Moments in my eBook Library — 16 —  more random choices

Australian readers would once have instantly known who the author is:

Henry Lawson (1867-1922).

The next one you won’t have heard of — self-published in 2012:

The Polish Experience

By

Nicholas Westerby

This book is dedicated to my son Alexander. Let’s hope that you cause me more problems than I cause you

© 2012, Nicholas Westerby

Nothing much to add…. I’m afraid the folk on Goodreads were not all that impressed.

I have read other works by Sheridan Le Fanu (1814-1873) but not this one. It does look promising and is a recent addition to my eBook collection.

ANU Press has a splendid policy of allowing their latest publications FREE as eBooks. Who can resist? I now have quite a few and the random read app in my Calibre eBook Reader threw up two which I must confess I have yet to read in full. I really must as both look fascinating.

This edition © 2021 ANU Press

This edition © 2010 ANU E Press

Plenty of food in those two! Finally a period piece indeed from the USA — when enthusiasm for the Bolshevik Revolution was at a height in the West.

Of considerable historical interest still.

Moments in my eBook Library — 15 —  more random choices

Do note that thanks to the tag eBook moments you can see this series as a separate chain of posts. 

The first one today is an early Project Gutenberg rendering of Shakespeare’s Richard III — which I have taught many times, the last using the rather wonderful updated production starring Ian McKellen.

That was to Year 11 at Sydney Boys High in 1999.

SCENE: England
King Richard the Third

ACT I. SCENE 1.
London. A street

Enter RICHARD, DUKE OF GLOUCESTER, solus

  GLOUCESTER. Now is the winter of our discontent
    Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
    And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house
    In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
    Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
    Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
    Our stern alarums chang’d to merry meetings,
    Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.
    Grim-visag’d war hath smooth’d his wrinkled front,
    And now, instead of mounting barbed steeds
    To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,
    He capers nimbly in a lady’s chamber
    To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.
    But I-that am not shap’d for sportive tricks,
    Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass-
    I-that am rudely stamp’d, and want love’s majesty
    To strut before a wanton ambling nymph-
    I-that am curtail’d of this fair proportion,
    Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,

Deform’d, unfinish’d, sent before my time
    Into this breathing world scarce half made up,
    And that so lamely and unfashionable
    That dogs bark at me as I halt by them-
    Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
    Have no delight to pass away the time,
    Unless to spy my shadow in the sun
    And descant on mine own deformity.
    And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover
    To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
    I am determined to prove a villain
    And hate the idle pleasures of these days.

The next is still in the realm of English Literature, but a complete contrast.

The illustrations are delightful.

The next is intriguing.

It is by Algernon Blackwood, a name I had heard of but knew nothing about. First published 1909.

I must line that one up for a read!

Sometimes a self-published effort proves worth reading or skimming, even if a bit rough. An example:

Published FREE in Smashwords 2011.

Author’s notes

This book was the result of me wanting to turn a short story I made about the last day of someone’s life and make it into a full length novel. I am currently a member of the writers workshop on http://www.chuckpalahniuk.net and the said short story I mentioned was posted into the forum. I loved it anyways so it was really reassuring to have so many people give me positive reviews on it. It got me to thinking that if I can please that crowd then maybe there was some potential in making it into a full length novel. I hope you enjoyed it on some level, sucker took the life out of me writing it!

I don’t know how many times I have to repeat this, no, many of the events described in this book did not happen to me, and if there is any truth to certain scenarios then they’ve been greatly exaggerated! I haven’t lived the best life but I hold no qualms about my past and I really can’t think of any way I could of [sic] done it better other than maybe I should of [sic] stayed away from drugs and went [sic] to college a little sooner.

A lot of what goes on in Brian’s head could be considered gay bashing so I need to explain that…. I am gay myself and I still have weirdness associated with it from being brought up Southern Baptist. I’ve been where Brian is. I’ve come to terms with myself but I remember what it was like wanting to blow my head off because of who I am. I wanted to show this mindset in Brian so I could help the reader further understand his mental state of mind.

Does he die in the end? I honestly don’t know. I’ve had that same ending in mind for the longest time and to be truthful the outcome changed so many times over the course of writing this that I just said “FUCK IT!” and left it the way I did. So your guess is as good as mine. Deep down I think Brian wanted to be found and rescued, but seeing the predicament he put himself in I’m not all that optimistic he got out of it alive. Who knows?

The oddest things have come my way over the years via Project Gutenberg. I finish this post with one of them:

Of the present King of Cande.

The Government of this Island.

Hitherto I have treated of the Countrey, with the Provisions and Wealth of it: Our next Discourses shall be of the Political Government there exercised. And here Order will lead us to speak first of the King and Matters relating to him.

Antiently this Countrey consisted of Nine Kingdoms, all which had their several Kings; but now by the vicissitude of Times and Things, they are all reduced under one King, who is an absolute Tyrant, and Rules the most arbitrarily of any King in the World. We will first speak of him as to his Personal Capacity, and next as to his Political….

Moments in my eBook Library — 14 —  more random choices

Do note that thanks to the tag eBook moments you can see this series as a separate chain of posts.

The first takes us back again to World War 1 and Australia in a lavishly illustrated book that would have sold well back in 1919 I’m sure.

Indeed there is more to this book than I had realised: “Many contributors, includes a record of the ‘achievements the horsemen of Australia, and of the Flying Corps, and the Anzac Section of the Imperial Camel Corps.  These books were given as gifts by Australian Light Horse soldiers and are now quite rare and sought after. Includes 2 folding panoramas of the fields of battle for Richon le Zion, and Beersheba.”

Preface
“Australia in Palestine” should prove of great interest to the people of Australia, and especially to those whose lives have been spent outside the great cities, for it includes a record of the achievements of their “very own”—the horsemen of Australia, and of the Flying Corps and the Anzac Section of the Imperial Camel Corps, which were recruited from them, and co-operated with them in the greatest war yet known to history.

The Australian Light Horseman—and under this name I include the Field and Signal Engineers and Medical Services connected with him, who come from the same stock—is of a type peculiarly his own and has no counterpart that I know of except in his New Zealand brother. His fearlessness, initiative and endurance, and his adaptability to almost any task, are due to the adventurous life he leads in his own country, where he has been accustomed to long hours in the saddle, day and night, and to facing danger of all sorts from his earliest youth. Perhaps these qualities are inherited from his pioneer parents. His invariable good humour under the most adverse conditions comes from the good-fellowship and camaraderie which exists in the free and open life of the Australian Bush. His chivalry comes from the same source, and it is one of his strongest points. In other words, the life he has been accustomed to lead has fitted him to become, with training and discipline, second to no cavalry soldier in the world.

As far as Australia is concerned, the Palestine Campaign may be said to have commenced with the crossing of the Suez Canal by the Anzac Mounted Division at Kantara on the 23rd April, 1916, to re-occupy Romani and the western end of the Katia Oasis Area. The mounted troops of Australia and New Zealand had already proved their extraordinary adaptability to circumstances as infantrymen in the hard school of Gallipoli, but it yet remained for them to show their value as cavalry. The occupation of Romani was followed by long and trying marches in the Desert of Sinai, during the hottest summer known in Egypt for many years, after an elusive enemy who did not appear in any force until July, 1916, when he advanced on Romani preparatory to his second attack on the Suez Canal. The disastrous defeat inflicted on the Turkish arms at Romani, and the pursuit which followed, not only demonstrated the inestimable value of the horsemen of Australasia as cavalrymen, but opened the way for the advance to the Eastern Frontier of Egypt which ended the enemy’s menace to Egypt. The systematic advance of the British Force from Romani to the Egyptian Border was covered by Australian and New Zealand horsemen, British Yeomanry and the Imperial Camel Corps, ably assisted by the reconnaissance of the R.F.C. and Australian Flying Corps. The victories of Magdhaba and Rafa completely cleared the enemy from Egyptian territory and opened the way for our advance into Palestine. The operations which began with the capture of Beersheba and concluded with the capture of Damascus and Aleppo, and eventually led to the complete surrender of the Turkish Forces, are dealt with in this volume, and I will say no more of them than that the brilliant part in those operations played by the Australian and New Zealand mounted troops has more than upheld the reputation they established on the battlefield of Romani.

The splendid record of the 1st Squadron of the Australian Flying Corps speaks for itself. It was formed in Egypt and has grown with the campaign to a state of efficiency which places it second to none of the same arm.

The casualties in action in this campaign have been light compared with the results achieved. In a very large measure this was due to the dash of the troops, which saved heavy losses on many occasions; but many brave fellows have given their lives through diseases contracted in areas which the exigencies of the service required to be occupied and fought in.

Before concluding, I would like to say a word for the Medical Services, which have endured the same hardships as the combatant arms, and always performed their duties cheerfully and efficiently under the most adverse conditions.

The great re-enactment of Beersheba filmed in 1940 in the Cronulla sand hills! Directed by Charles Chauvel, the nephew of General Sir Harry Chauvel who led the Australian Light Horse Brigade.

History of other eras may be found in the next two random books.

That name intrigued me!

That Short History of Scotland is by a writer very famous in his day, Andrew Lang, whose work is still well worth looking at. There is web site devoted to him.

The next book is also by someone famous in his day — Sir Walter Besant. There is a memorial to him in St Paul’s Cathedral.

There are many magazines and journals to be found on Project Gutenberg which often publishes individual items of note. From this 1926 magazine they chose a D H Lawrence story.

THE LAST LAUGH
by D. H. Lawrence
Author of “Women in Love”

There was a little snow on the ground, and the church clock had just struck midnight. Hampstead in the night of winter for once was looking pretty, with clean, white earth and lamps for moon, and dark sky above the lamps.

A confused little sound of voices, a gleam of hidden yellow light. And then the garden door of a tall, dark Georgian house suddenly opened, and three people confusedly emerged. A girl in a dark-blue coat and fur turban, very erect; a fellow with a little dispatch case, slouching; a thin man with a red beard, bareheaded, peering out of the gateway down the hill that swung in a curve downward toward London.

“Look at it! A new world!” cried the man in the beard ironically, as he stood on the step and peered out.

“No, Lorenzo! It’s only whitewash!” cried the young man in the overcoat. His voice was handsome, resonant, plangent, with a weary, sardonic touch.

As he turned back, his face was dark in shadow.

The girl with the erect, alert head, like a bird, turned back to the two men.

“What was that?” she asked, in her quick, quiet voice….

Finally a writer very popular in the early to mid 20th century: W Somerset Maugham.

Moments in my eBook Library — 13 —  more random choices

In the previous post in this series I told you about the “Read a Random Book” option in my eBook Library on Calibre. The “random book” I settled down to read is Henry James, The Aspern Papers (1888). One should savour Henry James. He is not suitable at all for speed reading. In fact that is one of the delights he offers. He would never write shorty choppy sentences like these. Or such tiny paragraphs. Which brings me to another feature of Calibre, which I have been using on The Aspern Papers.

Yes — read aloud. In a computer-generated female voice, but pretty good considering.

Seems there has been a movie made of The Aspern Papers, and not all that long ago!

A very different American classic popped up in the next round of random books — in the wonderful eBooks for free one used to be able to download from Adelaide University. I grabbed many a one as each monthly offering came out, but that rich source has now dried up.

One of my party tricks as an English teacher even at Cronulla High in the 1960s was to read “The Black Cat” aloud to my classes — rather well I like to think. Certainly the kids were always quiet as when I did so… It is in that collection.

Also from the Adelaide collection came an Australian classic which in fact I re-read with pleasure last year: Joseph Furphy’s idiosyncratic Such is Life.

Chapter i
Unemployed at last!

Scientifically, such a contingency can never have befallen of itself. According to one theory of the Universe, the momentum of Original Impress has been tending toward this far-off, divine event ever since a scrap of fire-mist flew from the solar centre to form our planet. Not this event alone, of course; but every occurrence, past and present, from the fall of captured Troy to the fall of a captured insect. According to another theory, I hold an independent diploma as one of the architects of our Social System, with a commission to use my own judgment, and take my own risks, like any other unit of humanity. This theory, unlike the first, entails frequent hitches and cross-purposes; and to some malign operation of these I should owe my present holiday.

Orthodoxly, we are reduced to one assumption: namely, that my indomitable old Adversary has suddenly called to mind Dr. Watts’s friendly hint respecting the easy enlistment of idle hands….

The last in this set of random books is also Australian, an interesting account of service in World War 1 published in 1918: By-ways on Service: Notes from an Australian Journal by Hector Dinning.

Hector Dinning served at Gallipoli, in France and in the Middle East during World War I. In the Fruitful Granite he describes the life he led in the four years before the war as ‘an academic life (and a very interesting life of its kind), interspersed with coaching and free-lance journalism of a sporadic sort’. His occupation was described as Teacher on his enlistment in the AIF in 1914. After the war ‘impatient with a life indoors’ he became an orchadist near Stanthorpe, Queensland. During the 1920s, Dinning held a position as a tutor at the University of Queensland. In the 1930s and 1940s Dinning was a journalist with the Telegraph in Brisbane.

Dinning’s non-fiction works include Nile to Aleppo : With the Light Horse in the Middle East (1920).

In this chapter he deals with the evacuation from Gallipoli, an amazing story less often told than the famous landing.

CHAPTER VII
EVACUATION

There will be a leavening of Egyptian in the Australian vernacular after peace has broken out. It will persist, and perhaps have a weighty etymological influence—at any rate on the colloquial vocabulary. “Baksheesh” will be a universal term, not confined to sketches of Oriental travel. “Baksheesh” is merely one of the many grafted Arabic terms, but it will be predominant. “Sae’eda” will be the street greeting (varied by the Sikh “Salaam, sahib”). “Feloose kiteer,” “mafish,” “min fadlak,” “taali hina,” “etla,” and the rest of them, will be household words. Other phrases, not remarkable for delicacy, will prevail in pot-houses and stable talk. Forcible ejection from a company and polite leave-taking will both be covered by an “imshee”; there will be “classy” “imshees” and “imshees” that are undignified.

Such an evacuation as was effected at Anzac was distinctly “classy.” When first the notion of evacuation was mooted there was misgiving. We were with our back (so to speak) to the sea, hemmed in in a narrow sector of coast, with no ground whatever to fall back upon. There was no one who did not expect disaster in evacuating a position such as that; the only debate was as to degree. What would it cost us in lives and money? And there was a greater fear unspoken—the hideous reflection that an evacuation would make almost vain the heavy losses of eight months’ fighting. Everyone hoped against a giving-up. But soon there was no mistaking the signs of the times….

Moments in my eBook Library — 11 — also read when I was 11-12: Ethel Turner

Some may recall the marvellous ABC-TV serial from the early 1970s. What quality!

I probably read it at 11-12 in an edition like this:

And yes, thanks to Project Gutenberg, I can revisit it in my eBook Library on Calibre — now standing at 3,229 books by the way!

CHAPTER I
Chiefly Descriptive

Before you fairly start this story I should like to give you just a word of warning.

If you imagine you are going to read of model children, with perhaps; a naughtily inclined one to point a moral, you had better lay down the book immediately and betake yourself to ‘Sandford and Merton’ or similar standard juvenile works. Not one of the seven is really good, for the very excellent reason that Australian children never are.

In England, and America, and Africa, and Asia, the little folks may be paragons of virtue, I know little about them.

But in Australia a model child is—I say it not without thankfulness—an unknown quantity.

It may be that the miasmas of naughtiness develop best in the sunny brilliancy, of our atmosphere. It may be that the land and the people are young-hearted together, and the children’s spirits not crushed and saddened by the shadow of long years’ sorrowful history.

There is a lurking sparkle of joyousness and rebellion and mischief in nature here, and therefore in children.

Often the light grows dull and the bright colouring fades to neutral tints in the dust and heat of the day. But when it survives play-days and school-days, circumstances alone determine whether the electric sparkle shall go to play will-o’-the-wisp with the larrikin type, or warm the breasts of the spirited, single-hearted, loyal ones who alone can “advance Australia.”

Enough of such talk. Let me tell you about my seven select spirits. They are having nursery tea at the present moment with a minimum of comfort and a maximum of noise, so if you can bear a deafening babel of voices and an unmusical clitter-clatter of crockery I will take you inside the room and introduce them to you.

Nursery tea is more an English institution than an Australian one; there is a kind of bon camaraderie feeling between parents and young folks here, and an utter absence of veneration on the part of the latter. So even in the most wealthy families it seldom happens that the parents dine in solemn state alone, while the children are having a simple tea in another room: they all assemble around the same board, and the young ones partake of the same dishes, and sustain their parts in the conversation right nobly.

But, given a very particular and rather irritable father, and seven children with excellent lungs and tireless tongues, what could you do but give them separate rooms to take their meals in?

Captain Woolcot, the father, in addition to this division, had had thick felt put over the swing door upstairs, but the noise used to float down to the dining-room in cheerful, unconcerned manner despite it.

It was a nursery without a nurse, too, so that partly accounted for it. Meg, the eldest, was only sixteen, and could not be expected to be much of a disciplinarian, and the slatternly but good-natured girl, who was supposed to combine the duties of nursery-maid and housemaid, had so much to do in her second capacity that the first suffered considerably. She used to lay the nursery meals when none of the little girls could be found to help her, and bundle on the clothes of the two youngest in the morning, but beyond that the seven had to manage for themselves.

So it begins and so it continues — absolutely delightful even now.

And still available!

With ready to use teaching resources from Reading Australia too.

Note before beginning the unit:

The customs and language of the time period will be challenging for contemporary readers, so ongoing attention to the colonial context, vocabulary and archaic expressions used in the novel will be needed. The novel would be suitable for independent reading by proficient readers in Upper Primary or supported reading with less proficient students.  As well, it could be read in modelled reading sessions by the teacher. For different chapters, teachers would lead a general discussion of the events and encourage students’ responses and questions. The tasks in this teacher resource offer a study of particular chapters and excerpts (see list below) which would be taught in literature study sessions; these tasks are designed to draw attention to aspects of the author’s craft and literary techniques. Research shows that appreciation of how a text is constructed enhances personal enjoyment of that text. Other more typical and straightforward literary tasks, such as character profiles and point-of-view diaries, are not included as these are very familiar to teachers and can be included as activities where relevant.

In the novel, the children’s father, Captain Woolcot, uses harsh physical discipline on his sons, as was common at the time. Teachers need to be sensitive to their students’ personal situations and treat these scenes with thought and sensitivity.

Wikipedia includes a fact I have only just learned, thanks to them!

1894 Edition: Tettawonga’s Lost Story

There is an Aboriginal narrative of significant interest in the original edition that was omitted in all editions from its first republication in 1897 until its centenary edition in 1994.

The Woolcot children, while holidaying at the cattle station, listen to Mr Gillet telling an Aboriginal story he “got at second-hand” from Tettawonga, the station’s Aboriginal stockman.

“‘Once upon a time’ (Judy sniffed at the old-fashioned beginning), ‘once upon a time,’ said Mr. Gillet, ‘when this young land was still younger, and incomparably more beautiful, when Tettawonga’s ancestors were brave and strong and happy as careless children, when their worst nightmare had never shown them so evil a time as the white man would bring their race, when–‘ ‘Oh, get on! muttered Pip impatiently. ‘Well,’ said Mr Gillet, ‘when, in short, an early Golden Age wrapped the land in its sunshine, a young kukuburra and its mate spread their wings and set off towards the purple mountains beyond the gum trees…”

Clare Bradford suggested in her book Reading Race “The main effect of the omission of Tettawonga’s story is…to achieve a less problematic version of the Australian past than the one which prevails in the book’s first edition.” Brenda Niall has suggested that the omission may have been due to the extensive advertising in the first reprint, with the commercial editors capitalising on the book’s success by removing a digression from the narrative that was considered expendable, and replacing it with advertising space they could sell.

The book also has another scene that I read in my room with tears streaming down my face. Rather close to home in 1954 or 1955 when I was reading it, as my own beloved sister Jeanette had passed away only two or three years before in 1952.

Jeanette and I c.1947

There is a story behind the episode in the novel too.

Ethel Turner’s diary entry for 25th March 1898—small as it is–humorously and honestly captures the wiles of her capricious month-old daughter, Jean, as she learns to grapple with the novelty of motherhood alongside her husband, Herbert Curlewis. Ethel’s ability to describe children candidly is perhaps what most admire about her literary career that spanned six decades, embedding her name and her stories into Australia’s literary conscience. Born in 1873, Ethel is a much-beloved and brilliant Australian children’s author known for Seven Little Australians (1894), The Little Larrikin (1896), Three Little Maids (1900) and the wartime Cub Trilogy (1915-1919), among other works. Though much can be said of Ethel’s 34 volume oeuvre, a snapshot of her life and works—from her first and remarkably successful novel, Seven Little Australians (SLA) in 1894, to her almost forgotten novel, Mother’s Little Girl (MLG) in 1904 —reveals the various ways in which Ethel explored her ever-changing family relationships within ten years.

And in 2020 Clare Aston posted on Buzzfeed: Judy’s Death In “Seven Little Australians” Still Haunts Me To This Day.

Honestly, still can’t believe my mother let me read this as a kid. I dead set still think about it at least once a week.

And here is that scene:

Judy grew quiet, and still more quiet. She shut her eyes so she could not see the gathering shadows. Meg’s arms were round her, Meg’s cheek was on her brow, Nell was holding her hands, Baby her feet, Bunty’s lips were on her hair. Like that they went with her right to the Great Valley, where there are no lights even for stumbling, childish feet.

The shadows were cold, and smote upon their hearts; they could feel the wind from the strange waters on their brows; but only she who was about to cross heard the low lapping of the waves.

Just as her feet touched the water there was a figure in the doorway.

“Judy!” said a wild voice; and Pip brushed them aside and fell down beside her.

“Judy, Judy, JUDY!”

The light flickered back in her eyes. She kissed him with pale lips once, twice; she gave him both her hands, and her last smile.