Why bother with books or bookshops?

This morning I decided I wanted to reread some of O.Henry’s short stories. I reached for my copy of his Complete Works and found it was heavy to hold. So heavy that I had to sit down with the hardcover copy I own because my hands were straining under its weight. As were my eyes because the print was so tiny it was uncomfortable to read. I usually have no problem with seeing normal print but this collection was impossible to enjoy.

So I went online to Amazon.com, downloaded “The Complete Works of O.Henry” for $1.99 to my Kindle electronic reader (E-Reader for short) and now I have no problems with the bothersome weight of hardcover books or microscopic fonts.

I am surprised by how I much I enjoy my Kindle because I’m not a naturally technical person. But I had to make the decision to give it a go when I found that the paperback edition of Dickens’ “Little Dorrit” was too awkward to manage. Holding it was a drag and turning the pages was cumbersome if you were trying to read in bed.

The Kindle is easy to use, easy to hold and can store a great number of books. Holding it in bed with one hand is a cinch, turning the pages is effortless and you can make the font as large or small as you wish. It is also marvellous for travelling or when you are sitting somewhere and waiting for an appointment.

I could go on forever about its virtues, but what I really want to say is that books cannot compete with the E-reader. No printing expenses, no transporting of books, no storage in bookshops and how about the price?

Books in Australia are ridiculously expensive and have always been dearer than overseas because of some arrangement with publishers. The end result of that arrangement is that the public has been ripped off for years. I used to go wild in the U.S and buy as many books as I could fit into my luggage because they were half the price that they cost in Australia.

Buying books online was the next step for me and I indulged in it. Did I want to support Australian publishers? Not for one minute, since they were quite prepared to charge us the Earth.

When E-Readers were introduced I did not rush out and buy one immediately. I thought about them for a while. Finally, I decided that the time had come to try one. And I haven’t been sorry. Now I can get all the famous literature for free because it’s out of copyright. I even pay for some books e.g “The Finkler Question” which won the Booker Prize this year. It cost $5.75. Wow!

There are several brands of E-Readers on the market and some have more features than the Kindle. I just happen to have chosen the Kindle for the time being. But even better E-Readers are coming and when they do I will not hesitate to invest in one. It’s still much cheaper then paying for the hard copy.

I imagine that the smaller I-Pad with illustrations and internet would be worth considering. At the moment the I-Pad is a bit too heavy, but if Apple can make it smaller and lighter as they have been suggesting I would be keen to get one.

Meanwhile, I will cuddle my Kindle in comfort.

Tony Curtis made me do a double take last week

Many of us remember how good looking and affable Tony Curtis was. He was a mega film star in his day and with his passing last week we lost another great from the Golden Years of Hollywood.

No matter how successful Curtis was he never forgot his humble Bronx roots and that was part of his charm.

I did a double take when I read that he was buried with a copy of “Anthony Adverse.” For some reason I got the notion that “Anthony Adverse” had been written by Henry Fielding, the Eighteenth Century novelist responsible for “Joseph Andrews” and “Tom Jones.”

Well, it did sound like the sort of thing that Fielding would have written. It could even have been the work of Samuel Richardson, perhaps. Imagine my surprise that Tony Curtis would have chosen to be buried with a copy of an English Eighteenth Century classic!

I was amazed and very impressed to have learned of this facet of Tony Curtis’s character. I mean, not only was Tony a hunk but he was also an intellectual! I practically swooned. He wasn’t just a pretty face.

I decided to google “Anthony Adverse”……….

The Ant and the Grasshopper and home insurance

It looks as if the insured bushfire victims who lost their homes will have to pay rent on temporary shelters provided by the government. They will have to pay from $40 to $100 per week (provided by their insurance policies). This rent will only be charged after a period of three months of living rent free. But those homeowners who were not insured will be bailed out by the government. So what would Aesop and La Fontaine have made of this situation? Continue reading

Tale of the Ancient Lobster or Free Lili

While watching the BBC news on TV this morning, we held the following conversation.

“I didn’t know that lobsters could live for 140 years.”

“Course they can’t. Where did you hear that?”

“On the BBC right now. The ticker tape thingy at the bottom said that one hundred and forty year old lobster was released from a restaurant in New York.”

“Can’t be true,” says husband. “What they mean is that 140 lobsters who were one year old were released.”

“How could 140 lobsters fit into a tank in a New York restaurant? Must have been some big tank, don’t you think? Besides, why would that make it into the news amidst Gaza conflict, earthquake in Costa Rica and quarrels over halted Gas supplies from Russia through the Ukraine?”

Further discussions along the lines of what I thought I had read and husband being adamant that I had got it wrong.

“OK then, let’s wait until the ticker tape comes around again and we’ll read it together this time.”

But you know how things are in life. Just as it was the turn of the lobster story again, some commercial break interrupted the news. So my husband got out of bed and looked up the BBC news site on the internet.

“Well?”

“Yep,” the husband confirmed. “Apparently, a restaurant in New York had this 140 year old lobster in its tank for two weeks and some animal rights activists petitioned to liberate it.”

“Good for them,” I beamed.

I never did like any animals to be in cages. I even hate the idea of circuses and zoos and don’t get me started on pet canaries in cages and dogs and cats in the confines of apartment buildings.

“So how did they know it was 140 years old?”

“They can tell by its weight.”

Husband tried to get back to reading his newspaper. Not for long though…

” Hmmm. Must be a guesstimation. Cause it can’t be like telling how old a tree is on account of the number of rings. Couldn’t this particular lobster be obese rather than old? I wonder why human beings shrink as they get very old then? And another thing, why do ticker tape announcements disappear just when you want to read them again?”

“Notes on a Scandal” by Zoë Heller- a review.

Popular travel writer and social commentator, Bill Bryson, said he had difficulty writing about Australia in his book “Downunder” because he likes this country. He said it was much easier to criticise than to praise. After you have said that something is good, that’s about it. As it turns out, Bryson’s admiration for Australia resulted in a book that was less humorous and certainly not as entertaining as his previous works.

In the same way that Bryson could not do his usual acerbic shtick in “Downunder”, I’m having trouble writing about “Notes on a Scandal”. I liked it too much to pick it to bits. Continue reading

The Truth about “Suite Française”

Last year I wrote a sceptical review of “Suite Française” by Irene Nemirovsky which was not well received by readers from Amazon.com. In it I questioned whether the novel had any value as an account of the Holocaust. I am sticking to my claim and now I have support from a new publication about Nemirovsky. So it is with some vindication and a feeling of “I told you so” that I am now posting the original review which sparked an outrage in some circles. Continue reading