The Time and Place Book Tag

There are some books in my collection that I’ll always associate with the particular place or time in which I read them. It might be because I read a book on a memorable holiday or read a book at a significant time in my life, but either way, today I’d like to do the Time and Place Book Tag* with you.

The idea is that you take 10 (in this case I’ll only do 5) books from your bookshelf and share the time and place in which you read them. So here goes.

#1 So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading by Sara Nelson 
In 2006, my reading was really taking off and I remember reading So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading on the tram to and from work. My journey was a relatively short one and I distinctly remember wishing it was a little longer so I could read just one more chapter before I arrived at home or work. Sara Nelson’s enthusiasm for books and reading was contagious and my own reading increased after this.

#2 Dracula by Bram StokerDracula Bram Stoker
In early 2008, I was in the middle of reading Dracula by Bram Stoker when it was time to leave for Fiji to attend a family member’s wedding. I’d planned to finish reading Dracula before we left because I didn’t think it a suitable book for reading in the tropics, but alas, I couldn’t leave it behind. I have a clear memory of reading Dracula in the hotel room with the bright sunshine, palm trees and beach outside while immersed in the cold and darkness of Bram Stoker’s world. The contrast was unforgettable.

#3 The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
In late 2008 I was heading off on my honeymoon and took great joy in deciding what books to take with me on my cruise. (Anyone else do this?) I decided that The Chronicles of Narnia was a nice big fat book, perfect for lounging around with and I wasn’t wrong. I started and finished it on my honeymoon and read more besides. This book is also memorable for me because it was a gift from a dear friend.

#4 Dick Wicks the Magnetic Man by Dick Wicks
Books aren’t always memorable for me just because I read them while on holiday. During a period of poor health in 2011, I turned to the concept of magnets and read Dick Wicks the Magnetic Man – How Magnets Helped Me Beat the Pain by Dick Wicks. He signed a copy for me which I still have and his inspirational and personal story has stayed with me.

#5 The Martian by Andy Weir
In 2014 I went on a two week holiday to New Zealand and took my iPad with me to read a new release called The Martian by Andy Weir. It was a little known title at the time, and I was reading it each night in our hotel room and chuckling on almost every page. My husband asked me what was so funny, and after reading a few snippets, he said “stop, I’ll read it when you’re finished.” A few days later, I handed it over and for the next week, kept pestering him with questions like: “what bit are you up to?” and “what bit are you laughing at?”

Have a look on your own bookshelves. Do some titles stand out to you? Do you remember where you were when you read a particular book or when it was that you read it? I’d love to know, so leave your entries in the comments below.

* The Time and Place Book Tag was created by Jen Campbell, author of Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops.

How Nietzsche Turned me into a Reader

Hey! Nietzsche!I’m not really interested in giving people a quick introduction; I tend to mix my personal life, humour, sarcasm and knowledge into my book reviews and blog posts. However I do want to kick off talking about the book that turned me into a reader.  It wasn’t until 2009 that I discovered the joys of books and reading and something inside me clicked and I wanted to consume every book I saw. This life changing event was all because of one book, an Australian non-fiction title called Hey! Nietzsche! Leave Them Kids Alone! by Craig Schuftan.

At the time I listened to a lot of music and would have cited AFI, My Chemical Romance, Weezer, and so on as some of my favourite bands. In face I was right into the music that was been played on Triple J. Craig Schuftan was a radio producer at Triple J at the time and there was a short show he made for the station called The Culture Club. In this show he would talk about the connection rock and roll has to art and literary worlds. Friedrich Nietzsche was claiming, “I am no man, I am dynamite” well before AC/DC’s song TNT.

That was a real revelation for me and I picked up Hey! Nietzsche! Leave Them Kids Alone! (subtitled; The Romantic Movement, Rock and Roll, and the End of Civilisation as We Know It) and began reading it. However it didn’t stop there; this book connected the so called ‘emo’ movement with The Romantic Movement, I never thought these bands would have anything in common with the greats like Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley or John Keats but I had to find out.

Hey! Nietzsche! Leave Them Kids Alone! by  Craig Schuftan ended up taking half a year to complete; not because I was a slow reader but I wanted to know more,and  I read poetry by Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats, and researched online. I picked up books like Frankenstein (an obsession of mine), Dracula and Wuthering Heights just because they were mentioned. This was a weird turn in my life but my growing thirst for knowledge became an obsession with reading. I have now set a life goal to read everything on the 1001 Books you must read before you die list.

It is weird to think one book can have such a huge impact on my life but I credit Craig Schuftan (and my wife) for such a positive improvement in my life. I will eventually read Craig Schuftan’s books The Culture Club: Modern Art, Rock and Roll and other stuff your parents warned you about and Entertain Us!: The Rise and Fall of Alternative Rock in the Nineties but I’ve put them off because I suspect the same amount of research will be involved.

Has a book had such a positive impact in your life? I would love to know in the comments. Also are there any other books that explore the connections between art and literature with pop-culture?

Angels in Literature: Who Dares Disturb Their Slumber?

I noticed recently that Boomerang Books had twittered about a book trailer for The Gargoyle, by Andrew Davidson. Released back in 2008, I read the book as soon as I could get my hands on it because the blurb just sounded so damn good:

The nameless narrator of The Gargoyle is driving along a dark road when he is distracted by what seems to be a flight of arrows. He crashes into a ravine and wakes up in a burns ward, undergoing the tortures of the damned. His life is over – he is now a monster. One day, Marianne Engel, a wild and compelling sculptress of gargoyles, enters his life and tells him that they were once lovers in medieval Germany. As she spins her tale, Scheherazade fashion, and relates equally mesmerising stories of deathless love in Japan, Greenland, Italy and England, he finds himself drawn back to life – and, finally, to love.

This strange debut offering – which had such a high-falutin’ storyline – turned out to be compulsively readable. From the first sentence the book leapt free of the Gothic Classic narrative I’d been banking on, and was testing its wings in an entirely more modern context. And it may have been more of a shock, because the narrator wasn’t some damsel-in-distress wooed by a chance at love, it was a Hollywood heartthrob with a face of ash, being wooed by an excaped patient from the psychiatric ward next door. So yeah, romance can happen in all places, to all types of people. And this message gave The Gargoyle its ability to enter massmarket fiction for adults. Indeed, it was the first time since the 90s (when angels were popular for the ‘Hard Rock Goths’), that I sensed the concept of a winged being had embarked on a dark road: one to commercial success (excess).

Gargoyles; vampires; angels; demons; concepts of heaven and hell, have all experienced a resurgence in literature. Gothic is all the rage right now, for some reason. You could perhaps, credit Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Gothic poem Christabel (one of me faves) as the stirring of vampires in the 1800s. From there, friend and contemporary Mary Shelley produced Frankenstein, Sheridan Le Fanu was inspired to write a cracking novella titled ‘Carmilla’, and this in turn is said to have partly influenced a book you may know: Dracula, by Bram Stoker.

While Twilight may have awoken the sleeping dead for teenagers and starry-eyed 20- and 30-something women, word around the book blog traps has been that angels, riding on the coattails of the humanised vampire, are ready for a descent themselves. Not only a descent into the world of teens, mind you, but with a plan for fantasy fiction world takeover (including all its subgenre cities).

I don’t know just yet if angels are indeed the new vampires, but the whole religious idea and how it has been translated into popular culture definitely deserves some further investigation. Why are they popular again? How do they differ from their original concept? Religious connotations of heaven and hell, as alluded to in The Gargoyle, also requires some exploration.

Grab a shovel, and get ready to do some digging. Stay tuned for future angelic/demonic posts – it’s a heaven/hell extravaganza!