Monday, May 10, 2010

Ruth Park

Ruth Park is an author.

I'm not sure if she's still alive or not. I shall soon find out.

I've read one novel by her. It's a kids book called Playing Beatie Bow. It's a time travel-fantasy-historical thing.

I have the book in front of me, so I opened it to see the copyright. It's 1980. So it's a fairly old book. I can't believe 1980 was thirty years ago. That makes me feel OLD.

Lord Wiki shows that Park has a massive bibliography. I'm guessing though, that unfortunately, it would be hard to find most of the books.

Baby Rosina Lucina was born in Auckland New Zealand, on 24 August 1923. Well, it's MAYBE 1923. Lord Wiki isn't exactly sure about that.

At some point during her childhood, the family moved to Te Kuiti New Zealand. Lord Wiki says this place is known as the sheep shearing capital of the world. It makes me think of my parent's New Zealand holiday photos....so many sheep pictures! They didn't go to Te Kuiti though...well, as far as I know.

I'm looking at Google Maps. Te Kuiti is about three hours south of Auckland.

Park had part of her childhood during the Great Depression. Her father struggled through various jobs around Te Kuiti. Then, if I'm understanding this right, the family returned to Auckland, and the dad became a council worker. There they lived in state housing, which is what we Americans call public housing.

Lord Wiki has an entry about state housing in New Zealand. In the mid 1930's, houses were built for people in need...not in the inner city, but in the suburbs. The government wanted to avoid the whole slums thing. It sounds like a pretty nice thing. The only major downside was there was racism involved. Lord Wiki says they wouldn't allow the Maori's to live there. That's sad, but I guess we have to remember it was way back when.

Park went to a Catholic primary school. She got a partial scholarship to secondary school, but it was rough because she could afford only to go some of the time. I guess they didn't have public school around there? I'm googling to try to find out when public schools came about in New Zealand. I'm having a hard time finding the information. Maybe the family just preferred the private school?

At one point, Parks went to live with relatives on some farming estate. Lord Wiki says the wealthy landowner treated Parks like a servant. I guess she wasn't very nice. I'm confused about whether this wealthy landowner was Park's relative or not. Anyway, it sounds like they didn't get along. Supposedly, Parks told this woman that she wanted to be a writer, and the woman said Parks would be happier as a servant. Yes, I'm sure servants are very happy. It's always nice doing thankless work for people who treat you like an inferior. Even when you're paid and treated well, I'm sure it's usually not a preferable job.

Park worked for The Auckland Star, a newspaper that's no longer around.

In 1942, Park moved to Australia. If Lord Wiki has her birth year right, she'd be about nineteen when she made the big move.

Park got immediate writing work in Australia. I'm not sure if she was offered this work before she came over, or whether she lucked out in finding a job quickly.

She wrote for something called the ABC Children's Session. It was a radio program that began in 1939. This history page of the ABC site says it ran in Melbourne from 1933-1934 as the Argonauts Club. Then in 1941, it was revised as a national program.

Harp wrote a series called The Wide-Eyed Bunyip. The star of that show died in 1951, so I guess they needed to do some shifting around. The title of the show became The Muddle-Headed Wombat. It did well...was popular, and lasted until 1970. In the 1960's, Parks started publishing Muddle-Headed Wombat books. The first one came out in 1962.

Park wrote other books before the wombat ones though. Her first novel came out in 1948. This was The Harp in the South. I think I've heard of it before.

According to Penguin Books Australia, the book is part of a trilogy. They're about Irish folks living in the slums of Sydney.

Lord Wiki says the sequel was published in 1949. This was Poor Man's Orange. Then in 1985, there was a prequel called Missus. About a year after that book was published, the other two books in the trilogy were turned into TV miniseries.

Here's a promo of Poor Man's Orange.

I'm not sure what to do now. I could look through Lord Wiki's bibliography for Park, but I'm afraid that will lead to a lot of dead ends. Maybe I'll try to find another website about Park.

There's a Ruth Park golf course in St. Louis, Missouri. I'm guessing it's not named after our Ruth Park though.

The Goodreads website has some listings of Park books, along with some descriptions. I'll look at those.

There was a book published in 1987 called My Sister Sif. It sounds like a fantasy type thing. The synopsis blurb says, Fourteen-year-old Riko manages to get her sister Sif and herself to their Pacific island home, where a scientist who falls in love with Sif discovers her connection with an underwater race. Maybe she's a mermaid type creature?

Yeah. I'm looking at various reviews via Google. It seems to be a mermaid type story. It kind of reminds me of Sabrina Down Under. They had that mermaid-scientist-ecology thing going on.

Swords and Crowns and Rings was published in 1977. It's a love story that takes place during The Great Depression. If I'm reading the description right, it has some fantasy elements to it.

This Australia-New Zealand Literary blog has a review of it. Lisa Hill says the book won the Miles Franklin Award. But despite winning this major award, it's out of print. That's sad.

Hill says the male lead in the book is a dwarf. His family is working class, while his female love interest comes from a more wealthy family. Hill writes more about the book, but there's a spoiler warning, and I might want to read the book someday. I'm usually okay with movie spoilers, but I try to avoid book ones. Don't ask me why. Well, it's probably because I like to read more than I like movies. I have doubts I'll see the movie, and want to find out what happens. With books, I feel it's more likely I'll end up reading it someday.

Here's a more recent book; When the Wind Changed. It's a picture book published in 1990. It sounds like it's a story based on that threat parents give to their kids when they make awful faces. Your face is going to freeze that way.

Some of the books on Goodreads don't have descriptions. I'm skipping over those.

Here's a short story collection published in 1991; Things in Corners. I'm not usually a fan of short stories, so I'll probably not read that one.

All right. I'm going to give up on this website. Most of the books don't have descriptions.

I'm back on the Penguin website. They have some book descriptions.

Dear Hearts and Gentle People sounds lovely to me....kind of in an All of a Kind Family type way. It's about an orphaned Australian girl coming to live with her relatives in New Zealand.

The Frost and the Fire is about goldmining. I wouldn't mind reading a book about that; get a better glimpse of what the mining life was like.

The Power of Roses came out in 1993. It takes place in a Jerusalem hotel. So I guess it's an Israeli type book. No. Maybe not. This website says it's about the Sydney Slums. Is there a Jerusalem in Sydney? Well, I'm not finding anything online. I'm a bit lost. Oh well.

The National Library of Australia has a biography page about Park. They have a photo of her from when she was young. She reminds me of Judy Garland.

They say Park's dad was a bridge and road builder. Park and her family spent a lot of her childhood in scarcely populated areas. Her younger years were full of the forest and it's creatures, but lacking in contact with other children and books. Her family owned two books, and Park wasn't allowed to read them. I wonder why. Then the school she attended owned a total of eight books. They were kept in a glass case. Yikes. I wouldn't want that childhood. Although this is a good argument against those who claim children MUST be surrounded by books if we want them to grow up to be literate. I guess then it's not absolutely necessary. But I would say it's preferable.

In her autobiography, A Fence Around the Cuckoo, Park says having a solitary childhood helped in her development of becoming a writer. There's more time for reflection. I guess that's good news for Jack. Although I'm not sure if I'd classify his childhood as solitary. Well, I guess it is compared to kids who have siblings and/or go to school. He spends many days without children. But he does see other kids. We take him to the grocery store, point to kids, and say See. Those are children. But don't stare at them too long. You might make them nervous. No, I'm joking. Jack has kids that he plays with.

Since Park couldn't learn much through reading, instead she learned through observing and eavesdropping. Yeah. These are great learning tools.

Park's childhood involved some traumatic ordeals. Her father became bankrupt. Her mother dealt with a very serious illness. I can imagine both of those are extremely scary for children. Hell, what am I saying? They're scary for anyone.

Park started work at the Auckland Star in the proofreading department. Later she was promoted to being in charge of the children's page. Then she formed a penpal relationship with a writer in Australia; D'Arcy Niland. The two met in 1940 when Park visited Sydney. The friendship blossomed into a romance; but Park was dedicated to her career, and didn't want to rush into marriage. She planned to go to San Francisco, and pursue her writing there. But then the attacks on Pearl Harbor occurred. Park's travel plans were canceled, and instead she went to Sydney.

Together, Park and Niland wrote an autobiography called The Drums Go Bang. It's about trying to make a living with writing, the struggles of it all.

Like the characters of some of her novels, Park and Niland lived in the slums of Surry Hills.

We've been in Surry Hills. I think we walked through there to get to Moore Park from our accommodations in Darlinghurst. Or actually.... Maybe we sort of were in Surry Hills. I think it might have been right near us. Maybe we were kind of between Surry Hills and Darlinghurst?

Let me go look at the map.

Well, no. It looks like we were more in Darlinghurst. Surry Hills was a bit south of us.

As I mentioned a few days ago, I think when we were walking through Surry Hills, Jack said he wanted to move there. I'm going to see if I wrote that down for our trip reports.

Here's the post. I didn't mention Surry Hills, but I did mention Crown Street. That goes through Surry Hills, and I think that's where we were. I wrote, Something about Crown must have impressed Jack because he mentioned wanting to live there. It was the first time, in a long time, that Jack showed interest in moving to Australia. I did tell him though that if we lived in Australia, we probably wouldn't be able to afford living so close to the CBD.
I wonder why Jack liked Crown Street so much. Or maybe moving to Australia had been on his mind, and he just decided to mention it at that point.

Park ran a deli for a few weeks. I guess they need to supplement their writing income. Then she heard of a novel writing contest. The National Library of Australia says that Park wrote The Harp in the South for the contest, and she did her writing while visiting family in New Zealand. When her two children went to sleep at night, Park went to work.

The book won first prize, and was published. It received positive recognition from critics London and Boston, but had a somewhat harsh reaction from Australia. The National Library of Australia says the reasons for this remain a mystery. Lord Wiki had mentioned this whole thing. He said it was related to people wanting to deny there was such poverty in Sydney. I'm not sure if that's true, or if Lord Wiki was talking out of his ass.

Well, even though they say it's a mystery, a paragraph or so down, The National Library gives some information. This sounds SO typical. They say At the same time, the 'Letters to the Editor' page of the Sydney Morning Herald was filled with vociferous complaints from general 'readers', most of whom appear to have rested their case on a reading of the newspaper's synopsis. People do that quite often it seems. How many people criticize the Harry Potter books without even reading them? I've done it though. I complained about The Secret without reading the book. I just read ABOUT the book, and it sounded awful. Finally, I read the real thing, and it was much worse than I imagined.

I wonder if it IS possible to judge a book by what other people say about it. How valid would that method be? I think if you found people who had the same values and viewpoints as you, they could probably give you a pretty accurate idea of whether you'd like the book or not. But I think that would only work IF those reviewers actually read the book. I think the problem occurs when it's all hearsay. Well, no. I never read the book. But my mom's friend's sister's teacher read it, and she hated the thing.

The Harp in the South did deal with controversial and tough subjects; child abuse, abortion, and prostitution. But it sounds like it's not completely depressing. There's hope, joy, and stuff like that.

The National Library says, Although Park's novels are never didactic, they implicitly emphasise the values of sensitivity, imagination, independence and courage, especially the courage to aspire. Many of her stories also subtly suggest the presence of mysterious forces in human destinies or imply numinous experience. Those are values I can definitely stand behind. And I like supernatural stuff. I believe in destiny and all that.

Speaking of destiny, do any of you watch Flashforward? I'm totally loving that show. Tim and I watched three episodes last night. I rarely have the stamina to sit through that much of one show in one night. But I got SO into it. I might even like it better than Lost. I feel horrible saying that....disloyal. I feel like someone who has an old dying dog, and then gets a new puppy. Suddenly, they realize they prefer the puppy, and they feel so guilty about that. But you know. We'll watch Lost again tonight, and maybe I'll be sucked back into it. I was really obsessed with Lost two weeks ago. But then it wasn't on last week, and I think during it's absence, my mind started getting into other stuff.

Park has written some nonfiction books about Sydney, and other stuff. She has a book about Tasmania. I'll look out for those.

Well, Jack and I are going to head out for some ice-cream, mother's day shopping, and groceries. So I think I'm going to end this here.

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