Wow. I picked up this brilliant picture book on a whim, and was blow away by its sophistication. It’s the story of Marion (ostensibly a marionette) who has two loyal friends, Harley (the Harlequin) and Polka the dog. She listens to the poisonous whisperings of a little bird who says she should be famous. On her road to fame, she changes everything about herself, and loses track of Harley and Polka – who end up homeless. When things go bad, Marion runs to Harley and Polka for help – but it’s too late – a new star has replaced her. She’s old news. Despite her many, many mistakes, Harley and Polka take her with them back to their home and love her regardless. The images are stunning and evocative of a magical world living a breath away from this one. The themes are subtle and complex – unusual for a picture book, and very Hans Anderson-esque in their execution. Had I read it as a child it would have been one of those unforgettable ones that haunts your dreams. What a find! I hope it wins the Cybil Award it is nominated for!
When I picked up a copy of ‘Sex At Dawn’ just before Christmas I was expecting it to be verbose – God knows why, most non-fiction is pretty light on these days, sometimes too light! This is the perfect balance of well-written, curiosity satisfying, just scientific enough to convince you that if you’ve read it you’re automatically smarter, and not so scientific as to scare you away. In short, it’s the perfect book of the sociology, history, and physiology of sex and sexuality! I’m only 33 pages in so far, but I’m already captivated – so much so that I’m even bothering to read those notes they have indexed at the back of the book. There are some very quote out loudable quotes from literature and science, such as:
“Gentry had to be pitied. They had so few advantages in respect of love. They could say they longed for a kiss from a bouncy wife in a vicarage garden. They couldn’t say she roared under me and clutched my back and I shot my speciment to blazes.” – Roger McDonald, Mr. Darwin’s Shooter (Ryan & Jetha pp27).
And then there are wonderfully well turned out sentances like this: “Suddenly, women lived in a world where they had to barter their reproductive capacity for access to teh resources and protection they needed to survive.” (Ryand & Jetha pp 8).
It’s a gloriously naked romp through every aspect of human life to do with sex – and the way the authors see it, that includes an awful lot of aspects. Read it, it’ll make you cleverer and you’ll be able to voice terribly shocking opinions at garden parties and so forth!
Sex at Dawn is by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha, published by Scribe, 2010 and retails for $35
THAT RELATIVE THAT LAUGHS OUT LOUD ON BUSES
If you gave this relative ‘The Truth About Chuck Norris’ last year, then you’re in for a damn funny treat this year! Introducing The People of Walmart. From the old guy with the hotdog on his head to the man in an ‘Obey Jesus’ homemade trenchcoat to the guy just hanging out at Walmart in his Zelda costume…this book is a compendium of all the freaky-ass people who float needlessly around the Walmarts of the US.
Pia Jane Bijkerk’s blog is full of gorgeous photography of her life in Amsterdam, wonderful food, gardening, houseboat life and general loveliness. She also has two books which are perfect Christmas gifts for those whimsical people you know who are lovers of beautiful handcrafted things, or who are crafty themselves: ‘Paris Made by Hand’ and ‘Amsterdam Made By Hand’.
Have you got an armchair traveller in your family? or an intrepid explorer? This is the Christmas pressie for them…It’s full of beautiful photography and anecdotes about over 200 countries, bringing them to vivid life! It’s a stunning leatherbound hardback with a magnetic strip to open it, and it can be found in the Summer Reading Guide at Readings Books, Avid Reader, Riverbend Books and Coaldrakes.
For the next few weeks up until Christmas I’ll be throwing some gift suggestions at you…starting the perfect gift for:
Wine lovers – The Moleskine Wine Journal has sections for notes on tastings, price, serving temperature, vintage etcetera. Its leather cover is engraved with bottles and glasses – an elegant pressie for that vitner or sommelier in your life!
The Comic: Shaun Micallef’s Preincarnate is a novel full of nuttery. In it he, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, H.G.Wells and the ubiquitous Tom Cruise venture off to unravel a Masonic plot to restore James II to the throne. Inspired hilarity as one would expect from Australia’s most Monty-Pythonesque comic Micallef. Even the blurb made me snort with laughter.
The Spancophile: The Wrong Blood by Manuel De Lope – so if those who love the French are Francophiles, surely those who love the Spanish are Spancophiles? No? For anyone who loved ‘The Seamstress’, or who loves a bit of historical fiction. Set in and around the Spanish Civil War, it’s the story of two women both violently altered by circumstance who find strength in their mutual suffering and form a powerful bond. This is the first of Manuel De Lope’s books to be translated into English. Ole!