of life’s great pleasures and it’s hard to overestimate the cultural impact of surfing since it spread from the Islands. Here in Australia it helped shape people’s sense of themselves; since the forties it’s gradually become an identifiable element of our national culture, an expression of youthful vigour, engagement with nature, lust for life. In the fifties surfing became a form of individual expression, too, an act of rebellion. When most Australians seemed anxious about sticking out in a crowd, surfers wanted to distinguish themselves. They weren’t exactly gracious in going their own way, they were brash and selfish, ensnared by a beatnik resistance to conformity that’s easy to ridicule now, but it’s worth bearing in mind just how rigid the social mores were at the time. Surfing and beach life offered an alternative to local orthodoxy – which was to submit to the group, join the club, buy the stuff. In an era of shiny surfaces, new appliances and suburban indoor order, surfers were heretics. And they liked it that way; they celebrated the rebel. While their mums and dads still venerated dominion over nature and separation from it, surfers were, consciously or not, in the vanguard of those who sought to honour the natural world; surfing is done at the mercy of the elements and requires an intimacy with them beyond the ken of a golfer or a tennis player. To surf, a person foregoes timetables and submits to the vagaries of nature.
The late sixties and early seventies were surfing’s Romantic era. I came to it at the peak of this period and it had a lasting impact on me. Back then we thought we were special when we were just lucky. We surfed with a sense of kinship with each other and with the sea that marked us out, if only for a while. We spoke a lingo that puzzled our parents and not all of it was hippie nonsense. What we craved was flow. The activity influenced our conceptual framework in ways that aren’t always credited. Non-surfers, it seemed to me, strove for symmetry, linear order, solid boundaries. Waiting and flowing were anachronistic notions, they’d nearly become foreign concepts, but to me they were part of an imaginative lexicon, feeding something in me that had to do with more than surfing. The child of a pragmatic, philistine and insular culture, I responded to the prospect of something wilder, broader, softer, more fluid and emotional. It sounds unlikely but I suspect surfing unlocked the artist in me.
Of course this was all before surfing became yet another occupied territory. By the eighties it had been colonized and pacified by the corporate world, and its language and attitude reflected its captivity. How eager surfers were to surrender their freedom! Suddenly they needed to be respected. Board riders wanted to be sports stars and millionaires. So began the years of dreary contests and sponsor-chasing, the chest-beating and swagger, the brawls in the surf. Surfers distinguished themselves by their machismo and their ultranationalism. The dominant mode was urban, aggressive, localized, greedy, racist and misogynistic. Out with all that touchy-feely shit. Surfers became jocks, defiant morons who trashed beaches and scowled at each other on the break. I wonder how many five-year-old boys were introduced to surfing in the eighties by girls. By then women were almost entirely absent from the surf. Driven out by the bellicose mood, they were consigned to the beach. Gidget made way for Puberty Blues. What I knew as something soulful was now the preserve of violent thugs like the Bra Boys. I gave up and walked away for shame. I put on a mask and snorkel. It was quiet and solitary underwater. You weren’t at the mercy of the big swinging dicks.
But I missed surfing badly. After a couple of years abroad I moved to a coastal hamlet where there were waves and a few surfers with an attitude mellow enough to suit me. It was a treat to paddle out again, to wait, to glide, to flow. There were others like me, who came back to surfing in the nineties when pure fun was valued again. They were past all the aggro, they’d outgrown their self-consciousness, and they were sick of the belligerent conformity that had overtaken the ‘sport’. They rebelled anew and rode strange craft unseen for decades, glorying in eccentric board shapes and retro designs. Sitting on the break you’d see people smiling, speaking to each other once again. The slit-eyed surf punks were still out there, slashing and snarling and scowling, but they were no longer the only tribe afloat. And the women were back, thank God. Within a decade girls were a constant, active and growing presence in the water.
To me surfing has always been a matter of beauty and connectedness. Riding a wave to shore can be a meditative activity; you’re walking on water, tapping the sea’s energy, meeting the ocean, not ripping anything out of it. Few other water pursuits are as non-exploitative. Humans exist by creative destruction; there’s no evading that reality. So having some major interactive pleasure in the natural world that comes without mortal cost – that’s precious, something to celebrate. The physical sensation of sliding along a wall of water, vividly awake and alive, is difficult to describe to the non-surfer; it feels even more beautiful than it looks. And for some men – men in particular, whose lives are so often circumscribed by an exclusively utilitarian mindset – surfing is the one pointlessly beautiful activity they engage in. There is no material result from two hours spent surfing. All the benefits are intangible, except perhaps the calibration of mood. Everyone close to me knows that when I come home wet, I’m a happier man than when I left. Think of the Prozac I’ve saved.
I credit surfing with getting me through adolescence. When I was lonely, confused and angry, the ocean was always there, a vast salty poultice sucking the poison from my system. If surfing’s addictive, and I’m bound to concede that it is, all I can say is there are so many more destructive addictions to succumb to. Even in my middle age it continues to provide respite. When I get in the water I slow down and reflect. That’s the benefit of all that bobbing and waiting. I wait and wait and then I glide and flow. I process problems without even consciously addressing them. The wider culture expects you to hurl yourself at the future. Surfing offers a chance to inhabit the present.
The wait and the glide have become a way of life. Strange as it might seem, the life of a novelist is often like that of a surfer. I come to the desk every day and mostly I wait. I sit for hours, bobbing in a sea of memories, impressions and historical events. The surfer waits for swells, and what are they but the radiating energy of events across the horizon, the leftovers of tempests and turmoils already in the past? The surfer waits for something to turn up from the unseen distance and if he’s vigilant and patient it’ll come to him. He has to be there to meet it. And when it comes he has to be alert and fit and committed enough to turn and ride that precious energy to the beach. When you manage to do this you live for a short while in the eternal present tense. And the feeling is divine.
That’s how I experience writing, which is its own compulsion. I show up. I wait. When some surge of energy finally arrives, I do what I must to match its speed. While I can, I ride its force. For a brief period I’m caught up in something special, where time has no purchase, and my bones don’t ache and my worries fall away. Then it’s all flow. And I’m dancing.
"Waiting and flowing were anachronistic notions, they’d nearly become foreign concepts, but to me they were part of an imaginative lexicon, feeding something in me that had to do with more than surfing."
"To me surfing has always been a matter of beauty and connectedness. Riding a wave to shore can be a meditative activity; you’re walking on water, tapping the sea’s energy, meeting the ocean, not ripping anything out of it."
"And when it comes he has to be alert and fit and committed enough to turn and ride that precious energy to the beach. When you manage to do this you live for a short while in the eternal present tense."
I've always thought that the modern 'attack' surfing misses the point so much. Your personality comes out in your surfing.
Heard him last night, reading a section from the book where he was 5 years old and his motorcycle cop dad got cleaned up by someone running a stop sign. He has a capacity to create mood like very few other writers.
I recently read 'The Turning", may have mentioned it already, brought up memories from my teenage/early 20's that were long buried.
Talking Turkey wrote
"A seminal work.
Thanks TT, that is high literature at its best. Loving it, but shouldn't read too much at work.
Extract from Roger's Profanisaurus (by Roger Mellie - the man on the telly):
Ride the waves (euph): Shagging a generously proportioned lady friend. As in "Slap the fat - ride the waves".
On to Winton. I haven't read this book as yet. I will. I am interested in the fact that this is his second memoir/personal reflection work in 2 years. Age has something to do with it, no doubt. I like the direction. In fact, I am increasingly liking his work in total.
Just from that extract, there are a myriad of philosophical/artistic/cultural/spiritual ideas washed up ready to explore. And definitely not just about surfing. But we know that, yeah?
I much prefer his memoir/non fiction writing to his novels, which always seem to spiral out into outlandish scenarios.
Lands Edge was a great read.
Didn't know about the other one, will get to it this chrissy.
"In fact, I am increasingly liking his work in total."
Mebbe skip Eyrie.
Can't agree, Stuxnet. Interesting it came out the same time as this essay.
Thanks for the quote, Stu. He is so precise and eloquent. Highly euphorial but heh, why not ...
Thanks for that, TB. You shouldn't have.
What's 'euphorial' mean, by the way?
That was a great essay. Thank you, TB.
Stu, that extract was wonderful, thankyou.
Speaks to me on so many levels.
He sure does write purty.
Said it before - you gotta read Small Town . Essay by Tim Winton , photographs by Martin Mischkulnig.
It's a ripper observation of Aussie culture.
PS. Viz was all time.
Brown bottle, fat slags, top tips, crap sharks ...
PPS - My apologies for a thread digression....But I've just discovered flight of the Conchords.
Late, I know , but sweet Jesus....
"But I recently bought Ham On Rye at a bake sale in Austinmer and, shit, now I've gotta reasses my viewpoint. It's bleak, unsentimental, unquestioning and utterly compelling. Amazing writing and it sits so well in the canon of American writing - literature that fits the culture. LA to be exact, where the best of America and the worst of America are on show. " Yeah I read Ham on Rye recently and liked it after not really getting into Post Office back in the 80s
That old ace in the hole by Annie Proulx.
21. “ ‘You get your water at Twospot? Little pond a water there?’
‘That’s squitter water. It’ll make you want a die, make you think your guts is bein pulled out a your asshole with your mama’s crochet hook, but you won’t die and most gets better and some even drinks that squitter water again and has no ill effects. I done it.’”
That'd be Annie POO then.
Anyone see that ABC doco on the other day about Richard Flanagan? Quite affecting/effecting.
I had a splurge on him (ooer!) a year or so back. Read Death of a River Guide, The Unknown Terrorist, Wanting, and The Narrow Road to the Deep North and re-read And What Do You Do, Mr Gable?
Previously I'd read Gould's Book of Fish: A Novel in Twelve Fish and various essays including his famous Gunns one. I'd also seen his film of The Sound of One Hand Clapping (also why I'd read And What Do You Do, Mr Gable?)
Anyway, interesting the similarities between him and Winton and where they've come from. Outsiders from the Oz Lit 'scene' in all sorts of ways. Heartening.
Read him too, by the way. I thought Death of A River Guide in particular was genius.
Blowie, seen this? Something red-related yet decent for ya, comrade. Longish but fucken worth it.
Best value! An ebook of the complete "In Search Of Lost Time", $1.89 on Amazon. 80 hours of reading! That should keep me busy until Easter!
Prooooost! Good luck with that!
Some light Xmas reading
#1 on the 'leftard' best-seller list
Anyone read this? Wild Sea: Eco-wars and Surf Stories from the Coast of the Californias
By Serge Dedina. Interesting, entertaining etc etc
Just finished Dirt Music. I love Winton but wasn't as rapt in this as so many others. Sort of overdid it with the purple prose about the landscape, which I normally love. Can see why it did so well in Man Booker nomination but not his best I think.
Blowin, Flight of the Conchords. Get into them, ridiculously under-stated NZ humour. But the songs, classic. I think this is my favourite.
They're actually very good musicians.
Winton is wrong .. surfing is not a completly pointless exercise.
Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem.
Winton.....yawn! For a fictionalised Australian surf novel The Life by Malcom Knox. Page turner!
The Realist! So good, I got the tattoo!
Pretty sure a person ....or twenty has suggested it on here , so I was stoked to spot All the pretty horses by Cormac Mcarthy at a second hand book shop recently.
Pretty fucken good so far.
Blowin, give us a 20 word review of Blood Meridian, can do ?
I reckon it'll be shit hot if it's half as good as this one.
There you go Pete.
I'll add another 6 words when I read it.
In the meantime, here's a link to one of my other reviews :
www/ Blowin/ #green eggs and ham - zeuss retains cutting edge
Ok, then give us a 20 word review of your favourite book, can do?
I've been reading the new kids book "Little Sower Samuel" to the groms and they really love the way the little guy grows so much stuff he decides he has to share with his community thereby transforming the attitude of the whole town...nice.
twenty word review of blood meridian?
does "blood" repeated twenty times count as one word or twenty?
I will get back to you Pete.
Every word counts, chook, what can you offer?
A William Finnegan review (well worth a read in its own right) of what sounds like a seriously good book.
Hold me closer "tiny dancer"??
OK, the list of this history/lit grad:
Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire - Edward Gibbon. The masterful reconstruction of the how and why. My grandfather's old, 3 volume copy is an ongoing read.
The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemingway. The sheer economy of writing. Required bed time story for groms.
Our family's 1896 copy of 'Treasure Island' by RL Stevenson ditto.
Johnathan Livingston Seagull - Richard Bach. You really can do anything.
Independent People - Halldor Laxness. The icelandic backdrop contrasts its incredibly stubborn protagonist. Only book to ever make me cry, and in the last few pages no less.
Cannery Row - John Steinbeck. Greater to my way of thinking than 'Of Mice and Men' and more agreeable than the power of 'Grapes of Wrath'. Virtues and Muses and Graces; whores and pimps and sons-of-bitches.
Tourmaline - J.Randolph Stow. The sheer desolation of that Westralian landscape I know so well. 'Tenants of shanties rented from the wind.' The agony and torture of the characters, mirroring that of the author.
The Bhagavad Gita. The warrior Arjuna regrets, having to kill all these respected warriors. Lord Krisna informs him that this should not concern him: 'there was never a time you and I did not exist; there will never be a time we cease to be. The soul is infinite; immutable'. Absolutely profound.
What has government done to our money? - Murray N Rothbard. Rothbard's logic is relentless, and he includes a monetary history of the West, which is also required reading for groms.
Shattered Sword - The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway - Parschall/Tully. Currently 'the' study of the battle. The authors go to incredible depths in explaining the background on the Japanese side, right down to the nitty gritty of carrier deck cycles! They show that there is little use in having the best military force if you are strategically undirected.
Dreadnought - Robert K Massie. A very personable, character based view into the system of alliances that failed and dragged Europe into war in 1914. The final chapters fly by, unstoppable, the final pages so tragically riveting.
Interesting list johnno. I am still stuck on US history. Caro's biography of LBJ, Mr Lincoln's Army (Bruce Catton) and the audiobook of Cold Mountain for a bit of fiction. I read Cold Mountain years ago but revisiting it has raised it enormously in my estimation.
Thanks BB I might have to look those up.
I might have to add a few more:
Understanding of Australian landscape and how it has changed over the eons is helped immensely by
The Future Eaters - Tim Flannery
Back from the Brink - Peter Andrews
Nutrition and Physical Degeneration - Dr Weston A Price. The greatest book of the 20th Century. Read and understand a minimum of 2 years before you construct children. Dr Price, a dentist, goes on global travels in the 1920's/30's armed with a newfangled camera, and conclusively proves the difference between traditional and industrial nutrition. You can't deny it, it's in the photos, which are invaluable primary evidence. No matter the traditional diet, no matter the racial group or location. Broad faces, broad hips, strong bones and enough space in the palette. Wish I had come across it earlier. A must read.
Technical Analysis and Stock Market Profits - Richard A Schabacker. This one's a bit esoteric - a reprint of an obscure financial book from the 1930's. What is immensely satisfying is seeing the same chart formations play out on, for example, Republic Iron&Steel in 1929, and Woodside in 2008 - hell, formations from today, from 2008, from 2000, from 1986, from 1968... ad infinitum. No matter how our technology changes, human psychology never does. And you can see it in repeating pattern form. Very revealing.
The MD at work once lent me Bligh's account of being on Tahiti, before the mutiny. That was a real eye opener. No wonder the men didn't want to leave.
And mention to the book of Genesis, opening lines. Light/Darkness/Light - yep, they basically describe how we envisage the big bang. Not bad!
Epic of Gilgamesh for the flood story. And so many submerged cities to prove it - the 125m rise in sea level at the end of the Younger Dryas (within a lifetime, potentially) submerged Krisna's city, amongst others.
THE TURKEY by Odgen Nash.
There is nothing more perky
Than a masculine turkey.
When he struts he struts
With no ifs or buts.
When his face is apoplectic
His harem grows hectic,
And when he gobbles
Their universe wobbles.
Christ Almighty Turkey, you've been hanging out with Gary G haven't you??
...And breathe. Coont.
Sounds like hick wap hah ? Over. Over. Over. Over.
Feelin' kinda sporty.