May 2006 Archives

Tim Flannery in the USA

For the first time that I can remember an issue of "The New York Review of Books" carries a full page color (it's the US spelling I know) advertisement for a book by an Australian author. Tim Flannery's book The Weather Makers gets the full treatment with quotes from Peter Singer, "The Washington Post", David Suzuki, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Bill Bryson and Tony Blair, amongst others. A while back we mentioned that the US edition would differ from the UK version in that a quote from Tony Blair would be added in place of the one by Bill Bryson that adorns the one available here.

Well, not according to the ad in the NYRofB it won't. Tony Blair has been relegated to the bench and in his place we have Jared Diamond with: "At last, here is a clear and readable account of one of the most controversial issues facing everyone in the world today." Diamond, of course, is the author of Guns, Germs and Steel and Collapse, both of which you really should read.

The interesting thing about all this relates to the current feeling towards Tony Blair in US publishing circles. Maybe he's on the nose as much in the USA as he is in the UK now. You can just about hear the "wheeee" noise being made as the chances of a big advance for his future memoirs plummets earthwards.

Melbourne Prize for Literature 2006

Nominations for the Melbourne Prize for Literature 2006 are now open. We reported in March that this prize, which is to be awarded for a body of work rather than just an individual work, is to be the richest literary prize in Australia, worth $60,000. Which we think is a good thing.

The current issue of "Australian Book Review" arrived with a insert advertising the prize. It gives details of the award, lists of sponsors and patrons, and a detachable nomination form. It also list two websites which readers can visit for more information. Trouble is, at this date, neither of them lead anywhere. This is a bit poor. A lot of money and time has been spent getting the prize up and running, and in getting the organisation in place. And yet no one carried out a system check to see if the websites worked or not. It's called project development and it's the last box on the checklist. Hopefully the sites will be accessible soon. The two sites in question are: and

Caricatures #5 - "David Low" by Hal Gye


2006 Barry Awards

Australians have been nominated for the 2006 Barry Awards. The shortlisted works are: Lost by Michael Robotham, in the Best British Novel Published in the UK in 2005 category; and Seven Deadly Wonders by Matthew Reilly, in the Best Thriller category. The Barry Awards (named for the late Barry Gardner, fan and critic) are nominated by the staff of "Deadly Pleasures", a quarterly mystery magazine, and voted on by its subscribers and readers. The winners will be announced at Boucheron in Madison, over the period September 28th to October 1st.

Australian Bookcovers #14 - The Drowner by Robert Drewe


The Drowner by Robert Drewe, 1996
(Macmillan 1997 edition)
Cover detail: Lawrence Alma-Tadema A Favourite Custom, 1909, Tate Gallery

Weekend Round-Up 2006 #22

The Age:

Peter Singer's latest book, The Ethics of What We Eat, which he wrote with Jim Mason, is reviewed by Katerine Wilson. If you know anything about Singer you're probably aware of the stance he takes, though it does seem as though he has mellowed a bit over the years. In this book the authors's "solutions are market-driven: buy in-season, sustainable and humane products from trustworthy retailers. This can be supported from almost any ideological position. As they point out, the slow food, fair trade, and conscious consumer movements, along with the rise in farmers' markets and community-supported agriculture, are as much about preserving local cultures and environments as they are about addressing health, gourmet sensibilities and global inequality. All have grown from grassroots movements into confident industries." Change is slow, but it is happening.

The major fiction review is by James Ley of Venero Armanno's Candle Life, a book I'm currently reading. Ley finds that "Structurally it is untidy, and at times it teeters on the brink of incoherence, but it is nevertheless a complex work whose untidiness is, to some extent, deliberate." he expands on this point during his review and concludes that the "novel is a rough beast in some respects, but it is also a good example of the way an interestingly flawed novel is often more compelling and more illuminating than a work that is polished and tidy but takes no risks." Which I'll take to be positive.

Short notices are given to: The Corner of Your Eye by Kate Lyons who is "a talented writer who exhibits a controlled recklessness well suited to the disturbing internal contradictions of her protagonist"; Joan of Arc by Lili Wilkinson who "never condescends to her young readers but her history is accessible and interesting"; and Specky Magee and a Legend in the Making by Felice Arena and Garry Lyon, the fifth in the Specky Magee series of books for youger readers.

The Australian:

George Megalogenis is disappointed with Australian Heartlands by Brendan Gleeson, finding that there "is a common failing in nonfiction, here and in the US. Too many authors from the Left and Right are united by an excess of passion and an absence of humour...In this book, Gleeson's prose veers between valuable information and analysis about Australia's cities, sneering caricatures of his pet hates and the occasional attempt at poetry. Reality and lifestyle television is renamed 'free-to-airhead' TV." The book appears to be a discussion of current political issues in Australia, and "Australian Heartlands makes a serious contribution to the debate we have to have about the role of government. There is a good book crying to get out here; it's a pity Gleeson was caught in the polemicist's trap of playing the straw man, not the issue."

After Peter Craven's review of the novel last week - he was very disappointed - Helen Elliott tackles Landscape with Animals by "Cameron S. Redfern", and she has a very different view of the book. Where Craven seemed to concentrate on the bedroom movements, Elliott looks at the mechanics of the plot and the interaction of the characters; of the predatory nature of the chase, the pursuit and the capitulation. "At some level this reads like one long howl of retrospective pain. Nothing much happens except a forensic description of their mutual addiction to sex with one another. Scenes unfold like a static series of Georgia O'Keefe paintings. Their doom is in the imbalance from the start. She sees in him everything opposite to her, a man who will complement and complete her. He perhaps doesn't even like her." And she finds that "Despite the instinctive sensuousness of Redfern's writing, there is nothing erotic or pornographic here; the only stiffening will be in the resolve not to become like this couple. Redfern is inventive and the sex changes, but oh, how it bores! (A short story would have been brilliant.) But, then, that's obsession. Obsession grinds down to dreariness in the end. Perhaps this should be required reading for those contemplating an affair. Or even a technical manual for the sexually timid." Which sort of comes to the same conclusion as Craven, but from a different direction.

Kate Lyons's first novel, The Water Underneath, was shortlisted for the 1999 Australian/Vogel Award, so it seems like a bit of a wait for her second novel, The Corner of Your Eye. Still, Patricia Anderson thinks that readers "will be delighted with this second offering." And "Lyons delineates [her] characters, whose lives are so abbreviated and pointless, with great skill. Her terse, unsentimental style is perfectly pitched to her subject matter."

Hartnett Outs Herself

In an article published in yesterday's "Sunday Age", Sonya Hartnett confirms that she is "Cameron S. Redfern", author of a controversial new novel.

"Landscape With Animals is different from my other work: its aims are different, its audience is different, its themes more complex, its touch more subtle, and it seemed fitting it should bear a name fresher than my own. I am not trying to hide from it, or deny it, or treat it off-handedly. If anything, this book is a more original and true story than any I have written."

She also answers those critics who have described it as pornographic, saying the novel "is not pornography because it is, at its heart, a book about love: it examines the rare and extreme kind of love that is balanced on the finest of blades, love that can tip people either way: into joy and fulfilment and the creation and continuation of life, or into moral and emotional devastation and the termination of life...It is the kind of love that people die for, and kill for, the love that heals or ravages hearts. This is an affair, but it is in no way a fling. The characters are steeped in the principles of social existence, in discipline and responsibility, and the novel explores what happens when these principles are no longer sufficient to keep a person vital and afloat - and apart."

My view: if Hartnett's written it, then it's worth reading.

2006 "Sydney Morning Herald" Best Young Australian Novelists

Susan Wyndham details the selection of this year's "Sydney Morning Herald" Best Young Australian Novelists. The list: Stephanie Bishop Leigh Redhead Tony Wilson Markus Zusack The judges of the award were Wyndham, novelist Kerry Greenwood, and SMH literary editor Catherine Keenan.

Theft Continues in the UK

Theft by Peter Carey is reviewed in "The Independent" by Tom Rosenthal who starts by providing a decent potted history of artists portrayed in novels, which is a bit different. He then goes on to say: "Despite the difficulty of visualising unpainted works of art, it's probably easier, and at least a preferable act of creation, to invent artists. You don't have to worry about libel if the artist is alive, or damage to a whited sepulchre reputation if dead. And it's often more fun to create a rogue or a wild man than a person of perfect moral rectitude...Carey's jaundiced eye on the contemporary art scene is wonderfully and destructively satirical and the humour robust and farcical but never crude. It would be entirely unsurprising if Carey becomes the first ever triple Booker, or Man-Booker, winner."

In "The Times Literary Supplement", Ruth Scurr also reviews Theft by Peter Carey and is the first, as far as I am aware, to catch a foretelling of the novel from The Tax Inspector, an earlier work of Carey's. She also raises some points that are interesting, and new: "Inheritance - personal, cultural, historical - has been central in Carey's fiction from the beginning. It is almost always ambiguous: something overwhelmingly defining from which, nevertheless, one would prefer to escape." She concludes: "Sexually excited by a criminal, responsive to wealth, cynical, broken, angry - all the things Maria Takis feared at the end of The Tax Inspector, happen to Butcher Bones in Theft. Yet this time the ending is wonderfully executed: 'slow-drying, ambiguous, a shifting tide between beauty and horror'. There is still a question left hanging: 'How do you know how much to pay if you don't know what it's worth?'. We must hope that, one day, in a different novel, the brilliantly restless Peter Carey will return to answer it."

"Peter Carey's marvellously enjoyable new novel is - like his last - preoccupied with themes of artifice and deceit, so it's good to record that he has once more written the real thing." So says Tom Deveson in his review of the book in "The Sunday Times". "Carey sets many challenges, expecting us to pick up scatological Australian idioms, hidden quotations from Bob Dylan, references to Clement Greenberg and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska. He has earned the right to do so. There is a flow of comic incident as the story withholds what it shows and winds around itself under the author's blissful control. Readers can gratefully share both his high seriousness and his exhilaration."

The novel is ranked at 2,212 at Amazon in the UK, and at 246 at in the US.

Australian Books to Film #8 - They're a Weird Mob


They're a Weird Mob 1966
Directed by Michael Powell
Screenplay by Emeric Pressburger from the novel by Nino Culotta (John O'Grady)
Cast: Walter Chiari, Clare Dunne, Chips Rafferty, Alida Chelli and Ed Devereaux

Poem: To Henry Lawson -- Farewell by Roderick Quinn

As to an artist who revealed our land,
Making this sordid life therein aglow,
But nowise hiding truth, we hold a hand,
A hand heart-warmed to clasp yours ere you go.

So many years did you did your work of love
That one goes nowhere but he hears your name;
Where camp-fires burn and smoke-plumes drift above
They tell your stories and they spread your fame.

You leave behind more friends than one can state,
Your words have made them live, you gave them life;
The lovers standing at the sliprail gate,
Mitchell and Smith, the lone selector's wife,

The two old miners in the twilight haze
Of years, 'twixt smoke-puffs, telling o'er and o'er
Quaint stories of the vanished digger days
That passed away -- alas! to come no more.

And many others, grave, or grim, or kind,
Who stumble on with burdened heart and back;
Some fiercely cursing fate, and some resigned
To trudge for ever on the Outside Track.

These make a link between you and our land:
So, Lawson, though you go wide seas away,
We'll meet your face in them, and hold your hand,
And hear your voice in what your visions say.

All luck to you! but, if by chance you meet
With less than your deserts or our desire,
Come back again -- your old accustomed seat
Will wait you always by the good heart-fire.

First published in The Bulletin, 21 April 1900
[This poem was written around the time Lawson left for England to try his luck in the
literary scene there. It didn't work out.]

Theft All Over

With the publication of Theft by Peter Carey just about attaining total global domination, the reviews have started to roll in from all over. The site has a good list of them, mainly from the US, but they miss John Updike's review of the book in "The New Yorker". (Chances are this last one will disappear quite soon.) Updike's conclusion: "Theft is not a superb novel; there is something displaced at its heart. Its colorful means keep us at one remove from the central action, which, in retrospect, is perfidious and shocking...Hugh, the lumbering epitome of Australian backwardness, runs away with the novel, while the expertly researched and caricatured art scene hangs flat on a well-lit wall."

Searching for the Rhythm

From time to time I wrapped myself in threadbare blankets and tried to write something into the quarto-sized notebook I'd purchased to contain my new novel, but the results were as indecipherable as a blind man's version of Cyrillic, scratched in blue pen on feint-lined pages. I tried to find the long-lost rhythm of storytelling but it was completely out of me, if I'd ever even had it. My only company through this illness was desire, long suppressed and denied.

From Candle Life by Venero Armanno, p40

Sydney Writers' Festival Live Video Streaming

The 2006 Sydney Writers' Festival has started and, like last year, Telstra BigPond is providing a live video stream for 17 speakers between May 24 and 28. Scheduled over the next few days are Edmund White and Frank Moorhouse, Audrey Niffeneger, Hari Kunzru, David Malouf, and Naomi Wolf.

Blogging and the NSW Premiers' Literary Awards Dinner

One of the great things about reading weblogs is the different perspectives they provide: different from each other and, specifically, different from the mainstream media.

Anyone reading this weblog will be aware of the mentions that Australian literature gets in the local and national newspapers and magazines; basically not a lot. The only comparable form of human endeavour that I can think of that receives a similar coverage is science. The odd piece will turn up here and there, but they only serve to accentuate the relative absence of commentary, rather than providing adequate coverage.

So it's great to be able to read pieces like Jonathan Shaw's latest posting on his Family Life weblog. Jonathan attended the dinner on Monday night where the winners of the 2006 NSW Premiers' Literary Awards were announced, and has written his comments on the night's proceedings, including selected comments from the speeches. This is great stuff.

In the UK the Booker Prize dinner and presentation ceremony are televised live. Something I'd like to see in this country. In the meantime we have to rely on bloggers like Jonathan to deliver something like:

NSW Premier's Prize for Literary Scholarship won by Terry Collits, Postcolonial Conrad: Paradoxes of Empire (as tipped by me). He gave a very funny speech, in which he spoke about "pollies" and ended by suggesting that John Howard might consider The Life of Mr Polly as a possible title for an autobiography.

Caricatures #4 - "Henry Lawson" by Will Dyson


DBC Pierre Interview

You can now listen to the full interview with DBC Pierre conducted by Andrew Denton on ABC TV on Monday night. It's available at the "Enough Rope" website. A transcript is also available.

Review: The Wing of Night by Brenda Walker

wing_of_night.jpg Brenda Walker
Viking, 266 pp.
Review by Perry Middlemiss

[This novel has been shortlisted for the 2006 Miles Franklin Award.]

Brenda Walker's fifth novel, The Wing of Night, tells the story of two women living south of Perth, Western Australia, between 1915 and 1922. It's a novel of war, not of the act of war, though that does feature, but of the effects war has on the men who fight it and on the women who are left behind, waiting.

This is an area of fiction that you would think had been mined to death by this time. The landing at Gallipoli and the forging of the Anzac legend has been dramatised and novelised more times than most would care to remember. So it takes some level of nerve and some level of skill to approach the subject from a different standpoint and come up with a work of fiction that is both fresh and familiar, skilful and accessible. Brenda Walker has done just that with this novel.

Her major intuitive leap is to tell the story mainly from the point-of-view of the women who have waved their men off on the troopships at Fremantle docks. Elizabeth is a woman of some privilege, being the daughter of a judge and married to Louis, while Bonnie is a country girl who has been with Joe for only a few weeks. The two live in a small community south the Perth and it is through them and their men that Walker tells her story.

The first thing you notice about this novel is the language: it flows in a quiet, languorous fashion, detailing the lives of the women as they learn to live a life without men.

All over the south-west, soldiers' wives were learning to sleep alone. Sleeping themselves back into the nights before their weddings, or waking in hot sheets to the clicking of crickets. They were afraid of wandering swagmen, afraid of rape and robbery. They listened to insects and the sound of hot wind in fencing wire. When they slept they dreamed of quickly forgotten things: urgent words which made no sense and unknown men with very dark or very pale skin. Is it faithlessness, if it happens in a dream? Women lay alone in empty farmhouses and frogs sang in the ferneries under water tanks.
For the women the country life seems to slow as the urgency of farm-life is overtaken by worry about the men overseas. In contrast, the men's lives in trenches on the Turkish coast take on a sense of heightened stress and anxiety as they wait for the upcoming battle, a battle they have little chance of surviving. Walker doesn't dwell on the battle scenes, however, her aim is to show the effect the war has on men not the Sturm und Drang of the action itself. It's the monster in the cupboard approach again: the terror lies in the imagination not in the actual unveiling of the creature.
They filed into the trench after the two lines of Victorians had been killed. The dead up above them were jerking as low bullets caught a shoulder or a hip. The air was dark with lead. Pegs were driven into the earth so that you could climb out when the whistle blew. It was supposed to be like pulling yourself up over the rocks at a waterhole to get into a position to dive. The charge to the opposite trench was supposed to be like a long fall into the prickling sweep of water. A courage dive.
We are left in no doubt about the effect this type of action has on the men who survive, being "nothing but dried flesh stumbling down to the edge of the sea."

Louis is killed at Anzac Cove and while Joe returns he comes home with a secret, one that he struggles to live with. This secret affects the second part of the novel. We are given hints and clues but nothing definite until near the end. The men who have returned are damaged in spirit as well as body.

After the war, the relationships change as Elizabeth's life begins to slowly unravel without the presence of Louis, and Bonnie starts to look after her. Elizabeth's father starts to spend more and more time on his daughter's farm and, in the one discordant note I found in the book, eventually marries Bonnie and takes her away back to Perth. May-and-December weddings were quite common after the First World War as a good part of a generation of young men were destroyed in one way or another, yet this arrangement seems to me to be there mainly to make the way clear for Joe to arrive on the scene and move in with Elizabeth. I should point out that the note doesn't ring very loudly. It's a minor irritant at best and is handled in such a way that it seems like a natural progression of events.

In this novel Walker has aimed to provide us with the best that fiction can provide: the chance to live in a fully-developed world outside our own experience. Her ability to inhabit the characters and bring them fully to life is a talent to be savoured. As well as she handles the women, it is with the men at war that I believe she fully excels, showing their courage and their weaknesses, their dire predicaments and the terrible choices they have to make:

Men who still had the horses they brought with them from Australia were most determined to shoot them. But there was something else, something that Joe recognised apart from the worry about hunger and cruelty and the bewildered hearts of the deserted horses. It was great strain, the ending of the war. You shot your horse and there was an end to all that was bad. Or so you hoped. You could shoot yourself. Or you could shoot your horse. There were fellows who did both, given a little time and the opportunity.
This novel is a superb achievement, beautifully written and affecting. If it wins the Miles Franklin Award, and then goes on to further honours outside this country, I would not be at all surprised.

2006 NSW Premier's Literary Awards Winners

The winners of the 2006 NSW Premier's Literary Awards were announced last night. The winners were:

Christina Stead Prize for fiction ($20,000)
Kate Grenville, The Secret River (Text Publishing)

Douglas Stewart Prize for non-fiction ($20,000)
Jacob G. Rosenberg, East of Time (Brandl & Schlesinger)

Kenneth Slessor Prize for poetry ($15,000)
Jaya Savige, Latecomers (Uni Qld Press)

NSW Premier's Prize for literary scholarship ($15,000)
Terry Collits, Postcolonial Conrad: Paradoxes of Empire (Routledge)

Ethel Turner Prize for young people's literature ($15,000)
Ursula Dubosarsky, Theodora's Gift (Penguin)

Patricia Wrightson Prize ($15,000)
Kierin Meehan, In the Monkey Forest (Penguin)

Community Relations Commission Award ($15,000)
Kate Grenville, The Secret River (Text Publishing)

Gleebooks Prize ($10,000) & Book of the Year ($2,000)
Tim Flannery, The Weather Makers: the History and Future Impact of Climate Change (Text Publishing)

UTS Award for New Writing ($5,000)
Steven Lang, An Accidental Terrorist (Uni Qld Press)

Play Award ($15,000)
Thomas Murphy, Strangers in Between (Griffin Theatre Co)

Script Writing Award ($15,000)
Chris Lilley, We Can Be Heroes (Princess Pictures)

Special Award ($5,000)
Rosemary Dobson AO

Australian Literary Monuments #8 - Judith Wright

jwright_mem1.jpgMemorial to Judith Wright in Armidale, New South Wales. Many thanks to Wendy James for the photos. jwright_mem2.jpg

Ginger Mick Takes to the Stage

C.J. Dennis's verse novel, The Moods of Ginger Mick, his follow-up to The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke, has now been adapted for the stage.

"Ginger Mick at Gallipoli debuted as a four-man song-and dance act on Anzac Day last month. It stars Joe Clements as Mick, Bruce Kerr as his mate, Billo, with Brendan O'Connor and Craig Annis juggling peripheral characters, with Dennis' colourful Aussie lexicon intact."

The play has been developed by Melbourne's Petty Traffikers theatre company, and the current production runs from May 23 to June 11, Tuesday to Sunday, at Fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, city.

Might see if I can take meself along to this one.

Reviews of Australian Books #20

Following on from the interview/profile by Graeme Blundell I mentioned yesterday, Kathryn Fox's first novel, Malicious Intent, is reviewed in this weekend's "Washington Post" - second item down - by Philippa Stockley. She thinks the book is "oddball but brilliant", and concludes: "If you like a tale written like a violent film, this fast-paced novel will do the job." I missed this one on the weekend.

[Thanks to Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind for pointing it out.]

The Guardian's Digested Read - Theft by Peter Carey

The digested read for this week from "The Guardian" is Theft by Peter Carey. "This is a love story, though that did not begin until midway through the shitty stuff, by which time I had lost everything to my ex-wife, who is called the Plaintiff and definitely not Alison." Are we squared away on that now?

[Thanks to Blog of a Bookslut for the link.]

The Art and Science of Collecting

I'm a collector. A collector is driven by other things. Collecting is a form of knowledge which allows a closer representation of the dead than history or narrative. It may be an obsession and a fickle one at that. For me though, it's an exact science because we are dealing with objects and not abstractions, and like most sciences, the collection of objects provides arbitrary closure, physical results -- shapes, odours, touch -- in order to claim authority. For example, a book entombs its time. This thin volume of poetry printed in Paris with a few specks of tobacco leaf pressed near the spine or the Gitanes cigarette packet with someone's initials scrawled over the blue figure of a gypsy woman, have more than smoking in common. History has missed a vital clue: the dead are gypsies. Still active, they flutter here and there, moths before the famles. With their painted fingernails they pull out cigarettes, underscore lines of poetry. They've left us these signs. Signs which make us what we are. You simply have to know how to collect them. You have to know the detours; that the whole idea of any story, like existence itself, is beside the point.

From The Garden Book by Brian Castro, pages 6-7


The Mystery
of the Hansom Cab
by Fergus Hume, 1886
(Text Publishing 1999 edition)
Cover: Bourke Street, Melbourne, late 19th century

Weekend Round-Up 2006 #21

The Age:
The big publishing news around Melbourne during the week was the "unmasking" of the author of a new "exquisite erotic novel" to be published by Penguin. The word is that Sonya Hartnett, talented young adult and children's author, was the true writer of the book. Neither Hartnett nor Penguin will confirm the matter, but Jane Sullivan seems reasonably convinced in her article about pen-names, and Peter Craven takes it as fact in his review of the novel in question. Before I go on to Craven's view of this novel, I should point out that he has been a very vocal advocate for Hartnett's work in the past, believing that "she belongs to the handful of Australian writers who should command world attention". In fact, in this review he refers to her as "the finest Australian writer of her generation", which isn't too shabby. So it comes as a bit of a shock when he hates this book, which he refers to as "Mills & Boon for lubricious lay-abouts". You have to wonder what what brought this book into the world.

The paper's political editor, Michelle Grattan, has a look at The Longest Decade by George Megalogenis: "Megalogenis' account does not pretend to be a behind-the-scenes story of how decisions were made within the Keating and Howard governments. We already have much of that on record for Keating's days; the Howard historians are yet to get into swing...This is the view from the helicopter, with the pilot carrying binoculars, allowing him to share with his passengers an enormous range of detail. While occasionally this overwhelms, the book is a good read for those wanting to understand two politicians who have made a real difference to modern Australia."

Short notices are given to: The Wran Era edited by Troy Bramston: "As other commentators point out, including editor Troy Bramston, Wran was also the one who kept the flag of Labor flying in the darkest days after the Whitlam sacking when even some insiders thought the party might not survive"; In Off the Red by Ken Marks: "reads like a legal judgement handed down by the author on his own life and times"; Number 8 by Anna Fienberg: "her strengths are evident in the gentle evocations of nascent teenage love and genuine affection between children and parents."

The Australian:
Graeme Blundell, regular crime reviewer for "The Australian", profiles Kathryn Fox, whose first novel, Malicious Intent, is gathering some favorable notices around the traps, and whose second novel, Without Consent, has just been published. Blundell quotes her at the start of the piece: "The greatest mystery is why people buy 'unsolved mystery' books...I so don't understand that. We read crime for redemption, of course, for resolution for all the good things you count on in life." Which sounds about right. Blundell considers that she writes better than Canadian Kathy Reichs "(too stilted and without style)" and is far less baroque than Patricia Cornwell. The piece isn't on the website so far as I can find.

After that opening it seems to be all non-fiction in "The Australian". People are generally split on their attitudes to Peter Singer - leading intellectal on the one hand, and leading looney on the other. His latest book, The Ethics of What We Eat (which he co-wrote with Jim Mason), is reviewed by Stephen Romei. "Irrespective of where you stand on ethical eating - and, as Singer and Mason point out, most people don't stand anywhere because they have not thought about it - this book will provide, yes, here it comes, serious food for thought." Thank you, Stephen. That'll do.

Peter Carey is gettng a lot of attention for his latest novel and he has a presence in Leaving Paradise: My Expat Adventure and Other Stories by Sonia Harford, reviewed by Sue Green: "The book's title is drawn from a comment by Australian poet Fay Zwicky, who said Australians were the most homesick of travellers because they believed they came from paradise and nowhere else could compare. For many of those whom Harford interviewed, however, that is simply not so. With them in mind, the title carries a certain irony."

I like it when reviewers get to the point straight away, and John Carmody does that with his review of The Australian Miracle: An Innovative Nation Revisited by Thomas Barlow: "Is this title - like The Lucky Country - intended to be ironic (but misunderstood)? If I am undecided, so is the author. Thomas Barlow has some important matters to argue but, as with ores in a marginal mine, it takes determination to extract them. The subtitle seems to dispel the notion of irony, although the book reads as if the author really believes that when there have been scientific or technological miracles in Australia, they have occurred despite our way of thinking." I'd stick with irony again.

Extract: Theft by Peter Carey

With the publication of Theft by Peter Carey in the US, "The New York Times" has published the first chapter of the novel.

Reviews of Australian Books #19

In "The Guardian", Joanna Briscoe considers In My Skin by Kate Holden a "glittering story of addiction and prostitution". She states: "There's now a big market in the kind of grief porn that provides the reader with a sensation of shock and pleasant superiority; but again, for all its degradations, In My Skin challenges such a response. It makes for discomfiting, illuminating reading."

Paul Gray reviews Theft by Peter Carey in "The New York Times". While his generally impressed with the novel, Gray thinks that a complicated subplot "which eventually becomes the main plot and culminates in a murder, is engaging enough, but seems more suited to a seasoned writer of thrillers -- Michael Crichton comes to mind -- who wouldn't bother to scumble the hard, factual surface of the narrative with irrelevancies like atmosphere and characterization...Carey, a different breed of author, can't resist these temptations, and the best parts of Theft: A Love Story can be found in the lulls between its hectic events, when the novel truly sings."

Sophie Ratcliffe also looks at Carey's novel in "The Times": "If his last novel, My Life as a Fake, showed a touch of postmodern exhaustion, forever circulating around ideas of writing and authenticity, Theft still seems to sacrifice the odd character for the sake of a narrative line. It matters less, here, for the two main speakers are so brilliantly drawn. As it draws to a close, it seems clear that the strongest love story is the tale of affection between the two brothers. It’s a narrative that sustains this impressive novel to its close."

Australian Books to Film #7 - Oscar and Lucinda


Oscar and Lucinda 1997
Directed by Gillian Armstrong
Screenplay by Laura Jones from the novel by Peter Carey
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Cate Blanchett, Ciarán Hinds, Tom Wilkinson and Richard Roxburgh

Poem: The Poet by Max A.

I went to see a poet, who's a cherished friend of mine;
His Muse is sometimes tickled to a fancy half-divine.
You cannot always catch him on an unappointed day,
So 'twas not at all surprising that the poet was away;
But the things which struck my vision as I opened wide the door
Were a cobweb on the inkstand and a bottle on the floor.

Now, that poet often grumbles at the poor rewards for Art,
And that Lit'rature is slighted by a world without a heart.
He growls because a grocer, selling soap, and eggs, and tea,
Gets more hard coin and bullion than the poets ever see;
But I tell you that his grievances seemed less instead of more
When I saw the cobwebbed inkstand and the bottle on the floor.

For the grocer goes to labour every day at eight o'clock,
And he spends his doleful evenings weighing tea or taking stock.
When he finds the sun is shining, then he doesn't shout, "Hooray,
I shall lie and want for fancies in the sunshine all the day;"
He cannot let the world go hang, and cause his friends to pore
On a cobweb on the inkstand and a bottle on the floor.

So, on the whole, the poet doesn't have too bad a life;
He earns enough to keep himself, and needn't keep a wife;
For Art will be his mistress, and the Muse will be his friend,
And for less exalted wooing, there are damsels without end;
And the witness of his comfort is the signs his study bore --
The cobweb on the inkstand and a bottle on the floor.

First published in Punch, 3 November 1910

Andrew Denton and DBC Pierre

For Australian readers, DBC Pierre will be appearing on Enough Rope with Andrew Denton, ABC TV's interview program, on Monday 22nd May, at 9:35pm. Should be interesting. Transcripts of interviews are normally loaded to the website within a day or so of the program going to air. Looks like the program has started podcasting as well. More on what's available next week.

Books on Australian Television

"The Age" today reports that ABC television has commissioned a series of programs about books and publishing.

Journalist and publisher Jennifer Byrne is set to give Oprah a run for her money. She will host First Tuesday Book Club on ABC TV. Byrne will be joined by (you guessed it) a panel of book lovers and experts who will discuss titles from fiction, non-fiction, biography, thriller, romance and history genres. Byrne, publishing director at Reed Books in the mid-1990s also fronted the ABC's My Favourite Book special. She said the show would "hunt out the best and liveliest of the new, the memorable of the old - and everyone's invited". ABC TV head of arts and entertainment Courtney Gibson said that the show - to air the first Tuesday of each month from August 1 - would include online viewer discussion.
One program a month! Well, at least it's better than the nothing we are experiencing at present.

Damien Broderick Interview

Australian sf and science writer Damien Broderick is appearing as guest writer on an open forum over at ASif! - Australian Specfic in Focus. Damien is curently the fiction editor for COSMOS magazine and is probably best known for The Dreaming Dragons, which was runner-up for the 1981 John W. Campbell Award, and for The Spike, his exploration of the technological singularity expected within the next 25 to 30 years.

[Thanks to Chris Lawson over on the Talking Squid weblog for the link.]

Caricatures #3 - "C.J. Dennis" by David Low

den_minstrel.jpg"Den as a minstrel"

2006 Nita B. Kibble Award for Women's Life Writing

Brenda Walker has been announced as the winner of the 2006 Nita B. Kibble Award for Women's Life Writing, for her novel The Wing of Night, which I currently have under review. Shortlisted for the prize were The Secret River by Kate Grenville and The Butterfly Man by Heather Rose.

Great Australian Authors #28 - Ethel Turner


Ethel Turner(1870 - 1958)

Before you fairly start this story I should like to give you just a word of warning. If you imagine you are going to read of model children, with perhaps a naughtily inclined one to point a moral, you had better lay down the book immediately and betake youself to Sandford and Merton, or similar standard juvenile works. Not one of the seven is really good, for the very excellent reason that Australian children never are. In England, and America, and Africa, and Asia, the little folks may be paragons of virtue -- I know little about them. But in Australia a model child is -- I say it not without thankfulness -- an unknown quantity. It may be that the miasmas of naughtiness develop best in the sunny brilliance of our atmosphere. It may be that the land and the people are young-hearted together, and the children's spirits not crushed and saddened by the shadow of long years' sorrowful hsitory. There is a lurking sparkle of joyousness and rebellion and mischief in nature here, and therefore in children.

From Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner, 1894

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

You can read the first chapter of Markus Zusak's novel The Book Thief, courtesy of "The New York Times". Then go back and read the paper's review of the book.

[You'll probably need to be registered to get access. Try bugmenot for an anonymous userid and password.]

Australian Bookcovers #12 - The Shiralee by D'Arcy Niland


The Shiralee by D'Arcy Niland, 1955
(Angus & Robertson 1987 edition)
Cover: Golden Summer by Arthur Streeton, 1889 (detail)

Weekend Round-Up 2006 #20

The big piece in "The Age" this weekend is a profile of the Melbourne writer Jacob Rosenberg, by Juliette Hughes. This comes on the heels of the announcement last week that his memoir, East of Time, has been shortlisted for the Australian Society of Literature Gold Medal. The story of his time spent in the German concentration camp Mauthausen during World War II is best described in the quote: "There was no time: no past, no future, only the present instant. Your life existed between a yes and a no."

The major review of the week is of Killing for Pleasure: The Definitive Story of the Snowtown Serial Murders by Debi Marshall. It tells the story of the discovery of eight butchered bodies in barrels in an empty bank vault in Snowtown, a small village some 150 kilometres north of Adelaide. I used to drive through that town 25 years ago and it was a non-descript, blink-and-you-miss-it, little place. Probably perfect for this type of crime.

Short notices are given to: The Spirit of Gallipoli: The Birth of the Anzac Legend by Patrick Lindsay: "The value of this compact, straight forward account is that you get the full, bloody catastrophe in one sitting"; Waves: Great Stories from the Australian Surf edited by Tim Baker: "However, allergic to hippy-shit you may be, surf mysticism has its own appeal; the quest for the perfect wave, those visions of the physical sublime. But its not all marmalade skies"; Pictures of Us by Todd Alexander: "First time novellist Todd Alexander has woven together a miserable, modern family that he slowly and inexorably teases apart."

In a continuing feature in the paper, Tom Keneally this week looks back at the writing of his first novel: "It was a very Gothic tale. When in doubt, I've always had a weakness for melodramatic bells and whistles. Stylistically, I was all over the place -- there were fairly passable pastishes of the last person I'd read. Here was Patrick White, over there Graham Greene; here Wallace Stevens, over there an inadvisably lush reworking of Dylan Thomas. I wanted some publisher to say, 'This tale might be a bit creaky plot-wise, but gee he can write!'"

In "The Australian" Victoria Laurie reviews Rob Riley: An Aboriginal Leader's Search for Justice by Quentin Beresford. This biography was produced at the request of Riley's family ten years after his death by suicide. "This is a fine book, an illuminating account by a fluent writer who has written solidly researched books on Aboriginal crime and justice (Rites of Passage), the stolen generations (Our State of Mind) and reforming Aboriginal education."

Kathy Hunt is cautious about Tara June Winch's novel, Swallow the Air, which won the David Unaipon Award for indigenous writers. She finds the work a little heavy-handed at times: "A virgin novelist, Winch has yet to learn that, unlike art, language will disintegrate under the weight of the abstract", but is also aware that the fiction here was heavily workshopped by the team at UQP. "Winch has things to say, and beneath the collaborative prose there is a writer trying to say them." Maybe a case of too many cooks.

The book and author are also profiled in "The Sydney Morning Herald" by Sunanda Creagh. "Winch's book could be digested as a novel or a collection of interlocking short stories. It could also be read as extended prose; her style is poetic, even rhyming in some parts. Tragic events are made more poignant by delicate descriptions that manage to avoid being flowery. Most delicious is Winch's ability to unpatronisingly capture accents: 'Bloody millennium come and gone and they still can't treat our people right,' she writes in the voice of an elder, Uncle Graham. 'We seen 40 bloody millenniums, our people, and they government give us credit for that? Only when it suits them, when they gotta show all them tourists.'" It's interesting that one reviewer will find the prose over-blown while the next sees it as almost poetic.

Reviews of Australian Books #18

Justine Larbalestier's second novel, Magic Lessons, the sequel to Magic or Madness from 2005, is reviewed in "The Washington Post this week (second item down).

"Larbalestier's portrayal of magic as a curse is a refreshing alternative to the conventional depiction of young wizards as a lucky elite. A rigorous, almost science-fictional emphasis on the mechanics of magic (Reason interprets magic as a branch of mathematics) shapes the often amorphous subject matter into a fascinating discipline."

And keeping it in the family, Larbalestier's husband, Scott Westerfeld has his novel Blue Noon, the third in his Midnighters series, also reviewed in the same column.

"Possessing the hip rhythms and dark humor of 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer,' the creepy eldritch frissons of an H.P. Lovecraft or Fritz Leiber novel, and the dissonant outcast camaraderie of Brian Vaughan's comic book series Runaways, Westerfeld's trilogy blends pure wish-fulfillment with hard-edged physics. Unafraid to bring this invented world crashing down about his characters, Westerfeld unleashes a succession of heart-juddering climaxes right up to the very end."

Theft in the UK

Peter Carey's new novel Theft is to be published by Faber in the UK on June 1st, and this week "The Guardian" publishes an extract.

Australian Books to Film #6 - The Getting of Wisdom


The Getting of Wisdom 1978
Directed by Bruce Beresford Screenplay by Eleanor Witcombe from the novel by Henry Handel Richardson
Cast: Julia Blake, Dorothy Bradley, Kay Eklund and Max Fairchild

Poem: "Den" - A Memory by James Hackston (Hal Gye)

There's a bloke gone up the road just now
   With the sunbeams on his back;
And there's never a line or care on his brow
   As he plods by fern and track.

He's wearing leggings, his arms are brown,
   His blue shirt's free at the neck;
He's been to the mail where the Mount looks down,
   And has a Micawber cheque.

He fills his pipe and the blue smoke climbs
   And drifts to the forest wide.
By the look in his eyes he's making rhymes
   As he walks where the red roads ride.

He enters his place by the sawdust-heap
   (That Toolangi shack of grey),
Past the wombat's hole, where the wattles sweep
   And the parrots are making play.

And now to the creek for a blackfish, too,
   For a succulent, simple tea,
Then a log on the fire, as bush-blokes do;
   For a fire's good company;

And a pad on the knee and a pencil sharp,
   And his dog at his feet by the fire -
So "Den" the poet now strings his harp,
   And writes to his heart's desire.

Oh, the night is sweet and thoughts run long
   And the peace is wide and deep;
And the mountain creek now makes its song
   While the dog and the poet sleep.

The Bloke goes down to the post next day,
   Fresh fame and a cheque to win:
The coachdriver takes more verses away,
   Addressed to "The Bulletin."

First published in The Bulletin, 29 October 1952

Review: Will Dyson: Australia's Radical Genius by Ross McMullin

will_dyson.jpg Ross McMullin
Scribe, 414 pp. (+ 34 pp. of notes and index + 8 colour plates)
Review by Perry Middlemiss

Over the past couple of weeks while I have been reading this book, I have been asking my friends and acquaintances if the name of "Will Dyson" rings any bells. Most look blankly, but a few know of him. Not well, just a passing familiarity. Which is a pity really, as the man deserves to be better known.

Will Dyson was born in September 1880 in Alfredton on the outskirts of Ballarat in Victoria. From an unassuming birth he was later to become Australia's first official war artist, poet, orator and a world-renown cartoonist. How he got there is the material for Ross McMullin's new biography, a reworking of his previous version published in 1984.

The early part of Dyson's life was spent in Melbourne and surrounds honing his craft and meeting and marrying Ruby Lindsay, the sister of Norman Lindsay. In fact the Lindsay and Dyson families, who grew up not very far apart near Ballarat, were both to become famous in artistic circles with Norman, Lionel, Percy and Ruby on the Lindsay side, and Edward, Will and Ambrose of the Dysons all achieving a degree of fame through their writing and art. In fact, the two families were later to become even more entwined through the marriage of Lionel to one of Will's sisters, which gives some indication of the closeness of the two groups.

By the time he was 29 Will had decided he needed to move to greener pastures in the form of London's literary life, a situation that he expected would provide him with greater opportunity for his cartooning. He was right. He achieved great fame in London before World War I but it was the Great War and its immediate following years that were the making, and in some ways, the breaking of Will Dyson. He forced himself into the role of official Australian war artist over the obstructions of the Australian military command and went on to produce some of his greatest works as he placed himself at the forefront of the fighting. His aim was simply to show life in war as it actually was, not the sanitised versions being peddled by some of his contemporaries. Needless to say he was something of a trouble-maker, rocking the military boat and producing the work that he saw appropriate rather than apply himself to topics dictated from above. And the Australian war record is the richer for it.

In the post-war years Will set about re-entering London artistic life and was regaining some of the ground lost though his absence at the war when his wife died in the influenza epidemic of 1919. He was devastated, turning to poetry and publishing Poems in Memory of a Wife. From this time on he was never really settled, returning to Australia for a five-year period in 1925-1930, then trying his luck in the USA before finally ending up back in London where he died in 1938.

McMullin has divided Will Dyson's life into 6 distinct periods and spends a chapter of this extensive work looking at each period in depth. There is a lot of material to be dealt with in Will's life and McMullin attempts to cover as much of it as he can. His research is exemplary, indicating investigative journeys through libraries and newspaper repositories in Australia and the UK, consultations with Australian War memorial material and a number of interviews with the subject's friends and relatives. Unfortunately, in the main, the book does not wear the fruits of this research lightly.

There almost appears to be two writers at work on this book: the one who follows the thread of Dyson's life when he, himself, is single-minded, and the other which allows himself to be distracted by surrounding events when Dyson is similarly distracted. The first chapter in the book, which deals with Dyson's early years up to his departure from Australia for London, comes across as very disjointed. The cast of characters introduced, which flit across the stage of Dyson's life, is rather overwhelming and allowing them all to step forward and have their say leaves the reader confused and uncertain as to the direction the book is taking. I have some understanding and knowledge of what was going on in Melbourne at this time, and I was getting continually confused as to what point the author was trying to make. It is almost a relief to find Dyson on the boat to England.

From there on the book picks up. McMullin is very good at incorporating the English politics of the day and the machinations of the military into his story, and he handles Dyson's work at the front-line very well. It is here we start to get an understanding of Dyson the man, rather than Dyson the gadfly we have been introduced to previously. Maybe this is true of most of us, that our true identities only become visible in times of stress and grief. In any event, Dyson's experiences at the war and the death of his wife appear to change McMullin's approach to his subject and change it for the better.

The best and most enduring of Dyson's work was produced during the first World War and McMullin is generous in reproducing a number of these pieces in the book. These, along with 8 pages of colour prints, enhance the look and feel of the book emphasising Dyson's art and giving it its correct status.

In the end I was impressed with this book and glad I read it. There are problems with it to be sure - the first chapter is an unfortunate introduction which I hope won't put too many people off - but overall you come away with a sense of the man, his work and times in which he lived. I'm not sure you can ask much more than that of any biography.

That Book and Its Spin-Offs

I mentioned yesterday that I'd ventured down to Borders to cash in a gift voucher. The thing I didn't mention, because I hadn't taken much notice of it, was the Borders catalogue that had been tossed into the bag along with the books. I generally skim these things when I come across them - it's a good way to see what's out there - but don't take a lot of notice of the big chain stores.

And then yesterday I happened across a page headed "Borders has everything for The da Vinci Code obsessed mum". And I had to look. I wish I hadn't. Listed on the catalog page are: The da Vinci Code: Illustrated Edition, Fodor's Guide to The da Vinci Code, The Dan Brown Companion, Who Can Crack the da Vinci Code?, Beyond the da Vinci Code, Leonardo's Notebooks, The da Vinci Code Game, and, wait for it, The da Vinci Code Canvas Artist's Set.

You have got to be kidding me. What's next? Bobble-head doll giveaways of Jesus, Mary and Leonardo with Happy Meals down at that Scottish restaurant? Is there no limit to all this crap? I pity the poor librarians who get asked; "Do you have anything else like Dan Brown's book?" Maybe the enquirers should be pointed towards Behold the Man by Michael Moorcock. That should put them off.

Caricatures #2 - "Edward Dyson" by Will Dyson

First published in The Bookfellow, 21 February 1907

"The Guardian's" 50 Books You Must Read

kimbofo, over at her Reading Matters weblog, alerted me to a list that has been put together by a bunch of "Guardian" journos. The list comprises 50 books that have been made into quality films. I have highlighted the ones I've read and was surprised to find I'd read 26 of the 50. There are maybe 10 or so more I'll attempt at some time but some I'll never get to reading. I mean, honestly, Watership Down? No offence but I can't see it as my cup of tea.

The list:
1984 by George Orwell
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
A Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis
Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote
Brighton Rock by Graham Greene
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Close Range: Brokeback Mountain and other stories by Annie Proulx
Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley
Different Seasons (includes The Shawshank Redemption) by Stephen King
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick
Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
Empire of the Sun by JG Ballard
Fight Club by Chuck Pahluniak
Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard
Goldfinger by Ian Fleming
Goodfellas by Nicholas Pileggi
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Jaws by Peter Benchley
LA Confidential by James Ellroy
Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Choderlos de Laclos
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
Orlando by Virgina Woolf
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Schindler's Ark by Thomas Keneally
Sin City by Frank Miller
Tess of the D'Urbevilles by Thomas Hardy
The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatjee
The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles
The Godfather by Mario Puzo
The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
The Outsiders by SE Hinton
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
The Railway Children by Edith Nesbitt
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John Le Carré
The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
The Vanishing by Tim Krabbé
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Trainspotting by Irvine Walsh
Watership Down by Richard Adams

The Miles Franklin Award and Associated Publicity

Over in the comments section to the right a number of correspondents are discussing some points I raised last week regarding the Miles Franklin Award. As part of that discussion I mentioned that "books get excluded that the general reading public would well assume were eligible". To which The Happy Antipodean, Dean, replied: "I think another alternative is to more thoroughly publicise the restrictions of Australian literary awards, as I suggested earlier. That way, nobody will be disabused when a good candidate fails to qualify."

Which, in a roundabout way, introduces the subject of publicity surrounding the Miles Franklin Award.

I've been in a few bookshops around Melbourne lately and have been rather disappointed in the lack of material regarding the award on open display. My local shop, Readings in Hawthorn, has a small poster attached to the wall next to their Australian fiction section. This poster, which seems to have been produced by someone other than the bookshop, lists the books, displays their covers, highlights the publishers and gives details of when the winner will be anounced. Pretty reasonable overall. I can quibble about the size of the poster but it's good to have something. The bookshop also lists the contending novels on the front page of its website.

On the other hand I was in Borders today, in Melbourne Central, cashing in an old book voucher by buying Roger McDonald's nominated novel and found nothing obvious about the award anywhere in the shop. Okay, I didn't check the graphic novel section but figured I'd hardly be likely to stumble across anything there. Anyway, I get to the cash desk and the lady behind the counter says something like "This one looks interesting. I've been eyeing it off for a while." "It's on the Miles Franklin shortlist," I said. "That's a pretty good indication," she said. She didn't seem aware that the shortlist had been released nor anything other than a form of "brand recognition" of the award.

I found this rather depressing. Last year the shortlisted novels all carried a silver sticker signalling their new-found status within a couple of days of the announcement. Nothing so far this year. I remain vigilent, but unhopeful.

Peter Carey and His Novel Again

"The Guardian" takes up the tale of the novellist and his ex-wife with "The Plaintiff" talking to Suzanne Goldenberg. Summers complains that "In those bitter days when their marriage was unravelling, she says, Carey took to referring to her as The Plaintiff in conversations and email with the couple's mutual friends. He also, she claims, spread stories that she was money-hungry. She says that to her horror, the gossip stuck, and among the literary set of Manhattan, where Summers and Carey have lived since 1990, she became something of a social pariah, shunned by several of her famous friends. As a result, Summers says, she has been forced to abandon hopes of getting a job in publishing."

This is starting to get a bit like a libel case where the aggrieved complains that their reputation has been sullied, only the general public either knows nothing about it or has forgotten the whole affair. The act of initiating a legal suit brings it back into the general consciousness and there it tends to stick.

Summers states again that she is writing a novel called Mrs Jekyll: "But she insists that the story is not modelled on her ex. 'I am not into revenge,' she says."

She sounds like she is running an advance publicity campaign for the book. She should have just written it, got it published and moved on. As we know, revenge is a dish best served cold.

Great Australian Authors #27 - Marcus Clarke


Marcus Clarke (1846 - 1881)

On the evening of 3rd May, 1827, the garden of a large red-brick bow-windowed mansion called North-End House, which, enclosed in spacious grounds, stands on the eastern height of Hampstead Heath, between Finchley Road and the Chestnut Avenue, was the scene of a domestic tragedy.

Three persons were the actors in it. One was an old man, whose white hair and wrinkled face gave token that he was at least sixty years of age. He stood erect with his back to the wall which separates the garden from the Heath, in the attitude of one surprised into sudden passion, and held uplifted the heavy ebony cane, upon which he was ordinarily accustomed to lean. He was confronted by a man of two-and-twenty, unusually tall and athletic of figure, dressed in rough seafaring clothes, and who held in his arms, protecting her, a lady of middle age. The face of the young man wore an expression of horror-stricken astonishment, and the slight frame of the grey-haired woman was convulsed with sobs.

These three people were Sir Richard Devine, his wife, and his only son Richard, who had returned from abroad that morning.

From For the Term of His Natural Life by Marcus Clarke, 1874

2006 Noosa Longweekend

The 2006 Noosa Longweekend will be held this year over ten days, 16 - 25 June. All events will be held in and around Noosa, Queensland. As well as drama, music and art, the festival will also feature an extensive literature program. Confirmed guests include: Li Cunxin, Tara Moss, Peter Temple, Derek Hansen, Judy Nunn, Peter Fitzsimmons, Nick Earls and Felice Arena.


Pioneers on Parade by Miles Franklin and Dymphna Cusack, 1939
(Angus & Robertson 1988 edition)
Cover: On the Roof by Herbert Badham

2006 ALS Gold Medal

The shortlist for Australia's oldest literary award has been announced.

"The ALS Gold Medal is awarded annually for an outstanding literary work in the preceding calendar year. The Medal was inaugurated by the Australian Literature Society, which was founded in Melbourne in 1899 and incorporated into the Association for the Study of Australian Literature in 1982."

The shortlisted novels:
Banana Heart Summer, Merlinda Bobis
Dead Europe, Christos Tsiolkas
East of Time, Jacob G. Rosenberg
March, Geraldine Brooks
The Patron Saint of Eels, Gregory Day

The following novels were highly commended by the judging panel:
Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living, Carrie Tiffany
Marsh Birds, Eva Sallis

The Gold Medal winner will be announced on 2nd July, 2006.

Weekend Round-Up 2006 #19

After a very quiet week last time round, "The Age" looks at a lot more Australian books in it's latest Review.

They start with The Felton Illuminated Manuscripts in the National Gallery of Victoria by Margaret M. Manion, reviewed by Stephanie Trigg, Professor of English Literature at the University of Melbourne. This is not a book for everyone: the focus appears very limted, and the price of $99 a tad prohibitive. Still it looks and sounds lavish, and seems to cover quite a range of illuminated books from around the 1500s. "Manion's book is not a comprehensive facsimile, rather it is a scholarly study of these works, marked on every page by her knowledge and experience of medieval manuscripts and their production, a testament to the enduring popularity of the Melbourne collection."

"Linda Jaivin has many strings to her bow - she's an eminent Sinologist, an author of comic erotica, a prolific essayist, and a passionate advocate for refugees. It is the latter that motivates her latest novel." Which seems as good an introduction as any to the review by Cameron Woodhead of Jaivin's, The Infernal Optimist. "Refreshingly, Jaivin tackles the treatment of asylum seekers through comedy...And, while Jaivin does not skimp on the psychological horrors of life in detention, she doesn't wallow in them either. Mostly, they come straight from the headlines: hunger strikes, sewn-up lips, depression, madness, suicide." I wonder if the humour makes the subject easier to cope with. Certainly can't make it any worse.

The most interesting of the books considered, to me at least, is Angela Pippos's The Goddess Advantage: One Year in the Life of a Football Worshipper. Those of us in Melbourne will know who Pippos is - the sports reporter for ABC TV news - and some will also be aware that she is a mad Adelaide Crows supporter. She wins on all counts in my book. Ian Syson reviews her memoir/diary and seems rather perplexed by what he finds: "It's hard to tell in the end just who The Goddess Advantage is aimed at." How about me Ian? I can understand it, and fully sympathise.

Short notices are given to: Unravelling Identity: Immigrants, Identity and Citizenship in Australia by Trevor Batrouney and John Goldlust: "This may be a specialist text but the subject is one that has both general appeal and topical significance"; City of Animals by Alan Mills "Is a thoroughly researched thriller that realistically portrays the operations of a large zoo. It can get a little graniloquent for the genre but it's still a well-plotted spine-tingler"; Bye, Beautiful by Julia Lawrinson who "is a marvellous writer. Her novel is evocative but economical, capturing the sense of being in a backwater in a time of great social change"; Love Cuts by Ian Bone: "Set in a nameless Australian city, Ian Bone's novel is aimed at young adults and is a healthy antidote to the buckets of drivel that have been written about romantic love"; Doctors at Sea: Emigrant Voyages to Colonial Australia by Robin Haines, whose work "is a microcosm of Victorian hierarchy; class, racial and sectarian feeling (towards the Irish, for instance) on the one hand, and on the other the intregrity and generosity displayed by paternalism at its most high-minded"; and Will Buster and the Carrier's Flash by Odo Hirsch: "While Odo Hirsch's magic is derived from future science rather than ancient spells, there are aspects of the Will Buster series that are not dissimilar to Harry Potter."

The only major work of interest in "The Australian" is The Longest Decade by George Megalogenis, reviewed by Ross Fitzgerald. The book covers the period of the Keating and Howard Prime Minsterships, and has bene a very long decade as far as this voter is concerned. "Megalogenis's primary aim is to tell two intertwined stories, the political and the cultural, about the economy and society produced by Keating and Howard as two of the nation's most influential treasurers and prime ministers. He does this superbly well." Although coming from similar backgrounds it would be hard to pick two such different men: Howard is a big "C" Conservative in political terms and yet very basic in his cultural and sporting tastes, Keating was a progressive small "l" liberal politically, almost "elitist" culturally and had no interest in sport at all. Sounds like one of the best Australian political books around.

Markus Zusak Award

Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief, which featured here recently, has been awarded the 2006 Kathleen Mitchell Award, a $7500 prize given biennially to encourage Australian authors under 30. Susan Wyndham catches up with Zusack in "The Sydney Morning Herald". The previous winners of the award are Sonya Hartnett, James Bradley, Julia Leigh and Lucy Lehmann. Some good company there.

Reviews of Australian Books #17

Ruth Scurr reviews Carry Me Down by M.J. Hyland in "The Daily Telegraph": "It is difficult to combine realism and surreal interludes in a single narrative structure, but Hyland manages this effortlessly in what is only her second novel. The graceful poise of her prose has attracted praise from J M Coetzee and Ali Smith, but the contemporary writer she most brings to mind is A L Kennedy. They share a fondness for quietly, relentlessly shocking the reader; and redemption, if it comes at all, is costly."

In "The Independent", Randa Abdel-Fattah's novel Does My Head Look Big in This? is reviewed by Sarah Cassidy. The reviews of Peter Carey's Theft are starting to come in from the US with the first I've seen appearing in "The Washington Post": "Given his devious trajectory, a novel about modern art seems like an inevitable destination for Carey. Could there be any more irresistible house of mirrors for an author fascinated by deceit and subterfuge? Fortunes rise and fall in a haze of aesthetic jargon spun by a few collectors and dealers. So strange is this phenomenon that if we didn't have the modern art market, Peter Carey would have to invent it."

Geraldine Brooks

Geraldine Brooks continues her fascination with Little Women with an article in "The Guardian" about the author's father. "Louisa May Alcott's father has been dismissed as a parasite who lived off his daughter's earnings. But, writes Pulitzer-prizewinning novelist Geraldine Brooks, Bronson Alcott was a loving father and visionary educationalist. His reputation was unfairly sullied by a disastrous attempt to set up a commune with 'Arcadian fanatics'. "

Australian Books to Film #5 - Careful, He Might Hear You


Careful, He Might Hear You 1983
Directed by Carl Schulz
Screenplay by Michael Jenkins from the novel by Sumner Locke Elliott
Cast: Wendy Hughes, Robyn Nevin, Nicholas Gledhill, John Hargreaves

Poem: To a Dead Mate by C.J. Dennis

Henry Lawson died in Sydney on Saturday.

There's many a man who rides today
   In the lonely, far out-back;
There's many a man who makes his way
   On a dusty bushland track;
There's many a man in bush and town
   Who mourns for a good mate gone;
There are eyes grown sad and heads cast down
   Since Henry has passed on.

A mate he was, and a mate to love,
   For mateship was his creed:
With a strong, true heart and a soul above
   This sad world's sordid greed.
He lived as a mate, and wrote as a mate
   Of the things which he believed.
Now many a good man mourns his fate,
   And he leaves a nation grieved.

True champion he of the lame and halt:
   True knight of the poor was he,
Who could e'er excuse a brother's fault
   With a ready sympathy.
He suffered much, and much he toiled,
   With his hand e'er for the right:
And he dreamed and planned while the billy boiled
   In the bushland camp at night.

Joe Wilson and his mates are sad,
   And the tears of bushwives fall,
For the kindly heart that Henry had
   Had made him loved of all.
There's many a man who rides today,
   Cast down and sore oppressed;
And thro' the land I hear them say:
   "Pass, Henry, to your rest."

First published in The Herald, 5 September 1922

Australian Book Review and the Miles Franklin Award

A couple of weeks back I linked to an article in "The Age" written by Jane Sullivan in which she discussed the Miles Franklin Award, in particular the entry conditions. Basically she didn't like the current requirement that the works entered had to present Australian life "in any of its phases". These conditions were written into the will of Miles Franklin, the legacy of which was used to set up the award in the first place, and hence into the rules governing the award.

Sullivan used two recent novels by Australians - March by Geraldine Brooks and The Lost Thoughts of Soldiers by Delia Falconer - as examples of critically acclaimed novels by Australians that have been excluded from consideration for the award. It seemed like a reasonable argument to me, and I argued, not very well as it happens, for a change to be considered to the award conditions which would allow such works to be entered. Some readers didn't agree, indicating that Franklin had set up the award with specific conditions and that's the way it should stay. I guess this implies that if the entry requirements were to change then the award really won't be the "Miles Franklin" award any more, and continuing to use the original name would be an error, in judgement and in law. Well, I'm not going to argue the legal case one way or the other as I reckon I'd find myself on a very slippery slope very quickly. But on the judgement side I reckon a slight change to the entry rules along with a slight change to the award name - minor only - might suffice.

Now, the editorial staff of Australian Book Review have weighed into the discussion (May 2006 edition, Advances column), referencing Sullivan's original argument and attempting to counter each point she made. It's good to see magazines such as this discussing these subjects, they need a good airing. Unfortunately, the ABR comes across as being not only opposed to Sullivan's views, but also rather prickly about it. Their first point of contention is that Sullivan used Brooks's recent Pulitzer Prize win as a justification for her inclusion on the shortlist for the Miles Franklin, as if the Pulitzer were the only justification required. I didn't read Sullivan's piece like that. March was roundly praised by all and sundry when it was published last year with critics saying it was of the highest literary achievement and merit.

In March, a month before the Pulitzer winner was announced, I put together a prediction of works that might be considered for the award's longlist. Brooks's novel was mentioned as probably being worthy of inclusion on merit, but wouldn't be because of its subject matter. Sullivan was using it merely as a highly visible excluded novel. The timing of the Pulitzer was co-incidental, fortuitous or not. So for the ABR to say that Sullivan "provided another example of an old phenomenon in Australian journalism: when an artist does well overseas, especially in London or New York, we should promptly reward her in this country", comes across as harsh and just plain wrong. Surely we've moved beyond this "cultural cringe" line of thinking by now. Let's just agree that Brooks's novel has literary merit and leave it at that. Miles Frankin set up the award that carries her name about 50 years ago. Times have changed since then. A number of Australian writers are living and working overseas, and writing about subjects that do not feature Australia or the Australian way of life in any manner. With over a million of our citizens living in other nations this is hardly surprising. Denying the fact isn't going to change it. The ABR states that "It was Miles Franklin's money, and she knew what she was doing", and they are correct in both clauses. The additional point that needs to be made is that she knew what she was doing as it related to Australia in the 1950s. I don't think any of us suspect she foresaw the way the Australian literary landscape would have changed since that time. Maybe she wouldn't have been "jumping up and down in her grave" about the current exclusions, as Sullivan suggests, but she might well have been somewhat less gruntled than others might think.

Over the past few years the Miles Franklin Award has gradually started to impove its recognition value amongst the Australian reading public. And yet I wonder what percentage of those aware of the award are also aware of the entry requirements. I doubt the proportion would be very high. Most would just assume it is an Australian literary award for Australians. It's time to move on. Whether any new or amended award conditions state that works under consideration have to be written by Australians, or pertain to the Australian way or life, or a combination of the two is a matter for discussion. The first point is to agree on the fact that the award needs to change. And discussing the points in a logical and unemotional manner is the best way forward.

A New Fantasy World Takes Shape

South Australian writer and illustrator D. M. Cornish has signed a substantial deal with Omnibus Books to publish his Monster Blood Tatoo trilogy of fantasy novels. "The Australian" reports that he had been working on his world-building for almost 15 years until a chance encounter with a publisher lead to the publication contract.

The first volume of the trilogy, Foundling, will be published in the US on May 18 by Putnam.

Future volumes will also be published in May over the next two years.

Caricatures #1 - "C.J. Dennis" by David Low

low_cjd.jpg"Den in Town"

Combined Reviews: The Wing of Night by Brenda Walker

wing_of_night.jpg Reviews of The Wing of Night by Brenda Walker.

[This novel has been shortlisted for the 2006 Miles Franklin award.]

Description from publisher's page: "All over the south-west, soldiers' wives were learning to sleep alone. Sleeping themselves back into the nights before their weddings . . . In 1915 a troopship of Light Horsemen sails from Fremantle for the Great War. Two women farewell their men: Elizabeth, with her background of careless
wealth, and Bonnie, who is marked by the anxieties of poverty. Neither can predict how the effects of the most brutal fighting at Gallipoli will devastate their lives in the long aftermath of the war.

"The Wing of Night is a novel about the strength and failure of faith and memory, about returned soldiers who become exiles in their own country, about how people may become the very opposite of what they imagined themselves to be. Brenda Walker writes with a terrible grandeur of the grime and drudge of the battlefield, and of how
neither men nor women can be consoled for the wreckage caused by a foreign war."

The literature of this country would be totally lost without the magazine Australian Book Review. Time and again the only substantial review I can find of a particular work appeared within its pages. Such is the case with Brenda Walker's fourth novel The Wing of Night. Aviva Tuffield is very impressed
with the novel, especially as it doesn't concentrate solely on the front line, but "directs as much attention to the home front and to the women left behind...Shifting between scenes from the military theatre and from the domestic sphere, The Wing of Night plays out the devastating impact of war on both those sent to fight and those abandoned to lonely, anxious lives. War is depicted as a great leveller, breaching class and gender boundaries that were once considered robust".

In order to do this properly, the author has to be conversant with both fronts, while still ensuring that the tale is told properly. This is a novel of men, and women, at war, based on accepted history. As such, the writer has to get the details right without flooding the reader and ruining the effect: "This historical novel has clearly emerged from extensive
research, yet it does not try to parade its knowledge or to bombard the reader with military details. It is not concerned with painting the big picture of the war but of sketching the specific experiences of a handful of characters."

Tuffield is of the view that the author here has brought it all together quite beautifully. "If one of the aims of literature is to enable us imaginatively to inhabit other lives, perhaps occurring in different times and places, The Wing of Night is a remarkable achievement. Walker has taken the facts of history and transformed them into a novel replete with its own set of truths. She has done what historians cannot: invented characters to tell us exactly how it felt to live in a particular historical moment, one that sheds light on our own times."

The reviewer from Abbey's Bookshop would seem to agree: "The Wing of Night is a novel about the strength and failure of faith and memory, about returned soldiers who become exiles in their own country, about how people may become the very opposite of what they imagined themselves to be. Brenda Walker writes with a terrible grandeur of the grime and drudge of the battlefield, and of how neither men nor women can be consoled for the wreckage caused by a foreign war."

The author was profiled by Jane Sullivan in "The Age", which gives some very interesting insights into where the book had its beginnings.

Great Australian Authors #26 - Frank Hardy


Frank Hardy (1917 - 1994)

One bleak afternoon in the winter of 1893 a young man stood in the doorway of a shop in Jackson Street, Carringbush, a suburb of the city of Melbourne, in the Colony of Victoria. The shop was single-fronted and above its narrow door was the sign CUMMIN'S TEA SHOP. In its small window stood a tea-chest with a price ticket leaning against it. The man was of short, solid build and was neatly dressed in a dark-grey suit. His face was clean-shaven. He wore a celluloid collar and a dark tie. With his left hand he was spinning a coin. It was a shiny golden coin, a sovereign.

Standing on the footpath facing him from a few feet away was a tall policeman in uniform, whose small, unintelligent eyes followed the flight of the coin as it spun up a few feet and fell into the palm of the young man's hand, only to spin rhythmically upwards again and again. The policeman said: "This shop is on my beat. I have had complaints that you are conducting an illegal totalisator here."

A cold wind blew through the door fanning against the young man's trouser legs, revealing that he was extremely bow-legged. From a distance, the first noticeable characteristic was his bandiness, but, at close range, his eyes were the striking feature. They were unfathomable, as if cast in metal; steely grey and rather too close together; deepset yet sharp and penetrating. The pear-shaped head and the large-lobbed ears, set too low and too far back, gave him an aggressive look, which was heightened by a round chin and a lick of hair combed back from his high sloping forehead like the crest of a bird. His nose was sharp and straight; under it a thin, hard line was etched for a mouth. He was twenty-four years of age, and his name was John West.

From Power Without Glory by Frank Hardy, 1950

Peter Carey and His Marriage and His Latest Novel

In "The Independent" Peter Carey's ex-wife, Alison Summers, takes a swipe at the author, accusing him of using his fiction to settle some old scores. According to one friend: "He has trashed the ex-wife to clear the way for a popular welcome for his new partner."

Nasty stuff. The trouble is, can an author ignore a major life experience in his fiction? Should they be ultra discrete? Does it matter?

The final piece of news is that Summers is now writing a novel of her own, titled Mrs Jekyll. "I never would have started my own novel if it hadn't been for the past few years."

Trouble is, you can't slag someone off for doing something and then go on to do exactly the same thing, without copping a large amount of flack yourself. We await the novel with interest.


The Unknown Industrial Prisoner by David Ireland, 1971
(Angus & Robertson 1979 edition)
Cover: "Factory Staff, Erehwyna" by Jeffrey Smart
This novel won the 1971 Miles Franklin Award.

Weekend Round-Up 2006 #18

If I thought last week was quiet then I have no idea of how to describe the Australian offerings in "The Age" this week. As far as I can tell the only work on display is Diane Cilento's autobiography, My Nine Lives, reviewed by Brian McFarlane. So we have to thank our lucky stars that it has a fair bit more to say than most others of its ilk: "At about 500 pages, the book is a serious investment of the reader's time, but it is worth it in the end. Cilento writes far more eloquently - and has a more interesting story to tell - than most showbiz autobiographers. One could quibble over errors...and she is meagre with dates and indexing. But she emerges as an impressive woman who wanted some unusual things and went adventurously after them."

Short notices are given to: The Crow by Alison Croggon who is "the kind of fantasy writer who wants you to see every blade of grass, and she has a highly immersive imagination"; Walking Ella: Ruminations of a Reluctant Dog-Walker by Robert Drewe, an "updated re-issue of Drewe's 'dog dossier'".

It's quiet, too quiet.

"The Australian" redeems the weekend with some decent-sized reviews. For which we should be grateful.

Cath Keneally reviews Candle Life, the new novel by Venero Armanno. The author is one of those working in the literary fiction area who receive little attention in the mainstream press: Kerryn Goldsworthy was particularly praising of his previous novel the Volcano. Keneally, though, seems noticeably ambivalent about this one in the body of the review, praising on the one hand: "Armanno is a gifted scene-setter who instinctively shies away from privileging his own cultural viewpoint"; and finding fault on the other: "The problem, with Gail Jones's book also, is that it's difficult to claim a sufficient stake in a city such as Paris, even after a few extended stays, to be able to write a story convincingly rooted there...Armanno tries too hard to find that link, reaching finally for a mystical, drug-induced identification with his low-life acquaintances and the city itself. He strains to incorporate some of Paris's intriguing past into his narrative, but the chosen data proves intractable." By the end, however, she's come around: "Armanno is a writer full of ease and confidence, carried along on a full tide of story that lets him play and sing as well as effortlessly spin a yarn."

Lindsay Foyle is happy to see Ross McMullin's new biography, Will Dyson: Australia's Radical Genius: "Dyson was a radical genius, social gadfly, committed war artist, great cartoonist and one of the best-known Australians in the world. There's all of that and more in this book."

David Kennedy looks at A Man of Intelligence by Ian Pfennigwerth: "Not many people have heard of Eric Nave, who was at the cutting edge of cracking the Japanese codes that foretold the start of the Pacific war, hobnobbed with British royalty and was involved in ASIO and the Petrov Russian spy defections."

Jennifer Moran and generally appreciates 1606: An Epic Adventure by Evan McHugh: "the 1606 sightings are documented and McHugh uses a variety of primary and secondary sources to buttress his tale of the navigators, traders, scientists, empire builders and sailors who would look on the new world from that year until the publication of Matthew Flinders's map of Australia in 1814...McHugh makes the point that adventure, rather than simply the idea of empire or the satisfaction of the trader's purse, motivated many of those who set out from Europe. It was dangerous and sometimes foolhardy, but dramatic and enthralling."

Short notices are given to: The Summons by David Whish-Wilson in which "the sickly, cloying atmosphere of Nazi Germany in the lead-up to World War II is captured brilliantly"; In Search of Africa by Frank Coates which "spans a turbulant half-century and has more characters than a Brazilian soap opera"; Pictures of Us by Todd Alexander: "While there's not much action around the abundant dialogue, the unravelling of apparently ordered lives that drives this more than competent first novel is enough to retain interest."

Jodie Minus on the children's literature front, Shadows in the Mirror by Cameron Nunn: the "school playground acts as a metaphor for the greater world, in which authority should be questioned and individuals must trust their moral instinct"; Don't Call Me Ishmael by Michael Gerard Bauer whose second novel (after last year's award-winning The Running Man) "is wildly different: comic and colourful, with characterisations bordering on caricatures"; His Name in Fire by Catherine Bateson who "uses letters, vignettes and song lyrics to bring to life Abbatoir Town, a small rural enclave battling the odds and struggling to prosper"; The Dreamkeeper by Robert Ingpen, the "evocation of the world the Dreamkeeper inhabits - of dragons, goblins, imps and gnomes - is so convincing that readers will want to replicate the reducing potion made from the juice of houseflies." Not this little black duck I think.

Every now and again you come across a review which, at first blush, looks more than a little over the top. And then, on a second reading, you start to get what it is all about. One such is Rebecca Sparrow's review of Tara June Winch's Swallow the Air in "The Courier-Mail": "Sometimes in life you are lucky enough to stumble upon a book that irrevocably changes you and profoundly changes how you experience the world... loved this book. It moved me to tears. It inspired me. It was a reminder of the power of great writing. I feel richer for having stepped inside May's world and it opened my eyes in a way television news bulletins and newspaper headlines never could. If this is what Tara June Winch is capable of writing at just 20 years old, I wait in admiration and anticipation at what she produces next. Swallow the Air is nothing short of extraordinary."

So what started out rather thin ended up quite satisfactory after all.

Australian Author Interview Time

Margo Lanagan is interviewed by Joe Gordon over on the Forbidden Planet web site.

Wendy James talks (via email) with Hope Nesmith of The Compulsive Reader.

And Geraldine Brooks is interviewed by "The Sunday Times". Don't try to access this interview via the main page of the books section, they've messed up their links.

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 Miéville
Miéville'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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