Why men don’t listen and women can’t read maps (or can they?)

Why Men Don't Listen and Women can't Read Maps.There’s a book Called Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps. I’ve never read it. That’s because not only can I read maps, I love them! Here’s why:

When I was fourteen at my co-ed high school I was forced by limited subject choices to do Domestic Science (that’s what the girls got, only  boys did Geography). I was miserable in Domestic Science, and lippy with it too. Finally I got thrown out of class. By the next day I became notorious as the only girl in the school permitted to study Geography. And that was one of my very early life-defining moments. Because maps have shaped my life.

And map books themselves have changed in ways I could not have foreseen all those years ago. Cartography has come a long way from colouring-in maps of the Natural Regions of the world.

For example: Plotted – A Literary Atlas by  Andrew deGraff (his official title is Pop Cartographer, how cool is that?) provides us with beautiful maps, plans and landscapes for nineteen great books. (At last you can see what the literary insides of Jonah’s whale might have looked like!). I could kick myself that I never had this idea.

Spiritual PlacesOther recently published map/site books include Unfathomable City (an Arty New Orleans Atlas) and the perfectly charming Spiritual Places by travel writer Sarah Baxter.

Move on to The Art of Map Illustration – in which four contemporary artists (called Visual Storytellers – another great job description that I regret I have missed) explain how they include maps in their art.

There’s also the beautiful children’s book City Atlas with a search-and-find game on every page and the weirdly compelling Atlas of Lost Cities which will make you want to travel to places that no longer exist.

The Consolation of mapsAnd right here in a local Christchurch mall I spotted a novel I’d not heard of before: The Consolation of Maps. What a wonderful title. The library hadn’t purchased it, but I used the online form to Request an Item for our Collection and we now have five copies. It’s a wonderful story about the love of antique maps and the contrasts between life in Japan and the States. Okay, so the cover does make you feel that the only consolation one might gain from maps would be if a ton of them dropped on your head and put you out of your misery, but aside from that, it is a worthwhile read.

Back to my fourteen year old self: Geography is the reason I can talk at some boring length about Magnetic Declination. Why I have a good grasp of Adiabatic Lapse Rates and Great Circles. Why every home I have ever lived in has a globe of the world, several atlases and a box full of topographic maps. It is also responsible for my having only ever dated bearded men and why I always make good friends with ladies who bake delicious cupcakes!

The map of my life seemed to start from that point where I was thrown out of class. What a blessing that turned out to be!

More about maps

A Place to Stand – WORD Christchurch Festival 2018

What distinguishes a great festival session from a good one? I think I can answer that after my session to-day: A Place to Stand.

Karin Altenberg and Amy Head. Image supplied.
Karin Altenberg and Amy Head. Image supplied.

A small, sell-out session with Swedish author Karin Altenberg and New Zealand writer Amy Head, this exploration of the importance of Place punched way above its weight, and reminded me what a great event should be like:

  • First up a great session needs a really good interviewer, and Liz Grant was the best interviewer of this festival for me. With extensive knowledge about the books of both the authors (teetering perilously on very high chairs on either side of her), she was very good. Well done Liz.
  • A great session should engage you, there should be no mind wandering and fidgeting. We were all riveted.
  • You can judge a good session on the quality of the questions it provokes at the end, and this session came up trumps there as well.
  • You are sorry when a great session ends.
  • Hours later you are still thinking about it, wishing there had been more time. Mulling over questions you would have liked to ask.
  • You want to buy both the books!

Both Karin and Amy revealed their Turangawaewae (Place to stand). Karin’s is a small rocky outcrop off the West Coast of Sweden (it’s not even on a map) where her parents own a simple hut. Near there is a footprint shape in the rocks where, when Karin places her foot in it, she feels absolutely connected. Amy’s place is on the West Coast of New Zealand just outside Westport, a place of isolation and risk, it is “not a passive place” according to Amy.

CoverThey both always wanted to be writers but came at it from very different directions – Karin through landscape architecture (because writing wasn’t considered the done thing to do where she grew up). She never did any creative writing courses and tends to start all her writing from the landscape which she then peoples with characters and lets their story unfold. This is how her novel Island of Wings, which is set on St Kilda’s near the Outer Hebrides, unfolded. Karin also did the best reading from a book in the entire festival. A powerful passage beautifully read.

CoverAmy came to writing through her research on addiction, using the resources of the Salvation Army to find out more about the Rotoroa Home for Inebriates. Amy never thought she could be a writer, she had to go through a slow personal transition from reading to writing. She is a thoughtful young woman who considered all her answers very carefully. In the writing of Rotoroa she took the unusual step of combining a real-life person with fictionalised characters, and setting the whole story in the 1950s – a period of time long before she was born.

This was a very meaningful session for me, as I myself have a strong sense of place. I shall be thinking about it for some time to come.

And that is the highest praise I can give any festival event.

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Let Love In – WORD Christchurch Festival 2018

It’s not really a festival until you have your mettle tested by an event that you chose to blog on only to find that it ticks only some of your boxes, scrapes its nails down the walls of your brain in other ways, and it all happens after a ferocious argument with a car guard because your car has been completely parked in while he stood and watched it happening.

That event this festival is Let Love In with Michele A’Court and Soraya M. Lane. In my hugely flustered state I arrived filled with Assumptions (very non PC, we’re not supposed to make those any more) and Expectations (they are still OK). I assumed there would be no men in the audience – I was almost correct, there were three. My expectation was that this event would be light-hearted and entertaining, and it was – but with more of a feminist slant than I expected or wanted.

Soraya Lane and Michele A'Court. Image supplied.
Soraya Lane and Michele A’Court. Image supplied.

CoverRomance writing is a huge market and Soraya candidly confessed that she makes very good money out of it from novels like Hearts of Resistance (2018). In the United States alone at any one point in time there are 29 million readers of Romance and 35% of all fiction written in the States belongs in that genre. Both authors felt very strongly that when men put down Romance fiction writers they are simultaneously putting down all those readers as well.

Soraya gets a lot of positive feedback from readers – mainly older women who urge her to write faster as they are running out of time to hear more of her stories about women of their generation. I was developing such a head of steam by that stage that I found this vaguely ageist. In her novels Soraya is a fan of flawed characters who show development over the span of the story. Nothing wrong with that. She has a talent for dangling the “happy ever after” carrot after she has “twisted the romance knife in even deeper”.

CoverMichele has just published a book on 42 contemporary New Zealand love stories in How We Met (2018). These stories are not only about how couples met and fell in love, but also about how they have stayed together. Even though all the couples denied still being romantic, it was clear that they still were, only in different ways from when they were in the first flush of new love. Michele found that couples who fell in love sometimes remembered it very differently, but in the act of talking about it, they often managed to recreate that feeling all over again. Her book underscores that there are many different ways of loving.

At last someone said something positive about men – Michele confessed that many of the men that she interviewed were very proud of sustaining relationships, it was every bit as important to them as it was to the women. And both Soraya and Michele said that men also read their books, maybe not many, but it is a start.

By then I had calmed down a bit. And I very nearly asked a question: What did they think of the title of this event “Let Love In”? The “let” implying that we have some kind of control over falling in love. It’s never been like that for me. It’s just come barrelling in uninvited. But I missed the opportunity and my moment passed.

Ah well, my mamma she told me There’ll Be Days Like This!

Catherine Chidgey and Paul Cleave: WORD Christchurch Festival 2018

Catherine Chidgey signs my books.

It’s my first day at the fest and it’s a full morning for me with two events one after the other: Catherine Chidgey (Transformations) and Paul Cleave (Crimechurch). Both Kiwi writers and both well known in their respective fields. But how similar/dissimilar are their writing styles? The lights dim, lets find out!

They are both first and foremost writers: This sounds like a really obvious statement to make, but many other participants at festivals are not. They are first adventurers, sportspeople, chefs, politicians or comediennes who later write about those experiences. But Chidgey & Cleave (sounds like an upmarket boutique store written like that) are both individuals who started writing young, and when asked their occupation would be totally justified in replying:”I am a writer”.

Cover of The Wish ChildThey are both internationally known: Catherine Chidgey has strong German roots and has won several UK book awards starting with her first novel In a Fishbone Church (1998). Her well-known novel The Wish Child is due for publication in the States this year. Paul Cleave is an international best selling crime author who divides his time between Christchurch and Europe. He has a receptive readership in both France and Germany and is also (with his next novel) due to break in to the American market.

They both like the creepy and the quirky: Chidgey is drawn to the weird – phrenology, wigs and the weird half-life status of hair, the religious Procession of the Snails in France, her collection of evening bags. Cleave specialises in unforgettably creepy shiver-up-and-down-your- spine characters like Joe in his first novel The Cleaner (2006).  He likes quirky settings too and finds that Christchurch has those aplenty.

But in other ways these two authors are oh-so different.

Research: Cleave hardly does any research. Maybe ten minutes on Wikipedia tops. He does however need to keep an eye on his own writing and research, in a way. This is because he repeats characters in his books, so for the sake of good continuity he needs to check up on exactly what he said about them before. Nowadays he keeps detailed notebooks. Chidgey is a self confessed obsessive. Once she has decided to write on a topic she researches it to the exclusion of all else. Many is the time she has teetered on the brink of the Google Hole fearing that she would end up researching but never actually writing. Now she tries to research and write at the same time.

Personality: Chidgey is an introverted eyes-and-ears person, not that big a contributor to conversations. Cleave is a terrific talker with great rapport with his interviewer and I’d peg him as a high end extrovert. Chidgey draws heavily on family and friends for her inspiration. Cleave never uses the characteristics of friends in any of his books. His family was barely mentioned.

Cover of Joe Victim by Paul CleaveWriting Style: Cleave writes quickly and loves some of his characters so much that he repeats them, like Joe in The Cleaner (2006), who re-appears in Joe Victim (2013). Although his books are stand-alone reads they do loosely form a series. Chidgey writes slowly and contemplatively, sometimes she reworks a sentence 20 times before she gets it right. She had a 13 year gap between Golden Deeds and The Wish Child. Her latest novel The Beat of the Pendulum (2018) was a relatively fast write by her standards because it was written to cover one year of “found events” in her life. If she left long gaps in the writing she could not keep up. It is a challenging but highly creative book.

Here they are in their own words:

Paul Cleave:

My novels are about the characters in them. That’s what you’ll remember long after you’ve finished the book. There are characters that I love so much I want to repeat them in later stories. But I would kill any one of them to progress the story-line. I’m ruthless that way.

Catherine Chidgey:

I want to create something whole and beautiful out of all the white noise, the static, of everyday living.

My first day at WORD 2018, and two very successful writers show that you can never generalise when it comes to writing. There are as many different ways to be an author as there are stories waiting to be written. It was a very good start.

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WORD Christchurch Festival 2018: Having coffee with my author friends!

WORD Christchurch Festival 2018 gives me the perfect opportunity to amp up my author-spotting skills, and at the same time think back on my coffee connections with four authors. Because I have friends who write. They are not quite the imaginary friends of my childhood, but as friends go, they are far more real to me than I will ever be to them.

The fantasy coffee friends: Every Saturday morning, after my swim, I meet up with  Michéle A’Court and her husband Jeremy Elwood at a Rangiora café. They’re not really there, but when I read their back page column in the magazine section of the Christchurch Press, I feel so close to them. It is as if they include me in their dialogue, I feel as if I’m a good friend. I’ll need to rein myself in when I attend A’Court’s WORD discussion Let Love In. A stand-up comic, her two books (Stuff I Forgot to Tell My Daughter and How We Met) are just as entertaining as her shows are.

Michele A’Court. Image supplied.

The Book Club coffee friend: Although I’ve never met Catherine Chidgey in person, she feels like a member of my Book Club. We’ve read all of her books, but favour most highly an early novel of hers: In A Fishbone Church. I read that novel in 2001 just after we arrived in New Zealand, and was mightily impressed with it. Chidgey is now 17 years older and wiser (as are we all), so her WORD event Transformations seems very appropriately titled to me. And her latest novel The Beat of the Pendulum (A Found Story) builds on her daily interactions and snippets that have come her way. I love this – it feels like the kind of novel you could write sitting in your favourite café.

Catherine Chidgey. Image supplied.

The breakfast in bed tea-drinking friend: Tom Scott and I meet most days in my home where, over a cup of rooibos tea, I look forward to his interpretation of New Zealand and World events in his cartoons which often feature in the Christchurch Press (to which I still subscribe). He can be wickedly funny and, on occasion, the next day there will be letters of complaint to the Editor. I bet this makes him so happy. I’m looking forward to his WORD event Drawn Out. Here is a man who can write, talk and draw. But “Can He Dance?” is the next big question.

Tom Scott. Image supplied.

The real-time coffee catch-up friend: I have actually enjoyed a coffee catch-up with Laurence Fearnley – at WORD 2012. We chatted for ages about the importance of Place, Belonging and of course Reading and Writing. You can read that interview. At WORD 2018, unfortunately I  have to miss her event because of a programming clash. Also, Fearnley’s event To The Mountains is on mountain writing in New Zealand. Not such a mountain person here. I do hope one of my more outdoorsy friends will pick up where I left off and track down this lovely lady and have a coffee with her for me!

To the mountains. Image supplied.

My Yet-To-Be Coffee Writing Friends: I’d love to chat over a coffee with Chessie Henry, Jonathan Drori and Robyn Davidson, but the joy of my outlook is that it doesn’t actually have to happen. We can meet up for a virtual coffee, at a café of their choice, on any day in the year. They can join my small, but growing, group of imaginary friends – who write!

Chessie Henry. Image supplied.
Jonathan Drori. Image supplied.
Robyn Davidson. Image supplied.

Follow our WORD Christchurch Festival 2018 coverage, and read the WORD authors.

WORD Christchurch 2018: Spoilt for choice – Roberta’s Picks

It’s the first law of any truly great literary festival that you’ll almost certainly wish you could be in two places at once. That’s because just about everything you really want to see (or do) will probably be on the same day (quite often at exactly the same time) and in completely different venues. And WORD Christchurch 2018 is no exception to this rule.

It’s a hard life, but programme in one hand, good coffee in the other, here are some of the tricky festival choices I have made – grouped like this: Something Old; Something New; Something Borrowed and Something Blue:

Drawn OutSomething Old: I choose Catherine Chidgey: Transformations (Friday 31st August) because reading In a Fishbone Church seventeen years ago was when I first started to love New Zealand writing, and Chidgey has never let me down since then. She’ll be chatting to Morrin Rout about how she brings her own life to her writing. Tom Scott’s: Drawn Out (Saturday 1st September) is another choice of mine that stretches back to my early New Zealand days when I would laugh out loud at a Tom Scott cartoon over my cappuccino and huge muffin in the food court next to the old Farmer’s in Central Christchurch. I was such a lonely immigrant then. Thanks for the laughs Tom!

Something New: I just can’t go past The Witches of Gambaga (Friday 31st August). This is a documentary by Yaba Badoe  about a group of women ostracised as witches in Northern Ghana. I know nothing about witches or Ghana, and it all seems worlds apart from the venue at the Art Gallery in Christchurch, but how magical is that? Also new to me is my festival hot favourite Around the World in 80 Trees (Friday 31st August) by Jonathon Drori. I love trees. Were I a tree I would hope to be a tall, straight, slim-waisted Nikau Palm throwing my arms up in the air at the sheer joy of living. Please let me not be tempted to reveal this weirdness at this event!

Jonathan Drori
Author Jonathan Drori. Image supplied.

The Diary of a BooksellerSomething Borrowed: For me this is all about learning from other peoples’ experiences. My two picks are The Diary of a Bookseller (Saturday 1st September) by Shaun Bythell – he’s young, he’s Scottish and in this day and age he sells books. No Brainer! And Explosive Archaeology (Sunday 2nd September) in which a poet, a curator, a novelist and an academic discuss the underappreciated artists they love. I’m bound to learn something off-the-wall here.

How we met

Something Blue: And finally some luuuuurve. My pick is Let Love In (Saturday 1st September). Catherine Robertson and Michèle A’Court both write about love, but from very different perspectives (romance or quirky realism). But in the end it all comes down to our fondness for our own love stories – question time should be a blast. I feel warm and fuzzy already!

And of course in any respectable festival day there’ll be the little side forays into interesting cafés. Maybe I’ll take in a 20 minute lecture from Cabinet of Curiosities, and I’ll certainly loiter in the Piano foyer to get that magic feeling of reconnecting with my literary tribe again. No secret handshake required. Just see you there!

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Big may be beautiful, but small is seductive!

Spoiler Alert: I am talking about books here.

I love small squarish books. I like the feel of them in my hands, their unexpected heft, their solidity. Customers in libraries ask all sorts of questions, like  “Where are your Biographies? Do you have any Italian books? How do I log-on to the computers?” and “Where are the toilets?” to name but a few. But as of yet, no one has ever asked me to direct them to the Small Seductive Books section.

A Dog a DayBut just recently I have been spoilt for choice. Here are 5 small, but perfectly formed chunky little books: A Dog a Day by Sally Muir is a collection of Muir’s dog drawings – a different dog every day over 365 days. I am moved by this book in more ways than one: I love drawing (and I try to draw every day), I love dogs (though Muir has omitted Scottish Terriers – what was she thinking?), and it is small and  squarish. Win, Win, Win.

In the midst of the dreary grey winter weather that was such a feature of life in Christchurch a few weeks ago, a small jaunty book stood out from all the drabness and said “Pick Me!”, and that’s how Brolliology (A History of the Umbrella in Life and Literature) ended up in my book bag. What substances are these people imbibing to get such an off-the-wall idea as linking literature and umbrellas? Whatever it is – Give It To Me Now!

Everyone know’s that I love café culture, that I never take my meals at my workplace, but each day treat myself to a capuccino at a nearby café. Some libraries even have café’s on site – that works too. Lonely Planet’s Global Coffee Tour is a neat little book that I wish I’d had in my possession when we travelled to Italy. I checked out the New Zealand and  South African cafés and I am pleased to report and I am ahead of the pack in these two countries. If you are about to travel, have a flick through this muscular little number.

Now, let’s put it all to music. Donna Leon, well known crime novelist has brought out a beautiful little book on an intrinsic aspect of Venetian life: the Gondola, and it comes with its own CD of well known Gondolier renderings. This book is arguably one of the most beautiful books I have ever held. It is also informative and entertaining. One of the first chapters “I Think I Could Do This” tells of a dinner guest who was given the blueprints of a gondola as a gift. It took him over 5 years to build, and 32 men to lift its 350kg weight onto the truck that would take it to its launching place. That’d keep Greg busy in his retirement!

And finally, step aside Hygge, because Japonisme is about to knock you right off your perch. In an exploration of your Ikigai (purpose), Kintsugi (repairing broken ceramics with gold) and wabi-sabi (the transience of life) and more, you will be gently exposed to much wisdom, such as:

One who smiles rather than rages is always the stronger.

Japanese Proverb

And I am delighted to tell you that all the above-mentioned seductively small books did indeed make me smile.

Recommended Reading:

Online dating and book reviews

CoverWe all have at least one story in us. But very few of us will ever write a book. Even a blog may be a stretch too far. Which leaves us with the option of the book review.

The nay-sayers will be quick to question the value of book reviews, but let it be known: on any catalogue, a book displayed with a picture of its cover, a brief description of its contents and followed by a couple of short book reviews is far more likely to be read.

I’m not going to tell you how to do this – you’ve probably all read a gazillion reviews anyway, but here’s a few hints on maybe what not to do:

  • Saying: “I loved/hated this book/film” with a big fat full stop at the end of the sentence just isn’t enough. Not unless you’re Stephen Fry, and even then.
  • If you’re still talking after 3 minutes, you have gone on for too long. About 50 written words should do it. Just piqué our interest. That is all.
  • Don’t mislead – for example, if you didn’t actually read the whole book, say so and say why. That in itself is valuable for a reader to know.

If you’ve got a real block about reviewing anything, try reviewing yourself. There may come a time in your life when you want to meet more people. You want to date, or pursue a relationship and so far no-one’s come knocking on your door. It’s online dating time for you. In other words: You will have to book review yourself. Follow the same rules for writing book reviews (as above). But to get fully into the zone with it, I recommend reading the personal ads in the The Times Literary Supplement.

CoverI once shared a subscription to this behemoth of literary reviews with a friend. We tried, we really did. But the bulk of the reviews were on books we sheepishly admitted we would never read. But we both loved the Personal Ads column designed especially to cater for: “middle-class, well educated, intellectuals”. That’s us. You get just 30 words to convince someone to take a punt on you. They are succinct wee gems of the self. Have a look at these two compilations to get you started: They Call me Naughty Lola and Sexually I’m More of  a Switzerland. Here’s a couple of examples:

I celebrated my fortieth birthday by cataloguing my collection of bird feeders. Next year I am hoping for sexual intercourse. And a cake. Join my mailing list at box no. 6831. Man.

Or the brutally brief

I am not an Accountant. Box no. 7452

 

CoverThen just do it. I bash out my short book reviews fairly quickly, on desk, at work. After they’re done, mind not to stand between me and the Catalogue Computer. I like to elbow my way across the library to see the cover of the book I have just reviewed on that Recently Reviewed moving banner thingy. My pleasures are simple.

Writing reviews of books, or films or ourselves comes down to one’s own opinion. So let those babies out into an unsuspecting world. May they thrive.

Because best of all, here at last is something you cannot possibly do wrong.

Can men really write about women?

I’ve just read five books in a row written by male authors. I’ll freely admit that this doesn’t qualify as a statistically significant sample. And yet I feel compelled to wade right in and share with you my thoughts on the abilities of men to really really understand their female characters. We’re not talking Nicholas Sparks here, so Buckle Up. It could be a bumpy ride.

The Dreams of Bethany MellmothIn my fantasy “authors I have a bit of a crush on” life, for some reason I have William Boyd pegged as a Big Game Hunter type of a man – leaning nonchalantly against a muddy Landrover, smoking a Camel. As a result I’m always taken by surprise to rediscover that he writes really well about women. In The Dreams of Bethany Melmoth  the portrayal of Bethany herself is very finely wrought. However, not to move the goalposts, I think that Boyd is trying to appeal to a female readership here, I just can’t picture male readers taking to this book at all.

Colin Cotterill gets round the problem of writing about women by simply excluding them, if not altogether, in the main. In The Rat Catcher’s Olympics there are really only two female characters and they are like male characters only with female names and husbands. This doesn’t deter me from Cotterill as an author, as his male characters have quite well-developed feminine sides anyway. Colin (I feel we are on first name terms) is the only author I have ever tried to meet: in Chiang Mai at The Blue Diamond Cafe which I had heard he frequented. The Rat Catchers Olympics is a hard novel to recommend to others. Dr Siri is an acquired taste and you need to have a high tolerance level for all things Laotian and in this book, Russian.

The Flight AttendantChris Bohjalian in The Flight Attendant, takes the cliché of a promiscuous air hostess and weaves an unsettling murder mystery out of it. Like a lot of male authors he’s really better at vampish/bad girl females – chances are you’ll not easily recognise yourself in Cassie.

Deon Meyer in the brilliantly dystopian Fever gets round the whole issue by paring the female presence in his books right down to the bare minimum – the very beautiful and the very sporty. Post an apocalyptic disaster, guess what?  It will still be a man’s world!

Cover of Adventures in modern marriage

Only William Nicholson in Adventures in Modern Marriage comes even close to trying to get under the skin of females you might meet in your everyday life. One woman at a time he does this really well, but he too has a problem with interactions between women – which , let’s give credit here, he does at least attempt to portray.

This seems to me to be a major problem area for many male authors. They struggle to write about women in groups, they have no ear for dialogue between women.

There, I have said it. What do you think?

 

Have you found yourself yet?

I Am, I Am, I AmHave you found yourself yet? And if so, how?

Maggie O’Farrell, author of seven very successful novels, has worked out who she is using her seventeen (that is correct) brushes with death, and has put it all together for us in her memoir: I Am, I Am, I Am.  And it is very good.

O’Farrell has had a truly amazing life. Seventeen times she very nearly died (think attacks on lone walks, aeroplane near misses, medical blunders and and and and), but seventeen times she came back to live another day. These experiences have taught her a lot about herself, and she has assembled each episode into this uniquely structured memoir. After reading this book, it is almost impossible not to compare, to think back on one’s own life to times of danger or to those fleeting moments when guiding forces seem to have  intervened and prevented something truly awful from happening. I have not had a life like O’Farrell’s. And I come from Africa.

The ImmortalistsBut what if you did know the exact day when you were destined to die? Is this something you would want to know? And how might it affect your life?  The Immortalists explores this option after four young siblings consult a travelling fortune teller who predicts the exact death date of each of them. Half way through this novel I wouldn’t have minded if all four Gold siblings had died at the same time, like immediately, but it is worth it to hang in there as it’s a book that gets better in the second half.

Could it be instead that some of us live lives that have been shaped by the small, by a huge number of minor chords, by repetitive everyday attrition, by little tests that slowly reveal who we are?  Personally, I love to be told about myself by answering a gazillion questions (think the Enneagram and Myers-Briggs). I also suspect my birth date has subliminally influenced me. And this has been all well and good, until the library poster for the Lunar Year of the Dog arrived at work. To my dismay I see I am an Ox: steady, loyal, determined, blah blah blah. Just say “plodding” and be done with it why don’t you? I love my western Astrology sign of Sagittarius, but I am not a happy Ox.

Then I happened to glance at the top of this draft page and saw that this is my 200th library blog post.

I am indeed doggedly bullish. But I like to think of myself as an Ox armed with a Sagittarian bow and arrow with which to optimistically shoot my ideas all over the place. Maybe this is how I have found myself. Maybe it is with this kind of action I prove to myself: I Am, I Am, I Am!