Saturday, February 27, 2010

Time for some pronunciation (and other) whining

Writers' Week is about to start and I have to do a few things at it, so there's not been a lot of time to blog -- too busy trying to think up juicy, fruitful questions to ask Peter Temple and Michelle de Kretser on the basis of madly re-reading their novels. Been through two whole pads of Post-Its and counting. Thank God for Google. Picking the shortest books out of the pile for next week's SMH reviews copy, due in the middle of the week as per.

(One of the other things I have to do is decide whether or not to rock up to the panel session on The Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature. As the only section editor of the book who lives in Adelaide, I think that if they wanted me there at all then they would have asked me to be on the panel, which would have cost them nothing, and since they didn't, I think they'll have more fun if I stay away and they can let rip with the criticism of the contents without fear of resistance. On the whole I think this was a good call on the part of the organisers, because producing a book is like having a baby -- once you put something out into the world, you have to let go of it, allow it to take on a life of its own without interference, or what was the point of popping it out in the first place?)

Anyway, here's a discovery: I think this language usage/pronunciation irritation/allergy thing is genetic. One of my sisters rang up yesterday and at one point the conversation turned, can't remember why, to the word 'vulnerable'. 'What's this VUNNERABLE crap?' she demanded. 'They all say it. The newsreaders say it. The ABC newsreaders say it.'

'Oh, I know, I know,' I moaned. 'And what about CONGRADULATIONS? They've got little kids saying it now. New Meadow Lea ad or whatever, little squeaky childish voices the ad people from Mars think are cute, singing out of tune to their Mum. 'Yooooo ... order be ... congradulay-dud.' (As if it were not bad enough that one congradulates women on their choice of margarine.)

I remembered this conversation this morning while reading about the tribulations of postwar London: 'slithers of bacon from Argentina'.

Where do these things start? Why do they go viral? A thing like a shred or a splinter is not a slither, it is a sliver. Slither is a verb and only a verb. Snakes do it. JK Rowling called Slytherin Slytherin because snakes do it. Nothing to do with little shreds of bacon, bits of wood or toasted almonds. Especially not toasted almonds.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Neither rocket science nor brain surgery

I've known since I was about fifteen that a week on a diet will not suffice to lose the weight that you've spent years dedicatedly gaining. But I don't know how much older I'm going to have to get before the message sinks in that if you've got a sleep debt that has built up over several nights (or, of course, longer), one normal eight-hour sleep will not be enough to get you back out of the red. In my own case this has not been true since about 1978. And yet we live in hope.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit

My very favourite part of my job doing short reviews of fiction every week for the Sydney Morning Herald is ripping open the bags and boxes of books that arrive in a steady stream at my house. (Especially now that I've finally got the new Australia Post delivery dude trained to knock loudly, wait more than three seconds, and then knock loudly again. He does this instead of what he used to do: feather-stroke the screen-door once with a small flower made of fairy dust, leave the books on the doorstep in clear view of the street, scuttle straight off to his tiny white van and drive away at speed.)

In the opening of those big white plastic postbags full of books, there are echoes of the Christmas-morning Santa pillowcase circa 1961. And you never know when a postbag is going to contain one of these, like it did today:

I love it that I get the hardbacks and have amassed quite a collection. Having had a good look at the pictorial hints on the cover, I flipped it over to see if there was anything interesting on the back.

Hmmm, I thought, looking at that second bit of blurb, I agree with that. In fact that's exactly what I think. I wonder who ...