Thursday, 3 April 2014

Notes from Eve Abbey ~ April 2014

Have you stumbled across archaeologist Neil Oliver talking about the Vikings on SBS? Well I’m sure you have because he is that nice man who often fronts up on Coast. But this is not about those rough Vikings marauding and killing but about the traders who journeyed, not only to Ireland and England but also down the Russian rivers to Constantinople! Very interesting. A friend spent some happy time browsing in Abbey’s recently and she happened to come home with Ibn Fadlan and the Darkness: Arab Travellers in the Far North.  It turns out in 922 AD Ibn Fadlan encountered Vikings on the Volga River and is one of several Arab travellers who left meticulous descriptions of these encounters. Do click on this title... as it is a Penguin Classic it is only $9.95. I was happy to see her arrive home with three very different books – the result of browsing. Checking the database is convenient and fairly quick but peeping inside the covers of books with intriguing titles is even more fun.

Ibn Fadlan and the Land of Darkness: Arab Travellers in the Far NorthPlain Tales from the Raj: Images of British India in the 20th CenturyKipling Sahib: India and the Making of Rudyard KiplingAshoka: The Search for India's Lost Emperor

My friend also brought home yet another book by Charles Allen, historian and travel writer, whose most famous book is Plain Tales from the Raj, which used to be read on ABC Radio. He also wrote the definitive biography Kipling Sahib. This latest one is called Ashoka: The Search for India's Lost Emperor. British Orientalists have spent many years researching old monuments to discover more about Ashoka who was the first ruler of all India, who transformed Buddhism from a minor sect to a World Religion only to be forgotten for two thousand years.

The Sea: A Cultural HistoryThe Sea and Civilization: A Maritime History of the World

Her third book was The Sea: A Cultural History by John Mack who uses history, maritime archaeology, art history, biography and excepts from famous writers. He is fascinated by all aspects of the society of the sea – how seamen behave differently ashore, use different words for the same things, how the sea changes and what it means to us. (Ed: See also The Sea and Civilization: A Maritime History of the World by Lincoln Paine)

My friend lives in the country and does use the internet but she counts a visit to Abbeys as one of the highlights in any trip to town.

War Popular Penguins

Popular Penguins at $9.95 each have been a huge success – for everyone. It is so good to see certain backlist titles racing to the fore again and you certainly can’t complain that books are too expensive. Another new series is now coming out featuring military stories. They will have a khaki cover and most of the authors are Australian. The titles are Anzac to Amiens by C.E.W,.Bean, An Anzac’s Story by Roy Kyle, Patsy Adam-Smith’s The Anzacs, Australia in Arms by Phillip Schuler, Flesh in Armour by Leonard Mann, Generals Die in Bed by Charles Yale Harrison, Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves, The Middle Parts of Fortune by Frederic Manning, Storm of Steel by Ernst Junger and The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry edited by George Walter. War Popular Penguins are all only $9.95.

The LuminariesTracks

On the Trail of Genghis Khan: An Epic Journey Through the Land of the Nomads

I have finally finished reading Eleanor Catton’s book The Luminaries which won the 2013 Man-Booker Prize. 832 pages means I don’t rush into it but this has proved to be a book well worth the time and one ready to be read again soon after. Enjoy the language as well as the story, which as you may know is set on the wild west coast of New Zealand’s South Island during the Gold Rushes of the 1850’s. There is a most interesting review of this book by Julian Novitz in the Sydney Review of Books. Did you realise that each succeeding chapter is half the size of the previous chapter? I'd noticed this and wondered if the author was running out of steam or had simply realised that people like to get to the end!

It was a matter of coincidence that I have read the film-tie in edition of Robyn Davidson’s Tracks and Tim Cope’s On the Trail of Genghis Khan: An Epic Journey Through The Land of the Nomads. Two entirely different books: one very slender and one very thick, but both classic travel writing from a young Australian. Both highly recommended. I suspect I had not read Tracks previously but I have sold so many copies over the years I had begun to think I had read it!

Some nice recent news includes awards for Frank Moorhouse for Lifetime Achievement in Literature and the Patrick White Award to Louis Nowra for significant but inadequately recognised contribution to Australian literature. Bravo. Well deserved.

Keep well.


Buy these books at Abbey's (131 York Street Sydney) ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

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