Friday, May 27, 2011

Worksheet #73, or Slipping back into old habits

Before heading to Auckland and Sydney I spent two weeks taking photos of birds from my deck and along the road I live on.  No moa sightings; in fact, nothing too out of the ordinary, but I'm developing a thing for the most vanilla birds: sparrows and seagulls (especially big, Dominican Gulls).

I've finally gotten ahold of Warren Zevon's first album, Wanted Dead or Alive (1969). It was a commercial and critical flop and he didn't release another album until 1976 (the fantastic Warren Zevon, featuring such tracks as 'Poor Poor Pitiful Me', 'French Inhaler' and 'Desperadoes Under the Eaves').

Wanted Dead or Alive certainly doesn't have any 'Desperadoes', but the first two tracks are pretty great. Definitely worthy of a place in the canon. Track 1, 'Wanted Dead or Alive' even features the trademark Zevon 'Ooough!' (or however you spell that grunt-yelp). Track 2, 'Hitchhikin' Woman' sounds a bit like latter day Dave Wyndorf, which is a good thing, I think.  Not sure about Zevon's cover of 'Iko Iko' at track 5.

Three sparrows
Oh (he says, trying to sound off hand), there's a new review of A Man Melting, this time in the fantastic, globally-focussed, globally-reaching The Short Review. Angela Readman's review is very kind. It includes phrases like, "The book encapsulates what the best short story should do," and "There are stories here I’ll simply never forget." Aw, shucks.

A fantail in flight
There's also an interview with me over at The Short Review.  A shout out to the fantastic Tania Hershman, the founder of TSR and a great short story writer in her own right. Look out for one of Tania's stories in the forthcoming Slightly Pecular Love Stories from Rosa Mira Books.  (I also have a very short story in the book called 'Statues'.)

Shag and oystercatcher at the end of Houghton Bay Road.
I got my tree-geek on in Australia, but unfortunately Aussie book publicists aren't that big on botanical knowledge. Outside the Riverside Theatre I spied what looked like four ti kouka/cabbage trees. I went to inspect and they looked just like the ones back home. When I asked my local 'guide' what they called these trees in Australia, he said they were pandanus palms. Really? I didn't know for sure at the time. There are a whole bunch of Australian plants I've only really heard mentioned in Tim Winton novels (karri trees, jarrah, spinifex). But I just looked up pandanus online and those trees definitely weren't that and definitely were Cordyline australis.

Tui in the taupata behind our clothesline
Okay, I've now finished listening to Wanted Dead or Alive and there were some more spacerock moments (track 9, 'Gorilla' for instance). Some weak songwriting (relatively speaking) and a bit over-produced country in some parts ('Tule's Blues' is whack compared to the demo on 'Preludes'), but definitely an album I'll listen to in certain moods.

Young gull and Bluebridge ferry
Actually, I'm listening to it a second time right now!

Sparrow eating toetoe
I've been meaning and meaning and meaning to do some kind of a catch-up reading post as I haven't done anything like that since January. 2011 where have you gone?  (Come back, you've been so good to me so far).

A couple of things I've read/listened to recently: Endurance by Ernest Shackleton (audiobook), Fahrenheit 451 by Malcolm Bradbury (audiobook), lots of poetry (Airini Beautrais, Saradha Koirala, Ian Wedde, 99 Ways Into NZ Poetry), The Long and The Short of It and Sport 39. It's about time to dive back into a big fat novel I think... though I should be diving into the writing of my own.

Speaking of readings, I've now read from 14 of the 18 stories in A Man Melting.  I'm committed to reading from 'Oh! So Careless' (and Owen Marshall's 'Don't Blame Yourself At All') when I talk to Massey first-year creative writing students in September, so that's 15/18. I'm also going to talk to the Short Fiction workshop up at Vic this coming Monday and will try and read to them from one of 'Seeds', 'Another Language' or 'Give Me Bread and Call Me Stupid'. I'm also guest speaker at Fiona Kidman's writing group and I'll be appearing at Melbourne (25-29 Aug) and Going West (10-11 Sept) writers festivals, so I'll more than certainly knock all eighteen off before summer.

Which poses the question: am I allowed to read from new stuff yet?  I'd quite like to read from '30 Ways of Looking at Marumaru South' and 'My Yale and My Harvard' when they are still relatively fresh in my memory...
Kingfisher on powerlines

No comments: