Mount Buggery to Nowhere Else: A “Five Things I’ve Learned” Review…

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If you are the kind of person who likes to laugh at bum jokes, double entendres and words that sound silly when you say them, then consider today a red-letter day.  Mount Buggery to Nowhere Else: The Story Behind Australia’s Weird and Wonderful Place Names by Eamon Evans, and kindly provided to us for review by Hachette Australia, is chockers with ridiculously named localities.  Even better than that is the thought that people actually have to live in these places, write these ridiculous names on official forms and adopt a sudden whisper when innocently asked, “So where are you from?”

Before I go much further, let’s see the blurb from Goodreads:

The stories behind Australia’s many, many strange, inappropriate and downright hilarious place names.

From Dismal Swamp to Useless Loop, Intercourse Island to Dead Mans Gully, Mount Buggery to Nowhere Else, Australia has some of the strangest, funniest, weirdest and most out-of-place names going – now described and explained in one humorous and fascinating book.

Australia’s vast spaces and irreverent, larrikin history have given us some of the best place names in the world. Ranging from the less than positive (Linger and Die Hill, NSW), to the indelicate (Scented Knob, WA), the idiotic (Eggs and Bacon Bay, TAS) to the inappropriate and the just plain fascinating, Mount Buggery To Nowhere Else is a toponymical journey through this nation of weird and wonderful places.

mount-buggery-to-nowhere-else

And here are Five Things I’ve Learned From Mount Buggery to Nowhere Else by Eamon Evans:

1. If you can think of a phrase containing juvenile sexual innuendo, chances are somewhere in Australia bears its name

2. Accomplished sailor he may have been, but possessed of an imagination, wherein the naming of landmarks is concerned, Captain Cook was not.

3.   Except for one instance in which the English name-bestower chose to commemorate having had a pleasant chat with Australia’s original inhabitants, not only were Australia’s indigenous people subjected to displacement and continual violence, they also had to suffer the indignity of such violence being commemorated in various place names. (Poisoned Waterhole Creek, I’m looking at you)

4. A remarkable number of places in this great land have been named for lost or deceased livestock.

5. Whether referring to door handles or hilly outcrops, one can’t help but giggle at the word “knob”.

Who would have thought Australia would have so many silly and surprising place names that a book could be written on the topic?  Well, everyone, actually.  It’s pretty common knowledge, I should think, that our great southern land is peppered with various knobs, titties and dancing dicks. Actually, I’m pretty sure there’s only one of the latter.  But if you thought that the only silliness in Australian place names involved jokes about body parts, then you will be pleased to know that imbecilic naming styles stretch far beyond such base, juvenile humour.

Take Bogan Gate in New South Wales, for instance.  If you are from the northern hemisphere, and have no idea why this name is funny, Google has this definition to enlighten you:

bogan1

ˈbəʊɡ(ə)n/
noun

AUSTRALIAN/NZ informal derogatory
  1. an uncouth or unsophisticated person, regarded as being of low social status.
    “some bogans yelled at us from their cars”

And to help you out further, here is a picture of one:

And by God, don’t we all wish we had a gate to keep her out.

Then there’s Little Donkey Woman Swamp and Tom Ugly’s Point, both of which, I hope, aren’t just false advertising.  I also wonder whether the residents of Beardy Plains, and the associated Beardy Hill and Beardy River have considered making some cash off the back of the hipster trend.  My absolute favourite though, has to be Linger and Die Hill in New South Wales.  It’s just such an evocative name.  And at least, if the worst happens, the locals can always say, “Well don’t say we didn’t warn you!”

The book is divided into chapters based around each state and territory, with place names listed in alphabetical order.  I read the book from front to back, which, by the end, became a bit of a struggle, so I would suggest flicking back and forth as takes your fancy, or to hone in on one state or territory at a time.  Similarly, there are a bunch of places with ordinary sounding names like Macquarie and Churchill, and in many cases, the stories behind their naming are equally unexciting.

For some of the place names, the origin of the name is unknown or has little, if anything, to do with the way the name sounds which can be a tad disappointing.  While it was quite interesting to know that Beauty Point is actually named after a cow named Beauty, and not the stunning natural features of the area, it was less fascinating to know that Smellie Inlet is just named after a bloke whose surname was Smellie.

A couple of the stories seem downright dubious, to be honest.  The naming of Adavale to commemorate the fact that a lady named Ada once lost her veil nearby reeks of the old bull’s leavings for instance.

Overall though, this is a fun, sometimes shocking, sometimes disheartening but mostly quite amusing foray into Australian place names as well as Australian history.

Here’s a quick test though, to see if you are the right type of reader for this book.

Tittybong.

Governor’s Knob

Hat Head

Mount Meharry

Did you laugh at any of the above?

What about smirk?

Titter?

Then this book is for you.

Excuse me while I go giggle into my cup of tea over Mount Meharry.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

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The Bone Sparrow: 100 Books Coming Your Way This Book Week! #read4refugees #openbooksopenminds

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bone sparrow 1

It’s Children’s Book Week here in Australia and I have an beautiful, timely and confronting book to present to you today, as well as an invitation to join in with those using their voices to speak on behalf of those who are being silenced.  The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon highlights the shocking mistreatment and abuse of asylum seekers and refugees who have arrived in Australia by boat and are currently incarcerated in indefinite offshore detention.  The story, though difficult to read at times, is aimed at the 9-12 year old age bracket and sensitively brings to the fore the plight of these forgotten people.  This Book Week, we on the Shelf aim to speak our opposition to successive Australian Governments’ abuse of these individuals’ human rights.  But more of that in a minute.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

 Sometimes, at night, the dirt outside turns into a beautiful ocean. As red as the sun and as deep as the sky. I lie in my bed, Queeny’s feet pushing up against my cheek, and listen to the waves lapping at the tent.

Subhi is a refugee. Born in an Australian permanent detention centre after his mother fled the violence of a distant homeland, life behind the fences is all he has ever known. But as he grows, his imagination gets bigger too, until it is bursting at the limits of his world. The night sea brings him gifts, the faraway whales sing to him, and the birds tell their stories.

The most vivid story of all, however, is the one that arrives one night in the form of Jimmie, a scruffy, impatient girl who appears from the other side of the wires, and brings a notebook written by the mother she lost. Unable to read it, she relies on Subhi to unravel her own family’s love songs and tragedies.

Subhi and Jimmie might both find a way to freedom, as their tales unfold. But not until each of them has been braver than ever before.

In 2002, veteran Australian children’s author Morris Gleitzman published the Boy Overboard/Girl Underground duology, that dealt directly with Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers, with reference to the Tampa incident and then-Prime Minister John Howard’s seminal “We Will Decide” speech that swept his government back into power on the back of fabricated stories designed to villify those seeking our help.  Fourteen years on, and if anything, Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers has become far worse.

It is in this political and humanitarian climate that we find Subhi, innocent victim one country’s irrational fear of difference, and pawn in a sick political race to the bottom on human rights.  Fraillon has done a remarkable job of writing Subhi as an authentic young boy, full of ideas, arguments with his sister, hopes for his future and a taste for adventure.  The other young characters in the camp – Eli and Queeny – are complex and encapsulate the fight between growth and stagnation that is going on for these young teens who, in any other circumstance, would be testing their boundaries, experimenting with identity and making plans for their futures.  The “Jackets” or security staff at Subhi’s camp are also a varied bunch, with even the good guys demonstrating divided loyalties and the natural desire to protect themselves from recrimination.

Suffused into the tale, and reflected in the form of stories from a book owned by Jimmie, is a sense of hope: that despite the overwhelming evidence that these people are invisible and forgotten, Someday they will be free.

This is meant to be a children’s book – a children’s book about difficult and important topics, certainly, but a children’s book.

But stuff that.

If you are an adult above voting age, read this book.

If you are a teen with a thirst for information and a desire to know what’s going on outside your social bubble, read this book.

If you are a person with any sense of common decency, read this book.

If you are an Australian, read this damn book.

Then pass it on to your mates and make them read it.

And to the Australian government: for fuck’s sake, close the bloody camps.

An Invitation For Children’s Book Week

We shelf denizens are proud to say we do not sit on the fence when the abuse of human rights are concerned and for that reason we are inviting you to be part of a super fun and cheeky mission in your local area this book week, August 20-26th.

Mums 4 Refugees, a grassroots advocacy and support group made up entirely of ordinary mothers who give more than two hoots about how asylum seekers are treated in this country, are planning a National Book Drop and would love you to join in!  Here’s the skinny:

This Children’s Book Week, find stories of hope in unexpected places.

#read4refugees #openbooksopenminds

Members of grass roots advocacy group Mums 4 Refugees are taking stories of hope and survival, inspired by refugees and those seeking asylum, into their communities by participating in a national “book drop”.

Mothers across Australia will be joining this national campaign to raise awareness of refugee issues by leaving books focusing on the stories of refugees and asylum seekers in public and high profile locations across Australia. We hope that members of the public will embrace the week as an opportunity to learn more about the plight of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia and worldwide.

To help us out in Book Drop, Hachette Australia kindly (and with an admirable willingness!) provided Mums 4 Refugees with 100 copies of The Bone Sparrow to drop during the week in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide!!  

If that weren’t enough, there will be 10 copies of YA new release When Michael Met Mina by Randa Abdel-Fattah dropped in Brisbane thanks to PanMacmillan Australia! 

when michael met mina

Author of Ziba Came on a Boat, Liz Lofthouse, is also getting behind the action, donating copies of her CBCA Shortlisted picture book for dropping! 

ziba

If you would like to join the action, there is a public Facebook Event Page here, where you can upload pictures of books you have dropped or found.  If you are wondering what books might be suitable, here is a list:

CHILDREN’S BOOKS:
The Little Refugee (Anh Do)
Refugees (David Miller)
Ziba Came on a Boat (Liz Lofthouse)
Boy Overboard (Morris Gleitzman)
Girl Underground (Morris Gleitzman)

Plum Puddings and Paper Moons (Glenda Millard)
Home and Away (John Marsden)
Flight (Nadia Wheatley)
Rainbow Bird (Czenya Cavouras)

YOUNG ADULT FICTION:
The Bone Sparrow (Zana Fraillon)
When Michael Met Mina (Randa Abdel-Fattah)
Soraya the Storyteller (Rosanne Hawke)
The Arrival (Shaun Tan)
Jumping to Heaven (Katherine Goode)

ADULT NON FICTION:
The Happiest Refugee (Anh Do)
Walking Free (Munjed Al Muderis)
Lives in Limbo (Michael Leach & Fethi Mansouri)

If you would like to drop a book, you can stick this bookplate inside the front cover:

M4R bookplate

So join in if you can, share the action if you can, tell others, and make this Book Week a week of action for change!

Yours in hope,

Bruce

 

 

An Aussie Picture Book “Five Things I’ve Learned Review”: Australia To Z…

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imageIf you’re getting bored with the ordinary old alphabet picture book format and you yearn for an alphabet book that really says something about its subject, allow me to direct you right to today’s offering – Armin Greder’s Australia to Z.  This is one of those books that, on the surface, looks like a perfectly ordinary picture book, but on closer inspection, has the potential to blow the discussion about Australian identity right out of the water.  I was lucky enough to receive a copy from Allen & Unwin for review – thanks!

Here’s the (sparse) blurb from Goodreads:

Juxtaposing words and images, the multi-award-winning author of The Island shines an uncompromising light on what it is to be Australian.

australia to z

And here are Five Things I’ve Learned From…

Australia To Z by Armin Greder

  1. While “Footballs, Meat pies and Kangaroos” still seem to go together underneath the southern stars, Holden cars are clearly on their way out (of the country and this book)

     2. No matter where we go or what opinion we ascribe to, we cannot escape the looming visage of Rupert.

     3. The meaning of the word stubby is always dependent on context.

     4.  Australia only has two culinary achievements worth mentioning and they begin with L and V respectively.

     5. Those of us who fear for the future of this once-great nation are not alone.

While many of the letter choices in this picture book for readers at upper Primary level and older are designed to initiate debate on current social trends, there are also plenty of images that are just plain hilarious.  My particular favourite is the “I” page, which every DIYer will find familiar, while the “X” page is just plain bizarre – what is that man doing to that Turkey??

The line art is evocative and this, combined with colour-blocked backgrounds and pops of colour on key objects, makes for a sparse and focused examination of each page.  The final double page spread, in which the words of the national anthem are combined with images of “the Australian way”, both mundane and adversarial, sums up the utter sense of discomfiture that many Australians experience regarding various social injustices that continue to plague us.  Greder has run a very fine balancing act here, providing just the right depth of genuflection at the altar of the jovial, jocular, larrikin sense of Australian identity to compensate for the stark and confronting presentation of issues of racism, misplaced national pride and social injustice that, like it or not, also make up the character of modern Australia.

In the interests of the nation, I would suggest passing this book around at your next backyard barbeque and watch the conversations heat up.

Subversion, thy name is Greder! (And the shelf-denizens salute you!)

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

Fiction in 50: Dystopia!

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Evening all – I am excited to be presenting you today with the very first instalment of my new (although not very original) feature: FICTION IN 50! Cue rousing orchestral music! I apologise for not having whipped up a cute little meme image to go with it, but rest assured this will eventuate…eventually.

Fiction in 50 will be a semi-regular feature requiring participants (comprising, at this stage, of just me) to create a piece of fiction in 50 words or less.  I think this is what people refer to as “flash fiction”.

For this inaugural fiction-flashing I have selected “Dystopia” as my theme.  This piece is set in a reasonably distant Australia, and features a main character who, after having been cryogenically frozen at some point in the past, has recently been cured, defrosted and released into the world at large.

***There are some specific cultural references included in the following story, so for those unfamiliar with the foodstuffs mentioned, I have included some contextual information sourced from Professor Wikipedia. Click on the images below for information***

879489-vegemiteProduct_Images_550x364_milotim tams

Without further ado, I give you….

Travels in Dystopi-Oz

Ravenous with thawing, seeking nostalgic snacks, I entered the supermarket.

“I’m after Vegemite?”

“Sorry – there’s been none since the company collapsed in 2032.”

“Oh.  Sorry.  I’m newly defrosted… Milo then.”

“Not since ’36.”

“Ah.  Tim Tams?”

“Um….”

Grief battled with confusion, as I emerged, snack-less, into some brave new world.

 

If anyone else wants to join in and pop out their own Dystopian themed Fiction in 50, you would be more than welcome – chuck it in the comments below or do your own post and link back here!  If enough people want to participate I’ll set a regular time and set up some form of linking device…otherwise it’ll just be little ol’ me….

Until next time – yours in new ventures!

Bruce

 

Australian Best Blog Awards: Get on it, people!

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Attention! I have just entered the 2013 Best Australian Blogs Competition…I nominated myself in case you were wondering. I thought I’d post about this in case any other Australian bloggers who don’t know about this competition would like to enter….preferably in a different category to me…

If you are interested, check out the website here: http://www.writerscentre.com.au/bloggingcomp/details.html

Also, there is a People’s Choice component of the awards opening on the 28th of March, so I look forward to pestering you all closer to that date with prompts to vote for your favourite blogging gargoyle.

Until next time,
Bruce

Are you Prepared for the Jam-pocalypse?: What’s in a Name Reading Challenge…

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Obstacle 2 in the What’s in a Name Reading Challenge: Jam by Yahtzee Croshaw…

This is the first title I’ve attempted from my Non-Christie-Listie, as well as the first title from Category 2 (something you might find in the kitchen) and I am happy to report that it has been successfully (and cheerfully) vanquished.

JamThis is Croshaw’s second novel, after Mogworld, and it certainly displays the same swift and silly plotting and characterisation.  Jam follows the story of Travis, a young man who wakes up one morning to discover that his city (incidentally, the one in which I also reside!) has been invaded by flesh-eating jam.  So begins a rollicking romp around Brisbane (Australia, not Texas) involving a cheeky tarantula, plenty of ironic ironicisms and plastic bag fashions a-plenty.

This Novel’s Point of Difference:

Um. I’d say it’s probably the jampocalypse aspect.

Pros:

  • One of Croshaw’s great strengths is silliness-in-appropriate-quantities and this book is jam-packed (pun-intended).with the same. There’s a lot of humour and laugh out loud lines in this book – it’s really one for when you need a bit of a chuckle or aren’t in the mood for anything too heavy in the thinking department.
  • It’s set in Bris-vegas….I quite enjoyed seeing the cityscape on the front cover and being able to recognise the Gotham City Building (I don’t know it’s actual name…since it was built everybody I know has only ever referred to it as the Gotham City Building)
  • It’s a fantastically welcome change from Zombie-related apocalypses (apocalypsi??), and scary, bring-us-all-down dystopian thrillers.

Cons:

  • It’s silly.  Now I realise I just put this in Pros, but I’ve read a lot of reviews (from people who are familiar with Croshaw’s work, weirdly) that panned this book because some of the events depicted were too silly to be credible.  I found this a bit odd, considering the whole premise is based on apocalypse by carnivorous strawberry preserve.  But I suppose, if you are after strictly believable scenarios, this is not the book you’re looking for.
  • I found it hard to recognise my own city in parts of this work….Croshaw faithfully recreates Brisbane landmarks and general layouts, except in the naming of two buildings in which most of the action takes place.  So the Myer Centre becomes the Briar Centre, and the Hitachi building becomes the Hibatsu building….but other landmarks, such as the Wintergarden and plenty of streets are given their proper names….as a local, I found this irritating as it got in the way of me picturing the action as it was occuring in places I know very well.
  • Croshaw uses plenty of American dialect words despite mostly Australian characters in an Australian setting – for example” ice pops” (we call ’em ice blocks here), “community college” (TAFE), “janitor” (cleaning staff), “middle school” (we only have primary and high), “wastepaper baskets” (bins)….I found this quite SPECTACULARLY annoying.

Teaser Text:

He sighed. “There isn’t much we can do without electricity, but my team has been researching alternatives.  One of my engineers proposed a system of fans powered by dogs in giant hamster wheels, but the major issue there is our limited dog inventory.  We’ll keep looking into it”.  p199

Although I have listed three cons, in honesty, if you are not a Brisbanite, it is unlikely you will even notice the specific local references (or lack thereof) that irritated me so.  If you’ve never tried Croshaw’s work before and you are open-minded, enjoy a bit of silly humour and particularly if you are aged 20 – 40 and interested in gaming, you should probably give it a go.

Oh, and here’s a link to some pictures of the Gotham City Building for your viewing pleasure:

http://www.flickriver.com/photos/tags/statelawbuilding/interesting/

Until next time,

Bruce

Read it if…: Deranged Marriage

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Something different for today’s review – a memoir!  Deranged Marriage by Sushi Das is an easy read, and a thought-provoking take on the author’s experience of growing up in Britain as the child of Indian migrants.  It’s also more than a little bit chuckleworthy, particularly in the way it addresses some of the more…colourful…oddities of British, Indian and Australian culture.

A continuing theme of the book is the author’s aversion to accepting an arranged marriage, and how this struggle affected her own choices and the lives of those closest to her.  One of the best (and sneakiest) parts of the book for me was the way Das managed to drop in facts and statistics and questions about arranged marriage around the world as compared to other types of marriage, without dragging the whole piece down into the mire of complicated and important ethical, cultural and legal issues.  Instead, the important questions are asked in the context of the author’s lived experience, allowing the thought to be lodged in the reader’s mind for consideration at a later stage, and the narrative flow to continue largely uninterrupted.

deranged-marriage

 

Anyway, this is supposed to be a review for the time-poor, so, READ IT IF:

 

* you are or have ever been a migrant, or you know someone who has – particularly one moving between cultures with glaring differences

* you have ever wondered why England has classes for its postal system (presumably the first class post gets to eat using the good silver)

* you are, have ever been, or are ever planning to be, a teenager with ideas

*you have even a passing interest in feminism, or cultural issues that involve or affect women

* you have ever wished you could change your name to something (preferably with new and interesting spelling combinations) to reflect your real, though hidden, identity

 

It’s a big dinky-di, you-beauty-mate two thumbs up from Brucey on this one.

Until next time,

Bruce