Recently in Just Shoot Me Category

They're From Where?

Just a couple of items that amused me lately.

"You have a funny kind of contempt for Bruce Chatwin, the Australian author of The Songlines." Jed Lipinski interviewing Geoff Dyer, on "The Brooklyn Rail". Lipinski makes this statement, but Dyer doesn't correct him.

"There are a few annoying glitches in Cook's biography, such as his overreliance on exclamation points, his several spellings of Heinrich Bluecher's surname, and his identification of the Australian novelist Shirley Hazzard as an Austrian novelist." Floyd Skloot reviewing Alfred Kazin: A Biography by Richard M. Cook, for "The Philadelphia Inquirer".

Somewhere, in the deep, dark recesses of my wardrobe lies a t-shirt I picked up in Salzburg some twenty years ago, with the caption "Austria doesn't have any kangaroos" printed on the front. Maybe I should sent it to Mr Cook.

No Dead Ones Here

Sarah Weinman, on the "Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind" weblog, points us to an article in "New York Magazine" titled "A World of Crime". Subtitled "Need an escape this winter? Try these. A sleuth-fiction travel guide." There are 10 books listed. Guess which continent missed out?

Misheard Words

I've heard people use the phrase "old timer's" instead of "alzheimers", and the phrase "all goes" instead of "augurs", but for the first time today, on an ABC News Radio Starstuff program, I heard the word "lamblast". Used in place of "lambaste" it actually has a sense of resonance to it.

2007 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest Results

The winners of the 2007 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest have been announced, and it is pleasing to see that a few Australians have featured.

Neil Prowd, of Charnwood, ACT, won the Historical Fiction category with: "Samson looked in the mirror and, when he saw what a fantastic haircut Delilah had given him, he went weak at the knees."

Ann Medlock, of Lenah Valley, Tasmania, won the Science Fiction category with: "What a pity Dave was too young to have seen 2001: A Space Odyssey, for he might have been able to predict what would happen next, when the ape standing next to the big black slab picked up the tapir bone."

And Karl Scott, of Brisbane, Queensland, won the Vile Puns category with: "I was in a back alley in Fiji, fighting desperately and silently for my life, fighting desperately for oxygen, clawing at the calm and almost gentle pressure of the fabric held over my face by implacable, ebony thighs when I realized -- he was killing me softly with his sarong."

But read them all. It's a pretty good laugh.

The Grocer's Apostrophe 2

"Through the use of various attributes and status' [the project] will support the various customer types with varying functionality..." Believe it or not, the writer actually means "statuses". But rather than scrapping the word and using something like "states" or "conditions", the author has allowed their confusion about the intended word to totally undermine any credibility they may have had by utilising a meaningless construct.

It is interesting to note that this sentence is not buried somewhere deep inside a dry and dusty document but appears on slide 3 of a PowerPoint pack. It was written as a management summary and was probably displayed on a large screen, before a sizeable audience, using a data projection facility. I would have been hard pressed to suppress a groan when I saw this one.

The Grocer's Apostrophe

This is not so much a case of the "Grocer's Apostrophe" as just a state of confusion, and it's one that I haven't seen before: " presented with an opportunity to apply better assessment decision to its' customer base" (sic). It's interesting to note that Microsoft Word doesn't find a spelling problem with this sentence, and a grammar check suggests changing the "its'" to "it's". A lot of help that is. Leaving aside the fact that "decision" should read "decisions".

I wish people who didn't know how to use apostrophes just left them on the shelf. It would make life easier for all of us.

Haven't I Heard That One Before?

Just the other day Jessa Crispin, on her weblog "Blog of a Bookslut", wrote: "I was talking to a friend last night about the news stories that cycle through once a year -- nobody reads poetry anymore, comic books aren't just for kids, Jane Austen fans are fucking nuts -- but I forgot one: What's so great about reading anyway? My friend asked how long these stories will keep being rewritten. I responded, as long as newspapers keep paying fifty cents a word."

I'm sorry to say she missed another one: Australian literature: does it have a future?. Hardly surprising as this one is all ours. This and the annual, "What's Wrong With the Miles Franklin". Hey, even I've played on that ground.

Dreck by Garry Disher

Hmmm, Garry, maybe you could have a quiet word with your German publisher over this one.

Poem of the Month

The website containing "The English Magazine" appears to print a Poem of the Month - something that I applaud.

Something which I also applaud is the appearance this month of the poem "The Great Australian Adjective" by Australian poet W. T. Goodge. Unfortunately (and you knew that was coming, didn't you?), they've stuffed it up. The original poem reads as follows:

The sunburnt ---- stockman stood
And, in a dismal ---- mood,
   Apostrophized his ---- cuddy;
"The ---- nag's no ---- good,
He couldn't earn his ---- food -
   A regular ---- brumby,

And so on for another three verses. But now "The English Magazine has printed the poem with the "----" replaced everywhere by the word "bloody", and ruined it. Originally published in 1898, the excised word might well have been "bloody", which was generally considered too profane for magazine publication at that time. It doesn't matter, the point is that the humour of the poem is not dependent on the repeated use of one word, but on the fact that that word is repeatedly omitted. You, the reader, supply your own, whatever that may be.

The whole point of the thing is that the "----" is left to the reader's imagination. It's a wonderful device used in this way, mocking public and private perceptions of profanity. Printing a word to replace the "----" diminishes the poem to something rather boring and ineffectual.

Peter Carey's Recurring Nightmare

"Peter Carey is the son of privilege -- and an heir to terror. Poised on the brink of power over a mighty family dynasty, he is also the victim of a recurring nightmare that suddenly becomes all too real. The twisted force that had claimed his parents many years before now stalks him too. But the key to his survival lies locked deep in Peter's own mind. And he must discover it before the final night closes in. . ."

No, not the author, but a character in Escape the Night by Richard North Patterson. Somehow I don't think this one will end up on my to-be-read pile.

They Aren't Reading

"The students we have now do not read as much as students did 20 years ago, let alone 40 years ago. That is simply because they've grown up in a culture where there are so many other things competing for their time."

From "The Australian" newspaper

"Some weeks ago, Michael Skube, a journalism professor at Elon University in North Carolina, had an op-ed in the Washington Post ruing that college students don't read. He asked a class of 17 sophomores to name some of their favorite writers. He got one name: Dan Brown."

From href="">"Science Musings Blog"

That Book and Its Spin-Offs

I mentioned yesterday that I'd ventured down to Borders to cash in a gift voucher. The thing I didn't mention, because I hadn't taken much notice of it, was the Borders catalogue that had been tossed into the bag along with the books. I generally skim these things when I come across them - it's a good way to see what's out there - but don't take a lot of notice of the big chain stores.

And then yesterday I happened across a page headed "Borders has everything for The da Vinci Code obsessed mum". And I had to look. I wish I hadn't. Listed on the catalog page are: The da Vinci Code: Illustrated Edition, Fodor's Guide to The da Vinci Code, The Dan Brown Companion, Who Can Crack the da Vinci Code?, Beyond the da Vinci Code, Leonardo's Notebooks, The da Vinci Code Game, and, wait for it, The da Vinci Code Canvas Artist's Set.

You have got to be kidding me. What's next? Bobble-head doll giveaways of Jesus, Mary and Leonardo with Happy Meals down at that Scottish restaurant? Is there no limit to all this crap? I pity the poor librarians who get asked; "Do you have anything else like Dan Brown's book?" Maybe the enquirers should be pointed towards Behold the Man by Michael Moorcock. That should put them off.

Brace Yourself

The ABC News blog Articulate on Books reports the following: "Having trouble getting focused on that unfinished book? Go to prison for a few years. "Author, one-time Tory MP and convicted perjurer Lord Jeffrey Archer reckons he wrote a million words during his first year in prison. "His new novel False Impression, which is set in the world of art, (Archer is a collector himself with a large number of Australian works) is being released in Australia this week." Now what was Charlton Heston's favourite line in every sf film he ever made: "Oh. My. God."

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