Saturday, 3 January 2009

On sense and sensibility Natalie V's review. 05/21/08

Live your life in a sensual world. Be still. Be present.  

I sat down to type a few words about Hughesy’s new book ‘Art Life Chooks’ and was immediately filled with self doubt. Fairly presumptuous don’t you think? What would an experienced literary agent glean from my perspective? Of course my interpretation would be influenced by a firm impression of Hughesy’s greatness before even starting, so I was completely unable to be impartial!

According to the clock it only took a day to read, but I didn’t notice the time passing. I was so drawn into my own senses, that not even the sounds of Fox Sports could puncture the kaleidoscope of colours. I can hear her voice in my mind’s ear. And it’s husky and rich.  

The best part of the book was how the author interweaved her artistic sensibilities into the story. This was obviously no afterthought on Hughesy’s behalf.  Her wonderful mind naturally filters each experience with the references to beauty in poetry, literature, painting and music. As a musician I was enthralled with her musical descriptions of bird song and other sounds in nature. In one section she mentions an orchestral work by Arvo Pärt: a 20th century composer of which I am very fond. It was at this point that I realized how cleverly she managed to create a rich ‘theatre of the mind’. Words and images always flash through your mind when reading, but Hughesy’s soundtrack of beauty took the reading experience to a new level. By the end of the book, she had made peace with her situation. The fact that art gave her a sense of clarity was powerful.  

As in any book, the intensity of the reading experience will heighten depending on the commonalities shared between reader and writer and this was no different for me. In myself I saw her commitment to the discipline of teaching. Her disparagement of media rhetoric. Her childhood fascination with the rituals of religion. Her deep and abiding love for feathered creatures. (my cockatiel sized the book up for chewing practice but thought the better of it) Her artistic endeavours being thwarted with self doubt despite her days being filled with domestic joys after a life of frantic work. Coming to terms with life and death.  

Every word and every sentence resonates with sense and quiet truth. I found myself responding with genuine emotion to her humble sentiments…and you know from reading my ‘Serotonin Deprived’ series how hard it is for me to swallow contrived expressions of the human condition. She believes in the beauty of this world with every inch of her being, despite all evidence to the contrary.  

The publishers have targeted mature women (like me…ha!) as the audience but I feel that men would be equally enthralled by the tale. Geoffrey’s heroic antics about the farm will surely appeal (loved the naked snake wrangling!) as will the chance to see inside the mind of an extremely warm and intelligent woman. The girls are a mysterious lot!

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