Why reading and writing is the road to happiness...

This blog started years ago as a place to muse on the life projects keeping me entertained. It is no surprise then that it has morphed into a blog about my reading as that has been my lifelong project. Here I review lots of different types of books, with an added focus on Australian women writers. Hope you enjoy - feel free to contribute to the conversation!

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Sydney Writers' Festival - Does Jennifer Byrne Sleep?

The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.  
Dr Seuss

Went to the live taping of the ABC's First Tuesday Book Club yesterday, as part of the Sydney Writers' Festival. It was a double taping with the first hour focusing on 'Books That Changed The World' with Geoff Dyer, Danielle Clode, Christine Wallace and Mark Carnegie. I won't spoil the discussion for anyone who will be watching but it was an interesting look at non-fiction that has changed the world and a quick discussion of fiction - Carnegie had cheek to say 'Well the Bible of course - that's a work of fiction' and it was a good point made. Fiction or non-fiction, it's a piece of writing that has certainly had a far reaching impact...
The second taping had regulars Jason and Marieke (in a gorgeous vintage dress!), and Jeffrey Eugenides, whose 'Marriage Plot' I blogged on here, and Stella Rimington, author of M15 inspired crime novels. I've read one of the Rimington novels - meh... it was ok. Not gripping enough for me though. But she was lovely as a panelist. Eugenides, as I had expected, was very funny, and very personable - not at all arrogant (which would be easy to become after winning the Pulitzer). The discussion was on Erskine Childers and Phillip Roth. One day I may read a Roth - but God, he does sound very high brow... I'll put it off for a while but leave it on my 'to do' list.
This is all very well, but what I wanted to comment on is the divine Ms Jennifer Byrne. She is just sooooo charming. What a tough job it would be to be a host of a television show like this - you have to be well researched, relaxed enough to lead the discussion, put your generally non-television savvy guests at ease, and allow four people to have their say in a free flowing discussion on quite complex material at times. She is a consummate professional. She told us before the taping that she had never met Stella Rimmington before - so I watched as she introduced herself on the set, put Rimmington at ease with the other panelists, ran the show for an hour with no blunders, no re-takes, and laughed and joked with such good humour that you couldn't help but love her. And she knows every book that is mentioned! My God. Does Jennifer Byrne sleep???? I know that reading is fundamenatal to all the jobs she does in the media, so she would put some effort in - BUT, she has a family, is on tv, radio, writes during the day - she simply must be a night owl to get that reading into her daily schedule. At the end of the taping Jennifer asked the group I was standing in if we enjoyed the show and I told her I did; then a question stuck in my throat and I was too shy to ask - 'Jennifer, how do you get time to read all these books??' I was just to shy.
So I did the cowardly thing, and Googled it at home. Is there nothing that one can't Google?! I found an interview from a few years back where Jennifer stated that she read about 4 books a month (which is less than I would have thought - I could possibly do a book a week, I suppose...). She thinks The English Patient is the best film adapted from a novel - yep, agree. And thrill of thrill for this fan, we believe the same thing - never re-read a book. There are too many other books out there to read, why re-read???
So, yes - I loved seeing Eugenides, and I adore Marieke Hardy - but my greatest adulation goes to Ms Jennifer Byrne, hardest reading woman in Australia.

Gardening Update - The beans have broken through...

 Tomorrow I'm off to another Sydney Writer's Festival event - I shall report back tomorrow.

How long does it take everyone else to read a book? Anyone else up to Ms Byrne's cracking pace of one a week?

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