Player Profile: Hugh Howey, author of Wool

Hugh Howey Hugh Howey, author of Wool

Tell us about your latest creation:

My newest release is DUST. It wraps up the Silo Saga that began with WOOL and continued with SHIFT. As I write this, it’s been two years to the day that I released WOOL, which changed my life forever. Putting the final touches on this series has been extremely rewarding.

Where are you from / where do you call home?:

9780099580485I grew up on a farm outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. After a career as a yacht captain, I eventually settled here in Jupiter, Florida. I live with my wife and our spoiled rotten dog.

When you were a kid, what did you want to become? An author?:

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I’ve dreamed of doing this since I was twelve. I never thought it would be possible, and I took a circuitous route to get here, but I’m now savoring every moment.

9781780891224What do you consider to be your best work? Why?:

I, ZOMBIE. It was my most risky project, the one that touches on the most traumatic experiences of my life, and a work that was approached for purely cathartic purposes. It’s the least appealing to readers and the least commercial, and I enjoy that about it as well.
Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is
it ordered or chaotic?:

I can write anywhere. I do all my writing on a laptop. I usually have my dog snuggled up against me, making it difficult to type or get comfortable.

COMING SOON
COMING SOON

When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?:

I almost exclusively read non-fiction. History books, like Rick Atkinson’s latest trilogy or psychology works from Steven Pinker. I am a sponge for facts and knowledge.

What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?:

ENDER’S GAME, by Orson Scott Card. Here was a book about young people saving the universe, and it was written by a guy from my home state. It made me believe I could be anything. Do anything.

If you were a literary character, who would you be?:

I’d be one of Shakespeare’s fools, acting dumb but often saying something with a sliver of insight and wit.

Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?:

I collect seashells. I take pictures.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

Pizza and beer. I could eat this every day (if only my wife would allow it).

Who is your hero? Why?:

My parents, both of them. My mother for the way she raised the three of us while working several jobs. My father for his kind heart and work ethics.

Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books
and reading?:

Competing with various free forms of entertainment. Facebook, Twitter, blogs, social media games . . . these are the things books will compete against. To thrive, they’ll have to continue to offer a brand of entertainment found nowhere else, and that is the building of vivid worlds in silent imagination.

Website URL: http://www.hughhowey.com/
Blog URL: http://www.hughhowey.com/
Facebook Page URL: https://www.facebook.com/hughhowey
Twitter URL: @hughhowey

Review – Wool and Shift

9780099580485Wool

“Is seeing always believing?”

There are so many things to love about this book. It shares nothing in common with The Hungers Games, The Passage or The Matrix ( the first film not the dodgy sequels) but if you liked those stories you will go absolutely nuts for this book like I did.

“You’ve felt it, right? That we could be anywhere, living a lie?”

Originally self published as a short story that grew into five eBooks it is now available as one eBook together and will be published in December in paperback. I read an advanced print copy that had each part as a separate volume and I wish they were publishing the print book this way because having five distinct parts I think is essential to the overall reading experience of this extremely impressive novel.

“Something had happened. A great and powerful thing had fallen out of alignment.”

Part One is only 48 pages but it is more than enough to blow your mind. We meet Holston who is a Sheriff and is waiting in a holding cell to die. Holston lives in a gigantic underground silo which is over 130 stories deep. The outside world is full of toxic air and wastelands. The silo is organized and supplied so that people do not need to go outside. They have food and water and the population is kept in check. A couple cannot have a child until someone else dies and a lottery is held. There is a Mayor, a Sheriff and the laws of The Pact. If a law is broken the punishment is ‘The Cleaning’. ‘The Cleaning’ involves going outside in a specially designed suit and cleaning a gigantic lens which allows the inhabitants to view the outside world. It also involves certain death. Holston is waiting in a holding cell to do ‘The Cleaning’. A task he has volunteered for.

“A project to pull the wool back from everyone’s eyes. A favour to the next fool who slipped up or dared to hope aloud”

Holston is the catalyst. His actions set everything in motion. A new Sheriff must be found. As the next four parts unfold we learn more about life in the silo and how each level is divided up in order for everybody to survive. You also begin to piece together a bigger picture and a more complex world that will astonish you and leave you gasping for air as you read. What at first seems to be a great lie is in fact something else all together and discovering the truth is more dangerous that anyone can possibly imagine.

“This is how the uprising begins”

This is a story bursting with imagination and ideas. Thought-provoking seems an understatement. Howey does what all great speculative fiction should, he creates a world seemingly removed from our own, in an apocalyptic future, and slowly peels the differences away. There is a lot of hype around this book. This is one of those rare occasions where not only does the book live up to the hype, it exceeds it.

“It is not beyond us to kill to keep secrets.”

Buy the book here…

9781780891224Shift

Like Wool, which was originally published as five eBooks, Shift was originally published as three eBooks and is now available in one volume. Shift is the follow-up to Wool but it is actually the prequel. Set in Silo 1 it tells the story of how the silos came into being and why. The book is split into three shifts, each spaced decades apart, as we follow the work of Silo 1 monitoring the other silos as well as managing their own silo population.

Shift is as mind-blowing as Wool, maybe more so. I am totally amazed that the world Howey has created, which is so confined within a Silo, can have so many stories and is bursting with so many ideas. Howey slowly marries up the stories of Wool and Shift perfectly and leaves you itching to read the conclusion, Dust. The wool is well and truly lifted from our eyes but what this means for the survivors in the Silos is far from clear and I cannot wait to find out.

Buy the book here…

Player Profile: Terry Hayes, author of I Am Pilgrim

hayes, terryTerry Hayes, author of I Am Pilgrim

Tell us about your latest creation…

“I Am Pilgrim”. It is an epic book – an international spy thriller which is the story of one of America’s greatest intelligence agents. he retired young – sick of living in the shadows and by-passed by the huge changes the war on terrorism have wrought. He comes out of retirement, tasked with chasing and finding a mysterious man called The Saracen who has brought back to life the world’s most deadly virus. The mission takes Pilgrim back into his past and from England to Germany, Saudi Arabia to Santorini, Bulgaria to Turkey. And a host of countries in-between. It is a harrowing race against time and, full of false leads and shattered hopes. A story that is not resolved until the last paragraphs on the final page.

Where are you from / Where to do you call home?…

I was born in England, migrated to Australia as a five-year-old, was raised in Sydney where I became a journalist and later went to Los Angeles to work in the film industry. Myself, my wife and four children are now residents of Switzerland.

9780593064955When you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?

Always a writer. I cannot remember a time when I wanted to be anything else except a writer.

What do you consider to be your best work? Why?

I think my best work is Mad Max 2 and Dead Calm in movies; The Dismissal, Bodyline and Bangkok Hilton on TV; and I Am Pilgrim as a novel. On the movies and TV mini-series I was both a writer and producer.

Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?

Orderly to me! Chaotic probably to anyone else. Two computers and screens – in case one goes belly-up – lots of notebooks and pads with notes and research, pictures of my kids for inspiration. A few movie posters – Payback, Dead Calm, From Hell – to remind me that I have written stories before and I can do it again.

When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?

Newspapers, magazine articles – once a journalist, always a journalist – useless information which often, very surprisingly, proves to be very helpful. The
internet has given instant access to wonderful information and articles from all round the world. Books? Classics and whatever is recommended to me – usually by my wife.

What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?

Anna Karenina – a classic that moved with all the pace and emotion of a great thriller; Catcher in the Rye; The Great Gatsby; Shogun; anything by Herman Hess – it was eclectic if nothing else!

If you were a literary character, who would you be? 

Pilgrim from I Am Pilgrim. I wrote it as first person account and there is a lot of me in it. Or at least what I would aspire to be – courageous and true, intelligent when it’s needed, self-effacing and modest. My wife, on the other hand, says the character is completely fictitious – so maybe I’m just deluded.

Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?

My main occupation is to operate The Paceman cricket bowling machine to a) stop my two young boys from braining themselves with a fast ball and b) attempt to improve their batting skills. I hate to say it – but Australia needs them.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?

Anything healthy for food – Japanese fits the bill perfectly. I love sushi and tempura. Sake, in the Rocks in Sydney, serves outstanding food in my opinion. And no, they haven’t bought any books in return for that glowing endorsement.

Who is your hero? Why?

In my own life – my wife. She has never faltered in her belief in me and my work. She has encouraged, cajoled and threatened me. I would never have been half the writer I am – whatever that may be – without her. She has also been a terrific mother to the most important thing in my life – the four children. She likes dogs too, which is never a bad thing!

Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading?

Good stories, however you define that phrase. Storytelling has been with us since men first sat around fires in caves and it will be with us long after we have colonised other planets. It is wound deep into our DNA and that is not going to change any time soon. Delivery systems, technology, public taste are always changing and presenting challenges. If we think the ground is shifting now – imagine what monks copying texts by hand must have thought when they heard about something called the printing press. As long as their are people, there will be  eaders and they will need stories. Books – and book-selling – have succeeded, so far, in adapting to new technology where both the movies and, especially, the music industry have failed. The great thing about books is that personal recommendations mean more than in any other popular art form I know of – for that reason the highly-respected book store, staffed by knowledgeable people, will always play a crucial role in this whole enterprise. On-line stores may have a role to play and present real challenges but they will not replace a good bookstore any more than Wal-Mart replaced great local shopping areas.

Buy I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes…

Review – Lexicon

WORDS ARE WEAPONS

9781444764666Any reader knows the power words can have. Words transport us. Words connect us. Words educate us. Words inspire us. Words make us laugh and cry, love and hate. Words make us remember. Words have power and influence. But in certain hands they can be weapons. Weapons that can kill. Weapons that can wipe out an entire town. Or city. Or civilisation.

This is an incredible read. It starts at breakneck speed and you have to keep up. No, you WANT to keep up. Max Barry introduces us to a shadow world. A world where a select group of people have honed the power of words. They are “Poets” and they can influence and manipulate people based on their personality type. They recruit those that have a gift with words and they are sent to study at an elite and exclusive school where they study all aspects of language and its power.

But one of these “Poets” has discovered an ancient word. A word that has destroyed different civilisations for thousands of years. The word has wiped out the town of Broken Hill. One single word and three thousand people are dead.

Nothing is alive in there
Just a word

No one escaped and no one can return, except for one man. One man who is seemingly immune to words. This makes him very special and very dangerous, only he can’t remember a thing.

There is so much to love about this book. The world Max Barry creates is intriguing, addictive and uber-clever. I found myself rationing the book because I didn’t want it to end. Barry uses the story’s structure perfectly. Sucking you in at just the right moments before spinning you around and showing you another side to the story. Even when you think you’ve got it figured out he cleverly spins you round again. Barry also combines the history and philosophy of human language with its modern-day applications to create a conspiracy theory that will blow your mind.

If you love reading, if you love the power of words, this is the book for you.

Buy the book here…

Reading Resolutions

Book stackToday I realised I can no longer see my alarm clock over the stacks of books on my bedside table; from any angle, from any height.

It never used to be this way. I was always a monogamous, one book at a time reader from the age of six. Novel series might have come out in less lavish quantities than they do today but when they did flaunt themselves at me, I was firm, steadfastly wading through each new world one chapter, one cast of characters, and one story at a time. When the book ended, it was held and admired for a while, then placed reverently back on the bookshelf, before another was selected after sweet deliberation.

Not so anymore. I am a feckless and fickle reader nowadays. I acquire an unrelated selection of titles, pile them indiscriminately on top of one another, ignoring fine cover art and first release styling. I’m ashamed to say, some nights I hop from plot to plot, sometimes switching loyalties and resuming different relationships up to three times a night. Some titles stay pinned mercilessly under genres alien and repulsive to them for months on end, never seeing the light of the bed lamp or making it back onto the book shelf. For as capricious a reader as I am now, I am sadly not a fast one.

It’s not my fault I’m this way, not really. When reading anything and everything from school newsletters, body corporate minutes, seminar notes, bloggers’ posts, manuscripts (my own included), shopping lists (hardest to do because my hand writing is illegible), emails, and let’s face it, a few hours of essential Face Book updating consumes most of my working reading time, then I must be equally varied and adaptable when it comes to my leisure reading time; especially when leisure reading time often ends with a slap on the face by the offended title after I’ve nodded off.

Alas I wish it were not so. George Ivanoff’s recent pre-Christmas post on one’s holiday reading list, prompted me to examine that indignant stack of books. It made me realise that although I may have fine-tuned the art of reading more than one book at a time, miraculously not losing the plot, (so to speak), perhaps what I am reading deserves a little more respect.  Respect in the form of dedicated time to enjoy its individuality. Improbable but not impossible.

I have made no formal resolutions this year, apart from: write more, relax more, finish writing more, eat less, and cook more…you know how it goes. However my reading resolutions have now far exceeded any list I’d ever be allowed to take to a deserted island. I want to read more with my child, explore another foreign language, consume even more pictures books which for me is like walking through an art gallery, review more titles, and read at least half of the shelf of ‘keepers’ I’ve acquired and am saving for that ‘rainy day’. I’ve resolutely set a higher personal reading goal this year to accommodate book club must reads; I’m dreaming big. Plus I have made the odd commitment to myself to read at least one title of every author in the kids’ section of the library from A to Z; before I move onto to YA.

Deserted islandAs with a deserted island and being surrounded by water with nothing to drink, having too many want-to-reads and not enough time to read them is not the best equation for good health and well-being.  My lifestyle and career choice imply that I can no longer be an exclusive reader, committed to just one title at a time. Those languid, lazy days under a palm tree with book in hand (yes that was me once upon a time, ironically on an island) are long past.  But George, you’ll be pleased to know, I’m almost through the holiday-list!

What are your 2013 reading resolutions? Whatever they are, resolve to make time to enjoy them. The most shocking and silly FB post in the world simply cannot rival the escapism and beauty to be found in a good read.

 

Come Back Soon

Henrietta LacksThe adage that you don’t know what you’ve got until its gone rings incredibly true. But I’m not sure what the apt adage is for knowing and appreciating what you’ve got when you’ve got it and then knowing and appreciating it even more when it’s gone. Whatever it is, it should be applied to Richard Fidler, the former Doug Anthony All Star and current ABC Radio host.

He’s only gone temporarily—I feel I should get that in early lest I freak anyone out—but even temporarily is too interminably long. It appears Fidler’s taking a research sabbatical courtesy of a hallowed Churchill Fellowship and is visiting some of the top radio shows in London and New York. Melodramatic as it sounds, his absence is, for me at least, a giant, gaping, nothing-comes-near-to-replacing-him hole.

Conversations with Richard Fidler is, hands down, the highlight of my day. Five days a week (I’d like to make it seven), he interviews a guest for an hour and manages to draw out some of the most fascinating, compelling tales I’ve ever heard. The show’s motto is ‘things you’re interested in and things you don’t know you’re interested in’, and his guests are incredibly varied. Some are famous, but many more are not. It makes them no less interesting. Sometimes their ‘ordinariness’ and the fact that we’d otherwise not hear their tale makes them more so.

Fidler has a lot to do with this, of course, and the show in anyone else’s hands wouldn’t work as well. We see this with the Conversation Hour in Melbourne, which sells itself as being a similar product, but is actually an unstructured hour of nothing much that drives me batty.

The Good SoldiersFidler (ably supported by his behind-the-scenes team, of course) is effectively the radio version of Andrew Denton. His interviewing skills have reduced me to tears on more than one occasion—in a good way, of course.

There’s a real and nuanced skill to interviewing that I’m coming to increasingly appreciate. Fidler manages to get people to open up and tell the stories without getting in the way. He’s incredibly clever and well read, but never comes across as a know-it-all. It’s something that I think neither Ramona Koval, host of ABC Radio National’s The Book Show, nor Jennifer Byrne, host of the ABC’s First Tuesday Book Club, manage to do. They too, I’m afraid, drive me batty.

For me, they get in the way of the interview, imposing their thoughts and opinions on it. I say that not as someone being hypercritical, but as someone who hasn’t anywhere near yet mastered Fidler’s interviewing skills, but who hopes and dreams of one day doing so. I also can’t help but think that Koval and Byrne wish that they were the ones being interviewed.

ConfessionsAnd yes, I couldn’t help but note the irony that Koval, held up as an authority on the area, released a book about interviewing techniques and then had a mega interview debacle with Bret Easton ‘Delta Goodrem’ Ellis at the 2010 Byron Bay Writers Festival.

But that’s not what I wanted to write about. I wanted to write that I can barely wait for Fidler to return. No really. My weeks without him just haven’t been the same. He’s also a magnificent book recommenderer (that’s a technical term). Through him, I’ve discovered some truly incredible books and/or authors. Say, for example:

You’d think his absence would have given me some time to tackle the tower of unread books teetering precariously on my bedside table, but sadly no. That pile just seems to continue to lean and grow. Fidler should be back in early November and there should be a new stack of books for me to salivate over and acquire. I cannae wait!

Review: Kindle 3

I’ve been using the new Kindle 3 for a couple of weeks now, and I think this is the first ereader device I’ve used that gets almost everything right. I’ve been using my iPad for months now to read books, and while the experience reading on the iPad is great, my attention span is often tempted out of the reading apps into checking email or Twitter when I should be absorbed in a book. It’s great, but it’s not as absorbing as reading from a paper book. My previous Kindle (the Kindle 2), was an excellent reading device, but the screen on the new one is far sharper, with better contrast, and the other extras make it an all round better experience.

Screen comparison. The contrast on the Kindle 3 is much higher.

I have the version with WiFi and 3G wireless, so this is the first Kindle I’ve used that you can transfer personal documents wirelessly without paying a fee (if you use the 3G connection, Amazon charges a nominal fee of a dollar or two, depending on the size of the book. Books you buy from the Amazon store are transferred free). In some ways this even trumps the iPad, which can’t accept ePub books in the native iBooks app unless you plug the thing in. The wireless connection doesn’t just give you access to books though. You can use the built-in sharing feature to immediately share a quote from a book you’re reading on Facebook and Twitter. This might sound like the last thing on your mind, but if you’re a compulsive social networker, sometimes you can’t help but want to share the perfect line from a book with your 300 closest friends.

The Kindle 3 is also lighter and smaller than its predecessor, which was already pretty small. With the case it feels a bit like a B-format hardback book to hold in your hands, which is just about my favourite book size to read. The new cover I got with it (people with Kindle 2s beware – your old cover will not fit), has an integrated light that runs off the battery of the Kindle, something version 2.0 couldn’t do as far as I know.

The keyboard, like the old Kindle, is not great, but that’s hardly a massive issue, as if you were buying something like a Kindle to do a mass of typing, you’d have bigger issues. Along with the new price drop, I’d have to say this represents the best value single purpose ereader on the market at the moment bar none. Having said that, it’s almost certain that the price will drop further and the next version will be even better – so if you’re not sure it would still pay to wait.

It’s A Book

It's A BookFor all the debates about the future of the book, which are getting both tedious and, well, whiny, there’s a refreshing new take on the matter. It’s a book called, er, It’s a Book.

Crafted by Lane Smith, it’s a simple but wry reminder of how books are good, standalone objects that don’t need to be fancy in order to engage us—the joy of reading is entertainment and pleasure enough. And what better way to convey it than with a YouTube video replete with a cartoon donkey and monkey?

The video opens with the donkey (with oh-so-cute, metronome-like vacillating ears) asking, ‘What do you have there?’

The monkey responds, ‘It’s a book.’

The donkey asks, ‘Can you scroll down?’

The monkey answers, ‘No, you turn the page. It’s a book.’

Donkey: ‘Can it tweet?’ (This also happens to be my favourite moment, with the donkey making a too-cute hand/hoof gesture when asking.)

Monkey: ‘No.’

Donkey: ‘Can it text?’

Donkey: ‘Can it WiFi?’

And so on.

The video has gone viral and, by all reports, the book has become a bestseller too. And no wonder. It’s a simple idea executed well, and perhaps conveys what most of us booklovers have struggled to convey all along: technology is great and has its place, but a good book is a good book and doesn’t need bells and whistles to shine.

That said, there’s no irony that It’s a Book uses web technologies such as YouTube to promote and sell the book. And successfully so. It’s also perhaps a sign of the future, with complementary tools such as blogs and quirky short videos with cartoon monkeys and donkeys (and penguins—the perennially popular penguins are sure to make an appearance) to promote them, potentially even drawing in a traditionally non-reading audience.

In many ways, this video reminds me of the Beached Whale series that went viral, although I’m not certain that there was a book attached to that, or that if there was, it came afterwards. Either way, ‘I’m beached as, bro’ has entered the collective consciousness and I can’t help but think the phrase ‘It’s a book’ will too—a shorthand for the fact that it doesn’t have to be anything more than it is. It’s a book. And that is more than enough.

Hot Guys Do Read Books

I come from a family of readers so rapacious that I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve awoken in the middle of the night to have one of them ferreting through my bookshelves. Were I a cynic, I’d say that they were making noise to wake me, because upon noticing my open eyes, they said not ‘Sorry I’m standing in your room in my underpants, pilfering books at this ungodly hour’, but ‘Do you have any new books I can read?’

So how I managed to once date a guy who didn’t read for pleasure, I’ll never know. In truth, despite a vague awareness of industry concern about how to get boys reading, I’d never actually encountered one who didn’t. The concept of a guy who didn’t devour books was so far outside my realm of comprehension that it didn’t occur to me to ask questions about it during the initial get-to-know-you dating phase.

It was, in retrospect, a rookie mistake and one I won’t be foolish enough to repeat ever again.

Relationship red flags in are normally things like: he said he had study to do and now there are photos of him on Facebook on a wild night out with random, scantily-clad girls, or she still lives with her ex-boyfriend, but it’s because they’re really good ‘friends’. They’re not normally things like he doesn’t read for half an hour before going to sleep or he doesn’t understand why a rainy day spent in quiet reading and contemplation is pure bliss.

It hasn’t been until recently that I’ve been able to acknowledge, much less tell others about, such a seemingly petty red flag. But what I’ve come to realise is that although there are worse traits than a lack of love for reading, for a writer and reader who exists only for reading and writing, it is a giant, red flag billowing in the dealbreaker wind.

Someone who doesn’t have such a fundamental, almost primal passion for reading cannot possibly ever begin to know or understand me, and nothing snaps me out of a maybe-it-could-have-worked depression than the three-word reminder that he doesn’t read.

Even better, my fantastic friend Imogen pointed me in the direction of a girl who clearly understands the importance of boys reading and who has created a blog to celebrate it. Entitled Hot Guys Reading Books, the blog invites people to submit photos of guys, well, reading books. It’s a simple concept, yet so heartening for those of us unsuspectingly stung by the non-reading red flag. Spoiler alert, the guys are less hot and more guy next door ok, but it’s the reading that makes them much, much cuter.

The ‘Just Right’ Festival

Fatima BhuttoIt’s held annually less than three hours’ drive from my doorstep, but for some reason I hadn’t made a pilgrimage to the Byron Bay Writers Festival. Until this year, when I bit the bullet and signed on for a three-day pass. Admittedly the carrots of Fatima ‘I don’t believe in birthright politics. I don’t think, nor have I ever thought, that my name qualifies me for anything’ Bhutto, whose writing, familial, and political connections intrigue me, and Bret Easton Ellis, he of Less Than Zero, Glamorama, and American Psycho fame had a lot to do with it. But, just one day into the fest, I’m so incredibly glad that I finally made it down and so incredibly mad at myself for not making it before.

Writers’ festivals both soothe and inspire me. I feel at home surrounded by like-minded people and love that I have an excuse to discuss nothing but books, reading, and writing for hours or days on end. Sometimes, though, I can find the crowd sizes, crush, and sheer logistics of getting from tent to tent overwhelming.

Less Than ZeroBut like Goldilocks trying on writers’ festivals for size, I think I’ve found the one for me. With four main tents and a smattering of food venues within a contained area and distance that enables you to duck between them as you try to catch sessions running concurrently, I think the Byron Bay Writers Festival size is just right. The location and set-up is quaint and intimate, the crowds not too large, and the food, which includes spinach and ricotta ‘snake’ pastries and eggplant and feta balls with parsley mayonnaise, is heavenly.

There’s also writing-related artwork in the form of a kind of tower of books and a chair made from letters, both of which I officially want for my house. And even though I’ve come down by myself with little planning and no broadcasting of the fact, I’ve run into and caught up with lots of people I know. Couple that with some random conversations struck up with strangers over a shared interest in an author or session and plans to get to the lighthouse and the beach tomorrow and I’m wondering what’s to date kept me away.

GlamoramaOf course, topping the list of perks is that I’ve caught one of my favourite ever authors (Bret Easton Ellis) and discovered two whom I think might quickly become one (Susan Maushart and one whose name I didn’t catch but who replaced the last-minute drop-out Bhutto)—both of which I’ll be blogging about in coming days. If you’re in Byron, near Byron, or can get to Byron at short notice, there are two days left of the festival. I wholly recommend coming on down and trying it on for size.

Books Before Undies

The Family LawFaced with the very real question of what you would take to a deserted island (as by the time you’ll be reading this I’ll be on my way to spend four days sans phone- or internet-access on a boat and almost-deserted islands in the Whitsundays*), I’m once again struck by the paralysis I was when I played this game in primary school.

For while everyone else came up with practical and essentially life-saving ideas—the likes of which included: ‘I’ll take a Swiss Army Knife and will be able to shimmy up the coconut tree and cut down coconuts and spear fish with my lightning-quick reflexes and trusty 5cm blade and corkscrew’—my answer was always: ‘I’ll take a book’.

Admittedly I’d probably die of dehydration and sunburn before I got to the last page, but life-or-death practicalities aside, the concept of me, a book, a beach, and no interruptions is nothing short of bliss. Given that I’ll be on a boat a lot of this time, it’ll be bliss on a boat. But that’s equally inviting and the fact is that the main issue that I’m facing is how to overcome my number one rule (and error): books before undies.

Bitter ChocolateMy logical brain tells me that I will be able to—at best—complete two or three books in four days and probably a lot less given that I’m going on a boat with friends and there will be spectacular coral and aquatic life to marvel at. But my books-before-undies brain tells me that I cannot take anything less than seven books and that such necessities as undies will be turfed from luggage before I’ll take any book out of said bag.

I know this is a rookie mistake. In fact, it’s one I’ve made before, the fallout from which saw me trying to find a 24-hour laundromat in a foreign country in the wee hours of the morning while lugging around tomes of books on my back that I didn’t have time to read.

But to choose just two or three books from the mini mountain of a book stockpile I have on my bedside table? That’s like being asked to choose your favourite…well, something…from your list of favourite somethings.

The Birth WarsAnyway, in spite of my itching to read such worthy and weighty books as:

  • Mary-Rose MacColl’s The Birth Wars, an investigation of the battle between the ‘organics’ and the ‘mechanics’ or natural and interventionist birth practitioners, inspired by the tragic and unnecessary death of a baby in Brisbane
  • Carol Off’s Bitter Chocolate, an examination of the horrific practices that occur in the nations that produce the cocoa that makes up our so-cheap, so-yummy chocolates

I’ve at least been clever enough to opt for some more entertaining, lose-yourself-in-their-pages holiday reading:

Three Cups of TeaBy the time I end up leaving, there’ll be one more book and a few less pair of undies in my bag, but I’m completely ok with that. See you in four book-filled days with some fresh book reviews and some lobster-red sunburned skin.

* I’m not gloating, honest. It’s the first holiday I’ve had in forever, I promise.