Thursday, 31 January 2002

Entry #248

Listening to:
Shostakovich, 24 preludes, op 34. Played by Tatiana Nikolayeva, for whom Shostakovich wrote his later 24 preludes and fugues.
Just read:
Granta 70: Australia, the new New World (contents page). This issue of Granta has a good sub-title. I'm sure I get onto this with most people I know at one stage or another (and bore them to death, no doubt). Australia and New Zealand are a lot "newer" than the Americas: their colonisation by Europeans happened much more recently (post 1840 in the case of New Zealand). Of course, all of these New World countries had existing inhabitants, but on acknowledging this, I can also say that New Zealand was the last major piece of land to be inhabited by anyone. The Maori only arrived in New Zealand 800-1000 years ago. Maori oral history includes the story of their arrival, and names the great navigator who discovered the country, Kupe. Contrast this with oral history in Australia and the Americas; in both places the first inhabitants arrived on the order of 20000 years ago. Unsurprisingly their oral histories don't tell the story of their arrival, they assume that they've been there forever.

Anyway, this special, bigger-than-normal issue of the magazine is full of good writing. I don't think much of the editor's excuse for not including any Aboriginal writing, but what's there is mainly excellent. There's an extract from Peter Kelly's True history of the Kelly gang, which recently won the Booker prize, and quite a bit of other fiction. There are also interesting non-fiction pieces, individuals reflecting on some aspect of their interaction with Australia. I found the account of a Darwin-based journalist tracking down an Aboriginal artist who lives in a very isolated camp in the tropical jungle particularly good.

Finally, it's clearly worth mentioning Peter Conrad's piece, just so I can deny its relevance to my personal situation. He left Tasmania in the 1960s, confident that he would never return, to go to university in England. He's now an Oxford academic. He's interesting about Tasmania and how restricted and stultifying he thought it. He's probably absolutely right, but it still comes across as rather patronising.

I've been playing quite a bit of the game Stronghold recently. It definitely appeals to the sand-castle builder in me. The various scenarios that I've had to progress through have also been very artfully designed to make me want to keep playing as more and more neat capabilities are gradually opened up. I've recently been able to build crossbowmen as well as archers, and I'm now in the middle of a scenario where I get to build my own catapults to try and take out another castle on the same map. (Hitherto, the focus of the scenarios has been defensive.) Some other reviews: