QandA : Stark Contrast

QandA : Stark Contrast

QandA is a weekly current affairs program on ABC TV in Australia          The 29 October 2019 broadcast focused on responses to the current ongoing, multi-year, devastating drought

Logo of QandA

QandA Panel

Sitting at one end a middle-aged water woman, assertive in a quiet, fact-based approach explaining the mismanagement of scarce water resources

Next to her a government minister, nothing to be proud of, prattling on, talking much, saying little

The government minister sandwiched between the water woman and an eloquent, emotional young farmer, her face bent to listen to other panelists, her responses always from her heart, faithful to the land

In the middle of the panel

The moderator, looking rather young, a half smile on his face, eyes open wide, trying to hold things together without losing his composure

Next to him

A blonde, curly-headed woman wearing an all green shirt (but she’s not a member of the Greens), the head of the Farmers Federation, talking, even interrupting the water woman, but with nothing much to say except pity the farmers, defending the status quo, offering no analysis, no vision, no future

And last but somewhat least the shadow minister for labor, talking about the poor farmers doing it tough, saying Australia needs a national drought plan without offering one

QandA Studio Audience

The QandA panel floating on a sea of climate change and drought, with the audience and farmers (in the studio and on video links) critical of the dismal performance of current governments

The audience and farmers acknowledging human-made climate change and the mismanagement of very scarce water resources

The audience applauding the eloquence, the heartfelt sentiments of two indigenous leaders – one on video, one in the audience – denouncing corporate greed and capitalism that has taken their water

In the audience – connections to the land, to reality, to caring in stark contrast to the empty words of three members of the panel

Reading while camping, snorkeling, hiking

So very fortunate to be able to camp at Booderee National Park, Jervis Bay, South Coast of Australia https://parksaustralia.gov.au/booderee/ during the Christmas holidays.

The campground is so beloved that those interested in camping during the holiday season (December-January) have to make a booking in August. THEN wait until September to find out if they have gotten a space.

Every day I went snorkeling (highlights included seeing a giant ray, wobbegong sharks, squid, and an octopus), hiking, and swimming in the crystal clear waters of Jervis Bay.

Reminder: December is summer in Australia

While camping, I  managed to read three books in five days

  • Small Wrongs, How we really say sorry in love, life and law by Kate Rossmanith
  • Sarah Thornhill, sequel to The Secret River by Kate Grenville
  • The Red-Haired Woman by Orhan Pamuk

Small Wrongs was also about big wrongs…that is, major crimes, including murder. The book wrestled with the idea of remorse, what it is and when it happens. According to a New South Wales Judicial Commission official, “Remorse is very important for prisoners because, if they feel genuine remorse, they’re more likely to address their offending behavior and produce positive results during the various prison rehabilitation programs” ( p. 119). But what is “genuine” remorse? And who decides if it is genuine?

Sarah Thornhill is a novel about colonial Australia. The novel reveals how settlers’ massacre of Aboriginal Australians threatened the integrity of their own families despite cover-ups and lies.

The Red Haired Woman is an intriguing story of contradictions and similarities between mythical stories of Europe (Oedipus) and Iran (Shahnameh), both of which focus on violence between father and son. “There were in fact surprising parallels between Oedipus’s life and Sohrab’s. But there was one fundamental difference, too: Oedipus murdered his father while Sohrab was murdered by his father. One is a story of patricide, the other a story of filicide”. p. 141

Thanks to book reviews on Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the public library of the Australian Capital Territory for sharing these books with me.

Enjoy your reading in the coming year and forever!                    Comments most welcome.

History Through Fiction: The Making of Martin Sparrow (part two)

I am continuing with my response to the novel The Making of Martin Sparrow and learning about history through fiction. Reading the book, I entered into the world of settlers on the Hawkesbury River in southeastern Australia at the time of the flood of 1806.

Colonies are built on dreams, but some dreams threaten ruin Martin Sparrow Cover

This was the single sentence on the first page of The Making of Martin Sparrow after the title page.

Women were only minor characters in The Making of Martin Sparrow. Evil and not so evil men dominated. Many settler men met their end through the harsh environment – wild boars, wild rivers, a prick from a platypus, or disease. Others through retribution by indigenous men, who selectively killed settlers who had massacred their people.

The ending of The Making of Martin Sparrow didn’t quite satisfy. It was a little too neat. Yet the book had to end sometime. I had to leave that time and place and return to the present day.

Here are a few samples of the beauty of the writing in The Making of Martin Sparrow about a harsh violent history of the forcible settling of Australia by convicts and their keepers.

It was almost sunset and the clouds to the north sat flat, as if on a straight edge, and they were lit bright pink on the underside and the sky beneath was the palest petal blue. (p. 297)

I’ve seen those clouds and that sky.

Or they might not find them at all and instead find Dan’s musket wedged in a tree, draped in the deathly grey of flood-borne shrubbery, the floodwaters a master of random arrangement. (p. 404)

I’ve seen shrubs, trees, stranded, washed up along the banks by rising rivers after they’ve subsided.

Just one thing can shape your whole life. (p. 423) Quiet insights in the dialogue, especially from the character Cuff, are sprinkled throughout the book. Somehow they become believable, although the reader may doubt the character’s ability to reflect.

The author, historian Peter Cochrane comments in the Afterword

The Making of Martin Sparrow is a work of fiction in which the documented past provides points of departure into an imagined world. (p. 447)

Can the reader find historical truth through fiction?

Are novels a more powerful and accessible way to learn about history and other cultures?

What do you think?

Your comments are most welcome.  Thank you.

 

Harshly Boring: The Making of Martin Sparrow

My last post was about learning history through novels. Here’s my response to a novel by an Australian historian, Peter Cochrane.

I heard a review of The Making of Martin Sparrow, on ABC Radio National here in Australia. I put in a request online at the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) public library.

That’s how I came to having a copy of The Making of Martin Sparrow. I was already reading several other books so I put it on top of a pile. A few days later, I received a reminder from the library by email. The book was due in three days!

I read The Making of Martin Sparrow as an emotional journey. When the first page had a long list of characters, I was skeptical.  I skipped over that page and started reading. Tentatively. I kept on, although the main character, Martin Sparrow, was not particularly likeable.

At one point I thought the story was harshly boring and was ready to put it aside. The writing, the odd turn of phrase, the originality kept me going, even when the narrative seemed tedious.

My perseverance was rewarded. I entered into the world of settlers on the Hawkesbury River in southeastern Australia at the time of the flood of 1806. A world dominated by male violence, drinking, whoring – not topics that usually hold my interest. There was something more shining through… patches of sunlight in a forbidding, very dark sky.

My emotional journey through The Making of Martin Sparrow continues in the next blog.

Have you read this book

What are your reactions?

The Truth of Fiction

In my previous post, I said that the posts on this blog would be about the process of researching, writing and rewriting a novel that is and is not the story of my father’s life.

Change of plan.

Instead of presenting myself as a writer, for the next few blogs, let me share some thoughts as a reader.

Some years ago, when I knew I was headed to Pakistan, I tried to read everything about Partition* through novels. Novels written by Muslims, Christians, Hindus, non-believers. Novels written from the Pakistan side, from the Indian side, from the time just before, during and after Partition.

* Note on Partition: the division of the Asian Sub-Continent by the British in 1947, which created India and Pakistan. Partition forcibly displaced over 14 million people on religious lines. The violence of Partition created hostility between India and Pakistan that continues today as an ongoing deeply felt trauma.

To find out about history, culture, values, peoples, heroes and villains of the different countries where I’ve lived and worked, I go to novels.

Why fiction? Because a different truth lies in stories where point of view is acknowledged. Readers can draw their own conclusions and think about what happened or might have happened.

Novels bring us into a different reality. That was always true for me. As a girl growing up in a rather boring Midwestern town in the USA, I read novels constantly. Even after bedtime, under the bed covers, with the aid of a flashlight. Was I trying to escape or to learn? Probably both.

Currently my reading is dominated by the place where I live, that is, Australia. I hear about books and authors interviewed on ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) Radio National.

Pamela Collett RN 2

                                 This is me with my Radio National umbrella.                  Kangaroos in the background so you know this is Australia.

The next blogs will be about my reaction to books I heard about on the radio and then requested online at my local public library.

Do you think novels have more profound truth that non-fiction?

Where do you go for information about a country or culture where you may be visiting or living?

How do you find out about books you might want to read?