After ABC in Paris in 2009, ABC in London in 2011, and ABC in Roma last year, things are accelerating since there will be—as I just learned— an ABC in Sydney next July (not June as I originally typed, thanks Robin!). The workshop on the current developments of ABC methodology thus leaves Europe to go down-under and to take advantage of the IMS Meeting in Sydney on July 7-10, 2014. Hopefully, “ABC in…” will continue its tour of European capitals in 2015! To keep up with an unbroken sequence of free workshops, Scott Sisson has managed to find support so that attendance is free of charge (free as in “no registration fee at all”!) but you do need to register as space is limited. While I would love to visit UNSW and Sydney once again and attend the workshop, I will not, getting ready for Cancún and our ABC short course there.
Archive for Sydney
As mentioned in a previous blog, I only packed four books in my suitcase in early July. Among those, Richard Ford’s A Piece of my Heart, and Niccolo Ammaniti’s La Fête du Siècle (Che la festa cominci). I also bought Dan Simmons’s Hyperion in the (same) nice bookshop near Bondi Junction in Sydney, Berkelouw Books.
“Whoever it was, though, didn’t have no business being here. I’ll tell you that. I’ll tell you that right now.” A Piece of my Heart, R. Ford
A Piece of my Heart is the first novel written by Richard Ford and I did not even know about it. (I happen to have bought it perchance in a closing bookshop in Bristol selling every book there for two pounds!) I feel it is quite different from the other novels of Richard Ford I read so far. A Piece of my Heart is quite harsh and bleak in a Southern (U.S.) way, making one feel all characters (esp. men) are doomed from the start and that there is no use fighting against this… This makes their actions and decisions unpredictable and mostly irrational, but there is a kind of beauty in seeing them succumbing to this doom. I also found there is a sort of Faulknerian feeling in the novel, particularly in the character of Mr. Lamb, an old recluse living on an island that does not even exist on official maps. The tragic and foreseeable ending of the book is actually announced in the very first pages, but this does not make A Piece of my Heart less fascinating to read. Because this is not what matter…
“There’s a legend that Cowboy Gibson did it before the Core seceded.” Hyperion, D. Simmons
I finished reading Hyperion in the plane back home. This again is a (1989) book I had not heard of until I saw it in the Gollancz 50 series (which delivers at a low price the “best” 50 books in science-fiction and fantasy, like Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind and Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun, its only drawback being a vivid and ugly yellow color!) I do not often read space opera sci’fi’, however this book is a masterpiece that completely deserves its inclusion in the Gollancz 50 series… Hyperion offers a complex plot, compelling characters, an interesting universe, a credible political structure, and, above all, relates quite strongly and openly to literary history, from Chauncer’s Canterbury Tales, to H.G. Wells, to William Gibson’s Neuromancer, to Philip K. Dick (and Blade Runner), and to Keats as a central figure. Plus interesting plays on religions and beliefs. The book does not conclude, as there is a sequel, The Fall of Hyperion, that I will most certainly read.
La Fête du Siècle (Che la festa cominci) is an hilarious book by Niccolo Ammaniti that I can only classify as picaresque, given the accumulation of well-drawn characters and of fantastic events that build throughout the book. It is very different from the much more intimate Io non ho paura, however La Fête du Siècle reads very well and offers a very harsh criticism of the Berlusconi era and of the new social class it created. From nouveaux riches to would-be Satanists (all) looking for recognition or at least a few minutes of fame on TV… And meeting their end in a grandiose way. (I do not know if this book has been translated into english.) I read it in a few hours during my vacation week along the Great Ocean Road. And am still laughing at the comedy it exposed.
I came upon this New York Times argument for placing Melbourne in #15 among the 41 places to go in 2011:
With a bunch of new hotels and restaurants led by notable chefs cropping up, Melbourne has been stealing the spotlight from its sister city, Sydney. The most notable addition comes from the luxury brand Crown, which is investing 1 billion Australian dollars (about the same in U.S. dollars) to expand its sprawling Crown Entertainment Complex on the southern bank of the Yarra River. In April it opened Australia’s largest hotel, the 300-million-dollar 658-room Crown Metropol, which has an infinity pool on the 27th floor with 180-degree views of the city, and is home to the Maze and Maze Grill, the celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s first endeavors Down Under. The complex also includes the Crown Towers hotel, which has four private penthouse gaming salons with 360-degree views of Melbourne’s skyline.
The city’s thriving arts scene now has stylish boutique hotels to match, too. Three Art Series Hotels, inspired by (and featuring the works of) famous artists, opened in the last year. The Olsen, named for the landscape painter John Olsen, is the flagship of the group, with 229 rooms (from 215 dollars a night) and a heated, glass-bottomed swimming pool.
Visiting foodies will be able to choose from a number of new restaurants. In October, the Australian chef Neil Perry, of Rockpool in Sydney, opened Spice Temple, a 200-seat contemporary Szechuan restaurant next door to his Rockpool Bar & Grill in the Crown complex, as well as a new bar, the Waiting Room, in the lobby of the Crown Towers hotel. Also within the Crown complex, a new seafood restaurant, the Atlantic, will debut in February with Donovan Cooke as executive chef.
This is fairly puzzling, Not the fact that Melbourne is on the list, of course, this is indeed an attractive and thriving city I enjoyed living in the past two weeks. But the reasons provided here are just so unappealing. A new expensive hotel? Duh. A new restaurant? Doh. (Plus, there already is a highly rated Spice Temple in Sydney! Why bother with a replica?) Reading through the series with a new eye makes me seriously wonder if this is anything else but covert advertising… (In the 2012 version of this NYT list, Montpellier appears as the French entry…not for its beautiful medieval centre but for its modern architecture and for its tramway, which has been completed but which construction created such a traffic nightmare over the years I have visited Jean-Michel Marin there.)