Too much open at once

I seem to be finding it hard to finish books at the moment.

Right now I have open:

Bad Show: The Quiz, The Cough, The Millionaire Major

The Second Tree from the Corner

What is Intelligence? Beyond the Flynn Effect.

Eight Stories

Peter Pan’s First XI

Not to mention various elementary French books, with which I struggle on a daily basis.

No doubt books will be finished, reviews will come.


Littered with Books

We dropped in on Littered with Books in Singapore last year, after which I wrote this post and promptly left it in drafts.

If a real bookshop can survive in an increasingly unreal world, I don’t see why this won’t be the one. It’s bang in the trendy Duxton Hill area which means an educated population which likes to spend. The staff told me that the owners are a group of readers and that shows. The literature section is particularly strong. I came away with the latest Galgut and Tyler, and Frayn’s memoir of his father. I’d been hoping to find a book on Nonya cuisine, but a large cooking section was small on local.

They don’t have a website and discourage the taking of photos, but look around the web and you’ll see everybody loves them.

If you get a taxi in Singapore, where-ever YOU want to go, the driver is likely to tell you that he knows the best places to go shopping. Insist if you must. You want to go to Duxton Road. And not only will you get to see this lovely bookshop, but there are terrific cafes and restaurants in the area, including Nonya. This is a clear-cut win-win-win-win…win.

Science issues

Science research has been taking a lot of knocks lately, a recent example which would be hilarious if it was not so alarming, being the case of the randomly generated papers accepted by Springer journals.

Here is the original report: Springer and IEEE withdrawing more than 120 nonsense papers

And here is Springer’s response. Retraction Watch is not hard enough on Springer for this pathetic statement. Springer charges a fortune and makes a fortune from its academic publishing empire. It has some obligation to be competent. Publishing any number of randomly generated nonsense papers is incompetent.

My experience of Springer is limited to the following story. I was given proofs of two chapters of a book about to go to press, which I proofread as a favour. These were the just-before-publication proofs, in other words, ready to go, but do you see anything grossly wrong like your name mispelt on the contributors list, that sort of thing. After I finished the chapters in question and made a list of the errors to be fixed – dead set, a list, how is that possible at this stage of the publication process? – I started looking at some of the other chapters. The book as a whole was not in a publishable state, but one chapter in particular caught my eye. It looked like it had been written by a not very literate primary school student. I started making notes on the many corrections that needed to be made to this chapter (can’t help it, compulsive proofer). After showing it to a contributor to the book, he said that it would not be appreciated if I sent my work to the writer concerned, as she was the editor.

So this book went to press in a state which was completely unpublishable. A snip at $149 US as I write.

The uberfashion. The Proust.

Talking in my last post about how goodreads is driven by fashion, what could have been more uberfashionable last year than Proust. Boy, did the marketers have a field day selling the fans everything from a look at his bed to books they had to shell out hundreds for. Yes indeedy, if you weren’t buying Proust stuff and spending most of your time online talking about like how amazing he was, you just didn’t have a life.

All the more refreshing to be witness to this conversation yesterday at a nice little Italian place called The Mess Hall in Melbourne:

Manny: So has Australia been covered in Proust stuff this year too?

Sonia: No.

Manny: That’s amazing, in Europe it’s just like nothing but Proust.

Sonia: Well, I haven’t even heard of him. Maybe he’s just not that good a writer.

Yay for Australia.

Australian poetry

I’ve been rather neglecting this blog to write on the Pioneer Books’ blog, lately mainly about Australian poets, a fascinating subject!

Most recently this post on Caroline Carleton, but lots of others too. Please do go and take a look, because you are interested in Australian writers, or because you are interested in poetry or because you aren’t interested in poetry – maybe I can convince you to change your mind!

Happiness is….buying books!

I love my community. An important part of what makes it a community is small businesses in the form of shops. Here in Geneva, although the population is very small, there are lots of bookshops, antique shops, bric a brac shops, open air markets, butchers and other food shops, clothes shops. There are even half a dozen yarn shops, which I mention to show what a vibrant colourful community it is.

Fossicking at my local book market
Fossicking at my local book market

In Switzerland, the Anglo-Saxon mentality that we should have no shopping except online, with High Streets consisting of nothing but coffee shops, charity shops and supermarkets has not yet caught on – thank heavens! Nothing could be more boring that a street like Fitzroy St, St Kilda which has almost literally nothing on it but coffee shops, bars and restaurants. It used to have shops that interacted with the community: butchers, green grocers and so on. But apparently the locals would rather shop at huge supermarkets. They’d rather live in a world of Ikea, Amazon and coffee shops. NOT ME!

Being such an international community here in Geneva, it isn’t surprising that many bookshops have some English content. In particular for me, there is the open air book market on rue de Confederation which is is hard to walk by without picking something up. Most recently, on Friday, I bought a lovely old copy of Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood, a very early impression, the same year as the book was first published.

The next day we decided to go to Off The Shelf our specialist English bookshop and came back with some bargains. They often have a shelf or two of super-cheap books which naturally encourages experimentation. Apart from the latest Anne Tyler, these are all new to me. I’ve started with the Wells Tower for no particular reason. More on that when I’ve finished it.

Shopping at OffTheShelf in Geneva
Shopping at OffTheShelf in Geneva

So what did I spend my weekend doing? Reading, of course!