Calvin once observed to Hobbes that real life needed more special effects and dance numbers. If I were to put my life to music you can bet a lot of those dance numbers from my youth would have been set to the songs of Adam Ant.

From the tribal beat of the early hits with names like ‘Dog eat dog’ and ‘Feed me to the lions’ through to the later romanticised ‘Angel’ and positive ‘Room at the top’ Adam Ant has always been able to catch my imagination. My only regret was that I was too young to see him in concert back in the early 80’s when my parents would have been horrified to hear their little girl signing along to ‘Strip’.

I cannot tell you how happy I was when I caught a snippet of an ad for a channel 2 show promoting an interview with Adam Ant. I deduced he must be plugging a tour and some sleuthing proved it so (hoorah!). I was convinced the show would sell out before I managed to secure my tickets (curse you lack of internet connection while moving) but they had two left for me when I showed up with my heart in my throat and my visa card in my hand. I didn’t even ask how much.

This tale does not have a happy ending.

The show has been cancelled. Just the one show, the one in my city. It is still over a month out from the concert (see, I’m still referring to it as if it is still happening such is my disbelief), and I have not seen or heard one shred of promotion (when I mentioned the concert in the office there was surprise and a lot of interest –perhaps a message the promoter might want to pick up on; people can only buy a ticket if they know it is for sale) and yet they have cancelled the concert due to poor ticket sales.

But this was my concert. Mine 🙁

I want to hear Adam sing ‘Puss in boots’ and sing my tuneless accompaniment in a sea of Ant Fans who can drown me out. I want to see if I can pick up all those words I never learned from a time when lyrics were not included in the album (yes, I’m talking vinyl here). And I want to see a man perform who has helped me through so many teen angst moments that my gratitude is immeasurable.  

Needless to say, I have been too upset to do any writing. That and it has been unbearably hot, the cat keeps throwing up and with everything I unpack I find two new things that need to be unpacked.

So if you are lucky enough to be going to a non-cancelled Adam Ant concert, perhaps one that was actually advertised so people bought tickets, please put it up on YouTube so I can get some Antmusic, my novels depend on it. Truly, I’m adamant.

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All books can suffer a bit from padding, in fiction it is usually not too much of a problem; back-story we don’t need or world building that never gets used. Most of the time I don’t even really notice it, it just appears as a feeling that the book is too long.

Non-fiction books are not so forgiving. The padding is all too obvious, and the one I’m reading is actually putting me off by its frequency and irrelevance. The author of the book is telling the story of a famous author. To illustrate what sections are about he is adding in bold, large, widely spaced, lengthy quotes… but not from the author about whom the book is written. In fact, as far as I can tell the quotes are all from long dead authors whose copyright has run out, so permission to nab their words is not required.

These quote appear on every other page. Some of them are in such old English, and so out of place in this contemporary book that I cannot even see the relationship between the text and the quote. I have stopped reading them so as not to lose track of what is going on.

By far this is the most blatant padding trick I’ve seen, though I do think the book which re-printed all the end of chapter summaries to make up the final summary chapter, was perhaps stretching it a bit far. If I wanted to see the summaries again I could always flip back to them.

As much as I can understand that people like their books to look big, I think you are only going to do yourself a disservice if you pad out your book unnecessarily. I would rather buy a short book full of relevant information than a long book, which I have to wade through rubbish to get to the important stuff.

Books, both fiction and non-fiction, have a length that they should be, and the sooner authors and publishers recognise that this cannot be dictated to by word or page requirements, the better!

Corruption vs evolution

The English language, both written and spoken, is a forever changing beast, but perhaps more so for Australians and Kiwis. Our language is already a bit of a mixed bag, with mostly English English, but a sprinkling of culturally unique lexicon. But in recent years American English has been creeping in, with ever increasing vigour.

This begs the question of is this just a natural evolution, or is it the corrupting influence of American TV, films and literature that we should fight with every step? I think diversity of culture is something that we should protect, even the ‘dint’ vs ‘dent’ difference between Victoria and South Australia makes me smile, so I must confess I’m resisting this take-over of our language.

Evolution in language, as with any living thing, should take a very long time. It is something that people are not aware of, such as the generations of people saying ‘towards’ until that the majority don’t realise that (originally) there was only ‘toward’ and over the years the ‘s’ has been added.  

This cannot be said about our American English. I think even those of us who say ‘route’ rhyming with ‘lout’ instead of ‘toot’ know we have crossed over that cultural boundary. This is a change we are seeing occur in a single generation.

I have also noticed recently, with some confusion, that even when I buy Australian published versions of American authors (in my effort to support the local book industry) they will include American spelling –which makes me wonder why I shouldn’t just buy it off Amazon?

The really tragic thing is, I think most of the American spellings that are slipping into our newspapers and emails come down to one thing; most people don’t know how to permanently re-set their Microsoft Word language to Australian English, so we let our computers do our spelling in whatever language they chose, which is the default: American English. It doesn’t need to stay that way.

When do you give up on reading a book?

I believe life is too short to read books you don’t enjoy, but I also believe some great books take a while to get going. I have *loved* some books which I had to start three or four times because the beginning just didn’t grab me (Power of One) and then once I got into them could not put them down.

To get around this I formulated the 100 page rule; to try and read up to at least page 100 (unless it is absolutely awful and I can’t get past page 2) and if I find I don’t care what happens next, or the characters leave me cold, then I give myself permission to put it down and move onto something else.

This rule has served me faithfully over many years, giving me the freedom to cast aside stories that don’t grab me, and helping me along to those that eventually do.

Until now.

I picked up ‘Love in the time of cholera’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez last week and keenly started reading it. It has been on my ‘books to read’ list for more years than I care to mention. Being set in a different culture and written in a very different style to many modern books, I quickly found myself lost in the world of spice and sweat and noisy parrots.

Like so many books I have enjoyed in the past, page 100 came and went without my notice, and I was powering through it. But then something strange happened. I got to around page 200 and realised there really wasn’t any story. It was about, exactly as the title would suggest, love… in the time of cholera. That’s it.

Seeing another world with wonderful descriptions is all well and good, but without a story, and with a lead character who gets more selfish and perverse with each page, I found myself creating excuses not to pick it up! With less than 100 pages to go, I did not want to give up on it, but I had no desire to find out what happened next either. I was confused.

So I did something I have never done before. I forced myself to read to the end, speed reading at times and disliking it greatly by the time I got to the last page. My page 100 rule failed me badly.

Which makes me wonder, when it comes to reading maybe all rules should go out the window? If you don’t like it anymore, put it down. I think that might be my new mantra.