I’m very excited and pleased to announce the imminent launch of Walking Shadows, and you are all cordially invited to attend!
Walking Shadows is the follow-up to my vampire novel set in Melbourne, The Opposite of Life (available in paperback at Dymocks on Collins Street and other bookshops, and as an ebook on Amazon.com and Booki.sh)
The launch will be held on Friday 8 June at 5.45pm at the Rydges Hotel in Carlton.
The launch is a free event, taking place at the Continuum 8 convention, but you don’t have to be a member of the convention to attend.
I once left a library book on a train. I was terribly upset for two reasons. One. It was a library book, not my book, and it felt almost like stealing through negligence. Two. I hadn’t finished reading it!
And, actually, three. It was a library book. I know that’s just One again, but I felt really bad about it.
Losing library books feels like stealing food from the starving poor. Or being mean to puppies. Or something.
The book was Carl Sagan’s The Demon Haunted World, so it wasn’t like I was waiting to find out whodunnit, or whether the secret plans were recovered, or if Frodo really got to Mordor. But it was a damned good book.
Lost and Found never found it, so I duly called the library and paid for the replacement, and because I couldn’t wait, I also bought my own copy of the book and finished it. *aaaaah, the literary relief of it*
I was impressed that someone wanted to do the right thing after all that time, and the financial cunning they showed in doing it anonymously. Even though I know the library would not have charged them the nearly $3000 in overdue fees, because libraries don’t actually work like that.
Sadly, when I was a teenager, I met someone who confessed that they stole books from the local library. I can’t even remember now whether or not she read them, or just nicked them for the fun of it. I remember being horrified and we stopped being friends shortly afterwards.
The weird thing is that I was mortified partly because, you know, theft, but mostly because, you know, theft from a library. I don’t know why that makes it worse, except, of course, that libraries are sacrosanct.
I’m assuming I’m not the only one with an intense quasi-sacred regard for library books. So please, share your library-book-pain stories with me, and we can all go seek therapy together.
My friend Yvon Hintz – an artist and writer, among many other things – started a reading plan a few years ago. When I heard she was reading The Book of Ramayana as part of the plan, I thought it must be an interesting reading list! I knew it included Greek classics as well as books by Chinese writers, and I liked the cultural spread of books the plan contained.
I’ve asked Yvon to share more about the reading plan and what she’s getting out of it.
Yvon’s Adventure with the Lifetime Reading Plan
I always felt that I had missed out on a lot of good reading because I left school fairly early to help my parents run a shop, so when I stumbled on the Lifetime Reading List on the web, it struck me as a great idea.
Being a Virgo, I love lists and working my way through a chronological list of great writing seemed like a wonderful way to go.
By following a list I got suggestions as to what to read and a structure for that reading. If I had simply dipped at random into literature from the past I might not have read some of the titles, either through not knowing that they existed or because I didn’t fancy the sound of them. Sticking to the list, I ended up reading some works that turned out to be wonderful.
I also read some works that were not so wonderful, but they were not a waste because I still got something out of them… even if it was just a working knowledge of their contents so that when later authors made reference to them I knew what they were talking about.
Of the titles I’ve read so far, it’s hard to say which was my favourite; most were enjoyable in one way or another, but the one I probably enjoyed the most was the Mahabharata. For one thing I was really proud of myself for just getting through it! It’s eight times longer than the Bible and took me seven months to read. But what an adventure! The granddaddy of all soap operas!
What I’ve gained from all this reading, apart from the individual entertainment of each title, is the understanding of what a marvellous, rich literary history we have and how much of it rests on what has gone before. I am so pleased that I chose this list, which starts with the oldest book – The Epic of Gilgamesh (possibly the oldest written story on Earth) – and goes through to more recent works.
To begin with, I would buy the hardback or paperback versions of the books. I had a nice little collection in my bookcase when I sold my house, and the bookcase and I moved into a caravan. With a much reduced-in-size bookcase I decided to keep only a few really special books. The copy of David Copperfield in which my mother kept locks of all her children’s hair; the original copies of the first three SF novels I ever read; some illustrated books that I would not be able to get in ebook form; a copy of The Little Prince given to me by a friend; as well as a small collection of books written by my other clever friends.
All other books I obtained in ebook form. I was able to get most of them from the Project Gutenberg site. A few I had to buy in ebook form.
So far there has been only one book I have had to skip. Sima Qian’s Records of The Grand Historian. It’s a BIG book… usually comes in two volumes. It came up on my list about the time I was moving house so I didn’t want to buy a physical copy and didn’t really have the money to spare for the ebook version. I thought I would do the smart thing and borrow it from the library. To my pleasure, they were able to get a copy in for me… from the main library… but because it’s the only copy in Western Australia they wouldn’t let it out of their clutches! I had to sit in the library to read it.
I did for a while, but that got to be impractical, so I reluctantly gave up and moved onto the next title. One day I’ll go back and fill in the gap.
In addition to reading the titles in the Lifetime Reading Plan I research on the Web, get information about the work and the author and add it to a scrapbook I’m creating. It’s getting to be a fascinating book in its own right.
I am currently up to the start of Part three, working my way, with great pleasure, through the works of Shakespeare. As with some of the titles in the Parts to come, I have read a good number of Shakespeare’s plays before, but it’s always good to read them again, and in the order in which they were written (roughly.)
I don’t know if this exercise has made me a better or more learned person. I never recall books well enough to quote them, but I do remember them and I feel that I am a more well rounded person for my literary feast.
The big question on every literate set of lips lately seems to be “Do you prefer old fashioned paper books or e-books?”. I’m not convinced it’s a valid question. I read stories, in whatever guise they come in, which means I read both digital and print books, and my preference is for whichever one is on hand at the time.
I certainly understand the affection readers have with the printed word. I have myself thrilled to the view of actual manuscripts, kept tantalisingly under glass, of the great books and diaries of yore. I’ve seen one of the first editions of Copernicus’s On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres in a castle in Poland, alongside one of the oldest known atlases in the world. At the British Library, my spine shivered in empathy at the last words in Scott’s diary: “For God’s sake look after our people.” The written word, on the page, can be spellbinding.
But not all printed words are world changing. Not all books are lovely to hold and look at. Sometimes, no matter how thick the paper or lavish the cover, the story within those pages is bland, or vile, or simply not my cup of tea. The argument that a story is only worth reading if it’s in a book just doesn’t hold for me. As a writer, I find it vaguely offensive that it’s the format, not the story held inside it, that counts.
Perhaps my view comes from the fact that I’m a traveller too. I’ve been reading e-books, on and off, for ten or more years. My husband and I like to travel light (partly because he’s a travel writer and we’re often moving every few days and heavy suitcases get in the way). With only a small backpack into which to fit our temporary lives, we were early adopters of Palm Pilots and would load travel guides and classic literature onto the devices before the trip. (I still miss the neat auto-scrolling capacity my Palm had, so I could eat a meal and read without having even to flick the page with a finger!)
The format was a necessity for the way we travel, but the convenience was marvellous. I didn’t have to worry about favourite books getting damaged as they collided with everything else in my handbag. If my train was delayed, or I had to spend an irritating amount of time in a waiting room, I always had several books on hand. As screens have developed, it’s become easier and easier to read from them. I used my smartphone to hold my books for ages, and now my Kindle has a delightful matte screen and I can change the font size for those tired-eye days.
Have I found having an e-reader is changing my reading habits? Yes. I’m reading a lot more: at lunchtimes at work; on the tram; waiting for the tram; at home; at cafes. I am reading several books at once, which I can choose from depending on my mood, because I have all of them with me at once. I’m more likely to spontaneously buy a book on reading the review or getting a recommendation, rather than trying to remember the title next time I’m near a bookshop that’s open. Having a digital to-read pile is less intimidating than my still rather large paper book stash, and easier to add to. (This great news for publishers who benefit from my impulse buying; less so for my bank balance.)
Of course there are going to be less pleasant consquences of the e-book revolution. Bookselling giants like Borders and Angus and Robertson are already disappearing. Will the independent and boutique bookshops follow? I’m not convinced they all will, but I don’t know what the future holds or how readers will adapt to the new market. I’m concerned that access to books may be restricted to people on lower incomes because e-devices may not be affordable and the cheap books, championed by the likes of Penguin, may not longer be available.
It may be some years before the dust settles on the e-versus-tree upheaval and we see how it all pans out. Like all such upheavals, some changes will be for the better, some for the worse. I suspect that books on paper will never leave us, and that when readers discover an digital book that hits them in the heart, they’ll go an buy a lovely paper edition to display on the shelf, to hold and re-read and adore. And people who find a beautiful print book may then buy a digital edition to preserve that book in all its shiny glory while reading the e-book to digital death. Some people will continue to love and seek out dog-eared copies of pre-adored stories with notes in the margins, in the manner of Helen Hanff, while others will treat bound editions like precious art, not to be damaged in any way.
But people will keep on reading. They will keep finding the stories that tell them about themselves, or teach them what it’s like to be someone else, however they are told. We’re human: telling and seeking out stories is one of the nobler things we do.
For myself, I read stories in all kinds of formats. I read paper books and e-books. I read comics. I read texts on my computer and on printed-out sheafs of A4 paper. Whatever the format they come in, I read stories and it is the words, not the medium, that transport me.