2 Feb 2010

What would you have chosen?

...if you'd been at my book club last night?

The ginger and peanut biscuits?

The pavlova served with fresh cream and strawberries macerated in sugar and just a little bit of Cointreau to bring out their sweetness and flavour?

The raspberry and chocolate cake?

Or the moderately healthy (but only in comparison to what you saw above) tomato and basil salad drizzled with Parmesan infused olive oil and balsamic vinegar and topped with feta served with a bit of pesto and a King Island Double Brie?

Perhaps you'd have stuck with the clichéd Aussie bar snacks of salt and vinegar or BBQ chips or peanuts, and a Hahn Light beer, served first to tie in with the book's location in a seedy Sydney pub. Don't worry - we had champagne as well...and tea and coffee served in my Royal Doulton tea set to follow. Such fun being able to use it for a crowd!

Here's the book itself, The Glass Canoe by David Ireland. I blogged about it here. Featuring in Australian Classics - 50 great writers and their celebrated works by Jane Gleeson-White, the book is not an easy read, but difficult books make for the best book club discussions, in my experience, and last night was no different.

My book club members are an erudite bunch with two current school principals and the wife of a retired one as well as two English Literature teachers, a couple of other teachers, and a smattering of dummies like moi. The best discussion of the night centred around whether The Glass Canoe was appropriate for Year 12 school students. Scheduled as part of the NSW HSC syllabus in the early 80s, the book was called 'pornographic' by parents, and caused somewhat of a furore before being withdrawn. I can understand why! Maybe this is another reason why I homeschool my daughter - so that she is not exposed to books like this before she has the life experience and maturity to deal appropriately with their subject matter. Pleasingly, the general consensus last night was that the book was inappropriate for 17 year olds, although we all thought that the book fell short of the definition of pornography as a depiction of erotic behaviour intended to cause sexual excitement. (Oh what is this post going to do to my Google searchers?) Our local school principal cited her principal (!) concern as the tone of hopelessness that pervades the book, feeling that right to the end there appears no way out for this group of marginalised Australians. I felt glad to hear her opinion.

What do you think? Are 17 year olds old enough to deal with adult themes of sex, drugs and alcohol? When do you introduce these subjects to your children? Ever? Is it appropriate to shield them from the darker side of our fallen world, or does this cause problems later? What's your opinion? What's your experience?

I'm going to set this up as a discussion in The Peaceful Community. Feel free to answer here or there or both. I am enjoying the input from people outside my usual blog readership over there, and they way the discussion continues long after the post is forgotten. On the other hand I don't want to destroy the wonderful comment chains we often find here, so I'm treading cautiously so far with this community thing. Hop on over and have a look around if you haven't already. There are discussions on books for Ancient Egypt, Bible reading plans and children's books. I've also started a discussion asking for help in solving the problem with my blog's formatting. This is really getting me down, to be honest, and so if you would jump over there and give me some details I would really appreciate it.

Finally, I've some photos of the flowers from last night. I really enjoy readying our peaceful home for guests, and the garden put on a nice showing last night. Enjoy!

A froth of pink roses - Rosa Ballerina and Rosa Clair Matin

A spray of Clair Matin decorates the kitchen bench.

Rosa Pierre de Ronsard on the wall in the link

A little arrangement of gardenia sweetly scents the bathroom


  1. Oh Jeanne,
    Wonderful food, wonderful decor, gorgeous flowers. Way too high brow for me my dear, but it looks very interesting and a lot of fun.

  2. But you would have been welcome all the same, Ruby. It was fun!!

    What would you have chosen to eat? Don't forget, virtual food has no sugar and no calories...

  3. Ooooo... in that case. I would love to try the yummy, scrumptous looking chocolate cake, please. I usually have a long black with a dash of milk but if I am splurging I'll have a cappacino with that!!
    Mid week meeting her tonight and by the time we finish school, shop with the big sister, straighten up (ugh ... need a bull dozer) I might throw out some rice crackers and dip for supper!

  4. as long as the food is virtual, I would have tried some of everything!

    shielded+put into public school at 13=dangerous for my personality. but kids are different. Such a difficult task parenting, taking account our children's personality and making decisions about to expose them to and when and knowing that there are just going to be times when we have no control over such things...

  5. oooh I would've tried all the sweet stuff, would skip the pesto and fetta right now though. Not supposed to eat fetta while pregnant apparently and I had a yucky epsiode with pesto during the first trimester with Bethany and haven't been able to even stomach the smell of it since (which Im sure you really wanted to know of course LOL)

    A book club sounds fun, although it also sounds a bit daunting to be expected to have something intelligent to say, sometimes it takes all my brain power and energy just to pick up a book at the end of the day and I often fall asleep while reading, maybe more sleep will bring back my brain, let's hope so!!!!

  6. oooh...the food looks so delish!
    it would have been a difficult choice for me for sure!
    btw, I couldn't go past you calling yourself a dummy! never do that ever again!
    Some one once referred to all those wonderful ladies on the AO groups as "intimidatingly intelligent", I couldn't have coined a better description and you certainly would fall into that category in my opinion!
    As for the formatting, glad it's not just me!
    And for your question about when to introduce all those subjects, I'm sure some of your readers with older kids may have some pearls of wisdom which I would love to read too:) At the moment we are only upto the part about how babies come out of tummies into the world:)

  7. Hi Jeanne,
    Ooh, they all look delicious, but the chocolate cake would definitely win my vote! *YUM*

    Have a great week,

  8. I'd like one of each, please, and maybe seconds of the chocolate cake! Jeanne, your flowers are beautiful. Gardenias are one of my all time favorite - I can smell them right now. And, it makes me smile to see all of the Japanese influence. Your house looks more Japanese than mine (except that I have tatami)!

    The privilege of selecting the appropriate literature for my kids is one huge plud for homeschooling. We are in a homeschool support group at the Christian missionary school here which allows us to use the library. They have a section of books that are on the International Schools top books list. The kids at the school are encouraged to read them, but just flipping through a few of them left me very glad that I am able to actively help my kids select wonderful books, and skip the pop list!

    I don't know the content of your particular book, but part of the problem with using a book that has even a little mature content at school is that some kids might be mature enough to handle it, but many will not. It's the lumping of every one together that is the problem, perhaps. I am so glad that I, who know my kids best, can be the one to decide what is appropriate, and when.

    I think we are still quite a ways away from any "mature" content around here. Any little hint of romance gets a request of, "could you just skip this part!"

  9. Yes, I agree--your decor looks more Japanese than our house. ;-) Love the kokeshi. I've thought it would be neat to have kokeshi collection but it not really something I can afford or, even more so, have room in my home for. :-(

  10. First I'll start with the savory and then hit the sweet. I disagree that your virtual food is calorie-free as each time you post food pics I find myself browsing the kitchen cupboards in my home.

    Intriguing conversation. My friend N. measures with "If I wouldn't want them watching it on the screen why would I want them reading it in a book?" Makes me want to take another look at what is scheduled in highschool for AO and SCM.

    ....and, my friend, I'm glad joyfulmum brought it up as I also don't want you calling yourself a dummy. There's power in our words, you know.

    Everything looked fabulous - is every month like that or did you raise the bar again???

  11. Oh, undoubtedly the pavalova (being a good kiwi girl 'n' all!), but I probably would have started with some potato chips first...

  12. Oh lovely topic but one far to complicated to do justic to via the keyboard! Still my first 2 thoughts were I read My Darling My Hamburger [about teenage abortion] & Judy Blume's Forever [teenage sex] before high school. I read lots of highly inappropiate things as well as all the Billabong books at this age. Too eewey & I skipped so I do think it depends on the child, their level of maturity, their life experiences & their ability to *self~edit*. I do tend to avoid depressing books though & would not consider them appropiate for teenagers who are already struggling to maintain an even keel. Also why I homeschool. I am much more aware of what Ditz can deal with ~ not the Glass Canoe I can assure you!

    As for the goodies, if I'm very, very good & not too opinionated & don't hog the floor can I pretty please have a little bit of everything?

  13. All that great food and you had a book, too?? And to think we only get a spread that big for the Superbowl! [Says the tv-less librarian who couldn't care less about football!]

  14. Hi Sue and Elizabeth. Yes, we are Japan Tragics, aren't we?

    Speaking of Japan, it looks like we could be in Tokyo and Kyoto in May. Either of you up for lunch with some crazy aussies?

  15. I am sorry to hear of your problems, but glad to hear they are now fixed! This is one advantage of doing a giant catch-up on your blog - I miss all the angst. I always thought you must be a very techie person because your blog has so many interesting widgets etc.

    I would just like to come in on this point about age-appropriate material. It causes me major distress when we allow our children to be exposed to inappropriate material. In my book, it is a crime, especially the sexualization of young kids. I find myself wanting to grab parents, publishers, website owners around the neck and scream at them "Let our children BE children!" I know you are talking about 17 year olds, but it's about sub teens I get most upset.


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