Weekend Round-Up #1

Both The Age and The Australian lead off their book review sections this week with a guide to the upcoming books for 2005. On the Australian Fiction front we have: March by Geraldine Brooks, due in April (missed opportunity there methinks), which is a US Civil War romance inspired by Little Women; Robert Drewe's novel Grace, (August) which continues Drewe's definition of the fictional landscape of Western Australia with a tale of an escapee from a desert detention centre, set in the Kimberleys; The Secret River by Kate Grenville (August), described as a "rural gothic"; Alex Miller's Prochownik's Art, scheduled for October, which looks at violence and erotica from an artist's perspective; The Lost Thoughts of Soldiers from Delia Falconer in July, she is best remembered for The Service of Clouds from 1997; Brian Castro produces You Can Find Me in the Garden in June; Sonya Hartnett follows up her Miles Franklin Award shortlisted novel (from 2003) Of a Boy with a mystery and suspense novel titled Surrender; and Lily Brett and Roger McDonald release as-yet untitled novels later in the year. In crime we have new novels from Kerry Greenwood (with her 15th Phryne Fisher ystery), Jane Clifton, Garry Disher, Peter Temple, and Colleen McCullough with her crime novel debut On, Off in November. Thomas Keneally will have a history of Sydney's first settlement out in late 2005; Gallipoli is re-visited by Harvey Broadbent; and Cameron Forbes looks at prison camps of World War II, which promises to be a cheery subject. Australian Biography is big again, with works on the Krakouer brothers (silky-skilled AFL footballers from the 70s and 80s, the eldest of whom fell on hard times in the 90s); Sir Edward Woodward (the ASIO chief rather than the British actor); Renee Rivkin (high flying, high crashing stockbroker); and Delta Goodrem, at only 19 years of age this promises to be slimmer than she is. Memoirs are scheduled from singer Helen Reddy; commdian Noeline Brown; sports broadcaster Debbie Spillane; politician Barry Jones; ex-cricketer Steve Waugh; rock singer Chrissie Amphlett; and writer Frank Moorhouse.

The Australian starts off its general book coverage with a piece about that book by Dan Brown. It's a re-print from The Sunday Times, with inserts to give it a sort of Australian flavour (such as the fact that the book has sold 953,000 copies, in three formats, since it was published here in April 2003). If it's that big I might have expected a specific Australian written article, but it is the silly season so we'll let them pass this time. The rest of the book reviews are constrained to non-Australian publications with the exception of Going Native by Michael Archer and Bob Beale - which I can't find reprinted on the website anywhere. They redeem themselves a little later in the Review section by giving a favourable review to "Enjoy Every Sandwich - The Songs of Warren Zevon" by Various Artists - one of my all-time favourites.

The Age still isn't back to its usual Saturday format so book coverage is a little low at this time of year. Peter Pierce, professor of Australian Literature at James Cook University, reviews the annual collections from publisher Black Inc: The Best Australian Essays 2004, and The Best Australian Stories 2004. There has been a change with both collections this year. Peter Craven, who edited all of Black Inc's collections in previous years (with the possible exception of the sports writing collection), had a falling out with Black Inc publisher Morry Schwartz during the year and has been replaced by individual editors; Robert Dessaix edits the essays and Frank Moorhouse the stories. You sort of get the impression that Pierce thinks both editors did a good job but it is hard to be sure. The final sentence of the review reads: "Signalled, perhaps is withdrawal from the exigent present into the delusory hopes of art." Whatever that is meant to convey. Also in The Age two books on Literary Hoaxes (Daylight Corroboree: A First-Hand Account of the Wanda Koolmatrie Hoax by John Bayley, and Who's Who: Hoaxes, Imposture and Identity Crises in Australian Literature edited by Maggie Nolan and Carrie Dawson) are reviewed by Simon Casterton. Australia has a great tradition of literary hoaxes. Probably the best-known of which is the Ern Malley affair, recently fictionalised by Peter Carey in My Life as a Fake. But added to that are the recent Norma Khouri hoax and the Helen Demidenko fracas in the mid-1990s; positively fertile ground. Mark Twain was probably right in that Australia is a land of lies. In The Sydney Morning Herald "The Spin-Off Doctors" roposes: "Novels based on a popular TV series or movie have a built-in audience, but are they literature, wonders Mark Juddery." Well, actually, I reckon it's the sub-editor who does the wondering, Juddery just reports on the phenomenon, giving special attention to those Australian writers who have written spin-offs from such as Doctor Who, Star Wars, X-Files and the Terminator movies. I think the question is a ridiculous one. Genre fiction, of whatever type, is still literature. It's a big church, I don't see it having any trouble accommodating anything that can get in the front door. Another thing: Juddery doesn't use the despised term "sci-fi", which lifts this piece up a notch or two.

Science fiction also gets a look-in at The Courier-Mail with Jason Nahrung's piece titled "Horror Champion". The champion of the title is Ellen Datlow, editor of OMNI for 17 years and recently better known for her annual World's Best Fantasy and Horror anthologies. In particular, her work with Australian authors is mentioned along with her guest appearance at this year's Clarion South as one of the international tutors. Abbreviation check: one good ("SF"), one not so good ("sci-fiction"). Not sure where this last one came from. Sounds like an acknowledgment that "sci-fi" is on the nose but that "science fiction", or even "sf", is not derogatory enough. Either way, consistency would be nice.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on January 1, 2005 11:43 AM.

Noisy Reading was the previous entry in this blog.

Quarterly Essay 16 - "Breach of Trust" by Raimond Gaita is the next entry in this blog.

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