Posts filed under ‘theme bookgroup’


nedWe each read a book on Ned Kelly and then talked about whether we thought he was a psychopath, a disadvantaged youth, a political activist, or all of the above, as generations of australians have before us.

If you have any interest in Ned  ironoutlaw is the place to visit. It reviews every book there is about ned, fiction, non-fiction and everything else, and gives them a rating of 1 to 5 Neds. peter carey’s booker prize winner for instance, which many book groupers read, gets 4.5 Neds whereas robert drew only gets 1.5. quite a few get 5 Neds including one called ellen, which is a biography of ned’s mum. some of the 5 Ned rated fiction and non fiction are shown below.

The most recent non-fiction ned book is by peter fitzsimons. one book grouper read it and said it was fantastic. she had no problem finishing it, even though it is a real door stopper at 700 pages.

I read the jerilderie letter. It is ned’s own words and he uses a very peculiar style, much like james joyce used 25 years later in ulysses. It is the style imitated by carey in his booker winner. its a great read from an historical, political and psychological perspective.

another book grouper read one on the legal issues. the most interesting aspect being that there was a specific act of parliament passed about ned and his gang. great compliment to gangster you would think.

insearch Ned-Kelly-masson Ellen_Cover_Small Book_WhistleMan Book_TrueHistory Book_InnerHistory Book_FarBeyondTheFalls Book_Australian_Son_Newned by fitzjerilderie

The Wild Colonial Boy‘ is a traditional australian bush song from the bushranger era. that is the era of australian history to which ned belonged, and of which ned is the  most legendary character. The song was rearranged as below specially for our bookgroup event on ned, which was held in glebe.
There was a wild glebe island girl

Zell Barker was her name

A poor but honest poodle
Found abandoned in a lane
She was her fathers great despair
her mothers pride and joy
And dearly did her parents love

That wild glebe island girl

So come away me hearties
And let our minds run free
Together we will eat
And together we will drink
We’ll read in every valley
we’ll talk all or’er the plains,
And scorn to live in slavery,
Bound down by iron chains.

a philosopher of note

Zell never shirked a choice

in every controversy known
she always had a voice
She called upon the book group
To come and take a stand
To decide upon Ned Kelly
and leave uncertainty alone
So come away me hearties
And let our minds run free
Together we will eat
And together we will drink
We’ll read in every valley
we’ll talk all or’er the plains,
And scorn to live in slavery,
Bound down by iron chains.
Let’s read about Ned Kelly
and ask just what it means
to love this murdering Irishman
a psychopath it seems
he may have loved his mother
And been a damn fine poet
But he also loved his violence
This Wild Colonial Boy
So come away me hearties
And let our minds run free
Together we will eat
And together we will drink
We’ll read in every valley
we’ll talk all or’er the plains,
And scorn to live in slavery,
Bound down by iron chains.
He was born down in Victoria
 that was his native home,
Accross  Australia’s sunny shores
A bushranger did roam.
he made that iron suit
To escape the government attack
But not even iron it seems could save
That Wild Colonial Boy
So come away me hearties
And let our minds run free
Together we will eat
And together we will drink
We’ll read in every valley
we’ll talk all or’er the plains,
And scorn to live in slavery,
Bound down by iron chains.

January 14, 2014 at 12:31 pm Leave a comment



Gather around readers. Are you sitting comfortably. Then lets begin.

Once upon a time in an apartment far far away, in the days before yesterday, there were boys and girls.

One boy, called Randolph was very excited because he was having a party, Randolph’s Party. John Lennon was going to be there but Sunshine Santa couldn’t make it. He had to catch the Polar Express so he could do Christmas Downunder.

Luckily all the boys and girls Downunder had read Dr SeussSleep Book so Sunshine Santa had no problems delivering all the presents, to all the children all over Downunder, because they were all sound asleep.

That is until he got to Allan Bennett’s house. The first problem for Sunshine Santa was the Smut in the chimney and the second was Mrs Donaldson. She was pretending to be a child who couldn’t sleep, and that made it very hard for Sunshine Santa.

But the worst problem for Sunshine Santa was The Selfish Giant. He would not let Sunshine Santa into his garden. Imagine! This meant Sunshine Santa could not finish his deliveries to the local children. it was awful.

Finally Rumi suggested Santa Split the Sack and throw the presents into the chimneys of last few children. So happily Sunshine Santa was able to deliver all his presents to the children Downunder. After that he had one more place left to go Ezra Pound had written to Sunshine Santa to make sure he did not forget the boys and girls in Cathay.

After he delivered all his presents to all the boys and girls everywhere in the world there was one more thing to do. He had saved a very special present for one poor little girl called Little Piccola. In the morning Little Piccola woke up and rushed to the chimney and she was very happy with her special present, and they all lived happily ever after.

NOTE: Bookgroupers read each of the stories above out loud. It was great. Because we all enjoyed it, I imagine Bookgroup will be doing more reading out loud and i would encourage other people to try similar events

December 23, 2013 at 1:16 am Leave a comment


This was a food theme group similar to a previous group on food we had several years ago. however this time we took only one book as the guide for our cookery.
The Grains Cookbook by Bert Greene

the idea was that we each pick a recipe from the book, or some other grain based recipe, and bring along that dish (and a matching wine). we had riceballs, corn soup, quinoa salad and armenian chicken with bulghur

why grain you might say – well if you read jared diamond or other ecological and/or economic historians, the history of grains is the history of humanity, the course of civilisations, the basis of capitalism and the fate of the planet.

how so – well they make surplus production possible, this means people become sedentary, cities develop, division of labor occurs, followed by the beginning of trade, then fully blown markets, and ultimately environmental destruction, globalisation and the whole kit and kabooble. once we started eating grain – about 10,000 years ago in a few different places on earth, our feet were set on the path to where we are now – or so the story goes.

but not bert greene’s story. he does give details about each grain, where it comes from, and how to use it etc, but his story is personal. it talks about how he met each grain, how he cooked for his dad as a kid, what he remembered of each grain when he first encountered it as a kid or later.

this aspect of the book prompted conversation within the group about the role of food in our lives as we grew up. it had an impact on me because i had never thought of the role of food in my childhood. rather i had thought i’d come from an un-foodie family but his stories made me realise we did do a lot of food preparation – making butter, killing chooks, stewing fruit, making chutney etc – including in relation to grain, eating fresh corn on the cob straight off the plant when it was green.

so that was interesting to be prompted to re-imagine our respective family food histories, also the food was lovely, and the company was great. i think the grain thing made it a fairly low key, comforting kind of occasion. for example we were all worried our food would be a bit stodgy and untasty, but it was all great.

July 10, 2010 at 7:15 am Leave a comment


Love is like the bunyip, yeowie, saskwatch, cessnock monster, lochness monster, and the yetti. It is talked about a lot, some people are convinced it exists, some people claim to know what it is like, how it feels, indeed what it is. For example the cessnock monster is thought to be a 12 foot lizard from the pleistocene era.

Like love these creatures also serve a purpose. They make us feel that maybe uncertainty and mystery remains, maybe there is something bigger out there that we are part of, and as with mythological animals there appears to be no certainties about love, just an endless fascination.

Unlike love though these creatures don’t leave us dependent on another person for that feeling of transcendence, so they dont make us so vulnerable to being let down. And most sadly, and most importantly, they don’t physically exist so they don’t stimulate our hormones, they dont create that mysterious cocktail of chemicals that makes us feel different and do and say different things in some people’s presence, such as spend more time on our, appearance.

These are some of the conclusions that your, admittedly somewhat love wary, reviewer speculated upon following the latest bookgroup.

The bookgroup gathered to read out loud about love. it was billed as a slow luxurious soirée during which everyone reads something out loud to the rest of the group that includes the word and/or the concept of love, broadly defined. approx 10 minutes per reading.

bookgroupers read from
C. S. Forester (1937) The Happy Return, the first book in the Hornblower series. this post implied loved could be by men for their boat, their captain and war
WH Auden collected poems – If I could tell you and Tell Me the Truth About Love

Drussilla Modjeska – the introduction to Poppy
The BeatlesHer Majesty and The Love you make is equal to the love you take

Roger McGoughLove Cycle and Lonely Hearts

Helen Garnerthe spare room, about love for a friend and its complexities
Rumi – from the collection bridge to the soul – 2 poems, split the sack, which seemed to imply love maybe whatever we say it is, and faint lament of form, which seemed to suggest love is incomprehensible
Pablo Nerudafable of the mermaid and the drunks, which demonstrates that we dont need to be loved. ode to a beautiful nude, which raises the issue of beauty and how it is different from love, tonight i can write, which shows that love passes and love makes you sadlove
Michael Leunigbllly the rabbit, the love of a child for her pet, and the bottle, which demonstrates what a load of freudian nonsense we often get told about love
Wikipedia has a great page on love that is worth quoting

Love is any of a number of emotions and experiences related to a sense of strong affection[1] and attachment. The word love can refer to a variety of different feelings, states, and attitudes, ranging from generic pleasure (“I loved that meal”) to intense interpersonal attraction (“I love my boyfriend”). This diversity of uses and meanings, combined with the complexity of the feelings involved, makes love unusually difficult to consistently define, even compared to other emotional states.

it has a great list of various types of love and interestingly to me as a thoroughgoing materialist it has a link to the science of love. however, it may not help you find any appropriate readings, whereas the love quotes encyclopedia may. a few examples follow

Love is a fire. But whether it is going to warm your heart or burn down your house, you can never tell

If love is the answer,
Could you rephrase the question?

True love is the greatest thing in the world…
except for a nice mutton,lettuce,and tomato sandwich when the muton is cut nice and thin…mmm..

I thought love might be a tough topic for bookgroupers but we had a great discussion although the poems and stories we chose did nothing but confirm our confusion.

Trish couldn’t make it but in an email making her apologies she presciently captured our concerns….

I admit, I am struggling a bit too, I always get
strange looks when I have said in the past, I love this car, I love my
skis, I really love this backpack etc, within a family context I have no
problem with the word love, in the friends, it is harder, yes I love my
friends but the “weight” of the word can sometimes make me uncomfy or
slightly wary…strange.

In saying all this, I would LOVE to be there on sunday but may have to
be at my sister’s whom I love dearly as we leave very early the next
morning from Nowra to go on a holiday which I know I will LOVE. Hope you LOVED your week away..speak soon, LOVE Trish

November 7, 2009 at 12:16 pm Leave a comment


This group was our first time based theme. We all picked a book or two relating to time period 1954-1957.

Too do this we consulted various lists. There is a list here of american best sellers, fiction and non-fiction, for each year. You can also get lists for each year on this page at wikipedia

In the end our selections were

although the two groupers that read The Quiet American and The Fall couldnt make it

and so to the synthesis. from this small sample size can we say anything about books published in these years? To quote a well known president – yes we can

no doubt its too simplistic but i think you can argue that all these, despite their different genres (scifi, historical fiction, drama, play, memoir) are about the same thing, and given they were published in the mid-fifties its not surprising what that thing is.

they all seem to be about this question. Knowing that humans are equally capable of creating the devastation of war, and the prosperity and surplus production of materialism, how do we, should we, will we, behave in the future?

silverberg thought we’d learn our lesson from a nuclear apocalypse to create a new utopia, post-apocalypse, based on using nuclear power for good
– likewise minority report thought we’d do better second time around, even harness some of the mutants caused by the apocalypse for good, but sagely argues that greed and ambition will remain driving forces
shute thought we’d wipe ourselves out with radiation sickness, and literally accept our final fate in an orderly way, peacefully in our beds surrounded by what we value, in the book that was either families, a racing car or a submarine
miller painted consumerism as a type of death, the battle to make sales and earn money is like radiation only slower
kerouac thought family, war, work and money were no answers at all, we should say screw you, take drugs and answer our doors naked
– and perhaps most relevantly of all, the train to pakistan tells us that religion and politics is a genocidal mix, that should always be separated, because ordinary good people can become murderers overnight

May 25, 2009 at 11:28 am Leave a comment


We thought we were going to be very intellectual for this group, because we had decided to read huge fat, and recent, collections of essays by two renowned readers/writers/critics/intellectuals.

but the truth was different
– firstly, given their size, most of us didnt get through them, and
– secondly many, though not all, were disappointed with what we did read.

the clive james had a few fans in the group but several detractors also. the book has 100+ essays, theoretically each about a historical figure, including people from history, politics movies, culture etc, many fairly obscure though notable in some way.

the fans liked the variety, surprise, humour and style of it. The detractors found his dirty old man side, his constant name dropping and lack of discussion of the actual life or thought or work of his subjects annoying.

Both supporters and detractors agreed on a few things
– it was largely a book about writing as he talked at length about the writing of each subject
– clive is incredibly well read and many of his subjects, particularly the lesser known ones were surprisingly interesting
– it was entertaining rather than academic

my tip would be if you are reading it to find out about the subjects of each essay you would do better looking them up on wikipedia, but if you do that and then want a reflection, or opinion, on the person then the book may help.

the eco was a surprise. bookgroupers went into this one a little intimidated expecting a book of essays by a famous global intellect to be well researched and argued in logical detail. but as with the clive james it turned out to be entertainment. the essays were actually mainly written for newspapers and s their function is to interest, amuse or provoke sufficiently to sell the papers.

i found it very good, largely because i agreed with nearly all of it, but it was not especially enlightening. It was like a discussion at book group, or at a dinner party, smart and well informed but not anymore based on evidence or research than any reasonably typical discussion of an issue you might have with your friends – assuming your friends are petty smart, fairly left wing, and pretty well educated

April 30, 2008 at 12:22 pm Leave a comment


This episode of bookgroup had a science fiction theme and raised a number of interesting ideas.

Strangely the two books we chose for the theme, although both set in the future, were not at all representative of the genre.

so unfortunately the group cant say it delved into the genre only that we discussed some interesting books set in the future.

nevertheless bookgroupers were generally very enthusiastic about the writing in both books, although two criticisms surfaced
– the margaret atwood provoked a reprise of previous disagreements about style. some of us found it dry and oddly unemotional whilst still being visually vivid. This turned out to be the same difference in preference between bookgroup members we had unerthed during the rohinton mistry bookgroup
-solaris often descended into lengthy paragraphs that sounded technical and scientific and hard to follow, but were in fact nonsense. its a fiction book and the technical details are not true, nevertheless the book dwelt on them for long periods which made some bookgroupers feel like they should have understood them. in fact as a reader you can just skip them. i felt this was a weakness in the book – it was tedious, pointless and unnecessary.

these weaknesses were outweighed by the positives. readers valued the outlandishness of the imagination in both books. they both portrayed worlds very different from our own but made the worlds, and the behaviour of the characters in them, believable.

a handmaids tale is a feminist imagining of a future polito-religious state run by ex tele-evangelists and their cronies. a world which did not seem so unlikely during the late 80s and 90s as the american fundamentalist right rose and rose culminating in george w.

if i had read it in 1999 or 2000 i think i would have been terrified and seen it as potentially prophetic. reading it in 2008 i felt more like it was a horror that has thankfully been avoided and therefore quaint or amusing rather than terrifying. but i am an optimist and i have never lived under the taliban or in saudi arabia. perhaps women in those places may feel its more of a documentary than science fiction.

solaris is really a philosophical meditation on what it means to be. it paints a picture of two types of beings that question our ideas of what it is to exist, as a human.

firstly the planet solaris is described as a vast conscious ocean capable of generating any structure it chooses, capable of reading human minds, but apparently because it is a unity not a population of individuals not capable of with humans, doing anything that humans recognise as useful in anyway.

At one point the book alludes to the idea of a trapped, lonely god, or a finite god – capable of anything, except changing its own position in the universe, and condemned to live with itself forever alone. the suggestion being that while the planet solaris is like this, so are humans to some extent – each living in our own private hell/heaven.

secondly, the planet created perfect facsimilies of loved ones from the crews minds. suddenly crew members wake up to find their closest dead loved one (lover/child/brother) with them. whilst these ‘visitors’ are apparently fully alive and fully human, they have only those memories of themselves that the crew member has, because they have been created from the crew members mind. the crew debated the moral status/rights of these beings.

i thought this was a great idea and really interesting, and couldn’t help wondering what i would choose to do if i woke up to find visitor like that in my room. there alive, i have a second chance – can i get it right this time?

April 30, 2008 at 11:33 am Leave a comment

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