Sam van Zweden




Readings’ Top 100


Readings bookstore has posted a list of its top 100 bestsellers from 2012.

As we all know, I’m a total sucker for a good list, and this time of year is absolutely rampant with them. Readings put a teaser up on Twitter before the post, asking what our guesses were for number one. My top two were Jamie’s 15-minute Meals, and Fifty Shades. Let me just say, thank God Readings sell slightly different to the fair bookstore that employs me, else we’d all be doomed.

It’s great to see such a wide range of genres covered by this list: from Andy Griffiths, to cookbooks and food guides, to trash fiction (sorry), to literature. Also great to see that not everything on this book was a new release. Films and “must-read” lists bring old books back into favour, to the point that they reach stores’ bestseller lists again. We’ve had a huge spike in sales of all the books listed in the First Tuesday Book Club’s 10 Aussie Books to Read Before You Die. “On The Road” appears in Readings’ list, after the film was released this year.

And the question we’re all bound to try to answer: how many of these books have I read?



Crazy Price

It’s difficult to keep up with all the many, many publication outlets for poetry, short stories and essays. This is why Black Inc’s “Best Australian…” (Stories, Essays and Poems) each year is so handy. There’s bound to be a bunch of stuff you’ve missed, that your net just doesn’t catch, and it’s great to work through these collections. Like all collections, there are always biases, and some of the same names pop up over and over, but they are pretty great.

This little #loveattack was prompted by this morning’s Christmas Bargain email from Readings – each day in the lead-up to Christmas, Readings are doing an online-only deal on a different book. Today’s is the set of all three “Best Australian…” books for $50. Even with my discount from work (25%), I can’t get them that cheap. So I’ve ordered mine, and would urge you to do the same.

Poetry to Pages

I’m not sure why this event was called “Poetry to Pages“… It should have been called “Poetry to Ears, Heart-Strings and Tear Ducts”, cuz that’s where it was going.

Whatever it was called, last night at Readings in Carlton, some lovely poetry reading went down.

The readers in question: Jordie Albiston, Josephine Rowe and Jennifer Harrison.

All of these ladies are quite accomplished Melbourne poets, but up until last night I’d only heard Josephine Rowe’s poetry.

Jordie Albiston read five sonnets from her The Sonnet According To ‘M’. Her poetry on a page is a lovely thing, and she herself has identified many of her “works as works for the voice”. However, listening to Jordie’s reading, I had to wonder if perhaps they were a little too much for the voice? Her poems are lovely-sounding and rhythmic, but Jordie’s performance of her pieces focussed so heavily on rhythm that I was unable to hear any words after a while, and only rhythm. Whether this is what Jordie intends is a question I’d love answered.

Josephine Rowe shared some short pieces of prose from her forthcoming novel, which feels a little like verse but I imagine will work well as an extended piece. She also shared some of her “love poems”, which she told the audience she’s trying to steer clear of lately… I wish she wouldn’t though; she does them so well! Josephine uses simple language in highly condensed, precise and confessional type pieces. It’s tight. Really tight. And she reads magnificently – it feels like she’s telling secrets meant only for your ears.

Last up was Jennifer Harrison. This lady has an absolutely impeccable ear for language. Usually I don’t like writing that talks about the land and connecting with it. I can appreciate a connection with the Earth, but so much of the writing on this subject is dry and trope-y. Jennifer Harrison does it masterfully though. She’s written about Uluru, about New Zealand, about being with nature and the outback and becoming one with it. And she’s done it in a really immediate way that puts you there. I’d never realised the lyrical possibilities of Maori words until last night. Jennifer’s poems also look at motherhood; another kind of ancient and essential connection, and she does this lyrically but not in an overly-flowery way.

Readings managed to bring together a really fantastic lineup of poets last night. This “Poetry to Pages” event will be happening on the second Monday of every month.

Literary crushes and excitement

I have had one particular literary crush for a long time.

On a writer, and on everything that comes out of her pen. Her laptop… Her mind.

Her name is Josephine Rowe. I saw her reading at the Emerging Writer’s festival 2009… She opened something up to me that I’d never known was there. Some writers are amazing readers, and Ms Rowe has it down pat.

She’s an amazing Melbournian poet. She writes small moments, she writes life-changing moments, she writes her own and she writes other people’s. And when you read them, you almost believe they’re yours.

So this evening when I came across a Readings event involving Josephine Rowe, I got very excited. The write-up is very vague, and indicates little to nothing about what the event actually is… But I’ll be there anyway.

If you want to discover the literary lovin’ that is Josephine Rowe, you should come along also.

Readings Carlton, 6.30pm on the 12th April.

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