Breath by James Nestor - coverBreath, the new science of a lost art

James Nestor, Penguin 2020.

Nestor, a science writer, explains in the introduction to Breath that he was alerted to the possibilities of breath-based health therapies (conventional and not) when his doctor sent him to a yoga breathing class to fix up his own chronic poor health. It worked, and sent him on an intermittent quest  (he wrote another book along the way) to learn more.

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Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet

Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet coverZen and the Art of Saving the Planet

Thich Nhat Hanh

Rider, 2021

Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet is a very worthwhile book with a couple of odd aspects.

The general reader is likely to read it exactly as it is presented, as a book by Thich Nhat Hanh (“Thay” to his many followers) with commentaries from one of his senior students. As such, it is wise, gentle and encouraging, like everything else of his that I know.

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Black Swan – a Koorie Woman’s Life

Black Swan coverBlack Swan – a Koorie Woman’s Life

Eileen Harrison and Carolyn Landon

Allen & Unwin, 2011

All reviews say more about the reviewer than they pretend to, but this one is far more personal and autobiographical than most.

Black Swan came to me as a review copy when it was first released, but the newspaper I freelanced for wasn’t interested so I set it aside for myself. It has been on my shelf ever since. In the aftermath of thinking again about Singing the Coast, its time has finally come: its parallels and contrasts with that book and with my own life made it particularly relevant to me this year.

Eileen Harrison was born into a large, close-knit family on the Aboriginal Mission at Lake Tyers on the Gippsland Lakes. She grew up there, attending the mission school while I was attending the state school in Leongatha, 250 km away. I went on to secondary school; she was not allowed to. Rather, she and her family were uprooted by a new government policy and sent to the Western District, far from extended family.

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SF bookshelf

This is a collection of tiny reviews of science fiction and fantasy. They are books which I liked enough to recommend but haven’t reviewed at length (often because I couldn’t find time). The collection is structured like a blog, with the most recent additions at the top, and dates are the dates of my mini-reviews, not book publication. It began as a comment-string to an identically-titled post on Green Path which drifted away from the environmental theme of the books reviewed there and into general SF.

Here’s an index, now that it’s long enough to need one:
The Year of the JackpotChildren of MemoryFuturistic Violence and Fancy SuitsReconstructionThe Seven Moons of Maali AlmeidaThe AnomalyFlyawayFrom Here On, Monsters

The Year of the Jackpot

In Robert Heinlein’s 1952 novella, a statistician attempts to make sense of a world gone mad in an apocalyptic sci-fi scenario. Potiphar Breen has been carefully noting a rise in odd behaviors all around him in the hope of discovering some pattern or meaning in them. Then one day, he comes upon a beautiful young woman at a bus stop who is taking off all her clothes – and she doesn’t even know why.

I have added the novella to this page because it still stands up remarkably well, and because it resonates so strongly with William Gibson’s far longer and far more recent Jackpot which I’ve been talking about over on Green Path. Anyone wanting to read Heinlein’s story can find it as an e-book; anyone wanting a mere plot summary can get it on Wikipedia but be warned: the spoilers in it will ruin the novella for you.

Children of Memory

This is the third novel in a trilogy by Adrian Tchaikovsky which begins with Children of Time. It’s space opera, but lifted out of the generic by interesting explorations of identity and the nature of intelligence.

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Singing the Coast: Masks, Mists, Mirrors, Maps

  • This is a reflection or meditation on Singing the Coast, rather than a review as such. It grew out of a short review I wrote for the Townsville Bulletin at the time of publication. I may have submitted it to an academic journal (I can’t even remember whether it got that far) but really, I wrote it for myself as a way of trying to make sense of a very strange piece of story-telling. I have posted it here on Words & Images because it connects with concerns about indigenous history and heritage in The European colonisation of Australia. A word of warning: it’s long.

Singing the Coast
Margaret Somerville and Tony Perkins
Aboriginal Studies Press, $34.95
May 2010

Singing the Coast attempts to preserve a specific Aboriginal vision and share it with white society. One of its two authors, Margaret Somerville, is Professor of Education at Melbourne’s Monash University, while the other, Tony Perkins, is identified as a ‘cultural knowledge holder and member of the Garbi Elders of Corindi Beach’. With the help of Tony’s fellow Elders, they present essential elements of Gumbaynggirr culture through stories passed down in aboriginal families on the coast between Nambucca Heads (NSW) and Yamba, stories which relate the patterns of their daily lives and weave them into the timeless presence of the country.

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