Weekend Round-Up #19

"The Age" comes across as practically free of Australian books this weekend, with only one sizeable book review and just a few mentions in the short notices. The major non-review piece is Michelle Griffin's "A Question of Character" which discusses the appropriation of one writer's characters for use in another author's novel. Particular attention is given to March by Geraldine Brooks and Jack Maggs by Peter Carey. Of interest to me is the statement:

"According to Australian Copyright Council legal officer Shehana Wijesena, characters and plot lines in Australian novels aren't protected by copyright. As long as the next author doesn't copy passages from the source word-for-word, they can feel free to retell other writer's yarns. But if a writer wanted to make free with his or her own sequel to a well-known work still in copyright - say, The Thorn Birds - they may be challenged by publishers for trying to pass off their work as something in association with a better-known brand. As yet nobody has tested this in Australian courts."
This would seem to have relevance to the discussion on "fan fiction" that screenwriter Lee Goldberg undertakes from time to time on his weblog. Now, I do not mean to imply that what Carey and Brooks have created here is "fanfic", just that the quoted statement is relevant. I mentioned a month or so back that the new Brooks novel had all the hallmarks of being a major event in Australian publishing this year. The fact that it keeps on being important probably says as much about the lack of other important Australian literary events as it does about March itself.

Janice Breen Burns, "The Age" fashion editor, reviews The Fashion Pack by Marion Hume. The "plot swings through the fantastic upper branches of fashion in Paris, Milan and New York where moguls, super models, movie stars and sycophants converge twice a year to schmooze, shop and pose at the shows and where fashion writers and editors not only lap it up and write it down but are an integral part and propellant of the whole amazing business." Hume is a 20-year industry veteran who arrived in Sydney from Britain in 1997 to revive magazine Vogue. It is reported that local rag-traders are scouring the book "in search of names, darling, names, or at least the odd recognisable pseudonym. It's not a fruitless task by any means."

Short notices are given to: The Never Boys by Scott Monk, which "doesn't oversentimentalise, nor does it try too hard to be cool" and that makes this "novel a winner." The Truth About Love by Stephanie Laurens, a regency romance/mystery about the Cynster family ("cyn-s-ter", groan), "in this family the men are double alphas with cherries on top and damn well get what they want and that's usually women." Voiceworks 60 edited by Tom Doig, "is a space for flegling writers under 25 to be published...exploring the reaches of their abilities, experimenting with subject and form." And Deep Waters by Andlee Paviour, "is hell's bells melodramatic but Paviour's voice is sharp, savvy and fresh."

Not the best of weekends for Australian fiction, then?

At least we get something better in "The Weekend Australian" with a review by Elizabeth Meryment of The Marsh Birds by Eva Sallis. The novel "does exactly what good art should do: it questions, probes, illuminates and humanises a topical moral and social issue. This book is an important contribution to the national debate about our Government's treatment of asylum-seekers." Which is pretty much a ringing endorsement: "this is a tightly woven tale, beautifully narrated, genuine and believable."

The other three books covered by the "Australian" are non-fiction: Bamahuta: Leaving Papua by Philip Fitzpatrick, Freud in the Antipodes: A Cultural History of Psychoanalysis in Australasia by Joy Damousi, and Storms and Dreams by John Dunmore. The Papua book is a memoir that "will engage those familiar with the country", and the Freud book appears to more of a reference source than a work for the general reader. Storms and Dreams, on the other hand, tells the story of Louis-Antoine Comte de Bougainville, and "is an expert and elegantly written account of the making of modern history and a highly engaging story of the life and times of one of the most extraordinary men to grace the planet."

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on May 9, 2005 10:53 AM.

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