Archive | October, 2011

Secret Women’s Business (Book Groups)

25 Oct

For three years now, my book group has convened once a month. A highlight of our gatherings has been the habit of our leader, Trish, to dress according to the titles chosen – when the mood takes her.

The first year, we had a member with a very dry taste in books. She never actually came to book group, but she chose two earnest tomes, which the rest of us dutifully attempted to wade through. Our Woman in Kabul wasn’t too bad (Trish wore a burqa) but only one of us made it through In Siberia. All I can now recall is that horse meat is widely eaten there. I’m still waiting for an opportunity to use that morsel in a cocktail party conversation.

Kate Holden’s memoir of working as a prostitute led to discussion regarding prostitution in our own coastal town. Who knew that the working girls plied the Coast Road at tradie knock off time? Not me. We also spent some time considering whether girls from private schools were more likely to become drug addicted prostitutes. I don’t remember coming to a resolution on that one.

Last week, our book was I Heard the Owl Call My Name, by Margaret Craven. This moving reflection on life, set in an American Indian village, inspired a smoking ceremony. With sage smoke up our nostrils, we reflected on the value of the simple life and the desirability of living each day as if it might be your last.

Now that’s a conversation you don’t have every Tuesday night.

Surrealism – it’s the vibe

4 Oct

I’ve had a bit of a thing about surrealists ever since I visited Salvador Dali’s house in Spain, a long, long time ago. The floppy clocks, the faceless women, the strange titles. Debris of an Automobile Giving Birth to a Blind Horse Biting a Telephone is a personal favourite.

I was young when I visited Dali’s house and less bothered by the fact that I had no idea what it was all about. However, visiting the surrealists in Brisbane recently I found myself rather perplexed, less able to just enjoy the spectacle.

Why was there a table with the head of a wolf, why a woman’s face with eyes that are breasts and a crutch for a mouth, why was a coffin reclining on a chaise longue? Damn it, I wanted to know.

Luckily for me, the exhibition had special plaques for children. These also worked well for this baffled adult. ‘If you have to ask what a work is about, you have missed the point of surrealism,’ said one plaque. Looks like I had it right all those years ago. It’s the vibe.

It’s been said that if you can understand a surrealist poem, you must be reading something else. Take these examples…

I love benevolent seal

Long distance swimmer.


Say goodbye to the windows.

Trees blossom in the fall.

Like the paintings they do seem strangely meaningful even if you don’t know what the meaning is. John Lennon said that surrealism was just the way he saw his life.