Sunday, June 6, 2010

Small mind, small behind (some hope)

Have just waved Drama Queen no.3 off on the school bus for the week long camp that is a key feature of Australian primary school life for the older years. I did spot that the bus driver, obviously an old hand at the transportation of small children, had his ipod earphones all ready to shove in his ears to drown out the noise, which seemed a sensible precaution judging by the noise level at the farewell to parents stage. They are going by bus and then a ferry to get to the Outward Bound type campsite. It was a chilly 9oC this morning as they set off, but heavens be praised, at least it wasn’t raining – though true to form they are still gloomily predicting the dreaded catch all on the rain front, 'showers’.

Taking advantage of the temporary freedom of only having two teenagers in the house I have planned a week of riotous activity, riotous that is by the standards of a Mosman housewife, including a trip to see Sex and the City on Thursday as part of a school fund raiser. I saw a review of the film by Lucy Baird in the Sydney Morning Herald who quoted Eleanor Roosevelt, with the following fabulous, female, cutting remark.

“Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people”

I gave a guilty start when I read this quote and thought how banal most of my conversation is – definitely in the small minded end of the conversational swimming pool. It is a bit like my reading habits – I read all the time and always have at least two books on the go. My greatest fear is being without something to read so like all addicts I make sure I always have a supply of my particular drug stashed around the house; by my bed, in the kitchen (always useful to have something to read when cooking or washing up) and in the bathroom (tend to brush teeth whilst absent mindedly turning pages). I would love to say that I working my way through War and Peace or discovering obscure Patagonian authors but I have to admit I am just as likely to be reading Agatha Christie or revisiting one of the Drama Queens’ teenage books, (hope DQ no.3 hasn’t take “Six Ponies” to camp with her). Perhaps there is a similar mantra to Eleanor’s observation in terms of reading habits, Great minds read Tolstoy, George Elliot and Proust, average minds read Margaret Drabble, Jane Austen, Ann Patchett, Susan Hill, Penelope Lively, Margaret Forster, Tim Winton and Kate Atkinson and small minds read Agatha Christie, Jodie Picoult, Jilly Cooper and Mary Higgins Clark.

When I was trying to work out which author fitted into which category in my mental filing system, I decided things I find a real effort go into Great Mind category, with the exception of Middlemarch, which was a pure pleasure. Books/authors that I love reading and that create situations/characters/dialogue that resonate and stay with me, changing the way I think or see things, go into the average minds category – though I would actually never call them average, and then books I read for pure enjoyment and escapism go into the small mind category.

I have to say if Eleanor fell purely into the great mind category, she must have been quite a difficult person to know. There are days where I do read as an escape and then I want the literary equivalent of a warm bath, all froth and bubbles and brain in neutral. Likewise although my day is bereft if I haven’t read the paper, I also have days where I don’t want an intellectual conversation, I just want a large skimmed latte and a giggle and gossip with my friends and yes, we are far more likely to be talking about who is doing what to whom on the local stage, than events in the global arena and that's not because we are small minded dim women, I have fabulous smart sassy friends - Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha don't even come close - it's because it is an easy way to relax.

Resolution for rest of 2010 – balance is everything – make sure I hit some great minds points in my day, but remember it’s the small minds bits that help keep me relatively sane.


  1. I agree - Middlemarch was really very very good! I was quite surprised at how much I liked it. And, if reading Jodi Picoult is small minded than I guess I am guilty :D

  2. Hi Mimi, Yes, not sure small minded is best way of describing anything one reads - reading light or skinny reading to go with my skinny latte, perhaps - have to say Jodi Picoult was borderline in my own idiosyncratic filing system. One of the joys of moving to new countries is discovering new authors; Wally Lamb blew me away in New York when I first read "I know this much is true", likewise Barbara Kingsolver. In Australia I have loved reading Tim Winton and my latest rave, Craig Silvey. When do you get to Australia?

  3. Love Wally Lamb and Barbara Kingsolver... Deeply emotional books. I agree though, sometimes you need to read something relaxing :)

    I used to say that my favorite author was Ann Patchett; but I've realized as I get older that I can't pick just one!

    I think we'll be flying in the last week of June - pending VISAs so fingers crossed!


  4. I constantly have three or four books on the go - always one in my handbag and one in the car ! hours not wasted waiting for my teens !

    Currently reading -We are all made of glue by marina Lewyca

    How to be married -by Polly Williams both of which are chck lit

    If nobody speaks of extraordinary things by John Mcgregor which is odd
    and Austerity Britain which is a history of the 1930's.

    Must try Middlemarch although have just had a baby so brain a bit vague!

    Great blog