I Read

Swing, Man.

I stumbled upon this letter the other day:

Frank Sinatra's Letter to George Michael, 1990, Calendar Magazine

It’s written by Frank Sinatra, in the September of 1990, to George Michael, following an interview Michael did with the LA Times’ Calendar Magazine. Talking on “the tragedy of fame”, Michael declared that he would shun the limelight before and during the upcoming release of his album ‘Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1’ – meaning there’d be very few interviews, absolutely no promo videos and no tour.

Frank Sinatra's Letter to George Michael, 1990, Calendar Magazine

The week following Michael’s interview, Sinatra’s letter was published in Calendar Magazine.

And I bloody love it.

Particularly this paragraph:

Talent must not be wasted … those who have talent must hug it, embrace it, nurture it and share it lest it be taken away from you as fast as it was loaned to you.

But really the whole darn thing. Every word of it.

There’s so many truths in it. So many absolute gems. I’ve read it over and over and, to me, it’s not just a polite dust up of George Michael’s attitude. It’s a kick in the face to those coasting along. Those being ungracious. Those who aren’t hungry anymore.

I think most people could take a little something from it. Like:

Feed your talent.

Take life a little less seriously.

Don’t forget where you came from.

Be grateful for where you are. And what you have.

And:

You are stuck in a whirlwind of lament. But you have nothing to really complain about.

So have fun.

Go easy.

See where the ride takes you.

Swing, man.

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I Know, I Read

Note To Self

Cecil Beaton - Be DaringI’m not sure if I’ve ever read any other words that have made more sense than these:

“Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.” – Cecil Beaton

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I Do, I Read

Books Don’t Harm Kids, They Arm Them

“Books don’t harm kids, they arm them.” – Mem Fox

I popped into The Little Bookroom on Degraves Street in Melbourne yesterday afternoon. Of course, now I’ve legitimately got a reason to spend quite a bit of time scouring the shelves. I just love the little store – and I would have been mad about it as a child.

I was mad about books as a youngster. Still am. And it’s a love I hope my little man inherits. I read him a story every day. Many people would say it’s a waste of time. Many people would assume he doesn’t understand any part of it. But I know that with each story being read his language is developing. His mind and imagination are expanding. He’s becoming more empathetic, more understanding, more curious. And it’s a beautiful part of my day, one of my favourites, sitting with him and reading.

“The fire of literacy is created by the emotional sparks between a child, a book, and the person reading. It isn’t achieved by the book alone, nor by the child alone, nor by the adult who’s reading aloud—it’s the relationship winding between all three, bringing them together in easy harmony.”  ― Mem Fox, Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever

When I was two years old, I had already memorised my favourite book, The Little Red Caboose. I never struggled with reading, not for a single moment. I know the confidence that comes from being able to read and communicate well. It’s a basic skill I believe all children should have – and it’s not hard for them to have, all we need to do is read to them. Five minutes a day. To change their lives forever.

And so, because I love books, and because I’m armoured with all the reasons as to why reading is so beneficial for children (if you need the reasons, check out Mem Fox’s Reading Magic), I can’t stop buying them for O. I’ve gone a little mad. But I think it’s more than worth it.

photo copy 3

Vader's Little Princess

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I Read

Nodding While Reading

Sometimes you read things, and you nod. Nod because you resonate so deeply with what has been written, you feel as though you could have written it yourself. And so I nodded while reading this from Alice Walker, because it is true, for me.

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I Know, I Read

The Wandering Years…

Scouring through a second-hand bookshop in Adelaide over the summer, my fingers stopped when they reached a book covered and bound entirely in orange. I picked it up – The Wandering Years by Cecil Beaton.

It was the first time I’d heard of his name (or was it? It sounded familiar, but I couldn’t place a face, or a career). I opened the book up to discover it was a lifetime worth of diary entries from a man who appeared to have had quite the full one. So I bought it, based on the few lines I had read within it.

I haven’t read The Wandering Years yet, but I know I am going to love it.

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I Read

Book 7: A Life in Frocks

Last week I read: A Life in Frocks by Kelly Doust

For as long as she can remember, Kelly Doust has been passionate about clothes. She is a complete frockaholic – addicted to clothes and trends and fashion – and someone that plans her life by her wardrobe and via glossy magazines. Doust’s memoir isn’t just a chronological order of events in her life – it’s a reflection on the clothes that made the moments, the clothes that made the memories.

All the major moments of her life; from leaving school to being published in Vogue, from travelling the world over to getting married, from career achievements to having her baby daughter, are all marked by an outfit. It’s an exploration of what makes us fall in love with clothes, what makes us choose certain outfits and why moments can be defined by clothes just as much as they can be by smell or touch or feeling.

Beautifully illustrated by Zoe Sadokierski, A Life in Frocks is full of pearls, or diamonds, of wisdom. It’s an engaging read of a person’s life I had no idea existed – and that’s partly where its charm lies. It’s the story of a young woman’s life – a story that could so easily belong to so many others – and it’s honest, fabulous…and not cookie cutter perfect.

Doust delicately balances advice with emotion, reflection with fantasy, and reality with whimsy. And it works. It absolutely works.

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I Read

Book 6: A Guide To Australian Etiquette

First published in Onya Magazine on March 23rd, 2011.

Last week I read: A Guide To Australian Etiquette by Ita Buttrose


In this updated edition of her classic, Ita Buttrose, AO, OBE, sets the record straight in her latest, and tenth, book; A Guide To Australian Etiquette.

“Times may have changed but good manners never go out of fashion,” says Buttrose. Twice voted Australia’s most admired woman, and following her extensive career in print, radio and television, it makes perfect sense to me that Buttrose, a woman of, but not only limited to, grace and style should pen a guide to cover all occasions – from work to weddings.

What I love about A Guide To Australian Etiquette is that it covers more than just your usual thank you notes and order of cutlery on a table; of course, those topics are included, as well as a series of chapters on weddings, but there’s some entirely other sections that I think I’ll be referring to more often; business etiquette, environmental etiquette, dogs (and their owners), the language of flowers (a list of flowers and their meanings) and how to carve meat and poultry correctly.  I particularly love the ‘Out and About’ chapter covering everything from supermarket shopping to public transport to attending the football to eating with chopsticks.

Dishing out advice on sharing personal information on social networking sites to how to behave in a mosque, Buttrose’s A Guide To Australian Etiquette is refreshing and realistic; because we all know that sometimes you need to carve you steak and eat it too.

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I Read

Book 5: The Thoughtful Dresser

Last week I read: The Thoughtful Dresser by Linda Grant

As soon as I saw Linda Grant’s book on the shelf at Melbourne’s Reader’s Feast, I knew it was going to be a book that resonated with the very core of me.

The Thoughtful Dresser is about clothes, fashion, how and why we dress the way we do and why clothes matter. It’s an academic and intellectual look at why what we wear defines our identity, and how the way we look and the things we wear tell a story.

Complete with some of her mothers famous words, “The only thing worse than being skint is looking as if you’re skint,” “A good handbag makes the outfit,” and, “Only the rich can afford cheap shoes,” it’s a treasure trove of anecdotes, excerpts and facts as to why fashion is not just for and about vain, brain-less women.

Grant writes extensively on the changing face of dress over the years, the impact of clothing during World War II, and there’s even an entire chapter devoted to fashion and clothing post 9/11. Such examples only drive home the message that there’s more to clothing than purpose. Almost every moment in history that Grant refers to has been defined by costume and dress – and she offers some persuasive explanations as to why.

The Thoughtful Dresser is, indeed, a thoughtful look at the pleasure involved in dressing and adornment, and the joy of shopping and finding the perfect dress or handbag.

It’s a welcome change from the flirty and, dare I say it, girly writings on clothes and fashion – this is a serious book, sometimes entirely exhaustive with information, on the serious matter of dress.

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I Read

Book 4: A Golden Age of Freedom

Last week I read: A Golden Age of Freedom by Rupert Murdoch.

A Golden Age of Freedom was the title of the Boyer Lecture Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and CEO of News Corporation, delivered in 2008, and is now the title of the ABC printed transcript of that lecture. And what a lecture it is – empathetic, honest, inspiring at times, and always focused on the future.

I’m impressed that Murdoch is so embracing of technology, in fact, he argues that we must vigorously embrace such change – and continue to – for the benefit of Australia and all Australians.

He discusses the opportunities available in Australia, the observations he has made about developing nations, and why he believes Australia has become complacent. The lecture is definitely stirring, mostly in all the right ways, and it has given me a greater understanding of the man behind the empire – his values and beliefs – and why, despite the fact he no longer lives in Australia, he is still qualified to comment on its future.

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I Read

Book 3: I Remember Nothing

This week I read: I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron.

I love Nora Ephron.

I love her because I occasionally see a little bit of myself in her. I love her because I sometimes want to be like her. And because if I end up like her I won’t be in any way disappointed.

I love her because she is funny. Deeply, honestly, funny. And she’s clever. Seriously intelligent. And she’s lived.  Really lived and enjoyed and sucked the marrow out of life.

I love her because she doesn’t pretend to be something she isn’t. And because she’s wise. She’s so wise and blunt, and I love that.

Her latest book, I Remember Nothing, is a collection of short articles and essays on her life and her experiences. It’s in many ways like her previous collection, I Feel Bad About My Neck, but maybe even more personal, perhaps a little more telling. It’s a book of reflections – of memories made, events attended, people met, things felt – and everything forgotten.

The way Ephron writes is poignant, without being soppy. Sarcastic, without being too much so. And funny. I’ll call her that 100 times, because that is what she is.

Nora Ephron is so much more than the screenplays she wrote. There’s more to her than Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, Hanging Up, Julie & Julia, This Is My Life and the rest. And I think it can be found in her collections. In I Remember Nothing – where she may have forgotten the encounters with people she has met, like Eleanor Roosevelt, Cary Grant, Dorothy Parker and The Beatles – she has managed to compile, to list, to remember the things that define her; husbands, and family, New York, and travel, books, and writing, waffles, and reading, dinners, and friends…and all the little pieces in between.

Nora Ephron makes me look forward to getting older. If for nothing else than because there’s still a chance to be like her.

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I Read

Book 2: La Bella Lingua

This week I read: La Bella Lingua by Dianne Hales.

It’s about the author’s love affair with the Italian language, what she calls, “the most enchanting language in the world.” And it’s a slightly different tale of foreigner falling in love with a European country, because this one features the romantic, as well as the factual. Hales’ knowledge on all things Italian is remarkable – well researched, and well lived.

I was drawn to the book because of my own background; being fluent in Italian allowed a certain depth to the book – an understanding, you could say.

But La Bella Lingua isn’t just about language; it features a great deal of Italian history too. Dispersed amongst both language and history are personal stories from Hales – most of them joyous and all of them warm and endearing. The entire book is about Italian culture – and how language plays a part in it; in literature, food, film, music, people.

And it’s about Hales’ journey – from admirer, to living like a true Italian.

Cheaper than a plane ticket, and more informative (and engaging) than a documentary, it’s a celebration of la dolce vita (the sweet life) and le cose italiane (Italian things).

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I Read

Book 1: Summer at Tiffany

One thing I resolved to do this year was read a book a week.

I’ve always loved reading. And as a writer, reading is imperative. Reading as much as you can. Whenever you can. And a good mix of it too.

I strongly believe that if you want to write well, you need to read well. In fact, if you want to think well, you need to read well.

And so I plan to share, each week, the book that I have read, and a short review of what I thought, or felt, liked or didn’t like.

This week I read: Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart.

It was fun. Joyful. Innocent. A romp of a memoir about a couple of college pals from Iowa that head to New York City in the 1940s and get a Summer job at Tiffany’s – at a time when Tiffany only employed men.

Hart, now in her 80s, reflects upon the best Summer of her life – with her best friend by her side, they navigate their way through a new city – the opportunities, the challenges, the boys, the stores bursting with things they want most – cosmetics, hats, gloves and designer dresses – and life, in a post-war country.

It’s the kind of story, all entirely true might I add, that makes you want to switch eras. Hart’s charming account of her Summer of 1945 is romantic – it presents the city, the people, the time, Tiffany – through peachy pink coloured glasses. And the reason I suspect she presented such an account is because it was accurate – the New York she describes is hopeful and engrossing, the people gentle and friendly, and the time – tough, but utterly glorious, and wholly full of promise.

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