Tag Archives: Jane Austen

Tea & Sluggish Company

I seem to have a knack for ending up in literary dialogues with insects and inanimate objects.

Oh it starts off awkward and uncomfortable – conversations with insects and inanimate objects don’t come that naturally to me. But a pot of Earl Grey and the topic of books will nail it – every time. After two cups of tea time, location and apparently species are forgotten as we explore the colours and shades of the literary world.

This evening, my cohort was Mugg, a pink slug who lives in my garden. I happened across her as she was trekking the long journey towards the book-lined walls of our study.


She wore a small pair of glasses perched on the edge of what might have been her nose, though I’m not too familiar with slug anatomy. Bags lined her preoccupied eyes and she carried a small purse. I had a moment to wonder whether it was filled with the same kind of non-essentials I walked out of the house with: my son’s racing cars, orchards of apples, used tissues and a book, of course, always a book. I thought it would be impolite to ask.

She wore the determined look of a woman on a mission – I recognised the look immediately as I’m sure its an expression H has seen cross my face many times: a ferocity that said The only damn thing I’m doing tonight is reading my book! I liked her.

Ordinarily, I might have ignored a bright pink slug wearing blue glasses on the wall and gone about the business of reading my book. But i’d just finished reading 11.22.63 and needed desperately to debrief! So I offered her assistance in getting to the study, to which she was grateful (at her rate it seemed she’d take a few days). Mugg directed me to place her on the shelf that housed my ‘classics’ collection. She’s got good taste, I thought. When I learned she’d never read Jane Austen, I almost knocked her off the shelf. “What?! Every woman needs to read an Austen!” I handed her Sense and Sensibility. She accepted, laughing.

Our conversations led us back to the kitchen where a brew of Earl Grey awaited. We enjoyed a delightful little chatter about our latest reads. Obviously I chewed her ear off about 11.22.63 – she’s never read any Stephen King, but I think I had her convinced to give him a try:) (I’ll share some reflections on 11.22.63 shortly). I’d never heard of the slug authors Mugg mentioned, in fact I was embarressed to say that I didn’t know slugs were authors! Apparently there are many. Mugg’s favourites are Begg Mulosc, who wrote a series about a young slug who befriended a butterfly, much to the chagrin of her slug community, and Ligg Millow, apparently a great feminist slug who opened my new friend’s eyes to gender inequality in the slug home. Fascinating! I was very interested to know more about this slug world I’d never considered before. Mugg promised to return with some books that she would translate for me, as long as I provided a nice hot cuppa. I could definitely do that.

It’s not always the case that I enjoy book banter with insects – my previous encounter with Scout the wasp was horrific, but Mugg was pleasant, a good listener and fascinating to chat with.

‘Twas nice to make a new friend.

Your Reader,


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On Books, Beer and Blogs: A Chat with Brian from ‘Melbourne Pub Culture’


I had a little chit-chat with Brian from Melbourne Pub Culture on things that should be chatted about: books, beer and blogs! ‘Melbourne Pub Culture’ is a blog dedicated to the pub-scene in Melbourne. The site boasts venue reviews, great photos, interviews, historical background on some of the city’s oldest establishments and of course – the lowdown on what’s hot on tap! If you are interested in Melbourne, pubs, architecture, history or finding a nice beer garden to spend the remaining summer days, check out www.melbournepubculture.com.

Hi Brian, thanks for taking a moment to chat about some of your favourite things: blogs, beer and books. Tell me, what inspired you to start your blog ‘Melbourne Pub Culture’?

I guess there were three things:

1. Firstly, I think that a good session at one of Melbourne’s amazing, historic pubs with a bunch of friends is pretty much the best way to spend some free time. I’m a really social person and pubs just seem to promote socialising. They’ve been meeting places for the people of Melbourne for over 160 years. I find that history really fascinating.

2. I may have a slight blog addiction. I really don’t want to know how many hours a week I spend on Google Reader (this is a Google service that brings together all your blog subscriptions in the one place). I read blogs on all kinds of topics from health and fitness to architecture and design, even street art. After spending so much time reading other people’s blogs I started to think it would be really cool to have my own. I haven’t really had a creative outlet in years and I think I’ve really missed that. Thus my blog was born.

3. My partner Brooke’s encouragement. She helped me get started, edits my posts and she’s good at talking to people she doesn’t know, which has come in really useful when talking to pub owners.

You are passionate about beer and pubs, I happen to know you are also an avid reader – what is your favourite place to sit with a brew and a book?

Brian sits with a beer in one hand and book in the other

Brian from melbournepubculture.com at home with brew and book in hand.

Oh, good question! Some pubs are quite good for reading in that you can find a cosy corner that isn’t too loud and park yourself there for hours on end. Others are a bit more rowdy, making it difficult to focus on the pages in front of you. The first place that comes to mind for reading is The North Fitzroy Star in the back streets of Fitzroy. Or else if it’s a warm and sunny day the beer garden at The Standard, also in Fitzroy. However, I’m still looking for that perfect pub to read during winter. A pub with a couch by an open fireplace.. that would be perfect.

A bookish birdie told me that you read the short list for the Man Booker Prize each year. Where did that tradition begin and what’s been your most memorable read?

I’d say about seven or maybe eight years ago? I’d noticed that a lot of books I’d been getting into were short-listed for the Booker. I mentioned this to a mate of mine and he ran with it and organised a whole bunch of us to try and read the short list (six books). We then got together the night before the winner was announced and each voted for our favourite. We’ve been doing it ever since.

As for my most memorable Booker read, I can’t name just one! I really liked Skippy Dies by Paul Murray, The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters, A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz, On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan and Arthur and George by Julian Barnes. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell and Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood were amazing too.

In your opinion, which beveridge would best compliment the following authors:

Jane Austen: Hmmm. Something ye olde. Something English, something a little bit formal and posh…maybe an Abbot Ale or Old Speckled Hen?

Ernest Hemingway: Hemingway used to drink. A lot. I’ve heard that as a young reporter he used to drink cheap beer and even cheaper wine. So I’d probably match Hemingway with a cheap domestic beer. Perhaps something I used to drink as a broke student, such as Carlton Draught.

David Mitchell: He started out writing edgy, quirky, postmodern, dreamy novels, but his style has developed over time and he now writes more traditional, but nonetheless engaging, novels. I’d maybe go with Taxi pilsner from 2 Brothers Brewing. They have quirky beer labels and tap heads and their Taxi is one of my favourite beers. It would go perfectly with Dave, one of my favourite authors.

Charles Dickens: Dickens’ novels tend to deal with quite dark subject matters. I’m thinking you would want to read him with an equally dark beer. There is hope in his writing though, so maybe something with a sweet edge. How about a Chimay Blue… brewed by Trappist monks.

Oscar Wilde: I’m thinking something a little bit fruity, I’m thinking something a little bit different, I’m thinking a brilliant beer that you just can’t put down. Matso’s Mango beer from Broome WA would be perfect.

OK, the inevitable question: You find yourself alone, trapped in a deserted brewery. You can take one book – what would it be and why?

I’d struggle with the whole “one book” thing. Can I take my Kindle and call that one book? I guess I would have to go with…no, no, I can’t leave out…oh, but I must…if forced to take only one book it would have to be To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee. It’s a little cliché to say that it’s my favourite book, but it just had such an impact on me when I first read it… and every time I’ve read it since for that matter.

Brian, thanks for chatting with me about books, beer and blogging! I look forward to what Melbourne Pub Culture has in store in 2012.


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Today’s Top 10

Greetings, Salutations and All That Jazz,

What are your Top 10 favourite books?

I’ve been considering what my Top 10 might be. This is harder than I imagined. For starters, what’s my definition of “favourite”? If it’s books that I can’t put down, then a significant proportion of my Top Ten would be Tom Clancy, Patricia Cornwell, or hell – even the Stephanie Meyers books (Team Edward, FYI). But being easy to turn the page isn’t enough justification for “favourite” status in my book. So, I think a working definition of “Top 10 Favourite books” needs to incorporate not necessarily books that I enjoy, but ones I respect – writing styles that inspired me or themes that really do tug at the ol’ heartstrings. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte is an example of this – I couldn’t stand the characters and just wanted to get to The End, but once finished, I loved it as a complete piece (we’ll discuss that book soon Mr StephenKing, I have so many thinks brewing in my thinker, I’m bursting to get it all out!).

So anyway, today because who knows what reading delights tomorrow will bring, my top 10 are:

  1. The Talisman, Stephen King & Peter Straub
  2. Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
  3. Sense & Sensibility, Jane Austen
  4. Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte
  5. It, Stephen King
  6. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R Tolkien
  7. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
  8. The Stand, Stephen King
  9. Sir Gawain and The Green Knight, The Gawain Poet
  10. The Adventures Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – I particularly like “The Speckled Band”

Hmm, anyone notice a particular theme?

That was harder than I anticipated. I really wanted to throw in some Australian authors such as Helen Hodgman, Helen Garner, Tim Winton, Kate Grenville, etc, but perhaps they’ll make the cut tomorrow 🙂

So.. what are yours?

Your Reader,


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