Thursday, 28 May 2009

return of serve

It's been the worst part of a year
Since you turned a cartwheel in here

It had just ticked over 6 months, I reckon, since I had played tennis. That reckoning is based on a small sticker left in my tennis bag from a restring I had last year, deposited in May and picked up six months later in November.

Anyway, I got the call to fill in with Gav & Dave's fixtures team, so I wandered along to see if I still knew how to hit a forehand. I didn't, and sprayed them all over, but I will never forget how to serve, and that alone earnt me a couple of games in an otherwise undignified but I suppose not disgraceful 6-2 singles defeat. I found a little more touch in the doubles, and we scraped home 6-5, salvaging a little bit of my pride, albeit not enough to get the team a win on the night.

I do miss tennis - its something at which I have the potential to be quite good, and the improvements that suggest themselves are not physical, but mental (much like golf). I play stupid, and playing smarter is something not hindered by the progression of time, which is reassuring.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009


Yesterday afternoon, on a bus-stop bench across the road from the dentist, I finished reading my third novel of the year: Cloudstreet, by Tim Winton. It was comfortably the best of the three.

Set in Australia during the 1950s, Cloudstreet revolves around two starkly different families that share a house in suburban western Australia, and the evolution of the families as their children grow to adulthood. The story ambles along and I guess explores the influences that different family members have on each other - mother on daughter, wife on husband, husband on wife, brother on brother - and the influence that each family has on the other. At the same time, though, it is an exploration of the times, and the changing of the times, I suppose, which is carried as much by the general flow of the storytelling as in the story itself. The writing is a strange mix of Steinbeck's gentle imitation of working class accents and lifestyles (although without the former's depth of feeling or insight), and something more lyrical, at times toeing the line of pretentiousness but without, in my opinion, crossing it. The rhythm of the story is at times uneven - the ending, or perhaps dénouément, feels somewhat peremptory and even unnecessary in my view - but in many ways it is the rhythm of the writing that wis more important, and this is generally strong and even throughout the book.

Having finished Cloudstreet, I'm now returning to FreeDarko Presents The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac, which I began after buying it for myself at Christmas, but which lends itself well to sporadic reading. Also, from today, I resume with the knowledge that it will at some point be followed by a sequel (or perhaps more accurately a prequel).

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

The Greatest Band I Ever Knew

Music won't be the same for me. From their world-famous website, their mailing list, and in the gaunt undertones of the curlew's plaintive wail, comes news of the Lucksmiths:
There's no easy way to put this, so please accept our apologies for the seemingly abrupt nature of this post. We are saddened to announce that after sixteen years as The Lucksmiths, the band has decided to break up.
Their music was so full of melancholy nostagia for loves lost, but looking through them for something to quote on their own demise would be just too bittersweet.

Their last Brisbane concert is in August.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

reading to achieve

I finished a novel last week, and it was kind of special. For the first time, I managed to get through a complete novel in french, after having tried and failed a couple of times previously (Le Comte de Monte Cristo, and Le Peuple Turquoise).

The book was Le Lion, by Joseph Kessel. The story, narrated by a frenchman visiting a wildlife park in east Africa, deals with a young girl and her relationships with her father, mother and a lion that they adopted as a cub. At times I felt like it got a bit pretentious in its descriptions of things, and I really didn't like the mother character, although whether that was intended or not I cannot say. The plot, though, was interesting, and the ending was handled fairly well, albeit perhaps a little brusquely.

I read the book somewhat assiduously, taking a lot of time to read every word and spending a lot of time looking up words in the dictionary. The vocabulary was unfamiliar - I had very little occasion to discuss lions' manes or overalls or watering holes with my friends in Rennes. Also, books in french are written in the simple past tense (passé simple), which I have never studied. I was easily able to pick the roots of verbs, so the passé simple wasn't really a problem, but the vocabulary made the going very slow, and the anticipation of that slowness made it difficult to pick the book up, the main cause of the many months it took me to finish.

In hindsight, I'm very proud that I got through the book, and I did enjoy reading it, but I probably take more pleasure from the sense of achievement than I did from the reading. I certainly didn't enjoy it as much as I enjoy reading in English, where I read considerably faster and better appreciate the art of the wordsmithing. I will go back and read french again, but not for a little while.

Next on my reading list is Cloudstreet, by Tim Winton, and also some more from FreeDarko presents the Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac.