March 2005 Archives

Geraldine Brooks in Conversation

Geraldine Brooks will be in conversation with Jason Steger at the Reader's Feast Bookstore, Swanston Street, Melbourne, Tuesday 19th April at 6:30pm.

Bookings essential to all events: Tel 03 9662 4699 or

You will remember Brooks as the author of Year of Wonders, and the new novel March which I've mentioned here a couple of times recently. I get the feeling that this might be one of the big Australian books of the year, so get along if you can.

It prods me to catch up, yet again. I've never wanted to take up a speed reading course because I like to savour the words rather than just rushing through. But there are just so many books demanding to be read. Even the Australian ones. Ah well, such is life.

Tom Keneally

"It's a truism almost embarrassing to repeat that a particular government might find it suitable to have an enemy-in-the-midst, more imagined than real, whom they can point out to the populace as the threat. And from that threat, only this party, this view of the polity they manage, can save the innocent sleep of the citizenry."

- The Tyrant's Novel, 2003, p1

2005 Commonwealth Writers' Prize Winners

The winners of the 2005 Commonwealth Writers Prize have been announced, with Small Island by Andrea Levy taking out the Best Book Award, and Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie the Best First Book Award. Levy has previously won the Orange Prize and Whitbread Award for Small Island.

Australiana Collection Follow-Up

Back on 2nd March I reported on the upcoming auction of Rodney Davidson's major Australiana collection, probably the biggest such collection in private hands. Details of the first of those auctions are now in,
and it appears that Davidson did very nicely thank you very much. The first sale of 204 items grossed $A5.7 million, which included "an Australian record for a printed book, [being] the $768,900 (including buyer's premium) paid for Willem de Vlamingh's Journaal wegens een Voyagie of 1701, a Dutch account of Vlamingh's journey to Swan River in 1696-97."

Competition: "The Age" All About Books Cover Design

"The Age" newspaper in Melbourne is running a competition [PDF file] for Primary and Secondary school students to design covers for their two special book liftouts. Titled "All About Books" the liftouts will be published on May 9th, which is the standard annual edition, and August 22nd, which will co-incide with Children's Book Week. The competition closes at 5pm Friday 22nd April, 2005.

Australian Bookshop Chain in Trouble

A report in today's "Australian" newspaper states that the Collins chain of Australian booksellers is experiencing financial difficulties, and has decided to cancel their annual Mothers' Day catalogue - the second busiest after Christmas.

"Collins managing director David Dean sent an email to suppliers last week cancelling all back orders, including all April and May new releases." This does not look good. Reasons cited for the downturn include "Aggressive overseas companies such as Borders and Amazon have made the specialist retail trade tougher, and discount stores such as Kmart and Big W use heavily discounted books as 'loss leaders' to entice people into their variety stores." Three stores have recently closed in Melbourne suburbs and you would have to think that more are to follow.

Spotted on the Train

Further to the review by Michael McGirr on the weekend I did a bit of "book spotting" on the train this morning.

Of the 28 people I could spy on in my immediate vicinity 7 were reading books, 4 were reading newspapers and a couple of others looked like they were reading something but I couldn't see what it was. The books that I could see were: The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, Magician by Raymond E Feist, and Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. The rest I couldn't see. Most people hold their books either up against their chest or in their lap, and it's generally not considered polite to stare too intently in that general vicinity.

I don't consider this sample to be out of the ordinary for the commuters on my trains.

Reviews by Australians #4

Clive James reviews Break, Blow, Burn edited by Camille Paglia in the Sunday Book review section of "The New York Times". Although I have some qualms about including James here, given the length of time he's spent overseas, I suspect we can safely claim him as an Australian. No, just kidding.

2005 Australian/Vogel Literary Award

The publishers Allen and Unwin have announced that the 2005 Australian/Vogel Literary Award is now open. The Award is present to the author of the best unpublished manuscript submitted. Authors must be under the age of 35, that is born after 31 May 1970, and normally resident in Australia. The manuscript can be either a work of fiction, history or biography. Allen and Unwin promises to publish the winning work. The Award is currently worth $20,000 to the winner, along with any royalties coming from the book's publication.

Kerry Greenwood Profile

Kerry Greenwood is profiled on the New Zealand Stuff website in conjunction with the release of her new novel, Heavenly Pleasures, in that country. This weblog featured the book a couple of days back. Greenwood, who works part-time as a lawyer with Victoria Legal Aid, doesn't utilise much of her legal career in her writing.

"You can't make a good plot out of my clients, because lined up at the magistrates court every Thursday, out of the 15 I represent, about 13 have done something mind-bogglingly stupid. They haven't thought about it, they haven't
got good reasons for doing it.

"I had two kids as clients and they'd broken the windows of a McDonald's. I was hoping they'd say they didn't like the food or they think McDonald's are ruining the rainforest. So I asked them why they'd broken the windows, and they said the bus was late."

The interview also contains the news that "Greenwood will visit New Zealand to promote the next [book in the Phryne Fisher series], Death by Water, which is published in June. The story is set on a cruise ship, the Hinemoa, that comes to New Zealand". Greenwood then goes on to detail her fascination with New Zealand
cricketer Daniel Vittori:
"He used to look like Harry Potter and I love the way he pushes his eye-glasses up his nose with his finger. He's a bloody good bowler and he's developing into a really good batsman."
[Thanks to Sarah Weinman and her Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind weblog for the link.]

Weekend Round-Up #13

We're running a day late on this week's installment. Put it down to the Easter break: I was out of contact with the internet for a couple of days and couldn't make any postings. Standard sort of stuff.

I take it as pure co-incidence that I started reading a novel of Morris West's on the same weekend as Michael McGirr reviews the new West biography, Morris West: Literary Maverick by Maryanne Confoy, in the "Weekend Age". I thought of reading West's The Shoes of the Fisherman so I could get some inkling of what is in store when the current Pope shuffles off the world stage. And this review reveals that this novel of West's was published in 1963 on the day that Pope John XIII died. Lucky breaks are useful in the novellist's trade, and then to have the novel seemingly predict the election of John Paul II some 25 years later raised West's profile no end. But West was at his best in the 60s and 70s and he had lost his audience by the time of his death in 1999. All in all though, he ranks up there with John Cleary and Tom Keneally as an Australian novellist known round the world, and with Leon Uris and John Michener as a purveyor of "vast global narratives for a new breed of global travellers spawned by the '60s and the rise of the airport bookstore". So West is important in a modern world literature sense, as well as from an Australian context.

McGirr, though, starts his review with one of the strangest openings I've seen for a while: "It's a long time since I saw anybody reading a novel by Morris West on the bus. To be honest, as traffic gets worse and drivers grow more impatient, it's a long time since I saw anybody reading anything on the bus." I'd agree with the first sentence, but the second? Does he walk around blindfolded? I see people on the train reading all the time: everything from that book by Dan Brown to Kafka. I'll admit the reading fare on offer is more towards the left hand end of that scale, but people are actually reading. Maybe he needs to get out more.

The Long Game and Other Poems by Bruce Beaver was the poet's last collection, submitted to his publisher just before his death in February 2004. I've stated before that I'm not that up with modern poetry. Beaver's name is familiar to me though I doubt I could name a single poem or collection of his. Gig Ryan's review of this collection gives a short overview of the poet's work and praises him to the extent that it convinces me I really need to start educating myself in neglected literary areas. "Unlike most posthumous collections, The Long Game and Other Poems reads like an intentionally last book, piled with reflections on the poet's life and oeuvre. The title poem can be read as a paean to his marriage, with love for Beaver being the truth of life - 'The long ecstatic dance, the circling marathon'." Very fine indeed. And that's it for sizeable reviews of Australian books in "The Age" this weekend.

Others featured: the latest and last W.G. Sebald work Campo Santo, Men and Cartoons by Jonathan Lethem, and Faithful by Stewart O'Nan and Stephen King about the 2004 season of the Boston Red Sox. Short notices are given to The Little Green Handbook by Ron Nielsen, The Cruel Legacy: The HMAS Voyager Tragedy by Tom Frame, and Odd Socks by Lisa Evans.

In "The Sunday Age" this week Jane Sullivan profiles Kris Hemensley who has recently been awarded the Christopher Brennan award by the Fellowship of Australian Writers. The annual award is made to an Australian poet who has displayed a body of work of "sustained quality and distinction". Hemensley is also the proprietor of the Collected Works bookstore in Swanston Street in the city of Melbourne.

In "The Courier-Mail" Matt Condon interviews Chris Nyst on the eve of the publication of his latest novel, Crook as Rookwood. Nyst is best known at this time as the scriptwriter for the David Wenham film, Gettin' Square, though he has also published two other legal thrillers: Cop This!, and Gone.

Poem: The Editor's Regrets by Norman Campbell

Although we're quite respectable,
   And virtuous, and old,
We love a lie, delectable,
   If it's discreetly told.
A libel that is hot with spite
Affords us infinite delight.

But, oh! the Law's severity
   Holds as an iron band;
It curbs our wild temerity,
   And stays our dauntless hand.
Much defamation we would dare,
But Damages make us forbear.

Our duty to society
   Is ever in our mind;
We stand for strict propriety -
   For fear we should be fined.
We keep our sheet from libels free
Because it pays us best, you see.

We ever strive to stimulate
   An arctic air of probity,
And virtues oft we fabricate
   From nauseous necessity;
The pen is greater than the sword -
But Costs are things we can't afford.

First published in The Bulletin, 13 May 1915

Jed and His Two Dads - Dear, Oh Dear

The New South Wales right is outraged that children in that state's schools are being taught (no, brainwashed) about same-sex marriages and their familes. It seems that 8-year-old Brenna Harding has written a series of books with her lesbian mother featuring Jed and his Two Dads. "Nationals leader Andrew Stoner yesterday said the books are another example of 'political correctness gone mad'." And good old Rev Fred Nile, scourge of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, says the books are "homosexual propaganda aimed at brainwashing children at such a sensitive age...It's a disgrace." Both have called on NSW Premier Bob Carr to ban the books from the state's schools. Brenna Harding, you may recall, caused something of an uproar a few months back, when she appeared on the ABC's Playschool children's television program with her two mothers. And good on her I say. But she'd be a handful if she can stir up this much trouble when she's 8. What's she going to be like when she's 18, running for Parliament. Now there's an idea.

[Thanks to Bookslut for the link. "The Daily Telegraph" is not a newspaper I read often - actually, at all - but I have decided to add it to my regular list. If only for the amusement value.]

Combined Reviews: Heavenly Pleasures by Kerry Greenwood

heavenly_p.jpg Reviews of Heavenly Pleasures by Kerry Greenwood.

Heavenly Pleasures is the second novel in Greenwood's detective series featuring Corinna Chapman, following Earthly Delights.

Andrea Thompson, from the Murder and Mayhem Bookclub, sets the tone of all these reviews right off the bat when she states: "[The books in the series] are unashamed cozies and an excellent example of this popular sub-genre that has evolved around the tastes of mystery readers who prefer it light, fun and not too demanding. All the best ingredients are here, food, gossip, cats and a little romance. A book to be dipped pleasurably in and out of, Heavenly Pleasures is a delicious read for more than just the usual reasons of entertaining characters and a lively plot. It comes with recipes!"

Katharine England, in "The Advertiser", concluded that this book " written with Greenwood's customary verve and wit, and is as warming as onion soup on a cold day and as titillating to the tastebuds as a champagne truffle."

Sue Gammon, in the book review section of the ABC website went a bit further than the others on the food line: "I defy anyone to read these books without instantly wanting to rush into the kitchen and become an instant bread maker. The author obviously has a lifelong passion for muffins of all types, and is a serious bread lover. The characters and plots are as light as Corinna's bread, and as enjoyable."

You can find out more about this book, and the series at the dedicated Earthly Delights website. The site gives further details about the books, the authors and a batch of recipes relating to the series. A fine example of what a little forethought can do to help a book's publicity.

2005 National Magazine Award

Tim Winton has been nominated for a 2005 National Magazine Award in the Fiction category, for his story "Commission", which appeared in the September 2004 issue of Harper's Magazine. This appears to be the same story that appears in Winton's short story collection The Turning. Oddly enough I can't seem to find any details of when the awards are to be presented.

[Thanks to GalleyCat for the link.]

"Looking for Something to Read" by Helen Garner

In 1999 Helen Garner gave an address at the Age Book of the Year Awards ceremony. This essay was subsequently printed in "The Age", and later in Peter Craven's anthology, The Best Australian Essays 1999. The title of the essay is "Looking for Something to Read". A concept that all readers can relate to.

I've been asking around: I knew I couldn't be the only person in the world who's capable of forgetting the contents of a novel only minutes after having closed it. I've found that people bluff when they talk about books. They pretend to remember things that they don't remember at all. Intense anxiety and guilt cluster round the fact of having read. Press the memory of a book, and it goes blurry.

Garner goes on to lament this loss of memory, to bemoan the fact that, as adults, we don't read as we did when children: savouring, relishing, devouring the books. I'm seeing this with my own children. My 12-year-old daughter powers through a book a day and is always on the look-out for something to read. My five-year-old is starting to read by himself and demands a new book be read to him each night. Their appetites are overwhelming at times, both for my wife and I, and for the local libraries.

My father was a big fan of Frank Herbert's sf classic Dune when it came out in the sixties, and, in the mid-seventies when he saw me with the book, said that he envied me the opportunity of reading it for the first time. He felt it was an experience he couldn't go back to.

My father's feelings would seem to contradict Garner's earlier assertion that novels become fuzzy the nano-second after completion. And that would be the case if the extra ingredients of time and experience are ignored. My children devour books and remember them because the bucket of their reading lives is still practically empty: anything new that is tipped in can easily be differentiated from those already floating in the depths. As time goes on and the list of books read starts to reach the hundreds and thousands, the fine details of the books start to fade into each other, colliding and interacting, until it is almost impossible to tell one from the other. In her essay, Garner acknowledges this, listing a number of scenes from books that come immediately to mind; the scene appearing vivid and life-like, the author and title lost in the mist.

Every now and then a sentence that seems vaguely familiar flashes past my eye - was that something about all happy families all being the same? A soldier lying face-down on the field after the battle of Waterloo with a bullet though his heart? A bloke with a daughter on a gumtree plantation? A cloud of torn-up paper scraps being flung out of a closed carriage by a woman's languid hand? Some hippies eating bacon for breakfast every morning of their lives? Now where the hell did I read that?
I don't find this a problem; at least not a major one. It's been happening to me for years. It provides for some opportunities I had thought lost, namely the chance to re-read with an almost blank slate. I can go back to The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles in full knowledge that I remember next to nothing about the novel's twists and turns, its little post-modern tricks, and its Victorian setting and plot, yet being fully aware that the last two or three times I read it I found something new, and which re-inforced its standing as my all-time favourite. I won't be reading it for the first time but it will be near enough for this tired old reader as to make no nevermind. I look forward to it. The essential thing here is that I did enjoy it when I read the book last time. All the fine details might be lost or blurry, but that feeling still remains, and if I use that as my direction-finder I should be all right.

Reviews by Australians #3

I've been carrying on a bit of an internal debate lately whether or not to include works by J. M. Coetzee on this weblog. Not that I'm attempting to make any judgments on the man, either literary or philospophical - heaven forbid - just that I'm curious if he can now be considered Australian.

For those who aren't in the loop over this, Coetzee is described on the Nobel Prize website as: "John Maxwell Coetzee was born in Cape Town, South Africa, on 9 February 1940, the elder of two children." Since then, the bulk of his work, including his two Booker prize winning novels Life & Times of Michael K. and Disgrace, have had African settings and subjects. And the Nobel prize site lists his nationality as South African. However, it also goes on to state: "In 2002 Coetzee emigrated to Australia. He lives with his partner Dorothy Driver in Adelaide, South Australia, where he holds an honorary position at the University of Adelaide." So, is three years long enough to claim him as one of our own?

Coetzee was shortlisted for the 2004 Miles Franklin Award for his novel Elizabeth Costello which might have provided a hint. But then so was Shirley Hazzard for The Great Fire (which went on to win in 2004), and Matthew Kneale was shortlisted in 2001 for English Passengers, and he is definitely British. On the opposing side, Robert Dessaix includes Coetzee in his The Best Australian Essays 2004 collection, so he obviously thinks so. And Frank Moorhouse includes a story of Coetzee's in The Best Australian Stories 2004, which indicates that he agrees. With a pedigree like that who's to argue?

Which is a long introduction to justify my mentioning that J.M. Coetzee reviews a major new biography of William Faulkner, titled One Matchless Time: A Life of William Faulkner by Jay Parini, in this week's "New York Review of Books".

Young Australian Author

Melbourne schoolboy Alex Lewis, 15, took his father's advice about the story he was working on ("a piece of crap"), ditched it and started on "Zero Summer", a reflection of the internal emotions and motives of adolescents during a trip to the beach. That work has now won Lewis first prize in the Somerset College National Novella writing competition for secondary students. Given that the competition is open to all students under the age of 19 he has done particularly well. The $3,000 first prize isn't too foul either.

Upcoming Australian Science Fiction Conventions

Swancon 20 will be held in Perth over this coming Easter weekend, March 24-28 2005. This year's guest is Charles de Lint. Continuum 3 will be held in Melbourne over the weekend of 15-17 July 2005. Guests include: Neil Gaiman, Poppy Z. Brite, Richard Harland and Robin Hobb.

Frank Hardy's Birthday

Almost let this one slip me by, but today, March 21st, is Frank Hardy's birthday. Best known for his massive work, Power Without Glory, Frank Hardy was born in Bacchus Marsh in 1927, and later moved to Melbourne in 1938. He joined the Communist party in 1939 and enlisted in the army in 1942. He was de-mobbed in 1946 and started work as a journalist in Melbourne. It was during this time that he collected the material for Power Without Glory, a semi-fictional account of the life of John Wren - a legendary figure on the criminal fringe in the inner Melbourne suburb of Collingwood. Although subsequently accepted as one of the great Australian novels Hardy had difficulty getting his work published, and was later sued by Wren's wife over certain allegations about "her" in the book. The trial lasted nine months and was eventually won by Hardy. Hardy died in Melbourne in 1994.

Weekend Round-Up #12

Not a lot of Australian books are covered in this week's "AgeReview" and none of the reviews, it appears, are available on the website. The Persuaders: Inside the Hidden Machine of Political Persuasion by Sally Young, takes, as a major premise, that before the most recent Federal election, the Liberal party believed that the result would be decided by fewer than 4000 voters in marginal seats across the country - shades of Florida in 2000, and Ohio in 2004. As a consequence, Federal politicians believe it is easier to change the perception of reality, than to change reality itself. And both sides of the political equation are equally to blame for this. A sorry state of affairs, indeed.

Deborah Forster reviews Butterfly Song by Terri Janke, which has been mentioned on this weblog a few times previously. The general consensus seems to be that the book has good intentions, it tries hard but needed some more work on the characters and the reader's involvement with them. This is certainly Forster's view, though she does temper the criticism by concluding: "At its best, though, Butterfly Song has a simplicity and does feel a bit like a fable, about Mabo, about the strength of indigenous people, and the ability of people to love each other and to survive with dignity and prosperity. Something we would all fervently wish for."

Short notices are given to: The Lace Maker's Daughter by Gary Crew, "...the book drove me to distraction"; Digging Up Deep Time by Paul Willis & Abbie Thomas, "The ABC...should turn it into an Australian version of Walking with Dinosaurs"; The Wish List by Melanie La'Brooy, " entertaining and certainly harmless read"; Unbroken Blue by Jan Borrie, "...better at evoking emotion and place than narrating story, this slim novel has niche rather than mass appeal"; No Worries by Bill Condon, "...affecting and involving: a kind of David and Goliath story, with more than one Goliath"; and Oh No, We Forgot to Have Children by Deidre Macken, "...there is a rash of books on women's fertility and attitides to motherhood...this one makes a worthwhile contribution."

With Geraldine Brooks's latest novel March being reviewed in the US earlier in the week, Murray Waldren from "The Australian" caught up with her in Sydney before she returned to Virginia. The best quote of the interview relates to Brooks's interest in "bodily distress" in history, to which she replied:"...there's some emphasis on battle wounds and their treatment in March - my father-in-law is a medical historian with a special interest in Civil War medicine, so he was able to fill me in, in hideous detail, about the techniques and practices of the time." Not a topic for dinner-time conversation one suspects.

"The Australian"/Vogel Award has hit 25 years in existence, and Rosemary Neill interviews a few of the protagonists from the period. The award, for an unpublished manuscript by an Australian writer under 35, has had its fair share of controversy over the years: the first winner, Paul Radley, later confessed that his uncle, the middle-aged writer Jack Radley, had actually written the book; and then there was the Helen Demidenko affair, which started after she won the 1993 prize. Articles of this sort just prod me along to get my award web page fixed up some time soon.

Other Australian books published in this "Weekend Australian": The Catch by Marg Vandeleur: "'s an entertaining, easy read, there is character development at the right points: it is a very stitched-together first novel"; and The Goddamn Bus of Happiness by Stefan Laszczuk: "Laszczuk, between the beers, has something to say about cheating that death worse than fate lurking in the wings of even the most blessed life. You probably don't want to go to all the places he takes us but at least he shows us a way out again."

Frances Atkinson profiles Marg Vandeleur, and her novel The Catch, in "The Sunday Age" this week. The book was born out of a number of experiences in her life, not least her recent battle with a rare form of cancer, which confirmed her desire to write, and her regret at not having had children, which inspired the subject matter. Atkinson finds that "The Catch is part comedy of errors, part tender yearning; a literary pinata packed with vibrant characters, complicated friendships, sexual diversity, fishermen and piscatorial analogies." And it is this fishing analogy which led Vandeleur to the 1960 edition of The Encyclopedia of Fishing in Australia edited by Roger Hungerford. She finally contacted Hungerford and was able to get permission to utilise his chapter headings for her book. "He was thrilled. He said he hoped that my book put him on the map."

Poem: The Censor by C.J. Dennis

      The Censor sits behind his desk,
         And smiles a censored smile;
      His great, blue pencil hovers o'er
      Some masterpiece awhile,
Then swoops - oh, child of whose poor ravished brain?
Coldly another innnocent is slain!

      The Censor is a murderer.
         None knows his secret lair,
      Nor all the dark and awful deeds
         He does in ambush there.
No eye has seen his charnel-house - it's floor
With literary corpses littered o'er.

      The Censor is a crocodile.
         Beneath that slimy flood,
      The Waters of Oblivion,
         He seeks his livelihood.
His gloating eye marks children of my pen;
He draws them under from the sight of men.

      The Censor is a nibbling mouse.
         The fair cheese of my ind
      He rifles till there's nothing left
         But atmosphere and ind.
That fair, round cheese, formed lovingly by me,
From milk of thought and curds of poesy.

      The Censor is an elephant.
         With large, ungainly feet
      He dances on the glad, green fields
         I sowed in toil and heat,
Till all the fairest flow'rs of thought are slain,
And only unaesthetic weeds remain.

      The Censor is the Fiend of Storms.
         Upon the Inky Sea,
      In fear, my poor, frail craft I launch;
         Then, with unholy glee,
He makes the winds tear howling through the shrouds,
And sends fork'd death and shipwreck from the clouds.

      The Censor is a sorceror.
         Above rare fruits that grow
      Upon the tree of genius
         His hand waves to and ro.
Hey, Presto! And their lusciousness is slain -
Apples of Sodom, Dead Sea Fruit remain.

      The Censor is a hooded snake
         That lurks within the grass,
      And rears to sink his poison-fangs
         In heedless babes that pass -
Dear Children of my brain; wee, tender things,
That sink and swoon and perish when he stings.

      And still he is a gentleman;
         This much I will admit.
      In "Correspondence Columns" he
         Seeks not to air his wit;
On shrinking backs he lays no caustic stripe,
Nor stoops to call our Masterpieces "tripe"!

First published in The Bulletin, 15 April 1915


Posts will be a little scarce over the next few days, until Monday at least, as I am heading off interstate - as foreshadowed last week.

If I can get some web access over the weekend I'll post a new poem and there might be a bit here and there, just don't count on it.

Stay well, and read more books.

Mid-Week Reviews #1

Now that I've figured out how the "Bulletin" magazine organises its book reviews and literary news, I can give you a bit of a run-down on what they are looking at.

Sonya Hartnett's new novel Surrender, which is getting rave reviews all over gets praise again from Peter Pierce, from a week ago. If you review a book with a line like: "Surrender ... is a virtuoso piece of prose. One carefully weighted and crafted sentence follows another", and "Hartnett is one of the best, and certainly most uncompromising, of Australian novelists", then you are left in no doubt that the reviewer believes we have a novel of the finest quality before us. I still keep seeing the book shelved amongst the Young Adult sections in most bookstores which might be to the book's detriment. The cover is "non-genre" specific so it should be able to transcend the shelving problem. I think the publishers might need to point out the glowing reviews the book is receiving to the bookshops, and remind them of the success of Mark Haddon's book of a year or so back.

Sally Neighbour is a correspondent for the ABC's "Four Corners" program on television and, as such, has had the opportuity to report on a number of countries across the Middle East and Asia over the past decade. Out of that experience she has produced In the Shadow of Swords: On the Trail of Terror from Afghanistan to Australia, which is reviewed by Paul Daley. Books of this sort are very useful as they provide an adjunct to the dominance of the US print and television media. It's useful to have some Australian perspective on a topic that will come to affect us more and more in the years ahead.

Diana Bagnall looks at Dirt Cheap by Elizabeth Wyndhausen, which was also reviewed in "The Age" on the weekend. She finds that "Wynhausen's voice is strong and frank, by turns compassionate, belligerent, bewildered, caustic, self-deprecating - but always intelligent."

Movement at the Lonely Planet Station

The website reports that Lonely Planet founder Katharine Leck, and Sales & Marketing Director Andy Riddle are leaving the travel-guide book publisher. The publisher is relocating back to Melbourne from London and Leck has decided against making the move. Riddle is moving on to another role. There doesn't appear to be anything on the Lonely Planet website relating to this.

[Thanks to MobyLives for the link.]

Reductive Literary Equations

Every now and again something rather amusing crops up on the WWW literary sites. The latest is the concept of "Reductive Literary Equations" which combines writers or books together into a form of arithmetic equation in order to arrive at another literary outcome. For example, you can have: Stephen King - HP Lovecraft = Don Delillo and moby dick - genius = jaws These examples come to you courtesy of the I Love Books website, and the link was provided by the Bookslut weblog. Of particular Australian interest: Mary Shelley + William Faulkner = Nick Cave

Reviews of Australian Books #8

Following the success of her first novel, Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks has published March, which tells the story of the absent father from Louisa May Alcott's novel Little Women. Karen Joy Fowler reviews the novel in this week's "Washington Post" and concludes that "March is an altogether successful book, casting a spell that lasts much longer than the reading of it."

You can also read an excerpt from the novel. Kathy Weissman, at, enthused about the novel as well, but had a few misgivings: "MARCH is beautifully written, cleverly conceived, and dramatically plotted; my one complaint is that the central figure doesn't entirely come alive."

The Death of a Bookshop

Litblogs around the globe have been lamenting the loss of quality second hand bookshops of late. Melbourne is no exception in this regard as Vin Maskell reports the closure of Slightly Bent Books in Williamstown, after 13 years in business. This not a shop that I ever visited but the loss of any such shops is a loss for all booklovers. The reasons given are the ever-increasing rents and the opening of more and more chain bookstores through the suburbs. I fear this news is to become a common occurrence in the years ahead. On a happier note, the proprietor, Helen Green, will not be lost to the bookselling trade as she intends opening a weekend shop in the central Victorian country town of Talbot.

Joseph Furphy Statue

Joseph Furphy, author of the Australian classic Such is Life, is being commemorated in the Victorian country town of Shepparton with the unveiling of a statue in his honour. In addition, a collected set of his works is due for publication from Halstead Classics, as is the biography of the writer by Miles Franklin. It would appear that Furphy is in for a long-overdue re-appraisal of his works. And a good thing too.

Weekend Round-Up #11

"The Age" this weekend concentrates its major reviews on the new Ishiguro (Never Let Me Go) and the new Murakami (Kafka on the Shore), both of which are certainly worthy. You would have to think that the Ishiguro, along with Saturday by McEwen, will be a highly favoured contender for this year's Booker Prize. In addition, there is the new collection of essays by Simon Schama ("informative and enjoyable"), and a biography of Machiavelli ("adds nothing new") by Michael White coupled with a new translation of The Prince ("it retains its lucidity and power to excite admiration, despite its unsettling message"). I used to have a copy of The Prince above my desk at work. Given the current corporate structure of the company in which I work I think I should put it back. Forewarned is forearmed, as the saying goes.

On the Australian book front, "The Age" reviews Dirt Cheap: Life at the Wrong End of the Job Market by Elizabeth Wynhausen, and two children's picture books: Hooray for Horrible Harriet by Leigh Hobbs, and Hunwick's Egg by Mem Fox. Dirt Cheap is Wynhausen's account of a year working at the fag-end of labour queue. The writer spent a year away from working as a journalist for "The Australian" to work in the type of jobs most of us run from. The reviewer, Jeff Sparrow, approached the book with a large degree of scepticism as he saw the book merely as an Australian rip-off of Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickle and Dimed. But he was finally won over by the writing's "powerful, impassioned prose", and concludes "it provides a badly needed window on to the aching and forgotten lives upon which our society rests".

Frances Atkinson is won over by both picture books but I have to wonder how many copies of these are going to be sold at $24.95 each. The price just seems rather high. I might buy them as presents though not as a standard reading book for my children. My son always wants something new to read. Trying to palm him off with something we read only a week or so before just isn't going to work. In the smaller notices, Cameron Woodhead finds The Mermaid Cafe by Andy Maconachie - a first novel - "a talented but immature debut". Eric Campbell's Absurdistan is described as "the most absorbing travel memoir" the reviewer had read in years. Campbell was a reporter for the ABC (the Australian version) when his cameraman, Paul Moran, was killed in Kurdistan in March 2003 on the third day of the war, and Campbell himself was badly injured. I've always liked Campbell as a reporter; he's incisive and is interested in the small picture as much as the larger one.

Others: Strange2Shapes: New Melbourne Writers which contains some writers of talent at the start of their careers, and Kijana by Jesse Martin, whose previous book chronciled his trip to be become the youngest person to sail solo, non-stop and unassisted around the world. This one concerns his attempts to manage a young, inexperienced crew in a trip of two years around the world. It didn't work out, and this book is the result. I can't say that I will seek it out.

In "The Weekend Australian", Stephen Matchett reviews Working with Monsters: How to Identify and Protect Yourself from the Workplace Psychopath by John Clarke. Now there's a book I could go for. I could display it prominantly next to my copy of The Prince: that might keep the bastards off my back.

Poem: Proof Readers by Nina Murdoch

We sit all day, my mate and I,
   With wan eyes fixed on proof and screed,
While all the world goes streaming by,
   In mad procession as we read.

With wan eyes fixed on proof and screed,
   Ah, who would guess the things we see
In mad procession, as we read
   From morn till night, unceasingly?

Ah, who would guess the things we see!
   The lives and loves of all the earth,
From morn till night, unceasingly -
   Their tragedies and dreams and mirth!

The lives and loves of all the earth,
   We murmur in a lifeless drone,
Their tragedies and dreams and mirth
   Are tempered in a monotone.

We murmur in a lifeless drone,
   The throbbing lynotypes below
Are tempered to a monotone;
   The copy boys run to and fro.

The throbbing lynotypes below
   With us are neither sad nor gay;
The copy boys run to and fro,
   My mate and I no haste display.

With us are neither sad nor gay
   The deeds of men and clowns and kings;
My mate and I no haste display
   Though the world laughs or weeps or sings.

The deeds of men and clowns and kings
   (Through dreams and hopes and fears disproved,
Though the world laughs or weeps or sings)
   We watch with weary eyes unmoved.

Through dreams and hopes and fears disproved
   We sit all day, my mate and I:
We watch with weary eyes, unmoved,
   While all the world goes streaming by.

First published in The Bulletin, 25 February 1915

2005 International Impac Dublin Literary Award Shortlist

The shortlist for the 2005 International Impac Dublin Literary Award has been announced with 10 books nominated. It looks like a pretty well spread list, geographically-speaking, with books from the US, Canada, South Africa, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Australia being represented.

The Australian novel is The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard. This novel previously won the 2004 Miles Franklin Award and the 2003 US National Book Award.

The winner will be announced in Dublin on June 16th.

John O'Brien Bush Festival

The 2005 John O'Brien Bush Festival will be held from March 16th to 20th in Narrandera in New South Wales. This is both a celebration of John O'Brien and bush poetry generally. Some 6,000 people are expected to attend this year. John O'Brien, 1878-1952, only published two collections of verse during his lifetime - Around the Boree Log, and The Parish of St. Mel's - but is best known for one work: "Said Hanrahan" with its classic refrain - "We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan.

Are Writers' Festivals a Waste of Time?

Bruce Elder, who "agrees", and Susan Wyndham, who "disagrees", argue the topic in today's "Sydney Morning Herald". Elder's point is that the festivals are just a PR exercise aimed to selling more "units". Wyndham argues that they can be used by readers to "sample" books across a range of genres. Actually, I don't think either of these are true. I think a lot of readers go to festivals or conventions to see writers of whom they are already enamoured. They want a bit "more" than they have already received by reading the books. Not all of them but a significant number.

Poetry Unhinged Festival

Poetry Unhinged is a festival of poetry that runs from Sunday 13th March to Sunday 20th March, in and around the City of Onkaparinga in South Australia. For those unsure, this region starts about 20 to 30 kilometres south of Adelaide and encompasses the McLaren Vale winery region. The first event in the festival is titled Mad About Poetry to be held in the Noarlunga College Theatre Foyer in the Noarlunga centre - free entry. Other events include: Poetry and Chocolate - Turkish Delights, Poetry and Chocolate - Dark and Crunchy, Candles, Wine and Classics, and Poetry Unhindered - Beat Poet Night. Reading poetry while drinking McLaren Vale shiraz and eating chocolate? Yes, I can relate to that concept.

And so it goes...

I really don't have anything to write about today so you'll just have to put up with me. Sorry about that. I didn't get to the Watson/Burnside discussion last week, I got caught up at work and couldn't get out in time. Pity. I was looking forward to it.

I think I've just cracked up 100 entries in this weblog since the end of last year so it's probably a good time to think about what's coming up, other than the usual that is. I've started an email interview with a Melbourne-based author, who's also a friend, and that seems to be progressing well. I'd expect the first part of that to be posted in a week or so. Hopefully, this will be the start of a semi-regular feature here at Matilda.

I thought I might also have started a series on local bookshops but haven't seemed to find the time or material just yet. It will be something I aim for in the next few months. Other than this weblog I really have to get my act together and fix the Miles Franklin Award and Australian/Vogel Award pages which are in dire need of a complete makeover. Then there's the Edward Dyson pages which need completing, the new page on the Booker Prize pages for Shortlist Possibles for this year, and, most importantly, I need to fix the ile transfer facility which allows me to load images from my home PC to the relevant file directories on my ISP's server. That's the reason why bookcovers haven't been appearing with the regularity they should. This should be up and running in the next few days. It seems that a recent Windows Operating Systems update may have corrupted the connections, allegedly.

Coming up, I'll be taking a weekend off in ten days or so as I travel back to Adelaide to catch up with my father and step-mother, and drop into the South Australian State Library to continue my C.J. Dennis research. I'm now down to the slog part where I have to eyeball individual issues of an Adelaide evening newspaper from the 1890s. Let me tell you, it's not the most fun in the universe. If I could figure out another method of getting the data I would. Just can't at present. Anyway, thanks for reading: it's been fun so far.

Combined Reviews: The Gift of Speed by Steven Carroll


Reviews of The Gift of Speed by Steven Carroll

From the publisher's blurb: "Set during the glorious summer of 1960/61, The Gift of Speed chronicles the lives, fates and fortunes of a memorable group of characters in a fictitious outer-Melbourne suburb in the post-World War II era. The roads and footpaths may have been paved, the houses painted and the gardens grown - but the suburb still hovers between town and country.

"We catch up with Michael, 16 and obsessed with cricket; his parents, Rita and Vic, whose marriage is on the rocks; Vic's 70-year-old mother, who comes to stay; and the mysterious factory owner who hurtles around the suburb at night in his sports car ...

"For one unforgettable summer, the closed community of the suburb opens up to the outside world. And it is not - as in the past - a war that allows this, but rather a carnival of cricket, music and colour."

Steven Carroll writes the non-fiction column for "The Age" Review pages, and The Gift of Speed is a sequel to his earlier novel, The Art of the Engine Driver, which was shortlisted for the 2002 Miles Franklin Award.

Michael McGirr in "The Age" is impressed with Carroll's gifts as a writer: "Part of Carroll's skill is the ability to create a strong sense of the presence of characters who, emotionally at least, are some place else. There are times in this book where I paused to admire the subtle craft of what Carroll is doing. Every piece of this book is sanded and planed and perfectly joined. But there is no mistaking the knots in the raw material with which he is working...The Gift of Speed is a meditative book in which words such as Somme and Larwood 'are their own story. Complete miniatures'. Rarely has such an arid place as suburban Melbourne in the heat of 1961 evoked such graceful and tender prose."

Kabita Dhara, fiction buyer at Dymocks Melbourne, finds that: "If you enjoyed Steven Carroll's The Art of the Engine Driver this latest offering is a must-read. While readers will recognise some recurring characters, be assured that this is not just a sequel. Carroll's gift for evocative storytelling reaches new depths here and the result had me captivated."

2005 London Book Fair

The 2005 London Book Fair, which runs from March 13-15, is featuring Australian and New Zealand Publishers as its Market Focus. This Book Fair is aimed fairly and squarely at the trade section of the book business: publishers, booksellers, agents and technical professionals. With nearly 2000 exhibitors and over 24,000 attendees it is huge by any measure. Let's hope some good deals for Australian, and New Zealand, books comes out of it.

A New Look at the Literature Board

The vexed question of grants to Australian writers is about to be revisited by the Literature Board, according to Susan Wyndham of "The Age".

This has always been an area of the arts that has attracted a lot of interest and criticism over the years, most of it derogatory. Those that get the grants are extremely happy and won't say a bad thing about the Board and those don't get them tend to be extremely unhappy about the whole process. Alex Miller, probably has the most interesting comment about the granting process: "Some people think that writers over 35 shouldn't get grants, but in my opinion writers under 35 shouldn't get them. They should get a book or to under their belts, do the hard yards."

There is a lot to be said for that approach. It certainly means that the grants go to writers who have proved themselves in the publishing marketplace and who have achieved this by doing what writers have done since time began: working at writing part-time till they perfect their art and get published. I don't believe you can compare the practice of granting monies to writer with supporting athletes in their youth. The career path of the two groups are vastly different, and the approachs they must take to achieve a high level in their chosen professions suffer no real comparison.

Now that is not to say that I think the amount of money given to writers and the amount given to athletes in this country is in a good balance, on the contrary. I would like to see vastly more sums provided to support writers in this country. We just have to do it the right way. We have to ensure that grants are provided which enrich the Australian culture, are provided for books that explore the Australian continent, its peoples and its history. But we also need to provide those grants to people who have something to say, not to those who just know how to write a good grants proposal.

Weekend Round-Up #10

Contents of "The Age" Book Review pages for Saturday March 5:

Major review: one, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Medium review, fiction: three, Villages by John Updike, The Year is '42 by Nella Bielski, and Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum.
Medium review, non-fiction: four, An End to Suffering: The Buddha in the World by Pankaj Mishra, Curtin's Gift: Reinterpreting Australia's Greatest Prime Minister by John Edwards, The King and I by Herbert Breslin and Anne Midgette, and The Moral of the Story: An Anthology of Ethics Through Literature by Peter Singer and Renata Singer.
Short notices, fiction: five, Ghost Tide by Yo Yo, Alone by Lisa Gardner, The Truth About Magic by Dave Luckett, Tyrant by Valerio Massimo Manfredi, and Eleven Days by Mchael Manuell.
Short notices, non-fiction: nine, Alexander: Selected Texts from Arrian, Curtius and Plutarch edited by Tania Gergel, The Ideas Book introduced by Phillip Adams and Dale Spender, The Pagan Christ: Is Blind Faith Killing Christianity? by Tom Harpur, Sharon and My Mother-In-Law by Suad Amiry, Frontier Justice by Tony Roberts, A Portrait of the Artist as an Australian by Paul Matthew St Pierre,
Hawkwood: Diabolical Englishman by Frances Stonor Saunders, Revelations by Various, and A Shifting Shore by Alice Garner.

I hadn't actually realised just how many books are covered each week in the review pages of "The Age" until I listed them out like that. You can understand the reasoning of giving the major review to the Ishiguro: he's a major novelist and is probably high up in the running for this year's Booker, if this review, and similiar recent ones, are anything to go by. The first Australian book we come to is Curtin's Gift, reviewed by Michelle Grattan, "The Age"'s political editor. She describes the book as "both a mini-biography and maxi essay" and a "good introduction for people unfamiliar with the story of an Australian icon." You sort of get the feeling that Grattan considers this book to be rather slight, especially as it follows the recent (a few years back anyway) full biography by David Day. The philosopher Peter Singer and the novellist Renata Singer have produced The Moral of the Story: An Anthology of Ethics Through Literature, which has been published by Blackwells at arather expensive $69.95. For libraries only I fear. James Ley does a good job of reviewing the book: praising and ticking off in equal measure, giving a good overview of the book and its aims in the process. There's not much more you can ask of a review than that. There are several Australian books covered in the short notices but none stands out for me other than The Truth about Magic by Dave Luckett. This is described as the first in a lively fantasy series for children. Perth-based Luckett has been writing for a while now and I wish him well with this one, which shouldn't be too hard, given that it has been published by Scholastic; the publishing house of a well known young magician if I recall correctly. Oh, okay, I know Dave, and have done for quite some years. Not extremely well, but enough to hope this series kicks off for him.

The Curtin biography is also given good coverage over at "The Australian" by Stephen Marchett, along with the almost-obligatory photo of ex-Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. The other major piece this weekend is the piece by Maryanne Confoy titled Morris the Maverick being an edited extract from her recent book Morris West: Literary Maverick. And given the recent goings on in the Vatican it might well be time to drag old Morris down off the shelf and check him out once more.

Poem: My Typewriter by Edward Dyson

I have a trim typewriter now,
   They tell me none is better;
It makes a pleasing, rhythmic row,
   And neat is every letter.
I tick out stories by machine,
Dig pars, and gags, and verses keen,
And lathe them off in manner slick.
It is so easy, and it's quick.

And yet it falls short, I'm afraid,
   Of giving satisfaction,
This making literature by aid
   Of scientific traction;
For often, I can't fail to see,
The dashed thing runs away with me.
It bolts, and do whate'er I may
I cannot hold the runaway.

It is not fitted with a brake,
   And endless are my verses,
Nor any yarn I start to make
   Appropriately terse is.
'Tis plain that this machine-made screed
Is fit but for machines to read;
So "Wanted" (as an iron censor)
"A good, sound, secondhand condenser!"

First published in The Bulletin, 6 September 1917

Edward Dyson's Birthday

Birthdays of important Australian authors are coming thick and fast at present. Today's is Edward Dyson's.

Dyson was born in 1865 near Ballarat in Victoria. His father was a mining engineer and Edward and his brothers all started off their working lives working in the goldmines in and around Victoria. Even though they came from solid working-class backgrounds Edward, and his brothers Will and Ambrose, all went on to artistic careers in writing or art. Will later married Norman Lindsay's sister Ruby. Though there was a lot of bad blood between Lindsay and Will after Ruby died of influenza in London.

Dyson supported his family by writing and editing at a time when such pursuits were poorly paid. He was very prolific. AustLit, the major resource for Australian literature, currently lists some 1635 items (poems, short stories and novel) in its catalog. This number is increasing all the time as further periodicals from the period of his working career are indexed. In any sense of the word he was prolific. He died in 1931 and is now largely forgotten.

I have published a number of his poems here on Matilda over the past few months and you can read a few more by Dyson on my Edward Dyson website. Major changes to this site are planned over the next few months.

2004 Discover Great New Writers Awards

The winners for the 2003 Discover Great New Writers Awards have been announnced.

The Australian interest in these awards lay in the fiction category where The Hamilton Case by Michelle de Kretser and How the Light Gets In by M.J. Hyland were both nominated. Unfortunately for the Australians they came second and third (in the order listed here), losing out to Heaven Lake by John Dalton. A fine achievement by the two writers nevertheless, and, hopefully, it will expose their work to a wider range of readers, especially in the US market.

The 2005 National Biography Award Winner

The winner of the 2005 National Biography Award has been announced as The Boy in the Green Suit by Robert Hillman, from Scribe Publications.

In the "Australian Book Review", Michael
McGirr said of this book: "One of the many attractions of this book is the wry affection with which the older man is able to look back upon his younger self. This is a tribute to both the writer and, in a sense, to Hillman as a human being ... The Boy in the Green Suit is an exquisitely painful book about one of the besetting conditions of modern life: restlessness ... There's an old adage that you can change the scenery but not yourself. Hillman tells that story with poignancy and warmth."

The shortlisted works for this year's award were:
Inside Out by Robert Adamson
Mao's Last Dancer by Li Cunxin
The Boy in the Green Suit by Robert Hillman
Midnight Water by Gaylene Perry
Sparrow Garden by Peter Skrzynecki

In further news, the prize-money for the award was increased yesterday to $A20,000.

Australiana Collection to Go to Auction

After working on his collection for over 55 years, former National Trust Chairman and President Rodney Davidson has decided to put his unique collection up for auction. The Davidson collection consists of over a thousand items - books, maps, documents and manuscripts - relating to the early exploration and settlement of European Australia. Some of the pieces are unique and some are the only known copies in private hands, so it represents quite an opportuity for other collectors or libraries to enhance their own collections. The collection will be offerred in three stages over 2005-06 with the first auction to be held in Melbourne on Monday 7th March at 7:00pm. Australian Book Auctions, which is handling the sale, has a catalog available for purchase. Even the catalog looks like being of some value - aesthetic as well as for research purposes - for some time to come.

In January of this year, ABC Television's "7:30 Report" interviewed both Rodney Davidson and Jonathan Wanthrup (from Australian Book Auctions) about the collection and the sale. A transcript of that report is available. And Davidson was interviewed by "The Age" in November last year.

[Update: details of the results of this sale are now available.]

Don Watson

What: "The Human Rights activist, QC and author of Wordwatching [Julian Burnside] will speak to the author of Death Sentence and Watson's Dictionary of Weasel Words [Don Watson] about the way we use words."

Where: Readings Books, 185 Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn (just down the street from Glenferrie Station). (Do I need to point out that this is a suburb of Melbourne? Probably not.)

When: 6:30pm, Thursday, 3rd March 2005.

To whet your appetite, Julian Burnside reviewed Watson's book Death Sentence in the Dec 2003/Jan 2004 issue of "Australian Book Review". Given this is just down the street from me, and I can drop in on the way home from work, I'll attempt to get along.

A full listing of upcoming reader/writer events at all Readings bookstores in Melbourne is available.

Reviews of Australian Books #7

Shane Maloney's Stiff is given short, but complimentary, treatment by Susanna Yager in her roundup of recent UK crime releases in this weeks' "Telegraph" - scroll down to the eighth book. Her major gripe being that the Murray Whelan books have been published out of sequence - shades of Henning Mankell. Conclusion: "Maloney's lively narrative and witty descriptions give an indication of the stronger books to come."

Twilight of Love: Travels with Turgenev by Robert Dessaix is reviewed in "The Guardian" in concert with To Travel Hopefully: Journal of a Death Not Foretold by Christopher Rush - the English half of the equation. Fortuitously both books feature writers following in the footsteps of two very different 19th-century authors: Dessaix with Turgenev and Rush with RL Stevenson. The reviewer, Larushka Ivan-Zadeh, enjoys both for different reasons but comes to the same final understanding: "The harder we search for someone else, the more likely we are to find ourselves."

Letters from a Detention Centre - Follow-up

A couple of weeks back I posted a note regarding an article written by Greg Egan in "The Age". The article dealt with the situation of Peter Qasim, Australia's longest-serving detainee at Baxter Detention Centre.

News now comes that Dick Smith (well-known Australian electronics, travel and food entrepreneur) is to visit Qasim in Baxter today, and has offered to help undercover Qasim's background. This visit will be followed tomorrow by Federal Government back-benchers Petro Georgiou (my local member), Phil Barresi and Bruce Baird. "They have all pushed for a more compassionate policy on asylum seekers and refugees."

So what has this to do with a literary weblog you may ask. Well, Smith was asked why he is making the visit and said "he had become interested in the Qasim case after reading a newspaper article."

May I hasten to suggest that this was the Egan article? I said at the time it was well written. And now it might just be forcing a beneficial outcome. One can only hope so.

Currently Reading


 Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie
The second book in the "First Law" series. Epic fantasy written to honour the honour and explore the standard fantasy tropes, as well as to poke ore than a little fun at them at the same time. A big book, but still a page-turner.



 How it Feels by Brendan Cowell
A debut novel from a multi-talented author/actor/director. A coming-of-age novel which might well be semi-autobiographical.


Recently Read


 Monster Blood Tattoo: Factotum by D. M. Cornish
The third book in the MBT series. Will we finally find out who Rossamund really is? And will we be sad to leave this fully-realised fantasy world? I suspect the answer will be "yes" to both.



 Rendezvous at Kamakura Inn by Marshall Browne
Browne's first novel in a new series, this time featuring a Japanese detective, Inspector Aoki. This novel finds the inspector investigating an old murder in a snowed-in remote Japanese retreat.



 The City & The City by China MiĆ©ville
MiƩville's Hugo Award winning novel of two cities inhabiting the same physical location. A murder mystery with hints of classic sf/fantasy memes, from Dick to Borges, but in a European setting.

 Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child
The 13th Jack Reacher novel. Suicide bombers on the New York subway and international terrorism mixed with hard-boiled action makes for an interesting brew.



 The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
Heroic fantasy in the modern style. A fantasy that is laced through with noirish elements, and excellent characterisations. First book of The First Law trilogy.

 Where Have You Been? by Wendy James
What happens when a sister returns after being missing, presumed dead, for twenty years? James enhances her reputation as one of Australia's rising literary novelists.

 Wyatt by Garry Disher
Disher's anti-hero is back after an absence of ten years with a gritty, fast, noirish struggle for survival. All the best aspects of Disher's work are on display here.



 Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
A Young Adult steampunk novel set at the start of an alternate history First World War. Fast-paced, intriguing and totally captivating.



 Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
Dick's novel of the near future when the difference between human and android is barely discernible. One of the great all-time sf titles.



 American Journeys by Don Watson
Watson journeys into the heart of America, by train and car. There he discovers the best, and the worst, of humanity and society.



 Ghostlines by Nick Gadd
2009 Best First Novel at the Ned Kelly Awards. Murder in the art world involving political intrigue and business corruption in Melbourne.


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