Monday, December 23, 2013

Learning is for Life

More is experienced in one day in the life of a learned man than in the whole lifetime of an ignorant man.


A learned person draws on a storehouse of knowledge both old and new. A learned person is one who has an education within and between fields of endeavour. Everything you learn is a facet of the whole and contributes to a balanced view of the universe.


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Monday, October 7, 2013

A new set of books

I have just stumbled across the MP5 series by M H Sargent. There are six books in the series and they are all fast paced and enjoyable to read. Over the series you really get to know the main characters: Gonz, Heisman, MacKay and Peterson. De Groot is a new addition in Books 5 and 6.

The books are based in Afghanistan, a number of Arabic countries and in Mexico and the US. Sargent portrays the people in these countries in a balanced way that is often missing in other books of this genre.

I won't spoil the books by giving any plot outlines but I certainly recommend the series, all of which are available for the Kindle.



Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Another language, another literature

One advantage of learning a new language is that it opens up a new literature to enjoy. I am now living in Qatar and learning Arabic. This is providing me with the opportunity to read Arabic books. I am at a very basic level currently but with perseverance I should be able to unlock some of the beauties of Arabic literature. This is not the first new language I have learned but I still have the brain ache from exercising my tongue and brain with an unfamiliar alphabet and vocab. Still I put it down to lifelong learning and I'm enjoying my new language. Practice makes perfect.

As one of the philosophers said, "He who has another language has another mind". I attribute this quote to the veritable Anon. but if anyone knows who this quote should be attributed to please let me know.


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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Reading: the Joys of Familiarity and Surprise

There are two wonderful joys in reading. The first is the joy of familiarity and the second the joy of surprise.

The Joy of Familiarity

I love to reread certain books because they are like old friends. Pride and Prejudice is one such old friend. I have read this book a number of times but I still get a real buzz from reading the familiar. Elizabeth Bennett and Darcy are old friends.

The Joy of Surprise

Much as I like reading old favorites, I also like getting surprised in my reading. I was recently given a recommendation to read a book by Jasper Fforde called the Eyre Affair. This book really took me by surprise with its quirky approach and dystopian vision. The idea of entering into a book and interacting with the characters and its final form was not something that I had thought of before. There is a surprise at every turn. I am now onto my third Fforde book.

Drop me a comment on your familiar books or surprise reads.

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I am with Jane Austen on this one

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”

― Jane Austen

Being one of those trivial personages who enjoys novels, I have to agree with Janes sentiments. A good novel brings much pleasure to the reader who engages. Non fiction is informative, but the novel illuminates human nature.


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Monday, April 22, 2013

A Tribute to Andrew Carnegie - Libraries

Andrew Carnegie a well known American (born in Scotland) tycoon was also a philanthropist of note. While not many remember his role with relation to steel, many still treasure his contribution to the dissemination of knowledge through his funding of the establishment of hundreds of libraries worldwide.

I for one, applaud this generosity of spirit, from someone who had no need to do so.

A Carnegie library is a library built with money donated by Scottish-American businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

2,509 Carnegie libraries were built between 1883 and 1929, including some belonging to public and university library systems. 1,689 were built in the United States, 660 in Britain and Ireland, 125 in Canada, and others in Australia, New Zealand, Serbia, the Caribbean, Mauritius and Fiji.

Few towns that requested a grant and agreed to his terms were refused. When the last grant was made in 1919, there were 3,500 libraries in the United States, nearly half of them built with construction grants paid by Carnegie.

This is a truly amazing educational legacy.


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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Roger Darnton on The Republic of Letters

All of us are citizens in a republic much larger than the Republic of America. It is the Republic of Letters, a realm of the mind that extends everywhere, without police, national boundaries, or disciplinary frontiers. From the age of the Enlightenment it was open to all; but only a few could exercise their citizenship, for only a minority could read or afford to buy books.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Fun Suggestion to use when Throwing books out

I hate discarding books, it is like breaking up with an old friend. Still the inevitable has to be done if you are space constrained, and all book lovers reach a constraint some time. To slave the help try this trick I found in one of my ambles through an online course. Make a poem consisting of the first or last sentences of the books you are throwing away. By doing this you retain some of their DNA and have a record of past friends. I know it sounds strange, but it is fun. Give it a try next time you have to downsize your book collection.


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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Technology as an Aid to Literary Research

I have a keen interest in the works of Virginia Woolf. Woolf was a prolific writer. I have found that technology in the form of within text seraches and collation opens many veins of information and avenues for new research.

Whenever I add to my blog on Woolf, titled Virginia Woolf - Radical Writer, I am careful to use tags that I can later collate. The latest avenue I am exploring is looking at Woolf's mood in different months over her writing lifetime.

I have got the raw data for this from my reading over the years and the use of a month and year tag for relevant diary and letter entries. It is then just a matter of extracting the relevant entries and analysing the content.

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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Illuminating Information - Doug Draime

Doug Draime is counted as one of the Outlaw Poets. Illuminating Information is part of a poem called Six Poems.

Illuminating Information

They talked about “art” as
if it was some
perfect glistening
thing like a diamond
after the mining
and cleaning

I swept the floor
as they talked
I took out the trash
washed the dirty glasses

“Art” without the blood
and torment
Mickey Mouse
without the mouse

After they left I
cleaned the ashtrays
scrubbed the toilet
waxed the floor
did what I had to do.

“Art” had nothing
to do with their lives
“art” was a good movie
a concert in the park
created and performed
by people with masters degrees
and winter homes
in Arizona.

I clocked out
bought a couple beers
and went home
tomorrow was another day
of illuminating information

This poetic fragment illustrates, through Draime, the attitude of the outlaws to "Art" as performed by those with Masters degrees i.e academic and comfortable art.

Draime is waiting tables to pay for his artistic pursuits, far removed from grants, teaching scholarships and patronage.

Real poetry is ever thus. Raw poetry comes from raw circumstances.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Children as Readers

Children have a layered relationship with words..., they enjoy them on an aural/oral and visual level as much as for meaning, and sometimes they live happily with a word on an aural level - without knowing its meaning.

Kate de Goldi

The thought of a layered relationship with words excites me, even as an older adult. I too, enjoy the sound and look of some words, without the need to understand them. The Jabberwocky, a poem by Lewis Carroll, springs to mind here. Nonsensical at the level of meaning but with a rich texture at the aural and visual levels.

Once again we are led by the little children.

As a converse, reading some of the post-modern literary critics there is no enjoyment at any level and sometimes it appears to be a literary and academic attempt at a Jabberwocky stripped of meaning, charm or fun.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Lunch Time Poems - an Experiment

I have only recently been exposed to the poems of Frank O'Hara. In particular I was drawn to one of his lunchtime poems titled, "The Day Lady Died", which is about his reactions to the death of Billie Halliday.

I purchased his book, "Lunchtime Poems", but have not got far. So today it got packed in with my lunch and I will read one poem a day. I suspect that this may lead me to write a series of lunchtime poems based on my own observations. Isn't derivation grand.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Books about Books

It is surprising that today we see so many books being written about other books. While from time to time these secondary source books are important they do not as a matter of course add anything to readers and students.

I was trained to work with primary sources and to put in the effort to understand them. I would rather struggle with a primary source written by the author than get my information second hand as it were.

Many books are hard to read and take due attention to detail. Expend your energy at the source not at the pool of surmise and opinion.

So read the book, not the book about the book. I was lucky to have got my undergraduate degree at an institution that truly wanted us to do this. For many students, I realise, this is not always possible, because at many universities, Prof X and Dr Y want you to reference their own erudite works.

I had a most informative seminar when I was a postgrad student where the primary author, the source, was present and kindly punctured the egos of several academics who had been pontificating about what he, the author, really meant in his works. Very entertaining as well, it is not often that you get to witness such literary evisceration.

Go on, read the source, you know that is the right, even if the hardest, thing to do.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Librarians are Great Company

My thesis that librarians are wonderful people was confirmed again today. I had called a meeting and only one other person turned up. We had a great chat and I found out that she had been a librarian and had an MA (Hons) in History. I shared with her about a librarian friend of mine who became a programmer and who worked with me on a number of international projects. He is the best programmer that I have ever worked with, and he told me that it was his library training that gave him his edge.

My first love in life was a librarian. I was 5 and she was probably in her 30's but she fostered my love of books.

It is unusual and wonderful to talk to intelligent and literate people. I am yet to find an illiterate librarian :)

So 3 cheers for Librarians.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Taster - 18 Business Leaders who are or were Avid Readers

This is just a taster for a wonderful article that can be accessed here.

"Some of the world’s greatest leaders are also among the world’s most avid readers, and we’re certain that it’s no coincidence. Whether you’re reading business books or history novels, reading offers great opportunities for learning and perspective that can build a foundation for greatness. We’re inspired by these 18 business leaders who have a deep love of books, and we’re sure that their passion for literature and reading has a lot to do with their success in business."

In the article there is good information under every name.

1. Oprah

2. Steve Jobs

3. William Randolph Hearst

4. Phil Knight

5. Martin Scorsese

6. Sidney Harman

7. J.P. Morgan

8. Michael Moritz

9. David Leach

10. Michael Milken

11. Shelly Lazarus

12. Jay Walker

13. Dee Hock

14. David Rubenstein

15. Karl Lagerfeld

16. Bill Gates

17. George Lucas

18. George Peabody


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Friday, February 1, 2013

Writing from the Cathedrals of the Imagination

"Writing a novel is not merely going in a shopping expedition across the border to an unreal land: it is hours and years spent in the factories, the streets, the cathedrals of the imagination."
Janet Frame

What a great thought. The imagery of the cathedrals of the imagination is very evocative. Frame, in fact, spent many years living in her imaginary world.

Styron on the Reading Experience

As Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Styron put it: “A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading.”

I have had the exhausted feeling after reading a number of books. I enjoy the vicarious living and experiences that good books give.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Book Lovers what is your Google Plus ranking?

I have just found a site that allows you to see where you rank on Google Plus (Google+). For your information I am only 83040 places below Lady GaGa who is at the top.

Go to Social Statistics to get your ranking then post it the comments section. How popular are you really?

I am working to get below 80,000th.



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Monday, January 28, 2013

The Inner Child as Writer

In both my fiction and my poetry, a huge amount comes simply from observation. And observation comes from being interested. That starts when you're a child. It's the escape - the relief - from the ego.

C. K. Stead

The child as observer being the father/mother of the writer is an interesting one. I agree that observation and interest are crucial for good writing, especially for poetry. Keeping the child's curious view of the world is a wonderful gift for the adult and young adult writer. Such observation and interest are certainly seen in Stead's writings.


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Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Wonder of Reading

It is a wonderful gift to be able to read. It is something that we take for granted. Two things I read recently made me pause for thought.

1. I was reading a book by Leslie Stephen (father of Virginia Woolf) about 18th century literature where he points out that the vast majority of the readers were in London and they were an elite. Illiteracy was rife, not only London, all across England. So literacy as we know it is a relatively recent phenomenon. Even today most of the world's population is illiterate.

2. I was also reading another book on writers sharing their experiences of reading. The writer in question mentioned the influences from his reading and I had not heard of even one of the writers he mentioned!! This did not worry me unduly, but it does show that even with avid readers the points of intersection can be minimal or in this case, non-existent.

So we don't have a lot of readers and we have a literature that is so large that we can read all of our lives and still not intersect with what others are reading.

I have great hope that online education and outreach to illiterate areas will decrease illiteracy over time, but the second point about the volume of works will only increase. Writers are readers and more readers means more writers and thus more books written.

Not profound but interesting observations to me.


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Friday, January 25, 2013

A Tool for Bloggers

If like most of us bloggers you are looking for more eyes to your blog try this new tool called BlogClicker. You view others blogs and in return others visit your blog.

Join Here if you are interested in getting more blogs viewers.


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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Some Wisdom from Dr Seuss

“The more that you read, the more things you will know.
The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
- Dr. Seuss

As the good doctor says reading helps you to know and knowing fuels a curiosity and lust for travel. I have been lucky to work all over the world and in each place I have worked I have picked up fresh perspectives and new book choices.

Read, learn and travel.


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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Book Recommendation - 50 shades of Chicken

It is great to see the cooks hopping onto the 50 Shades bandwagon. Who said that derivative literature was dead.

Try out some of these daring chicken recipes.

Puts a whole new perspective on binding and trussing.


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Monday, January 21, 2013

The Solid Mandala

I have just started reading books by an Australian novelist called Patrick White. He is a recent discovery prompted by someone asking why New Zealanders don't read the literature of our closest neighbour.

The Solid Manadala tells the story of two brothers, Waldo and Arthur Brown, and the mutually dependent butantagonistic relationship they share: Waldo is cold and supremely rational in his behaviour while Arthur is warm-hearted and instinctual, so that together they represent what White saw as the two conflicting and complementary halves of human nature.Although Arthur would be considered by most in society as slightly "retarded", by the end of the novel he is shown to have a better grip on life than the conventional Waldo.

This is not a novel for those who love fast pace, but it is insightful about human nature and what goes on in our minds.


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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Letter Writing a disappearing genre?

I enjoy reading collections of letters, especially between literary personages. Currently I am reading the letters of Patrick White (Australian writer) and those of Philp Larkin (UK Poet/librarian).

With the widespread use of email these days it appears that the age of the letter is in decline. eMail is no substitute as by its nature it tends to lead itself to short messages. Maybe the pressured lifestyle we live in the 2010's mitigates against the leisure needed to write meaty letters.

Maybe the blogpost with associated comments will take the place of the letter.

I am as guilty as anyone as I have not written a physical letter for some years.

Should we revive this custom of letter writing or move on?


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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Another Hesketh Pearson Quote

Misquotations are the only quotations that are never misquoted.

Hesketh Pearson

I have been having some discussion today with Paul Pindris about another quote of Pearsons which I covered in this blog titled Book Quote: 25 May 2009.

The Saturday Night Read

It's Saturday night here in New Zealand and I'm just doing some reading. Mainly blog posts. The good thing is that no matter how obscure your interest is, you will find a band of people who share it. The Internet is a great tool for bringing like minded folks together.

I'm also reading poetry, one of my favorite occupations. The main poets I'm reading currently are Robert Frost, John Ashbery and Ted Hughes. I love purchasing the Collected works of poets and dipping in and out for enjoyment and inspiration. AS a poet I find that my craft is improved by exposure to the works of others. Check out my blog The MBS Poet for my writings and thoughts on Poetry in general.

I am also reading the letters of Patrick White, an Australian writer and Librarian poet, Philip Larkin. Two sets of letters from two different word crafters. White was predominantly a novelist, and Larkin a poet though he did publish two novels and some collections of shorter works.


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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Cat Connor - Thriller writer

I have just discovered a NZ author called Cat Connor. Her books are excellent and mix computers, poetry, the FBI, love, life and serial killers. The books are fast paced full of surprises.

The herone, main character is a Senior Special Agent in the FBI and over the books we follow her progress.

Gripping and compulsive reading.

Some of her books are:







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Proust on Aristocracy

For aristocracy is a relative thing. And there are plenty of out-of-the-way places where the son of an upholsterer is an arbiter of fashion and reigns over a court like any young Prince of Wales.

In Search of Lost Time Volume II - Within a Budding Grove, p 520 (The Modern Library Classics).

Monday, January 14, 2013

Love in the Library - the great book affair

"Libraries are where most of us really fall in love with books, where we can browse and choose on our own. It's really one of the first autonomous things we do, picking the books we want to read."

Kim Boykin

I still remember the amazement of seeing my first public library. It was not vast but to a seven year old it was a veritable treasure trove. I fell in love with the librarian that day as well. 50 years later I am still a voracious reader - Thanks Miss Arnold.


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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Focused versus Scattered Readers

In my experience there are two groups of readers: Focused readers and Scattered readers.

Focused readers read only one book at a time and curb the temptation to be led way by other books that might enter their reading orbit.

Scattered readers have may books on the go at any one time. I am definitely such a reader and have upwards of 20 books on the go at any one time. I do 10-15 minutes per book and then change out.

People ask me how I can do this and still remember and follow plots and characters. My answer is that I have a trained, segmented mind. In my profession I have directed many concurrent projects and programs and this required the ability to multitask and quick switch.

I have tried focused reading but it hurts my brain...


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