January reading 2023: Reading Notes 52-57

I’ve had a busy month of reading – 30 books – a book a day except for the book I was reading on 31st – I was at the 60% mark but the working year has finally kicked in and I was too busy writing workerly things to be able to finish. It has been an odd two months, as I have had no work yet I have been negotiating new teaching contracts in the in-between times. In the next few weeks, I will be going from relax-á-vous to hectic again. I will cherish the past few months of reading constantly. An opportunity I doubt I will re-experience for a long time. Meanwhile, here are my favourites from January:

Three book covers for: Feral City, Salonica, and Pineapple Princess.

Reading Note 52: Jeremiah Moss’s Feral City: On Finding Liberation in Lockdown New York. A memoir and observation of New York City once the privileged and rich fled, leaving behind those who couldn’t and those who didn’t want to leave their home. Moss explores his city in 2020 on his bike, through protests marches, with shared music and community, as the hidden and marginalised emerge from their homes to fill the void left by the “hyper-normals”. He writes about the symbolic violence “that moves through normativity, deployed through sudden movements, a certain walk, a flick of the eyes, a smirk”. He describes the smirk as a splinter biting skin, one of those invisible filament you feel but can’t quite see, a fibre of glass. The smirk is contempt,  the hallmark micro-expression of hyper-normativity, it is a doing, and we are the done to”. Though Moss is discussing the contempt of a “normal” passing him by, his words cut deep into my thoughts as they clearly explain my own dislike of the “smirk” which I had not been able to articulate as clearly as Moss does. This was a striking book examining power and queerness and community in the face of pandemics and oppression. It certainly makes you question the “return to normal” push.

Reading Note 53: Mark Mazower’s Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews: 1430-1950. A long history of the multicultural, polylinguistic and polyethnic city and its changes over the centuries to a city that is unrecognisable from even a century earlier. Maxower writes in his introduction that “Change is, of course, the essence of urban life and no successful city remains a museum to its own past”.  The homogenisation of this cosmopolitan city is slowly unravelled by a compelling narrative. A week later, I am still smarting and feeling the grief of the Great Catastrophe, with the awful consequences of the population swap of Turkish and Greek people, forced from their ancestral land, It doesn’t escape me that today is the 100 year commemoration of this devastating period in history which continues to have reverberations across the world. Following this was the devastation resulting from the German occupation in World War II and their eradication of the Jewish citizens of Salonica. This was a sombre read, and I will definitely be seeking out more books to read by Mark Mazower.

Reading Note 54: Sabina Hahn’s Pineapple Princess is a funny, glamorous, tasty, bug-filled picture-book with sass and delight. I love this story. Buy it for your kids, your friends’ kids, your libraries and your storytimes.

Two book covers for Cultish and Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass.

Reading Note 56: Amanda Montell’s Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism explores the language that is used by cults – from fringe religious sects to yoga and exercise crazes and the cult of retail. Montell focuses upon the power of language used to entice and compel people into cults. Montell also provides the tools of understanding the difference between a fad, a religious groups and the cray-cray. I listened to this on audiobook with my husband and we were constantly stopping it to examine our own response to charismatic people, as well as thinking about the people we know who sadly have been consumed by organisations and movements that mimic cults, causing them harm and by default, causing harm to their loved ones.

Reading Note 57: Lana del Rey’s Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass is a beautifully produced audiobook of del Rey narrating her poetry. Just play it on auto-loop. It is wonderful.

My 2022 Year of Reading

A photo of myself next to a neon red love heart

A belated Happy New Year to you all. My plan had been to post this list early in January, but the weather was lovely and we were on summer holidays and frankly swimming and visiting came ahead of writing. And then, a week ago, after three years of hiding, lockdowns, isolations, vaccinations, masking up and going out, I was finally felled by the plague. Covid hit me early on Tuesday morning and it was painful and sudden, with all the expectant symptoms. Due to having been hospitalised in August of last year with RSV (ambulance dash to the  resuscitation unit at my local hospital and an ensuing protracted illness and recovery) meant I was on the high risk list and I received antivirals within a few hours of testing positive and I have been bed bound and isolating ever since. The meds have worked, I am still isolating so I have turned my time into writing for the blog, and gratefully I tested negative just yesterday. 

Up until late October of 2022, my reading continued to be fractured and interrupted by life and all its oddities, however, in late October, I felt like my pre-PhD, pre-uni reading mojo was back, having read 70 books from November onwards – over double for the rest of the year. And that reading mojo also had me giving 5 stars to 25 books – a quarter of all I read! I think it is a bit much to go into depth with all 25 books (though 11 of those were picture books), I will have a brief description of my absolute favourites and only list the rest.

102 Books

Fiction: 29 – Romance fiction: 25

Audiobooks: 20

Picture Books and Junior fiction: 27

Non-Fiction: 34 – Memoirs, histories, narrative non-fiction: 21, Design and travel 6, Academic 4

Graphic Novel – all memoirs – 11

Australian authors – 8

YA – 1

DNFd but counted: 2

The five star books for 2022

Fiction

Flirting with Forever – Cara Bastone

Can’t Help Falling – Cara Bastone

Love and Other Puzzles by Kimberley Allsop

Starfish by Lisa Fipps – made me cry

Meet Cute by Helena Hunting

To Sir With Love – Lauren Lane

Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron

Best of the fiction best

Flirting with Forever by Cara Bastone.

This was such a deep, slow burn of a romance. A flirty, confident heroine, with an awkward foot-in-mouth nerdy hero (who doesn’t turn into a swan). I loved who thoughtfully the main protagonists in this story grew and developed throughout this story. The hero John Modesto-Whitford is a serious man not taken to having fun, serious about his public defender job, serious about not allowing his rich father contribute to his life. He presents as boring but still-waters-run-deep and this man… ““John was being active. Inside the walls of this crumbling but noble building, he was never passive. He was doing something about that complicated world. Each hour of concentration he lent to his cases he was making the world a more just, fair place.” ….this man is a fair man. Just swoon.

Love and Other Puzzles by Kimberley Allsopp.

What an absolute delightful book. I loved the way it was written, the protagonist’s cheeky, clear eyed voice, it was just fun. It was more chick-lit than romance, Rory is devoted to her rigid routines, judges life by the rom-com openings they reflect, and how well they reflect them, and doesn’t really cope when things are out of place. Until she decides that she needs to break her routine so she allows the clues in the New York Times crossword puzzles dictate her life decisions. In the space of a week, her life is changed. I loved it. 

Pink cover for Love and Other Puzzles
Blue cover for Flirting with Forever

Non-fiction

Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love – Dani Shapiro

Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Pérez

Phosphorescence: On Awe, Wonder and Things That Sustain You When the World Goes Dark by Julia Baird

Fierce Attachments by Vivian Gornick

A City is Not a Computer by Shannon Mattern

The Crane Wife: A Memoir in Essays by C.J. Hauser

Best of the Non-fiction Best: 

Deep blue with bioluminescence of sea creatures on the cover of Phosphorescence

Phosphorescence: On Awe, Wonder and Things That Sustain You When the World Goes Dark by Julia Baird. An Australian author, journalist exploring the world of phosphorescence and how to find our own internal light. This book worked for me but I think it did this because I was in an unusual headspace even for myself. I read it only a few weeks after my hospitalisation and it spoke to that darkest part of ourselves, especially as I had stopped breathing on two occasions and it was difficult to comprehend the severity of what I was experiencing. This book made me consider how I think about things that give me awe.

Some of quotes that I felt deeply included “Keep in mind that the most important quality in a person is goodness” and “Don’t make the mistake of dismissing decency as dullness” (p. 139) Especially that last one, oh the amount of women I have known who craved the “bad boy” for romance and mistreated the decent man as dull. It always angered me. 

“It might take you decades to speak up about things that matter to you, but, being able to speak your truth is a vital part of being human, of walking with certainty and openness on the earth, and refusing to be afraid. Once you have found your voice, you must resist every person who will tell you to bury or bottle it.” (p. 151). This quote stung me. I felt much more outspoken prior to my PhD and somehow, I find that 2 years later, I still haven’t got my voice back. I have stopped trying to get it back too. I hope with time it will come back.

Picture Books

Purple book, stars in the scar, sweet young girl. Cover of When Molly Ate The Stars

Stacey’s Remearkable books by Stacey Abrams

When Molly Ate the Stars Joyce Hesselberth

The Octopus Escapes by Maile Meloy

Blankie by Ben Clanton

Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

I love you like by Lisa Swerling

Moonlight by Stephen Savage

The Perfect Tree by Corinne Demas

If You Were A City by Kyo Maclear

It Had To Be You by Loryn Brantz

White cover of a narwhal holding a yellow blankie

Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack

Best of the Picture book Best

When Molly Ate The Stars by Joyce Hesselberth was slow, bright, starry, delightful and light. It had an ethereal sense to it that just made me happy. 

Blankie by Ben Clanton is a board book with rhythms and humour. It would just be delightful fun to read to a toddler.

Weirdest Book

Green and mottled cover for Upright Women Wanted

Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

Bat-shit-crazy

gunslinging

anti-fascist

lesbian librarians

in a futuristic dystopian American West.

Like, I really don’t think I need to describe it any further.

This is a must read.

Just for the cray-cray.

The Best What-the-fuck-did-I-just-read book of the year

A couple on the cover of Promoted to the Greek's Wife. She's in a pink flowing dress, he's in a tuxedo.

And just because I feel I need to make a comment…I did read a Lynne Graham novel this year and yes it made me happy and made me laugh.But I have comments!

Promoted to the Greek’s Wife: An Uplifting International Romance by Lynne Graham

Let’s start with the novel. It was the usual angsty Graham novel which engages in love, romance, rich entitled men and poor waifish women who get the hots with each other while they jetset around the world while navigating the difficulties of unconventional families. Heroine Cleo, billionaire hero Ari, work romance (though they call it before it gets unethical – Lynne’s gone woke!). Lots of tension. Lots of foster kids, lots of social issues and lots of love. This book was fun and I really enjoyed it.

However, there is a particularly large elephant in the room. That large elephant is the subtitle. 

An uplifting International Romance.

AN UPLIFTING INTERNATIONAL ROMANCE!

AN UPLIFTING INTERNATIONAL ROMANCE?????

SERIOUSLY!?

I had to check my book cover. Had I accidently picked up an Inspirational romance? Has Lynne Graham stopped writing Sexy’s?

What is happening? 

This is not my Mills & Boon and I really don’t like it.

Inspirational kiss my big fat Greek-Australian arse!

This book was many things but it was not uplifting and it certainly wasn’t inspirational.  But it definitely was fun.

Starting Over By Looking Back: Observation Notes 112-114 and Reading Notes 47-51

Observation Note 112: Starting over. As I do every January, I start out with a post of my favourite books. But this year, that post is running late so instead, I’m going to mess with the natural order of things and do my first post on SuperWendy’s TBR reading challenge. Last year, I only managed to post in the first half of the year. However, let’s just say I was busier reading than writing. I did manage to read through a big chunk of my TBR which is my ass-backwards way of kicking off on the theme of Starting Over. Well….let me tell you how I took charge of my 220 TBR waiting-to-read books that had accumulated on my Goodreads over the 10 years I have been documenting my reading habits…

Observation Note 113: Looking back. So let’s start in November, I was heading to the Blue Mountains a few hours west of Sydney for an academic writer’s retreat where I was going to try to be scholarly and thinkerly (true word). I was being driven by a friend in what I would call a white-knuckle drive on a Friday afternoon crazy Sydney motorway weekend exit frenzy, when I saw a friend contacted me via Twitter (yes – I am still there and happy to accept the side-eyes) to tell me that Queens Public Library in New York City had an overseas non-US citizens membership availability. For US$50, I got to subscribe to the most incredible elibrary. So I paid and added that sweet library to my Libby app for I now had some procrastinating reading to do rather than writing.

Have I been reading a book a day for the past three months. I sure have! Have I been reading in bed? Yes I have. Have I been reading instead of watching TV. Damn yes! Have I been reading instead of swimming. Ummm….no. Even I have reading boundaries. I can’t read when the harbour view is astounding!

Brilliant blue sky
sea ripples out through the harbour
yachts boats masts floating beyond. 
Houses bound Little Manly
Cheerful cabanas, 
Cheerful sun tents. 
A beautiful day on the sand.
View of Sydney Harbour from Little Manly

Here is the link for those who want to be part of this amazing opportunity! https://www.queenslibrary.org/get-a-card/eUser

So how did that TBR go?

Well…my list has gone from 221 books to 121. 100 books are off my TBR. Of those 100, I have read 44, I have another 12 on hold, and another 44 which were reassessed off the TBR list – some due to sampling the first few chapters and finding I was no longer interested, and others just deleting as I couldn’t work out why or when I had added them. Of course, in the last week, I accidentally added another 10 to my TBR want-to-read list but I am not counting them here. Also, no book cover pics – I hate this wordpress layout. It makes adding images a nightmare.

So now for some of the more notable books I read: 

Reading note 47: The Longest Wait 

The Trouble with Joe by Emilie Richards.

I added this book, published in 1994, on the 29th of September, 2012 and read it on the 17th of November, 2022. A 10 year, 2 month wait. I have read and kept several Emilie Richards category romances from the 1990s so I was familiar with the calibre of the authors writing. She usually grapples with issues of the self, overcoming problems not necessarily of love, but of pressures that society can bring to a couple. The love between the protagonists is undeniable, however they are grappling with Joe’s infertility problems. Joe’s wife Samantha is a teacher and she has a neglected child, Corey,  in her class. Over the summer holidays, the two of them find themselves as foster carers for Corey, unravelling a lot of emotions around what it means to be parents, have family, responsibility, love and neglect. This is the only romance I recall reading which also gives the child’s point of view and it adds such depth to the story. It was well worth the 10 year wait to read it. 

Reading Note 48: The Best Wait.

Cara Bastone. About two years ago, in a catch-up conversation with Jayashree Kamblé, she recommended to me to try and find some Cara Bastone books to read. There were none in any of Sydney’s library systems so I left the recommendation hanging in the TBR. So I was delighted to find 3 of Bastone’s books at Queens Library: When We First Met, Can’t Help Falling and Flirting with Forever. All three novels had these fully fleshed, deeply understandable characters – not only the main protagonists but all their neighbours and friends and colleagues. The setting felt known and lived in, well understood, I felt like I could smell the air of the city through her writing. And the relationships, well they too were these nuanced courtship tales, thoughtful of differences and the tensions that can bring people together. I particularly loved the hero from  Flirting with Forever. In the opening scene of the book, he comes across as awkward and thoughtless but as the book unfolds, you discover a deeply thoughtful, principled man with grace and reason. I highly recommend you seek out Cara Baston’s books.

Reading Note 49: Most Annoying Wait.

To Sir With Love by Lauren Lane – I cannot tell you how frustrated I’ve been with my public library where I had a long-standing purchase request with them for this book in 2021. It was finally satisfied 14 months after I placed the request, so my reserve on the request expired and it got borrowed by other people and I had another 3 month wait and I was just furious and annoyed and I just didn’t bother going and it was so much more pleasurable reading it online. 14 months wait and a shitty reservations system – just do better, Sydney.

Reading Note 50: Yeah books from the TBR.

Some of my reading highlights from the last three months.

Blended by Sharon Draper. This was on my TBR since 2018. A children’s novel about mixed race young girl dealing with her divorced parents and her difficult experience. This is a book about seeking your belonging, grappling with your parents custody issues, the concept of home, and how race and identity can differ depending upon which parent you are with. A good read.

Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron. This is one my favourite books for this year so I won’t write too much about it on this post as I still plan to do a 2022 post in the next few days. Basically, this is fun, family dynamics, Tanzanian-Gujurati-British-Canadian migrant story, lots of food, lots of cultural expectations and cultural pushback all set in lovely Canada. A great read. 

Anne of Manhattan by Brina Staler.  Thoroughly Modern 21st century fanfiction of Anne of Green Gables as young adults living in Manhattan. It’s well-written and I really liked the book. The author definitely captured the (kindred) spirit of of Anne and Gilbert and their connection though it had quite a different plot trajectory. Well worth the two year wait to read it.

Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Pérez. I wrote about this book in my previous post (Reading Note 46).

Tweet Cute by Emma Lord. A YA/teenage romance conducted across several social media platforms as well as being set in a New York high school. The usual teen coming of age issues compounded by pressures from parents especially around insisting their older teens making corporate social media decisions. It was complex, it was good, I really liked it. Well worth waiting to read it since 2019.

The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone by Olivia Laing. A memoir reflecting on the loneliness of the city, seeking connections and not finding them, the impact of the AIDS crisis, and how artists such as Andy Warhol and Edward Hopper grappled with their own loneliness. Impactful and wonderful. Another well worth waiting for since 2019.

Reading Note 51: Meh books from the TBR

I am so far from the zeitgeist on these ones. Many of them are lauded as “hits” and “must-read” stars of booktok and romancetok. If this is the future of romance fiction, I will cry.

The Roommate by Rosie Danan. Bleh. Call me a prude. Porn hero was boring. The plot was inane (seriously – the heroine leaves her city to keep a low profile and then hooks up with a high profile porn star just doesn’t make sense) and there was zero tension. Just. waffle.

Below Zero by Ali Hazelwood. Double Bleh. I totally cannot stand the “smart” heroine romance trend. Let’s face it. All these STEM heroines are just another iteration of targeted career-girl romance novels. And this one – well the heroine may have had a high IQ but she was definitely lacking in emotional intelligence. Imagine cracking onto your research project’s interviewee IN HIS WORKPLACE! That’s is serious misconduct. Not sexy. A breach of work health and safety too. Just no.

Corner Office Confessions by Cynthia St. Aubin. Great title. The story didn’t grab me.

Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Sutanto.  SPOILER ALERT FOR THIS ONE. Everyone raves about this book as being hilarious and great and I will admit that it started out that way – just super super funny and cheeky. But then the main character Meddelin accidently kills her date (who was catfished by her mother!) and rather than call emergency services, get him to a hospital, go to the police, etc., like a normal person would, she shoves him in the boot, takes him to her aunts where they hide him in a freezer and all of a sudden I am reading horror murder meets Weekend at Bernies. I know that I should be able to overlook all the problems in this book and haha have a laugh but IT WAS GHOULISH!  A (fictional) person died. Someone has to care. Someone has to pay. And they didn’t. And I just couldn’t. Just say no!

The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory. Look, the premise was great – I do love a hook-up becomes lurvvve story and Guillory writes some lovely witty repartee but she substitutes way too much food in her novels for her lack of sexy times. Unlike Farah Heron’s book, the food is a prop in this novel, it beefs up the novel (sorry, not sorry) but it doesn’t further the plot. Not that books need detailed sex, but good god – that constant eating annoyed me. Waiting since February 2019.

The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver. A sliding doors story. Great premise, ho-hum delivery. It didn’t do it for me. Waiting since January 2020.

Time is a Mother by Ocean Vuoung. Listening to the audio narration also by Vuong was the wrong thing for me. Whispered wistful poetry is totally not my thing. I couldn’t bear it but I persisted to the end. Perhaps I would have liked the poetry better if I had just read the text, but now the poet’s voice is in my head and it won’t work for me. Suited to a whole different type of person. Frustrated at the anticipation of waiting since 2019 for On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous but opting for the 2022 publication instead due to availability.

Moral to the story is: stick with the book you have already listed on the TBR

Observation Note 114: In conclusion.

I feel so pleased with my overhaul of my TBR. I am so happy that Queens library membership has slayed my seven year reading slump, and I will definitely be renewing it for as long as it is offered to non-US citizens. 

As for my procrastination during my writing retreat…it was a successful enough attempt at being “scholarly” that it kickstarted my re-engagement with a journal article which had been accepted pending revisions which I hadn’t completed for many different reasons. I managed to finish it and submit it a month later. I think the deep diving into the TBR reading probably energised me as much as the retreat, if not more so. Thanks, Super Wendy!

Reading Milestones: Observation Note 111 and Reading Note 46

Observation note 111: I’m an avid reader. I reached a personal milestone this weekend. I have read 2500 books since I started keeping my own digital reading records. Starting on WeRead from 2008, then migrating my data over to Goodreads in 2012 where I joined many of my other bookish friends (this probably coincides with my ceasing to post my reading choices on FB). This is the only social media platform I use consistently, facilitating nearly a decade and a half of record keeping – the habits of avid readers!

Diligently adding information to my digital reading record grew out of my readers’ advisory practices as a librarian. My access to my library records prior to using these book sites provided only a partial snapshot of my reading as it didn’t include the books I was buying and reading outside of the library. The books I found myself buying also informed me as to the biases in library collections.

Keeping track of my reading has always helped me in my workplace in understanding user behaviours and anticipating reading requirements, especially during my time as a team leader at the City of Sydney where I was coordinating up to 7 storytimes a week for the various childcare centres in Ultimo (separately from the children’s programming) which explains the “library-storytime” tag (143 books) where I was assessing picture books for performance suitability. But even once I stopped working in libraries, I couldn’t stop the record keeping. You can take the librarian out of the library, and all that.

Now for some statistics: My year for the most books read was in 2012 – 365 books. My year for the least books read was 2013 – 26 books. The years I spent studying deeply impacted my book reading outputs, especially as many of those years I was working in two jobs, along with studying, along with general family and home responsibilities. Reading opportunities in those years became treats and luxuries, though the list would be off the scales if I was able to count journal articles on GoodReads!

I have approximately 580 subject tags “shelves”, though my early records don’t have many tags, my later ones are rich with description – this practice emerged as the digital world became more sophisticated. Folksonomic categorisation rather than taxonomic predetermined ordering systems FTW! My highest read genre is romance fiction (814), picture books (599), non-fiction (589). I love that along standard tags such as “graphic novel” (64 books), “historical fiction” (86 books), I get to created my own descriptors and some of the more esoteric ones are “bat shit crazy” (10 books), “fake name trickery” (23 books), “yeeha cowboy” (27 books) and “hatch-back hero” (a pathetic 2 books). I even have a “vassiliki” tag for books with characters who have my name (5 books).

Caroline Criado Perez's Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men

Reading Note 46: Furious fury. For the record, my 2500th book was Caroline Criado Perez’s Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men. Added to my TBR in March 2019. It’s on the obfuscation of women from data collection and its deep life and historic impacts. It made me incredibly angry at the extent that womens’ lives continue to be marginalised from health, education, road safety, employment and every day life opportunities. Men continue to be the default at the expense of women’s lives. I think this book should be a must read for everyone, especially policy and decision makers.

On writing The Library Agrafa

Occasionally I write not-so-shallow articles. This week my essay The Library Agrafa was published in The Aleph Review a Pakistani journal for creative expression. Here is an excerpt:

This story was anathema to me. It lacked the necessary romance and love that I would read about in the novels that I would buy from the newsagency on my way home from the one-room children’s library, arms laden with books borrowed and books bought. Romance to me was a meeting of two people who share a feeling of intimacy, desire, a visceral connection. Marrying for a business transaction, the joining of two large herds, lacked spark, lacked the necessary frisson of a dramatic coming together.

You can read the whole essay at this link: https://www.thealephreview.com/post/the-library-agrafa

Continue reading

Top what?!: Movie Note 2 and a Guest review

Movie Note 2: Full of spoilers. So on Friday night, my husband John and I went to the movies and saw Top Gun: Maverick. We had some Covid vouchers so this was a date night that our state government paid for which is great because my 101 movie review is that the $7 I spent on parking was not worth the money. However, John has a lot more to say so enjoy this guest post movie review from Mr Shallowreader:

In a panicked attempt to use the last of my Discover NSW vouchers, Vassiliki and I sourced two tickets to see Top Gun Maverick at Palace Cinema in Leichhardt. Here are some of my observations of what is promising to be one of the biggest box office hits of all time:

Continue reading

The Enlightenment: Journal Note 1

Journal Note 1: Short, intense reading. I finished marking for this semester, today. I have so free reading time which used to be my moment for picking up a novel but instead, I have found myself reading shorter articles/essays and reading non-fiction. Though I don’t get the satisfaction of adding my reading to my Goodreads list (a weird but real grief), I do get the satisfaction of a complete read in a short amount of time.

This afternoon, I took the time to read Panajot Barka’s article on the Epirote centres of Voskopoja and Ioannina and their influence on the Enlightenment. This journal article was published earlier this year and was brought to my attention by my thesis supervisor as the Cosmopolitan Civil Societies journal is published out of the University of Technology Sydney.

I found the article absolutely fascinating, especially on its history of printing and publishing Hellenistic books across Europe, and on the establishment of secular education which furthered the liberation of Greeks and other Europeans from the Western Ottomans. My instant response was to turn this into a Me Me Me moment, when I read that Saint Cosmas of Etolislë was mentioned twice in the article, a saint who is deeply venerated by my mother and aunts. I have a strong memory of my father telling me that his great-great grandfather was catechised by Saint Kosmas o Aitolos (same dude) who studied at his brother’s school only a few villages away from my dad’s. Though Saint Cosmas is not the focus of this article, his inclusion here informs me further of his own position in the Epirote world and the ideals of the Enlightenment he was espousing. It has left me contemplating the knowledge and information impression that such a teacher may have had on my ancestors, especially on my dad who learnt to read at the psalter of his church, with his uncle – a regionally trained teacher, and his grandfather whose own grandfather was the one who received this catechism.

Having finished reading the article with only ten minutes to publish today’s post, I might just let my thoughts on this one settle before I discuss the actual article any further.

Barka, P. (2021). Voskopoja and Ioannina, two advanced centers of the European enlightenment in the Ottoman West. Cosmopolitan Civil Societies: An Interdisciplinary Journal13(3), 68-80.

A public holiday moment

Earlier today, I had my coffee with my γλυκο του κουταλιου – vissino spoon sweets. So good.

2 coffees, timtams and spoon sweet, on a blue tablecloth with a Greek motif, orange and green verandah chairs. Columns and lattice.

Pony man biked past my house. He wasn’t playing any music today.

Older man on a bike, bare legs, pony reigns in hand outside of a dirty/mouldy blue building.

The dogs had their usual excited bark greetings as though to say “Hello weirdest big dog we’ve ever seen!”.

Dog peering through the columns and lattice to the road.

I am relieved when all is well in the Inner West.

💞