Journal: 001

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My bougainvillea, for no reason except to show off

This is a bit of an experiment. Work time is eating into – has almost entirely eliminated – reading time, only my voracious consumption of audiobooks enabling me to research and write a self-imposed bare minimum one book review a week, and yet I want to write. What to do? As it happens I am about to change jobs. After 15 years as a tanker driver, seven years in the one job after never making it to two years in all the preceding 50, I am finishing up and things going to plan, will return to carting general freight throughout Australia.

And so from time to time I will write about the Australian legend, the myth of the independent worker in the Bush, from the inside, from dirt roads through the desert, from highways thousands of kilometres long with no or few intervening towns, from a world consisting almost entirely of men, men by and large of little education, working 16 hour days cocooned in near total isolation, men consciously preserving the old culture of mateship in adversity.

As you know already I spend most of those 16 hours listening to ABC news, to football, and above all to books. Listening and thinking, there is always a book I want to talk about and yet because I can’t take notes, can’t locate a paper copy, I can’t write up a review. So I will write about travel, about books, about Australia, maybe even about Australians though that will be a stretch, I really do go days and weeks on my own.

Unfortunately, the bougainvillea above, my straggly kangaroo paw and ever resilient lemon tree will have to go, or die unwatered on my balcony, as I cross our “wide, brown land”, away for weeks at a time.

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I have just finished listening to the French murder mystery Irène – pronounced I-ren (with a short i). I was expecting Ay-reen and it took me a while to realise what the reader (Peter Noble) was saying – either the first or second Commander Verhœven novel (the first published and the second translated into English, I think). The author, Lemaitre, a professor of literature, dazzles us – and the Sûreté – with a serial killer whose murders, described in pornographic and misogynistic detail, are faithful renditions of some of the ‘great’ murders of crime fiction.

Most of them, the novels referenced that is, I didn’t recognise and the reviews I’ve read on line don’t say what they are for me to list them here. No Simenon to my surprise and disappointment, but a John D MacDonald from the 1950s, though not the one I listened to earlier in the week, and at the centre of the work, Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho (1991) which Justine Ettler discussed in my interview with her last year.

The Irène of the title is Police Commander Verhœven’s heavily pregnant wife. She doesn’t play a big part in the story, which of course focuses on the efforts of Verhœven’s small squad to understand and discover the murderer, until near the end which when it comes is unexpected and brutal.

The novel, and the translation by Frank Wynne, are well written, both as literature and as genre fiction. If I had a disappointment – apart from Lemaitre not referencing Simenon – it was that there is no great sense of place. Apart from the technicalities to do with a magistrate overseeing the investigation the novel might have been taking place in any metropolis in any western country. Still, if you can handle the gruesome detail, and I usually can’t, worth trying.

Recent audiobooks

John D MacDonald (M, USA), A Bullet for Cinderella (1955)
Peter Temple (M, Aust/Vic), Bad Debts (2005)
Amy Tan (F, USA), The Valley of Amazement (2013)
Oliver Potzsch (M, Ger), The Hangman’s Daughter (2008)
Ellery Queen (M, USA), Blow Hot, Blow Cold (1964)
Margaret Truman (F, USA), Monument to Murder (2011)
Pierre Lemaitre (M, Fra), Irène (2006)

Currently reading

Michelle Scott Tucker (F, Aust/Vic), Elizabeth Macarthur (2018)

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19 thoughts on “Journal: 001

      • I don’t really know what to say about my conversation post! It was a bit of fun and didn’t expect it to be so well received – perhaps I’ve been doing this review thing all wrong?! 😀

        All jokes aside, I really do think that Yates and Brookner would have been great chums IRL.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Good luck with the new direction – sounds interesting. Regarding note taking while driving: Philip Adams (who hosts Late Night Live on Radio National) dictates his notes while he commutes between his Hunter Valley home and Sydney. Pretty easy to do on most phones, now. Just a thought?

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  2. There are, (I’ve used them) journalist-type digital voice recorders (about the size of a cigarette packet cut in half lengthwise that can record your thoughts as digital files, and there is also software that turns voice into text, once you train it to recognise your voice. I think it’s called Dragon…
    So with the DVR (hopefully not affecting your concentration on the road) plugged & downloaded into the laptop, the Dragon software can turn your voice files into text while you’re doing something else. What do you do at the end of the day’s drive? Get out and take a walk? Make yourself some dinner? I guess you’ll tell us!

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    • I have a little digital voice recorder (an Olympus). It’s easy to use and very handy because it downloads directly to some free transcribing software, Express Scribe (although Dragon probably better because it does the transcribing for you – I use Express Scribe because I’m transcribing multiple voices and I think Dragon only recognises one voice). Anyway, the point is that once you get over the vaguely weird thing about listening to your own voice, it’s an excellent tool for recording thoughts.

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  3. I hope this is a change you want Bill.

    Anyhow, I will be interested to read whatever you have to say. I love road trips and so to hear your observations will be wonderful.

    BTW I read and reviewed Pierre Lemaitre’s The great swindle (translated also by Frank Wynne I think. It was a good read. And recently I saw the movie version with a completely different title, See You Up There. It’s an astonishing book. You might like to listen to it, if you haven’t already.

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  4. I like this new post; I feel like I will get to know you more. Also, one of the best parts about reviewing audio books is you can always focus on two criteria: the voice actor and the way the book made you feel. These two things are enough to persuade or dissuade readers considering getting their own copies.

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    • Most men use a sort of whisper for women’s voices but the guy reading Irene, used a falsetto, for one of the guys too, which was offputting, though luckily the novel was interesting enough to overcome this.

      I thought you might like a journal. We’ll have to see over time how frequent it is and what goes in it.

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