November 2006 Archives

On Other Blogs #13

Andrew Kelly, in the "black dog blog", writes of an article published in the "Melbourne Weekly" concerning independent publishers in the city. He acknowledges the differences between his publishing house, Black Dog Books, and that of Michael Heyward's Text Publishing. "The differences between the independents, in fact the differences between publishers, are a good thing. It means we're all offering something different."

Susan Wyndham, former and currently acting literary editor of "The Sydney Morning Herald", writes about the reviewer/blogger discussion - that was mentioned here a while back - on her "Undercover" blog at the newspaper. Her conclusion: "The solution is to read critically, even when you're reading reviews." Exactly. I'm not sure why people would think this is any different from reading film reviews. Do you believe every film review you hear/read from Margaret Pomeranz or David Stratton, or your local paper's film critic? Of course not. You have to become attuned to their likes and dislikes, their prejudices and hidden "guilty pleasures". The same goes for book reviewers, whether they write for weblogs or printed media. It takes a while but it makes the whole process worth it in the end.

Margo Lanagan reports that she has signed a two book deal with Knopf in the US. One of which will be an "as yet unwritten novel". That one is due out in April
2008. No more bike-riding for Margo then.

If you are at all into Children's or YA literature (and why wouldn't you be), then you should be reading Judith Ridge's "The New Misrule Blog". Her latest entry concerns the curious workings of the JHunt award. Markus Zusak is one of the twelve on the 2006 longlist.

Great Australian Authors #34 - Katherine Susannah Prichard


Katherine Susannah Prichard (1883 - 1969)

Coonardoo was singing. Sitting under dark bushes overhung with curly white blossom, she clicked two small sticks together, singing:

"Towera chinima poodinya,
Towera jinner mulbeena...."

Over and over again, in a thin reedy voice, away at the back of her head, the melody flowed like water running over smooth pebbles in a dry creek bed. Winding and falling, the words rattled together and flew eerily, as if she were whispering to herself, exclaiming, and in awe of the kangaroos who came over the range and made a dance with their little feet in the twilight before they began to feed.
"Towera chinima poodinya,
Towera jinner mulbeena,
Poodinyoober mulbeena."

("Kangaroos coming over the range in the twilight, and making a devil dance with their little feet, before they begin to feed.")

It was no more than a twitter in the shadow of dark bushes near the veranda; a twitter with the clicking of small sticks. Coonardoo was not supposed to be there at all. Everybody was asleep in the long house of mud bricks and corrugated iron, and under the brushwood sheds beyond the kala miah. But Coonardoo did not want to sleep.

From Coonardoo by Katherine Susannah Prichard

Personal Reading

I don't often write about non-Australian books I'm reading but feel that I have to say that I'm mightily impressed by John Banville's The Sea, now that I have finally started.

As soon as I began, though, I had this feeling that the book reminded me of something. Not that I'm accusing the author of anything you understand, just that there was a certain sense of recognition of a story about an old codger returning to a sea-side location at which he had holidayed as a child.

It took me a while but then I remembered a novel I read maybe 15 years ago which also happened to win the Booker prize, way back in 1974. I refer to Stanley Middleton's novel Holiday. I assumed someone else must have seen the similarities but a Google search does not reveal any document containing the two terms "John Banville" and "Stanley Middleton" that is not either a sales catalogue or a list of Booker prize winners.

You might remember Middleton's novel received some unwanted press late last year, and early this, when sample chapters from it, and from V.S Naipaul's In a Free State, were submitted to a number of publishers undercover as new works. Both books were roundly rejected.

As I recall Holiday is not too bad. Of course, our sense of a book changes over time, though I certainly don't remember running from it yelling and screaming. I therefore have to assume it wasn't all bad.

It's at times like this that you have to question your reading perspectives - more than normal I mean. I can't be the only person who has read both books, can I?

Publisher Drops Children's Thriller

"The Australian" reports that Scholastic Australia has dropped plans to publish John Dale's children's thriller, Army of the Pure. The paper is reporting that the publisher decided on this course of action after it found that booksellers and librarians would not stock the book because the villian is a Muslim terrorist. Excuse me?

Comparisons are being made to Andrew McGahan's Underground and Richard Flanagan's The Unknown Terrorist, both of which feature terrorists who "are portrayed as victims driven to extreme acts by the failings of the West." They seem to be doing pretty well at present. This story is being picked up in other places around the world.

John Marsden Profile

After the recent publication of his latest novel, Circle of Flight, John Marsden is profiled in "The Courier-Mail" by Christopher Bantick. "Besides his many awards and accolades both nationally and internationally, this year Marsden was given the Lloyd O'Neill Award for lifelong services to the Australian book industry. He was only the fifth author to receive the award and joins Ruth Park, Tom Keneally, Morris West and Peter Carey, as previous winners. He is short-listed for the Melbourne Prize for Literature for 2006."

Mark Twain in Australia

Melbourne University Press recently released a new edition of The Wayward Tourist by Mark Twain, an account of his travels in Australia in the mid 1890s. Richard King reviewed the book recently in "The Sydney Morning Herald" and said of it: "As an introduction to the travel writing of one of that firmament's brightest stars, The Wayward Tourist is excellent." Now, Thomas Spurling, a freelance writer living in this country, follows Twain's trail through
Australia and reports on his travels for "Pine Magazine".

On Other Blogs #12

Ron writes about a distant relative, Louis Becke, who was his aunt's great uncle. Becke was an Australian writer who lived from 1855 to 1913. He travelled extensively through the South Pacific and was, at one time, arrested for piracy. He lived for a time in London where his work was admired by such writers as Rudyard Kipling and Joseph Conrad.

On the "BldgBlog" weblog Simon Sellars author of The Lonely Planet Guide to Micronations is interviewed. Nice story about the declaration of the Independent Republic of Bentleigh, which was later invaded by Poland.

"The Daily Flute" riffs on the recent O.J. Simpson brouhaha, and a recent series of ads that have been running for Abebooks lately, to offer a book title that has just been "pulped" by Rupert Murdoch's publishing empire.

With under a week to go in NaNoWriMo, Daniel Hadati has hit just over 31,000 words, or 62% of his 50,000 word target. Doesn't look like he's going to make it. He is interviewed by Sean Lindsay on 101 Reasons to Stop Writing. Wouldn't have thought any of us needed 101.

Australian Bookcovers #40 - Lilian's Story by Kate Grenville


Lilian's Story by Kate Grenville, 1986
Cover illustration and design by Hans Selhofer (Allen & Unwin 1986 edition)

This novel won the Australian/Vogel Award in 1984.

Weekend Round-Up 2006 #44

The Age

John Marsden's latest novel, Circle of Flight is the third and last in his series, "The Ellie Chronicles", which started in 2003. Frances Atkinson thinks "it's been a hell of a ride", and is rather sorry to see the series end: "Closing the door on Ellie must have been hard for Marsden, but even his most ardent fans will agree that bowing out on a high note is the way to go. Before you reach the final page, you'll discover that Marsden has included a few startling revelations about the kinds of things that have been the mainstay of every book in the series: friendship, love, loyalty and honour.

"Goodbye Ellie, it was a pleasure knowing you."

Rachel Hills reviews Adult Themes: Rewriting the Rules of Adulthood by Kate Crawford, which "looks beyond young and old to investigate what defines adulthood, how it's changing and what it means to be one in the 21st century." Overwork, underpaid and unloved probably. No, sorry, that's just me. "Adult Themes provides a refreshingly informed and nuanced alternative, going beyond X and Y to cut to the core of the ubiquitous generation wars and offer some hopeful alternatives for us all."

Short notices are given to: The Labor Market Ate My Babies: Work, Children and a Sustainable Future by Barbara Pocock who "argues that if children are not to suffer, child care must be more regulated, the government must invest in support for parents and amend labour laws to increase job flexibility and autonomy for workers"; The War on Democracy: Conservative Opinion in the Australian Press by Nially Lucy & Steve Mickler: "This latest salvo in the culture wars is a gloves-off riposte from the academy in defence of progressive and liberal thought"; The Patrician and the Bloke: Geoffrey Serle and the Making of Australian History by John Thompson whose "biography takes a cue from Serle's own biographical practice, never straying far from the public and intellectual life".

The Australian

Poetry gets a look-in this week as Tom Shapcott reviews Wren Lives by Billy Jones, Universal Andalusia by B.R. Dionysius and Lemon Shark by Luke Beesley, all published by Papertiger Media Inc. He is impressed, first by the printings and then by the contents: "this is no semi-amateur effort; as a statement of ambition, these titles command attention." Of Jones he says: "In all his books, Jones has accompanied his poems (often more invocations than what is traditionally accepted as poetry) with detailed, often exquisite drawings; the two complement each other resonantly." In Dionysius's volume he finds that this "This is a meaty, robust meal of a book and if the conclusion is the obvious one ('glad to be home'), the trip along the way has been rocky but full of enough insights to make you snort and splutter." And of Beesley: "More than a poet to watch: this is a poet already out there and revelling in it."

Peter Ryan reviews The Patrician and the Bloke: Geoffrey Serle and the Making of Australian History but writes a profile of the subject rather than a true review. "An interest should be declared: I was Serle's friend for more than 50 years, his publisher for 26."

Short notices are given to: The Tesla Legacy by Robert G. Barrett: "The cleverly written comedy of street-wise manners will still appeal to the constituency that Barrett, that self-styled conduit to the average punter"; The Murderer's Club by P.D. Martin who "manages the rhythm and pace well but there's too little telling journalistic detail, artful writing and plain old-fashioned gravitas"; The Perfect Suspect by Vincent Varjavandi: "his plotting is more lateral than Martin's, even if the writing is far bumpier"; Written on the Skin: An Australian Forensic Casebook by Liz Porter who shows how evidence simply doesn't lie and how technology can offer order, retributive justice and compensatory values in a world where these are repeatedly found lacking"; Dovetail Road by Graham Kenshaw who "is a passable writer but he hasn't learned to take risks with his material and this fabricated friction is rather anodyne"; Dark Roots by Cate Kennedy: "is a revelation. Here's a writer who can be dark, moody, funny and provocative, often in the same story"; The Secret Familiar by Catherine Jinks, readers of which should be "possessed of a strong stomach."

Catherine Jinks Profile

In "The Sydney Morning Herald", Clara Iaccarino profiles Catherine Jinks, the Brisbane-born, Blue Mountains-based author who has just published her 30th book, The Secret Familiar. "Much to her (and her agent's) chagrin, the only defining characteristic of Jinks's work is her name. Her chops and changes between genres have seen her fall between the cracks of popular and literary fiction and she has failed to corner one particular market. Medieval history is her comfort genre ('it's like coming home after travelling') but her tendency to become easily bored means she won't write two medieval thrillers back to back. She's well-known in 'teacher-librarian circles', but Jinks believes her failure to be pigeonholed as a writer of one genre is her downfall in terms of more widespread notoriety."

2006 Best of Year Lists

A round-up of the Best of Year Lists:

In "The Guardian", Mariella Frostrup chooses: "Theft: A Love Story by Peter Carey offers muscular prose and a story that whips its way from Sydney to New York through the pretence of the art world, asks interesting questions and offers a rollicking adventure"; MJ Hyland writes: "My favourite book of 2005/2006 was Jose Saramago's Seeing. It doesn't match Blindness but is extraordinary nevertheless. Saramago is a smart and profoundly strange writer"; and Siri Hustvedt: "Theft by Peter Carey. His sentences always crackle. In Theft, it was the relation between the two brothers and the keen realisation of each voice that I especially loved"; Andrea Levy Chose Kate Grenville's The Secret River; Hilary Mantel: "The novel that has intrigued me most this year is MJ Hyland's Booker-shortlisted Carry Me Down about a giant boy growing up in Ireland in the 1970s. It is impossible to guess what this original talent will produce next"; and Colm Tóibín states "Carmen Callil's Bad Faith is a meticulously researched and shocking account of the rise and the rule of the venal anti-Semite Louis Darquier who, amazingly, held power in Vichy France and was responsible for the deaths of many people. The complex story is told with real narrative skill and contained indignation".

Marcel Berlins, in "The Times", picks Peter Temple's The Broken Shore in his Best of Crime list and describes it as "a wonderful surprise, full of rich characterisation, sharp dialogue, believable emotions and a pungent whiff of small-town Australia. Joe Cashin's guilt over a bungled stakeout has reduced the tough Melbourne cop to a tormented loner in a shabby resort. Aboriginal boys are suspected of killing a local worthy. Seeking the truth provokes a traumatic journey through the town's buried secrets, and those of Cashin's own family."

Still in "The Times" and Gordon Ramsay was impressed with Justin North and his book Becassé which is "is part travelogue, part recipe book and takes us from pigeon farms in Victoria to fishing villages in Tasmania and blood orange farms near Canberra. Some of the recipes are quite cheffy, but at their heart is North's love of properly sourced food. The section on flavoured salts is particularly fascinating."

In the Children's, age 11+ section, Amanda Craig lists "Michael Morpurgo's Alone on the Wide, Wide Sea is also about love and sea. Arthur is sent from Liverpool to Australia to escape the Second World War but finds cruelty and forced labour in the Outback. Years later his daughter Allie makes the return journey alone in a sailing boat. Lyrical and moving, it is one of the former Children's Laureate's best books for years."

It was a bit of a surprise to find any Australian books listed in Canada's "Globe and Mail" but Andrew Nikiforuk chose The Weather Makers: How We are Changing the Climate and What It Means for Life on Earth by Tim Flannery: "Australian paleontologist Tim Flannery's highly critical and maddeningly important analysis of the globe's wacky carbon dictatorship will fuel dinner arguments, spark school debates and rudely challenge the deniers. Flannery's warning is blunt, simple and accurate: Business as usual will mean the inevitable collapse of civilization. He does think we can still prevent chaos with modest behavioural changes that won't send Homo economicus to bankruptcy court."

Later in the same list, Mark Frutkin includes The Secret River by Kate Grenville: "Through the lives of the family of William Thornhill, his wife Sal and their two young children, Grenville delivers a novel that goes to the heart of Australia's settling by British convicts and their uneasy relationship with the aboriginals of that raw, sun-scorched island. She masterfully creates three distinct, believable worlds: down-and-out London in the 1790s; Sydney, Australia, in its first rough days; and a 100-acre freehold surrounded by untamed bush."

And Martin Levin choses Carry Me Down by M. J. Hyland, which is "a very fine book, and its half-daft 11-year-old narrator, John Egan, a truly memorable creation. The novel is his account of a crucial year in his life in a rural Irish cottage not far from Dublin, where he lives with his unemployed, angry and intellectually pretentious father, his now-needy, now-remote mother and his more controlling than loving grandmother. John feels certain that he is destined for greatness, owing to a self-proclaimed genius: an ability to tell when someone is lying -- although, in quasi-autistic fashion, he can't quite work out why people lie."

In "The New Statesman", Christopher Bray says "David Thomson's Nicole Kidman was a scalpel-subtle probing of what it means to be an actor"; and Geoffrey Robertson finds that "Tom Keneally's The Commonwealth of Thieves is thoughtful, readable and revelatory, especially about the admirable Admiral Arthur Phillip, whose humanity and compassion towards Aborigines and convicts was extraordinary in an age of savagery and slavery. The British have never honoured Phillip (probably because he was Jewish), so it is appropriate for Australians to claim him as their 'founding father', without whose leadership the country would have been colonised by the French, who do not play cricket."

There's more than a good chance this won't be the last of them. The Australian papers haven't listed their yet for one thing.

Sean Williams Interview

Sean Williams, sf and fantasy author from Adelaide, is interviewed by Rob Bedford on the website. "I do find that writing SF and fantasy can be very different on both a nuts-and-bolts level and in terms of other fundamental perspectives. Fantasy is more overtly about character and landscape, while good SF self-consciously uses science and the scientific method to take us places on wings made of metal, not feathers."

[Link from Sean's website.]

Poem: A Song of Southern Writers by Henry Lawson (Part 2)

Southern men of letters, seeking kinder fields across the waves,
Tell a shameful tale entitled "Deniehy's Forgotten Grave".
Ask the South of Charles Harpur! Seek the bitter truth, and tell
Of the life of Henry Kendall, in the land he loved so well!
Sing the songs he wrote in vain! Touch the South with bitter things;
Take the harp he touched so gently; show the blood upon the strings!

It was kind of Southern critics; it was very brave to mouth
At the volume of his boyhood, that was published in the South.
Kendall knew it all -- he knew it; and the tears were very near
When he spoke about the sorrows of "the man of letters here".
(And his wail of "O, My Brother!" came again to one who went
To his grave before "his brothers" mocked him with a monument.)

Banish envy, Southern writer! Strike with no uncertain hand,
For the sound of Gordon's rifle still is ringing through the land!
Ah! the niggard recognition! Ah! the "fame" that came in vain
To the poor dead poet lying with a bullet though his brain!
"Gone, my friends!" (he thought it better to be gone away from here),
Gone, my friends, with "last year's dead leaves ... at the falling of the year".

Pleasant land for one who proses, pleasant land for one who rhymes
With the terrible advantage of a knowledge of hard times:
To be patronised, "encouraged", praised for his contempt of "pelf",
To be told of greater writers who were paupers, like himself;
To be buried as a pauper; to be shoved beneath the sod --
While the brainless man of muscle has the burial of a god.

We have learned the rights of labour. Let the Southern writers start
Agitating, too, for letters and for music and for art,
Till Australian scenes on canvas shall repay the artist's hand,
And the songs of Southern poets shall be ringing thro' the land,
Till the galleries of Europe have a place for Southern scenes,
And our journals crawl no longer to the Northern magazines.

First published in The Bulletin, 28 May 1892
[The first part of this poem was published last week.]

100 Notable Books of the Year

"The New York Times" has released its list of the best 100 books of the year. A quick scan reveals no Australian books in the Fiction section, and only Things I Didn't Know: A Memoir by Robert Hughes in the Non-Fiction.

Reviews of Australian Books #37

After the early newspaper reviews of Clive James's new memoir, North Face of Soho, now we start to get the longer, dare I say "more considered", reviews in the journals and magazines. Such a review is Christopher Hitchens's in "The Times Literary Supplement": "The great Peter De Vries, when asked about the nature of his ambition, replied that he yearned for a mass audience that would be large enough for his elite audience to despise. In this latest volume of his tragicomic autobiography, Clive James admits twice to a similar aspiration."

Peter Carey's True History of the Kelly Gang gets a brief mention by Ann on the "Bibliog" weblog, which includes links to the Sacramento Public Library catalog. "Carey chose to tell the story from Kelly's point of view, mimicking the style of Kelly's own writings, as preserved in the Jerilderie Letter, for example. Once you get past the unusual and colloquial language, the images he draws of life in those times are riveting and appalling."

In the "Bulletin" magazine, it's all cricket books as far as the eye can see: Ashley Hay just lists them; Gideon Haigh looks at Records are Made to be Broken: The Real Story of Bill Ponsford by John Leckey; and Andrew Stafford probes a bit deeper - but not much - into Captain's Diary 2006 by Ricky Ponting and Silent Revolutions by Gideon Haigh. Well, Haigh couldn't review his own book, could he?

Literary Gatherings #5 - Stephens, Rudd, Lindsay, Quinn and Lindsay


From left: A.G. Stephens, Steele Rudd, Lionel Lindsay, Roderic Quinn and Norman

On Other Blogs #11

Peter Nicholson, writer of the Poetry and Culture column on the "3 Quarks Daily" weblog, writes about the Ern Malley affair in his latest piece. Ern Malley was a fictitious poet invented by James McAuley and Harold Stewart in the 1943 "to expose what the perpetrators thought of as Modernism's foolishness." Such is the nature of the Australian literary soul the "hoax poem becomes, even against its makers best intentions, a serious work of art." Ern Malley was also the inspiration behind Peter Carey's novel My Life as a Fake.

Ben Peek makes a guest appearance on the "Talking Squid" weblog, explaining that "once you accept that you're a shallow, egotistical maniac out only for yourself, you don't have to bother with making yourself a better person. You've accepted something bad. You've embraced it." If this piece leaves you wanting more from Ben, you can read excerpts from his autobiography, Twenty-Six Lies/One Truth, on the Wheatland Press website.

Kimbofo, from the "Reading Matters" weblog, cross-posted her piece about litbloggers and review copies on the "MetaxuCafe" weblog and found herself in a sea of comments - some of them personal, and therefore highly suspect. I think some of them completely missed the point.

Bonny Symons-Brown interviews Jack Durack, who is the Chair of Sydney PEN's Writers in Prison Committee, about the committee's work, their successes and the tasks ahead.


Ilura Press is publishing a new Australian literary magazine titled Etchings, and the first issue is now out.

The magazine is descibed as "a triannual publication with an international focus, dedicated to showcasing new work by emerging and established writers and artists." They are currently accepting submissions for the second issue.

In addition to the magazine, "Ilura Press is also running a 'Fiction Quest' competition for unpublished novels. The shortlist has been generated and the two winners (the prizes being a $5,000 advance each) will be announced in early December. We will be publishing novel-length fiction from 2007."

It will be a hard road, but I wish them well.

Ashes Cricket Poetry Weblog

It's hard to believe you could put those four words into a title without it being a joke. But that is what is proposed. From the website:


To dispatch a poet, David Fine, to the Antipodes for the next five test matches between England and Australia in order to describe and explain the series in poetry, and explore the relationship between the two sides, supporters and countries as a poetical anthropologist.


Twenty five poems, one for each day's play in the five tests between 23rd November 2006 - 6th January 2007. This would be the key outcome. An example, Gardening With Afridi, from last season's overseas' tours, is included below:- · Working with The Barmy Army and others to review literary horizons and appeal of poetry... · A poetical-anthropological series of essays; style between Bill Bryson & C L R James · A regular end-of-play radio programme reflecting the atmosphere and feel around the game itself - a radio essay for Radio Derby after the end of play each day and Peak Support will provide all equipment and training for me to do this. · report back to National Association of Literature Development on Australian literature development.

There has been some cricket poetry written in Australia with the most notable probably being How M'Dougall Topped the Score by Thomas E. Spencer. Needless to say C.J. Dennis a number during his period as resident poet for the Melbourne "Herald". We'll keep an eye on this one.

Australian Bookcovers #39 - Confederates by Tom Keneally


Confederates by Thomas Keneally, 1979
(Sceptre 1999 edition)
This novel was shortlisted for the 1979 Booker Prize.

Weekend Round-Up 2006 #43

The Age

The Best of... Australian books are starting to hit the bookshelves in time for Christmas, and "The Age" this week looks at the two major poetry collections we get at this time of year: The Best Australian Poetry 2006 edited by Judith Beveridge (from UQP) and The Best Australian Poems 2006 edited by Dorothy Porter (from Black Inc). Lyn McCredden examines both books in a review that doesn't appear to be on the website.

"The two editors are themselves accomplished poets who, in very different ways, have contributed abundantly to the ways language and the world are felt and seen and understood in Australia, and beyond. While Beveridge keeps it tight, with only 40 poems carefully culled from this year's literary journals, Porter has room to move -- to sashay, slither and deliciously meander indeed -- with more than 100 poems from books, journals and individual submissions. Both methods reveal a lot, unashamedly, about the editors as constructors of the poetic in Australia...

"If you want to take the plunge and read some of the fine work being written by contemporary Australian poets, UQP and Black Inc's anthologies offer the opportunity to be 'transported, delighted, changed' (Porter). Each voice is so distinct. You will, possibly, be humbled by these poets' words as they take you well beyond your self."

Short notices are given to: In the Name of Decent Citizens: The Trials of Frank de Groot by Brian Wright: "On one level Frank de Groot's cutting of the ceremonial ribbon at the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932 is one of the ore Keystone Cops episodes in Australian history. Not so comic, however, was the New Guard, the paramilitary, far-right-cum-fascist organisation he did it for"; The Murderers' Club by P.D. Martin which "is a real page-turner, with a dastardly mix of villians. Although its climax is a bit predictable, it's still great fun"; Diamonds in the Mud and Other Stories by Joy Dettman who "writes about the bush with an unromantic eye, and her novels are peopled with richly drawn characters who talk in the kind of bush lingo Henry Lawson would have been proud to have captured"; Margaret Whitlam by Susan Mitchell whose "biography makes one relieved to find out that the suggestions of conviviality, cleverness and strength that we see in Margaret Whitlam's public persona are actually matched by her private performance"; Meanjin 65.3 edited by Ian Britain & Mark Mordue: "It's as much about rock 'n' roll culture as rock 'n roll music. As Mark Mordue, guest co-editor of this special issue, suggests, music is about place and experience and emotion, about who we are and where we've been. It's not just about notes and rhythms", The Imaginary Gentleman by Helen Halstead: "In this her second novel, Halstead has made clear her intention to pursue the Regency genre and set herself up as an antipodean Georgette Heyer."

The Australian

"The Australian" is a bit odd this week, with lots of Australian books under review but none of them covered at any depth. For example, Peter Lalor comes to grip with the recent avalanche of cricket books. There are eleven of them in the review, too many to list individually, and as Lalor puts it: "In most cases, the name on the cover is more important than the content." You get everyone from Ricky Ponting, to Shane Warne, to Jack Egan and David Boon. Even for a cricket nut like me it's a bit much. Might just have to stick with Gideon Haigh's couple: Cricket History and The Summer Game.

Struggling with the problem of reviewing a collection of essays, Barry Hill doesn't attempt to dip into every entry, just gives an overview and the highlights of Chris Wallace-Crabb's Read It Again. "His essays are richly erudite and under very interesting pressure, for the good old days when poetry seemed to have a clear place in the culture have long gone...As if this were not bad enough, poetry's enemies seem manifold, and include the postmodern academy, as well as all those language users who would ride roughshod over the poet's careful love for each living, singing, meaning syllable." Which is probbly a good a method as you can get. In the end, "poets, critics and the literary general reader will glean good things from the collection."

I've got a couple of Miriam Estensen's books on the shelves waiting to be read and her latest, Terra Australia Incognita: The Spanish Quest for the Mysterious Great South Land, also looks interesting. Jennifer Moran finds that she is "quietly filling a bookshelf with her dissertations on maritime exploration and explorers (her previous books include Discovery: The Quest for the Great South Land, The Life of Matthew Flinders and The Life of George Bass: Surgeon and Sailor of the Enlightenment) has here focused on the Spanish explorers who sailed in search of the landmass Ptolemy had proposed would balance the world in the south. She is especially interested in the three notable voyages of discovery that took place in the second half of the 16th and first decade of the 17th centuries." The Spanish, however, feel victim to their own ambitions: ill-planned, ill-manned and with religious aims that belied the pursuit of riches.

Australian Plays to Film #5 - Brilliant Lies by David Williamson


Brilliant Lies 1996
Directed by Richard Franklin
Screenplay by Peter Fitzpatrick and Richard Franklin from the play by David Williamson
Featuring Gia Carides, Anthony LaPaglia, Zoe Carides, Ray Barrett and Michael Veitch.

Poem: A Song of Southern Writers by Henry Lawson (Part 1)

Southern men of letters, vainly seeking recognition here --
Southern men of letters, driven to the Northern Hemisphere!
It is time your wrongs were known; it is time you claimed redress --
Time that you were independent of the mighty Northern press.
Sing a song of Southern writers, sing a song of Southern fame,
Of the dawn of art and letters and your native country's shame.

Talent goes for little here. To be aided, to be known,
You must fly to Northern critics who are juster than our own.
Oh! the critics of your country will be very proud of you,
When you're recognised in London by an editor or two.
You may write above the standard, but your work is seldom seen
Till it's noticed and reprinted in an English magazine.

In the land where sport is sacred, where the lab'rer is a god,
You must pander to the people, make a hero of a clod!
What avail the sacrifices of the battle you begin
For the literary honour of the land we're living in?
Print a masterpiece in Melbourne, and it will be lost, I ween,
But your weakest stuff is clever in a London magazine.

Write a story of the South, write it true and make it clear,
Put your soul in ever sentence, have the volume published here,
And 'twill only be accepted by our critics in the mist
As a "worthy imitation" of a Northern novelist.
For the volume needs the mighty Paternister Row machine,
With a patronising notice in an English magazine.

What of literary merit, while the Southern reader glories
In "American exchanges", with their childish nigger-stories;
In the jokes that ancient Romans chuckled over after lunch;
In the dull and starchy humour of the dreary London Punch?
Here they'll laugh at Southern humour -- laugh till they are out of breath --
When it's stolen from the papers that Australia starves to death!

Do we ask why native talent -- art and music cannot stay?
Why Australian men of letters emigrate and keep away?
Do we ask why genius often vanishes beyond recall?
From the wrecks of honest journals comes the answer to it all.
Over Southern journalism let the epitaph be seen:

First published in The Bulletin, 28 May 1892
[The second part of this poem will be published next week.]

Peter Temple

As Susan Wyndham in "The Sydney Morning Herald" so rightly points out, 2006 has been a big year for Peter Temple. His latest novel, The Broken Shore, "won Temple a fifth Ned Kelly Award for crime writing but also took out the Colin Roderick Award for the best book about Australia, the best general fiction award from the Australian book industry and - unheard of for a crime book - was shortlisted for the country's top fiction award, the Miles Franklin." Longlisted actually, but let's not quibble. Now Temple has been awarded a two-year $90,000 fellowship by the Australia Council for the Arts. All power to his writing arm.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak have rated The Book Thief by Markus Zusak at the top of their list of best teen books of 2006.

The novel has been given a five-star rating by 101 reviews on the Amazon site. It was published in the US in March 2006, and is still at #639 on the Books best-selling list.

2006 Melbourne Prize for Literature

The winners of the 2006 Melbourne Prize for Literature were announced last night.

Helen Garner won the major award for a body of work that "has made an outstanding contribution to Australian literature and to cultural and intellectual life", and Christos Tsiolkas won the best writing prize for a writer under 40, for his novel Dead Europe.

Reviews of Australian Books #36

Lisa Hilton reviews Lian Hearn's new fantasy novel, The Harsh Cry of the Heron, in "The Telegraph": "From The Lord of the Rings to Malory Towers there is a fascination in a certain type of children's literature with hierarchy and organisation, and the first 300 pages of this latest instalment of the popular 'Tales of the Otori' saga can make heavy going as the warlords, mystics and even the horses of Lian Hearn's mythicised Japan, the Three Countries, are wheeled onstage to have their purpose explained...Once the story hits its stride, there is much to enjoy - treacherous plots, possession by the spirits, some cracking battle scenes, and Lian Hearn writes with a delicate attention to detail that creates an all-encompassing world around her characters."

Alan Brownjohn welcomes the latest poetry collection from Les Murray, The Bi-plane Houses, in "The Sunday Times". "It is rare to find a writer who carries the reader along with such exuberant delight in the art, even through a number of defiantly puzzling passages. Some excellent poets can be difficult to quote from. Murray provides an embarrassment of choices: on animal noses ('no stench is infra dog'), or money ('The more invisible the money / the vaster and swifter its action'), or dolphins ('like 3D surfboards / born in the ocean, (they) curvet / around fenced oyster gardens')...Murray is not an easy poet; yet he can be amazingly rewarding in poems where you have to work a bit to match the complexity of his images with the landscapes he is trying to capture in them."

We don't often get new reviews of very old Australian books, so I was interested to come across Jonathan Scanlon's review of William Lane's The Working Man's Paradise: An Australian Labour Novel. "Originally published in 1892, it was written to explain unionism and 'socialism' to all who were interested, and to raise funds for the release of gaoled unionists. Since then, it has become part of Australia's literary heritage, and I relished reading every passage of this fine work of propaganda." In this day and age, the title comes across as very ironic. The book, by the way, is in the public domain, and you can download a PDF eBook of the text from The University of Sydney.

DLanguageArchitect in Singapore, provides a short review of Kate Grenville's The Secret River, suggesting that "The first few pages remind me of Conrad's Heart of Darkness."

If you haven't had enough yet of David Thompson's Book Nicole Kidman, then I suggest you hie yourself over to to the metacritic website for their round-up of reviews of the book. Their final verdict: 44 out of 100 - no so flash. Reviews range from Tim Rosenthal in "The Independent": "This is the most illuminating book about a film star that I've read."; to "The New Yorker" review: "What begins as an analysis of stardom ends up as a case study of fandom."

Robert Hughes on "Enough Rope"

As mentioned in the comments section recently, Robert Hughes was interviewed by Andrew Denton on ABC TV's "Enough Rope" on Monday 13th November. You can read a transcript of the interview, download an mp3 podcast and watch a video excerpt. This is what I love about the ABC - not only do they provide interesting programs such as this, but they also allow us to follow up if we missed it. Technology at its best.

Great Australian Authors #33 - Roderic Quinn


Roderic Quinn (1867 - 1949)

The night-long clamour of winds grew still;
   The forest rested, its foes withdrawn;
On sounding ocean and silent hill
   There crept a sense of the coming dawn.

A bird awoke on a leaning limb
   And fluttered its plumes a moment's space;
Dark purple lay on the sea's far rim:
   The sky grew pale as a dying face.

Then all the trees and the rocks and heights
   With wondering faces watched the East;
It seemed an altar hung with lights
   And waiting for a vestured priest.

And in that intimate first hour
   When land and sea rejoiced as one,
And Nature, like an opening flower,
   Gave incense, came the burning sun.

Yet, while the hour of gold went by,
   I saw through all its pageantry
The vast indifference of the sky,
   The heartless beauty of the sea.

For wet and wan, and cold and sped
   Beyond the breakers' reach of pearl,
There lay a strong man drowned and dead,
   And in his arms a drowned white girl.

At Dawn by Roderic Quinn

2007 Perth International Arts Festival

The program for the

Interview with Clive James

You could be forgiven for being a little tired of Clive James entries here. There have been quite a few mentions of him over the past few weeks. But, let's face it, he's a major figure on the Australian literary landscape and the latest volume of his memoirs has been reviewed all over the place. There has been the odd interview, though few, I suspect, which garner as much about James's future plans as the recent one in "The Sunday Times" by Bryan Appleyard. Nor about his political leanings: "He is, like his friend and compatriot Robert Hughes, culturally conservative and politically left-wing. 'I was brought up on the proletarian left, and I remain there. The fair go for the workers is fundamental, and I don't believe the free market has a mind.' He sees, rightly, the failure to understand the importance of cultural transmission as one of the great failings of the left. And, of course, he intends to write a book about where the left went wrong."

I saw James on a lecture tour of Australia in the late 1990s, and, if you'd asked me then, I would never have picked him as left-wing - centre-right more likely. Extolling the virtues of the monarchy in the middle of the debate on the republic referendum might have been the main cause for that thought.

Phillip Noyce and Dirt Music

A couple of weeks back I posted a comment from Phillip Noyce about his upcoming adaptation of Tim Winton's Dirt Music. Noyce is now back in Australia promoting his latest film, "Catch a Fire", and in the midst of a profile in "The Australian" there is the following paragraph: "Dividing his time between Los Angeles, London and Sydney, Noyce's future
projects include Tim Winton's Dirt Music -- 'It is a hard one, very much a literary invention, the texture and everything' -- and Philip Roth's American Pastoral. 'That one is easier. So we will see which one gets it together out.'" Good to see he's so busy, and also good to see that he's working both here and overseas.

Selected Verse of C.J. Dennis

It's not often that good old "Den" gets much of an outing these days - that is, if you exempt certain scurrilous little web logs where he seems to turn up with monotonous regularity. So it's good to see him get a mention on the web, and especially on non-Australian web pages.

Nancy Pearl has been described by "The New York Times" as "the librarian version of a rock star" for her books Book Lust and More Book Lust, both of which are subtitled "Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason." She has put her name to a website called "Book Lust: A Community for People Who Love Books with Nancy Pearl", which is a series of web pages that encourage submissions from readers.

One of the topics under discussion is the old favourite "Desert Island Books", which raises the question "If you were stranded on a desert island with only 10 books to read, which would you want with you?" It's one that is played around the world and wouldn't be one I took much notice of usually, except, in this case, C.J. Dennis gets mentioned.

It doesn't seem possible to determine the nationality of the authors of these lists so I won't try. let's assume they are international and leave it at that. The relevant submission (it's some way down the page) comes from Leisa, who lists her top ten as:

1. Participating in Nature: Thomas J. Elpel's Field Guide to Primitive Living Skills
2. Selected Verse of CJ Dennis
3. The Mysterious Stranger and other stories - Mark Twain
4. Daughter of Fortune - Isabel Allende
5. A Portrait in Sepia - Isabel Allende
6. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
7. Full Tilt: Ireland to India With a Bicycle - Dervla Murphy
8. On a Shoestring to Coorg: An Experience of South India - Dervla Murphy
9. In Ethiopia with a Mule - Dervla Murphy
10. Darling Buds of May - H.E. Bates.

An interesting, and relatively diverse, list indeed - I especially liked the first entry. She seems to want to be sure she stays alive long enough to re-read the other nine. But it's the Dennis entry that catches my eye.

Selected Verse of C.J. Dennis was first published in 1950, some 12 years after Dennis's death, chosen and introduced by Alec H. Chisholm, a man who knew and worked with Dennis, and who published the first major biography of the writer, The Making of the Sentimental Bloke, in 1946. The collection takes poems from Dennis's major works, such as The Sentimental Bloke, Jim of the Hills, Digger Smith, The Glugs of Gosh, Ginger Mick, Blackblock Ballads, The Book for Kids and Doreen, as well as selections from The Backblock Ballads collections and The Singing Garden. It's a good overall introduction to the work of Dennis, taking you through his working career and hitting all the high points. You could do worse than buy a copy if you wanted to find out more about the author that I rate in the top half-dozen Australian poets of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

I doubt whether Leisa's inclusion of Dennis on her list will increase his readership but it made my day to see him there.

On Other Blogs #10

Dean follows up on the Tim Flannery award story over on his weblog. Flannery looks like starting his work at Macquarie University at the start of the 2007 academic year.

Kim, on her "Reading Matters" blog, raises some very interesting questions regarding the relationships between lit bloggers and publishers. It's made me rethink my own review policies and incorporate her ideas into mine. A very lively discussion has ensued over her comments, with some commenters not totally in agreement.

Margo Lanagan gets back into blogging, after being swamped at work, only to come off her bike and break a collarbone. Given she is only typing with one hand now expect the postings to drop off. We wish her well.

Jo Case, deputy editor of "Australian Book Review", blogs about her bimonthly appearance on Triple R, a Melbourne community radio station. Good stuff it is, too.

1000th Entry Milestone

This is the 1,000th posting to this weblog since I started in December 2004. Just putting
this here as a milestone pointer.

Weekend Round-Up 2006 #42

The Age

Gabrielle Carey is best known as the other half of the writing duo responsible for Puberty Blues, the 1979 coming-of-age novel she wrote with Kathy Lette. Now Carey has written a memoir, So Many Selves which is reviewed by Marieke Hardy. Needless to say there is a fair bit about her erstwhile writing partner in the first of three essays in the collection: "Certainly Carey accepts she was ill-prepared for the infamy that followed Puberty Blues's publication and withdrew into a world of intellectual snobbery and ponderous overthinking. But Lette was a dirty loudmouthed slagbag whose hunger for celebrity inevitably drove them apart. Or something like that, anyway; it's hard to read between the lines of the rather vitriolic and one-sided recollections." The other two essays deal "with Carey's somewhat mystifying foray into spirituality and her years immersed in a Third-World love story with the father of her child." In the end, Hardy is not overly impressed: "Possibly a phone call inviting Lette out for a beer and a hug might've served her better in the long term - at the very least it may have balanced Carey's memoirs into something a little more real."

I read Emily Maguire's first novel, Taming the Beast, last year and found it over-the-top, probably in need of a good editing. Others didn't agree and she was nominated for several awards and praised by one American litblogger. Now her second novel, The Gospel According to Luke, has been published and Marian McCarthy finds it more competent than compelling: "It is an interesting novel, with compelling ideas, and Maguire is without question a talented writer. It is therefore frustrating that the book's execution is more competent than thrilling, and one can't help but wish she had spent longer distilling her thoughts." The book has a lot going for it as it "has many intriguing themes: the struggle of love versus organised belief; faith versus science; and body versus mind. It examines the gulf between practical and religious morality and asks whether it is possible to forge a relationship if you have to sacrifice your essence to do so. And if one does make this choice, then what kind of relationship will it be? Who do you become? And what gives your life meaning?" All interesting concepts, it's the execution that's the thing. "Maguire is an exciting writer with a wonderful, confrontational style, and is clearly someone to watch. I shall look forward to her next novel immensely. I do hope she takes her time."

Matthew Ricketson reviews the book of the moment, Jonestown: The Power and the Myth of Alan Jones by Chris Masters. He makes a good point in comparing with the recent biography of Shane Warne by Paul Barry, "where, in the end, Barry tells us little new about Warne, Masters unveils a richly detailed and surprisingly rounded portrait of Jones. Jonestown is Sydney, and Alan Jones' broadcasting success and much-feared power appear to be a peculiarly Sydney phenomenon." And he also considers Masters's initial motives to be sound: "Masters may want to understand Jones but that does not mean he agrees with what he does. Far from it. The aim of Jonestown is to take Jones seriously as a person and as a broadcaster, so as to begin a serious debate about the nexus between politics and the media in Australia."

Short notices are given to: Quarterly Essay 23. The History Question: Who Owns the Past? by Inga Clendinnen: "The past is a magic pudding that belongs to everyone, from politicians in search of icons to novelists looking for ready-made plots, says Inga Clendinnen"; Any Guru Will Do: A Modern Man's Search for Meaning by Phil Brown who "is a natural at mining his neuroses and bodily afflictions for rueful humour that reflects the obsessions of his time"; The Little History of Australian Unionism by Sean Scalmer: "Compact and accessible, this is a lively and informative tribute to collective power"; The Fight by Martin Flanagan and Tom Uren, which is built like a mosaic from memories, reflections, discussions and fragments that show, as very few biographies ever do, how individuals are the sum of their relationships with other people"; The Curer of Souls by Lindsay Simpson is "meticulously researched historical fiction, based on extensive readings of colonial diaries and other sources"; Making Noises by Euan Mitchell, who "knows his rock 'n' roll - he played in a pub band himself - and this laid-back ironic take on the Australian music industry in the '90s captures the spirit of the time. It's fast-paced and grungy, full of backroom intrigue and colorful characters"; Acting on Conscience by Frank Brennan: "In these toughtful essays, Jesuit priest, human rights lawyer and academic Frank Brennan considers religion's place in public affairs in a country where church and state are separate"; Imprints of Generations by Robert Ingpen: "This handsome hardback is a plea not only 'to maintain a constant watch over what we know we have' but also to preserve it for future generations"; San Sombrero by Santo Gilauro, Tom Gleisner and Rob Sitch: "The Jetlag Travel Guides work on multiple levels: parodying the genre, satirising various species of ttaveller and indulging in general jokiness and wordplay", Murder in the Dark by Kerry Greenwood is "the 16th book in the Kerry Greenwood Phyrne Fisher mystery series and the world's a better place for it."

The Australian

Ross Fitzgerald's review of Jonestown by Chris Masters leads off reviews here, and Fitzgerald considers the book a massacre: "Chris Masters has a fine CV, especially in the field of television documentaries. What a shame, then, that he has written such a mean-spirited and quite unbalanced biographical expose of Sydney-based broadcaster Alan Jones." It goes on, laying into Masters on all sides calling him "intemperate in his analysis", and some of his comments "mischievous and quite absurd". If you are looking for the other side of the review fence, then this is it.

Gabrielle Carey's memoir So Many Selves is reviewed in somewhat different light (to Marieke Hardy's above) by Jean Bedford. "Placed together as they are in So Many Selves, these essays describe the arc of a life begun in precocious confusion and fame, and continued in a serious search for enlightenment and purpose. But it's the exuberance of the first essay, both in subject and writing, that dominates."

Short notices are given to: Running Amok: When News Deadlines, Family and Foreign Affairs Collide by Mark Bowling, who spent 4 years in Indonesia from 1998 as ABC correspondent, and who is "brutally honest"; The Great Mistakes of Australian History edited by Martin Crotty and David Andrew Roberts: "The denial of Aboriginal rights, the misuse of rural land, wartime internment of enemy aliens: many issues of the past still resonate"; Between the Flags: One Hundred Summers of Australian Surf Lifesaving edited by Ed Jaggard: "The lively critical text is supported by 150 archival images and paintings."


The Whitlam Government 1972-1975 by Gough Whitlam, 1985
Cover by Helen Semmler
(Viking 1986 edition)

2006 Melbourne Prize for

As we posted in May, the Melbourne Prize for Literature is Australia's largest literary award, and the winners of the main prize and the Best Writing Award will be announced next week. Joel Becker and Noel Turnbull have a look at the shortlisted authors and works in "The Age".

2006 Patrick White Award

Morris Lurie has been announced as the winner of the 2006 Patrick White Award. The award is presented annually to an Australian writer of longstanding who has failed to receive their due recognition. It was established by Patrick White using the monies he received along with his Novel Prize for Literature in 1973. Wikipedia has a full list of the past recipients.

Reviews by Australians #6

Geraldine Brooks reviews The View from Castle Rock, a new collection of stories by Alice Munro, for "The Washington Post", and sees linkages with her own family history: "My mother's childhood was shaped by a small town named Boorowa in the flat plains west of Australia's Great Dividing Range, and the stories she told of her years there shaped my childhood in its turn. Boorowa and my mother's tales about it were much on my mind as I read Alice Munro's latest collection of stories, The View From Castle Rock...Reading Munro, I often feel like that little girl, my mother, shivering in her dew-drenched nightgown, determinedly searching for an elusive, valuable thing. And that thing is the secret to Munro's prose. There are no pyrotechnics in it, very little poetry. The few similes are apt but not dazzlingly so. There is suspense, but it is contrived without resort to any obvious devices. In short, Munro is the illusionist whose trick can never be exposed. And that is because there is no smoke, there are no mirrors. Munro really does know magic: how to summon the spirits and the emotions that animate our lives?"

Leading into Remembrance Day Nicholas Shakespeare reviews The Berlin Wall: 13 August 1961 - 9 November 1989 by Frederick Taylor in "The Telegraph". "Few visitors to Berlin in the months following November 9, 1989 will have forgotten the eerie sound that penetrated the nights, of people chipping at concrete. It was like the sound of a nocturnal creature feeding. On a subsequent visit, I walked to the city centre with a West Berliner. Panic seized him when he sought to show where the Wall, which for 28 years had defined his life, had stood. We were in sight of Checkpoint Charlie, but he could not remember. 'It was here, I think. No, no, it was here. Or was it there?'" The wall, along with apartheid in South Africa, was something I thought would remain throughout my lifetime.

Extract: Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living by Carrie Tiffany

With its shortlisting for the "Guardian" first book award, the newspaper has published an extract from Carrie Tiffany's novel Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living.

Australian Books to Film #21- Tim


Tim 1979
Directed by Michael Pate
Screenplay by Michael Pate from the novel by Colleen McCullough
Featuring Mel Gibson, Piper Laurie, Alwyn Kurts, Pat Evison and Peter Gwynne.

Poem: Armistice Day, 1933 by C.J. Dennis

This we have said: "We shall remember them."
   And deep our sorrow while the deed was young.
Even as David mourned for Absolem
   Mourned we, with aching heart and grievous tongue.
Yet, what man grieves for long? Time hastens by
   And ageing memory, clutching at its hem,
Harks back, as silence falls, to gaze and sigh;
   For we have said, "We shall remember them."

"Age shall not wither. . ." So the world runs on.
   We grieve, and sleep, and wake to laugh again;
And babes, untouched by pain of days long gone,
   Untaught by sacrifice, grow into men.
What should these know of darkness and despair,
   Of glory, now seen dimly, like a gem
Glowing thro' dust, that we let gather there? --
   We who have said, "We shall remember them."

Grey men go marching down this street today:
   Grave men, whose ranks grow pitifully spare.
Into the West each year they drift away
   From silence into silence over there.
Unsung, unnoticed, quietly they go,
   Mayhap to rest; mayhap a diadem
To claim, that was denied them here below
   By those who vowed, "We shall remember them."

"We shall remember them." This have we said.
   Nor sighs, nor silences devoutly planned
Alone shall satisfy the proud young dead;
   But all things that we do to this their land --
Aye, theirs; not ours; of this be very sure;
   Theirs, too, the right to credit or condemn.
And, if the soul they gave it shall endure,
   Well may we say, "We have remembered them."

First published in The Herald, 11 November 1933

Tim Flannery Award

Susan Wyndham, in "The Sydney Morning Herald" reports that Tim Flannery has been awarded the Lannan Foundation Literary Award, which is worth a cool $US150,000. The award was presented to Flannery for his "excellence in nonfiction". The author's most recent book was The Weather Makers.

The Big Book Club

Their website probably says it best: "The Big Book Club Incorporated is a not for profit arts organization. Our mission is to promote reading, the discussion of books and the promotion of South Australian and Australian authors.

"The Big Book Club Incorporated manages two major projects:

"The Big Book Club for adults
The Advertiser Little Big Book Club for parents of children aged between 0 - 5 years. "

Subtitled "South Australia Reads Together" it's a bit like those "one city, one book' events we hear about from time to time. This month's featured book is Margaret Whitlam - A Biography by Susan Mitchell.

Reviews of Australian Books #35

Alex Peake-Tomkinson reviews the new paperback release of Robert Drewe's novel Grace, in "The Guardian" (3rd item down): "Drewe is unafraid to explore debates on colonialism and creationism, debates that centre on Grace's father, a controversial anthropologist who has founded his career on discovering the remains of the 'first modern woman'."

David Thompson's Nicole Kidman has been followed by a biography , Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn by William J. Mann, which allows James Christopher to compare the two women and the two books in "The Times": "Both are described as tall, angular, unconventional and ambitious. Both had middle-class backgrounds. Both were made to feel gawky and uncomfortable at school. Both had high- profile relationships with dotty stars. Both made ghastly mistakes. Both had stage hits on Broadway. Both have been hounded by the paparazzi. Both command the highest prices Hollywood is prepared to pay. And both are, or were, obsessed by the currency of their public image."

Theft: A Love Story by Peter Carey, is reviewed by Subash Jeyan in "The Hindu". The review starts with a great opening paragraph: "We have been reared culturally to appreciate art in isolation, to conceive of art as a transcendental object, cut off from the hustle, bustle and sweat of life as it is lived every day. A novel or book comes to us neatly packaged, a whole industry of assorted talents behind the packaging, so that when we hold that beautifully designed book in our hands, it tells us nothing of the lives behind that book, nothing of the vast infrastructure and the industry, with all its machinations and politics, that made possible that particular book perhaps at the cost of many others. Similarly with a painting. Sanctified, put up in a frame and spotlighted, it stands in splendid isolation from its circumstances, transcending them if you will. All you are made to see is the talent that shines through. Not the slime it has had to wade through." The reviewer isn't overly enthusiastic, but interested enough.

Graham Beattie, former Managing Director/Publisher of Penguin Books NZ Ltd., and Scholastic NZ Ltd looks at Clive James's latest memoir, North Face of Soho, which he calls "Entertaining, thoughtful, engaging,". In the process, he revisits two of James's epic, comic poems published in the 1970s.

The Author and the Reader

Still, when it comes to the state of the novel, to the future of the novel, I feel rather optimistic. Numbers don't count where books are concerned, for there is only one reader, each and every time only one reader. That explains the particular power of the novel and why, in my opinion, it will never die as a form. Every novel is an equal collaboration between the writer and the reader and it is the only place in the world where two strangers can meet on terms of absolute intimacy.

- Paul Auster, writing about what he does in the Guardian, originally delivered as his acceptance speech for the Prince of Asturias Prize for Letters, Spain's premier literary honour, which he received last month.

2007 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award Shortlist

The shortlist for the 2007 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award has now been released - seems a touch early but there we are.

There appear to be 11 Australian novels on the list (out of 138):

March by Geraldine Brooks
The Garden Book by Brian Castro
Slow Man by J.M. Coetzee
White Thorn by Bryce Courtenay
The Secret River by Kate Grenville
Surrender by Sonya Hartnett
The Ballad of Desmond Kale by Roger McDonald
The Butterfly Man by Heather Rose
The Marsh Birds by Eva Sallis
Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living by Carrie Tiffany
Affection by Ian Townsend

The short list will be announced on April 4th 2007 and the winner on June 14th 2007.

[Update: I've added Heather Rose's novel.]

Literary Gatherings #4 - John Le Gay Brereton and Henry Lawson


John Le Gay Brereton and Henry Lawson

2006 Best of the Year Lists

Like Christmas decorations in the department stores, the annual "Best of the Year Lists" keep coming out earlier and earlier. The first one for 2006, that I've spotted, is from Publishers Weekly. A quick scan through the list shows two Australian books featured: Theft: A Love Story by Peter Carey in the Fiction section, and The Book Thief by Markus Zusack in Children's Fiction.

On Other Blogs #9

Daniel Hatadi is off and running on his attempt to write a novel in a month as part of NaNoWriMo (as reported here previously). We wish him well.

On the "Larvatus Prodeo" group blog, Georgina asks the question: Australian literature on the nose? Good, lively discussion ensues.

Justine Larbalestier reports that the first two chapters of the final book in the Magic or Madness trilogy, Magic's Child, are up on her website. She does warn us, however, that it's not a good idea to read these chapters if you haven't read the first two books in the series. A few spoilers lurk there.

Clive James on the Radio

You can listen to Clive James reading from his fourth volume of memoirs, North Face of Soho, on BBC Radio 4. The readings started on Monday 6th November and run to this Friday 10th November. They'll only be there for seven days according to the website.

Poem: An Anticipatory Picture by C.J. Dennis

The scene upon the frock-flecked lawn
   Is, as you please, a picture fair,
Or just a hunk of human brawn,
   With blobs of faces here and there.
Stilled are the clamors of the Ring;
   The famous race is on at last;
All eyes are on the lengthening string
   Of brilliant jackets moving fast.

Torn, trampled tickets mark the birth
   Of broken hopes all now would men,
As quickening hoof-beats spurn the earth,
   And the field thunders to the bend.
All men are equal for the nonce,
   Bound by an urgency intense,
And eager questionings win response
   From strangers tip-toe with suspense.

"What's that in front?" All faces yearn
   Toward the track in serried rows.
The field comes round the homeward turn,
   As, wave on wave, the murmuring grows,
Waxes and swells from out that host
   Till pandemonium begins,
And flecks of color pass the post
   To mighty cries of _____* wins.

[* N.B. - Write your own ticket. - D.]

First published in the Herald, 2 November 1931
[Note: today is Melbourne Cup Day]

Australian Bookcovers #37 - The Glade Within the Grove by David Foster


The Glade Within the Grove by David Foster, 1996
Design Yolande Gray.
Cover photograph "Orchestration in Light" (1993) by Olive Cotton.
Winner of the 1997 Miles Franklin Award.

Weekend Round-Up 2006 #41

The Age

A week short of Remembrance Day and Michael McKernan reviews the new book by Les Carlyon, The Great War. A lot of people have been waiting for this after the author got a great reception for his previous work, Gallipoli. "It still clutches at us, the Great War; it can still summon powerful emotions. Why, travellers ask with increasing insistence as the tour progresses, did those in charge keep doing this to decent young Australians. Five thousand five hundred lost at Fromelles; 27,000 seven weeks later by the end of Pozieres and Mouquet Farm. Too much death, too much terrible injury and suffering. Why? ... Les Carlyon takes nearly 800 pages in search of an answer and while there are sharp and provoking insights on many pages, at the end, he too is still scratching his head." It bothers us still, yet we celebrate it. We're funny like that.

James Ley looks at Richard Flanagan's latest novel, The Unknown Terrorist, and sees similarities to Andrew McGahan's latest. "The promotional material accompanying the advance copy of The Unknown Terrorist likens the book to a Trojan horse, smuggling in a political message under the guise of a popular thriller. This would be an accurate analogy only if the Greeks had ridden atop their horse as if it were a Mardi Gras float, announcing their intentions to the citizens of Troy with the aid of megaphones." It's not subtle, he says, it "declares its position from the outset and hammers it home for 300 pages." However, it "is a novel that does have some shortcomings, but irrelevance is not one of them."

Short notices are given to: The Pilo Family Circus by Will Elliott: "The cover promises laughs and violence. There's plenty of the latter but not everyone will find the former and overall the novel will most definitely not be to everyone's taste"; Simmo: Cricket Then and Now by Bob Simpson: "He's not one of the high-flying personalities of Australian cricket, but he is one of the more uniquely placed players in the history of the game, having played through the '50s and '60s, then come out of the retirement in the '70s as Test captain and later Test coach"; Socialist Champion: Portrait of the Gentleman as a Crusader by John Barnes: "Henry Hyde Champion (1859-1929), as John Barnes' absorbing and meticulously researched study shows, was not a man who lent himself to easy categorisation"; The Travel Writer by Simone Lazaroo who "has written an eloquent third novel that follows the fortunes of three generations of the de Sequeira family"; The Lost Thoughts of Soldiers and Selected Stories by Delia Falconer: "She's capable of etching sentences into the reader's mind and this anthology is a showcase of Falconer's brilliant linguistic economy, her beautifully controlled lyricism and her uncanny ability to find the right word for the right occasion."

The Australian

Justine Ettler looks at two second novels in The Gospel According to Luke by Emily Maguire and Rosie Little's Cautionary Tales for Girls by Danielle Wood. Of Gospel: "Maguire's work aspires to the televisual, to the TV soap, when it could aspire to the cinematic, to the epic." And of Rosie: "Distracting, elegant, clever, there's something a bit Edwardian gift-shop about Wood's story collection. More of a pretty diversion than an entertainment, Rosie Little's Cautionary Tales for Girls is something to place on the bedside table next to the bottles of designer essential oils, for dipping into occasionally. I enjoyed these odd stories, or stories of oddness, up to a point but ultimately had no idea why she was telling them or why I was reading them." Which doesn't bode all that well.

Short notices are given to: The 7.56 Report by John Clarke: "Closest thing we've produced to Pete and Dud: bloody brilliant"; Burn: The Epic Story of Bushfire in Australia by Paul Collins, who asks "How are we to live in a way that fits in with the most fire-prone place on earth?".

Guardian First Book Award

Carrie Tiffany's novel, Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living, has been shortlisted for the 2006 Guardian First Book Award.

The other shortlisted titles are:

A Thousand Years of Good Prayers by Yiyun Li
In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar
Harbor by Lorraine Adams
Poppy Shakespeare by Clare Allan.

"The award, for first-time authors, aims to recognise and reward new writing across fiction and non-fiction. This year's judges include Jude Kelly, artistic director of the South Bank Centre, the authors Pankaj Mishra, Rose Tremain and Joseph O'Connor, broadcaster Greg Dyke and Katharine Viner, features editor of the Guardian."

The winner will be announced in early December.

Australian Books to Film #20 - Hating Alison Ashley


Hating Alison Ashley 2005
Directed by Geoff Bennett
Screenplay by Chris Anastassiades from the novel by Robin Klein
Featuring Saskia Burmeister, Tracey Mann, Richard Carter, Rachael Carpani and Delta Goodrem.

Poem: Australian Bards and Bush Reviewers by Henry Lawson

While you use your best endeavour to immortalise in verse
The gambling and the drink which are your country's greatest curse,
While you glorify the bully and take the spieler's part --
You're a clever southern writer, scarce inferior to Bret Harte.

If you sing of waving grasses when the plains are dry as bricks,
And discover shining rivers where there's only mud and sticks;
If you picture "mighty forests" where the mulga spoils the view --
You're superior to Kendall, and ahead of Gordon too.

If you swear there's not a country like the land that gave you birth,
And its sons are just the noblest and most glorious chaps on earth;
If in every girl a Venus your poetic eye discerns,
You are gracefully referred to as the "young Australian Burns".

But if you should find that bushmen -- spite of all the poets say --
Are just common brother-sinners, and you're quite as good as they --
You're a drunkard, and a liar, and a cynic, and a sneak,
Your grammar's simply awful and your intellect is weak.

First published in The Bulletin, 18 August 1894

Patrick White's Papers

The big literary news of the day is the discovery of a "treasure trove" of written material left behind by Patrick White after his death. In "The Sydney Morning Herald", David Marr (who wrote the definitive biography of the writer) reports that the find includes "photographs of the young swell at Cambridge in the 1930s; precious letters saved from the thousands he'd received in a long lifetime; the old man's beret and beanie; theatre programs from four continents; a pile of recipes in his own hand; and the carbons of half a dozen brutal letters of dismissal of old friends, old agents and politicians he'd once supported."

Apparently the material was found stuffed into drawers and cupboards around his house on the edge of Centennial Park in Sydney after his death in 1990. Contrary to the wishes expressed in White's will, his literary executor, Barbara Mobbs, did not destroy the material but kept it and has since offered it to the National Library of Australia. Workers at the library have been cataloguing it since mid-August.

The Australian Literary Review

The November issue of "The Australian Literary Review" was published yesterday. Titled a "Biography special" it features reviews of new memoirs by Robert Hughes, Clive James, Gabrielle Carey, and Barry Jones. There's also another appreciateive review of Andrew McGahan's new novel, Underground. Seems the "Oz-lit" police aren't as vocal as Gregory Day suspected they would be.

Richard Flanagan Interview

Richard Flanagan, author of the new novel The Unknown Terrorist, was interviewed on ABC TV's "7:30 report" last night by Kerry O'Brien. You can read a transcript of the interview.

Great Australian Authors #32 - D'Arcy Niland


D'Arcy Niland (1919 - 1967)

There was a man who had a cross and his name was Macauley. He put Australia at his feet, he said, in the only way he knew how. His boots spun the dust from its roads and his body waded its streams. The black lines on the map, and the red, he knew them well. He built his fires in a thousand places and slept on the banks of rivers. The grass grew over his tracks, but he knew where they were when he came again.

He had two swags, one of them with legs and a cabbage-tree hat, and that one was the main difference between him and others who take to the road, following the sun for their bread and butter. Some have dogs. Some have horses. Some have women. And they all have mates and companions, or for this reason and that, all of some use. But with Macauley it was this way: he had a child and the only reason he had it was because he was stuck with it.

- From The Shiralee, 1955

Profile of Lian Hearn

Lian Hearn (also known as Gillian Rubinstein) is profiled in "The Sydney Morning Herald". The piece includes news that she has finished the fifth novel in her Otori series - the next one being a prequel to the original trilogy with the title Heaven's Net is Wide, which will be released next year. She also gives a few details (and I mean a very few) on what she will work on next.

On Other Blogs #8

Leanne, on the "Gone with the Wind(Mill)" weblog, gives a short review of Tim Winton's Cloudstreet: "Some parts are comical and others quite touching. Winton has a poetic descriptive manner with an Aussie twang giving the story a realism it deserves. Would read again. Highly recommended."

In rounding up his October reading, Tim, on his "Sternezine" weblog, gives his impressions of Shane Maloney's first novel, Stiff (second last entry): "I have read some of the later Murray Whelan books, so it is a bit weird to go back to the first book in the series. It's still Maloney, and it's still Whelan, but it's not quite the same." He comes to the conclusion that it suffers from being a first novel in the main. The latter ones in the series are much better. I'd agree with the comment that it's a bit rough in places but it is still pretty funny.

Margo Lanagan is back at her weblog, explaining that "real life" (read as the paying stuff) intervened, hence her enforced absence. She gives news of her new collection of stories, Red Shift, and the extra publication details of some of the stories in that volume.

Ben Peek gives a good run-down on how a doctorate thesis is marked, in this case a novel.

It looks like the Patrick White Readers' Group is going to hold off on reading a new novel of White's in November. No decision has been finalised as yet, but as it's now November and nothing seems to be going on I suspect we can draw down the curtain on this month.

Film Adaptation of Dirt Music by Tim Winton

At the end of an interview on the "Coming Soon" website, Phillip Noyce is asked the question: Q: Have you started working on your next movie yet? to which he answers A: It's called "Dirt Music," it's a love story set in Western Australia. It's contemporary based on a novel by Australia's most beloved contemporary novelist Tim Winton. We won't start shooting for a year. [The script is done by] an Australian writer you've never heard of, Justin Monjo.

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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