Tag Archives: Tom Waits


Coming up to Christmas the media fills up with list articles. Top Tens of this and that. Bests and Worsts. Most memorable. The Season/Year/Decade/Century in Review and so on. It will be even more rife this year as we’re ending a decade.

Why do so many of these get published? Because they’re easy to write. Because people like them and argue over them. And because they’re usually a great filler at a time of year when less newsworthy stuff happens.

I indulged in lists here last year. This year I’m so befuddled I’m listing sideways myself. Better to be listing than listless, I guess. Here be some recommendations from me:

Favourite things I read in 2009, (old or new)

A Beginner’s Guide to Living – Lia Hills
The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler
The Faceless Ones – Derek Landy
Henrietta – Martine Murray
Little Brother – Cory Doctorow
Paper Towns – John Green
Somebody’s Crying – Maureen McCarthy
Ten Mile River – Paul Griffin

Picture books:
Mannie & The Long Brave Day – Martine Murray & Sally Rippin
Isabella’s Garden – Glenda Millard

2009 favourite listens

It’s been an odd year for my iPod. Normally I buy albums. This year I purchased individual tracks and largely sat with favourite albums from 2008 – or delved into the past to discover Tom Waits, John Coltrane and retro Wilco.

Of the few new albums that have had regular rotations, my favourites have been Smoking Gun from Lady of the Sunshine, Wilco from Wilco and White Lies for Dark Times from Ben Harper & Relentless7.

2009 favourite films

Man, there were so many flicks I wanted to see this year but didn’t get to in time (District 9, Samson & Delilah, Balibo, Blessed, The Changeling, Coraline). I’ll catch some of these on video over the silly season. Of those I did get to, I really enjoyed Ponyo, Watchmen, The Reader and The Hangover. I saw the latter with a bunch of mates on a boys’ night out. Laughed until my jaw hurt.

Given my aforementioned befuddlement, I know there will be things I’ve forgotten.

Personal highlights from the year have included finding a passionate publisher for Five Parts Dead, some of the workshops I conducted with students around the state and getting to know several other authors … and then realising we all struggle with the same stuff.

Every year has its tough times too. My thoughts are with those whose lives were altered forever by the February 7 inferno, along with those confronted by cancer or mental illness. Hang tough.

Re Tweeting

Twitter is the online equivalent of a pack of licorice all-sorts. There are tweets that trigger a frenzy – replies, follows, retweets, click throughs, outrage, excitement and more. These are those aniseedy jelly blobs covered in 100s and 1000s sprinkles that are snatched first from the lolly bowl.

There are tweeters that are consistently insightful, informative and fun – the dependable striped cubes from the allsorts pack. Good value in sensible quantities.

And there are those that serve up the plain licorice chunks that are always left in the bowl until they go green and leathery. Twisted and you’ll wish you didn’t indulge.

I embraced Twitter reluctantly but quickly became a convert. There’s a poetry to many snapshot tweets and often an honesty that comes with paring yourself to 140 characters. By following specific groups I feel part of those communities. I get updates and insights into the lives of other authors, journos, artists and more – including some that show me the super successful struggle with and/or celebrate the same things as me.

For instance, Neil Gaiman posted this as I was drafting this post:

@neilhimself: If there is a feeling better than that strange moment when a stalled story unsticks and becomes inevitable, I do not know what it could be.

Neil Gaiman has written novels for adults and children, comic books, screenplays, picture books and more. I attended an event at the State Library when fans waited three hours for his autograph. Yet he and I have something in common. I have sat and waited with a story I’m working on. Waited for the pieces of the plot to fall into place. Waited for closure.

The moment when understanding arrives is probably short of rapture but it feels mighty fine.

Other Twitter moments that struck a chord with me follow. I might add to this list as suitable tweets occur.

@parisreview: “The good thing about writing books is that you can dream while you are awake.” – Murakami (Interviews Vol. 4 http://bit.ly/3zPzeV)

@parisreview: “Writing is making sense of life.” -Nadine Gordimer http://bit.ly/4DHqMl

@parisreview: Delay is natural to a writer. He is like a surfer — he bides his time, waits for the perfect wave on which to ride in. -E.B. White

@tomwaits: Writing songs is like capturing birds w/o killing them. Sometimes you end up with nothing but a mouthful of feathers.

@tomwaits: I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy. http://www.tomwaits.com


@PaulSherwen: Good African Proverb for today: If you get chased up a tree by a buffalo – enjoy the view.

The Laughing Heart

I don’t read poetry often these days, partly because I think it demands a stillness of time, place and mind that is rare for me. If I’m reading a novel, one bad page doesn’t usually deter me from reading on. If I have an anthology in hand, one poor or inaccessible poem can put me off. Crap attitude, I know.

Anyway, one of my good friends is a gob-smackingly good poet and author. As young cadet journos we used to sit cross-legged on the floor at his flat and swap poems. I’d read his and think “Damn that’s good. I’m not showing him mine any more…”

Despite my apparent boganism, I thank Joel for persisting. For keeping poetry in the emergency lane of my consciousness – and plugging this poem, which is a diamond. It’s The Laughing Heart by Charles Bukowski, read by Tom Waits.

BTW, I’m a newbie to Waits’ work but his Small Change is on regular rotation on my car stereo right now. Jazz, folk, blues, poetry, alcohol and echoes of Louis Armstrong. Top storytelling. Check out The piano has been drinking (not me) for a taste. The contemptuous waitress, the bar owner with “the IQ of a fencepost”, the squalor, the exhaust pipe vocals, the stumbling keyboard chaos. Remarkable.

Anyway, here’s a poem picked by Joel that glimmers in the darkness. It really got through to me.