September 2006 Archives

Poem: A Tribute to the Memory of C.J. Dennis by J.M.D.

He came in the Spring when the whole world was stirred
With new life, and new beauty and power;
At his coming they drew their mantle o'er him,
Made him heir to their richness and dower.
The secret things he learned from the spring
Gave him powers he could use at his will,
Which all through the years -- from boyhood to age --
Surged like tides that never were still,
In the arms of Nature he found a repose,
When weary its voice made him whole,
The song of the bird and the sigh of the wind
Were music that strengthened his soul.

A man -- yet bound by mysterious chains
To all primitive things of the earth,
Which gave him the key and the entrance at will
To the secrets of men and their worth.
He was strangely akin to the coster and King,
To the soldier and girl at the mill,
He spoke to them all in their own native tongue
For his language was that of goodwill.
Through many dark days he invaded their gloom
With his lamps of laughter and cheer
And every sad heart forgot for a time
The demon that dwelt in their fear.

His Pen was a baton that wielded a charm
Over choirs in hamlet and hill.
We watched as he swayed it, and ever anon
We sang -- or we wept -- at his will.
The Conductor steps down and we in our turn
Are mute with deep sorrow and pain;
But we silently vow as in silence we stand
We will practise his life's sweet refrain.
The Pen is now rusted -- The Inkwell is dry,
But the score that he wrote we still play,
As we toast his memory a vision comes
For in spirit he is with us today.

First published in Philosopher's Scrap Book edited by Monty Blandford, 1951

On Other Blogs #3

Peter Nicholson, Australian writer and poet, who writes the Poetry and Culture column for the 3quarksdaily blog, this week gives us the Poetry of Lists. The posting revels in Australian names: names of Aboriginal languages, Australian wines, Australian place names, bands and singers performing in Sydney, international stocks,names of paint colours, and titles of poetry magazines and ezines.

Jonathan Strahan asks, on his weblog: "Is it possible to write a science fiction story involving a young adult protagonist who has entered military service with the intention of serving in an extraterrestrial setting that reads like it was written after 1955?" Someone suggests Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. I'm not sure why, as it's one of the worst sf books I've ever read. And I've read some doosies I can tell you.

Over on the multi-contributor weblog Sarsaparilla, Ampersand Duck (for that is their pen-name) reviews three new Australian books: edited correspondence between David Campbell and Douglas Stewart, a selection of Campbell's poetry, and a collection of essays. All three originate from the Canberra area. Don't ignore this piece because it's a review; good writing and clear thinking are to be found in many different places.

Garry Disher

I've read nine novels by Garry Disher over the past two years. I haven't checked but I'd feel safe in saying that's the most by any one author over that time period. I had been unable to get to hear him speak a few times over the past year - some family function or other had always intervened. So I was happy to finally get the chance to attend the local library last week where he was speaking.

Garry Disher has had a varied writing career, and as he pointed out, is probably one of the few Australian writers to make a living purely from writing novels - he's right, there can't be a lot of them. He has achieved this enviable (?) position as a result of being capable of writing across a number of genres and by being able to stick to his craft. Being able to write effectively using character, dialog and plot to create enjoyable story-driven novels with a distinct sense of place probably doesn't hurt either. After a career as an academic, and as a teacher of creative writing Disher bit the bullet some 15 years ago and threw his lot into full-time writing. In that period he has produced six Wyatt novels, three featuring Inspector Challis, six young adult books, and three novels that don't fit any specific genre definition, one of which (The Sunken Road) was submitted for the Booker Prize by his publisher. Added to this are two volumes of short stories which he edited, two volumes of his own stories, reviews, a children's picture book, history text books, critical articles and, well, you get the picture. He's prolific.

Garry Disher reminds me of nothing less than the main character of his recent successful crime series, Inspector Hal Challis. I'd reckon he'd deny it, but there's enough there for a decent comparison to be made: age, demeanour and physical location being just some of them. He started his talk in slightly nervous fashion, as if he didn't do this sort of thing terribly often, but warmed to his task as the night progressed. It came out later that while he had done an author tour of Germany (where his Wyatt novels are very popular) and was scheduled to tour the UK in about 18 months, he had never journeyed around Australia talking about his work - it appeared he only made local appearances whenever a new novel was due out. That's a pity.

I asked him if he felt that his readers were divided between his Wyatt and his Challis novels, or whether he'd noticed a cross-over between the two. Oddly enough, he said that he doesn't get a lot of feedback from his readers and so wasn't aware of there being any problems in that area. Only later did I wonder about the reasons for that. Crime fiction seems to be where he's putting the bulk of his energies at present. He still likes writing for young adults as it allows him to follow a very different process. His crime novels need to be planned in very fine detail ahead of the writing, else he tends to write himself into plot corners. He's currently working on the final edits of the fourth Hal Challis book, which have interrupted his seventh Wyatt novel. I'm looking forward to both of them.

Australian Bookcovers #31 - Bloodfather by David Ireland


Bloodfather by David Ireland, 1987
(Viking 1987 edition)
Cover by Helen Semmler

Weekend Round-Up 2006 #35

The Age

The 2006 winner of "The Australian"/Vogel Award has just been announced, and we are greeted with Peter Pierce's review of last year's winner, Tuvalu by Andrew O'Connor. Pierce seems quite impressed by the work: "Tuvalu relishes the risks that it takes: a main character whose passivity would be irksome if his moral dimensions were not intimated, his acquaintances who withhold so much of themselves, sometimes until they are beyond help...These are not aimless, but recklessly directed lives. In probing them, O'Connor has begun a career that may yet take him as far as several of his predecessors have gone."

Peter Craven has lots of good things to say about Inga Clendinnen's new collection of essays, Agamemnon's Kiss. He thinks she is "essayist from one of the high orders of the heavenly hosts. It's that ability to swoop and woo that is written all over this rich and deeply satisfying collection of essays that will beguile and arrest the mind in the manner of the great essayists, from Montaigne to Chesterton"; and even "This is a beautiful book and it will nourish almost every kind of reader like manna from heaven."

The poet John Kinsella got into a spot of bother a month or so back with a couple of fellow Australian poets, Anthony Lawrence and Bob Adamson, over some statements in this book, Fast, Loose Beginnings: A Memoir of Intoxications. Thankfully, that all seems to have died now and we can get down to the nitty-gritty of seeing if it's any good or not. Lisa Gorton finds that the author is hard to pin down: "the narrator often treats the main character, himself, as a puzzling person whose behaviour he finds hard to remember, much less explain." Which doesn't sound all that promising. It doesn't get any better at the end: "True or not, Kinsella's account of his intense, antagonistic friendship with Lawrence shows the true argument of this memoir, which you might also call its defining myth - the tangled nature of a poet's relationships." So, does that mean the poet's life and relationships are a mess and so is this memoir? Or what? I think I missed something.

Short notices are given to: Ghost Railways of Australia by Robin Bromby: "It's not so much about the days when railways were an important factor in shaping settlement in Australia (and a massive source of long-time, loyal employment), it's a study of the fast-fading remnants of that world"; Radio with Pictures: 50 Years of Australian Television by Brendan Horgan: "We've had 50 years of the flat-faced monster now, and this survey of TV in Australia is a history of the medium as well as something of a cultural history"; and The Shifting Fog by Kate Morton, who "is a young Queensland writer who has pulled off a marvellous pastiche that effectively amounts to a combination of du Maurier in style and Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park) in content."

The Australian

The big fiction review this week is by Liam Davidson of The Memory of Tides by Angelo Loukakis. "As far as war stories go, this one has it all: exotic location; mythic potential; a battle of epic proportions; secrecy and subterfuge; unspeakable acts of atrocity; and the unquestioning kindness of strangers that forges bonds that will outlast the war. Introduce a lone Australian soldier and a beautiful Cretan girl and we should all know the rest." Luckily Loukakis doesn't let the novel flounder, he moves it beyond the expected, back to Australia and across the generations. "Loukakis offers the novel as a tribute to those who suffered through the war and took risks to protect Australian soldiers from the Germans. It's also an examination of the bonds formed in war between two seemingly different people and how they can resonate through a lifetime." Something out of the ordinary then.

David Malouf

David Malouf has been noticably absent from our bookshelves of late, but now he writes of the bonds between writer and reader in "The Age" over the weekend, and has a new collection of short stories coming out from Random House, entitled Every Move You Make.

2006 "The Australian"/Vogel Literary Award Winner

Belinda Castles has been announced as the winner of the 2006 "The Australian"/Vogel Literary Award for her novel The River Baptists.

The printed version of "The Australian" carries an extract from the novel but this doesn't appear to be on the paper's website.

Reviews of Australian Books #29

Last week Lynne Barber in "The Telegraph" wasn't all that keen on David Thomson's Nicole Kidman, and this week we have the opposite end of the spectrum with Tom Rosentahl in "The Independent" calling it "... the most illuminating book about a film star that I've read." Though, on second thoughts, that might not be as much high praise as I originally perceived.

Austlit, "The Resource for Australian Literature", lists Michel Faber, author of The Crimson Petal and the White, so I feel safe in being able to include him in this section. He's now published The Apple, a collection of stories which can be read as a sequel, of sorts, to his earlier novel. David Robson reviews it in "The Telegraph" and finds good and bad in the end result: "This may be an unsatisfactory curate's egg of a book, but Faber remains an unrivalled master of his subject."

Also in "The Telegraph", Katie Owen has a brief look (10th item down) at the UK paperback edition of Kate Grenville's The Secret River: "A family story on an epic scale, made all the more absorbing by Grenville's loving evocation of her native landscape."

And Stephanie Cross follows up, on the same page, with a note on Slow Man by J.M. Coetzee: "A light comedy of manners is also a touching study of human vulnerability."

Peter Conrad in "The Guardian" wonders whether David Thomson is wandering a tad close to pornography in his biography Nicole Kidman: "Thomson has written some of the best books about film; Nicole Kidman is, I suppose, a forgivable bout of elderly nympholepsy. But he is lucky to have such an understanding wife."

As is his wont, Jonathan Yardley has written a long, detailed and definitive review of Robert Hughes's new memoir, Things I Didn't Know in "The Washington Post". "Now Hughes has turned his hand to autobiography, with predictably and gratifyingly rewarding results. His has been a writer's life, and, like most such lives, it has been primarily a life of the mind. Such drama as he has experienced -- two unhappy marriages before a lucky third one, the suicide of his 33-year-old son, a terrible auto accident that brought him within a breath of death -- certainly has been painful, but except for the accident, he devotes relatively little space to these matters in this memoir, preferring reticence over display where private business is concerned, a merciful choice in this age of self-servingly confessional memoirs that attempt to cash in on real or fancied business of the most intimate nature."

In the same paper, the reviews of Thompson's Nicole Kidman continue with Louis Bayard finding that the author "wants Kidman, in short, to be the alabaster emblem of the cinema's own contradictions, but the more he plumps for her larger relevance, the more he reinforces how private his obsession really is."

I'm not sure if the new review of Geoffrey Robertson's The Tyrannicide Brief in the "San Francisco Chronicle" indicates a new paperback edition, or a long-delayed initial publication. You'll recall that it tells the story of John Cooke, the man who prosecuted Charles I of England for treason. Both died at the executioner's hand. Robertson "gives us a tragic hero: a man whose intelligence and devotion to fairness can't save him from being swept up by the tornado of revolution." That's Cooke, not Charles.

[Update: I've fixed the spelling of Michel Faber's first name.]

Poem: My Testimonials by Harrison O. (Albert John Owen)

They lie in piles about my den,
   The volumes which of old
Upon stout shelves were wont to stand,
Full oft their titles have been scanned
   By visitors, who told
Me how they "loved" to read, but were,
Alas! without the time to spare.

I felt for these the lofty scorn
   Which true booklovers know
Whenever mental weaklings blab!
And now my volumes to some drab,
   Dull auction-room must go,
I can declare quite honestly
They've been as trusty friends to me.

At all times they were ready to
   Pay tribute to my worth;
For years have they the rumour spread
That I'm remarkably "well read";
   And I have known no dearth
Of admiration since the tip
They passed anent my scholarship.

They were indeed my dearest friends --
   Those books I did not know
Sufficiently for then to e'er
Become a bore, and yet were there
   To made a goodly show
And testify to all that I
Was full of aspirations high.

Though tomes with uncut pages are
   Included in each pile,
I grieve not that they are unscanned;
I'm wise enough to understand
   That for the classics I'll
Till death a vast respect retain
Which close acquaintance might have slain!

First published in The Bulletin, 6 May 1920

On Other Blogs #2

Justine Larbalestier discusses the art of lying with John Green on her weblog. Fiction is just lying? Who knew? I especially liked Justine's line: "Me and my sister being on the run from an evil cult of nuns who killed our family and ate our family cat and now being in witness protection with our fake parents was way more exciting than my actual life." It's the bit about the cat that amuses me.

Kimbofo has been running a set of author profiles on her weblog, detailing each of the authors on the 2006 Man Booker prize longlist. [The link here is to Sarah Waters, the last in the series.]

Kelly Gardiner details some problems of being a writer working from home: specifically having to put up with a loud radio, belonging to the builders next door, blaring out crap 80s commercial pap.

Scott Westerfeld informs us that Penguin Books have posted a podcast of a conversation between himself and his partner Justine Larbalestier.

2005 Colin Roderick Award

The Foundation for Australian Literary Studies has announced the 2005 winner of the Colin Roderick Award.

The winner was The Broken Shore by Peter Temple.

Temple's novel was chosen from a shortlist which also included:

Not Wrong - Just Different, Katharine Brisbane (Currency press)
The Weather Makers, Tim Flannery (Text Publishing)
The Secret River, Kate Grenville (Text Publishing)
The Marsh Birds, Eva Sallis (Allen & Unwin)
1932, Gerald Stone (Pan Macmillan Australia)
Affection, Ian Townsend (HarperCollins Publishers Australia)
Dirt Cheap, Elizabeth Wynhausen (Pan Macmillan Australia)

The award of $10,000 and the H.T Priestly Medal will be presented In Townsville on October 17th this year.

My thanks to Josie Macgregor for bringing this award to my attention. As she puts it: "The Colin Roderick Award is always interesting because it takes a look at ALL Australian books -- fiction, non-fiction, short stories, poetry -- and chooses the best from the previous year, so it's unique and has a slightly different perspective."

2006 "The Australian"/Vogel Literary Award

Details of the nominees for this year's "The Australian"/Vogel Literary Award have been announced.

One of the judges, John Dale, comments that he and his fellow judges (Murray Waldren and Marele Day) "were unanimous in agreeing that the level of accomplishment and confidence in the 2006 entries was higher than in any year during which we have been associated with the award." Given that the award has been won in the past by such Australian literary stalwarts as Kate Grenville and Tim Winton, this is saying something.

The shortlisted authors are:

Jeremy Aitken for The Bike
Belinda Castles for The River Baptists
Jarad Henry for Spider Web
Matthew Schreuder for Muscle
Anna Westbrook for Hey Sugar

You can find details of the award, along with a list of past winners at my Australian/Vogel Award website. Must get to fixing this sometime soon.

Australian Bookcovers #30 - Lucinda Brayford by Martin Boyd


Lucinda Brayford by Martin Boyd, 1952
(Landsdowne 1977 edition)
Cover: Portrait of Florence by Tom Roberts

Weekend Round-Up 2006 #34

The Age

I always liked John Button as a politician; he seemed capable of seeing the bigger picture, of cutting through the crap to get to the gold beneath the dross, and as someone who genuinely believed he could make a difference for others, rather than just himself, just by being there. So it's always a pleasure when he writes an opinion piece for "The Age" op-ed pages, or, as in this case, a review for the book pages. This weekend he looks at 51st State? by Dennis Altman which examines Australia's relationship with the US. "According to opinion polls, a clear majority of Australians now think Australia is too much influenced by the United States. No doubt there is a variety of reasons for this, with ill-conceived participation in military adventures probably the most compelling. Les Murray, poet and quintessential Australian, sums up the concerns about our current relationship succinctly: 'We kiss arse more than we need to.'...Most Australians have much that they like about Americans and would like to admire them. But there is something demeaning about the way the Australian Government has signed up to all the aspects of the Bush Administration's war on terror and almost alone in the world to the obscenity of Guantanamo Bay. Les Murray is right." Exactly.

Of rather more localised interest is Ian W. Shaw's The Bloodbath: The 1945 VFL Grand Final which is reviewed by Martin Flanagan. The Australian Rules football match between South Melbourne (now the Sydney Swans) and Carlton, was played only six weeks after VJ Day and is one of the most controversial played in the game's history. Flanagan has written about this match himself and has come to the conclusion that the events on the field were influenced as much by the times as by the state of the game.

On the fiction front we have Silent Parts by John Charalambous, reviewed by Peter Pierce, who finds "This book is one of the most poignant and unusual of reflections on war and remembrance. It bypasses so many well-trodden Australian fictional paths in making its own muted, moving way...Charalambous has triumphantly cleared the hurdle of the second novel in this, one of the books of the year."

Short notices are given to: Maroon & Blue: Recollections and Tales of the Fitzroy Football Club by Adam Muyt: "It's a sentimental scrapbook based mostly on interviews with players, officials and fans, which includes an eclectic collection of songs, ditties and peoms. Passion abounds. No room here for impartiality"; Darby. One Hundred Years of Life in a Changing Culture by Liam Campbell: "In this beautifully produced book, Campbell tells of his friendship with Darby, relates his stories and provides a historical context for Danby's life"; and Days Like These by Michael Gurr: "The key to the success of this account of two decades of play-writing and political involvement is its disjointed diary narrative that skips back and forth in time, making connections between salient, disparate moments".

The Australian

Three books on the Vietnam war are reviewed by Francesca Beddie: Rolling Thunder in a Gentle Land edited by Andrew Wiest, Vietnam: Australia's Ten Year War 1962-1972 by Richard Pelvin, and Asian Alternatives by Garry Woodard. In the first of these, "..Jeffrey Grey, professor of history at the Australian Defence Force Academy...explains that Australia's decision to enter the war was an insurance payment for American protection in the event of an attack on Australia; the ANZUS treaty seemingly no guarantee of US assistance...Wiest's book is more successful in its use of pictures to reveal the complexity of the emotions that war provokes." And "Garry Woodard, a former career diplomat and Australian ambassador in Asia and now a senior fellow in political science at the University of Melbourne, is one who argues that the lessons of the Vietnam War have not been learned. Indeed, while undertaking a forensic analysis of Australian foreign policy-making between 1959 and '65, he was struck by the common features between Australia's flawed involvement in Vietnam and its entering the war in Iraq." Which helps put all these books into a modern context. The comparisons between Vietnam and Iraq seem too obvious to ignore.

The history of Jews in Australia is examined in New Under the Sun: Jewish Australians in Religion, Politics and Culture, edited by Michael Fagenblat, Melanie Landau and Nathan Wolski, and reviewed here by Sol Encel. "Most of the writers are concerned with internal Jewish matters. Particularly striking, however, is the attention given by several to the plight of other groups whose place under the sun is less than favourable: refugees, asylum-seekers and Aborigines."

Short notices are given to: Simple Gifts: A Life in the Theatre by George Ogilvie: "Engagingly direct".

Reviews of Australian Books #28

While not exactly an Australian book, in that it is published in the UK and written by a leading British film reviewer, Nicole Kidman by David Thompson does at least have an Australian subject. Lynne Barber in "The Telegraph", however, wonders whether the subject of the book is more Thompson's obsession for an ideal rather than the actress herself. She certainly makes the book out to be a strange little piece of work.

You can read the first chapter of this book over at "The New York Times".

Also in "The Telegraph" the paperback editions of Kate Grenville's The Secret River and J.M. Coetzee's The Slow Man are reviewed briefly.

Joel Rickett, in "The Guardian", reports that Peter Temple's novel The Broken Shore, is the best-selling work for UK publisher Quercus. Which isn't a strictly a review, but let's not quibble about it.

David Weaver also looks at David Thompson's Nicole Kidman over at "The Globe and Mail", and maybe he nails it perfectly: "So with the greatest respect for David Thomson's considerable abilities as a writer, it's my suggestion that his secret ambition is to direct a film, a film that would quite obviously have to star Nicole Kidman. This book is sometimes a poor substitute for that ambition."

Les Murray's poetry collection, The Biplane Houses, is reviewed in "The Scotsman" by Richard Price: "Murray is a public poet, unabashed at producing a kind of teacherly polemic and determined to tell Australians (and others) his versions of their history. He is more garrulous than his cautious contemporary, Seamus Heaney, though similar in drawing morals from agricultural sources."

Interview with Lian Hearn

Amanda Craig target=new>interviews Lian Hearn in "The Times". Hearn is the Adelaide-based author of the Tales of the Otori series of young adult novels. And excellent stuff they are too.

Oddly enough Craig starts the interview rather strangely: "The true identity of Lian Hearn was until recently one of the most closely guarded secrets of children's literature. Who was the author of the bestselling novel Across the Nightingale Floor, an adventure set in medieval Japan about which readers from 8 to 80 became passionate in the space of a single chapter? Was it a man or a woman? Was the author Japanese or European?"

I had to check the date on this piece (September 16, 2006) and ponder the nature of the phrase "until recently", before I came to the conclusion that Craig has been living in an alternate universe for the past couple of years. I'm not sure when I became aware that Lian Hearn was really Gillian Robinstein but I'm pretty certain is was about the time the first novel in the series was published, ie in 2002. You can actually read a review of the book by Peter Pierce in "The Sydney Morning Herald", where the author's real name is revealed in the first line. And how did I find this? By typing in the name of the novel into Google Australia and selecting the first entry. All reviewers make mistakes but a little bit, a teensy bit, of checking would have alerted the writer to the true story.

than that, the interview is quite reasonable, even if it doesn't delve all that deeply.

On Other Blogs #1

Meg, a Sydney-based blogger, describes her attempts to read the novels on the 2006 Man Booker Longlist, over on her blog And so the days are filled.... Needless to say she doesn't get all the way through but does end up reading two of the final shortlisted works in the process. It'll be worthwhile keeping an eye on her progress. She has an engaging style and is quite happy to report what she does and doesn't like about a particular work, leaving you in no doubt as to what she thinks about it. Refreshing.

Chris Lawson reports on a change of editors at the magazine "Aurealis".

Kerryn Goldsworthy alerts readers of her weblog A Fugitive Phenomenon, who are doing post-grad research on Australian Literature and who are also under 30, to the existence of a scholarship based at the National Library of Australia. But as commenter Zoe points out: "Surely no one's under 30 anymore?"

Writer Geoffrey Gates reports that his first novel, A Ticket for Perpetual Locomotion published by Interactive Press in October 2005, is now being distributed by Tower Books. He provides a list of Australian bookshops which should have the novel in stock.

I haven't looked at it for a while but it appears that the Intersecting Lines weblog has folded. Pity.

Lili Wilkinson reports that she will be the new writer-in-residence on the website.

2006 Queensland Premier's Literary Awards

It's definitely awards season in Australia, and one that I always seem to miss is the Queensland Premier's Literary Awards. This is probably because the shortlists were announced this year on August 25 and the winners released on September 12, neatly falling within my latest holiday period.

Anyway, the shortlisted works, and winners, were:

Emerging Queensland Author - Manuscript Award
Michele Di Bartolo for The Sicilian Kitchen
Karen Foxlee for The Anatomy of Wings [WINNER]
Simon Groth for Here Today
Hamish Sewell for A Quota of Heartbeats

Unpublished Indigenous Writer - The David Unaipon Award
Gayle Kennedy for Me, Antman and Fleabag [WINNER]
Jeanine Anne Leane for Dark Secrets: After Dreaming AD 1887 -1961
Lorraine McGee-Sippel for Hey Mum, What's a Half Caste?
Barrina South and Aunty June Barker for Life on the Brewarrina Mission

Non-Fiction - Dymocks Literacy Foundation Award
Neil Chenoweth for Packers Lunch (Allen & Unwin) [WINNER]
Dr Brenda Niall for Judy Cassab: a portrait (Allen & Unwin)
Jacob Rosenberg for East of Time (Brandl & Schlesinger)
Craig Sherborne for Hoi Polloi (Black Inc)

History Book Award
Richard Bosworth for Mussolini's Italy (Allen Lane /Penguin Press)
Dr Peter Edwards for Arthur Tange: The Last of the Mandarins (Allen & Unwin) [WINNER]
Dr Regina Ganter for Mixed Relations: Asian/Aboriginal Contact in North Australia (UWA Press)
Prof Patricia Jalland for Changing Ways of Death in Twentieth Century Australia (UNSW Press)

Children's Book Award
Chardi Christian for Selkie and the Fisherman (Hachette Livre Australia)
Martine Murray for The Slightly Bruised Glory of Cedar B. Hartley (who can't help flying high and falling in deep) (Allen & Unwin) [WINNER]
Narelle Oliver for Home (Omnibus Books)
Tohby Riddle for Irving the Magician (Penguin Group)
Carole Wilkinson for Garden of the Purple Dragon (Black Dog Books)

Young Adult Book Award
Catherine Bateson for His Name in Fire (University of Queensland Press)
Ursula Dubosarsky for The Red Shoe (Allen & Unwin) [WINNER]
Julie Lawrinson for Bye, Beautiful (Penguin Group)
Kierin Meehan for In the Monkey Forest (Penguin Group)
Scott Westerfeld for Peeps (Penguin Group)

Science Writer - Department of State Development, Trade and Innovation Award
Brad Collis for Food Crops (Various print media)
Dr Carole Hungerford for Good Health in the 21st Century (Scribe) [WINNER]
Murray Sayle for Overloading Emoh Ruo: The Rise and Rise of Hydrocarbon Civilisation (Griffith University & ABC Books)

Poetry Collection - Arts Queensland Judith Wright Calanthe Award
John Kinsella for The New Arcadia (Fremantle Arts Centre Press) [WINNER]
Jennifer Maiden for Friendly Fire (Giramondo)
Les Murray for The Biplane Houses (Black Inc)
Jaya Savige for Latecomers (University of Queensland Press)

Australian Short Story Collection - Arts Queensland Steele Rudd Award
Tony Birch for Shadow Boxing (Scribe)
Craig Cormick for A Funny thing Happened at 27 000 Feet . . . (Ginninderra Press) [WINNER]
Michael De Valle for Take a Breath & Hold It (Ginninderra Press)
Tara June Winch for Swallow the Air (University of Queensland Press)

Literary or Media Work Advancing Public Debate - The Harry Williams Award
Matthew Carney for The Ice Age (Four Corners ABC TV)
David Corlett for Following them Home: The Fate of the Returned Asylum Seekers (Black Inc)
Graeme Crowley and Paul Wilson for Who Killed Leanne? (Zeus Publications)
Gideon Haigh for Asbestos House (Scribe) [WINNER]
Murray Sayle for Overloading Emoh Ruo: The Rise and Rise of Hydrocarbon Civilisation (Griffith University & ABC Books)

Film Script - Pacific Film and Television Commission Award
Tony Ayres for The Home Song Stories (Big and Little Films Pty Ltd)
Reg Cribb for Last Train to Freo (Taylor Media Pty Ltd)
Rolf de Heer for Ten Canoes (Vertigo Productions) [WINNER]
Ana Kokkinos and Andrew Bovell for Book of Revelation (Wildheart Films)
Keith Thompson for Clubland (RB Films)
Ann Turner for Irresistible (Cascade Films Pty Ltd)

Drama Script (Stage) Award
Van Badham for The Gabriels (Floodtide Theatre Company)
Patrick Carr for Batavia (Map Theatre Co.)
Patricia Cornelius for Boy Overboard (Australian Theatre for Young People)
Noelle Janaczewska for Mrs Petrov's Shoe (Theatre @ Risk) [WINNER]
Stephen Sewell for The 3 Furies: Scenes from the Life of Frances Bacon (Performing Lines)

Television Script - QUT Creative Industries Award
Richard Dennison for Pioneers of Love (Orana Films)
Sarah Lambert for The Alice - Episode 14 (Southern Star)
Sean Nash for All Saints - Episode 358 "Drawing the Line" (Network 7)
Fiona Seres for Love My Way - Episode 15 (Southern Star)
Katherine Thomson for Unfolding Florence (Becker Entertainment) [WINNER]

Fiction Book Award
Brian Castro for The Garden Book (Giramondo) [WINNER]
Robert Drewe for Grace (Penguin Group)
Kate Grenville for The Secret River (The Text Publishing Company)
Roger McDonald for The Ballad of Desmond Kale (Random House)
Gail Jones for Dreams of Speaking (Random House)

Poem: A Vision Splendid by Victor Daley (Part 2)

Then straightaway I appointed
   To chant by day and night,
The brilliant young Australian
   Who sang "The Land of Light."

I also gave in fashion
   Hilariously free,
The Girl and Horse Department
   In charge of Ogilvie.

And on the roof-ridge Brady
   Sang salt-junk chanties great
To cheer the stout sea-lawyers
   Who sail the Ship of State.

And tender-hearted Lawson
   Sang everybody's wrongs;
And Brennan, in the basement,
   Crooned weird, symbolic songs.

And on the throne beside me,
   Above the common din,
He sang his Songs of Beauty,
   My friend, the poet Quinn.

Our own Australian artists
   Made beautiful its halls --
The mighty steeds of Mahony
   Pranced proudly on the walls.

Tom Roberts, he was there, too,
   With painted portraits fine
Of men of light and leading --
   Me, and some friends of mine.

And Souter's Leering Lady,
   'Neath hat and over fan,
With Souter's cat was ogling
   His check-clothed gentleman.

And Fischer, Ashton, Lister,
   With beetling genius rife --
Pardieu! I was their Patron,
   And set them up for life.

And from each dusky corner,
   In petrified new birth,
Glared busts of Me and Barton,
   By Nelson Illingworth.

And nine fair Muses dwelt there,
   With board and lodging free;
Six by the States were chosen,
   And I selected three.

And there we turned out blithely
   Australian poems sound,
To sell in lengths like carpet,
   And also by the pound.

For Paddy Quinn, the Statesman,
   Had made a law which said
That native authors only
   On pain of death be read.

O, brother bards, I grieve that
   Good dreams do not come true;
You see how very nobly
   I would have done to you!

But, ah! the vision vanished,
   And took away in tow
The National Australian
   Head Poetry Bureau.

First published in The Bulletin, 1 September 1904
The first part of this poem was reprinted last week.

2006 Man Booker Prize Shortlist Announced

The shortlisted novels for the 2006 Man Booker Prize has been announced and, I think for the first time, two Australian novels have made the final list.

The novels are:

The Inheritance of Loss, Kiran Desai
The Secret River, Kate Grenville
Carry Me Down, M.J. Hyland
In the Country of Men, Hisham Matar
Mother's Milk, Edward St Aubyn
The Night Watch, Sarah Waters

No Carey, no Mitchell and no previous winner on the list. Four women shortlisted is probably also a record.

The winner will be announced on Tuesday 10th October. I have read a grand total of one of these titles - which says far more about me than the novels chosen.

2006 Melbourne Prize for Literature

As mentioned here in late May, the Melbourne Prize is to be Australia's richest literary prize, valued at $60,000. The short listed authors for the main prize are: Helen Garner, John Marsden, Alex Miller, Dorothy Porter and Hannie Rayson. Best writing award finalists are: Azhar Abidi, Ben Chessell, Neil Grant, Sonya Hartnett, Mary Ellen Jordan, David McCooey, Ross Mueller, Carrie Tiffany, Christos Tsiolkas and Henry von Doussa. The winners wil be anounced on November 15th.

I'd like to be able to explain the difference between the two awards, and even why there are two awards after the initial reports only mentioned one, but the only listed website for the prize is STILL not functioning.

Colin Thiele

Colin Thiele, the great Australian writer, died in Queensland on September 4th this year. Thiele was born in Eudunda, in country South Australia, educated at the University of Adelaide, and started his writing life working in verse. But he is best known for his novels for children, such as Sun on the Stubble (1961), Storm Boy (1963) and Blue Fin (1969), all of which were filmed. He won numerous awards for Australian
children''s writing and was made a Companion of the Order of Australia for his services to literature and education.

I remember reading Sun of the Stubble almost forty years ago and some of the scenes in that book still remain vivid in my memory. It's a pity that we are only reminded of authors such as Thiele upon news of their death. "The Age" published their obituary of Thiele today.

2006 Victorian Premier's Literary Award

The winners of the 2006 Victorian Premier's Literary Awards were announced a week or so back - I missed the announcement as I was travelling. You can get full details of the winners, along with the judges' reports, at the State Library of Victoria's website.

The shortlisted works are:

The Vance Palmer Prize for Fiction

Theft: A Love Story, Peter Carey [Knopf/Random House]

The Nettie Palmer Prize for Non-fiction

Margaret Michaelis: Love, Loss and Photography, Helen Ennis [National Gallery of Australia]

The C J Dennis Prize for Poetry

Urban Myths: 210 Poems, John Tranter [University of Queensland Press]

The Louis Esson Prize for Drama

Three Furies: Scenes from the Life of Francis Bacon, Stephen Sewell [Adelaide Festival]

The Prize for Young Adult Fiction

Theodora's Gift, Ursula Dubosarsky [Penguin]

The Prize for a First Book of History

Human Remains, Helen MacDonald [Melbourne University Press]

The Alfred Deakin Prize for an Essay Advancing Public Debate

Is the Media Asleep?, David Marr from "Do Not Disturb: Is the Media Failing Australia?" [Black Inc]

The Village Roadshow Prize for Screen Writing

Noise, Matthew Saville [Retroactive Films]

The Prize for Indigenous Writing

Swallow the Air, Tara June Winch [University of Queensland Press]

The Prize for an Unpublished Manuscript by an Emerging Victorian Writer

Rohypnol, Andrew Hutchinson

The Grollo Ruzzene Foundation Prize for Writing about Italians in Australia

When in Rome: Chasing La Dolce Vita, Penelope Green [Hachette Livre Australia]

The John Curtin Prize for Journalism

Information idol - How Google is Making Us Stupid, Gideon Haigh [The Monthly]
The Tall Man, Chloe Hooper [The Monthly]

Australian Bookcovers #29 - The Service of Clouds by Delia Falconer


The Service of Clouds by Delia Falconer, 1997
(Picador 1997 edition)
Cover photograph by Maikka Trupp

Australian Books to Film #17 - Robbery Under Arms


Robbery Under Arms 1985
Directed by Donald Crombie and Ken Hannam
Screenplay by Michael Jenkins, Graeme Koetsveld, and Tony Morphett from the novel by Rolf Boldrewood
Featuring Sam Neill, Steven Vidler, Christopher Cummins, Liz Newman, and Jane Menelaus.

Poem: A Vision Splendid by Victor Daley (Part 1)

Half waking and half dreaming,
   While starry lamps hung low
I saw a vision splendid
   Upon the darkness glow.

The Capital Australian,
   With waving banners plumed --
A shining flower of marble --
   Magnificently bloomed.

Beside a snow-fed river
   'Twas built in fashion rare --
Upon a lofty mountain,
   All in a valley fair.

The stately ships were sailing,
   Like brides with flowing trains,
To seek its secret harbor
   Amidst Australian plains.

And all around it flourished
   Luxuriantly free,
The giant gum and mangrove,
   The crimson desert-pea.

And I beheld a building
   That made a stately show --
The National Australian
   Head Poetry Bureau.

I gazed upon that Building
   With trembling joy aghast;
The long-felt want of ages
   Was filled (I thought) at last.

No more the Native Poet
   Need wildly beat his head
For lofty lyric measures
   To buy him beer and bed.

Now he would lodge right nobly
   And sleep serene, secure,
All in a chamber filled with
   Adhesive furniture.

For never foot of Bailiff
   Should pass his threshold o'er,
And never knock of landlord
   Sound direful on his door.

The State should also aid him
   To build his lofty rhyme
On lordly eggs-and-bacon,
   And sausages sublime.

And he should drink no longer
   Cheap beer at common bar,
But royal wine of Wunghnu
   At two-and-nine the jar.

It was a vision splendid,
   And brighter still did grow
When I was made the Chief of
   The Poetry Bureau.

They clad me all in purple,
   They hung me with festoons,
My singing-robes were spangled
   With aluminium moons.

And, as a sign of genius
   Above the common kind,
A wreath of gilded laurel
   Around my hat they twined.

They also gave me power to
   The grain sift from the chaff,
And choose at my large pleasure
   My own poetic staff.

First published in The Bulletin, 1 September 1904
The second part of this poem will be reprinted next week.

Australian Bookcovers #28 - Praise by Andrew McGahan


Praise by Andrew McGahan, 1992
(Allen & Unwin 1992 edition)
Cover photography and design: Michael Killalea

Australian Books to Film #16 - The Odd Angry Shot


The Odd Angry Shot 1979
Directed by Andrew Dominick
Screenplay by Tom Jeffrey from the novel by William L Nagle
Featuring Graham Kennedy, John Hargreaves, John Jarrett, Bryan Brown and Graeme Blundell.

2006 Ned Kelly Awards Winners

The Crime Writers' Association of Australia have announced the winners of the 2006 Ned Kelly Awards.

Crook as Rookwood by Chris Nyst (tied with) The Broken Shore by
Peter Temple

First Novel
Out of the Silence by Wendy James

Packing Death by Lachlan McCullough

2006 Age Book of the Year Award Winners

The winners of the 2006 Age Book of the Year awards were announced at the Melbourne Writers' Festival. (Details of this are coming a little late - blame it on lack of internet access while travelling.)

Velocity by Mandy Sayer

Friendly Fire by Jennifer Maiden

Dead Europe by Christos Tsialkos

Maiden's collection of poetry was also announced as the Age Book of the Year.

Poem: Do Poets Eat? by C.J. Dennis

A poet in London, it is cabled, declares that true poets should never work. They should await inspiration in order to fit the mind for the reception of the Muse.

Perhaps true poets never toil --
I do not know.
Their minds are rich and virgin soil    Where flowers grow --
Rare everlastings born to smile    In Time's great rooms -- That
come once every long, long while,    As cactus blooms. But how, I
always want to know,    Do poets eat, If now and then they do not
grow    A crop of wheat -- Some marketable product which
   The people buy? Even if they do not wax rich,
   What need to die? Should one wait for a tardy Muse,
   Patient and dumb? But then, suppose she should refuse
   Ever to come? Or, coming, find the bard's wan cheek
   Awry with pain; The host with hunger far too weak
   To entertain. Mere rhymsters weaving little rhymes,
   Unstable stuff To please the crowd and suit the times,
   Find pain enough. So they must toil to serve gross needs
   Till some glad day, When men will turn aside from weeds,
   And flowers pay.

Perhaps true poets never toil --
   I do not know.
Their minds are rich and virgin soil
   Where flowers grow --
Rare everlastings born to smile
   In Time's great rooms --
That come once every long, long while,
   As cactus blooms.

But how, I always want to know,
   Do poets eat,
If now and then they do not grow
   A crop of wheat --
Some marketable product which
   The people buy?
Even if they do not wax rich,
   What need to die?

Should one wait for a tardy Muse,
   Patient and dumb?
But then, suppose she should refuse
   Ever to come?
Or, coming, find the bard's wan cheek
   Awry with pain;
The host with hunger far too weak
   To entertain.

Mere rhymsters weaving little rhymes,
   Unstable stuff
To please the crowd and suit the times,
   Find pain enough.
So they must toil to serve gross needs
   Till some glad day,
When men will turn aside from weeds,
   And flowers pay.

First published in The Herald, 6 May 1930

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