No Book Left Behind

Fifty ShamesI’m heading to Mexico City this Friday. It’s hosting this year’s Homeless World Cup (HWC), to which I take my annual pilgrimage. Which means I’ve done the only things rational: no packing whatsoever, but plenty of agonising over which books to take for the trip.

I don’t yet own an ereader, not because I’m against them (in fact, I’m wholly for them as yet another and complementary opportunity to fit more reading into our lives), but because Apple haven’t yet released one. Sadly, I’m not even kidding.

I’ve found the existing ereaders by non-Apple companies not well-enough designed functionally and in terms of being pretty. And don’t even get me started on the difficulties of region-specific availability and being locked into certain file types or not-author-or-reader-friendly online behemoth bookstores.

Apple-versus-the-rest-of-the-world arguments aside, I’m tossing up between taking which and how many of the following physical books.

(In case you can’t see them clearly, they from left to right include: I Lost My Love in Baghdad, Bossypants, Desert Flower, The Elephant Whisperer, The Coke Machine, Madlands, Silent Spring, Call of the Weird, and Behind The Beautiful Forevers. Fifty Shames of Earl Grey is on backorder and I’ll not deny that I’m hoping and praying it arrives before Friday.)

As I well-documented (read: moaned) at the time, I foolishly took the rational, weight- and spacing-saving option of packing too few books to the 2010 HWC, then spent three quarters of the trip with my sad face pressed up against the glass of bookstores that sold books I, in my non-Spanish- and non-Portuguese-speaking incapacity, couldn’t read.

I also spent considerable time hatching plans to order an ereader to be shipped to me, with the only thing preventing my purchase was that I couldn’t be certain of the delivery timing and I was moving around. Ugliness, availability issues, and locked-in formats and stores be damned, I’d have paid anything for any books in any format I could read at all.

I Lost My Love In BaghdadWhich is a long-winded way of saying that I’m prepared to sacrifice underpants and other essentials in order to ensure my luggage is choc full of books. But even I know the above are too many. I’m only going for two weeks and they’re two 18-hour-days-of-work weeks. One or two or three of these books need to go.

The question is: Which ones? Every fibre of my being is screaming in the ultimate cliche: No book left behind.

Your Dress Is Tucked Into Your Underpants

Day three of the Brisbane Writers Festival saw me sitting on a panel. I know, a mention beforehand would have been handy for those of you keen to heckle, but I was so incredibly nervous I didn’t tell anyone. Not even my mum. She found out about 9pm last night and changed her plans to come down and offer moral support. And I’m kind of glad she did.

After AmericaAs far as I know, the panel went well. At least, I hope it went well—the whole thing is a bit of a blur of anxiety-meets-adrenalin and the couple of friends who were there were under strict instructions to give me hand signals to say ‘slow down’, ‘you’re not making sense’, and ‘your dress is tucked into the back of your underpants’. You know, the gestures that are required when all those public speaking horrors are realised. Often all at once.

But the audience seemed interested, the other panellists were fantastic, and I got a few laughs and a few questions—neither of which I was expecting. The panel was entitled Twittering, Pinging, Poking, Facebooking: The World of New Media. My co-panellists were the esteemed John Birmingham, of He Died With A Felafel In His Hand, Weapons Of Choice, and After America fame, and Chinese writer Mian Mian, famous both because her book, Candy, which focuses on the sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll of post-Mao China, was banned there for 10 years, and because she sued Google for scanning her book without permission. My expertise, obviously, was in blogging (this blog is one of five I regularly write).

Weapons of ChoiceAs my first time on the other side of the writers’ festival microphone, it was simultaneously terrifying, exhilarating, and incredibly humbling. I’d love to recount the witty repartee that I participated in, but trying to recall is like trying to catch clouds. I do know there was some mention of the woman who put the cat in the bin in the UK last week, who is now being mocked with a viral spoof that involves someone dressed up as Sylvester the cat putting a human in a bin. I do know I managed to talk about how I think hardcovers are outdated and should be rendered obsolete (for the record, most people agreed with me). And I do know I managed to get in a mention of the Hot Guys Reading Books blog I’ve previously blogged about.

I also know that I managed to make it through the session coherently, at an understandable pace, and that there were no dress-tucked-into-underpants incidents. At least, none that I’m aware of. Thanks to those of you who came to support and heckle—both were much appreciated.