David Stevens

Archive for October, 2018|Monthly archive page

Real Dirt

In Uncategorized on October 14, 2018 at 6:57 am

Following on from the last instalment, I am moving books around because if you move them from one spot to another quickly enough, you can magically make space for other books. In my hands I have a book I enjoyed, Real Dirt by James Woodford. James is / was a journalist and writer on environmental issues, and the book is about how he left the rat race, set up an eco-friendly home in the rural south coast area of NSW, made and re-made a family, pissed off some local farmers, killed chickens deliberately and a beloved dog accidentally, and regenerated damaged land. I read it. I would also just hold it from time to time, hoping to introduce some change into my life by osmosis.

It was published in 2008. A few years after, I saw some blog posts indicating Mr Woodford had moved to Queensland for a warmer rural existence. There isn’t much after 2011 from him, and I can’t find anything after 2014.

Mr Woodford, I hope that you are alive and well. I hoped that your story after Real Dirt would be eventful but happy, and I had looked forward to a follow up volume. However, I am a little afraid to ask any more.

(4 posts in 2 days. Can you tell that I set aside some time to work on my novel? Hmmm …)


Hutchinson’s Europe continues to expand …

In Uncategorized on October 14, 2018 at 2:41 am

Europe at Dawn

Just came across the latest / last volume of Dave Hutchinson’s “Fractured Europe sequence” – well, that’s how they describe it on The Book Depository, where it is available for pre-order. The timing is perfect – a big chunk of my book collection returns home on Wednesday, including the previous volumes of this series, so I will get to re-read them before the latest / last volume arrives in the post, I hope.

As I say, I don’t do reviews, so here is the link to my comments about the first two volumes of the series.





John Purcell on books

In Uncategorized on October 14, 2018 at 1:06 am

This from the SMH last weekend (the Saturday SMH is the only newspaper I buy anymore, for the occasional nugget like this, but their review section is becoming so dire I may give up on newspapers altogether):

“My memory bank is not my brain: its my book collection. I can’t do without it. When I had my books in packaging for six months, I got dumber. I wasn’t running up against them, I wasn’t exposed to them, I forgot things. As soon as I saw them on the shelf I remembered them; it comes flooding back and I will often go to my collection and hold them.”

John Purcell, director of books (what a title) at Booktopia. SMH 6/10/18 p28

Not precisely accurate, but it rings so true. A chunk of my personal collection is about to arrive home, and I have been making space for it afresh, ready for my old friends to be reunited with each other, and with me.

I am extremely privileged that I grew up a two minute walk from a public library. I read so many of the books there. My life would have been far poorer for its absence, and even these decades removed, would have remained irreparably impoverished. But when I started to earn money, I started to buy books, and have never stopped. I maintain, despite my culture (my words are chosen carefully here), that it is a vice superior to tobacco and alcohol. The public library, a very important institution, will never be my own collection, my own cultivated “set”. My books reflect me, the times I have lived through, my changing tastes and interests, my growth, my passions, my follies. Though I have in (very) recent years learned to part with books, I will never have the ruthless instinct required of the public librarian, to shed and dispose.

It is now possible for me to sometimes walk out of a book store without a purchase tucked under my arm. This is a new stage of development, and a welcome one for my wife, who has after some decades decreed an absolute limit on bookshelf space in our home. But I cannot promise my wife (a librarian!) that under cover of darkness, while the house sleeps, that I won’t creep online. Having snuck onto the internet, I confess there is the chance that I may enter into my browser the names of the very titles I lingered over that afternoon in the shop, that I so unwillingly replaced onto the shelves. And perhaps a week or two later, a brown cardboard parcel will arrive, and if I don’t get to the letterbox first, eyebrows will be raised. It is a testament to the ability of the human mind to hold onto vast inconsistencies in thought and behaviour that I am able to continue to wander the world, somehow convinced that my virtue is intact.

First Man

In Uncategorized on October 13, 2018 at 3:30 am

My review of the Apollo / Neil Armstrong biopic is that it is bloody brilliant and you should run out and see it. There you go.

I am about as young as you can be and remember the first lunar landing. I recall where I was – climbing on the back paling fence at home. Miss Rosemary had not been on TV that morning, and I lived in hope that the delayed morning cartoons would be shown after the landing thing was over. They were not. My ambivalence was understandable given the importance of morning cartoons, but was not reflected in the rest of my life – I had a preference for books about space exploration, and astronaut related clothing (I mean t-shirts, though I am pretty sure I would not have minded my own space suit).

I decided early on I was going to be a scientist (that never worked out), and that space travel would be part of my future (hmm). However, they were not the important bits. The real stuff was an inner life built around an unarticulated poetry of disparate parts; of images and stray unattached emotions. I suppose any childhood is built around such things, as everything slowly comes together and we make sense of the world around us. A lot of those parts returned to me from the depths as I watched First Man. The opening sequence of Armstrong’s face quivering from gravitational force as his jet shuddered about him on an early voyage to the edge of space was, for me, almost as powerful as the (real) start of Saving Private Ryan (not the goofy sentimental prologue with the old fellow staggering about the cemetery – the Normandy landing). I had not expected the strength of my reaction, sitting bolt upright, fear climbing my spine. I (almost) felt the vertigo, the terror of the void, the desperation as the altimeter started to climb again, even though I knew it would be alright, even though I have known for over 49 years that Neil Armstrong is the first man on the moon. My wife’s reaction at the various shuddery parts was fair enough: ok, I get the point, it was very dangerous many times. Me, I did not wish one minute of it away. And I was left with a feeling of gratitude – not for that stoic generation nor for the sacrifices, that is tucked away in a more complicated part of myself. No, watching the film I was grateful to have just a little feeling of what it must have been like, a tiny idea of what it is to stand on the surface of another world. I have lived with the moon landing and the idea of space travel all my life. I don’t read much about Apollo, like I do about other historical events, but somehow it is part of me. I will never get to travel into outer space, and I am fine with that. But the film makers gave me the tiniest sense of what it might be like, and the sounds and images gelled with some of the flotsam / jetsam of my sub/un/conscious, so that I was lifted out of myself, and reminded of the awe and wonder that attached to so many things in my childhood. And I don’t think I can really ask for more than that, for the price of a cinema ticket.

My story, This Neil Armstrong is not dead, reflects part of my childhood preoccupation. The conversations with my father and grandfather are based on my memories. It is as close as I can come to poetry about this, or probably about anything.