Writer’s Festival: Greek Note 3

I went to the Greek Australian Writers Festival today. I was late getting there and missed out on the first two sessions. I attended the rest of the sessions. There was a lot of discussion. I didn’t keep any notes and just listened/watched with attention. Here are some quick thoughts on each session, and I have cut and pasted part of the description of each from the program which is available in full here.

Session 3: In Children of the Revolution, Greek-Australian academics, writers, poets, artists and photographers re-imagine and re-interpret ideas of identity and place and what it means to be Greek in the diaspora. This publication introduces a diverse range of voices with new knowledge on the second and third generational diasporic experience.

I enjoy mixed panels and this one certainly was buzzing with differences of ideas. Panellist Dr Helen Vatsikopoulos (who I know from UTS) posed the question whether Greeks are now considered white or are they still “wogs” (for non-Australian readers, this is the derogatory term that Greeks have been called by Anglo Australians for many decades). Lots of conversation ensued about the reclamation of this term, about various experiences of racism across Sydney and Melbourne, the rural experience as well as the diaspora migrant in Greece experience of not fitting in, and though Greek acceptance as being “white” now might be fine, it should not disappear the terrible and often violent experiences the older members of our community had so many years earlier. I really look forward to this publication.

Session 4: Andrew Pippos’ debut novel Lucky’s was shortlisted for Australia’s most prestigious awards: the Miles Franklin and the Prime Minister’s Literary Prize. He is a lecturer in creative writing at UTS. A former journalist, his essays and short stories have appeared in many publications. 

I read Lucky’s several months ago (Reading Note 43) so I was interested to hear the author talk about his book. He was interviewed by his thesis supervisor Tony Macris – both of whom are UTS staff though I have never met either. Theirs was a quiet and gentle talk about how they go about their writing, their influences as well as their pace of writing. I was taken by Tony Macris discussing how being Greek was deliberately not a part of his many decades of writing and his journalistic career, however he is now finally writing about his own heritage. I felt this statement as I am currently trying to pull together on my public libraries research and how my own Greek heritage may have influenced it.

Session 5: Costas Taktsis, one of Greece’s most important post-war writers, wrote his famous novel The Third Wedding largely in Australia. One of his closest friends was the Australian painter and gallerist Carl Plate.  This session was a Q and A with Carl’s daughter Cassi Plate.

This was such an interesting story for me. I have never heard of either Costas Taktsis, his book To Trito Stefani / το τρίτο στεφάνι or Carl Plate let alone their letter-writing friendship and Costas amazing life where Sydney was central to his experience. I was most taken that he considered himself to be Greek-Australian despite only living in Sydney for 7 years, and that Cassi Plate said that in Australian society where all the Anglo-Australians were desperately trying to get out of Australia to be over in Europe, Costas was desperately trying to return (which he never succeeded after being deported).

Session 6: This is the Sydney launch of The Stoning, biologist Peter Papathanasiou’s debut crime novel. A work of outback noir

I think this was my favourite session of the day. Papathanasiou spoke so convincingly and clearly of his writing, his routine (amaziningly he works full time, and has 3 children and said that his books get written after midnight!), and his adoption (his biological father was his adopted mother’s brother) and his connection to Greece. His Greece is like my Greece, not of islands and water but of mountains and forests. I found his approach to sensitivity readers was very sensible and not at all fussed. I don’t have the fortitude to read his gritty crime novel but I will definitely seek out his memoir about his adoption.

Session 7: Internationally renowned scientist Professor George Paxinos is an environmental activist and his eco-fiction debut novel explores the battle between humans and nature that threatens our planet’s survival. 

I missed the introduction to this session but hearing Professor Paxinos discuss the true danger of climate change, Australia’s disastrous approach to the earth, and the danger humans pose to the earth (well Hello Anthropocene!) over the next millennium was chilling. It was a sombre end to the festival for me.

It was an interesting day where I saw only a few people I knew. It was lovely to see a friend/mum I have known through my kids’ school who has published her own book (I bought it because Yay! to local writer success). I also saw an old friend whom I haven’t seen for nearly 15 years. We spoke for quite some time and it made me feel so warm for our old friendship.

To add to that, the event was held at Little Bay. Just over half an hour drive from my home. The last time I went to Little Bay was when, 12 years ago, I met a friend and we transported his double bed mattress, tied loosely and dangerously to my car, and drove it to Marrickville where I was living stopping every time the mattress started slipping off the roof racks. I had forgotten how stunningly beautiful Little Bay is. Being late also meant I missed the Welcome (or Acknowledgement?) of Country, so I really appreciated the speaker from the panel (I can’t remember who it was) who pointed out that though we were meeting to discuss Greek-Australian storytelling, the event was being held in a place which is home to the oldest continuing culture in the world, with over 60000 years of storytelling by the Dharawal people, putting into the shade the also proud Greek tradition of storytelling. That is such an amazing foundation to the day’s events. No wonder Costas Taktsis wanted to desperately return to Australia.

Train travel, sexy baklava and a retro Anne McAllister romance: a running commentary

I was in Melbourne a few weeks ago. As a total wimp and the catastrophising human that I am, instead of braving a one hour flight each way, I caught the 10 hour train to and from Melbourne instead. On the return trip I reread an old favourite Sexy Mills & Boon by the wonderful Anne McAllister called The Antonides Marriage Deal  and I wrote running commentary while I read and travelled. All the photographs are my own taken with the thoughtful and precise skills developed over the years which my sons lovingly (I’m sure) call “The Veros School of Photography”.

Though I am posting this in time for SuperWendy’s TBR Challenge, the only thing that is paranormal about it is the smokey jackaroo….

Oh. And a warning: FULL of SPOILERS!

You can fast forward to the end of the blog for the review part.

The TL:DR for this book is Tis Great!

The Antonides Marriage Deal by Anne McAllister

The Antonides Marriage Deal

by Anne McAllister

The Greek tycoon’s takeover…
Greek magnate Elias Antonides has single-handedly regained his family’s fortune. So when his father gambles away a vital share he’s furious! Elias now has a new business partner…stunning heiress Tallie Savas.

The terms of the deal…
Tallie’s eager to prove herself, but she hasn’t counted on Elias being so sexy. Elias has underestimated Tallie, and now wonders if he can make their business arrangement personal — as in marriage!




8:00am Melbourne

The Yarra River in Melbourne, AustralianI’m at Southern Cross Station having just received a text informing me that my train was being replaced by buses

Successful business man Elias Antonides is fending off phone calls from his mother, his sisters, his brothers and other business partners like a pro. He is deliberate in keeping his fickle father waiting on hold but is unable to shake him. His dad, as the majority owner of the company but totally inept of keeping it afloat, insists that his son who saved the family biz from bankruptcy meet with him. The two meet just for μπαμπα to tell Elias that he has sold off half the company from under him to a buy-and-destroy self-made Greek magnate Socrates Savas.

Socrates is an Old Skool Greek man who props up his footloose sons (as Greek sons are known to be ζαχαροπαιδα/sugar boys who dissolve if they aren’t treated as though they are something special – trust me on this) and dismisses his sharp and intelligent daughter Tallie as a possibility to work in his company and instead keeps trying to match her up with Greek dudes (that said, you get to meet Tallie’s brother Theo in The Santorini Bride and he is far from a ζαχαροπαιδο in his romance with Martha, Elias’s sister). Continue reading

The Return of La McAllister

Anne McAllister’s The Return of Antonides

Importantly: There are HEAPS of spoilers! This is going to be one long, bumbling mess of a mind dump spoilers post because I can’t bear to pretend that I can contain my thoughts.

I adore Anne McAllister. I love her books and she ranks up there with Lynne Graham and Charlotte Lamb in category romance author love from me. I have spent the last 3 years going back and forth on her blog waiting and anticipating the arrival of this book and I am so glad that it was wonderful!

I love this cover. It says so much. The NY taxis with the business man back from the outback.

I love this cover. It says so much. The NY taxis with the business man back from the outback.

Crossing the line between love and hate…

Widow Holly Halloran’s fresh start is only a plane ride away. Until Lukas Antonides — the man she hates but has never been able to forget — strides arrogantly back into her life…

Lukas was her late husband’s best friend and he openly disapproved of Holly. Then one unforgettable night their acrimony ricocheted into the bedroom!  

Now the arrogant Greek is kicking the hornets’ nest again — he offers Holly a job. Holly agrees, determined not to let Lukas get beneath her surface this time. But as the tension mounts between them so too does that bubbling attraction of old…

Widowed Holly finds out that her husband Matt’s best friend Lukas is back in New York after close to twelve seemingly itinerant years. Holly’s memories of Lukas are not pleasant – from being ignored by him when she was 9 to his and Matt’s 11, the two boys often heading off to adventures without inviting her to the memory of one night when they both betrayed Matt.

Continue reading

MORE Lynne Graham to kick off the TBR challenge 2016

My pleasure reading disappeared in December of last year. After posting my 2015 Favourites at the beginning of the month, though I planned on continuing reading, my physical self took a big long sigh, caught a summer virus that left me in bed for 3 weeks during which I didn’t pick up a single book. So, just like bike riding and swimming, when I reentered my reading shallows I did so with my favourite type of reading – category romance novels by the venerable Lynne Graham which luckily also matches the “We Love Shorts” theme for SuperWendy’s TBR Challenge 2016! I read Graham’s interconnecting novels The Greek Demands his Heir and The Greek Commands his Mistress, featuring the consecutive romances of two Greek half-brothers Leo and Bastien Zikos and their English rose heroines Grace Donovan and Delilah Moore.

Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 2.41.27 PMThe Greek Demands his Heir

“Don’t be silly, Leo. Strangers don’t get married.” Leo Zikos should be celebrating securing a perfectly convenient fiancée, but it’s left him cold. Instead it’s stranger Grace Donovan’s impeccable beauty that fires his blood. So he decides to pursue one last night of freedom… But that night and the two little blue lines on the pregnancy test that follow blow Leo’s plans apart. Now he must break with his fiancée and marry Grace. She might resist marrying a man she barely knows, but Leo will claim his legacy and has all the riches and influence he needs to ensure his demands are met!

Grace Donovan, a medical student who is indebted to an uncle and aunt who gave her shelter (but not much love) from when she was eleven, has been coerced to go on a holiday to Marmaris Bay in Turkey with her spoilt cousin Jenna. She is a tagalong and once her cousin hooks up with a guy, Grace finds herself sleeping in their hotel’s foyer. After several nights of this, her cousin insists they go clubbing where she catches the eye of club owner and Greek billionaire Leo. The sparks fly, Leo (unbelievably) claims that he cannot dance but hells yes he is up for one last hook-up before he marries Marina, his betrothed. The reader meets Marina in the opening chapter and already knows that their engagement is a business agreement between two friends who have agreed that having intimate liaisons with others until they actually marry is fine. Leo, considering his hook up with Grace as a one-night stand doesn’t mention his engagement to her. The two of them get down and boogie and oooopsies! the condom they are using breaks. (In classic Lynne Graham dry delivery) Leo accuses Grace of “straining it” because…you know…her virginity was so tight the latex couldn’t take it. Continue reading

Sarah Morgan’s Playing by the Greek’s Rules

I had seen Sarah Morgan’s name bandied about on fave author and autobuy lists for quite a while and it was recommended to me by Miss Bates Reads Romance.

I am so absolutely glad that I bought this book. I think that Playing by the Greek’s Rules has got to be one of my favourite category romances in the last 5 years, if not ever. I absolutely adored it.

But first, the blurb:

 It’s time to throw away the rule book… 

Idealistic archaeologist Lily Rose craves a fairy-tale love, but in her experience it always ends in heartbreak. So now Lily’s trying a different approach—a fling with her boss, infamous Greek playboy Nik Zervakis!

Anti-love and anti-family, Nik lives by his own set of rules. There’s no one better to teach Lily how to separate sizzling sex from deep emotions! But while Nik has the world at his feet, he also has dark shadows in his heart… 

It starts as a sensual game, but can Lily stick to Nik’s rules? And what’s more, can he?

*sigh* I hate the word sensual. It just doesn’t work for me. The word makes me think of 80s boudoir photography and this book is far from that.

The story opens with archaeologist Lily angry and despondent having just found out the man she loved was actually married. Lily, who grew up in foster homes, is horrified. Family and marriage is sacrosanct for her. Lily blames herself for she keeps looking for a long term relationship with the wrong men. She swears that she needs to have rebound sex and tuurn her heart to Teflon. Her pursuit for love blinding her to the faults of the men she meets. Lily is a typical 20something year old and works several part time jobs so as to earn money to pay off her student loans so she finds herself cleaning billionaire hero Nik’s house when she gets into a fight with his high-tech power shower and needs to take her sopping wet clothes off. Which, of course, leads to their cute meet. Continue reading

The Physicality of reading in Greek

I recently finished reading Άλφα by Βασίλης Παπαθεοδόρου (Alpha by Vasilis Papatheodorou). It is the first novel written in the Greek language that I have completed since 1985 when I read Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea.

I regularly read Greek. I have a Greek twitter feed which keeps me updated with publishing and library news. I read Greek library blogs, I occasionally read the local history essays from my dad’s region of Greece, Agrafa (mum’s area doesn’t have a local history section). I’ve read my bilingual publications of poetry, church guides and ancient plays with the English translations helping fill any gaps in my vocabulary. To add to all these, I read picture books, magazines and newspapers. However, these are all short forms of reading.

Greek Alphabet by Peter Bowers Elliott

Greek Alphabet by Peter Bowers Elliott

I have struggled with choosing long form reading in Greek. Even though my local library at one stage had the largest Greek collection in the Southern Hemisphere the Greek librarians were a tad intimidating. 2 were literary in their selections and the 3rd had been my Greek school teacher when I was 13 and is only one of two teachers who gave me the cane (another story altogether). With this in mind, I was self led in my selections. Initially I chose romances that were translated from English, reasoning with myself that at least I would understand the context of what I had chosen as well as enjoying romance. Instead, I found stilted, clumsy translations that made me cringe (is this how non-romance readers feel when they attempt to read a romance?). This led me to consider that perhaps it was the nature of translated works that did not appeal so I tried books by Greek authors such as Γιώργος Χειμωνάς and Μάρο Δούκα but they didn’t stick either. I mostly gave up though occasionally I would try a book out.

Last week, I finally completed one of those occasional tries. It was a YA book that was suggested to me by my twitter contact/colleague/friend @ArgyrisK Argyris Kastaniotis. Άλφα is about a group of troubled youths taking part in the 1973 Athens Polytechnic protests. The main character was a young man called Alexis with a difficult home life that often found him sleeping on park benches or at friend’s homes. While he is part of the polytechnic occupation and takes part in it’s destruction, burning and trashing the buildings, for respite he takes shelter and rests in one of the art studios. One of the sculptures comes to life and takes him soaring over Athens to show him her beauty. This happens several times in the book and consequently changes his outlook from a pessimistic nihilist to an optimistic teen. Had I read this book in English I think I would have been annoyed at the trite insights to the protagonist’s self. It was quite easy to see the story’s moral (δίδαγμα) message but I think it aided my understanding of the whole book.

This is not a book that I would have chosen for myself and perhaps that is why I was able to read it through. It is unlike most of my reading but I felt the weight of the story. A big impact this book has given me is the way it informed me of how I physically read.

In English, I am a fast reader. I am one who needs to race to a book’s end and only if I enjoyed it will I then reread it, savouring every word. In Greek, I found that by sheer inexperience I have to be a slower, more deliberate reader. Where in English I skim ahead as I read my text, in Greek this was impossible. Through force of habit my eyes kept trying to glance down the page as I read but this made me lose focus on the paragraph I was on. In actual fact, I found it very difficult to connect one paragraph to another as I was focusing on understanding each on its own. At no stage did I feel my reading become subconscious and fluid. As I was reading in this fashion I questioned whether the the book would make sense as a whole when I have to think so hard to understand a full paragraph? I kept questioning my comprehension skills when I shouldn’t have doubted my Greek language skills.

I found myself delighted recalling that Greek punctuation is quite different to English. Quotation marks are only used in speech in the middle of a paragraph and not with “αβγ” but <<αβγ>>. I love the ανοτελεία (anoteleia) – the top dot in a colon which signifies a pause that is between a comma and a full stop in length. Questions are signified not with a ? but with a ; (semi-colon). This makes so much sense. What is a question but part of a sentence that can be read on its own.

I became aware of the physicality of my reading – the bend of my head, my eyes shifting across the page, my mouth needing to move as I read some of the more difficult passages yet stilling when I would hit a flow. This mouthing of words reminding me of both the modern connotations of moving one’s lips as they read being that of someone with low literacy, someone who needs the auditory experience to understand the written word. And that of reading during ancient times where the norm was to read aloud. My thoughts went to St Augustine who was perplexed by St Ambrose who would read to himself, lips moving but no sound escaping his mouth. Augustine reasoned that Ambrose could only be doing this in order to preserve his voice. So as I found difficult passages my mouth was moving and I found that my chin was pulling into my chest. I flipped my tablet to read in landscape as this gave me shorter lines and shorter pages thus turning pages more often so mentally I felt that I was reading quicker than I actually was doing – something that I rarely do when I read in English. I had control over the format. I was able to control the font (I chose to not change it from the default) and the font size (I chose the second largest size mostly due to starting to read while on a train when all it was dark), I knew how many pages I had to the end of the chapter, I could change the direction of my reading.

Before I chose to read Άλφα I went through the many books I had uploaded on my tablet. I tried several of them (all in English) but none appealed so I would not attribute the format to having completed the book. The format certainly helped however I think I finally conquered my first Greek novel in 28 years because of the clarity of Papatheodorou’s writing and that Alpha is a gripping good read.

Alpha is a free download from Ekdoseis Kastaniotis http://www.kastaniotis.com/book/978-960-03-5558-1